18
Jul 14

B*WITCHED – “Rollercoaster”

Popular52 comments • 3,531 views

#803, 3rd October 1998

coaster Once upon a time there was a whimsical, backward-facing tendency in British life, with a habit of surfacing just as things were at their shiniest. The Beatles released Sgt Peppers, for instance, and the world proclaimed a revolution: but some took a subtler view. George Melly, a man with an interest in fashion, the texture and the cut of things, noticed right away how old Pepperland looked. The cavalry twill, the black-and-white photos, the circus posters, the childrens’ drawings – this was as much retreat as advance. The golden youth of Britain reached back into playful memory, storing up an attic chest of precious bygones against a rupture they had helped begin.

The Beatles weren’t alone – its childish streak is the first thing anyone notices about UK psychedelia. But if childhood could be appropriated by the hippies, the process could work in reverse. Primary school pop, thirty years later, could assume the grown-ups weren’t listening and borrow a few of the sixties’ better ideas.

So the most striking thing for me about B*Witched’s second single – the reason for that whole intro, in fact – is its beautifully brazen nod to the Beatles: the “it’s wonderful to be here….” part of “Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” caught and flipped into the pre-chorus of “Rollercoaster”. They even keep the word “thrill” as an anchor. It’s as blatant and confident as anything the Gallagher’s tried, and the motivation is the same – if nobody’s using a good idea right now, and you can build a brilliant pop song out of it, then why not?

Is it a brilliant song, though? Not quite, but it’s a very good one. Past the naff spoken intro – I can believe they’re doing this, just not that they’re leaving it in – it’s more charming than “C’Est La Vie”, and only a little less infectious. The obligatory jig interlude feels less bolted on this time, and the hustle of the debut is replaced by a lazier, warmer vibe. Best of all are the little bonus hooks behind the prechorus (the unnerving, and very psych-pop “just a game… go insane…”) – and chorus (“don’t wanna wait for you no more!”). They are generous touches in a record already doing well for hooks, and help dispel the air of brand-building and hustle around the debut. Not everything here is so well-crafted – “We’re not nice we’re cold as ice” is awful, but on the other hand “We’ve grazed our knees and no-one’s to blame” is a great, evocative little line. In a season of bright, sparky pop number ones, this song isn’t the most important or ambitious of the breed, but it might sneak in as the best. “Rollercoaster” chalks hopscotch squares over Pepperland, and reclaims bubblegum for the kids.

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Comments

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  1. 1
    wichitalineman on 18 Jul 2014 #

    The other childhood steal in Rollercoaster is the theme from the Double Deckers – so it goes from a late 60s lift into an early 70s lift – intriguing to guess what their demographic was meant to be, but surely it wasn’t mid-30s me? “Get on board, get on board, get on board with the Double Deckers” becomes “come on, come along, get it on with a rollercoaster” (wuh?). Glass houses etc but I struggled with these blatant lifts at the time, and think it seems too much of a simple collage now. Two big, bright colurful pictures adjacent to each other, without enough glitter or googly eyes added by the collagists. I think it’s the weakest of B*witched’s Popular entries, though I think I might be in the minority in a few weeks time.

    That Double Deckers theme: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7pvnAVcRwYY

  2. 2
    lonepilgrim on 19 Jul 2014 #

    as well as the Sgt Pepper link the pre-chorus bits also remind me of ‘I Know where it’s at’ by All Saints – possibly because of the minor (?) key – and the section that wichita mentions above sounds to me a little bit like ‘Get it On’ by T Rex, although I can also hear the ‘Double Deckers’ theme in there too. What with all that assorted drum samples and a bit of a jig thrown in as well it’s surprising this all hangs together so well. a mark of 8 smacks of click bait to me – 6 at most

  3. 3
    Andrew Farrell on 19 Jul 2014 #

    In a way, Ted, life is a bit like a rollercoaster…

  4. 4
    Tom on 19 Jul 2014 #

    Clickbait? Moi? I just really like B*Witched, it turns out. I don’t agree (obviously) that this is their weakest Popular entry, but it might not be their strongest…!

  5. 5
    Andrew Farrell on 19 Jul 2014 #

    Clickbait is a particularly odd accusation, since the mark doesn’t actually appear on the front page, or the RSS, or I think anywhere other than on this page at the end of the review?

  6. 6
    JLucas on 19 Jul 2014 #

    Surprised by the score for this. It’s by far their weakest number one for me; where you hear warm and relaxed I just hear half-written and half-hearted.

    I’m very very fond of their ballads, but I can’t think of much to say about this single at all. It almost certainly got to number one on the strength of their previous hit, a phenomenon that occurred a lot in the late 90s (Doctor Jones, Bootie Call) but seldom felt as undeserved as it did here.

    A paltry 3 from the usual sugar-pop apologist.

    Wonder if Billie Piper’s terrible next entry will get a similarly eyebrow-raising score.

  7. 7
    Alan on 19 Jul 2014 #

    I like it when Tom’s surprised by commenters piling in with praise on something he found so-so, but not nearly as much, as in this case, when that’s reversed. Who would have had Tom down as having such a soft spot for B*witched. OK, maybe quite a few, but still. Lovely to read a warm review of something I’d totally forgotten.

    Point of order – I am the FT “Double Deckers” correspondent around here! :-D

    Looking forward to the resumed posting rate of earlier in the year.

  8. 8
    Tom on 19 Jul 2014 #

    #6 You won’t have to wait too long to find out!

    #7 Now the World Cup’s over I should be able to get back into gear with posting. And I never mind demurrals from the readers – it balances the Olives of this world.

    This is the last #1 I bought at the time for a while – until a confectionery-themed UK garage hit in mid ’99, I think.

  9. 9
    davidsim on 19 Jul 2014 #

    Billie Piper’s next entry should get a similarly eyebrow-raising score because it’s not terrible at all; it’s the brilliant Day & Night.

  10. 10
    23 Daves on 19 Jul 2014 #

    Whoops – ignore! See my comment below.

  11. 11
    23 Daves on 19 Jul 2014 #

    Whenever somebody mentions British psychedelia on the internet, an emergency alarm goes off in my flat to let me know that a potential conversation is emerging… but I can’t think of too much to say about this one.

    I think it’s accurate to say that B*Witched were certainly knowingly nodding to a few nostalgic elements here, but in truth elements of psychedelia and even sixties garage filtered through to the bright primary colours of bubblegum, then eventually glam rock, then eventually teen pop, with numerous songwriters and producers realising that if you took a trip down the Popsike River and pan-handled for a bit, you could pick up some bits of gold. Or perhaps it was actually the river in the Willy Wonka factory and what they were panhandling was sugar, and what you’re left with is something that’s often a lot sweeter and less complex and conflicted than the source. A lot of British psychedelia has dread, doubt and disorientation in it, whereas bubblegum like “The Grooviest Girl In The World”, fantastic though it is, doesn’t. (http://youtu.be/eYFuHK5o4f8 – and I’m deliberately picking that one for the way it also pulls off the B*Witched trick of meshing loads of different references together in the run-up to the chorus).

    “Rollercoaster” is a single I must admit I haven’t listened to properly in years, but having been prompted to do so again to hear what I might have missed I’m not overly thrilled – it’s OK, but had it emerged before “C’est La Vie” it’s difficult to imagine it ever having got to number one. At the time, it felt a little desperate, a bit of a “will-this-do?” follow-up, trying to pad its weaknesses out with familiar references rather than using them as a springboard.

    Incidentally, the editor of “Paintbox” fanzine Tim Worthington ran a series of posts on his blog called “They Could Have Been A Bit Like The Beatles” which observed the tendency of certain post-seventies pop groups to indulge in psych influences. Jason Donovan, New Kids on The Block, Swing Out Sister and inevitably Tears for Fears get mentions (among others) here, but he missed “Rollercoaster” off the list, it seems: http://timworthington.blogspot.co.uk/search/label/they%20could%20have%20been%20a%20bit%20like%20the%20beatles

    Also incidentally, I’m having enormous problems logging into Freaky Trigger at the moment. I’m not being displayed as logged in, and the comments are occasionally disappearing…

  12. 12
    Tom on 19 Jul 2014 #

    #11 Yes, it’s an ongoing problem – I can’t actually log in to post, and have to use an admin-only back route to get the entries up. We’ve been trying to get to the bottom of it all and are working on trying to solve it. Really sorry to everyone who it’s affecting. It should still be possible to post comments unlogged in.

  13. 13
    JLucas on 19 Jul 2014 #

    #9 Day & Night *is* brilliant, but you’ve forgotten a Billie bunny that came before it. (Not altogether surprising though)

  14. 14
    JLucas on 19 Jul 2014 #

    I’d totally forgotten that this held onto number one for two weeks. Very surprising – although the new entry at number two in the second week was the eminently forgettable’Top of the World’ by Brandy, so clearly the charts were a bit stagnant at this point.

    In their first week they held off Perfect 10 by Beautiful South at #2 (irritatingly overplayed but easily a more memorable, well-liked song) and new at #3 Doo Wop (That Thing) by Lauryn Hill – which would have made a *fantastic* number one.

  15. 15
    mapman132 on 19 Jul 2014 #

    Count me among those surprised this got such a high mark from Tom. I liked CLV but this seems more like album filler than a number one hit. This reached #67 in the US but I never heard it until now. 4/10.

    #14 “Doo Wop” was a #1 in the US. Not that I’m bragging ;)

  16. 16
    chelovek na lune on 19 Jul 2014 #

    Much better than C’est La Vie, anyway, mostly because it felt a bit less contrived. Surprisingly good, to me, at the time, in fact, but still superior pop wallpaper rather than essential, unforgettable, listening.

  17. 17
    flahr on 19 Jul 2014 #

    Tom you forgot to mention that this one is also ABOUT SEX :OOO *clutches pearls*

  18. 18
    swanstep on 19 Jul 2014 #

    R’s new to me, and is doing for me nothing on first few listens. Serious points off from me for complete failure to write a middle eight or a proper outro (this track needed another week’s work on it at the writing stage, adding ideas – Max Martin or Trevor Horn, say, would never let this pass as is ). Agree that the Sgt Pepper lift for the pre-chorus is canny and that the chorus is OK. Video is terrible – those damned iceblocks, it’s like they’re determined to cheapen themselves and make their ditty’s ad-likeness blatant. Why would they do that? (Was there a ‘rollercoaster’ icecream?)

    I can report that R spent 1 week at #1 and 3 weeks at #2 in NZ, so it traveled, damn it. For me though a:
    4

  19. 19
    Billy on 19 Jul 2014 #

    This is much better than I remember, though a large part of it’s charm is the erm, homage to the Double Deckers theme as noted by Wichitalineman. Just wish it had the same joyful anarchy as the theme. A 6 from me.

    Incidentally I’m now curious to see episode 7 of the Double Deckers. “WATCH ALL 17 FULL HD EPISODES ON MY CHANNEL.EXCEPT EPISODE 7.I DID UPLOAD IT BUT YOUTUBE DELETED IT,APPARENTLY HAD AN INAPPROPRIATE DANCE SCENE.”

    The mind boggles, Tiger twerking with Doughnut perhaps?

  20. 20
    daveworkman on 19 Jul 2014 #

    For some reason, the album this came from is the only one I still physically possess from my brief period as a pop fan back when I was a teenager – Steps and Robbie having been sent packing a long time ago. I can’t really think of a reason other than initially the ‘kitsch’ factor the band engendered…but despite my faux irony, I’m enjoying Tom’s reappraisal of B*witched’s oeuvre!

  21. 21
    Patrick Mexico on 20 Jul 2014 #

    The same gimmick doesn’t work more than once. 4.

  22. 22
    wichitalineman on 20 Jul 2014 #

    Not really my place, but there’s a lot of bunny baiting here! I really enjoy not knowing what’s coming next, so please no more B***** P**** spoilers.

  23. 23
    iconoclast on 20 Jul 2014 #

    Much of this is Actually Quite Good, especially the pre-chorus, and the subtle organ is a nice touch. However the chorus itself is a bit thin and the song palpably loses steam in the middle and through to the fade, and oh! for some proper drums instead of the by now de rigeur too-loud programmed ones. Could so easily have been higher; SEVEN.

  24. 24
    thefatgit on 20 Jul 2014 #

    This is better than CLV, but less memorable if that makes sense. I didn’t like the Irish jig section on CLV, but I find myself wanting more jig on “Rollercoaster”. Maybe then, I could rail against it more and at least demonstrate that B*Witched were one-trick-ponies, so dismiss them and feel entirely justified in doing so.

    I’ve not heard “Rollercoaster” in a long time and mostly forgotten that it’s a perfectly good example of ’90s pop with all the requisite hooks and clever nods to Bolan and The Beatles. But there’s something ultimately unremarkable about Keavy Lynch’s voice and over the course of the song, I’m looking forward to the chorus rather than the verse. I don’t think it would be the end of the world if I never heard this again.

  25. 25
    James BC on 21 Jul 2014 #

    I spotted the Bolan homage at the time but somehow missed the Sergeant Pepper one. Very nicely done, it is. Certainly one of the better 90s pop songs though maybe a little too fast for most people to dance to.

  26. 26
    Tom on 21 Jul 2014 #

    One final steal – perhaps the most tenuous of all, so it didn’t get into the review – the “don’t wanna wait for you no more” bit always brings the closing chorus flourish of “Labour Of Love” by Hue & Cry to mind! (“Ain’t gonna work for you no more!”) Soul-cialism lives!

  27. 27
    ace inhibitor on 21 Jul 2014 #

    no.1 when my daughter was born & so in a sense a point of re-entry, for me, into being aware of /interested in pop-and-childhood, what makes pop appeal to (very) young ears. So it makes sense that of all the steals mentioned here it was the Double Deckers one that got through & appealed to my sleep-deprived ears.

    The video has more than a whiff of Rod Jane & Freddy style childrens TV performers working too hard at ‘fun’.

    Not available on Spotify this one – curiously the top-rated Bewitched songs are ‘C’est la vie’, ‘Under Satan’s spell’, ‘Sabbath of sin’ and, er, ‘Fucked by fire’. I’m gonna go out on a limb and guess that there are 2 Bewitcheds.

  28. 28
    Andrew Farrell on 21 Jul 2014 #

    There’s a few Bewitcheds, but there’s only one B*witched! This link should see you right.

  29. 29
    ace inhibitor on 21 Jul 2014 #

    Ah I see, thanks. Although as it turns out ‘Fucked by fire’ is reasonably entertaining as well. Unlikely to trouble us here though.

  30. 30
    Mark G on 21 Jul 2014 #

    We will have to see if Wichita recognises any of those titles as having some sort of “Catholic Guilt” subject matter (see #17 on “C’Est La Vie”)

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