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Sep 14

911 – “A Little Bit More”

Popular56 comments • 1,811 views

#812, 23 January 1999

911b The formation of minor boyband 911 is a telling vignette of how pop in the late 90s was working. The general boyband narrative is one where a managerial Svengali recruits rosy-cheeked poppets who emerge three or four years later, a little wiser, hopefully richer, and generally sporting unfortunate facial hair as a sign that they are now their Own Man. They celebrate cutting their ties with the pop machine by falling into complete obscurity, and then it’s all over bar the reality show reunions. It’s a career.

What’s – mildly – interesting about 911 is that the motive force for their existence wasn’t a dollar-eyed manager or a talented singer – it’s two backing dancers who saw how well other former backing dancers were doing and decided, quite sensibly, that they wanted a bit of it. So they found a willing manager and then cast about for someone to sing the songs. It’s an origin story that doesn’t really fit the familiar pop storyline of rampant exploitation: instead, you could make an inspiring business case study out of it. And I suspect that’s because British pop was increasingly working like a business – staffed by young people who might not have had formal qualifications but who were more canny about the value of their labour and the structures they were working in. In the stage school era, pop is a job and is advertised, interviewed for and treated (if you’re sensible) with the same clear-eyed unsentimentality as any other desirable but precarious employment. One of the interesting things about reality TV pop is that it made a spectacle of the “wide-eyed kid gets their dream ticket” storyline at exactly the point it was becoming archaic in the biz as a whole.

Perhaps it was 911’s entrepreneurial viguour that made record labels initially slightly wary of them. Or it could have been that, if “A Little Bit More” is any evidence, they were shit. That search for a vocalist had ended up with Lee Brennan, and listening to “A Little Bit More” I wish they’d hunted harder. “A Little Bit More”, like any bedroom jam, requires a mix of conviction and fantasy from its lead singer. “Oily” and “desperate” aren’t really the adjectives you want to be reaching for. Brennan’s pinched, wheedling voice might be the least charismatic boyband performance we’ve met in the 90s – he makes Peter Andre sound like Isaac Hayes. The saving grace, perhaps, is that Brennan is so weedy that he can’t make the lyrics of this hoary old song – “When your body’s had enough of me…” – sound as skeevy as they might sung by someone less callow. But when you factor in the preset twinkles of the production this is one of the most negligible Number Ones yet.

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Comments

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  1. 26
    thefatgit on 5 Sep 2014 #

    I really, really can’t find anything remotely interesting to say about 911 or ALBM. So I won’t. (1)

  2. 27
    Patrick Mexico on 5 Sep 2014 #

    2/10.

    Hilarious thread.

    Bloody dreadful cover of a fairly dreadful 70s soft-rock plodder (that existed four years before the Bee Gees’ How Deep is Your Love, but Take That’s cover came out three before this one, which they steal the hook from and melt it down into hospital cabbage soup.)

    It’s enough to drive a man to give them an extra mark for talking to me on “Nickelodeon Kids’ Chat” on AOL in March 1997. Jesus, the point I’ve reached where we start getting nostalgic about USENET and taking ten minutes to load a grey all-text web page. But though the alpha male in me says I should have been out kicking balls and chasing girls, they did seem like lovely guys, in the 20 word Instant Message they sent me, something like “You rule more than an audacious Philippe Albert chip to make it Newcastle 5, Manchester United 0!*” The funniest part of the chat, though, was when the chat room “guide” accidentally signed out and in a frantic five minutes of fame, assorted tweens started posting [sic] “GUIDEYS NOT HERE WE CAN SWARE NOW” and “Fuc you basterd”

    A few weeks later in the same chatroom, I got the family AOL account shut down after “discussion of illegal activity” (I was talking about a “program where you could hack into chat room guide accounts” and like many daredevil late-nineties pre-teens, didn’t really know the consequences..) We didn’t get it back for another nine months (!)

    @12: On a serious note, I was 16 on that terrible day, and my naive teenage self thought “Won’t Americans have to change their emergency number as dialling 911 would bring back too many distressing memories?” I repeat for integrity – naive teenage self. :-/

    @20: Half of British Sea Power hail from Natland, a village just outside Kendal. I’m glad I remembered, er, Remember Me, just then.. that is a jump from the ridicule of this thread to the sublime.

    * Yet again, I’m altering history to make my posts a tiny bit less boring than usual.

  3. 28
    Cumbrian on 5 Sep 2014 #

    27: I even have some British Sea Power records – I should have known that.

  4. 29
    Patrick Mexico on 5 Sep 2014 #

    I’m going to listen to their discography on Spotify now, anything’s better than wading through this “top 40 of 2007″ playlist, with such groundbreaking records as Little Man Tate – This Must Be Love, The Twang – Either Way and Ghosts – Stay the Night…. (plus a bunnied Leeds act. In an age where indie-rock descended into meaning virtually nothing, BSP were second only to the Long Blondes in keeping the flame alive for originality, depth and as much as this phrase makes my skin crawl these days thinking of ironically geek-glassed goons with pop-up farmers’ markets in Shoreditch, British eccentricity.)

  5. 30
    Billy on 5 Sep 2014 #

    I have absolutely no memory of this and reading the comments I think I’ll leave it that way. Sometimes ignorance is bliss.

  6. 31
    thefatgit on 5 Sep 2014 #

    On the subject of Cumbrians at #1, Alan Tarney was the other side of the mixing desk on a few already.

    EDIT: one already.

  7. 32
    hectorthebat on 5 Sep 2014 #

    Isn’t Nicky French from Cumbria? I know she didn’t get a Number 1, but still must be better than this.

  8. 33
    AMZ1981 on 5 Sep 2014 #

    In (I think) one of Gary Barlow’s two entries the sitcom Boyz Unlimited came up in discussion. I noted at the time that the series only had two good laughs, one incidental. One laugh was the merciless parody of Gary Barlow, the incidental one was that the protaganists were shown covering A Little Bit More on the grounds that not even a boy band would dream of covering it. I believe the show was airing when 911 did just that.

    The point has been made that 911 managed a run of ten successive top ten singles which shows a certain consistency, even by the standards of the late 90s. And yet, not a single one of them endured. Bodyshaking is probably their best remembered song but I have never once heard that on a night out and as a gay man* who doesn’t care for dance music I’ve heard some pretty cheesy things come on in my time. There is a good reason of course; their music was pretty rubbish.

    Curiously if there’s one person I would defend it is Lee Brennan who I always considered underrated as a vocalist. Obviously he wasn’t as technically proficient as certain TV show winning singers we’ll meet in a few years but he did winsome puppy style at least as well, if not better, than Stephen Gately. On the one 911 song I actually like, The Day We Find Love, he’s quite touching.

    There’s no excuse for this though, a lazy cover of an awful song, and two is probably too generous. Interestingly there was only actually one more top ten hit to come (the rather better Private Number) and even more interestingly when they tried to mix it up with something a bit more adventurous their top ten run crashed to a halt and they were never heard from again. A Little Bit More at least added them to the pantheon of number one hit makers – maybe we shouldn’t blame svengalis for learning a lesson there.

  9. 34
    AMZ1981 on 5 Sep 2014 #

    FOOTNOTE – when this dropped to number six the following week (the first number one to drop out of the top five since Gym And Tonic) it became the sixth one week wonder in a row, beating the run of five in early 1997 (Professional Widow through to Discotheque) which had led to much debate about the devaluation of the charts. Bunnying a bit but the one week wonders wouldn’t be done for a while yet.

  10. 35
    enitharmon on 5 Sep 2014 #

    @15ff A pity in a way that Christine Perfect/McVie, of Bouth, doesn’t appear on Fleetwood Mac’s only number one, or that nothing from Rumours/Tusk made the grade.

    John Dalton also managed to miss out during his time with the Kinks. But there’s always Helen Shap-iro to fall back on.

  11. 36
    Tom on 5 Sep 2014 #

    I wake up from my last night in Oz to find you lot have managed to get 34 comments out of this thing. Well done!

  12. 37
    Patrick Mexico on 6 Sep 2014 #

    @34: Some people in my school year 9 back then genuinely claimed they had logged into a South Korean chat room and convinced hundreds of locals that Shap was the capital of England. But then again, some year 7s in 1997 genuinely claimed they had hacked into a BBC computer and made the screen go black for five minutes in the middle of a wildlife programme..

  13. 38
    Weej on 6 Sep 2014 #

    Silly trivia: This is the second of four “(just) a little bit” number one hits from 1996-2002, probably the worst of the bunch, though the competition isn’t exactly great.

  14. 39
    alexcornetto on 6 Sep 2014 #

    For some reason I didn’t mind 911 at the time, at least when they were doing tacky uptempo pop rather than tacky drippy covers.

    Odd that everyone’s saying they were “never heard from again”. Lest we forget The Big Reunion (you already did?) – Jimmy turned into some kind of drug fiend, Lee is now a photographer who was married to Lindsay from B*Witched (also on that series of TBR, presumably for added drama), and Spike…I dunno, he probably did something.

    Also, unsurprisingly, they were massive in Asia, and the big turning point in the 911 Story (as told on The Big Reunion) was that there was such hysteria at an instore signing they were doing that four people died in a crowd surge.

    Which goes to show that interesting things can happen to the dullest of bands, as long as people in the UK don’t care about it.

    Oh, and this song is (to run with a word as beloved of Smash Hits at the time as 911 were) bobbins. 2

  15. 40
    PurpleKylie on 6 Sep 2014 #

    My mum is old enough to remember Dr Hook and she likes a lot of their hits and used to torture me in my youth by playing them, so when this cover came out I knew very quickly it was a cover because she told us so. Both versions of the song are crud in my honest opinion. Dr Hook (or at least them in their commercially successful phase) are one of the prime examples of bad 70′s pop music that my mum likes and the 911 cover boybandifies it therefore making a whoooooole lot worse.

    I must be the only female in history to have always had an irrational hatred for boybands, I’m not sure whether its down to having good music taste or some sort of genetic defect.

  16. 41
    Tommy Mack on 7 Sep 2014 #

    #38: More silly trivia: The Olympics’ near-namesake I’ll Do A Little Bit More was sampled by FatBoy Slim for Soul Surfing from You’ve Come A Long Way Baby, the parent album for the previous number one.

    #40 and Punctum @ #9: I remember around this time, someone in the NME (Mark Beaumont? Steven Wells?) saying ‘all the boybands are rubbish, all the boy-girl-bands are alright and all the girlbands are brilliant’ which was true.

  17. 42
    chelovek na lune on 7 Sep 2014 #

    Ok I don’t remember 911 at all, other than the name. So (sucker for punishment that I am) I started checking through their back catalogue (the singles anyway). After this, I was surprised to find that some of them are vaguely tolerable, almost (the more ballad-like ones, so far). But. One of them – their first (fairly minor) hit is quite, quite, quite, unbearably atrocious: A cover of Shalamar’s “A Night To Remember”. Unfeeling, cheap, insensitive to the song, 100 times worse than this….not aided by a video that has them dressing up like characters from “On The Buses” on a London Routemaster.

  18. 43
    Ronnie on 7 Sep 2014 #

    “Rakim Sterling” is making me laugh, even though I’m not sure if that’s a typo, a reference that’s going over my head or an intentional mix-up between a rapper and a footballer

  19. 44
    Patrick Mexico on 7 Sep 2014 #

    Planes yes, trains, yes – Bronski Beat – Smalltown Boy always springs to mind for some reason – but I can’t recall many famous music videos set on buses!

  20. 45
    Ophir Zemer on 8 Sep 2014 #

    Well there’s this: http://youtu.be/s359OsWRBLM

  21. 46
    Alan on 8 Sep 2014 #

    Is this meant to be a bus?

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VFXheatfJ7E

    (Microdisney ‘Town to Town’)

  22. 47
    Cumbrian on 8 Sep 2014 #

    Videos (at least partly) set on buses:

    Oasis – bunny bait
    Kula Shaker – Hey Dude
    Motorhead – God Save The Queen

    Not Motorhead’s finest hour that one.

  23. 48
    James BC on 8 Sep 2014 #

    The Lightning Seeds – Marvellous

    was on a bus

  24. 49
    Billy Hicks on 8 Sep 2014 #

    Adding to the above Stuntmasterz – The Ladyboy Is Mine, which has to be one of the most obscure top 10 hits of the 21st century. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sCYh2MENPCY

  25. 50
    AnotherPete on 8 Sep 2014 #

    Seeing it again, I remember the sleeve more than I do their version of the track. Someone had stuck a fly poster promoting the single on a smallish boarded up window of a derelict building on my route into work, making them appear like tiny squatters. It was there for a couple of months.

  26. 51
    Steve Mannion on 9 Sep 2014 #

    More bussy vids: Princess ‘Say I’m Your Number One’, Galliano ‘Long Time Coming’, Roisin Murphy ‘Overpowered’.

  27. 52
    Auntie Beryl on 9 Sep 2014 #

    Damon Albarn hangs out the back of a Routemaster in parts of the “For Tomorrow” vid.

  28. 53
    Chelovek na lune on 9 Sep 2014 #

    Erm, it has been pointed out to me: “One Thing” by One Direction.

    Always Routemasters though, innit.

  29. 54
    Auntie Beryl on 9 Sep 2014 #

    Easy votewinner for cunt-in-twat’s-clothing Boris Johnson to bring them back, then. He’s not an idiot.

  30. 55
    Tommy Mack on 9 Sep 2014 #

    The best and most succinct description of Boris I’ve ever heard.

  31. 56
    weej on 14 Sep 2014 #

    According to this wiki page this is the lowest selling #1 single of 1999 – only 75,400 copies were enough to get it to the top, compared to 140,000 for The Offspring a week later (and 463,722 for the first week of Bunnied Singer a month after that)

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