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Feb 15

CRAIG DAVID – “Fill Me In”

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#855, 15th April 2000

craig david fill As UK Garage hit its end of the century peak, three things became clear. It could ring up the hits, like no underground dance scene since hardcore rave. It was exceptionally flexible – the strains in the charts became more melodic and soulful, while elsewhere the music was getting darker, dubbier and more bass-led or more minimal and MC-driven. That was a bit like rave, too. But the third aspect of garage was not like rave at all: vocalists and rappers were central to this music, and the fans knew who they were.

An eager record industry put these three things together and saw stars. New, marketable stars, addressing the business’ long-running (and aesthetically myopic) beef with dance music – its notorious “facelessness”. The question of what to do with UK Garage and its inheritors is a subplot that plays out across this whole decade. The outcomes are mostly frustrating – potential missed or misused, bright careers fizzling out, and an overall sense of an industry that liked the idea of young, black British stars more than it supported the reality.

But that’s a story for later, as are Craig David’s own run-ins with the media. “Fill Me In” strolls into the charts with the aura of a major talent on the point of being realised. Craig David is the new decade’s first new chart-topper, but he almost wasn’t: he’d made his name as on the Artful Dodger’s “Re-Rewind”, the quintessential garage hit. “Re-Rewind” bumped beguilingly between slinky on the verses and lurching on the chorus: a hit that sounded like nothing before it. Across it all Craig David danced in and out of the rhythm, a hypeman in the process of becoming a soulboy, reconciling the odd geometries of the Artful Dodger’s future with the smooth moves of an audience out for a good time.

Smoothness was the angle David mined for his solo career. “Fill Me In” uses 2-step beats as a way to accelerate the song into its chorus, but the heart of the single is in its slowly unwinding verses, produced with the filigree delicacy of current R&B, golden nets of finely plucked strings enmeshing with the beat’s discreet stutter and David’s voice. Which is a gentle instrument, never really moving beyond ‘fond’ or ‘rueful’ even when describing parental anger. “Fill Me In” is a precise song, living or dying on its web of details – “Wearing a jacket, whose property / Said you’d been queueing for a taxi / But you left all your money on the TV” – which all feel real enough to build the mood. It’s as committed to painting a situation as Destiny’s Child’s “Say My Name”, if not nearly as dramatic.

But that gentility works in its favour, too. “Fill Me In” doesn’t capture the urgency of its chosen scenario – trying to get it on under the shadow of the parental panopticon – but it ends up somewhere just as resonant: looking back on those stolen moments later, a pinch of resentment mixed with nostalgia. Parents may not understand – well, no, in this case they understand all too well – but they’re almost as sympathetic a set of players here as Craig David and his girl. Antagonists, sure, but not villains, just obstacles with their own objectives in the game. And that basic sympathy is a sign of what makes “Fill Me In” work. Even at this point you can hear David being seduced by himself, keen to play the loverman role, but it’s kept in balance by his humane, keen eye. This and “Re-Rewind” together are a fine statement of talent and intent. They were also his peak, but we didn’t know that. For now, welcome to the 00s, again.

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Comments

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  1. 31
    Cumbrian on 26 Feb 2015 #

    The choruses of this are great, especially the first one, paying off all the details set up in the opening part of the song. It’s like the musical equivalent of Benedict Cumberbatch’s Sherlock bulldozing through prospective clients – i.e. from the detective/parents’ pov, this is easy, just cop to it and we can move on. A bit like Sherlock though the second time, it’s a trick you’ve seen done before so whilst it’s still good, it doesn’t quite hold the impact of that first chorus.

    It also seems to have the “right” flourish for the time of year – Spring is here and Summer is around the corner, people are probably ready for thinking about going abroad, so the Spanish guitar is a neat little warm up for those thinking about that and also gave it a little bit of longevity for summer radio play. The staccato strings that build up underneath the run into the chorus sound like the footsteps of the parents heading towards the door, the urgency builds until the use of the beat and the strings in the chorus contrast well against the opening of the song, where the two of them are just relaxing into each others’ company, versus the chorus where the interrogation kicks off and you can imagine hearts start to race as the pressure and fear of being caught mounts. This record has had some serious thought put into it, I reckon, and works really well as a little drama. Really enjoyable.

    Flowers is really good too but in a totally different way. The way everything sounds a bit cut up is great and it’s enjoyably upbeat.

    Bad Touch has a monster hook but I find it’s more than a bit icky. Ballad Of Chasey Lain is even worse in that regard, though a good character study of a young man obsessed with a porn star and utterly dehumanising her; I suspect that its intent was not to castigate him however. It’s also one of the few tracks I can think of where the radio edit is preferable to the unedited version (with the offensive words drowned out by a screech of feedback, it at least leaves something to the imagination and unwittingly provides a memorable hook). Having had a student flatmate who played Bloodhound Gang records a lot, there’s a whole load of their songs which are lyrically awful, finding humour in talking down to women, the disabled, gays, etc. Bad Touch, taken in context with the rest of their body of work, is something I regard with due suspicion as a result. The people worried about Blink’s sense of humour on the Geri thread could find many easier targets elsewhere in that scene and Bloodhound Gang are probably one of the worst offenders.

    About the best thing Bloodhound Gang did that I heard was a cover of It’s Tricky by Run DMC.

  2. 32
    Cumbrian on 26 Feb 2015 #

    30: I think we’ve talked about this before – I would stand up for Song For The Lovers too, a fine Don Henley rip, as I think I mentioned on The Verve thread. Quickly downhill from there though – that album has some terrible stuff on it and I don’t imagine that the ensuing albums did anything to halt the slide, given the singles I heard from them.

  3. 33
    AMZ1981 on 26 Feb 2015 #

    Lower down the chart American country rock band Lonestar entered at 24 with their massive US hot Amazed. This song would slip slowly to 36 over the four weeks that followed before rebounding to peak at 21 twice and lingering for ages in the high twenties before finally departing – in a neat symmetry it’s sixteenth and final week saw Craig David’s second bunny on top. At that time Guinness Hit Singles used to do a feature where they totted up the chart positions of each single from the previous two years (seventy five points for number one, seventy four for two and so on) and produce a ranking; in that list Amazed came out top for 2000.

    Long running singles weren’t unknown in the late nineties/ early noughties (LeAnn Rimes’ How Do I Live spent thirty weeks in the top forty and wound up the seventh biggest selling single of 1998 despite never climbing above seven in the weekly chart) but there was never anything as spectacular as Lonestar managed. Given that I think I’m going to be championing rock music over Hip Hop/ RnB forever more I’ll say this – Amazed is absolutely dreadful.

  4. 34
    lockedintheattic on 26 Feb 2015 #

    Amazed had a pretty astonishing run for a non top 20 single – and for one that’s so dreadful. At the time it was the best-selling song ever that missed the top 20.

    Although now that hits can keep selling for much longer as they’re always available to download, there’s a lot of more recent records that have overtaken it on that list – these are the biggest:

    Lynyrd Skynyrd – Freebird EP (Sweet Home Alabama) (#21) 510,000 (300,000 + 210,000 downloads)
    DJ Fresh – Gold Dust (#22) 494,000
    Florence + The Machine – Dog Days Are Over (#23) 445,000
    The Script – Breakeven (#21) 427,460
    Mumford & Sons – Little Lion Man (#24) 414,000
    Lonestar – Amazed (#21) 406,000
    Skrillex – Bangarang (#24) 379,000
    Mumford and Sons – The Cave (#32) 353,000
    Bryan Adams – Summer of ’69 (#42) 353,000
    Shakira featuring FreshlyGround – Waka Waka (This Time For Africa) (#21) 299,000
    Israel Kamakawiwo’ole – Somewhere Over The Rainbow (#46) 255,000
    Evelyn “Champagne” King – Shame (#39) 250,000

  5. 35
    Tom on 26 Feb 2015 #

    Skrillex!! Tick vg.

  6. 36
    mapman132 on 26 Feb 2015 #

    “Amazed” also did something no country song had done for 17 years: reached #1 on the Hot 100. IIRC it had actually fallen off the chart after being a massive country radio success in 1999, but then re-entered in 2000 and rose to the top with a new poppier remix. The original version was actually not terrible, but the remix actually was terrible.

  7. 37
    Izzy on 26 Feb 2015 #

    It’s funny how many of those are no. 21, 22 or 24 hits – you’d think for a stat like that, the actual peak wouldn’t much matter.

    Summer of 69 is an interesting one – I first became aware of it when it landed at no.3 or thereabouts in one of those awful Radio 1 all-time polls (the ones that always had Bohemian Rhapsody at no.1 and Stairway at no.2), and assumed it had been a monster hit in some long-forgotten yore. Not so, evidently. I wonder how it became such a staple?

  8. 38
    wichitalineman on 26 Feb 2015 #

    My memory of Amazed, not wanting to revisit it, is that it sounded like a superior Boyzone song.

    Was there an original version of Flowers? I got the feeling Sweet Female Attitude were a pair of hippie girls.

    Re 37: I remember hearing it as an album track when I worked in a record shop and thinking it had to be a massive hit. Adams had zero profile at that time. I guess A&M in Britain let it slide and put all their promo efforts into Run To You a year later.

  9. 39
    AMZ1981 on 26 Feb 2015 #

    #37 I remember that particular Radio 1 top 100 poll, broadcast on a bank holiday in 1994. Summer of 69 was indeed number three behind Bo Rhap and Smells Like Teen Spirit. Bryan Adams also had Everything I Do at five, Take That were four and six with Everything Changes and Pray respectively and TAFKAP’s The Most Beautiful Girl In The World came seventh and Sweet Child Of Mine, Imagine and Losing My Religion rounded out the top ten. Radio 1’s previous Top 100 (done in 1991 I think) had been been dominated by standards such as Stairway, Layla, Baker Street etc and I remember these giving way to more modern fare by Nirvana, Pearl Jam etc.

    On a personal level listening to that run down allowed me to hear a lot of songs for the first time and was a big ear opener for me. My reason for going off topic is that I’ve googled to see if the full run down is available anywhere but that particular poll seems to have been airbrushed out of history.

  10. 40
    Tom on 26 Feb 2015 #

    “Summer of 69” is another example of the “Don’t Stop Believing” effect, which I know the Lineman has discussed before – Britain convincing itself en masse some global hit was a standard when it didn’t actually do much here at all.

  11. 41
    Cumbrian on 26 Feb 2015 #

    #39: Dad recorded the 1992 version off the radio onto a succession of C90s that wound up in the car, so that Radio 1 Top 100 (Simon Bates and Jakki Brambles presenting) was on heavy rotation when we went on holiday and such like – I can still remember some of the links on it, never mind the order – the most recent thing in the upper reaches of the chart was Losing My Religion somewhere in the 30s. Careless Whisper was 5th or 6th I think – Top 4 was Bo Rhap, Stairway, Everything I Do and Imagine. Those tapes might still be knocking around in my parents’ house somewhere – something to retrieve at some point perhaps.

    I have a vague recollection of it essentially being the last hurrah of the Smashy and Nicey type generation – soon thereafter the long knives would be out, the 1994 chart had a load of newer stuff in it and the last time I remember hearing a Radio 1 Top 100 Unfinished Sympathy was #1 and most of the songs I remember being in the 1991 chart had long since departed. Rocklist actually has that list from 1998 here:

    http://www.rocklistmusic.co.uk/uk_radio.htm

    It was the first time I’d ever heard Led Zep (not my parents’ bag evidently) and never bothered with them again until I got to university.

  12. 42
    James BC on 26 Feb 2015 #

    #38 I’m pretty sure the Flowers version that charted was a remix of a long-forgotten original. They seemed pretty clear that their success was down to having a track in the right genre at the right time (although being brilliant can’t have hurt). I remember in an interview they said they’d had the follow-up remixed into several different genres to maximise their chances of another lucky strike – sadly it didn’t work a second time.

    I love the cut-up vocals. Possibly the inspiration for Goulding’s “Starry Eyed” a decade later?

  13. 43
    Mark M on 26 Feb 2015 #

    Katy B covering Flowers at lounge ballad speed… Curious, I’m saying. But I guess testament to its canonical status in certain quarters.

  14. 44
    wichitalineman on 26 Feb 2015 #

    Re 43: That’s pretty sweet, thanks – never noticed the Erik Satie lift before!

  15. 45
    anto on 26 Feb 2015 #

    Craig David really did appear to be a rising star at this time – There was a lightness of touch about his vocals that seemed fresh and appealing.

    ‘Bo Selecta’ was a vile programme- hypocritical, sexist and racist, one of the first indicators that Channel 4 was junking its soul.

    Somewhat taken aback by all the admiration for a track as shabby (euphemism alert!) as ‘The Bad Touch’ – The MTV Grumbleweeds to my ears.

  16. 46
    Shiny Dave on 26 Feb 2015 #

    While on the topic of low-peaking but high-selling singles, it’s worth noting that 34 singles got classified as platinum during the 2000s, and of those 34, 31 of them got to number 1. (“Pure Shores” and 30 bunnies.)

    For a song that didn’t even make the top 20 yet sell that many to come from *this* era is astonishing. I’d never take that away from “Amazed,” nor for that matter the chorus hook.

    As for “Fill Me In,” it’s both lushly detailed and beautifully innocuous; sadly, too much of the R&B we’ll meet from here on in (and probably the Miami scene David mixes in now – certainly one bunnied member thereof) are basically picking up the cock-rock bandwagon in the lyrical department. It’s not just David’s future that is made to seem brighter than it actually is with this record.

    7 at worst. Marking it down because the lyrics are infuriatingly low in the mix considering how much the song is driven by them. A charitable reading suggests that’s a deliberate decision that adds an air of mystery to them…

    Seeing as I’ve mentioned that, it feels remiss not to mention my thoughts on “The Bad Touch”: a brilliant piece of nasty work, killer hooks carrying a tidal wave of misogyny – in that respect, arguably a far better pointer of R&B’s future than “Fill Me In.” Still loved it in spite of myself for a while, but absolutely for the instrumental part of the song. There’s a few bunnies I’ll be saying that about.

  17. 47
    Shiny Dave on 27 Feb 2015 #

    #45 Funny you mention Channel 4 losing its soul when we’re talking about Southampton’s big local hero in the same week as Immigration Street, the logical conclusion to the channel’s dissolution into Daily Mail TV for pretty much most of its schedule other than those summer nights that everyone associated with the channel’s dissolution into some other form of terrible.

    (I went to university in Southampton. The heavily white middle-class student body told me the area covered by Immigration Street was a must-avoid. I only dared set foot in it in third year, and that for running through it, and I was left wondering what the fuss was about. Other than racism, and possibly the fact that the area was associated with Southampton Solent Former-Not-Even-A-Polytechnic students as that campus was close by.)

  18. 48
    JoeWiz on 27 Feb 2015 #

    I’d love to know the real reason why this guy failed. Along with the obvious Bo Selecta thing, how about that huge Brits snub? Wasn’t it 6 nominations? That has to be pretty embarrassing. More discussion on this on the next bunny.
    I like this a lot more now than at the time. I was very much into the MJ Cole album this year, Craig was very much a Tesco Value version of the sleek side of garage I liked at then. This still sounds pretty fresh 15 years later, which is a lot more than can be said for any of this records predeccssors at the top spot.

  19. 49
    Ed on 27 Feb 2015 #

    I don’t remember ever having heard this before, but it’s fantastic, isn’t it?

    As pointed out @25, 26 and elsewhere, the lyrical detail is just lovely.

    Reminds me of someone else we’ll be meeting here: did he get the career that Craig David should have had? But sadly for a few years yet I can refer to him only as M*** S******.

    @45 You’re dead right: Bo Selecta was vile. Makes 2000 feel a lot more than 15 years away.

    What with that and the Bloodhound Gang, was there a full-on anti-PC backlash under way? I don’t quite remember it that way, but maybe I wasn’t paying enough attention.

  20. 50
    Tom on 27 Feb 2015 #

    I’d completely forgotten MJ Cole until listening to the relevant Now record a few weeks ago! He was definitely being pushed as the sophisticated end of the genre – which after feeling a bit burned by the jazzier end of drum’n’bass back in the 90s made me wary. “Crazy Love” is still a fine record though. I should check out the album.

  21. 51
    Robin Carmody on 27 Feb 2015 #

    “Re-rewind” and “Flowers” should have been in here; I wish I could still say with confidence that they’d definitely be coming up eventually on Music Sounds Better with Two, because I’m sure Lena would do them proud (and perhaps update some of the ideas she brought into her TPL piece on Sade’s ‘Promise’). But this was a fine substitute, and will also be on TPL of course.

    The mocking and derision of Craig David was really quite vile, and in retrospect very much anticipates the full-on anti-PC backlash which came a few years later with Lucas & Walliams and that lot – the subtext, to me, was clearly that someone like this didn’t *deserve* to be a pop star, that he wasn’t quite the right sort. Ali G had the same whiff about it – very much suggesting that wannabe-prole pseudo-Northernism had been OK, but this was one step too far. It was very much the repackaging of old moralistic warnings about pop music as a force turning The Right Sort, socially, into clones and copies of The Wrong Sort, only now actually argued and articulated by people who loved the Rolling Stones. This was a new and troubling development which directly anticipates Cameron, and you can see all the worst aspects of 2015 right there back when Johnson & Gove were just hacks playing off Good Pop against Bad Pop in a way that their predecessors would never have known how to do, or wanted to do.

    Like all the anti-garage-as-pop rhetoric, it had a nasty element of institutionalising divisions between The Right Kind Of British and The Wrong Kind Of British, a mindset no more progressive than the Countryside Alliance (not least because it was precisely through absorbing it, and allowing it to overpower and – ahem – “swamp” the CA tendency, that the Tories were able to win suburban voters back again). The wastelands of the mid-2000s (I’ll be interested to see if, and if so how, this blog’s author deals with his own ambiguous and conflicted relationship to his background when we get to That Song In Summer 2005) were the direct consequence of that reaction.

    For the record “The Bad Touch” was a Scottish number one, “Fill Me In” only hit #5 I think and “Flowers” only hit #20 (“Bound 4 Da Reload” was only a Scottish #28 in the week it was UK #1, though it climbed to #11 in Scotland the next week), which gives some idea of how vast the gulf between the Two Lefts is, and of which one all Scottish secessionist rhetoric is bound up with – you can get closer to the core of the incomprehensibility of Scottish independence aspirations to much of the modern English Left through reading the references to breakbeat hardcore, and its reception in Scotland, in the Wikipedia article on bouncy techno than through reading a million earnest attempted dissections. Had “Flowers” peaked at #2 behind something more “pure pop” (and have those sarcastic inverted commas ever been more pointed?), I’d suspect very strongly that it would have been a London #1, but not quite so likely in this case.

  22. 52
    weej on 27 Feb 2015 #

    #47 – As a student of said “Southampton Solent Former-Not-Even-A-Polytechnic” from 1998 to 2001 (it was created with the merger of an art college, a tech college and the College of Nautical Studies at Warsash, and when I was there degrees were awarded by Nottingham Trent, but anyway…) I spent a lot of time in and around Derby Road – two sets of friends lived there, I ended up spending more time there than in my actual house, and it was later my main route home from work (in a warehouse at the end of the street.) I’d like to say that it was a lovely, misunderstood place, but while it certainly had its charms, there was undeniably an air of danger – not due to “immigration” but because it was a run-down place with gangs of delinquent kids and low-level organised crime. Everyone know that the police largely left it alone in order to move the difficult aspects of the city away from nice middle-class areas like the one around the University
    While I was there, for example:
    * One friend was abducted at knifepoint and taken to an ATM. When the robber found he had no cash he got him to go into a corner shop and use his card to get cashback.
    * Another few friends were cornered by a gang of kids at 2am who then beat them with bike chains
    * The thriving Jamaican restaurant which kept getting community spirit awards until the owner was arrested for killing his brother and it turned out it was just a front for a crack dealer
    * There was an armed seige next-door to a friend’s house and she was the main interviewee on the local news that night
    ….not to mention the daily low level threats, the curb-crawlers, the junkies – the thing was, though, that I could walk down the street most days and not even feel scared by any of this, generally nobody would bother you. The High Street (Above Bar Street) on a Saturday night at pub closing time was several degrees more intimidating.
    Sorry for the huge digression here. Craig David grew up on the Holyrood estate and went to school in Shirley – so nowhere near Derby Road.

  23. 53
    DJBobHoskins on 27 Feb 2015 #

    #51 et al – I have to say, I think there’s a lot of spurious revisionism going on here. Yes, David said the Bo Selecta stuff angered him but I think it’s disingenuous to say the least that it directly hurt his career. BS started in 2002 I believe, not long before David brought out ‘What’s Your Flava?’ and that cringe-worthy duet with Sting. He was doing sub-par R&B rather than anything interesting or new, and beaten by the Americans who simply did it better.
    BS mocked all sorts of celebrities -it was crude and childish and I thought the first two series were hilarious. CD’s caricature was so utterly ridiculous, I find it very hard to believe this lead to his downfall. That came because of making songs that weren’t as good as before. It always comes back to the music. Did BS harm Ricky Gervais, Elton John, Mel B? Exactly.

  24. 54
    Izzy on 27 Feb 2015 #

    51: that wiki on bouncy techno is pretty funny. To add another unpleasant element into where you might be going with this (I’m never really sure), actually listening to the stuff reminds me more than anything of flute band music. I could barely believe at the time that that’s what the kids chose to get into – it’s hard to envisage anything less cool – but now I wonder about latent cultural memories reasserting themselves.

  25. 55
    wichitalineman on 27 Feb 2015 #

    Hmmm. I never saw Bo Selecta but was obviously aware of the grotesque caricature. I reckon CD wasn’t a “big” enough personality (ie too nice/mellow/easy going) to recover from that. The programme was called Bo Selecta, after all, so it felt from the outside like the whole thing was a piss-take of Craig David – once its popularity eclipsed his chart positions (very quickly, I think), it was hard to see him being taken seriously again – as a smooth, lightweight pop star, or in any other direction he might have wanted to travel.

    He continued to have Top 10 hits for a few years, but I can only recall his non-bunnied Hot Stuff from 2007 (which I like a lot) without listening to them again.

  26. 56
    Tom on 27 Feb 2015 #

    I obviously need to watch some Bo Selecta! before tackling #868! Judging by some of the comments here it’s not going to be a pleasant task. But I will see for myself. (I avoided it at the time).

    My suspicion is that both sides of this argument have an element of truth, though. There was a CD backlash in the air already, if not actually underway: Bo Selecta picked its target shrewdly. There were cultural forces underneath the backlash which are well worth picking apart (Robin accurately gets at some of them, but there are certainly other trends at play too). BS arrived at something of a make-or-break point for CD’s career, and certainly did his image no favours. But #53 is also right to say that CD’s own music and songwriting is not totally blameless, and luckily his next #1 is a more-or-less perfect place to think about why people might have trouble taking him seriously.

  27. 57
    Cumbrian on 27 Feb 2015 #

    Craig David beaten to the punch by 4 or 5 years in this regard by ex-Nottingham Forest striker Jason Lee, who Frank Skinner and David Baddiel pointed out had a pineapple on his head (to the tune of “He’s Got The Whole World In His Hands”). This chant was then sung at him by all and sundry on the terraces. Lee blames Fantasy Football League for the perception of him as a figure of fun and the decline in his career. The problem being he couldn’t hit a cow’s arse with a banjo from 6 yards, which was also a contributory factor (and he was failing to do that before the taunting started, so the two may be linked but not as heavily as Lee might reckon). As for Jason – the truth being in the middle somewhere likely but more to do with his performance – so for Craig. In other words, I think Tom is right and look forward to hearing more about it in due course.

  28. 58
    Izzy on 27 Feb 2015 #

    Jason Lee’s not a bad comparison! The mistake both made was to react, hurt – whereupon cruel kids do what they have always done and exploit the weakness mercilessly. Jason only did so after his fall from grace, but from memory Craig engaged at the time, thus marking himself out as an eternal bullyee* and hence excluded from the ring forever.

    I’d love him to make a conquering comeback**, above all as he’s such a talented singer, but he’s never really exuded the self-confidence to indicate that this is even a possibility. None of these points are unrelated.

    * he was also exposed as a former fat kid too, though I think this was later

    ** maybe a rootsy approach a la Johnny Cash, if not quite stylistically. From time-to-time I like to imagine which absent stars might use some of the same treatment. Sadly it’s too late for Michael Jackson to do his soul covers album; though if the XX are reading and looking for ideas, I wouldn’t mind you giving George Michael a call.

  29. 59
    Tommy Mack on 27 Feb 2015 #

    A lot of the hatred for UKG from the indie press at the time seemed to come from the time honoured middle-class liberal perspective of frustration/disgust with ‘aspirational’ working/lower-middle class nouveau riche or would-be nouveau riche types. I remember the NME calling UKG ‘jazz-funk ultra lite for the young conservatives disco’ (this in comment on almighty chart battle between future bunny and Posh/Dane’s Out Of Your Mind though other NME writers would come out in favour of the more street/futurist elements of UKG)

    I’ve never seen Bo Selecta beyond tiny excerpts. I had no idea Craig David had become a public whipping boy. I’ve heard plenty people take the piss out of him but never with the sort of venom directed at lots of other popular stars. (c.f. The scene in Human Traffic where Moff fantasises about torturing Peter Andre: grotesque but entirely recognisable. I can’t imagine something like that working if CD were the target since I don’t think anyone felt any real animosity for him.)

    His BS parody seemed to be based more on the ludicrous notion of CD, Mr Smooth, with a thick Yorkshire accent. As I say, I’ve not seen it, maybe there were more overtly racist elements to it.

    Don’t recall hearing FMI ever. Before Xmas my ipod gave up the ghost and I borrowed my wife’s. After a few days of playing stuff I knew, I started exploring and after binging on Abba Gold and More Gold (might attempt some thoughts on those under the Abba threads some time: basic premise, Why did I ever not like this?) played catch-up with the last 15 years of pop. Craig David stood out as an artist who did almost nothing for me. To be fair, I mainly listened while running and he was never trying to make workout music. Also she only had about three tracks. This isn’t like Westlife: I hear a lot of talent and I can totally see what people get out of his music (I think!) but I can’t imagine ever choosing him when I want to strike a mood of chilled out intimacy.

    Wish we were talking about Re Rewind as I’d enjoyed that in it’s role as token UKG tune at Manchester’s The Venue’s indie night (must have been a front for something since they were selling the drinks below cost!)

  30. 60
    lmm on 27 Feb 2015 #

    The Bad Touch has always been fun as much for the crudity as the hook. I put it in the same mental bracket as Cards Against Humanity; neither is something I’d want to do terribly often, but the frisson is its own brand of fun.

  31. 61
    Mark M on 27 Feb 2015 #

    Re59: I think there are a couple of (sometimes) different things wrapped up in that. 1) Some people just don’t like smooth-sounding music, and the dislike for Craig David on those grounds isn’t that different from why some people don’t like, say, Jamiroquai, Curiosity Killed The Cat or (Lord Sukrat’s beloved) Level 42.

    2) There is, however, also indeed,a long-running critique that claims that there is a (often white) left-liberal demand that black culture should be gritty and authentic, and a consequent disgust when it is slick and shiny. This goes back to 1930s at very least. That’s the charge in Marybeth Hamilton’s book In Search Of The Blues and also a target of Tom Wolfe’s mockery in Radical Chic. I think there is a degree of truth in it (and I’ve often used the Hamilton line of argument) but it can be exaggerated. Or at least if we consider [infamous 2013 bunny], then white men from privileged backgrounds can also get hammered for doing the kind of things that blingy, slick black musicians do. I guess what I’m questioning is the degree to which racial projection comes into play, or simply puritanism*.

    (*Which isn’t necessarily class-dependent – as I think I’ve mentioned before, it’s worth watching the Eat The Document in No Direction Home – those Dylan-goes-electric haters are by no means all studenty middle-class types).

  32. 62
    DJBobHoskins on 27 Feb 2015 #

    Case of what came first – I remember CD being mocked before BS came along, for his seeming self-regard (eg talking about himself in the third person), counting Cliff as one f his favourite artists, and generally the lack of cheekiness, irony or personality. ‘Slicker Than Your Average’ was released two months after the first series of BS was broadcast, and still went 2x platinum in the UK. I say it was ultimately down to quality control going down, coupled with a BS impression that while completely outlandish, probably reflected the zeitgiest in taking the p*ss out of CD rather than starting it.

    Some choice quotes below… (NB: he actually appeared on BS as himself at one point)

    CD: “That whole Bo’ Selecta! thing was damaging. I played along with it, I said it was cool, I can take a joke, roll with it, so I went on the show. But it was killing me. It frustrated me beyond belief because I was there, I’ve got this guy who is milking one of my songs, has me as a caricature, is ripping the piss out of me, a one-trick pony, just hammering it, to the point when I was like, “This is bullshit now.” I met him backstage – he came up and said he wanted to apologise “because I know the effect it has”. I had it out with him. I said, “You’re talking absolute shit. You’re milking the whole thing, and you’re coming up to me saying you don’t want it to have an effect – then you’re doing more shows. You’re talking out of your arse, and if you were a real comedian you’d have moved on to something else. What have you done except poke fun at people at their expense without any regard for the effect it has?”

    LF: “I f***ing hate it when he blames me for what’s happened to him. I’ve got nothing to do with his musical career. He writes his songs, I don’t. If his music career hasn’€™t worked, it’s his fault, not mine. He was slagging me off all last Christmas. He said that I bumped into him, said sorry for affecting his career and that he’€™d called me two-faced. That’s absolute bulls***. That’s why I’ve started doing him again.

    So you’ve never apologised?
    No. I’€™ve done nothing wrong. That character is just Billy Casper from the film Kes with Craig David’s name. Bo€™ Selecta! didn’€™t affect anyone else’s career. When he went to the US after he f***ed Britain off, I kept his name alive.

    Wikipedia: Although David made an appearance himself in the programme, he regretted it even as he was making it: “I didn’t want people to think, ‘Craig’s reacting to it,’ because then they would think, ‘How can we get up Craig’s nose even more?’ So, I did it, but I wasn’t happy about it.”

  33. 63
    Andy on 27 Feb 2015 #

    If memory serves (and God I wish it wouldn’t), technically he’s not playing himself, he’s playing Craig David’s new neighbour David Craig.

  34. 64
    Tommy Mack on 27 Feb 2015 #

    #60 etc: The Bad Touch has got that frat-boy ‘hur hur hur sex’ vibe: oddly asexual and childlike, sex is a dirty thing to be giggled about with mates rather than something they have much interest in experiencing other than as a more street-credible alternative to masturbation. Enjoyed it enough at the time but not in any great hurry to hear it again. I’d probably go with 5. 6 if I was drunk maybe.

    For my sins I’d been a Bloodhound Gang fan in the sixth form, their first album is much more Paul’s Boutique style cut & paste job, the rock/rap stuff came in on One Fierce Beercoaster (the Roof Is On Fire album). At the time it seemed like harmless OMG-outrageous hi-jinks but I’d feel uncomfortable with much of it now. My attitude at the time was ‘this stuff is so outrageous and these guys are self-styled Beavis and Butthead type losers, no-one could possibly take it seriously so how could anyone get offended?’ Obviously, it’s easy to make light of abuse when you’re not the target. Pre-911 I think there was much more of an illusion that the world is getting better so it’s safe to laugh at misogyny, homophobia etc because they’re soon to be consigned to the past where they belong. Nowadays it’s impossible to ignore the ugliness and prejudice that permeates society.

  35. 65
    JLucas on 27 Feb 2015 #

    I definitely find that a little of Leigh Francis goes a long way, but there are flashes of absurdist humour in Bo Selecta that I must admit crack me up. The Craig David thing was probably the best (until, as with most breakout sketch show classics, they killed it with overuse), but I have a sneaking regard for the one-off hatchet job on soap star Claire Sweeney’s pop star aspirations at the time. The fake-advert for her album (Portentous voiceover declaring “THIS is THE SOUND of CLAIRE SWEENEY”, Leigh-as-Claire screeching “JUST FUCKING BUY IT” at the end) was absolutely spot on about how that kind of cash-in pop career was marketed at the time.

    Clip here, though it cuts the end

    http://youtu.be/zeFftyuJoTI

  36. 66
    Tommy Mack on 27 Feb 2015 #

    #62: I used be totally of the ‘no sense of humour? Pompous git, you’re getting ripped then’ school. But look where that led: MPs on panel shows, showing what great sports they are and worse, ever single f*cking pop star at great pains to show what a humble, decent, down-to-earth person they are.

    #63: I tutored a boy called David Craig. He said he had received his fair share of playground mockery…

  37. 67
    Chelovek na lune on 27 Feb 2015 #

    #66 – surely all this is the fruit of “Cool Britannia”; New Labour hanging out with rock stars, Tony Blair (and Bill Clinton) being cool, etc – jeez, it’s the path to Boris Johnson. Dignity and propriety (and a healthy separation of powers between the serious and the frivolous) be damned, it seems.

  38. 68
    flahr on 27 Feb 2015 #

    #64: Now I want Tom to review at least one upcoming #1 hit as “a more street-credible alternative to masturbation”.

  39. 69
    swanstep on 28 Feb 2015 #

    A forthcoming (soon, so soon) Eminem bunny will happily allow for much more ‘The Bad Touch’ discussion. May also afford #68’s review possibility.

  40. 70
    pink champale on 28 Feb 2015 #

    Bo Selecta aside, Craig David put his failure to break America down to having a white guitarist. He reckoned it made urban stations think he wasn’t urban, while obviously non urban stations wouldn’t play him because he was black. not sure how much there is in this. I imagine there was also an across the board lack of US appetite for UKG too.

  41. 71
    Auntie Beryl on 28 Feb 2015 #

    Craig David’s solo records were released on the Wildstar label, a joint venture between TV ad album specialists Telstar and Capital Radio.

    Wildstar had landed hits for girlband Fierce, “Ain’t That Just The Way”‘s Lutricia McNeal and Conner Reeves prior to this; all given generous airplay on Capital stations, as was Craig David, who on the back of Re-Rewind was perhaps too hot for other stations to ignore.

    I’m sure others are closer to this than me but I believe this model persists to this day, with artist management being linked to specific media groups in some cases.

  42. 72
    wichitalineman on 28 Feb 2015 #

    So… Bo Selecta is in the Keith Lemon lineage? I know I sound like Lex talking about the Beatles, but I genuinely didn’t know that. I don’t get what Keith Lemon is meant to be – it all feels very post-90s, to the point where it’s been photo-copied* so often that no one understands whether it was ironic or a piss-take or a tribute in the first place.

    I’m pretty sure “grotesque Yorkshire Craig David” would have been funny first time round, and probably second and third, but obviously it was hammered into the ground until it became cruel. Jason Lee’s a good comparison. He was a mediocre player, true, but he was probably a far better footballer than any of us (unless there are any ex pro’s lurking in the comments). I felt really sorry for him after a while. I’d certainly say he was more talented than David Baddiel who seemed to make a career out of being a funnier person’s sneery sidekick.**

    *I appreciate no one photocopies anything anymore. Excuse me while I send this telegram to the Prussian ambassador in Siam.

    **Baddiel recently appeared in Dictionary Corner on Countdown; he was one of those guests who pretends it was him, rather than Susie Dent, who got all the eight letter words. This puts him a Venn diagram sector with Gloria Hunniford.

  43. 73
    Billy Hicks on 1 Mar 2015 #

    51 – You’ve got me looking at the Scottish Singles Chart archives now and they’re absolutely fascinating. There are so many dance tracks in the 1990s that officially either peaked low top 40 or top 75 in the official chart, but were massive top 10 hits – even #1s – in Scotland. Having a quick look at 1996 as an example, Ice MC, QFX, Q-Tex, Ultra Sonic, the Party Animals and Scooter were all absolutely huge up there that year but all must have done next to nothing in the south of England judging by their official chart positions – some of these I didn’t even know had even been released in this country, eg Dutch happy hardcore track ‘Have You Ever Been Mellow’ by the Party Animals which amazingly got to #11 in Scotland. Scooter of course would eventually gain full UK domination, if not quite enough to get any bunnies as bloody brilliant as The Logical Song is.

    And ‘Freedom’ by QFX was a #1 in 1997, as was DJ Sakin’s Protect Your Mind in 1999, which makes me far too happy. As does System F’s Out of the Blue going top 10.

  44. 74
    Tom on 1 Mar 2015 #

    The Scottish Chart would also mean I’d be writing about “Ding! Dong! The Witch Is Dead” and “Blank Space”, both of which I’d love to do. Obviously I’d miss out on a few great tracks too of course.

  45. 75
    Ed on 1 Mar 2015 #

    @56 I don’t actually remember the Bo Selecta Craig David / David Craig very well. What sticks in my mind was his Mel B, which as I remember it managed to hit the trifecta of being sexist, racist and homophobic.

    Like Wichita, I didn’t know who was responsible for it. Does he still have a career, then?

  46. 76
    Cumbrian on 2 Mar 2015 #

    #72: Jason Lee is probably my generation’s Gus Caeser, re: the relevant chapter in Fever Pitch. Obviously, to make it to the Premier League to start with, you have to be the best footballer, not just in your school, but your area and probably your county, as well as one of the 2 or 3 best guys in your “class” at the club you’ve signed on with. Then, once you get there, you’re surrounded by everyone who is at least as good and the gulfs in class suddenly become really enormous – the difference between being in the top 1% of the population at football and being in the top 0.5% of the population gives rise to this idea that players are “rubbish”. Of course they’re not, they’re just being compared to a ridiculously high standard, then the brickbats start flying. I have no real idea how that relates to Craig David though, to be honest. It perhaps doesn’t. I still think that there’s something in the slating of both of them and their reaction to it though, as a point of comparison.

  47. 77
    Izzy on 2 Mar 2015 #

    It’s extraordinary how often that Gus Caesar chapter comes up. I heard someone talking about it on the radio a couple of weeks back. Hornby really tapped into a universal there.

  48. 78
    Cumbrian on 2 Mar 2015 #

    I think there’s something about the way it’s articulated that gives the Gus Caesar chapter resonance – it’s something that it’s possible to see in yourself or in others from your life. I’ve had several Gus moments in my life – where I took the step from the defined area in which I could be perceived as good out into a wider pool where you think “oh right, I’m not *that* good at this. This far and no further for me, more than likely”. Recognising that it doesn’t mean you’re rubbish is the trick I think – difficult to do sometimes though.

  49. 79
    Shiny Dave on 4 Mar 2015 #

    The pattern described in #76 sounds awfully similar to the established pattern of mental health issues in Oxbridge students from them suddenly being surrounded by peers of comparable ability and not being “the best” anymore.

    It’s funny we come across it in discussion of something from the first half of 2000, because (as I’ve mentioned on here before) it was through illness at this point that I went from a top-5% student (and top-1% in at least a couple of areas, and I’d been spending my entire school career up until 1997 at a school for students with learning difficulties and as such skewed still further from my level) to a top-20% student at best. That illness is now less than halfway through my life, and I’ve arguably suffered from (almost entirely undiagnosed) depression pretty much ever since, almost certainly derived from that loss of identity.

    (The writing of music, a hobby I mostly love, is an area this inadequacy comes into sharp focus these days, my lack of instrumental ability making me feel pretty much unable to finish the ideas I start. That was something I never felt around this time when I was mucking about with eJay and Music 2000 mashing small sets of samples into generic dance bangers, and it’s interesting how much that changed when I started writing vocal music. I suspect this is a theme that will keep recurring in my comments as we work through the 2000s indie bunnies and doubtless discuss the post-Britpop “real music” entitlement around that scene.)

  50. 80
    Cumbrian on 5 Mar 2015 #

    79: Well, Hornby went to Cambridge, I think, so there may well be something in that analysis.

    Sorry to hear of your own struggles in this respect too.

  51. 81
    Mark G on 5 Mar 2015 #

    Guys, what was the ‘relevant Gus Caesar chapter’, remind me? I did read the book..

    aye, ‘would you fill me in’ lol.

  52. 82
    Cumbrian on 5 Mar 2015 #

    It’s the short chapter in Fever Pitch talking about Gus Caesar, who played centre half for Arsenal under George Graham in the late 80s. Hornby gives a short biography. When Caesar was breaking into the team, he was quite young and was going through what could be expected of a young player making his way into top level football – variable performances principally but had obviously been seen to have something to warrant promotion into the first team. Unfortunately, he also had a habit of making high profile errors – the most prominent of which caused Arsenal to concede a lead in the League Cup Final against Luton Town, a game they went on to lose. Consequently, the crowd at Highbury started to get on his back and his performances started to spiral downwards, as his confidence drained. Graham bought in Steve Bould and Andy Linighan, further limiting his chances to play at a high level and find his feet/improve/rectify his errors. He’s regularly described as one of the worst players to ever play for Arsenal.

    Hornby then talks about the abuse that Caesar got, essentially talking through in more detail what must have happened to him in his youth, following the format of the short post I put up at 76 and the fact that, despite what everyone was telling him, he clearly was not rubbish. He had fallen short of the highest of standards but he was still better than basically everyone in the country when it came to football but being able to translate that into performance when you’re surrounded by players just as good, if not better than you is the challenge, both physically and mentally. I can’t remember whether he goes into the psychological impact that this may have had on Caesar (it’s some years since I read Fever Pitch and don’t own a copy in any case) but it’s definitely something that happens time and again in football – Jason Lee being my generation’s Gus Caesar, he also kept making errors that cost Forest games (though at the other end of the pitch – I think I remember several bad misses in a UEFA cup tie (though it might have been some other cup competition) that cost Forest an opportunity to progress) and eventually got hounded out of the top league – not helped by the aforementioned FFL/Pineapple On Head sketches.

  53. 83
    Cumbrian on 5 Mar 2015 #

    I think pretty much the whole Gus Caesar chapter is here:

    http://remotestorage.blogspot.com/2011/01/hornby-on-excellences-long-tail.html

    No mention of the abuse from the crowd. My faulty memory probably. I think Caesar himself has gone on record about that though.

  54. 84
    Tommy Mack on 7 Mar 2015 #

    #79/80: Also sorry to hear about Shiny Dave’s struggles. I do think we have an attitude in the UK that if you’re not #1 you’re a failure. As a teacher, I’ve seen this sort of pressure make countless kids’ lives a misery. Something I always tried to teach them was that most successful people have a string of ‘failures’ behind them, their main shared attribute being the confidence to fail and try again. This really isn’t stressed enough in education.

    Going to Imperial College later in 2000 was a huge slap in the face. I’d been comfortably in the top five students at my comprehensive school but then spent my gap year letting my brain atrophy in a terrible gap year job in a factory in Macclesfield to fund my band’s self released record (smoking too much skunk probably didn’t help either) To find myself up against bright students fresh from the best schools and in a very competitive, male-dominated environment was somewhat intimidating. Actually, that’s not entirely true, it was only really in second year that I started to feel ‘I may not be cut out for this’. Anyway, more on my fraught, sporadically brilliant, often unhappy college years in Populars to come.

    In terms of feelings of inadequacy as a musician, I’ve always felt I’ll never be top drawer technically so I better do something about bit maverick that will stand out for other reasons. When I was learning to play, even the guitar mags were full of britpoppers and alt-rockers deriding the over technical widdlers. I’ve had some *very* modest success since but I do feel frustrated as I often hear music in my head that I lack the chops to transcribe or play and I wonder what sort of music i would be making if I’d set myself a more rigorous practice regime.

  55. 85
    ciaran on 14 Apr 2015 #

    There’s a lot to cover with this one.

    CD made as good a start as you could possibly wish for with Re-wind and FMI. The former especially could be classed in the same bracket as Common People v Unchained Melody. A number 2 perceived to be vastly superior to what stopped it getting to the top. The Avid Merrion controversy has harmed its legacy but it’s still as fresh and joyful as it was when it was released.Would have been a 9 if it was Number 1.

    FMI is perhaps not as stunning but a solid follow up and there’s a touch of the unexpected and pleasant about it that just pushes the right buttons. R ‘n’ B was not something that was high on my musical agenda but David seemed a bit rough around the edges at this point to appeal more than the smooth laid back exponents of the genre.

    A 7 or an 8.

    The bunny has gone back to the shadows for now but whilst the first 4 singles were bang on by the time of his next visit we saw what the future would hold of CD’s musical output which wasn’t the best strategy. Undoubtedly Merrion painted him in a somewhat negative manner but if David had a ‘Fill Me In’ style ace up his sleeve it wouldnt have been anywhere near as bad.The mention of Craig David in almost every song was also highly annoying and a bit damaging in the long term.

    Jason Lee is the obvious football comparison but maybe a better musical one would be Roddy Frame.

    Some immense stuff in the top 10 at this time too.

    Flowers was’nt all that played on the radio at the time except for one pirate station as I recall but even now I cant help but be impressed.The standout single from the time.

    I cant help but enjoy the Bad Touch either. A kind of record for the final exam generation or to be sniggered at by Beavis and Butthead if they were around in 2000 (He said nuts he he he he!). It’s understandable if people roll their eyes to the sky at the mere mention of it now but the beat never fails to please.

    A Song for the Lovers. Well I have to admit that I enjoyed it greatly at the time and even now I could sing along to it regardless of Ashcroft’s fall from grace afterwards. A top gear compilation type song to my ears but worlds apart from what followed.

  56. 86
    Tommy Mack on 14 Apr 2015 #

    “Have you heard Craig David’s retiring from music?”
    “Really?”
    “Yeah, he’s joining the Olympic archery team.”
    “No way!”
    “Yeah. He’s not going to compete. He’s going to be a bow selector.”

    – Joke told to me by Nick Lees, then aged 18. This was as far as the CD-mockery got round are (sic) way.

  57. 87
    Steve Mannion on 14 Apr 2015 #

    #70 Re the ‘white guitarist’ story, here’s the BBC report on it from late 2002: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/entertainment/2480365.stm

    Notable and depressing in several ways. I always remembered the story but it was only in later years that the guitarist himself Fraser T Smith rose to prominence as a pop producer/writer occupying a halfway-house between Calvin Harris and Paul Epworth.

    Most of his work leaves me cold to the point where I am stunned to find he produced Quadron’s marvellous ‘Hey Love’ a couple of years ago.

  58. 88
    weej on 14 Sep 2015 #

    If anyone didn’t see Craig turning up at a 1Xtra live studio event and freestyling Fill Me In then go check it out, it’s a treat.

  59. 89
    Izzy on 15 Sep 2015 #

    That’s brightened up a slow afternoon, thank you.

  60. 90
    Tommy Mack on 23 Oct 2018 #

    Fans of Sweet Female Attitude (upon whom much (deserved) praise heaped upthread) take note: They appear to have regrouped and become extremely prolific over the last couple of years: a dozen or so singles and EPs though no second album as yet.

    I’ve listened to a few: nothing as singularly great as Flowers so far but all sounds good.

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