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Feb 15

FRAGMA – “Toca’s Miracle”

Popular55 comments • 2,822 views

#856, 22nd April 2000

fragma I don’t know that turning a meat and potatoes trance tune into a dance-pop banger passes theological muster, but as pop miracles go it’s a welcome intervention. Unless, that is, you’re Coco Star, the singer whose vocals grace “Toca’s Miracle”, an unasked and – she later claimed – unpaid borrowing from her 1996 “I Need A Miracle”. “The Millennium Prayer” was cheekily fingered as the first mash-up number one: “Toca’s Miracle” has a much stronger claim. And like the bootlegs of 2002, the Internet was at the heart of it – Star says that the DJ who’d laid “Miracle” over the rather drab “Toca Me” had grabbed her vocals off a file-sharing site. Meanwhile jobbing German producers Fragma found themselves – quite by accident, since the bootleg was none of their doing – with albums and follow-ups to arrange sharpish. How much had changed since Loleatta Holloway got ripped off for “Ride On Time”? At least Star got to appear in the inevitable sleazy video.

In this swampy world of dance hit origins, few emerge with credit. But at least the unnamed DJ makes up for his ethical fail with an aesthetic win: “Toca’s Miracle” is a blend comfortably superior to either of its ingredients. Star’s “I Need A Miracle” is decent enough – a (non-UK) garage track showcase for that strong but yearning vocal workout – but no kind of breakthrough. “Toca Me” is less exciting: second-rate trance happy enough to rub BPMs with bigger hits in a DJ set but never likely to stand on its own. Together, though, they have alchemy: Star’s vocals give “Toca Me”’s moodiness some momentum and structure, and Fragma’s uninspired builds and rushes are the fuel “Miracle” needs to become a better pop song.

The result still doesn’t surprise, but it has an urgency to it, a melodrama neither of its originals possessed. The finished product hints at the cornball magnificence and thrill-power of italo house and disco. It was an inevitable development for trance: with the standardised sound a regular chart presence, better gimmicks – and better songs – were needed to cut through. Not one for the purists on any level, “Toca’s Miracle” is cheapo fun, and showed how the toolkit of chart trance could work melded to a pop structure. It was a lesson an awful lot of people were learning.

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Comments

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  1. 26
    wichitalineman on 28 Feb 2015 #

    Hard science couldn’t stop Thong Song.

  2. 27
    Billy Hicks on 1 Mar 2015 #

    Something technical about the track that I think I’m the only one in the universe to hear.

    The standard radio edit – and I’ve checked both the CD single and Now 45’s version and they’re identical – has some sort of mastering error, which can particularly be heard at the start and Coco’s opening few ‘Hey yeah-eh’s. There’s some very slight dropouts in the backing track and generally it sounds like an mp3 that’s been encoded incorrectly, despite coming from a proper CD.

    Listen, however, to the version on Fragma’s album ‘Toca’ and it sounds perfect, although it’s several seconds longer as they’ve added more of a buildup. It makes me wonder if the original was done in a bit of a hurry, hence the slight audio errors, and the version on Toca – released in January 2001 – is properly mastered.

    I’d give you a youtube comparison, but irritatingly the majority of the high quality versions are of the (terrible) 2008 remix. But load up Spotify and find one of the 3:24 radio edits and you’ll hear the dropouts clearly at around 15 seconds in when Coco’s vocals start, and then compare it to this HQ rip of the album version at 0:29 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SjvEBwe8Q0I .

    It’s something that’s bothered me ever since buying the CD single, and when I bought Now 45 I was surprised to hear it there too – is it just me? I suppose if I wanted the perfect version I could just take the album track and edit it so it matches the radio edit…

  3. 28
    wichitalineman on 1 Mar 2015 #

    Oh Billy. Now you’ve mentioned it, I’m always going to hear it. Like Colin Blunstone’s “dry mouth” on She’s Not There.

  4. 29
    mrdiscopop on 1 Mar 2015 #

    Coco Star turned up at my sister-in-law’s 30th birthday party about a decade ago. They don’t know each other, so none of us is quite sure how or why this happened. Anyway, there was a karaoke machine and – yes – she put on Toca’s Miracle and performed it to the stunned audience of a ropey Rochdale pub who had hitherto been enjoying beige Billy Joel covers.

    She was great. Captivating, even. But I did wonder if she just spent her Saturday nights wandering around looking for karaoke nights to hijack.

  5. 30
    Tommy Mack on 1 Mar 2015 #

    #27, #28: Dry mouth? Do tell…

    I take it everyone’s noticed John Lennon nearly fluff the second verse of Please Please Me and just pull it back?

    #29: that’s brilliant. Definitely how I’d spend my life if I had a one-off hit…

  6. 31
    Edward Still on 1 Mar 2015 #

    Looong time reader, first time commenter here. This was definitely a clichéd “Sound if the summer” for me and seemed a continuation of the chilled-out feelgood vibe of Pure Shores. Despite it’s murky beginnings I can’t help but adore it today as much as I did a decade and a half ago, definitely a high 8 or 9

  7. 32
    Inanimate Carbon God on 2 Mar 2015 #

    I wish I could give this a 9 but I’ll give it an 8 – like Ride on Time, originally a sure 10, I’ll knock a point off for the slight sense of behind-the-scenes dirty tricks. But it’s one of this era and genre of dance music’s best. That bassline. Though I tell you hwat, it’s no Planet Perfecto – Bullet in the Gun.

    And ha! Coco Star, like me, went to UWE. Unlike me, she actually got to meet and work with Massive Attack and Tricky – but give it time.

    She’s also from Welwyn Garden City, which like Hemel Hempstead*, I refuse to believe is actually a real place. Come on. It’s like a bloody greenhouse in ‘ere.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Welwyn_Garden_City#Geography

    * It’s a long story, something to do with Chris Eagles.

  8. 33
    wichitalineman on 3 Mar 2015 #

    Re 33: Hemel is real enough. It used to have a great record shop in the old town (I found the first Bill Fay album there for £15 – happy days). Also has a ‘magic roundabout’ where I always think I’m going to crash. Fewer pop stars than Welwyn though, which is, of course, also home to S*M*A*S*H.

  9. 34

    Welwyn is literally the centre of the popular universe: mentioned to date in threads on The Bangles, Amen Corner, ABBA and Fragma.

  10. 35
    Andrew on 3 Mar 2015 #

    Alesha Dixon, who we sadly won’t meet on Popular (short of a future no.1) is from Welwyn

  11. 36
    enitharmon on 3 Mar 2015 #

    Kim Smith, sorry Wilde, who didn’t have a British number 1 but did have an American one, came from Welwyn but it’s important not to confuse Welwyn with Welwyn Garden City (noted for being neither a city nor a garden nor Welwyn). The smaller Welwyn always had more and better pubs than Quaker-covenanted WGC.

    I’m all too well aware that WGC is a real place having lived there from the age of 11 until I went off to Uni and part time from then until I was 22 and got married. Not exactly the hub of the universe. I did buy most of my music there in that period, from Rumbelows or the Welwyn Stores , and Harlequin Records when it opened, but later on I preferred Rag Records of Hatfield or the one in St Albans whose name I forget.

  12. 37
    Alan on 3 Mar 2015 #

    If Hemel Hemstead were not a place, it would really shorten the car journey to my in-laws, so that would be nice

  13. 38
    Andrew on 3 Mar 2015 #

    ah, I wasn’t aware of the distinction – Alesha is from WGC

  14. 39
    Mark G on 3 Mar 2015 #

    Consider Yourself .. Welwyn.

  15. 40
    Inanimate Carbon God on 4 Mar 2015 #

    Repeat after me, fuck stage school faux – soul!
    Repeat after me, death to the new (new) acoustic age!

    Useless generation
    Dumb sleeve tattooed, low cut T shirt wearing, cod-Edwardian bearded, LAD Bible reading, ironic penny farthing riding, conversationally inept, £65 craft beer on sale in a former salt of the earth East End boozer, cheeky Nando’s, dirty – burger munching and instagramming every meal in an era of food banks, neo liberal scum!

  16. 41
    chelovek na lune on 4 Mar 2015 #

    Stevenage is no Basildon, when it comes to hellish concrete London overspill new towns, in terms of musical legacy. (obvs, Essex > Herts in any many of other ways, too, but)

  17. 42
    Tom on 4 Mar 2015 #

    Another number one artist takes a leaf out of the Coco Star playbook: http://www.vulture.com/2015/02/watch-a-bangle-sing-the-bangles-at-karaoke.html

    (Though I fear “Eternal Flame karaoke” might attract the attention of the bunny.)

  18. 43
    Fivelongdays on 4 Mar 2015 #

    I really hope that means you are supporting the town where I live, 41, what with our legacy of Depeche Mode and associated acts, Kunt and the Gang and, oooh, loads others.

    @40 one of my pet peeves is the use of the words ‘cheeky’ for no apparent reason. ‘Ooh you like a cheeky whiskey before you go to bed’ ‘Let’s have a dirty McDonalds’ et al. My old boss did it a lot, and he was a semi-literate anti-semitic bullying fucktard.

  19. 44
    JLucas on 4 Mar 2015 #

    #42 I’m relieved that the gorgeous Susannah Hoffs was coerced into that for an article. I’d hate to think of her sadly trawling LA karaoke bars reminding baffled onlookers of her greatest hit.

  20. 45
    chelovek na lune on 4 Mar 2015 #

    #43, yes, strongly. Yes, DM, yes, Kunt (though I can’t look at the “market square” in the same light since one of his videos depicted it as being full of people chanting one of his more direct and less ambiguous lyrics while undertaking dance moves of a similarly direct and unambiguous nature…), and YES: ALISON MOYET, too. And even, really, 50% of Erasure, the Assembly, etc, etc. Bas is verging on being second only to Sheffield for brilliant electronic pop music in the UK, really.

    (Am from down the road ie the A13, and also lived, the other way down the road ie the A13 for a few years, too – both towns mentioned in the Billy Bragg song. Have relatives in both Bas and Steve, I find both places vaguely menacing, but am intrigued as to why Basildon has produced such a wealth of brilliant music, whereas Stevenage, as far as I know, despite having very similar origins and demographics – nowt)

  21. 46
    Cumbrian on 4 Mar 2015 #

    The main feature of Basildon that sticks out in my mind is that tractor factory that you can drive past on the A1235. Just row after row of blue tractors, all the same make and model – you can even see them on Google Maps.

    https://www.google.com/maps/@51.5841697,0.4758949,386m/data=!3m1!1e3

    It always makes me wonder who they’re selling them to. The farmers I knew when I lived up in Cumbria bought a new tractor once every 40 years at best – especially as they got good at keeping their current machine going – so I was trying to work out who needs all these tractors. I can’t see farmers replacing them like people replace cars somehow.

    Toca’s Miracle is very good – I don’t, as a rule, like this sort of thing very much, but it’s catchy as hell and I actually quite like it.

  22. 47
    chelovek na lune on 4 Mar 2015 #

    The quality of pie and mash is also far higher in Bas than in Stevo, with the place by Pitsea station being particularity noteworthy. (maybe the overall greater strength of influences from London contributes to an explanation of sorts)

  23. 48
    wichitalineman on 4 Mar 2015 #

    Erasure are 50% 1946 New Town (Basildon), 50% Expanded Town (Peterborough). Though I’d say former has more character than the latter. Towns, I mean.

    There’s still a Poppins in Bas too; it was the only half decent caff in P’boro but closed last decade some time.

  24. 49
    Mark M on 4 Mar 2015 #

    Re46: So for some twisted reason I couldn’t resist knowing more on this – and found an academic paper from Chile suggesting that the average lifespan of a tractor is 22 years, which certainly suggests the economics of the business aren’t that promising. But I suspect in large-scale agribusiness they get through tractors faster than that…
    (This is totally going to look like spam when it shows in the latest comments column, isn’t it?)

  25. 50
    Cumbrian on 5 Mar 2015 #

    49: Ha. Very good. Thanks for looking that out. Seems like the blokes I knew from up North were outliers, just good with an engine or working on non-large scale farms and not hammering their tractors in any case.

  26. 51
    punctum on 5 Mar 2015 #

    Probably the most boring “bootleg” mix yet to make number one – even on a legal level it was uninteresting since both tunes used were released on the same label – “Toca’s Miracle” constituted the instrumental track from German Eurohack dance duo Fragma’s 1999 #11 hit “Toca Me” and the (specially re-recorded) vocal from Coco’s 1997 #39 smash “I Need A Miracle.” It was big in Ibiza. Although not actively offensive in the way some Popular entries here have been, it defies me to feel anything about it; it squats there for three and a bit minutes, doesn’t even go anywhere in the sense of climax or resolution and I struggle to find reasons to give it even one point. When I arrived at the extreme of “give them 1 for not being Westlife” I knew I was being passively provoked to the nethermost regions of desperation. I do note, however, the sleeve credit which reads: “Original Concept by Vimto.” You really couldn’t make it up.

  27. 52
    Inanimate Carbon God on 5 Mar 2015 #

    @51 Ouch.

    But I’ll admit the “You lift my spirits high, come on and RES-CUE MEEEEHY!” part sounds a bit coked-up 80s Reaganrock.

    Are there any good covers of this from outside its genre? A tight, new wave or garage rock band could really pull it off.

  28. 53
    Clive Munday on 7 Mar 2015 #

    @51 the article states the vocal is from 1996, rather than the 1997 re-vocal for Positiva. The vocal is from the 1996 Greenlight Records release B-side, a totally different recording on a totally different record label. The producer crediting for the 1996 vocal is Victor Imbres with engineering by Tim Orford. The later 1997 re-recording is credited to Matt Roberts with engineering by Leon Roberts. ’97 Crediting reflects ‘coco appears courtesy of Dub Dub Productions’. Someone has likely confused the parts or ownership (assuming there even was a ’97 vocal only) and sold millions of copies of a bootleg. Later remixes seem to be random music with the coco vocal slapped on top, there seems to be over 50 remix versions for sale. remixes sound hideous, itunes credits Tiger records/Kontor as copyright holders.

  29. 54
    ciaran on 15 Apr 2015 #

    I was in favour of this at the time but it has lost a bit of its shine over the years. It sounds a bit weak especially compared to an absolute belter that we’ll get to in early 2001.Even with it playing in the background whilst multi-tasking I was already starting to lose a bit of interest.Looking like Fergie of B”” E”’ P”’ also doesnt help.

    On a good day though I wouldnt begrudge it a 6.

  30. 55
    Girl with Curious Hair on 1 Sep 2016 #

    For what it’s worth, I remember quite liking the video when I was a kid. I realise this is a really *really* low bar, but by the standards of early 2000s dance videos “girls playing 5-a-side” was almost wholesome. It’s not exactly The Second Sex, granted, but sometimes in life you’ve gotta take the little victories.

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