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Apr 15

SPILLER – “Groovejet (If This Ain’t Love)”

Popular107 comments • 13,591 views

#871, 26th August 2000

spiller groovejet The revival of disco within pop put a spotlight on something that had gone missing over the 90s: a sense of music not just for dancing, but for dancing with someone. Disco was a music of mutual attraction: cruising, flirtation, negotiation. Its dancefloor is a space for immediate pleasure, but also for promises kept and otherwise. It’s a place where things start, but their resolution, let alone their meaning, is never clear. All of 2000’s great disco number ones explore how to play this hand. Madison Avenue look to impose their will upon it, to set terms and roles. Spiller is less rigid. “Groovejet” accepts the night’s changeability, happily sells out certainty for an amused smile and a few great one-liners. “Just for one lifetime I can be your pastime”, “In it together till I know you better.” Sophie Ellis-Bextor’s original chorus precisely caught the song’s resigned swoon: “And so it goes… how does it feel so good?”.

“Groovejet” – helped along by a whipped-up chart battle with Posh Spice – felt like the hit of the summer. Victoria Beckham’s song, “Out Of Your Mind”, was nowhere near as bad as some claimed – a surprisingly hard-headed, up to date, UK garage record, drenched in vocal effects. It was as modern and forthright as “Groovejet” was nostalgic and enigmatic. But its different parts grated where Spiller’s meshed. There’s a beautiful tension in “Groovejet”, an apt flirtation between Bextor’s languid, cut-glass vocals and the delightful indulgence of Spiller’s music. It’s not just any disco he’s reviving, after all. No Chic for Spiller, none of that poise or aspirational elegance. The sounds “Groovejet” loots are the syn-drums and ray-gun synths of disco’s overripe peak and decline, when it was corny, wonderful, mass-market pop music: you can hear hints of Kelly Marie or Amii Stewart in the song, before that sweetness falls back into the dreamy groove. “Groovejet” is a fond tour of disco when it ruled the world, and proof that it still could.

The music can be playful because the sophistication all comes from Ellis-Bextor. Her vocals were so appealing on this track she could ditch her indie-band baggage and spin them into a brief, well-loved career as a top ten presence, mixing instant hooks with finishing school froideur just as templated here. She offsets the track’s bubbly repetition, adds a bittersweet note without ever sounding like she’s above it. In fact she sounds carried along by it: Ellis-Bextor’s – and the song’s – most powerful moment is the breakdown – “Will you remember me, boy? Remember me – “ and her voice suddenly spirals up into the backing, the thought lost in the music. It’s blissful. And so it goes… but Rob Davis, who changed the chorus, made the right call, getting to an essence not just of the song, but of disco itself. Never mind absolutes, never mind reality, never mind the world outside the song and your body. Trust to pleasure, you’ll be alright. “If this ain’t love, why does it feel so good?”

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Comments

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  1. 61
    JLucas on 23 Apr 2015 #

    #54, why do you assume that because she’s a bit posh and public school educated Sophie Ellis-Bextor would have ‘problematic’ politics? Has she ever come out one way or another in terms of how she votes/handles her taxes etc?

  2. 62
    thefatgit on 23 Apr 2015 #

    Looking back to Nasty Nick Bateman, I feel he was treating BB as a game to be tested, almost to destruction. He would be valued as a video game designer, finding weak points within the structure of BB and exploiting them to his advantage, like discovering cheat codes or hidden levels. His contribution changed the BB dynamic from BB2 onwards. And when everyman Craig confronted him, then the viewer’s “gotcha” reflex kicked in and Nick’s motives were buried under an avalanche of class war rhetoric.

  3. 63
    Kinitawowi on 23 Apr 2015 #

    The amount of headlines Nasty Nick generated pretty much defined Big Brother for the rest of its existence – “how can we artificially create a situation like that again?”. With increasing desperation and diminishing success, evidently.

    Oh, there’s a song here too? I fell asleep halfway through because that backing track does the sum total of sod all for the entire thing. Vocal’s interesting, though. 6. (I’d rather be discussing the Big Brother theme, which peaked at No. 4.)

  4. 64
    Phil on 23 Apr 2015 #

    #55 – some red herrings there. I know it’s a myth that grammar schools were engines of social mobility, but equally they weren’t entirely closed to the working class; you did just have to pass the 11+. Those who made their careers in TV in the 1960s were certainly a privileged (or lucky) minority, but an upper-class minority? Jimmy Savile? Eamonn Andrews? John Noakes? Not seeing it.

    What you’re left with, I think, is that Ms Ellis and Mr Bextor were middle-class and well-off, & paid for private education as a lot of well-off middle-class people do. They also gave their daughter both their names – a complete accident as far as SEB was concerned, but something which I suspect did a lot to give the ‘posh’ story legs.

    In any case, while you might read about SEB and think her background was posh, & you could look at her and think she looked posh in a china-doll sort of way, I still can’t see how you could listen to the record and think she sounded posh – unless ‘posh’ is your only available alternative to ‘mid-Atlantic’, in which case I’ve got a much posher record collection than I thought!

  5. 65
    wichitalineman on 23 Apr 2015 #

    Re 59: Ah, THAT God Save The Queen, I see what you mean (I’d forgotten it was on Popular as it’s kind of a sidebar). Yes. I meant Southern English as in Godalming rather than Finsbury Park.

    I was also forgetting Neil Tennant (who no one ever calls ‘posh’).

    SEB’s combination of vowel sounds is pretty unique, I’ll give her that. There’s a mix of mid-Atlantic, Essex estuary, what sounds a little like Irish, and those Pet Clark RP vowels on “on”, “up”, and – of course – “darnce”.

  6. 66
    katstevens on 23 Apr 2015 #

    Penultimate Popular Entry for my Tenerife Dancefloor Hits 2000 – this was by far my favourite one to dance to at the time, though I totally didn’t twig that it was Her From Theaudience – I finally picked up their album for cheap at a record fair a few months later and bloody loved it (amazingly, coinciding with me becoming a pretentious student! Who knew etc). I remember having to pack up all my CDs at the end of that year at uni and leaving out 1) theaudience album 2) the BELLATRIX album (!) to listen to while I was packing. NONE MORE TWEE.

    Trip The Light Fantastic is a cracker though – I reviewed it on poptimists back in the day! China Heart is def still a banger. I wish I’d followed up properly on the compare/contrast with TashBed though – perhaps once Popular gets to 2004 :)

    NB that review is mostly me thinking up video ideas for SEB that don’t involve her having to dance too much – I’m sure she can bosh it up as good as anyone down Regals of a Friday night but her choreographed videos made her look like a baby giraffe.

  7. 67
    Izzy on 23 Apr 2015 #

    65: of course Neil Tennant is from Newcastle – which acts as a kind of Get Out of Posh Free card, no matter how one might speak.

  8. 68
    Mark M on 23 Apr 2015 #

    Re64: Hang on, I never said she was upper class, I said she was upper middle class. Repeatedly. You say ‘well-off middle class’ – I suspect we mean the same thing, but I dislike using the unqualified ‘middle class’ to describe a fairly small, privileged minority. And I didn’t say she sounded posh, although I guess others did.

  9. 69
    Phil on 23 Apr 2015 #

    You’re right to stress that anyone who went to a school like Godolphin Latymer is by definition in a tiny minority – and a privileged one, at least in terms of parental income – but I think there is a distinction to be drawn between the privileged minority that went to St Paul’s and Cheltenham Ladies’, and now sends its children there, and the larger privileged minority comprising “everyone who pays for private education”. The former’s uc and um-c (and posh); the latter’s mostly just m-c with a bit of money (and mostly not posh), and it’s in that group that I’d place SEB & her parents. It may be pedantic, but it’s a distinction that seems meaningful to me – in part because I am myself a product of a fee-paying school (in Croydon), and I’m two generations away from coal miners and domestic servants. (Nor, indeed, am I posh.)

    Anyway, never mind SEB – where on earth did they get the idea of Victoria Adams being posh?

  10. 70
    JoeWiz on 23 Apr 2015 #

    The first series of Big Brother was the about the best in my view. Funnily enough, the whole time I was watching it, it never occurred to me they would ever do another one.

  11. 71
    swanstep on 24 Apr 2015 #

    @wichita, 52, 65. You’ve probably heard and seen this mashup of SEB (‘Murder’) and Petula Clark (‘Downtown’), but just in case you haven’t… I think it makes the case for SEB’s accentual amphibiousness/eccentricity – her vowels are right with Clark in the choruses but there’s all sorts of stuff going on elsewhere (notably in the breakdown/spoken bit).

  12. 72
    Auntie Beryl on 24 Apr 2015 #

    The concept of Victoria Adams being ‘posh’ was amusing straight off the bat with Wannabe way back in Popular’s past. Conflating ‘anywhere in Hertfordshire’ with ‘posh’ is an easy and lazy mistake to make.

    Moving on from that, this is my excuse to talk about the first Bextor album. Fast forward 18 months and I am working for a Huge Company for the first time, and one of their Rules is that the Bextor album is played several times a day.

    We’ll trip over their bunnied Rules later, but one of my fondest memories of working for Now Deceased Record Chain at the time was that SEB album. Anyone even vaguely curious, splash out that 99p plus postage. It’s ace.

  13. 73
    swanstep on 24 Apr 2015 #

    Thinking about this track some more, the querulous title line from the chorus (If this ain’t Love/Why does it feel so good?) is a classic. Is there some line from a prior dance standard (or near-standard) with the same form and theme? I’ve been searching round for something like: ‘If blah-de-blah…. then what do we do now’ but haven’t been able to find anything. Can anyone identify what I’m half-thinking of that’s G(ITAL)’s antecedent and possible inspiration in dancefloor indecision and bargaining?

  14. 74
    Jonathan on 24 Apr 2015 #

    Re 61: I don’t know anything about SE-B’s politics; my discomfort comes from the idea that I might consider her “poshness” to be something intrinsically valuable — that I enjoy her specifically because she sounds so money.

  15. 75
    Cumbrian on 24 Apr 2015 #

    73: Are you thinking of “now that we’ve found love/what are we gonna do with it?”?

  16. 76
    Mark G on 24 Apr 2015 #

    Good call, but I would also add “It’s got what it takes, so tell me why can’t this be love?” Van Halen …

  17. 77
    Ed on 24 Apr 2015 #

    Or maybe:

    “If a picture paints a thousand words,
    Then why can’t I paint you?”

  18. 78
    Ed on 24 Apr 2015 #

    Possibly getting ahead of things here, but am I right in thinking that Davis and Cathy Dennis were asked to write “something like Groovejet”, and came up with Can’t Get You Out Of My Bunny?

    It’s one of those factoids I was sure I knew, but I can’t find any source for it now.

    I like G(ITAL), but I love OOYM. I was one of the few who bought the True Steppers album, which is also recommended. Much more like the sound of the year 2000 than Spiller or S E-B

  19. 79
    Andrew on 24 Apr 2015 #

    #65 Neil Tennant isn’t often thought of as posh, but maybe he should be!

    e.g. ‘The Theatre’ – when he says “years” it sounds quite like “yarrrs”. (I love PSB but this is occasionally jarring)

  20. 80
    Andrew on 24 Apr 2015 #

    #73 is it the Doobie Brothers’ ‘Long Train Runnin”?

    “without love…where would you be right now?”

  21. 81
    StringBeanJohn82 on 24 Apr 2015 #

    I often wonder why you don’t hear this much anymore, when similar disco-y hit from a year earlier Sing it Back by Moloko seems to be more played now on radio and in bars etc than ever. I honestly think I’ve heard that song more than any other song while out and about than anything else in the last 5 years. Which probably says something about my age and the places I hang out.

  22. 82
    StringBeanJohn82 on 24 Apr 2015 #

    Speaking of British teenage indie-pop stars collaborating with dance acts, can I recommend Mint Royale and Lauren Laverne’s ‘Don’t Falter’? from earlier in 2000? You need a bit of a sweet tooth to love it, but lord knows I do. I made a mix tape featuring that song for a girlfriend entitled ‘When you’re with me it’s always summer’. Needless to say the relationship didn’t last!

  23. 83
    Rory on 24 Apr 2015 #

    #82 You certainly can! My favourite single of 2000. Made me a firm fan of Mint Royale; a shame they fizzled out after their bunnied hit (reasonably recent EP notwithstanding). But more about that in due course, I expect.

  24. 84
    Steve Mannion on 24 Apr 2015 #

    I bought the SEB album for my Mum because it is MumPop what Mums like.

  25. 85
    Tommy Mack on 24 Apr 2015 #

    Is Syd Barret’s singing voice posh? He’s fairly RP and I think public school?

  26. 86
    Paulito on 24 Apr 2015 #

    Maybe everyone knows this already but, seeing as no-one has mentioned it, I think it’s worth noting that this is the second #1 this year to have been co-written by Rob Davis – who of course had topped the chart several times in the 70s as a member of Mud.

    And it’s a corker – exquisitely put together and crowned by SEB’s wonderfully haughty vocal. The instrumental section with the excessively cut-up beats is the only bit that hasn’t worn well.

  27. 87
    Mark M on 24 Apr 2015 #

    Re85: No, grammar school. Father pathologist. Often described as (indeed) ‘upper middle class’.

    Was his singing voice RP? I feel not – it’s a very ’60s kind of hyper-English that feels intended to evoke frolicking in medieval fields. Proper RP is clipped – you don’t draw out words (‘go’ is stretched out, lifts at the end with a slight ‘wuh’ ending). He did, and his voice was fairly droney. Related to the accent that social shapeshifter Mick Jagger uses on the Stones’ ultra-English excursions circa ’66. I’m sure someone has done some more serious thinking about all this.

  28. 88
    lockedintheattic on 24 Apr 2015 #

    OOYM was a bit unlucky to be up against something as good as this -in most weeks it would have hit number one (it outsold 5 of the solo Spice no.1s we’ve already visited here). A friend of mine worked for for Posh’s label and accompanied her on much of that famous signing tour was on; he came away incredibly impressed with her focus, vision and work ethic, and great fun to hang around as well (the opposite was true for Dane Bowers). I love the record too, probably and 8 from me.

    ITAL is better still; and probably the only time I actually liked SEB, her detached vocal style irritated me enormously on everything still to come. A solid 9.

  29. 89
    swanstep on 24 Apr 2015 #

    @80, Andrew. Thanks so much! That’s evidently what I was thinking of. The Salsoul sample’s interlocking guitar and clavinet figures is somewhat reminiscent of the Doobies’ interlocking guitar figures, but it’s only Spiller’s looping of the bars question and the chosen vocal rhythm that allows us to make that connection and that finally creates a track with somewhat similar overall feel (‘Love is You’ itself sounds and feels nothing like ‘Long Train Running’). Interesting.

    Thanks again.

    And while I’m in the business of thanking people, a round of applause for the behind-the-scenes IT folks at Freaky Trigger: I’m finding on the one hand that my login is being remembered properly these days, and on the other hand I’m not getting any of those ‘You are posting too soon’ errors anymore either. Well done you.

  30. 90
    Paulito on 24 Apr 2015 #

    @87: Certainly all of Floyd spoke and sang with refined, upper middle class accents. But the only example that comes to mind of a Floyd vocal that could truly be described as RP is that of Roger Waters on ‘Set the Controls for the Heart of the Sun’.

    Nick Drake is an excellent example of someone from the rock era whose singing accent is very much RP. Another factor in his ‘outsider’ status, I suppose.

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