So the cruddiest number one of 2001 lands at the top in a week when a lot of people were not caring about music. And certainly, spending £1.99 on “Hey Baby” is one of the more aggressive ways you could find to not care about music. The song is a mugging of a rather sweet #2 hit from 1962 by Bruce Channel: his “Hey Baby” was hayseed bubblegum, a bag of folksy candyfloss with a harmonica hook hot enough that people assumed the Beatles swiped his idea.
Channel’s song does nothing to deserve this monkey’s paw resurrection, except be catchy. Otzi preserves that property – “Hey Baby” became an instant terrace hit – and puts the song on steroids, before welding on any 90s sample he can locate. Even our old chum “Uno, Dos, Tres, QUATRO!” gets a turn. Otzi’s main innovation is significant enough to land in the title – “Hey Baby (Uhh, Ahh!)” – the two-note crowd participation hook he inserts. Anyone fortunate enough to have been on a bus or train when groups of men give lusty voice to the song will know how effective, and painful, this alteration is.
Crassness isn’t really the problem here though, it’s the marriage of crassness with a total severing of imagination. Add a touch of surreal invention to amped-up cover versions and you have the reliably entertaining Scooter, whose crossover audiences wouldn’t be as distinct from DJ Otzi’s as I’d like to believe. But there’s no invention in “Hey Baby”, just a brute force ramming of song into forebrain in the service of parties you wouldn’t want to be at. This kind of Eurostomp has a heritage (inevitably, Otzi turned in a cover of Opus’ deathless schlager-rocker “Live Is Life”) and a tenacity. People were buying it on the 10th of September. People were buying it on the 12th of September. Like the cockroaches set to survive armageddon, “Hey Baby” was resilient.