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Dec 19

BUSTED – “You Said No”

Popular18 comments • 1,568 views

#952, 3rd May 2003

While Busted enjoy a warm second career on the reformation circuit, time hasn’t always been kind to the hairy-palmed pop-punk they kicked off with. The line between cheekiness and creepiness has shifted in the last fifteen years, and a song like “Britney” (“Tracking you down on the internet / Cos I ain’t seen you naked yet”) was likely on the wrong side to begin with.

But the basic idea of the group – perpetually horned-up, heart-on-sleeve lads with a soft pop centre – had a real freshness to it, especially relative to the lukewarm likes of Blue. Smash Hits, struggling to connect in an age of media-trained stage-schoolers, saw an opportunity to get back to its own ireevertent roots. It ran its equivalent of “I have seen the future of rock and roll and its name is Bruce Springsteen”, endorsing Busted with a front cover before they had a single out. Said single, “That’s What I Go To School For”, was the Busted approach in early but complete form. Puerile, but great to sing after the pub, and just energetic enough to escape its own skeeviness.

There were lots of ways that concept could go wrong, and Busted tried most of them. But the pleasure of the group was never quite knowing which version – goofballs, lads, jerks or emo kids – you’d get and whether they’d pull it off (within a musically pretty basic framework). The band had internal tensions over its material and direction which played out intriguingly in public. It was hard to reconcile the group who made dumbass classic “Year 3000” with the one who made some of their later hits, but that kept things interesting.

On a song-by-song basis, though – which is how we have to meet them on Popular – the charm isn’t always evident. “You Said No” is a pettier cousin of Wheatus’ rather lovely “Teenage Dirtbag” – this time the dirtbag gets a happy ending not by winning over the girl but by dating her sister to spite her. It’s all a bit mean-spirited. Musically, at least, it’s closer to being prime Busted. It’s got two of the things they did really well – chantalong na-na-nas and a spring-loaded, high impact chorus (the three members would do a “Busted jump”, legs flipped up behind, at such points) – but these land partly because the rest of the song is a little feeble.

Busted regularly met criticisms that their schtick, was, in its way, the same as Blue – taking a hot American style and diluting it for the more timid Brits. A tutorial level for future Kerrang! readers who’d prefer the redder meat of Blink-182, Green Day, et al. On their best stuff, as we’ll see, the need for pop appeal made them more interesting, not less. But a track like “You Said No”, full of peevish melodrama, is where that line of attack rings truest.

5

Comments

  1. 1
    Lee Saunders on 28 Dec 2019 #

    I can’t remember whether it was with What I Go to School For or Year 3000 that Busted came into my life – it was definitely in the first few months of my first year of school, and I think it was my best friend from a few doors down that inspired the interest – but I have the vivid memory of going out with my dad to Asda to see which Busted CD I wanted, where the band had their own display with the album and singles (or presumably just the various versions of the latest single), and I picked the one with the coolest cover, the band having their height recorded, it seemed to me. Good decision, my dad said, because that’s the one with all of their songs on.

    So a milestone number one for me. It was the first No. 1 I knew before it was a single (on the album it was called Crash & Burn, and for some reason the memory of my mum telling me they changed the name has stuck), it was also the first No. 1 where I remember hearing about the video before I saw it (my aforesaid best friend said it saw the boys on bikes, which I assumed meant motorbikes, not BMXs; the fall through the floor at the end was a playground laugh), and, as I later realised, the first No. 1 I knew with an uncensored swear word. But it was the first No. 1 by a favourite band of mine, since becoming my favourite band. I have little but wonderful memories of this time for numerous reasons which won’t be indulged in detail here, but it seemed obvious to me in later years that not only was this me having for once my own favourite band, one that was not my parents’ music, but a band I loved in real time with all my friends, when I still had friends on my street and my estate and my school. There’s but one example of this yet to come, although that feels different, but Busted were the epitome. Right time, right age – even if their music would perhaps not interest me much if they had come at the other end of the decade, I bear the giddiest smile whenever I hear virtually anything from their first two albums.

    You Said No, admittedly, is not their finest hour, not least in hindsight for the reasons Tom outlines. But the things about the band that generally stick out to me now are all in place – the weak vocals getting by anyhow on sheer eager-to-pleaseness, and the Matrix-ish electronic flourishes all over the production. Even more enjoyable to me now are some of the little touches, like the exclamation mark harmonies on certain lines in the lyrics or the ‘na na na na’ droning on into the final choruses. Even so, and unlike McBunny, Busted for me try to resist any sort of nostalgia-disregarding, revisionist analysis. Because its May 2003, there’s a wonderful summer on its way, and life is the best.

    7

  2. 2
    ThePensmith on 28 Dec 2019 #

    It’s easy with over a decade and a half’s distance to forget just what an impact Busted made, and how important they were that the usual outlets of their audience – Smash Hits, CD:UK, Top of the Pops and Popworld (then at the peak of its Simon Amstell and Miquita Oliver era, who did an excellent one hour special with them that’s still on YouTube) – got so readily behind them from the off, even in the very short time we’ll be covering them on Popular.

    And it really was short. I’ve calculated that their initial chart career of eight singles that started with ‘What I Go To School For’ and ended on their fourth and final bunny, was done and dusted within 22 months, a lot of it down to their well documented internal tensions you picked up on Tom, which we can discuss at later entries. Their candle burned brightly but they sure as hell had a whale of a time whilst doing so.

    Now here’s the argument I want to make. As brilliant as they were (and still are, their latest album ‘Half Way There’ is the most slept on of 2019 for me), I believe, much like Steps, that Busted are poorly represented by all but one of their number ones. Of the four singles from their debut album, ‘You Said No’ (originally called ‘Crash and Burn’, but sympathetically renamed following the Columbia Space Shuttle disaster) is the weakest of these.

    I don’t think I’m being unkind when I say that their building momentum and the time of its release during the Easter holidays was what got it to number one. But for me, whilst perfectly serviceable on the album, it lacked the rebellious cheekiness or catchy instant appeal of ‘What I Go To School For’ or ‘Year 3000’, nor did it have the more wider reaching sincerity and brilliance of ‘Sleeping With The Light On’, which had to be content with a #3 debut that August. Even now I’d be hard pushed to put it in my top 3 singles of theirs.

    Still, what it undoubtedly did was confirm their graduation to the big leagues. Suddenly, just as pure pop looked like it was struggling, and was in the habit of taking itself seriously, Busted came along and gave it the shot in the arm it desperately needed, and sold millions of albums as well as singles in the process. I’d say musically it’s about a 5, but in terms of its significance and where it got them to I’ll give ‘You Said No’ a 6 overall.

    Probably one of the most forgotten #2s of the decade the week this hit the top: ‘All Over’, the solo debut of So Solid Crew vocalist Lisa Maffia. Her venturings away from them proved to be just as short lived as Romeo and Harvey’s were, and So Solid Crew themselves returned to a barely remembered top 10 hit ‘Broken Silence’ that September, by which point no recognisable members of the crew remained because of their various dabblings with the law/low grade reality shows.

  3. 3
    Lee Saunders on 28 Dec 2019 #

    self-correction: that should be “in the verses”, not ” in the lyrics” (guhhh)

  4. 4
    Alan on 28 Dec 2019 #

    “Related Posts” failure in not linking http://freakytrigger.co.uk/ft/2004/09/the-emo-adventures-of-charlie-busted/

  5. 5
    PapaT on 28 Dec 2019 #

    My muso friends and/or classmates at the time (we were in Year 11 for reference) all either had genuine disdain for Busted, or considered them an easy source of cheap point-scoring laughs. I would half-heartedly defend them because I thought they were missing the tongue in cheek nature of the whole thing, although given how seriously Charlie Simpson has taken himself in the years since I may have been giving them some benefit of the doubt. I never really rated their songs, although, as is much more the case with McFly, may have enjoyed them if performed by singers who were more to my taste, and I did like them more than a lot that came from the acts they had supposedly watered down.

  6. 6
    AMZ1981 on 29 Dec 2019 #

    This is an edited version of my Patreon comment. I normally wait for the public posts but I couldn’t wait to talk about this one; largely because it’s the first number one by an act I’d consider myself a fan of since Beautiful Day back in 2000 (Oasis being a partial exception, along with Elton’s guest slot).

    You Said No is probably best seen as a slipstream number one that got there after two better remembered prior singles didn’t. It’s arguable that they had already peaked; having seen them live it’s noticeable that Year 3000 is the showstopper all these years on.

    It’s tempting to view Busted as a pop confection on an existing genre but the timeline doesn’t really bear this out; particularly if Green Day are seen as outliers (Dookie was and remains their biggest seller but that was almost a decade old at this point and their game changer hadn’t happened yet). The odd pop punk song had hit big (All The Small Things, Teenage Dirtbag, Fat Lip – Good Charlotte had hit a few months before but this was post Busted) but the genre hadn’t really formed into a whole.

    Busted themselves are hard to quantify. You Said No is the first of four bunnies, they squashed a lot into a short time before imploding, at which point they had passed the baton to another band. The lack of any material for a decade makes it impossible to judge whether they were a boy band dressed up as pop punk or a pop punk band marketed as pop stars.

    A final point; it is curious that Busted and their successors took off so strongly when the `boy band with guitars` genre had produced a series of flops (remember Ultra) to the point where girl bands with guitars seemed more of a recipe for success.

  7. 7
    Chelovek na lune on 29 Dec 2019 #

    “Year 3,000” was a cracker of a pop song: almost like an updated Undertones teenage tale. Albeit more polished, both musically and socially. And it captured the weaknesses of Busted as well as showing them at their greatest strength.

    This pales in comparison with that. It fails to be “My Perfect Cousin” to that “Teenage Kicks”

  8. 8
    CriticSez on 29 Dec 2019 #

    Yeah, I thought 5 as well. When I reviewed this in 2016, I called it “more awkward than awful.”

    And yes, you’re right about it being called “Crash and Burn” on the first pressing. I had a later pressing that had the altered title.

    Also, a high 8 for Year 3000.

  9. 9
    Shiny Dave on 29 Dec 2019 #

    #4 “It is curious Busted and their successors took off so strongly…”

    How strongly? They combined for as many 00s bunnies as Westlife! (And, as mentioned, Busted shared early-Westlife’s tendency to fire out singles at a one-per-quarter rate; this seems to be a feature of this era generally. As Tom pointed out with Take That at one point, visibility meant product in the 90s, and we’re still in the era where the singles chart is purely physical here even if the rise of ADSL, and hence the Internet as we know it, is firmly under way. So the management strategy was the same: singles, and another one, and another one… and another one.)

    And here they are, Manics-esque, their first chart-topper a pale imitation of the breakout hit. Actually, the Manics were less like that than Busted even – the breakout hit was the most plain-spoken their lyrics ever got, “If You Tolerate This…” was oblique lyricism from the title on down. Busted broke out with boyish school-hall rock with an oddly effective production sheen, and they got to number one with boyish school-hall rock with an oddly effective production sheen.

    The period Busted soundtracked was the sixth-form years where I drearily embraced “real music with real instruments” to an unnerving extent. It was a weird period of contrasts, in retrospect. I’d throw myself into rock, yet have constant painful sensory overload from its playing in the sixth-form common room, which I’d sometimes fight against by playing Sarah McLachlan CDs. That I purchased with some of the money I won from an essay-writing contest run by the IEA – saving the rest – while my own political and economic beliefs were swinging hard against everything the IEA stood for. (More on that one in a later 2003 bunny, but suffice to say I did buy “American Idiot.”)

    One thing never changed, though; I was a sucker for a walloping high-impact bit of pop, whatever trappings it was coated in. Throughout my secondary-school years, the trappings tended to be the synthesiser wash of pop-trance and adjacent genres; at sixth form, it was more likely to be the guitar wash of pop-punk and adjacent genres. And so while I was probably exactly the right age to be just too old for Busted, and had a snobbishness that simultaneously drew me towards and away from them at once, those high-impact choruses were something I could never take away from them.

    (The lyrics I could, but even then I don’t think I quite knew why they were such Unrelatable Content, I certainly hadn’t put my finger on exactly how to describe my queerness yet. It was actually like how #6 pointed out pop-punk was forming through fragments years in advance before being an established genre, actually. I had individual moments – one from this era springs to mind, where I got roped into a truth-or-dare game in the common room and essentially got asked if I’d ever have sex with one particularly conventionally-attractive woman in the group, reacting with utter confusion – that pretty clearly pointed towards me being queer. But they were only fragments, and didn’t say much about how, or what it would mean.)

    I have nothing much else to add about the single – like seemingly everyone else, I agree it’s a lesser execution of the band’s obviously appealing formula and would give it 5. I think it’s telling that it’s a single off an already-available parent album – that’d already had a name change from events in the interim, even! – that hit the top first, it suggests they really were a singles act and that makes sense with their instant-impact style. Heck, the change of title probably helped it in a singles context – the new title is the words in the hook, and even if it wasn’t now the actual title I bet people would’ve thought it was.

  10. 10
    cryptopian on 30 Dec 2019 #

    This is about where my brief obsession with music channels begins. Like every other 12 year old boy, I recognised Year 3000 and What I Go To School For as timeless bangers and lapped up every other one of their releases, including this one. When the rivalry next year pops up, I’d stay true to that “boys like Busted, girls like {{Bunnied act}}” mentality that only makes sense when you’re a preteen schoolkid. In hindsight, I enjoy taking the side of the friends who ditched them, it’s incredibly pissy.

  11. 11
    Sausagebrain on 30 Dec 2019 #

    My main memory of Busted is how hilariously inept their attempts at miming playing guitar seemed.

    Imagine my surprise when it turned out that they actually did know how to play their instruments. And in the case of Charlie, play rather well (Look, I’m still a rock snob. OK?)

  12. 12
    ThePensmith on 31 Dec 2019 #

    #6 – Ultra! Now there’s a name from the past. I picked up their debut album secondhand a few years back. As I recall they wanted to be “Wham for the 90s” at the point where it probably wasn’t the coolest thing to be. ‘Rescue Me’ – their last single and only top 10 hit – is a lost gem of the time.

    It is curious really how it took until the early 00s for this model of boyband to take off. But I think Ultra, and then latterly BBMak, were more at the softer Dawson’s Creek rock end of things. I watched an interview with Matt Willis a few years back before their reunion and he cited that BBMak were an early influence to the point that auditionees for Busted had to sing and play their version of their hit ‘Back Here’ (including the founding member of their bunnied successors, who was a member for 24 hours before being told otherwise by their manager Matt ‘Fletch’ Fletcher, who still manages both bands and The Vamps, who we won’t meet on Popular, to this day).

    I think the fact they decided to pick up on elements of Blink 182 and Green Day was what made them lift to a different level and made people pay attention. And as #9 said, those choruses made all the difference, something that James continued to do so well through his years as a songwriter for other artists after Busted broke up.

    Strangely though, there were many attempts at the girl group with guitars format as you say, both before and after Busted, but none made an impact. Pre-them, there was Thunderbugs (a top 5 debut killed off by a flop second single) and Hepburn (a modest smattering of top 20 hits), whilst after their split in 2005 came The Faders (fronted by Midge Ure’s daughter Molly, whose one best known song ‘No Sleep Tonight’ was on the soundtrack of a gazillion TV shows here and in the States), Love Bites (formed by their managers, who had one top 20 hit and a flop top 50 follow-up), and Xenomania even had a go with Frank, stars of a short lived post-Miami 7 project for T4 called ‘Totally Frank’ (their one single, ‘I’m Not Shy’, made #40 in August 2006. The parent album ‘Devil’s Got Your Gold’ was excellent, albeit seriously misfired in commercial terms).

  13. 13
    will on 1 Jan 2020 #

    Don’t forget 21st Century Girls! Simon Fuller’s attempt at the format released one self-titled single that ‘flopped’ at No 16 and, hilariously, had split up by the time the millennium actually came around.

  14. 14
    PapaT on 1 Jan 2020 #

    First time I heard Busted the DJ suggested they could be “the new Dum Dums”!

  15. 15
    lonepilgrim on 2 Jan 2020 #

    this sounds well produced even if the song itself is a bit ho-hum – they could have leaned more into the bad attitude in the same way that the Stones did with ‘Under My Thumb’ etc but perhaps that would not have gone down so well. I can vaguely remember my pupils being into the band but it seems significant that they have tied the song to BMX in the video which seemed to have more cutting edge cultural clout than mere pop music at the time

  16. 16
    Tommy Mack on 3 Jan 2020 #

    My bandmate at the time was offered an audition for “a manufactured pop punk band who are going to be launched straight into the charts.” As a committed alt-rock snob, he declined but when Busted emerged soon after, I always assumed it was them. So there you go, my mate was nearly in Busted, who wants to touch me?

    Also, #12 – Hepburn did a lip-sync’d set at our students’ union. I think we were going to attend but ended drinking in the adjacent bar. Sorry, Hepburn!

  17. 17
    Shucks Mahoney on 4 Jan 2020 #

    Ultra! I had forgotten how much I liked Say It Once, which was fixed perpetually in my memory by an interview with the band who talked about how naff the video for it was (it’s terrible: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ohuEUjvxg9w)

    Looks like they charted in NZ, which is how I heard of them; Busted never seemed to trouble the Antipodean airwaves.

  18. 18
    Musicality on 20 Jan 2020 #

    Whilst I was at school, Busted were loved by all the girls and mocked mercilessly by the guys, who preferred Kerrang acts of the time, namely Linkin Park and Evanescence.

    I liked them within the confines of pop, infinitely more interesting and better than Westlife and young persons probably ended up liking other guitar based music as a result.

    The first two singles, ‘What I Go To School For’ and ‘Year 3000’ were far better than this. Though the hype and fanbase had locked into formation here, granting the first of numerous chart toppers. Half their initial output going to the top, first time around. Not bad statistics.

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