Less Popular

13
Oct 19

All one can do is die (CRASH TEST DUMMIES – “Mmm Mmm Mmm Mmm”)

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(#2 in April 1994)

Fortune is the issue here: the blind bad luck of the song’s kid subjects, the random chance of us ever hearing about them. “Mmm Mmm Mmm Mmm” is a fluke, but a fluke brought forth from a particular moment, the end of the alt-rock gold rush. First there were the years when major labels pushed Nirvana’s peers, rivals and sometimes elders out across the world (even I bought a lumberjack shirt). Later, alt-rock became modern rock, a settled category in the US and barely a concern elsewhere. But alongside all that were the chancers, the one-hit wonders, the unlikelies, trawled up by the industry’s tuna nets as it tried to meet MTV and radio demand. Green Jelly. Ugly Kid Joe. 4 Non Blondes. This.

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3
Oct 19

It’s A Day For Catching Sun (LOUCHIE LOU AND MICHIE ONE – “Shout”)

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Less Popular is an occasional series where I write about hits that didn’t get to #1. It’s made possible by the Patreon – thanks to all my patrons.

Popular’s actual coverage of the ’93 Summer Of Ragga suffers a bit from the Number Ones showing up as the nights drew in – Chaka Demus and Pliers were cosy and languid, Shaggy a bit livelier but still heavy-lidded compared to “Shout (It Out)”, ragga gone unashamedly, noisily pop.

Louchie Lou And Michie One never had another big hit on their own, and only had one at all by teaming up with Suggs, bit parts to a bit part in the Britpop story. But Britpop is where you might reach for a comparison – Louchie and Michie are the Shampoo of ragga, snotty and loud and enjoying every minute of snatched fame. The duo had previous – they had worked with the Rebel MC, whose take on British hip-hop (“Street Tuff”) had been just as delightedly inauthentic, and just as catchy.

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15
Sep 19

In These Old Familiar Rooms (THE EAGLES – “Hotel California”)

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(Reached #8 in May 1977)

A byword for monolithic biggitude in their homeland, The Eagles never came close to a Number One in Britain. They did a solid trade in LPs, but they’re one of those groups who kept finding a ready British audience for “Greatest Hits” albums which – technically – are nothing of the sort. Their size and fame was more rumour and maybe wish, men buying CDs in service stations and dreaming of a denim-draped land far away where soft rock ruled the desert night.

Like most big album acts, The Eagles did have a signature song, and like many signature songs, it was long and ponderous and vaguely allusive, a rebuke to the idea that pop worked best as sharp jabs of feeling. I admit it, there’s a base appeal for me in the idea of the Prestige Rock epic as a grand statement, one I’ve protested too much against sometimes. It took years – decades! – for me to admit that while “Stairway To Heaven” is stupid in a dozen different ways, none of them actually stop it being great. “Shine On You Crazy Diamond” is distended and lumbering, mercury mourned by lead, but maybe more poignant because of that. Could you say something similar about “Hotel California”?

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