8. 2 Unlimited – The Magic Friend

I have a terrible confession to make. Much as I love 2 Unlimited, I have never rated Ray’s rapping. Luckily for me (and thanks to Pete Waterman) the ‘Limited’s UK singles rarely featured the extended verses heard on the European releases, and the version included on Rave ’92 happily leaves the verses instrumental and – vitally – shorter. Without Ray bibbling on for 16 bars three times through, we get a more concise track that really highlights the brilliant talents of 2 Unlimited’s (Belgian) producers, Jean-Paul DeCoster and Phil Wilde. Anita’s backing vocals are chopped down as well – the sneery mocking chorus echoes are abandoned, leaving her sole lines as disembodied whispers over the middle 8.

By the time I heard this track for the first time in February 1993, 2 Unlimited had just scored their first and only UK number 1 with the immensely Kat-friendly ‘No Limits’. By this point I was very much looking forward to hearing another track by Anita and Ray – ‘The Magic Friend’ might have charted at number 11 the previous year but it had completely passed me by, as had ‘Get Ready For This’ (then known only to me as ‘that music they use on Gladiators sometimes’).

Despite all these tasty ingredients (recogniseable pop stars, colourful boshing beats, catchy chorus, silly noises, fervoured anticipation), I just didn’t like this track at all. The main synth sound was EXACTLY like the ‘Brass 1’ setting on Mum’s big Yamaha keyboard (my least favourite of the noises on offer) and the gutteral metallic twanging was exactly like the ‘Slap Bass’ setting which almost as bad, because that noise only worked on the ‘chord’ half of the keyboard – any higher than low E and it would start going ‘wooooo’ instead of ‘gahhrk’. Rubbish! All this was in contrast to the preceeding Mello Core track, whose closest Yamaha sounds were the lovely ‘Marimba’ and ‘Celeste’ settings. They were far prettier names to read and say than ‘Slap Bass’. ‘Marimba’ and ‘Celeste’ were girls. There was no way that ‘Brass 1’ could be anything but a boy sound, and everyone knew that boys were smelly*.

Suffice to say I usually fast-forwarded the tape when this one came on. My increasingly positive attitude to ‘The Magic Friend’ over recent years is directly proportional to my growing partiality to boys and their smells.

Watch the video to ‘The Magic Friend’ on Youtube (Euro-vocal version, I’m afraid)

*Except for N1cky H, who was actually going out with K4rlie L** and everything so he must have had at least some redeeming features. We were all totally jealous when N1cky gave K4rlie a pack of tissues on her birthday.

**K4rlie had a parade of half a dozen pink-haired Trolls lined up on her desk at all times. One of them was in a space suit! We all started furiously collecting Trolls as well, in case that was the secret behind getting a boyfriend. My only troll was a sad little moth-eaten effort with green hair, that sat on top of your pencil.