(I originally posted this in my MP3 posting experiment, It Took Seconds – I’m going to make an effort to reformat selected Tumblr posts for FT from now on, since this is and should be my ‘main’ blog outlet.)

Candy Flip’s “Strawberry Fields Forever” is an interesting record because it manages to be basely cynical and winningly naive at the same time. On the cynical side, yes, this is a brazen cash in. Perpetually-fucked singing and a beat lazily gesturing in the rough direction of hip-hop were the currency of hip British pop in 1990 and Candy Flip were well aware of it. At the time I assumed that THE MAN was behind them but whether they were “manufactured” or not there’s no need for them to have been. The boundaries between a novelty single, an underground sensation and a pop smash have never been thinner than at this point in time, and it was a good time for people who had an idea for a record to actually go through with it.

This is also the utopian charm of the thing. At the heart of “indie dance” was an ideal of musical subcultures coming together. Which in turn was part of a greater mythologising of club culture (and Ecstasy) as a dissolver of difference – even a kid like me with no interest in sports was aware that hooligans were meant to be hugging on the terraces under the influence of the “Love Drug”. And that tied in with all kinds of wider stuff in the culture – “positivity” as a philosophy, Benetton, the idea that the 90s would be a decade of Aquarian goodwill after the ‘decade of greed’. And then ladder up high enough and you get to the apparently ultimate dissolution of differences, the end of the Cold War. “Bob Dylan never had this to sing about” – and crucially, nor did Lennon.

So from this angle two kids doing a limply dancey version of a Beatles track wasn’t the act of hubris it would have seemed like even five years later: “pop history” was less routinely glorified and more liquid, and for a season or two it seemed like the happy destiny of every old sound was to be improved by the addition of house piano and/or the ‘Funky Drummer’ sample. Candy Flip aren’t trying to stake a claim to membership of a pantheon (which was behind all of Oasis’ Beatle obsession), they’re simply inviting the Beatles to a different, better party. The turn of the 90s were the last time for a while that British pop stars didn’t reflexively believe things were better in the 60s.