Apr 12

GABRIELLE – “Dreams”

Popular53 comments • 5,347 views

#691, 26th June 1993

Gabrielle starts as she was to go on: a voice apparently soaked in personality singing songs with a total absence of it. Gabrielle’s throaty, worldly tone marks her out as this year’s version of that recurring chimera, the Great British Soul Hope. The GBSH – last seen on Popular in the form of Lisa Stansfield – tends to play out in a broadly similar way each time. A girl, or guy, or group with good voices and the best intentions enjoys early success, but the toxic mix of acclaim and dull material does for them.

In the case of “Dreams”, Gabrielle is halfway there already. The production is reassuringly professional, very close to the kind of powerpoint soul the Lighthouse Family would serve up later in the 90s. I think it’s the mix of strings and acoustic guitars that turns me off – two well-worn signifiers of “classy” in British pop, but they don’t play well together: the union has an inescapable beigeifying power. In fact the most interesting thing about the song is that it’s trying terribly hard for legal reasons not to be “Fast Car”. Once you learn that the original “Dreams” was built around a Chapman sample it’s impossible not to hear it, and hard not to wonder if the lack of clearance castrated the track. As for the lyrics, this isn’t strictly that other 90s curse, the motivational hit – but Gabrielle sells it like it is.



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  1. 31
    Billy Smart on 21 Apr 2012 #

    TOTPWatch: Gabrielle performed ‘Dreams’ on Top of the Pops on five occasions. Details of the Christmas edition shall be provided anon;

    17 Jun 1993. Also in the studio that week were; Time Frequency, Haddaway, Terence Trent D’arby & Des’ree and Deborah Harry, plus a live performance by satellite from Sting in Pittsburgh. Tony Dortie was the host.

    24 Jun 1993. Also in the studio that week were; M People, East 17, Bryan May & Cozy Powell, Gloria Gaynor and Alexander O’Neal, plus a live performance by satellite from Chake Demus & Pliers in New York. Mark Franklin was the host.

    1 Jul 1993. Also in the studio that week were; Joey Lawrence, New Order, Evolution, 4 Non Blondes and Take That, plus a live performance by satellite from Jade in Los Angeles. Tony Dortie was the host.

    8 Jul 1993. Also in the studio that week were; Haddaway, Taylor Dayne, Kim Wilde and M People. Mark Franklin was the host.

  2. 32
    Billy Smart on 21 Apr 2012 #

    Light Entertainment Watch: A few UK TV appearances for Gabrielle on the list.

    FRIDAY NIGHT’S ALL WRIGHT: with Francine Lewis, Denzel Washington, Martin Kemp, Lisa Loud, Macy Gray, Amanda Ghost, Gabrielle (2000)

    THE LENNY HENRY SHOW: with Ninia Benjamin, Tameka Empson, Jocelyn Jee Esien, Gina Yashere, Alison Steadman, Gabrielle, Steve Wright (2004)

    NAKED CITY: with Caitlin Moran, Johnny Vaughan, Suede, General Levy, Curve, Carter USM, Gabrielle, Iggy Pop, Monie Love, Eddie Izzard (1993)

    THE O ZONE: with Gabrielle (1997)

    RE:COVERED: with Gabrielle, Mercury Rev, Travis (2002)

    SHOOTING STARS: with Ulrika Jonsson, Mark Lamarr (Team Captain), Matt Lucas (George Dawes), Gabrielle, Darcus Howe, Rose Marie, Richard Whiteley (1996)

    T•F•I• FRIDAY: with Cher, Ronald Fraser, Burt Bacharach, Black Grape, Amanda Donohoe, Anna Friel, Gabrielle, Ocean Colour Scene, Shaun Ryder, Richard Wilson (1996)

    T•F•I• FRIDAY: with Will Macdonald, Andrew the Barman, Keith Allen, Cast, Jason Donovan, East 17, Gabrielle, Peter O’Toole, Reef (1996)

    T•F•I• FRIDAY: with Will Macdonald, Andrew the Barman, Audioweb, Candyskins, John Cleese, The Guitar Institute, Gabrielle (1997)

    TONIGHT AT THE LONDON PALLADIUM: with Engelbert Humperdinck, Vengaboys, Gabrielle, Johnnie Casson, Ed Byrne (2000)

    THE WORD: with Alexis Arquette, Penn and Teller, Gabrielle (1993)

    The T.F.I Friday featuring both Audioweb and The Candyskins boasts an especially underpowering musical line-up.

  3. 33
    Tommy Mack on 22 Apr 2012 #

    I must confess that as a 12-y.o. boy I found the eye-patch rather sexy.

  4. 34
    Erithian on 22 Apr 2012 #

    Billy #30: I used to work with a guy called Peter Dunton who had been the drummer in a late-60s band called Gun. He told me about the time they’d played the Marquee and he looked out from behind the drum kit and spotted John Lennon in the audience. That would be a brown-trouser moment for just about anybody.

    And Danielz, leader of one of the most durable tribute bands of all, T Rextasy, was a civil servant too.

  5. 35
    hardtogethits on 23 Apr 2012 #

    # 25 re: Crystal Waters. The references to Gabrielle becoming Crystal Waters’ successor abounded, for sure. As far as I recall, though, the chief reason was that Crystal Waters previously held the record for “highest entry for a debut single” (#3, 1991). (excluding assemblies which included any previous hitmakers (which, were they to be included, would deprive Gabrielle of the record anyway)).

  6. 36
    intothefireuk on 23 Apr 2012 #

    I think I would have been slightly more interested if the lazy eye had been out and about, laid bare for all to see. After all, there aren’t that many in pop – I can only think of Colin Hay. It would of been better than the crappy eye patch or even worse stuck-down hair. Oh, and it’s a terrible record – I never realised that it was based on fast car but I always knew there was something not right about it.

  7. 37
    swanstep on 23 Apr 2012 #

    @36, intothefireuk. Thom Yorke is *the* lazy-eyed rocker of his generation.

  8. 38
    thefatgit on 23 Apr 2012 #

    Den Hegarty?

  9. 39
    hectorthebat on 23 Apr 2012 #

    For me, the song is epitomised by its use in the film ‘Magnolia’. William H. Macy plays a washed-up child quiz star, who listens to the song on his car’s tape deck every day, psyching himself up for the mundane, routine, day ahead. In the same film, Tom Cruise plays a motivational speaker who teaches lonely single men how to pick up women in bars using sleazy techniques. If you haven’t seen the film, you really, really should

    That’s what this song is – a motivational speaker for the mundane, drab, don’t buy records, don’t really follow music, crowd. Where the Sex Pistols in the past, or a soon-to-come bunnyable moral panic hit from a few years in the future inspired one group of music listeners to turn up their radio, this inspired a different group to maybe speak to Sandra in accounts, or to apply for that promotion in the typing pool, or to take up jogging for a week.

    It isn’t: ‘Work Really Hard’, or ‘Who Cares, It’ll Never Happen’, it’s ‘Dreams Can Come True’, the battle cry for those who only have dreams, not those who actually have success.

    However, I defy you not to be singing it to yourself for the next few days! 3/10

  10. 40
    lonepilgrim on 23 Apr 2012 #

    @36 I reckon the lead singer of Showaddywaddy has/had a lazy eye – check out his performance on the latest TOTP from 1977.
    Glam conspiracy theorists may note that both David Bowie and Bryan Ferry performed with eye patches in the early 70s

  11. 41
    swanstep on 23 Apr 2012 #

    @39, hectorthebat. Ha! I’d forgotten about that. And, by golly, I own and have played that soundtrack album a lot, but I never noticed Dreams at the end of it. Effectively I’ve always just listened to the first 9 tracks – the Aimee Mann stuff – and ignored what I thought of as the ‘Supertramp’ end of the record.

    I guess that all this means that Dreams *does* in practice tip over into the sort of empowerment anthem/Oprah-pop that (in the US at least) was typified at the time by Des’ree’s You Gotta Be.

  12. 42
    Mutley on 24 Apr 2012 #

    @40 Johnny Kidd had an eye patch in the early ’60s, but I suppose they are obligatory for pirates.

  13. 43
    Erithian on 24 Apr 2012 #

    And there’s Ray Sawyer of Dr Hook of course, although his was no gimmick.

  14. 44
    Wizi on 24 Apr 2012 #

    Saw someone out driving the other day with an eye patch and wondered if it was safe and legal, not knowing much about that sort of thing.

    Anyway, thanks to Billy Smart for the TotP information as I had forgotten that Taylor Dayne had had more than just her first hit and will make a point of looking her up and reminding myself just how those songs sounded.

  15. 45
    glue_factory on 24 Apr 2012 #

    Dangermouse had an eye-patch in the early, animated, stage of his career but doesn’t seem to use it much nowadays. Or even be a mouse anymore.

  16. 46
    Tom on 24 Apr 2012 #

    Quick bit of admin – today has fallen prey to a bout of Meeting-itis so I won’t be able to post the next entry until I get home this evening. In future I’ll upload a draft the night before, I’m enjoying this newfound regularity and don’t want to see it slip…!

  17. 47
    Tommy Mack on 24 Apr 2012 #

    I read that opening sentence as ‘today has fallen prey to a bout of Meeting tits’. I had just watched the honest trailer for Titanic, mind…http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s6mMvBeEPT4

  18. 48
    wwolfe on 25 Apr 2012 #

    I love this phrase: “the union has an inescapable beigeifying power.” I haven’t heard this record, but I feel as though I have, thanks to that description.

  19. 49
    Jimmy the Swede on 26 Apr 2012 #

    None of the abovementioned had any eye issues at all when one considers (as perhaps only the Swede could) the even greater problems endured by Mssrs Charles, Peters and Wonder. And even these lads are soundly trumped by Mssrs Holly, Reeves and Hendrix. Presley doesn’t count as unlike the others he had already had number ones before becoming fatally challenged.

    Oh, and wasn’t the triangle player in the Simon Park Orchestra also the Permanent Secretary at the Department of Energy?

    I know I should have taken my medication today…

  20. 50

    To be fair: Momus is (jokily) mentioned above, and his bad eye was lost to a flesh-eating amoeba in a Mexican wash-basin (or something like that, I read it Vice magazine I expect). And when I googled Bryan Ferry’s eyepatch, I found a fan-site crossly saying that it was “mistakenly taken for a fashion statement” — which I assume to mean he actually did have a temporary medical problem of some sort.

    (Fact-checking via internet fan-sites and my own memory: marvellous there…)

  21. 51
    benson_79 on 17 Dec 2020 #

    Goddammit I had no idea about the Fast Car connection but now, as Tom notes, I will never be able to unhear it. I’m still quite fond of this for some reason, it’s just very pleasant and undemanding and sometimes that’s more than enough.

  22. 52
    Roshan Patel on 26 Apr 2021 #

    A classy record and a worthy #1 for me. 8/10 would be my mark.

  23. 53
    Gareth Parker on 29 Apr 2021 #

    I would go with a 7 here. A decent song and Gabrielle puts it over nicely.

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