Jan 14

DEEP BLUE SOMETHING – “Breakfast At Tiffany’s”

Popular139 comments • 10,316 views

#746, 5th October 1996

dbs It’s by no means a hard-and-fast rule, but if you’re writing a break-up song it’s often a good idea to try to make your protagonist sympathetic, or at least not a fool. Here we have a guy who knows his girlfriend is going to break up with him and clutches at an Audrey Hepburn-shaped straw as evidence that maybe – just maybe – the two still have a chance. Your judgement may rest on whether you think “Breakfast At Tiffany’s” trades in bathos or pathos. Is it a merciless document of the kind of undignified rhetorical lunges men will make to avoid being dumped – or is it supposed to be touching?

Probably both. “We both kinda liked it –“ – this comes across as baffled politeness from the girl, and establishes only the feeblest of rocks to cling to. The attempt to stall an oncoming end is surely doomed. But the song, for all its conversational pretences, isn’t necessarily happening in the real world. As “Breakfast At Tiffany’s” frames with its title, the track nods to romcomland, a special place where predestined lovers ultimately overcome their differences, however unpromising the start.

The song’s clunking reference fits ever so slightly with the zeitgeist, at least. Outside the charts, we’re in the age of early Tarantino films – mixing stylishly choreographed violence with nerdish dissection of cheeseburgers or Madonna – and more pointedly of High Fidelity, with its seductive (if ultimately doomed) intertwining of music taste and romantic destiny. Both nail particular tropes of what will become “geek culture” and its relationship with consumption and preference. “Breakfast At Tiffany’s” shows one logical extension: if being into the right things is a precondition for love – the geek romantic dream – then breaking up when you both like an old film really is an injustice.

Or the man’s a ridiculous whiner. Anyhow, when I first realised I detested this record – a minute or two after I heard it – the lyrics weren’t my only problem. It mixes ingredients in the same broad way the Cranberries do – light indiepop guitar hooks on a bed of mild post-grunge crunch. Neither element does the other any favours. The song is too self-pitying to have any bite, but the attempt to flex its muscles and telegraph serious feelings just underlines how over-sensitive and entitled our hero sounds. Almost no mid 90s American alt-rock made it successfully to Britain – even the fakiest most corporate examples tended to stall or go unreleased. So it’s hard to know how typical this weak effort was, even of the blandest end of modern rock radio. Probably “Breakfast” was a harmless fluke. But to this day I’m annoyed far more than I should be by its sulky self-importance, its overwrought beating on a very puny chest. Just let her go, man!



  1. 1
    Jonathan Bogart on 12 Jan 2014 #

    This was my favorite song the year it was released! I was a senior in high school, everything was taking on a melancholy glow of prefabricated nostalgia, and I thought the instrumental break at the end of the chorus was just about the most beautiful musical sequence I’d ever heard. (My musician friends assured me it was not as complex as it sounded, but I didn’t have the ear for complexity yet; a basic descending sequence still went a long way with me.)

    I don’t know that I ever thought much about the lyrics, except to the extent that I also kind of liked the film and so identified with both the song’s characters; but I certainly never thought the song supported the idea that kind of liking an old movie was a solid basis for a relationship. That self-absorbed doofiness was, I suppose, part of the charm. (Only, perhaps, because I was also exactly that sort of self-absorbed doof. With more maturity under my belt I would no doubt have hated the song too. I certainly would hate anything similar that became popular today; and one of the best things about the postmillenial pop landscape is that this kind of mealymouthed power-pop would have a hard time getting any traction.)

  2. 2
    hardtogethits on 12 Jan 2014 #

    I don’t like this record, but I do rather admire the philosophy that shared cultural references and preferences can make a relationship work. Funny you mention High Fidelity, Tom,because the idea that the key to a relationship is ‘not what we’re like, it’s what we like’ is pure Hornby-ism. The thing is, in my experience, if you have to express those similarities, your relationship may have run its course anyway – and certainly if you get to having to list them, you’re doomed.

  3. 3
    Brendan F on 12 Jan 2014 #

    I remembered it being around at the time but I’m amazed it actually went all the way to the top. It seemed too bland and tuneless (with trite lyrics to boot) to even be a top 10 hit let alone a #1. Maybe they were extraordinarily handsome which seemed to be the main criterion for male pop acts to hit big in the late 90s.

  4. 4
    Ricardo on 12 Jan 2014 #

    As you said, Tom, American corporate alt.rock tended to either underperform or be DOA in Britain. Which makes this song’s arrival to the top spot almost a year after it hit its peak in its Motherland even all the more confusing.
    Why it did so? Pardon my French, but fuck knows! To answer Brenda F’s doubt, the lead singer was quite cute, yes. But even that fails to fully explain why this hit #1 when, say, Toad the Wet Sprocket, Live or Third Eye Blind never translated their multiplatinum American appeal across the pond – and just in case you were wondering, “Breakfast At Tiffany’s” parent album, Home, never went beyond Gold status in the US.
    Anyway, if this isn’t a completely forgotten #1, blame it on the lyrics, basically. It’s their utter clumsiness that save this song from total MOR oblivion, really.

  5. 5
    Patrick Mexico on 12 Jan 2014 #

    I expected Tom to savage this one, and so be it.

    Can’t agree with the mark. Well, bloody good point about that scattergun pop-cultural referencing – imagine if it went “And I said, what about, Sex Lives of the Potato Men?” Mind you, I know it’s not very hip or sexy, but I’ve always had a fondness for this über-anthemic, whitebread, middle-Americana. (see also: Semisonic, The Connells, honestly much of R.E.M and Pearl Jam’s discography.) You could call this a Butlin’s take on the Replacements. But at least it’s something vaguely like the Replacements. 7.

  6. 6
    DanH on 12 Jan 2014 #

    This boring nothing-song managed #3 here in the States, but not for lack of airplay. It blows me away that this made #1 in the U.K….that would be the equivalent of….whatever British band that never crossed over, help me out here, regulars :-)…making #1 in the U.S.

    I do appreciate your insights into this song though. Helps me see it had some worth, or at least potential. That’s why I like this page :-)

  7. 7
    Tom on 12 Jan 2014 #

    #1 Great comment – I feel lucky that the set of “Number Ones” and the set of “Songs I found meaning in in High School” don’t intersect that much.

    #4 This feels like a record a DJ might have got behind, there’s always a couple of dudes at Radio 1 at any time who like bland, lyrics-y songs.

    I saw Live live, you have just reminded me. They were terrible! REALLY turgid. They were supporting Frank Black (whose set I can also remember nothing about at all). I wasn’t going to many gigs by anyone else’s standards but mine, but I had just started to get pretensions of becoming a ‘rock critic’ and I thought one of the things you ought to do was pay attention to support acts. Live were, I think, the very worst act I denied myself the pleasure of the venue bar for.

  8. 8
    DanH on 12 Jan 2014 #

    For the record, I would prefer Gin Blossoms…similar, but not as in-your-face boring. Did they ever have hits in the U.K.?

  9. 9
    punctum on 12 Jan 2014 #

    American AoR, otherwise unchanged since the seventies, smuggled itself back into the nineties under “alternative” cover, and the facade proved highly profitable. Throughout the mid-nineties there sprouted a rash of essentially conservative rock/pop groups who typically enjoyed one major hit single and one auxiliary major hit album before going back to the bars or to infinitely more profitable careers writing and producing for others. The Spin Doctors, 4 Non-Blondes, Soul Asylum…all could have existed in 1975, but with the correct post-Cobain packaging and marketing they looked “alternative” and prospered with the post-Hornby clientele anxious still to look “with it” but fearful about allowing music to come too close to them lest it disturb them and thus remind them of their own rapidly dwindling mortality.

    “Breakfast At Tiffany’s” was the culmination of this line of selling and in a lot of ways is the “Release Me” of its time; the song concerns a couple on the verge of breaking up, hating each other actively and passively. In desperation the singer summons up a dim reminder from their distant beginnings (“And I said, what about Breakfast At Tiffany’s?“) to little effect (“She said, I think I remember the film” – hardly the cherishable memory as the foundation of a deep and lasting relationship). He persists (“And I said, well, that’s one thing we’ve got”); his underlying desperation and insecurity surf to the surface (“I see you, the only one who knew me”) before he finally gives up (“I guess I was wrong…/Still, I know you just don’t care”).

    This minimalist scenario is played out in just two verses and a chorus and might have worked had it found a more sympathetic musical setting than DBS’ bar-room politeness alternating with “punk” guitar “thrashes” and noodling which might pass as Johnny Marr at 50,000 miles, not to mention the terrible, hearty lead vocal which sounds like Pete Seeger being subpoenaed into singing with the Rembrandts. Music for the intimidated middle-aged couples who lived through punk and couldn’t understand why their sun wasn’t blotted out anymore.

  10. 10
    Tom on 12 Jan 2014 #

    #9 ah, yes, he gives up on it by the end – I think I must have tuned out in the instrumental break every time. Which makes it closer in scenario to “The Winner Takes It All”, and there the comparison should end.

  11. 11
    Ricardo on 12 Jan 2014 #

    #9 Not that it’s really important. But out of those you mentioned, only 4 Non Blondes actually sprouted a member who ultimately went to songwriter/producer-for-hire’s greener pastures – no need to name names here, I suppose.
    Another “alternative” star one who went on to find fortune (if not fame; but that’s exactly the point, right?) in that very field was Dan Wilson out of Semisonic. Those royalties from Adele’s “Someone Like You” surely will be enough to pay his rent for the next few years!

  12. 12
    thefatgit on 12 Jan 2014 #

    Yeah, this one…

    “Breakfast At Tiffany’s” was nothing more than an overplayed borefest on daytime radio. The mentions of 4 Non-Blondes and Semisonic are par-for-the-course. 90’s post-grunge was a wasteland with the exceptions of Beck (if you can count him as mainstream anyway) and Tool, foreshadowing something else.

    So Deep Blue Something sort of exist in some kind of obscure plane, in the same way Hootie & The Blowfish are “cool” in the Friends Universe or The Violent Femmes are “cool” in the How I Met Your Mother Universe. Somewhere in the corporate world, DBS are a “cool” rock band. The only attractive thing about the song is the hooky chorus. The rest is dull, unremarkable karaoke-fodder for accountants. This is probably the least cool #1 outside the novelty canon.

  13. 13
    Alan not logged in on 12 Jan 2014 #

    I saw this was coming up and spent quite some time looking for the Harry Hill clip of him and Stoufer the cat singing this. If anyone finds it, I owe you a google (I owe you a duckduckgo sounds filthy).

  14. 14
    Ricardo on 12 Jan 2014 #

    #12 Well, Violent Femmes are still very much considered “cool” in a (index word alert!) hipster way. I don’t have any idea of them having lost their “cool credentials” at any point. Unless we’re trying to call Reality Bites into mind here – and wouldn’t you know: DBS, in many ways, DO remind me of Reality Bites.

  15. 15
    23 Daves on 12 Jan 2014 #

    #5 I was wondering if someone would mention Semisonic – I always had that band and Deep Blue Something tied up quite closely together in my mind, although as you point out, there are numerous other contenders from the same period. Bloody hated Semisonic. A local pub I used to frequent was owned by a brewery who had some kind of deal going on with their record label where for a few weeks they would play “Closing Time” at, you guessed it, closing time. The tune was turgid anyway, but to cap it all off someone thought it would be a wise idea for it to accompany the “drink-up” cries of an impatient and scowling landlord. Not the best marketing device I’ve ever come across, to this day if someone mentions Semisonic (which isn’t often) I just associate them with being kicked out of pubs and having a lonely walk home to my student digs.

    Anyway, Deep Blue Something. “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” is one of those records I really don’t like, but I can grin and bear it if it comes on the radio. It’s music you can imagine one of the characters from “Friends” really enjoying, slick yet slightly bitter-sweet and not too edgy. If you were a young aspirational person, you could put it on the stereo at one of your first dinner parties and at least nobody would complain.

    At the time the lyrics made some kind of sense to me, but now I’m a grown adult I just listen to it and think “What? You’re trying to save a relationship based on mutual film and music likes? Get a grip. For that reason alone, leave, woman, leave”. These days I’m not the kind of romantic who thinks that shared cinema tastes and shared love of the same band t-shirts means much of a damn thing, to be honest, it’s just a nice bonus.

    EDIT TO SAY: I think Simon Mayo got right behind this single, didn’t he? It seems like the kind of record he would unconditionally support. That and bloody Joan Osbourne’s “One Of Us”.

  16. 16
    mintness on 12 Jan 2014 #

    The instrumental break referred to above (#1) always puts me in mind of the theme tune to The Kids In The Hall. Now there’s a slice of the 90s (by the time it reached us, at least) that does stand up to a revisit.

    That said, my most recent encounter with “Breakfast…” was when an inspired piece of playlisting at a Leuven gay bar last October prompted a venue-wide singalong at four in the morning. The kitsch factor, dewy-eyed 90stalgia, cheap sticky drinks – probably an appropriate enough spiritual resting place for the song.

    (But a good call at #8 – I’d give up the singalongs and cheap sticky drinks for life if it meant we could talk about “Hey Jealousy” here instead…)

  17. 17
    To Mewing! (@tomewing) on 12 Jan 2014 #

    Perhaps YOU will be the one to overturn critical consensus about Deep Blue Something! http://t.co/BQLPYWmi0E – but probably not tbh

  18. 18
    Chelovek na lune on 13 Jan 2014 #

    #8 Yes, the Gin Blossoms had four fairly small UK hits: of which one (“Hey Jealousy”) was certainly superior to this.

    I can’t bring myself to hate BAT, but,it’s just so….insubstantial. I think the dorkiness of the lyrics is kind of self-conscious. Well, hopefully anyway. And musically: well, it has a structure that flows and works up to a point, without setting the world on fire and serves its purpose reasonably well – an opening hook draws the listener in; the chorus steps things up a gear and draws the listener in a bit more. The emotion isn’t overstated: as break-up songs go this is remarkably un-upsetting: perhaps one for the stiff upper lip, keep calm and carry on audience. But then, it just repeats – no doubt, as story- and lyric-wise it has nowhere to go. It’s over.

    I can’t remember why on earth this was a hit – was there some promotion tied in with it? (a quick glance at the chart run shows it was a re-release, having got to no 55 in the summer). Yes, it’s inoffensive mainstream radio fayre, unchallenging but unrepulsive.

    I could stretch to a 5.

  19. 19
    flahr on 13 Jan 2014 #

    Surprised by the strong reactions to this. The song strikes me as of course a bit of a joke, there’s no way the line “we both kinda liked it” would appear if the narrator wasn’t supposed to be a bit pathetic*, but there’s something slightly adorable in how earnest his scrabbling away at straws to try and salvage something so palpably doomed is. I certainly don’t get any sense of irritation from the song.

    It’s a bit too repetitive, though, and as much as I’d like to stretch to a 7 for contrariness’s sake I think 6 is as high as I can go. Which is odd because I gave “Wannabe” a 7 and I listen to this for pleasure far more than I ever would to that.

    What else to say? I think it’s the second, and last, grunge #1 hit (after “Inside”), although I might have forgotten some, and it’s entirely possible some of the later Oasis hits (which I haven’t heard yet) are grunge like most of …Morning Glory was (but not “Some Might Say”). Someone mentioned the album, Home, upthread; it was complete pish and I think of it as the archetypal “album that’s only good for one song”.

    *that’s probably why I’m so surprised by the reaction to the song, actually: the narrator is so obviously pathetic that you all read like HOWWIBLE BULLIES by being mean about him

  20. 20
    Rory on 13 Jan 2014 #

    UK music buyers do it again: first Stiltskin achieve the grunge number one that should have belonged to any number of better bands and songs, and then these guys do the same for the poppier end of ’90s alt-rock. I never had much time for most of the representatives of the latter mentioned so far, but a few did appeal to me a great deal: Matthew Sweet, Ben Folds, the New Pornographers and Semisonic were at various points in the ’90s and ’00s among my favourite artists, and I still check out their new releases. (I must admit that I still haven’t listened to Dan Wilson’s Free Life since I picked it up last year, but I would go in to bat for Semisonic any day: they were a hell of a lot more than the guys who did “Closing Time”, and that was a lot better than the song under consideration.)

    So I know the musical language of which we momentarily speak. I can recognize this as a typical example of the use of that vernacular. And I can hear the words recede into the background like chatter in the street, as I forget what any of them were beyond the title. It was apparently chosen because it made for a catchier song title than Roman Holiday, but one unfortunate consequence is that the song brings to mind Mickey Rooney’s performance rather than Gregory Peck’s. (Another, according to the singer, was that they always ended up being asked to appear on breakfast radio.)

    I had no memory of the song, but when I watched the video something stirred, so I must have heard it when it was reaching number 3 in Australia in early 1996. But as Texan power-pop alt-rock one hit wonders of the ’90s go, I’ll take Fastball, thanks. (The Houston Press, meanwhile, once called this the second-worst song from Texas of all time, after another old friend).

    Unfamiliarity breeds slightly less contempt, so it’s a 4 from me today.

    [I wrote this when there were only seven or eight comments, before the Semisonic hate appeared, but I knew it was coming!]

  21. 21
    flahr on 13 Jan 2014 #

    P.S. Hootie and the Blowfish are shitter than shit.

  22. 22
    taDOW on 13 Jan 2014 #

    hard to describe the horror just seeing the words ‘deep blue something’ provoked in me. third worst song of the 90s. 1.

  23. 23
    Rory on 13 Jan 2014 #

    flahr @19, I’d never call this grunge myself. Post-grunge, sure, but that scene was as distinct from grunge as post-punk was from punk.

    Meanwhile, I have managed to survive 46 years without ever knowingly hearing a Hootie track! Woohoo! (And that took some doing in the 1990s, I tell you.)

    (Of course, now I wonder if there was something I was missing… but no, my curiosity isn’t going to get the better of me at this late date.)

    (It is, isn’t it. Curse you, Internet.)

    (LOOK WHAT YOU MADE ME DO. [Runs sobbing from the screen.])

  24. 24
    Rory on 13 Jan 2014 #

    P.S. Hootie and the Blowfish are shitter than shit.

  25. 25
    Alan not logged in on 13 Jan 2014 #

    I notice a few mentions of “Friends”, I often confuse this song with the theme to Friends, and this band with The Rembrandts (I just had to google them). I’m not quite sure what the link is, but if other people have mentioned it, I’m clearly not entirely mad. (I am not a fan of the show.)

  26. 26
    Billy Hicks on 13 Jan 2014 #

    Hmm…a generous six. As I recall I think I kinda like it. But yeah, ‘kinda’, it’s something I’ll listen to and enjoy but with rarely any major urge to play it on my iPod, where it’s nestled in the outer reaches since March 2008.

    For those wondering how it was a hit, it’s completely mainstream, middle of the road and sounds perfect on daytime radio. How could it not be?

  27. 27
    lonepilgrim on 13 Jan 2014 #

    like Alan at 25 (and also mentioned by Marcello at 9) this strongly reminds me of the theme from ‘Friends’ – I don’t mind it. I’ve never paid much attention to the lyrics but I enjoy the melody and it has a Country-ish twang to it which I quite like.
    For some reason I’ve always thought this was by the Divine Comedy which shows how much attention I was paying at the time (and since).

  28. 28
    Brendan F on 13 Jan 2014 #

    #25 – when Patrick Mexico compared them to the Replacements I was about to suggest they’re more like the Rembrandts but I thought it was a bit ingenuous at the time – but certainly the singer sounds nothing like Paul Westerberg

  29. 29
    taDOW on 13 Jan 2014 #

    yeah this wasn’t even scrunge, nevermind grunge. they were vaguely in that vein of college rock that was always where altrock radio’s heart really was – gin blossoms, counting crows, live, hootie, dave matthews, collective soul, goo goo dolls, matchbox 20, third eye blind, the wallflowers. the rembrandts were in this vein also as were the bodeans who also managed to crossover to radio w/ a television theme song. there are many others who managed one hit and were gone immediately and if there was any mystery or excitement to this era it lay in being unable to predict generally which nuisance was going to be here and gone like the verve pipe or deep blue something and which were going to linger like matchbox 20. rem are kinda the wellspring (or septic tank maybe) from which all this flows though the one’s who lingered added another element be it a more pronounced power pop (gin blossoms, third eye blind somewhat), a solid classic rock impersonation (counting crows, wallflowers), bombast on loan from u2 (live), vague jamband aesthetics (dave matthews), or (my fave) 90s BARITONE (hootie!). no idea how matchbox 20 survived (and thrived, sustaining a multialbum hit career almost none of their peers here could dream of).

  30. 30
    AMZ1981 on 13 Jan 2014 #

    It’s a bit like marmite, this song. You either like it or hate it (I must admit I quite like it).

    Mulling over the number one singles of 1996 it’s interesting that the year’s two one hit wonders* were both rock artists. However while Jaz Mann of Babylon Zoo raged and strutted in the theatre of fame while the scenery fell down around him, Deep Blue Something seemed to modestly accept their moment in the spotlight – I think we all knew they’d never hit big again. Maybe they had the last laugh though; I still hear this one on local radio more than many of this year’s chart toppers.

    * Just to qualify that two one hit wonders statement, Mark Morrison and Gina G did have further top ten hits albeit forgotten now, Baddiel & Skinner’s song would return (and both were and remain known outside of music) and Dunblane is a special case.

  31. 31
    hardtogethits on 13 Jan 2014 #

    #19. Kinda. The usage of kinda became prevalent in the 90s, didn’t it? Dunno how prevalent, or where it came from, or went to. At one point, in these parts, there seemed to be kind of a division between those who used it, and those who disapproved of it. Kinda like uptalk or whatever it’s called. It led to an amusing moment when a UK football commentator interviewing John Harkes (of Sheffield Wednesday and the USA) tried just that bit too hard and enquired “Your parents* were** kinda Scottish, weren’t*** they****?” He replied, good-naturedly, “They**** were*** Scottish.” Just realised that looks like an expletive-ridden exchange. It wasn’t though.

    There was even a kind-of Estuary English version, where the V was pronounced more than the D? Sounded a bit like “carve”. I recall a friend accidentaly saying it in a meeting with someone who wondered what the word meant. Don’t hear it so much now. Wonder why?

    Anyway, maybe DBS’ singer was being kinda polite – like not wishing to presume she liked it that much?

    * might have been grandfather or grandparents or Mum or Dad. But not grandmother.
    ** might have been was, is or are
    *** see **
    **** might have been he or she

  32. 32
    Ricardo on 13 Jan 2014 #

    #30 And wouldn’t you know it, DBS DID have a follow-up single called “Josey”, which hit #27 in late December of 1996. I dare anyone tell us how it went without looking it up on YouTube!
    Either way, should DBS join the two-hit wonder Pantheon? Or should we look at the fact that a Top 30 hit in 1996 meant almost nothing, as those were the days of fast-moving singles charts and peaking-at-week-of-debut performances?

  33. 33
    Tim Byron on 13 Jan 2014 #

    I have a memory of seeing this debut on Rage (the ABC in Australia used to televise the singles on Saturday mornings) and fairly quickly ascend to the top 5, and of never having heard the song before that. I listened to rock radio/alternative radio at the time, and would have heard it if it was playlisted, so I think I assumed it was being played on the chart pop stations.

    My memory of this at the time (as a 14 year old) was that it was okay, but pretty slight; I didn’t mind it existing but I definitely wasn’t going to go out of my way to hear it (I appear to feel this way about most landfill alt-rock of the time…memories). It was definitely catchy though, which was why it was successful; it’s a difficult art to make the kind of song where the lyrics are part of what’s catchy rather than just the rhythm or melody, and BAT does this pretty well (and I’m assuming that it was a fluke on DBS’s behalf judging by its one-hit-wonder status).

    In Australia we got a fair bit more landfill alt-rock like this than the UK must have (judging by the comments here) but bypassed lots of stuff that was big in the US (Blues Traveler never made it to Australia, for instance). In my mind, this stuff has often lasted better than the more serious and well-respected alt-rock stuff of the time, because shorn from the now-irrelevant arguments about selling out etc, at least stuff like this was well-crafted. But then I listen to Hootie & The Blowfish or Matchbox 20 and reconsider…

  34. 34
    weej on 13 Jan 2014 #

    British resistance to post-grunge / mainstream-indie-rock was always patchy, and back in 1993 I’d been happy to listen to 4 Non Blondes and The Spin Doctors. Three years later seems like an age, though, Britpop had happened and The Spice Girls were here – for me at least this seemed like the new natural order, but of course this had no relevance at all on the other side of the Atlantic, and if it was getting made, some of it would get through. A few years later we have Semisonic and then Nickleback (thankfully no bunnies here) and Radio 1 and the charts were more than happy to accommodate them too. Deep Blue Something are a polished-up sample more than a highlight of US alt-rock, but the song was fairly catchy, enough people liked it, and here we are in that gap between big summer hits and Christmas where minority interests can rise to the top. I’m not a fan, but it’s hardly incomprehensible.

    Thanks for this thread for reminding me of the Gin Blossoms – from all the groups listed above ‘Hey Jealousy’ is the only thing that I would still listen to. There’s something about that kind of upbeat pop with something unspeakably sad underlying it that just gets me, though I may just be projecting what I know about the songwriter. Anyway, it’s a useful contrast with Breakfast at Tiffany’s – in some ways quite similar songs, but in reality worlds apart.

    My Semisonic memory; we used to sing “Nobody knows it, but she’s got a wet-look perm” at uni. God they were awful, A.V. Club still talk about them as if they were some great lost act though.

  35. 35
    MikeMCSG on 13 Jan 2014 #

    Reading this thread is like headbutting a stone wall. Every other post is giving me and my tastes a kicking. DBS are kinda what I liked but not a particularly good example of it ( neither were Hootie and the Blowfish ).

  36. 36
    Jon (@octojon) on 13 Jan 2014 #

    One of the first CD singles I owned; I played it to death, both B-sides too. RT @tomewing: Deep Blue Something http://t.co/bc7NFYawpe

  37. 37
    James BC on 13 Jan 2014 #

    The high point of Atlantic 252 must have been around now. Although they mainly followed the chart quite closely, they had a habit of latching on to quite minor hits in the soft rock vein and playing them to death – Soul Asylum, the Connells, Third Eye Blind, Sophie B Hawkins and Roll To Me by Del Amitri are a few that spring to mind. They never had much chart impact but I got to know them very well.

    This song must be that genre’s defining moment – the one effort that unaccountably broke through and became more than a minor hit. I wonder how much of a part Atlantic 252 played in its popularity.

  38. 38
    anto on 13 Jan 2014 #

    This is a song that really belongs at number three. Nothing much to take hold of but I can think of worse.

  39. 39
    Auntie Beryl on 13 Jan 2014 #

    #32 The follow up charted solely due to having “Breakfast At Tiffany’s” as one of the additional tracks on the CD single. The label deleted the BAT CD single a couple of weeks before “Josey” was released.

    This sort of thing was fairly standard practice at the time, and not something that can happen with download-era charts.

    As for the hit itself, it’s not hugely offensive or inept, just bland. The sort of thing that makes my soft spot for Crowded House (of whom I hear a slight echo in BAT) more difficult to defend. 5.

  40. 40
    Tom on 13 Jan 2014 #

    Re. “Hey Jealousy!” – sorry, hated it too (though all I can remember is the chorus). Maybe it’s just a power-pop thing. Maybe there’s a vocal style I just can’t deal with.

    For late-90s AOR, I was happy with the two or three most famous Sheryl Crow songs, I think, and that’s all I needed.

  41. 41
    Tom on 13 Jan 2014 #

    #39 BAT is the kind of song that would be in a download only chart for 80 weeks running, I fear, bumping around the lower 30s.

  42. 42
    JLucas on 13 Jan 2014 #

    I’m always surprised when I’m reminded that this came out in late 1996. I sort of retrospectively assume it was a hit around the 92-94 period, such is its status as a sort of deathless but never particularly attention grabbing radio staple. It seems to have always just been *there*. For the same reason it’s a slightly curious number one, as it feels more like the thing that floats about in the top twenty for ages but never had people dashing to the record stores for it. A spiritual number five, if you will.

    Because it’s so ubiquitous (and not very interesting) I’ve also never *really* listened to the lyrics. Reading this review was a revelation to me, I always assumed it was about a guy grasping for common ground with a girl on a first date, not trying to save a dying relationship.

  43. 43
    Cumbrian on 13 Jan 2014 #

    So, I’m sat in Physics in early 1996, around a table with a few of my mates. The teacher was an absolute waster – we were the top set and he wasn’t pushing us at all, just setting us away with an experiment (some pendulum thing) whilst he buggered off into a separate lab to work on something of his own design. As you’re bound to do, you stop paying attention to your measurements and start talking about music. One of my mates had just come back from Dubai, visiting an uncle, and said – very confidently I might add – “there’s this song – it’s called Breakfast at Tiffanys – if it ever gets released over here it will be massive, it was on all the expat radio stations there all the time”. Fast forward 10 months and he had a very smug look on his face.

    As a result of this, I (probably wrongly) bracketed this as a slow burning Macarena, positing that people went on holiday, heard this song and then brought it back to the UK, via requests on radio – but fewer people go to the US than Spain, hence a lower number of requests meant that it required more time to build to critical mass. I could be talking out of my hat on this, as regards the general public of course – I usually do – but that’s where I always thought this came from.

    You’ve obviously got Friends and, later, stuff like Dawson’s Creek which probably helped some of these bands mentioned up thread gain some familiarity in the UK. Again, perhaps wrongly, it doesn’t surprise me that many of them are getting a bit of a kicking and this hasn’t done well either with Tom or below the line. They don’t strike me as the kind of music that people who come here will be that into but also, and crucially, much of it isn’t very good. My girlfriend is from the USA and consequently a lot of this stuff is in her CD collection and reminds her of growing up. I find most of it incredibly turgid. Dave Matthews, in particular, is a musician that I cannot find any redeeming features for, even after repeated exposure.

    The only one of these bands I’ll stick up for is Semisonic – yes, Closing Time is over-exposed but some of their stuff is what I would class as proper Power Pop (with pep in some cases or, as with Secret Smile, a good woozy quality), as opposed to this which, whilst the chorus is catchy, is too mopey and a bit too polite for its own good (leading into the last chorus there’s some scratchy guitar ticks cribbed from Creep by Radiohead but whereas Jonny Greenwood is raising a massive middle finger, these guys are just clearing their throats). As I said, I’m not surprised that it’s taken a bit of a kicking – but then it’s also not very good, so it probably deserves it.

    Semisonic also miles better than Dave Matthews, Goo Goo Dolls, Spin Doctors and many of the other US guitar bands that we mostly avoided post Grunge (bar the odd big song) in favour of Shed Seven, Kula Shaker and Ocean Colour Scene. Ahem.

  44. 44
    JLucas on 13 Jan 2014 #

    I wonder if this wasn’t another slipstream number one -nabbing a week on top because The Fugees (themselves only really getting to the top via momentum from their previous single) just happened to collapse faster? There wasn’t much else going on in the top ten this week; Celine Dion has the highest new entry at #6 with It’s All Coming Back To Me Now, Donna Lewis was reaching the peak of a particularly gradual ascent for a pop song at the time. Other than that, the top ten is largely forgettable.

    Looking at the charts around this period really makes you realise how vital the Spice Girls actually were. Some interesting songs managed to get to #1, but only because on the whole the charts were completely stagnant between Spice releases.

  45. 45
    Steve Williams on 13 Jan 2014 #

    #15 I completely associate this song with the Reverend Mayo as well, he was certainly its most vocal supporter on Radio 1. But then he did have some fave raves from left-field as well because I remember around this time he also offered his enthusiastic patronage to What’s In The Box by The Boo Radleys.

    Mayo used to play Hootie and The Blowfish occasionally but never enough to get them proper hits, and not as much as Danny Baker who was probably responsible for the majority of their plays on Radio 1.

  46. 46
    ciaran on 13 Jan 2014 #

    Not much fondness for this one here but I’ve always enjoyed it.A 3 (the same as ‘Flava’ fer gawd sakes!) is very harsh. A 6 from me.

    At the time of spice mania and peter andre this was far from the worst thing on the radio in 1996. Considering the in-yer-face teen pop sensations, football hysteria, britpop chest beating and almost extra terrestrial singles that make up popular 96 BAT appears to be the most normal/down-to-earth no.1 we have had for a while.

    This was very popular in Ireland where we seemed to like this slightly old fashioned easy on the ear american sound despite not being number 1 over here.

    As Jlucas points out it’s still played often.More as a combination of obvious 90’s nostalgia and one-hit-wonder. Josey scraped the uk top 30 around november that year. A very bleak chart at that time without giving too much away.

    It only dawned on me of its one-hit-wonder status in 1999 when one of those late night commercials had a ‘hits of the 90s’ CD on sale which oddly was made up almost entirely of one hit wonders’ more than anything else.A bunny from early 1997 featured aswell.Paul King used to flog an 80s compilation on the same station.

    I still enjoy BAT to this day despite hearing it so often.

  47. 47
    Rory on 13 Jan 2014 #

    Re Auntie Beryl @ 39, “the sort of thing that makes my soft spot for Crowded House … more difficult to defend” – if anyone here starts dissing Neil Finn, there will be blood. (Or, um, loud protestations from yours truly, to the extent that typing a comment into a thread can be “loud”.)

    Meanwhile, the dissing of Semisonic is well and truly under way, so I’d better do as promised above and go into bat for them. And also meanwhile, I notice the Divine Comedy being dissed by proxy here, so I may end up having to go into bat for them – which is an apt metaphor, given Neil Hannon’s side-project of recent years – and I’m sure there will be other personal favourites dissed here, given what a huge part of my musical life this broad genre has been. MikeMCSG @35, I feel your pain, even though I’ve given a 4 to this specific example. My lack of enthusiasm for “Breakfast At Tiffany’s” is because it strikes me as a flawed example of a style whose best examples I love, not because I would dismiss the entire style.

    So, reasons I like Semisonic, which will probably convince nobody to change their mind:

    I’ve never personally heard “Closing Time” played to clear people out of a pub, in the UK or anywhere else. I didn’t set foot in many pubs between its release in 1999 and around 2003, when I first started pub quizzing with friends, so I missed its heyday in that role, I suppose. Instead, I first heard it as the opening track on the album I picked up on spec during a visit to San Francisco in 1999. The band felt like a personal discovery rather than something forced on me by pubs or radio, which I’m sure affected how I listened to them. Their first album, which I bought a month later, was similarly unknown to me, and when their third album came out in 2001, I wasn’t really surprised by the indifference it met, even though I thought it was great.

    A few things made me feel they were good. I liked Dan Wilson’s voice, and I’m a sucker for backing harmonies in the family tree of Beatles. The band played well, and I’m fond of that particular combination of pop-rock textures. Wilson’s lyrics were mostly teen-angst-free and middle-aged-angst free, the lyrics of a happy man in his thirties, and in hindsight that mattered too: the late nineties (my late twenties/early thirties) were some of the happiest years of my life, so I had less time for downbeat music. (Not no time, as this was also the era of OK Computer and Kid A, but it was about the overall balance.) For me, Semisonic were the soundtrack of the Web boom years, years which shaped everything I do today.

    Wilson’s work struck me as being worth mention alongside some of the great practitioners of the power-pop form (Neil Finn among them, most definitely, although that was never all he did). He was never my prime example – none of the Semisonic albums matched Matthew Sweet’s Girlfriend or (unjustly overlooked) In Reverse for me – but he was a solid one.

    What can I mention that isn’t “Closing Time”… okay. “Singing in My Sleep” is nice. It sounds nice. Its lyrics include the words “nice”. “All Worked Out” is one of their best singing-in-the-shower singalongs, with air-guitar-worthy solo to boot. “Chemistry” should have been the number one that BAT was. “Get a Grip” is one of the funniest, catchiest songs about masturbation ever written. Any of those work much better for me than Deep Blue Something’s brief moment in the something.

    Wilson has been more of a songwriter in recent years than a performer in his own right, for acts I haven’t really followed myself, like the Dixie Chicks and Josh Groban, and in that context we’ll get a chance to discuss him again whenever Popular reaches 2011. But for now, he and his band were much more than a convenient PA device for last orders.

  48. 48
    Rory on 13 Jan 2014 #

    Cumbrian @43: yay!

  49. 49
    thefatgit on 13 Jan 2014 #

    The sticker on the sleeve: “The US Top Ten Hit”. You might as well have a sticker saying: “Vaguely Popular in America”. Surely this is a superfluous addition, ie. how much kudos does anything (specifically “American” or attributed as “mainstream” or “Rock”) have if it hasn’t already got to #1 on the Billboard Chart in the 90s? This marketing strategy, I suspect, would have been used as an indicator of quality 40 Popular years ago.

  50. 50
    swanstep on 13 Jan 2014 #

    Very surprised (from an American perspective) that this was a UK #1. Is there no advertizing tie-in that explains its momentary popularity? (I’m trying to remember, was there a wave of Audrey H. nostalgia around 1996?) I don’t remember hearing it much stateside, and certainly hardly at all compared to Goo Goo Dolls, Semisonic, Third Eye Blind, Better Than Ezra, Spacehog, and the like. (I agree with 42,Jlucas that BAT in fact sounds a little dated, and low tech, and perhaps like a holdover from the early ’90s Lemonheads/Juliana Hatfield wave.)

    BAT feels like at bottom the same song as, say, ‘Closing Time’ or ‘Name’ or The Sundays’ ‘Summertime’ or even Alanis’s ‘Ironic’ (and behind them all is I suppose Big Star’s ‘Ballad of El Goodo’ which everybody loves) just a relatively uninspired version of it, with a duff main lyrical idea as Tom has described. A tepid 4 from me.

    Checking the US Modern Rock #1s for 1996 there were definitely some keepers such as ’1979′ and ‘In The Meantime’ and ‘Standing Outside A Broken Phone Booth With Money In My Hand’. Oh well.

  51. 51
    Tom on 13 Jan 2014 #

    Where did the band name come from BTW? Like everything else, it hasn’t aged well – caricature gen x half-arsedness – not that any of their peers were great namers (is this the era when “all the good names have been taken” began as an idea)

  52. 52
    ciaran on 13 Jan 2014 #

    #51 – Texas I think.

  53. 53
    Rory on 13 Jan 2014 #

    swanstep @50, Hepburn died in January 1993, so there must have been a wave of TV screenings of her movies that year, which could then have inspired BAT’s songwriter. BAT was recorded in 1994, says Wikipedia. That all fits with this song feeling like a holdover from a few years earlier. Doesn’t really explain why the UK public took to the song when they did, though.

  54. 54
    Rory on 13 Jan 2014 #

    Tom @51…

    “What was that movie from the 1950s we saw the other day on cable?”

    “The Deep Blue… something?”

    “No, not Vivien Leigh, the Audrey Hepburn one.”

    “Roman Holiday?”

    “Yeah, that was it. Let’s write a song about that. And then change the title to her other one. And then call our band the one you first said.”

  55. 55
    23 Daves on 13 Jan 2014 #

    #37 I think a lot of the artists you’ve mentioned tended to get heavy airplay on Radio One as well, it’s just we tend to forget that as the mid-nineties playlists have since become falsely regarded as wall-to-wall indie and dance. Certainly once you got past the breakfast show and into the mid-morning and afternoon output, this kind of record got played often (largely, as I’ve already pointed out, thanks to Father Simon Mayo). “Roll With Me” holds a particular memory for me in that it was the first song I heard on the radio the morning after breaking up with a girlfriend, the alarm clock catching it midway through. Not really an appropriate tune under the circumstances, but that’s always stuck in my head ever since, in much the same way that “Closing Time” reminds me of nineties British licensing laws.

    #50 “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” film posters tended to be quite a common sight in student accommodation around this time, but so far as I know there wasn’t a cinema reissue or major DVD campaign which would have given this song more of a lift (Or was there? I wish I could remember).

    Meanwhile, I promise to reinvestigate Semisonic at some point. I’ve a feeling I may have been sent their CD for review and didn’t rate it at all, actually, but very few specific memories stick out in my mind so I could be wrong.

  56. 56
    Query on 13 Jan 2014 #

    For a long period I was only familiar with the Olde English sketch group parody of this, which at the time I thought was an original song, until I discovered the Deep Blue Something version. For what it’s worth I think the parody captures a relationship’s final throws rather more aptly.

  57. 57
    Cumbrian on 13 Jan 2014 #

    #55: This Audrey Hepburn love in for students was still going on by the time I went to uni in 1999 and was even still in evidence by the time I left. I’ve never seen Breakfast at Tiffany’s – indeed I don’t think that I have ever seen a film with AH in it – but there’s obviously still something about her image that is appealing to some. It doesn’t hurt I guess that she is/was an exceptionally good looking woman.

  58. 58
    ciaran on 13 Jan 2014 #

    Some of ye have mentioned how BAT was 3-4 years too late.I disagree slightly with this as if anything it was 2-3 years too early. In many ways it was a forerunner for the post britpop quirky U.S slacker or post-grunge sound that took hold in 1999.

    The summer of that year was something else. Every second song on the radio at that time seemed to be quirky laid back Americana. ‘Lullaby’ by Shaun Mullins, Semisonic ‘Secret Smile’, Barnaked ‘Ladies ‘One Week’, New Radicals ‘You get what you give’ and the monstrous in the US ‘Iris’ by Goo Goo Dolls, that on top of the Red Hot Chilli Peppers ‘Californication’ comeback. And with the like of Len’s ‘Steal my Sunshine’ still to come.I would have included the sublime ‘Drinking in LA’ by Bran Van 3000 but they were Canadian werent they.(No bunnies in that lot dont worry.)

    That it was around the time that ‘Napster’ was about to get going I always have associated alternative U.S rock of the late 90’s with the beginning of the MP3.Having such a hold of the airwaves in 99 I think I was fairly bored of it for a finish.

    Perhaps Breakfast at Tiffany’s was more influential than we realized!

    ‘Iris’ is interesting as it only charted at no. 26. A very low position for such a widely played song.

  59. 59
    a tanned rested and unlogged lørd sükråt wötsît on 13 Jan 2014 #

    the film is a very unsatisfactory rendering of truman capote’s book: audrey hepburn — despite many virtues — is not really the right actress to play capote’s manic pixie dreamgirl mary sue of aspects of himself then hard to discuss in mainstream literature, let alone cinema; george peppard is george peppard (his destiny was wisecracking TV beefcake, which suited him), and andy rooney (of all people) was cast to play a spectacularly ill-judged racial caricature of a japanese man, in terrible make-up (the last problem tending to overshadow the others, to modern eyes)

    verdict: of its time (and not in a good way)

  60. 60
    Tim on 13 Jan 2014 #

    When “The Wrestler” came out a few years ago I remember repeatedly hearing on the radio how it was a great return to form for Mickey Rourke which, in my head, clearly meant it was a great return to form for Mickey Rooney. I’ve never seen “The Wrestler” because obviously any version not featuring Mickey Rooney in the central role would be a gross disappointment

    Now I want to see BAT with Andy Rooney.

  61. 61
    23 Daves on 13 Jan 2014 #

    #58 Len were also Canadian, as were Barenaked Ladies. It’s very lucky for you that my wife isn’t reading this thread, or there would be merry hell to pay!

    Very interesting that almost all successful Canadian bands are one-hit wonders in the UK, though (if even that – The Tragically Hip never made any headway on these shores).

  62. 62
    a tanned rested and unlogged lørd sükråt wötsît on 13 Jan 2014 #

    er yes, i meant mickey rooney, not andy rooney (andy rooney was a sportwriter and broadcaster: that would have been AMAZING casting, in an even more dreadful way)

    we just need someone confusing mickey rooney with the bassplayer for the smiths to complete the figure

  63. 63
    mapman132 on 13 Jan 2014 #

    I first have to say that I was squarely in the US demographic, both musically and generationally, that this song was aimed at. Many of the alt-rock groups mentioned above (Smashing Pumpkins, Third Eye Blind, Semisonic, Better Than Ezra, Spacehog) read like my 1990’s personal chart hall of fame. Not to mention Counting Crows, early Green Day, I could go on and on…. So I heard this a lot in the fall of 1995. Unlike songs by most of the above groups, it actually got a single release, allowing it to reach #5 on the Hot 100 (the #3 peak was actually on the Pop 100).

    I don’t usually analyze lyrics closely, but the inanity of these lyrics quickly became hard for me to ignore. So, a girl’s about to break with you, and the only commonality you can think of is liking an old movie? Seriously?? What was your relationship based on, anyway? Well, other than you know what?

    I tried looking for some good parody versions of this on Youtube, but surprisingly, there were none. I think the structure of the lyrics must make it too hard. I tried coming up with my own version with US Congress solving their differences over mutual hatred of the local NFL team owner, but I couldn’t squeeze in the words right. Probably the best for everyone ;)

    Chartwise, this was quite a role reversal for me as a transatlantic chart watcher. Usually, songs hit big in the UK and then gradually make it over here (eg: Wannabe). I was very surprised in 1996 to see this year-old song suddenly appear atop the UK chart. It didn’t sound like a typical UK chart topper either. Certainly any of the previously mentioned US alt-rock groups would’ve seemed more likely.

    But despite everything above, I actually don’t hate the song. In fact, I’m going to give it a 6/10. Maybe I just enjoy it ironically (and not Alanis-ironic either – another song from the period I enjoy despite ridiculous lyrics, although there the irony is meta).

    PS #19: have to reiterate what others have said: this song may be alt-rock, but it’s NOT grunge.

  64. 64
    mapman132 on 13 Jan 2014 #

    #56: OK, that’s the type of thing I was looking for!

  65. 65
    James BC on 13 Jan 2014 #

    re Semisonic.

    The month Discovery by Daft Punk came out, there was a letter in Q magazine complaining that they hadn’t given a 5 star review for absolutely ages. Q replied, “Well take a look a the reviews section and you are in for a treat!”

    Lo and behold, there were two 5 star reviews that month. One of those era-defining instant classics was Discovery by Daft Punk. The other was Chemistry by Semisonic.

  66. 66
    Cumbrian on 13 Jan 2014 #

    #63: And I said, what about jailing Dan Snyder?

  67. 67
    Lazarus on 13 Jan 2014 #

    Wow, busy thread – hard to keep up. Haven’t you all got work to do?

    # 51 – surely the era of the ‘wacky’ band name was the mid-to-late 80s – Curiosity Killed the Cat, Living in a Box, Johnny Hates Jazz, It’s Immaterial etc

    As we have it on at work, I can confirm (re # 30) that this is played on Heart far more than any other ’96 chart-topper, only ‘Return of the Mack’ coming close. Haven’t heard ‘Wannabe’ or ‘Killing Me Softly’ in yonks.

    ‘Never You Mind’ is another Semisonic song that should have graced the Top 20.

  68. 68
    Cumbrian on 13 Jan 2014 #

    #65: Yeah – but that’s Q for you isn’t it?

    I’ve got Chemistry by Semisonic and still give it a spin every now and then. It’s not era defining but it’s pretty decent imo.

    Of course, you know why they hadn’t dished out a 5 star review to anything for a while right (except re-issues of acknowledged canon staples)? It’s B* H*** N**

  69. 69
    flahr on 13 Jan 2014 #

    #63 It’s odd, in a way, because you’d think the fact the chorus doesn’t actually rhyme (does that make this unique among #1 hits?) would make it easier to fit words in.

  70. 70
    Chelovek na lune on 13 Jan 2014 #

    “Secret Smile” (and I had no idea who performed it) is possibly, for me, the most cringeworthy turn-the-radio-off-NOW track of the 90s. Well that and “Lemon Tree” by Fools Garden. Don’t think I would recognize any other tracks by Semisonic, or indeed, most of the other bands mentioned here.

    “Mrs Jones” by Counting Crows, however, was that kind of US alt-college rock-thing pretty close to its best. I might have expected to that to have done more in the UK.

  71. 71
    Cumbrian on 13 Jan 2014 #

    70: Well, we’ve been on the same page some of the time recently (at least I think so from memory) but I would absolutely reverse that. I find “Mrs Jones” to be bloody awful!

  72. 72
    Auntie Beryl on 13 Jan 2014 #

    #58 “Iris” eventually reached number three in the UK in 2011, after repeated X Factor annihilation.

  73. 73
    fivelongdays on 13 Jan 2014 #

    I have to have my say here, even if I’ve fot here a bit too late.

    Yep, this is one of the few US College/Alt (there’s bugger all grunge about it) hits to have made it big over here. I’m not quite sure why either, but there you go. I always thought the problem was the singer never quite committed to being sarcastic or desperate. That said, I’d rather listen to this than the bloody Fugees any day of the week. It’s enjoyable, catchy, and has a pretty cool chorus.


    PS – ‘Semi Charmed Life’ is a classic, and wasn’t the equally lovely ‘Breathe A Little Deeper’ by Blameless a hit around this time?

    PPS – This was at number one when 14-year-old me went to see Metallica at the NEC, one of the moments which helped my move away from the charts…but I guess the final split is still a few years away. Nevertheless, there’s a possibility that, from now on, I’ll be commenting on less entries.

  74. 74
    MBI on 13 Jan 2014 #

    This song raises mediocrity to an art form. One of the more interesting defenses of the song I’ve ever read was about just how paradoxically boring and yet singularly weird this song is.

    ‘The song does so very, preciously, historically little to steer itself out of the way of bland averageness that it at least sounds like it couldn’t have possibly been that much of an unintended consequence. We’ll get another twelve “Smells Like Teen Spirit”s, another fifty “Wonderwall”s, and about a thousand more “Creep”s before we ever get another “Breakfast at Tiffany’s.”‘


  75. 75
    Patrick Mexico on 13 Jan 2014 #

    Ah.. only just realised after 17 years how I thought the lyric, “And as I recall, I think, we both kinda liked it”, was “And Miss, I recall, I think, the book kind of lied, dear” – which book, the Truman Capote one? The Bible? Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas? Shame it wasn’t, as it could have just given the song a Smiths-esque sheen. Point knocked off for the real lyric – it unveils a slippery slope from here to this:


    Still a high 6.. a very inoffensive record but I can’t find much offensive about it either.

  76. 76
    James BC on 13 Jan 2014 #

    Has nobody suggested that the protagonist is being deliberately funny?

    Relationship is at a low. Girl says they have nothing in common. Boy comes out with absurd line about Breakfast At Tiffany’s. Girl laughs. They both laugh. They realise (remember) that they share a sense of humour after all. They do have something in common – and not just the film. All is well.

  77. 77
    Tom on 13 Jan 2014 #

    #77 a nice reading but not really backed up by the emotional mood the music and performance is setting IMO.

  78. 78
    mapman132 on 13 Jan 2014 #

    #72 Interesting fact: “Iris” was initially yet another victim of the no-unreleased-singles rule on the Hot 100, but spent a still-record *18* weeks atop Billboard’s Airplay chart. When the Hot 100 started allowing non-singles in December 1998, “Iris” finally debuted at #9, but went down from there as it was well past its airplay peak.

  79. 79
    23 Daves on 13 Jan 2014 #

    Actually, having seen other examples of American alt-pop/ alt-rock of this era listed in front of me, I do have to wonder if I should have given this one more points. I don’t find it overly irritating, and I do know that almost all the other tracks mentioned in this thread so far send me running for the hills. There’s one particular song I don’t even want to mention or dissect I despise it so much (not only does it aggravate me, it’s an unshiftable earworm once I get thinking about it). That nameless track would have scored an easy zero had it climbed to the summit in this country. Actually, come to think of it, there are two US mid-nineties alt-rock hits I almost despise beyond all words.

    I can’t work out what it is that unites them all, but part of it may be a cold, calculated feel. A lot of these records are knowing and wry without being too intelligent, are ROCK without being too wild or spontaneous, faintly emotional without generating much empathy, and constantly looking over their shoulders towards an MOR/ AOR past. But then Supertramp tick a lot of these boxes too (apart from the last one) and I enjoy a lot of their stuff. Something really irks me about this style and I can’t place precisely what. Perhaps my brain expects something more than any of it actually delivers.

  80. 80
    MBI on 13 Jan 2014 #

    Now, personally, my reading is that it’s not meant to be funny or sad; it’s a relationship ending with a shrug and moving on. I don’t hear much pathos or bathos in it.

  81. 81
    Doctor Casino on 13 Jan 2014 #

    Agreed with MikeMCSG #35 and Rory @ 47. This kind of “pretty” alt-rock is more than just a cleaned-up grunge or a alternified AOR (though I think punctum’s reading is interesting) – it’s actually continuous, genre-wise, with what got played as “college rock” in the late 80s and early 90s, and which in the US made up much of the Modern Rock chart before Nirvana. REM made a bunch of really good records – this is the last, sad trickle-down of the most easily ape-able aspects of their sound (and that of the Replacements, and the Smiths, and…). Deep Blue Something’s song is a lousy, underwritten example, and the only kind of nice thing about it is the guitar break – generic, but not unpleasant to hear at the grocery store or dentist’s office. So I don’t think Tom’s review is wrong, either. But there was just a lot more happening on American alt-rock radio than this might suggest. IIRC this had a very short lifespan on said format before being fully adopted by the top 40 and adult contemporary stations. Matchbox 20 and the Wallflowers, who really were what Punctum describes, made a similar transition.

    Semisonic isn’t a totally far-off comparison, and that dude did have some kind of limited college-rock credentials viz. Trip Shakespeare, though I liked them better with a little more grunge-wash to the guitars, as on their first record. “If I Run” remained their best single IMO, though “Chemistry” isn’t bad. “Closing Time,” though, yikes – if Tom went after Deep Blue Something’s lyrics, then I shudder to imagine what would happen if we took that one on.

  82. 82
    a tanned rested and unlogged lørd sükråt wötsît on 13 Jan 2014 #

    one of the ways the book BaT differs from the film is that the relationship ends in the book; the film has standard RomCom ending — the book version of the guy is also a bit of a deluded dullard, iirc; in the film, by contrast, he rescues her from her sadness (and flighty self) by being her future dependable other half…

    so the song actually matches the book a little better, curiously enough, in that the guy in it is also baffled and saddened by the fact it’s ended — only to discover that holly golightly (for it is she) is not really at all who she seemed to him to be; the way she presents herself to the world — which he had been so beguiled by — is a mask, deliberate or otherwise, to distance herself from her hard upbringing (and other hinted-at traumas?)

    so there’s a teeny glimmer of room for this to be quite a clever, culturally literate song — though it entirely depends on the listener knowing both the versions as well as what the song actually talks about (and i don’t think i believe the song IS this clever… it’s basically using culture as a get-out-of-tastejail-free card, because everyone of taste loves audrey hepburn films, right? (same way aretha especially sometimes got deployed in music in the 80s, as a transcendent marker of excellence that no one could possibly disagree on)

  83. 83
    iconoclast on 13 Jan 2014 #

    I remember when, not long after this was at Number One, a girl I went to work with told me she was learning to play the guitar, and this was one of the songs she could strum along to. I didn’t know whether to regard that as a Good Thing or not. Anyway, it’s dull, boring, tedious, and forgettable. At best FOUR.

    #27: ah, that would be an ecumenical matter.

  84. 84
    Billy Hicks on 13 Jan 2014 #

    75: I thought it was “Ah, yes! I recall. I think? We both kinda liked it”, pushing the conversational nature of the chorus to the extreme.

    Ditto also the early comment about mistaking thinking it was about a first date rather than a breakup.

  85. 85
    Another Pete on 13 Jan 2014 #

    I think Sweden had a big part to play in the reason why US alt-rock didn’t fair too well in the UK. In 1996 they were having something of a Britpop style boom themselves Cardigans, Wannadies, Whale, The Hellacopters etc. The sound wasn’t too dissimilar to Britpop and if required to come over to the UK to promote the single/album a flight from Stockholm is far cheaper and shorter than a transatlantic one.

    Breakfast at Tiffany’s follows on perfectly on from not knowing whether Peter Andre was in a soap or not, in that I assumed this must be from a film, how else would it be number 1. Yet there were no clips of some romcom injected with footage of the band in the video.

    #79 Is it ‘Peaches – Presidents of the United States of America’ they were probably the one of the few US alt-rock acts to have some relative success in the UK in 96, though it was only for that year.

  86. 86
    23 Daves on 13 Jan 2014 #

    #85 – Yes! Well done! I despise that song. Being aware of my weakness, my housemates used to taunt me by playing it or humming it to themselves.

    The very fact that the only clues I gave anyone were that I would have given it 0 out of 10 if we discussed it here and found it incredibly irritating, that’s an impressively quick guess. Maybe I’m not alone.

  87. 87
    Patrick Mexico on 13 Jan 2014 #

    I like this more than I should also because Breakfast at Tiffany’s, the film, was pretty bloody obscure to a boy of 11. I guess nowadays I might prick up my ears if a massive hit was called Aguirre, Wrath of God or Valerie and her Week of Wonders. Budding musicians – don’t get any ideas from this assertion. Please don’t. :)

    Not really interested in much that weekend.. apart from worrying Nick Griffin lookalike Paul Barnes’ five goals for Burnley against one of our quirkier (and arguably unnecessary – legend has it they picked on us as no “big” Greater Manchester teams could be arsed) rivals, Stockport County. They hit fame that year reaching the Coca-Cola Cup semi-finals – and promoted to the second tier – beating, finishing higher than, and briefly in a division above Manchester City!!

    Just like Deep Blue Something, you have to feel a bit sorry for wherever the poor buggers are now.

  88. 88
    Another Pete on 13 Jan 2014 #

    #86 Said song was brought up in conversation yesterday at a family party by way of my cousin remembering my younger brother teaching him how to play it on guitar.

  89. 89
    Kat but logged out innit on 13 Jan 2014 #

    #75: I thought it was ‘we both had an idea’! As in, the couple had once had goals/dreams of a happy future but Oh Well Never Mind.

    This was a firm fixture on the Capital FM playlist; I’d never seen Breakfast At Tiffany’s but I had DEFINITELY seen 95% of Friends episodes (thx to non-existent social life and always being in on Fridays) and the BAT video had wide-angle lens skyscrapers in it, which was basically identical to all the Friends between-scene external shots. The song inhabits a totally different space to the Rembrandts for me though! The latter was all bouncy Monkees hijinks, while BAT was way more like Scruffy Dudes Be Unlucky In Love aka the Spin Doctors. Semisonic and all that were YEARS later before they made an impact.

    However, a momentus thing had happened by this point! I HAD MY OWN CD PLAYER! (A Discman that didn’t work too well on the move, so I just plugged it into my tape deck’s speakers.) I didn’t have to go downstairs and listen/transfer to tape in the living room anymore! Parental Advisory here we come!

  90. 90
    MikeMCSG on 13 Jan 2014 #

    # 87 I think it’s more likely that they saw you as rivals because you were down in the Fourth Division with them for five seasons or thereabouts.

  91. 91
    Ricardo on 14 Jan 2014 #

    If someone told me earlier this entry would actually be close to three-digit comments in one day, I think I’d laugh him/her out of town. Which goes to show you should never underestimate MOR’s pulling power, be it positive or negative.

  92. 92
    Patrick Mexico on 14 Jan 2014 #

    #90 – Well.. “Where were you when you were shit?” you may ask – and my first football match wasn’t until April 4, 1994, a 5-0 hammering of Barnet. My fifth was the Wembley play-off final where we beat Stockport with five times as many fans, and sixth and seventh being, for reasons of unfathomable good fortune and gonzo family endeavour – the semi-final and final of USA ’94. (Don’t get jealous, it was my Charlie and the Chocolate Factory moment, but ever since it’s been horribly Augustus Gloop. Sadly I already used a pun for Veruca Salt.. another band of this ilk I’m worryingly fond of, who may have accidentally invented Avril Lavigne.)

  93. 93
    DanH on 14 Jan 2014 #

    Woah…comments galore

    I agree that “Hey Jealousy” is the high point of Gin Blossoms. Everything else I heard from them rolls off my back, albeit in an pleasant manner. As opposed to this song…I get that it’s probably intentionally pathetic, but it still reminds me too much of the hipster-ish sensitive-single-guy’s-dream-scenario ‘bonding over music’ stuff you’d find in films like 500 Days of Summer and Adventureland (both of which I really like in spite of that, probably because I am the aforementioned SSG)

    Very surprised to hear so much Semisonic talk here. I had no idea they had any more than “Closing Time.” This board is getting me remembering the one and only U.S. hits of Dishwalla, Dogs Eye View, Del Amitri, Rentals…stop me, stop me :-)

    #70: I did come across “Lemon Tree” a year ago, it did nothing here in the States. But it sounded OH SO 1995 that I got nostalgic for that year, even though I’d not yet heard it. I see it was a pretty big hit in Europe, so I’m sure there was overplay backlash.

  94. 94
    swanstep on 14 Jan 2014 #

    @87, Patrick. I believe that Blondie’s ‘Heart of Glass’ got its title (though none of its content) from Herzog’s film of that name. I don’t suppose too many people checked out that film because of it though (it’s semi-famous for being the film where Herzog hypnotized his actors to get them to embody his passing theory that medievals had relative limited inner lives, or some such thing – at any rate the upshot is that it’s very hard for a viewer to stay awake during it, especially the first half – after that one sort of acclimates).

    Another name to throw on the pile of what was going on on US modern rock radio in 1996 (albeit orthogonally to Deep Blue Something) is Marilyn Manson. The Antichrist Superstar album dominated record store window displays for months where I was and ended up selling several million copies (and getting plenty of headlines for its tour). Relatedly, I remember there being a lot of talk about ProTools at this time, and how each update in the software was leading to noticably different records. Antichrist Superstar was exhibit A for ProTools 4.1 or some such thing.

  95. 95
    Izzy on 14 Jan 2014 #

    I really liked Semisonic too! I’d’ve really liked to go and see them with my new girlfriend (now my wife) when they came touring in 2000 or thereabouts, off the back of Secret Smile and subsequent album. Only instead of a nice warm city centre venue, they’d been booked into a huge shed outside town. I couldn’t understand it, there was no way they could hope to fill an arena, so I declined because seeing them struggle in a freezing, empty hall would’ve been too dismal. It may even have killed our relationship; aiui that’s how things work.

    Anyway, seeing a succession of no-hopers like The Bravery appear on the listings for same venue in the following period made me wonder if I got it all wrong, and music had shifted to a more adult demographic, who prioritised things like road access and easy parking. I’d never associated the genrelet in this thread with AOR – there’s little attempt at ‘sophistication’, just bold and pleasant tunes – but the change of venue suggests maybe that’s exactly what it was.

  96. 96
    Rory on 14 Jan 2014 #

    taDOW @29, Doctor Casino @81 and others are right about a key line of descent here being from US college radio. The other I would mention is that alt-rock power pop is Rolling Stone music, or at least RS circa 1988-2000 (when I was a subscriber). RS loved this stuff, but not unreservedly; they would distinguish between good and bad examples, as with any genre. I read the Australian RS, which was a blend of the US mag and local content, so it wasn’t exactly the US version, but we got enough of the US reviews and articles to pick up the holy writ about REM and All They Hath Wrought. It isn’t surprising to me that there’s been no attempt to (re)launch a UK version of RS; Q and Mojo between them fill the equivalent niche, but there’s a crucial difference in focus and tone.

    Another point of comparison here, which I don’t think has been mentioned, is Tom Petty’s work of the same era (post-Wilburys), in collaboration with Jeff Lynne and Rick Rubin. I loved that stuff – Into the Great Wide Open was one of my albums of the ’90s, and his soundtrack to She’s the One came close – so I was always predisposed to like anything that reminded me of it.

    This thread has prompted me to go back to Dan Wilson’s Free Life of 2007 and give it a proper listen at last. I can see why my first play of six months ago left me uninclined to go back; it has the common solo-album problem of being too unplugged and fading into the background unless you listen to it intently. It could have done with being a 45-minute Semisonic album rather than a 55-minute solo album. But the closing track, “Easy Silence”, caught my attention this time, and could end up being my path back into the rest. (Turns out he gave that one to the Dixie Chicks first, but I much prefer his version.)

    Doctor Casino, you say Popular would rip apart “Closing Time” given the response to BAT, and on the basis of this thread you may be right, but I can’t see them as equivalent, really. Apart from the annoyance factor of over-exposure to the track in unimaginative pubs, it’s better performed, is a better tune, has a better chorus, and has better lyrics – there’s none of the risible relationship philosophy that sinks BAT. To have any kind of real-world logic, BAT’s lyrics needed to take the sharp right turn halfway through that Open English gave it in their parody (thanks, Query @56), but “Closing Time” has no such imperative, because it’s about a mood, not a story.

  97. 97
    Gavin Wright on 14 Jan 2014 #

    The US/Canada indie-MOR sound definitely felt like A Thing back in the ’90s and I’ve really enjoyed the comments here so far joining all the dots. In one way this was the sound of my teenage years (just seeing some of these bands’ names takes me straight back to the sixth-form common room), although I have to say I hated pretty much all of it* and it wasn’t something I ever listened to through choice.

    I don’t think I’d heard ‘BAT’ since 1996 until a few years ago at a friend’s NYE party when one of the other guests insisted on doing it on SingStar (he’d been hogging the microphone all evening). Sadly it sounded as irritating as ever. I’m giving this a (2).

    Re: radio play for this sort of thing – at the end of the decade I got my first Saturday job in a beer shop. We’d have Virgin Radio on (as the manager felt that Radio 1 played “too much rave music”) and their playlist was wall-to-wall New Radicals, Alanis Morissette and Sugar Ray.

    *The two songs I have actually come around to are ’74-75′ by The Connells and ‘Stay (I Missed You)’ by Lisa Loeb & Nine Stories. Also Tom’s probably right about Sheryl Crow, I even liked some of her singles at the time.

  98. 98
    Weej on 14 Jan 2014 #

    Strange to think that an artist as big as Sheryl Crow has no #1 singles or albums to her name on either side of the atlantic – she had 16 UK top 40 singles over nine years but never managed higher than the the #4 for All I Wanna Do in 1994. Seems like a case of middle of the road = middle of the charts, though of course that didn’t stop Deep Blue Something.

    I’m still not sold on alt-college-rock-MOR or whatever we’re calling it as I can’t even get to the point of understanding the appeal of something like Semisonic let alone sharing it. I just can’t shake the feeling that it’s designed to be as bland and inoffensive as possible, though (I hope) that can’t be the intention of the artists involved. Does anyone want to have a go at selling it to me (and any other sceptics)?

  99. 99
    Rory on 14 Jan 2014 #

    weej @98, college rock and alt-rock between them are too vast in scope to be able to sell anyone on everything they represent, but by the same token would contain something you might like, if only we had time enough to search for it. A lot of UK indie was packaged as college rock/alt-rock in US and other markets. Australian pub-rock veterans like Midnight Oil and the Divinyls, likewise.

    If we’re talking about Semisonic specifically, all I could do is recommend listening to the songs I linked at the end of #47. If you like two or more of those, you would like the band’s albums well enough; if not, probably not.

    If we’re talking about this ’90s version of power pop more broadly, the appeal is its blend of acoustic and electric guitars, vocal harmonies, piano rather than synthesized keyboards, and a focus on melody. It’s inspired by Beatles-circa-64-66, more or less. Not a bad inspiration.

    I would never suggest that anyone try subsisting on it exclusively, but as part of a balanced diet it’s perfectly tasty.

  100. 100
    23 Daves on 14 Jan 2014 #

    #97 “74-75” is a single from that era I enjoy, actually, and it’s surprising it didn’t perform better in the UK charts. I seem to remember that it was a surprisingly high entry in the NME’s top singles of 1996 chart as well.

    This discussion is reminding me just how varied the charts were in the mid-nineties, even if the number ones don’t always reflect that. There’s long been a temptation in the UK mass-media to claim it was all about Britpop and The Spice Girls, but there was a lot of other interesting work achieving moderate success besides. If Britpop hadn’t been happening I suspect more would have been made of all kinds of peculiar trends. It’s often struck me as odd that by 1995-6 there was a moderately popular influx of dramatic enormo-bands with strings attached (Tindersticks, Jack, My Life Story, Divine Comedy) which would probably have been called a ‘scene’ at any other point. Then there’s trip-hop, a lot of lo-fi records selling far higher than anyone would suspect, hip-hop coming of commercial age… a huge wide-open prairie, really.

  101. 101
    Mark M on 14 Jan 2014 #

    I do think that if they did start off wanting to mention Roman Holiday and changed it to Breakfast At Tiffany’s, they at least got that right. Because Roman Holiday is a terrific movie, and Breakfast At Tiffany’s – as Mr Sinker has said – isn’t. But it’s a film that because of the poster, because of Audrey, because of Capote, it would be easy to imagine you (kinda) liked.

    Picture a couple of kids with typical American teen movie-going tastes who meet up at college and go see Breakfast At Tiffany’s at a film club on an early date. It seems a bit sophisticated and old and different and exciting, and maybe she buys the poster and tries styling her hair a bit like AH. And it’s something that lingers as a memory, and then years later one of them catches it on TV and watches it properly and realises that it’s a misbegotten mess, rather grim but not in a good way, with a totally unsatisfactory ending (yes, cool cat, but why on earth would they imagine they had a future together? But I don’t think the film is willing to suggest that they are just fooling themselves). And so not really something you’d want to stake your future on.

    I find the song in its sheer clumsiness weirdly compelling. Whenever it comes up on one of the TV music channels, I’ll watch the (excruciatingly awful) video from beginning to end. Go figure.

  102. 102
    Mark M on 14 Jan 2014 #

    Surely the name of the genre is – as Cher Horowitz says in Clueless – complaint rock.

  103. 103
    Rory on 14 Jan 2014 #

    I would also note that for a certain kind of ’90s music fan, anything rooted largely in guitars/piano/drums/melody was seen as inherently better than music based on synthesizers, beats, samples and all the other sounds that had been infiltrating the charts for 10+ years. I was part of an online discussion group who argued endlessly through the 1990s about similar changes taking place in the music of one particular artist at that very time. But that preference for more familiar pop-rock sounds wasn’t out of preferring blandness or inoffensiveness, because it was perfectly possible for pop-rock to be neither. It was more like not being able to speak another language, yet finding yourself surrounded by it, trying to find words you can understand; when you did, it came as a relief.

    Not me, though; I’ve already handed out one 1996 score of 10 to the diametric opposite of all that we’re talking about here. Bring on the polyglot musical bazaar, I reckon(ed).

  104. 104
    Tom on 14 Jan 2014 #

    #99 there’s more than one way to rip off the 1966 Beatles – CUE DRAMATIC FORESHADOWING NOISE.

  105. 105
    a tanned rested and unlogged lørd sükråt wötsît on 14 Jan 2014 #

    ^^^Mark M (and as always Cher Horowitz) OTM. And I suspect it’s what’s at the root of its incipient dislikeability: the singer isn’t quite pulling a “nice guys” move, but you don’t exactly come away thinking it isn’t waiting somewhere in his weapons-room. Whereas the logic of the song — once you revisit the film or the book (and maybe the girl does!) — is that (nice or not) the guy is totally a chump. But it’s not a logic that the singer seems to be aware of, even if the target of the song (the girl) could well be.

  106. 106
    James BC on 14 Jan 2014 #

    Further to #101 etc, you can change Breakfast At Tiffany’s to almost any other film title to amusing effect.

    “And I said, what about, Maid in Manhattan?”
    “And I said, what about, Quantum of Solace?”
    “And I said, what about, the Desolation of Smaug?”

    And so it goes on.

  107. 107
    a tanned rested and unlogged lørd sükråt wötsît on 14 Jan 2014 #

    “And I said, what about Human Centipede 2: Full Sequence”

  108. 108
    bob stanley (@rocking_bob) on 14 Jan 2014 #

    “And I said, what about, Quantum of Solace?” Terrific discussion on Deep Blue Something and 90s Complaint Rock: http://t.co/YWPRpJK868

  109. 109
    Steve Mannion on 14 Jan 2014 #

    What about ELEPHANT?

  110. 110
    wichitalineman on 14 Jan 2014 #

    The Connells were formed by brothers Mike and David Connell. Deep Blue Something were formed by brothers Todd and Toby Pipes. I’m sure I’d feel more warmly towards this clumsy record if it was by The Pipes.

    Tom raised a good question – why are they called Deep Blue Something? It’s such a shrug of a name, indicating nothing, but it’s still not as bad as Semisonic. Half sound? Semi audible? What are they saying exactly?

  111. 111
    a tanned rested and unlogged lørd sükråt wötsît on 14 Jan 2014 #

    I remember their TUSKS

  112. 112
    thefatgit on 14 Jan 2014 #

    “And I said, what about, We Need To Talk About Kevin?”

  113. 113
    wichitalineman on 14 Jan 2014 #

    “And I said, what about, Walkabout?”

  114. 114
    mapman132 on 14 Jan 2014 #

    #103 YES! It always bugged me that here in the US at least, there was always an implicit assumption in the 90’s (and well into the 2000’s) that Guitars = Good, Synthesizers = Bad. And I’m saying this as someone who loved much of US mid-90’s alt-rock (except for maybe grunge, which I was relatively lukewarm to). Perhaps the biggest reason I continued to follow the UK chart through good times and bad was that synthesizers never completely went away there. And it’s been quite gratifying for me as a synth fan to see electronica back in a BIG way on the 2010’s US charts.

  115. 115
    Pete on 14 Jan 2014 #

    Cher’s complaint rock barb is much more aimed at Radiohead (who are on the soundtrack twice and clearly equal college radio), than stuff like this. We will come on to it, but the development out of grunge of whiny singers (Hello Eddie Vedder) could encompass Deep Blue Something, but he’s not really whiny enough. In the UK we are beyond the Radio 1 revolution, but there are enough of the old guard around trying to make sense of the music business at the time and going for “classic songwriting”/”Lyrics that mean something” etc (the Mayo mention upthread sounds about right, and he was in the Simon Bates morning slot at this point).

  116. 116
    a tanned rested and unlogged lørd sükråt wötsît on 14 Jan 2014 #

    it’s a complaintinuum

  117. 117
    Cumbrian on 14 Jan 2014 #

    115: I don’t know much about Pearl Jam – never really got into them apart from Alive. If the lyrics to Alive are representative though, I would say that, at least on that song, Eddie Vedder has pretty decent grounds for complaint.

  118. 118
    leveret on 14 Jan 2014 #

    I listen to a broad range of different pop, rock R&B and soul music styles from various different eras (that’s what they all say, isn’t it!?)… I’ve come to realise over the years that I find music based largely around more ‘trad’ arrangements, melodies and textures, by and large, much more pleasing to listen to in album (or multiple album)-length servings, and to have more staying power in my listening tastes than stuff based on synthesisers, beats, samples etc. I certainly don’t see it as inherently better, but that just seems to be the way it is for me.

    I should then, in theory, be receptive to the type of bands mentioned in this thread. I like REM and Crowded House, and am glad to see ’74-’75 by the Connells getting a positive press here as it’s one I’ve always liked, but I’ve never found the alt-MOR likes of Counting Crows or Semisonic to be anything more than workmanlike plodders, I’m afraid. There’s neither the level of songwriting skill nor imagination necessary to transcend the limitations of the palette that they work with. The absolute nadir of ‘this sort of thing’ for me, is One Week by the Barenaked Ladies, which adds the unwelcome ingredient of wackiness into the mix.

  119. 119
    Alfred on 14 Jan 2014 #

    Fantastic discussion. “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” received massive recurrent stateside airplay well into the 2000s. I still hear it. A 3 is generous. It’s one of the few songs on this countdown that inspires inchoate rage: the passive-aggressive, nattering lyrics, the reified jangle.

  120. 120
    thefatgit on 14 Jan 2014 #

    #110 “Breakfast At Tiffany’s” by The Pipes (And Drums And Military Band Of The Royal Scots Dragoon Guards).

  121. 121
    swanstep on 14 Jan 2014 #

    @118, leveret. The Onion’s AVclub has a ‘Hatesongs’ feature series where it invites one musician each week to talk about his or her most hated record. ‘One Week’ has featured. Take it away Evan Linger from Skeleton Witch (consensus Popular’s inner metalhead?):
    “I did a lot of soul searching on this one. There are a lot of songs I hate, because I’m naturally a hater. I just hate this one the most. In the late ’90s, music really took a turn for the worse, grasping at the straws of all this alternative music. So there’s stuff like Sugar Ray—those songs, they’re so bad. Hootie And The Blowfish: terrible. Blues Traveler: terrible. But those are rock songs. At least someone was trying. “One Week” wasn’t even a rock song. It’s a weird college-rock song with some rap in it, and it doesn’t even qualify as music.”

  122. 122
    Andrew Farrell on 15 Jan 2014 #

    A nearby message board had a discussion of BNL’s fist album cover, with a friend noting that every time you decisively settle on one element as the worst, your eye is inexorably drawn on to something else, in a cycle of the damned.

  123. 123
    Patrick Mexico on 15 Jan 2014 #

    I see talk of 4 Non Blondes – I don’t understand why What’s Up gets all that stick as “one of the worst nineties songs.” Yes, it’s melancholic, overblown and prosaic to the nth degree – but thankfully, that makes it both endearing and hilarious, a rare delight in anything remotely “grunge” by 1993. Especially when Linda Perry hits that perfect beat on “And I pray.. for REVOLOOSHON!” That He-Man viral is perhaps humour beneath most people who comment here, but hell, it’s faithful to the song’s camp kitsch.

    Very How Soon Is Now, in fact. Initially alarmed most bands mentioned in this thread embraced all the problems of the Smiths and none of the genius, but perhaps they’re totally innocent compared to some bunnied little shits from the autumn of 2006.

  124. 124
    D.C. Harrison on 15 Jan 2014 #


    “Hey Jealously” probably is the best thing the Gin Blossoms did, though “Found Out About You” runs it close. The reason everything subsequent wasn’t up these may be that the guy who wrote them shot himself around the time they got released, having been sacked from the band pre-fame.

    A happy story, there.

    As for this song… meh. I guess it somehow stuck in my mind, as I can remember how it goes without going back to it. I’d have preferred “Roll to Me” to get the top spot – great little song. Surprising how small a hit it was here compared to over in America – top ten there, don’t think it troubled the top twenty here.

    I always chuckle when I see Cumbrian comment, as we’re pretty much the same age, from the same part of the world. I know you didn’t go to my school, though, as an admiration of Semisonic would have been grounds for a kicking, if discovered.

    And the derided Counting Crows song was “Mr Jones”, pedant fans.

  125. 125
    swanstep on 15 Jan 2014 #

    @122, Andrew F. Jesus, but that’s an ‘alternative’ cover, as opposed to this, which is the only cover I’ve ever seen.

  126. 126
    Nanaya on 16 Jan 2014 #

    I wanted to hate this song at the time, I really did, but I found myself obscurely fond of its clunky charms, like fawning over a clumsy puppy or something.

    Tom, considering you draw out the music/romance/general pop culture connection as key to the ethos of the song, I’m surprised you didn’t mention that it gets a nod in Garth Ennis’ “Preacher” as one of Arseface’s covers. An obvious, unsubtle dig at the thing, but perhaps further confirmation of the intertextuality BAT is trading on? It feels like a curious sort of victory, somehow.

  127. 127
    Tom on 16 Jan 2014 #

    Ha – good spot! I gave up on Preacher pretty early though so while I recall Arseface well enough I don’t remember his pop career. Sounds like a nice bit of John Wagner style broad satire.

  128. 128
    tm on 16 Jan 2014 #

    I used to enjoy this sort of stuff as methadone-grade jingle jangle but I can’t stand it now. I’m amazed by the affection felt for Semi sonic and their ilk. Like raving about Gap clothing or Clark’s shoes (the plastic soled ones Geography teachers wear, not the desert boots). I’m not trying to be snarky, I’m just really surprised!

    The lack of ambition is galling: with these sort of bands I always get the impression that they’re quite musically literate and technically adept but for some reason (commerce?) choose to be this boring.

    The first band to be called power pop I think were The Who, who, in the mid sixties had both the catchy hooks and

  129. 129
    tm on 16 Jan 2014 #

    a feral kinesis thanks to Moon and Entwistle. By comparison, these sort of bands seem to lack both power and pop.

  130. 130
    redhairkid on 26 Jan 2014 #

    Had lost all interest in the charts by this stage but I did like this one. Gets an 8 from me.

  131. 131
    Middlerabbit on 7 Apr 2014 #

    I remember this record and I’m not prepared to listen to it again as a result of disliking it quite substantially at the time.

    What I recall about it is this: every time a DJ played it, or it was on telly, someone would pipe up ‘Oh, that’s a quirky song, isn’t it? None of it rhymes!’

    Which, added to the overall non-threatening-every-member-of-the-band-looks-like-an-extra-in-‘Friends’ feel, left me feeling nausea at the purposeful inoffensiveness of the entire shebang.

    I have never seen an entire episode of Friends. Until recently, I never even got past the start bit where they’re all faffing about in a fountain. It made me feel sick. Not because of outside water based hi-jinks, but because I knew what they were doing and I knew why they were doing it and I knew the sort of people who’d suggest such a thing and I wanted no part of it. Not for me.

    There’s a word for this sort of thing, from where I come from and that word is ‘nunty’. I won’t go into it here, but if you’re wondering what ‘nunty’ means, listen to this record. Everything about it is Nunty.

    Deep Blue Something. A band who wanted to be perceived as something in particular, but with no desire to actually work at whatever it was they wanted to be perceived as.

    Ironically, for a one hit wonder, this is career rock at its very worst. Don’t know what else to do? Let’s be in a band. Is that allowed? Let’s not offend anyone and maybe they’ll let us do it forever.

    Turgid and wrong.


  132. 132
    Mark M on 19 Aug 2014 #

    Busker watch: a trio were playing Breakfast At Tiffany’s by the river in front of Tate Modern at lunchtime. They were doing reedy but agreeable harmonies and adding a bit of rhythmic dynamism on their acoustic guitars. Which is to say, they sounded better than the record. Nonetheless, I felt no urge to linger.
    I’ve become pro any busker(s) who isn’t(aren’t) the blokes by the wobbly bridge doing the same bloody Bob bloody Marley bloody songs every day. I know it’s not their fault, it’s the market. I wonder how much I’d have to offer to get them to have a go at Two Sevens Clash or Police And Thieves…
    There was a guy with an 808 (or something that sounded like one), doing live techno one day. That was a bit different at least.

  133. 133
    Erithian on 2 Feb 2016 #

    Rereading this thread, Mr Mexico’s “And I said, what about, Sex Lives of the Potato Men?” was a real spit-coffee-on-keyboard moment. Rendering a not particularly interesting conversation as a tune so it doesn’t scan and there isn’t much to it, you’re doing rather well to have a hit with it. I suppose there is a bit of quirky originality to the idea, but it’s far from convincing. I like the little guitar figure at the end of the chorus, and there’s a nice little bass cluster leading into the third chorus, but beyond that …

  134. 134
    Mostro on 20 Nov 2016 #

    #107 Lørd Sükråt; “And I said, what about Human Centipede 2: Full Sequence”

    If the film they “both kinda liked” is “Human Centipede 2”, they probably *do* have something more in common than the people in the actual song. Just not something we probably want to dwell upon here…

    As for the song itself… bland, bland, bland. Vaguely alt-rock trimmings with anything remotely “alt” totally leached out. Lazy- or cynical- attempt to piggyback on the appeal and cultural associations of a well-known film.

    Heard this playing over the tannoy when I emerged from the finish area after completing my first marathon a couple of years back and associate it with that now too. That should have put a more positive gloss on it, but really… no, it doesn’t. It’s still utterly insipid.

  135. 135
    Girl with Curious Hair on 20 Nov 2016 #


    If they’d been known as The Pipes they could have done a double-headlining tour with The Pipettes. One of popular music’s great missed opportunities obvs

  136. 136
    flahr on 21 Nov 2016 #

    Or team up with The Drums to cover “Amazing Grace”.

  137. 137
    Patrick Mexico on 30 Jul 2019 #

    And so, the apocalypse begins.


  138. 138
    Gareth Parker on 30 Apr 2021 #

    I have to say I find this to be one of the more irritating #1s of the 90s! A 2/10 from me.

  139. 139
    Gareth Parker on 30 Apr 2021 #

Add your comment

(Register to guarantee your comments don't get marked as spam.)

If this was number 1 when you were born paste [stork-boy] or [stork-girl] into the start of your comment :)


Required (Your email address will not be published)

Top of page