Jul 14

B*WITCHED – “Rollercoaster”

Popular54 comments • 4,852 views

#803, 3rd October 1998

coaster Once upon a time there was a whimsical, backward-facing tendency in British life, with a habit of surfacing just as things were at their shiniest. The Beatles released Sgt Peppers, for instance, and the world proclaimed a revolution: but some took a subtler view. George Melly, a man with an interest in fashion, the texture and the cut of things, noticed right away how old Pepperland looked. The cavalry twill, the black-and-white photos, the circus posters, the childrens’ drawings – this was as much retreat as advance. The golden youth of Britain reached back into playful memory, storing up an attic chest of precious bygones against a rupture they had helped begin.

The Beatles weren’t alone – its childish streak is the first thing anyone notices about UK psychedelia. But if childhood could be appropriated by the hippies, the process could work in reverse. Primary school pop, thirty years later, could assume the grown-ups weren’t listening and borrow a few of the sixties’ better ideas.

So the most striking thing for me about B*Witched’s second single – the reason for that whole intro, in fact – is its beautifully brazen nod to the Beatles: the “it’s wonderful to be here….” part of “Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” caught and flipped into the pre-chorus of “Rollercoaster”. They even keep the word “thrill” as an anchor. It’s as blatant and confident as anything the Gallagher’s tried, and the motivation is the same – if nobody’s using a good idea right now, and you can build a brilliant pop song out of it, then why not?

Is it a brilliant song, though? Not quite, but it’s a very good one. Past the naff spoken intro – I can believe they’re doing this, just not that they’re leaving it in – it’s more charming than “C’Est La Vie”, and only a little less infectious. The obligatory jig interlude feels less bolted on this time, and the hustle of the debut is replaced by a lazier, warmer vibe. Best of all are the little bonus hooks behind the prechorus (the unnerving, and very psych-pop “just a game… go insane…”) – and chorus (“don’t wanna wait for you no more!”). They are generous touches in a record already doing well for hooks, and help dispel the air of brand-building and hustle around the debut. Not everything here is so well-crafted – “We’re not nice we’re cold as ice” is awful, but on the other hand “We’ve grazed our knees and no-one’s to blame” is a great, evocative little line. In a season of bright, sparky pop number ones, this song isn’t the most important or ambitious of the breed, but it might sneak in as the best. “Rollercoaster” chalks hopscotch squares over Pepperland, and reclaims bubblegum for the kids.



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  1. 31
    Steve Williams on 22 Jul 2014 #

    One notable aspect of this getting to number one was that, I think, it was the first time the top three singles were all new entries – http://www.officialcharts.com/archive-chart/_/1/1998-10-03/

    I actually bought all three as well, because I bought loads and loads of singles – but I still can’t remember much about this song, to be honest.

  2. 32
    glue_factory on 22 Jul 2014 #

    Re: 29, although according to Spotify, the artist behind Fucked By Fire appears on Massive Hit! 90s Remix, so you never know.

  3. 33
    Mark G on 22 Jul 2014 #

    Ah, good old spotify.. Look up Can and Silent Night, off the Virgin 3CD celebration packs, and you will hear something you (probably) have never heard before! (quite good though)

  4. 34
    Ed on 22 Jul 2014 #

    Given all the talk about Rollercoaster as a psychedelic classic, I am surprised no-one has mentioned the obvious homage to this:http://m.youtube.com/?#/watch?v=_0LIzK7ZmeE

    I was a bit disappointed the B*witched version turned out not to be a cover.

  5. 35
    Patrick Mexico on 22 Jul 2014 #

    Straight in at number 20 – Republica – From Rush Hour with Love. The worst punned song title ever?

  6. 36
    Kinitawowi on 22 Jul 2014 #

    A couple of new entries there that I thought were way older than that, most notably Adia (Sarah McLachlan, #18) and The Way (Fastball, #21). Both awesome.

    I’m sure there was a week in 1999 where the whole Top 5 were new entries, but… yeah.

  7. 37
    Steve Williams on 23 Jul 2014 #

    I remember reading a piece behind the scenes at the Radio 1 playlist meeting – I can’t remember if it was in The Nation’s Favourite or in a magazine – but they talked about Adia and said that Chris Moyles wanted it as his record of the week but they wouldn’t let him because it was inappropriate for Radio 1. But he still made it his record of the week anyway.

    There was a week when all of the top five were new entries, but it wasn’t in 1999. It’s in two weeks’ time.

  8. 38
    Elmtree on 23 Jul 2014 #

    Some good ideas (the minor key feel, and the blending harmony vocals), but I think it’s let down by the mastering. This should be a punchy, witty tease with a hint of menace, but it’s mixed like a power ballad. Those ‘don’t want to wait for you’s that should be the hook don’t jump out anything like as much as they should. Shame.

  9. 39
    Kinitawowi on 24 Jul 2014 #

    On the one hand, it’s lacking the bounce that made C’Est La Vie so much fun and covered over so many of their weaknesses.

    On the other hand, the double lollipops in the video totally remind me of many (many) hours spent playing Bubble Bobble.


  10. 40
    ciaran on 24 Jul 2014 #

    I was surprised to find myself enjoying CLV but this on the other hand is rather underwhelming.

    Even after a minute or so my mind had wandered elsewhere.Perfect for kids but doesnt leave much of a mark on adults. You could imagine them being a kind of Wiggles like act.


  11. 41
    punctum on 25 Jul 2014 #

    The cover of “Rollercoaster” features the B*Witched girls leering towards the camera in a boxing ring, holding up gloved fists. There can be little doubt that many of today’s thirtysomething males experienced their Suzi Quatro moment at that time. But of course the girls were out to emphasise their power, and in retrospect their achievement may be on a par with the Spices since it was achieved with stealth and with a very young audience in mind.

    “Rollercoaster” is a slightly more considered – and slightly older – variant on the “C’est La Vie” template; again there is the excitedly chatty talk (“Oh my God, I can’t believe I’m doing this!” they squeal from inside their rainbow-coloured Trojan horse), Danny’s trusty fiddle and the same lyrical transition between childish things and petting sounds (“Climbed the trees, swam the seven seas/We’ve grazed our knees and no one’s to blame”), but then the song’s bridge sets off on an unexpected path, and one which unexpectedly follows the “we’d like to take you home with us” section of “Sgt Pepper” (the song), as the girls relish their victory: “Come and sit beside us (us!)/We’ll give you such a thrill/We’re not nice, we’re cool as ice/We’ll give you quite a chill.” Girls on top, in every possible sense, and a cosmos away from the Nolans; “Rollercoaster” now remarkably sounds like a very young Girls Aloud, already setting out their stall. 6

  12. 42
    punctum on 25 Jul 2014 #

    ah, duplicate; please delete #42. Thanks.

    [admin update: done — it will vanish shortly]

  13. 43
    Rory on 31 Jul 2014 #

    Another new listen for me (or at least I couldn’t remember it, although I’m sure I heard it in Australia at the time, where it spent two weeks at number one). I was reasonably well-disposed towards it until that brief fiddle interlude, which after “C’est La Vie” was an Irishism too far. As for the video, all that denim makes it more Blue Meanies than Pepper.

    Swanstep @18, I think the iceblock in the video was a reference to the line about being cool as ice, although it comes several seconds too late to work. If they’re going to make overly literal references anyway, they should have just filmed themselves on a rollercoaster with their faces getting distorted by the wind for three minutes. But that would need a song that felt more like being on an actual rollercoaster, where you get to the bottom and go back to the top of the slide, where you stop and you turn and you go for a ride…


  14. 44
    Lazarus on 3 Aug 2014 #

    Early autumn of 1998, not the best of times for me. This was the Year of Four Jobs, a worrying and unsettling time. Not that that wasn’t very much my own fault, but anyway, this was job three – working at a pub just outside Maidstone. I’d always fancied pub work when I was younger – spending so much of my spare time in them and exchanging idle chit-chat with the staff it seemed quite a civilised way to earn a living – but the pay wasn’t enough to support a family and pay a mortgage, this being before the introduction of the minimum wage. And this was a busy, foodie establishment – I spent more time waiting on tables than pouring pints.

    On Sunday afternoon, the last day of the week that I’d been doing on a trial basis, the lunch-time rush was starting to clear when in walked a party of four – three attractive young women and an older man. I very quickly recognised the girls, possibly even before they started speaking, as three members of B*Witched (without Sinead, the blonde). The man appeared to be the father/manager of the group. He did most of the talking – not unpleasant exactly, but a bit abrupt, as if he was tired of fending off excited fans.

    My daughter was certainly a fan – she was having her seventh birthday party at McDonalds at the time – me, less so, although it was an interesting exercise in meeting the famous. What’s the best thing to do? Pretend you don’t recognise them? Let on that you do, but not make a fuss? I managed, although all fingers and thumbs with the till as usual, to serve them drinks and take a food order. And a couple of young Irishmen, working in the kitchen, came out to say hello, and didn’t seem at all surprised to see them. I concluded that that was whey they’d chosen this place – they knew these lads from home.

    By the end of that Sunday I was out of a job – again – having failed to live up to the management’s requirements – and B*Witched were at number one with their second single, ‘Rollercoaster.’ But where are they now, eh?

  15. 45
    Weej on 6 Aug 2014 #

    This hold up much better than I’d expected, mainly due to those lovely late-90s bubblegum production touches – those scratches, sparkles and synth claps, apparently the work of Ray “Madman” Hedges.

  16. 46
    wichitalineman on 7 Aug 2014 #

    Late 90s bubblegum is a lovely concept… Billie and B*witched (and future Popular entries) aside, who would fit into this category? Cleopatra? Now I’m stuck. Any suggestions?

    I always conflated Ray Hedges and Mike Hedges, I’ve just realised! I thought going from the La’s (unreleased pre-Steve Lilywhite album mix) to B*witched was a bit of a leap. Plenty of Ray to come, judging from his bunny-baiting wiki entry.

  17. 47
    ciaran on 7 Aug 2014 #

    #46 – Lolly?!

  18. 48
    Weej on 7 Aug 2014 #

    #46 – Len, Daphne & Celeste, some stuff from the first S Club LP, and a whole load of glitterkid bands like Posh, Gel, Disco Pistol, etc, if they’d managed to get a proper producer before the scene fizzled out.

    (I made a compilation along these lines at one point, but it’s long lost now)

  19. 49
    wichitalineman on 7 Aug 2014 #

    D&C, of course. Lolly – yikes!

    I wasn’t really think of ‘glitterkid’ which feels like something else – post-Kenickie indie? I remember seeing Posh and being quite underwhelmed.

    Any other properly produced chart-friendly ‘late 90s bubblegum’?

  20. 50
    Weej on 7 Aug 2014 #

    Glitterkid came much more from bis and fanzine culture than Kenickie, and they were always championing semi-chartbound stuff like Catch and Vanilla (ironically in their case) – and not 21st Century Girls, who were a bit too meta for anyone to take seriously. Posh are one of a select number of groups I love unconditionally while accepting they were a bit crap BTW.

    Other chartbound candidates = some PJ & Duncan, Precious, A*Teens… nothing particularly good. Shampoo are a bit too early to be counted, unfortunately. You can pick up some of those production touches in seemingly unrelated songs from years later, for example the Caro Emerald track in the 2010 pop world cup had essentially a more upmarket version of the same thing.

  21. 51
    James BC on 7 Aug 2014 #

    Aaron Carter would have to be on Now That’s What I Call 90s Bubblegum. Also I don’t know if Tatyana Ali would count but I’m going to mention her anyway.

  22. 52
    will on 7 Aug 2014 #

    Late 90s bubblegum? What about that numerically-named bunnied boy band?

  23. 53
    Gareth Parker on 31 May 2021 #

    Pretty tepid stuff in my opinion. 3/10.

  24. 54
    Mr Tinkertrain on 4 May 2022 #

    This one is pretty forgettable – a rare chart-topper from this era that I could barely remember the tune of. Hard to imagine it would have done much if it hadn’t been released off the back off C’est La Vie. 4 is as high as I can go.

    Other chart highlights: as mentioned above, some of the new entries in this one’s first week were Perfect 10, From Rush Hour With Love, Ash’s Jesus Says and Terrorvision’s Josephine (all very good). Fastball’s The Way (mentioned at comment #36) is an absolute 10/10 song. Doo Wop does nothing for me at all though.

    I can’t even remember the Brandy song that made #2 in the second week of this.

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