1998 Revisited, Part 1: Manics, All Saints, Des’ree etc…

September 14, 2008

So welcome then, to the launch of Popcomments, the brand new pop history blog where the past is always a present matter, and welcome also, to the first ever blog entry on Popcomments. This is a brand new series of posts called “Revisited” where basically we take you, through the medium of YouTube and the like, on a journey through a great year in pop over 4 seperate parts per year. Today we start our look back at the year best remembered for Madonna’s William Orbit aided Earth Mother figure, the year Geri left the Spice Girls just before the American leg of their world tour, and the year that the Britpop bubble untimely burst. Ladies and gentleman, welcome to 1998.

However, whilst the Britpop bubble was bursting on the likes of Sleeper and er, Menswear, it was far from bursting on Wales’ finest, Manic Street Preachers. In September of this year they returned with their fifth album and follow up to their fourth album “Everything Must Go”. Produced with Mike Hedges, the BRIT Award winning “This Is My Truth, Tell Me Yours” topped the album charts in this year, and so too, did it’s lead single, “If You Tolerate This, Your Children Will Be Next”, a song about the Spanish Civil War with lyrics that were far from typical of anything that was topping the charts before it in that year, such as the line “So if I can shoot rabbits/I can shoot facists”. Interesting stuff, I’m sure you’ll agree, but it was actually one of their biggest airplay successes to follow “A Design For Life” from 1996, and quite rightly, when it remains one of their best singles to this day.

It’s funny how everything comes full circle though. Just like today in 2008, when Alphabeat, Annie and a few others are dominating our charts, North Eastern Europe was proving to be a founder of numerous chart acts over the course of 1998 (as we’ll see over the next few days with another group of Swedes and one group of Danes). Aside from a young Swede by the name of Robyn – you may be aware of her viewers – there was another Swede making his way into our charts, and that was brother of Neneh, Eagle Eye Cherry. Appearing from quite literally nowhere, the acoustic led ditty “Save Tonight” was a long stayer in the charts over the summer of 1998, reaching a #3 peak and being followed by the release of his debut album “Desireless” (which hit the top 20) and the follow up single, “Falling in Love Again” which reached #7 in November. Sadly no video to embed here as those eegots at SonyBMG’s YouTube channel have prevented me from doing so.

As already mentioned, the Spiceworld was falling apart at the seams after Geri’s much publicized departure during a break before the American leg of their world tour in late May 1998. Though the Spices were to gain two more chart toppers in this year – “Viva Forever” in late July and the festive pole position with their tribute to Geri, “Goodbye” – it was now the turn of the band largely seen as their rivals, All Saints, to break through. By the time the end of the year rolled round, their self titled debut album was one of the top 10 selling albums in the UK for 1998 – far exceeding further sales of “Spice” and “Spiceworld” in the UK put together. Helping it along was a string of fantastic #1’s – “Never Ever”, “Under The Bridge” and “Bootie Call”, as well as this soulful number, “War of Nerves”, which featured that rare thing in a song from All Saints’ first era together as a band, a co-write from the group’s tabloid tagged “party animals” Nicole and Natalie Appleton. Believed to be the group’s response to the life and death of Princess Diana, the track reached #7 in early November 1998.

It was rather quiet on the soulful Brit girl front in this year – Shola Ama took an unprecedented amount of time off, and Beverley Knight was still struggling to make herself a hit at the time in spite of a Mercury Prize nod for her debut album “Prodigal Sista”. It was better news, however, for Des’ree, who after about a trillion re-releases of her Vauxhall ad soundtracking “You Gotta Be” returned with her second top 20 album “Supernatural”, biggest hit off it being “Life”, which reached #7 in July of this year, followed by “What’s Your Sign” reaching #14 in October. However, listeners of BBC 6Music voted it as the song with the worst lyrics in music history recently, winning lyric being the immortal “I’m afraid of a ghost/It’s the sight that I fear most/I’d rather have a piece of toast/And watch the evening news”.

It was in this year also, that a trend developed for sampling old songs on quite amazing and completely new records. Cases in point extending out to The Groove Generation sampling Leo Sayer’s “You Make Me Feel Like Dancing”, Bus Stop sampling Carl Douglas’ “Kung Fu Fighting”, and The Tamperer, courtesy of vocals from former Broadway actress and singer Maya, first sampling Jackson 5’s “Can You Feel It” on their chart topping “Feel It” in May this year, and then sampling Madonna’s “Material Girl” on the follow up that, bar the Manics, had one of the best long song titles of the year – “If You Buy This Record, Your Life Will Be Better”, which reached #4 in early November. Their next hit after that, “Hammer to the Heart” beat Madonna by approximately 5 years in April 2000 when it sampled ABBA’s “Gimme Gimme Gimme”.

Next Sunday, we continue our look back at 1998, including our first look back at when Irish pop experienced a renaissance of sorts in the charts.


One comment

  1. This was AMAZING. What an incredible idea for a website; thank you for starting this, it’s this kind of stuff that NEEDS to be documented beyond wikipedia and it’s vital to the blogging world I believe.

    Thank you for the kind words on my site as well, much appreciated. Naturally, I’ve lined you over there as well; keep up the good work, cannot wait for next Sunday…


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