Saturday, 24 August 2013

The Best Of 1996 - part 1

JUMP TO: 100-76 II 75-51 II 50-26 II 25-1

After being side-tracked by Madonna, I'm finally getting around to counting down my favourite songs from 1996. At the start of that year, I turned 21, but I still had two years to go on my university degree, so other than having a big party, it was pretty much business as usual for me.

There was no doubt Gwen and the guys were one of 1996's hottest new acts

In fact, nearly every weekend was someone's 21st party and, on several occasions, I got roped in to provide the music (a series of pre-recorded tapes). How much easier it would have been if iTunes had been invented at that stage. Here are some of the songs that made it onto my personal tapes (for playing in the car or on my Walkman) that year...

Number 100 "Reach 96" by Judy Cheeks
In fact, this was a song I'd been listening to since 1994, when it almost made my year-end top 10. Two years on, and "Reach" received a remix by Dancing Divaz in the hopes of improving its chart fortunes. Not only were songs that had never made the charts being remixed to try and turn them into hits, but now songs that had been relatively successful ("Reach" made it to number 17 in the UK in 1994) were remixed with the aim of turning them into even bigger hits. It didn't work, with "Reach 96" peaking at number 22. The same thing happened with Hyper Go-Go's "High 96" (number 101 on this list), which peaked at number 32 in the UK - two places lower than its original position.

Number 99 "Ocean Drive" by Lighthouse Family
Mentioned in Part 2

Number 98 "Jump To My Love / Always There (remix)" by Incognito
This single tried a similar tactic, by pairing a Masters At Work revamp of UK top 10 single "Always There" with new song "Jump To My Love" (taken from the acid jazz group's remix album). Unfortunately, the double A-side barely dented the UK top 30.

Number 97 "Follow The Rules" by Livin' Joy
Mentioned in Part 4

Number 96 "How I Wanna Be Loved" by Dana Dawson
Mentioned in Part 4

Number 95 "Is This A Dream (remix)" by Love Decade
Success, finally, for this do-over of 1991 single "Dream On (Is This A Dream)". Well, "success" is a relative term, since this new take on the song only reached number 39 in the UK - but that was 13 places higher than in 1991.

Number 94 "I Feel It" by DJ Darren Briais vs DJ Peewee Ferris
A slice of Australian dance music now - and, in a nice coincidence, it's a track that took its hook from a song by the group at number 94. Love Decade's "I Feel You" just missed my top 100 for 1992, and it was reinvented in 1996 by two local DJs, who landed a top 20 hit on the ARIA chart for their efforts. Peewee Ferris is the better known of the two, thanks to his production and remix work over the years, as well as a series of Big Day Out appearances.

Number 93 "Baby, Don't Cha Leave Me This Way" by Royal T
Here's a song I remember dancing to a lot in 1996 - since it, together with a few other tracks that'll turn up on this list, was on high rotation at one of the clubs I spent a lot of Saturday nights that year. Unlike Candy Girls' over-the-top "Fee Fi Fo Fum" and "Wham Bam", it was just the right side of camp for my taste - but only just.

Number 92 "Always Breaking My Heart" by Belinda Carlisle
Mentioned below

Number 91 "You & Me Song" by The Wannadies
Taking a pause from the barrage of club tracks, we find this song, which was featured in Romeo + Juliet and came from a Swedish indie pop group (is there no genre in which the Swedes don't make awesome music?). "You & Me Song" dated back to 1994, when it was titled "You And Me Song", but it took the rest of the world a while to catch on.

Number 90 "Give Me A Little More Time" by Gabrielle
After instant success with the singles from Find Your Way in 1993, British soul singer Gabrielle hit the jackpot again with this first single from her self-titled second album. The Motown-inspired feel was a bit of a change of pace, but the British public lapped it up, with the song sticking around in the top 10 there for weeks on end.

Number 89 "Who Do U Love" by Deborah Cox
She started her career as Canada's answer to Toni Braxton, with R&B tracks like this and "Sentimental" (number 161 on this list) performed in a similar husky style - but throughout the rest of the decade, thanks to a series of club remixes by the likes of Hex Hector and David Morales, Deborah was transformed into a dance diva. For me, she didn't release anything better than this track, which was her second single.

Number 88 "Do Watcha Do" by Hyper Go Go and Adeva
A match made in handbag heaven. On the one hand, you had Hyper Go Go, who'd been behind such piano house classics as "High", "Raise" and "Never Let Go". On the other, there was one of the original house divas, whose songs "Warning!" and "I Thank You" had helped the genre cross over in the late '80s. Put them together and you have this club hit.

Number 87 "Desire" by Nu Colours
They'd been around almost as long as acts like Incognito and Brand New Heavies had been landing hits, but it wasn't until 1996 that this British R&B/acid jazz group came onto my radar. Unfortunately, songs like this and "Special Kind Of Lover" (number 196 on this list) didn't get on enough other people's radars and they both just scraped into the UK top 40.

Number 86 "Just A Girl" by No Doubt
Here's another group that'd been around for quite a while - a whole decade, in fact - but, unlike Nu Colours, the US ska-influenced group certainly made an impact in 1996. Singer Gwen Stefani had joined the line-up in 1989 but it wasn't until 1995's Tragic Kingdom that things started to take off. "Just A Girl" became their international breakthrough hit and, of course, even bigger things were to come in 1997, a year and a half after Tragic Kingdom had originally been released. I just discovered that the producer of Tragic Kingdom was Matthew Wilder, whose 1983 hit, "Break My Stride", received a new lease of life in 1996 due to a fairly awful Eurodance cover by Unique II.

Number 85 "Where Do You Go" by No Mercy
Speaking of Eurodance... this song started off as a La Bouche album track (oddly, their mega-hits "Be My Lover" and "Sweet Dreams" never appealed to me despite my love for other Eurodance tracks from the same era). American trio No Mercy covered the song, giving it a bit of a Latino twist, and hey presto, another global mega-hit.

Number 84 "In Too Deep" by Belinda Carlisle
Now a decade into her solo career, Belinda was still able to come up with the pop goods - turning this flop Jenny Morris single into a big UK and Australian hit. Jenny's version had been released as recently as 1995, but the fact the song was written by Rick Nowels (also behind tunes like "Leave A Light On" and "Heaven Is A Place On Earth") no doubt brought it to Belinda's attention. "In Too Deep" was taken from her sixth album, A Woman And A Man, which also contained "Always Breaking My Heart" (number 93 on this list), a single written by Roxette's Per Gessle.

Number 83 "Don't Make Me Wait" by 911
Mentioned below

Number 82 "Keep On Pushing Our Love" by The Nightcrawlers featuring John Reid & Alysha Warren
Mentioned in Part 4

Number 81 "6 Underground" by Sneaker Pimps
With Massive Attack, Tricky, and the new and improved Everything But The Girl scoring huge sales with their downbeat electronica, the way was paved for a band like Sneaker Pimps, who scored their first hit with this song in 1996. "6 Underground" would be even bigger in 1997 after it had been featured on the soundtrack to the film version of The Saint.

Number 80 "Anymore" by Sarah Cracknell
After releasing the best single of their career in the form of 1995's "He's On The Phone", Saint Etienne took a break for a few years, during which time vocalist Sarah Cracknell recorded a solo album, Lipslide, which featured this single. I actually preferred one of the remixes on the CD single, but you'll have to make do with the main single and video version below.

Number 79 "Crazy Chance" by Kavana
Eighteen-year-old Anthony Kavanagh had been discovered by Take That's manager, Nigel Martin-Smith, and this debut single was co-written by TT member Howard Donald so you'd think it would have been a bigger UK hit than it was (it reached number 35 in 1996). Well, it was - in 1997, when the not-very-different "Crazy Chance 97" cracked the top 20.

Number 78 "Love Sensation" by 911
Another British pop act that took a while to warm up was three-piece boy band 911. They'd debuted with a cover of Shalamar's "A Night To Remember" (number 135 on this list) which just made the UK top 40. "Love Sensation" was their follow-up and it just missed the UK top 20, while their final single for 1996, "Don't Make Me Wait" (number 83 on this list), gave them their first hit inside the UK top 10, somewhere they'd be spending a fair bit of time for the following three years.

Number 77 "No Surrender" by Deuce
After two pop acts on the way up, we come to a pop act whose success was winding down - and that was despite the help of songwriters and producers Stock and Aitken, who threw Deuce a lifeline after they'd been dropped by their previous record label. With new member Amanda Perkins onboard (she'd replaced Kelly O'Keefe), Stock and Aitken gave Deuce this original song rather than making them record a cover version, like pretty much every other act they worked with around the same time. Even so, "No Surrender" only got to number 29 in the UK, but it wasn't the last we'd hear of the song...

Number 76 "Don't Pull Your Love" by Sean Maguire
Mentioned in Part 3

In Part 2, one of my favourite '80s tracks reared its head again, while two incredibly successful Australian pop acts made their debuts.

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