Regular readers among you may know two things about me by now: 1) that when I’m an uber-fan of a particular artist, it’s hard for me, when discussing my love for that artist, to form any coherent stream of logic other than that of a slightly gawky 12 year old fanboy.
And 2) the eagle eyed amongst you may know that once upon a time (ie 15 or so years ago) I was a hardcore fan of the motley lot you see pictured above. Who can probably be held responsible for the whole “coherent logic” conundrum. And yet I wouldn’t have it any other way.
So the news that S Club 7 are, in fact, finally reuniting for a special comeback performance next month for the BBC’s annual Children in Need appeal, has reverted me to my gawky 12 year old fanboy self all over again. What I hope this blog post will do therefore, is to try and explain why.
I’m of the firm belief that every music lover has that one experience – that one, or maybe two or three artists – where they discover an artist that is their baby, their group, their little finding. Now for most people, this is usually some hip, cool indie band or amazingly gifted singer songwriter. The kind you casually throw on at a dinner party and say, with a knowing and smug smile to your mates, ‘Yes, I discovered them’.
I also realise most people have these formative experiences in their twenties, and not generally when they are, as I was back in the late spring of 1999, 9 years old. But here’s the thing. All the music I’d ever listened to up to that point was someone else’s discovery.
This included, but was not limited to: my mum and dad’s old Beatles and Simon & Garfunkel LPs. My eldest sister’s Blur and The Prodigy albums. My other sister’s cassette of the first Spice Girls album. And, about a year previous to this, my best friend Jack at primary school, introducing me to the Spices’ combat wearing and slightly more sultry rivals, All Saints.
All amazing music, but stuff that wasn’t completely my own ‘discovery’. That all changed on the afternoon of Thursday, 8th April 1999. It’s a date that’ll forever be ingrained on my brain. It was by all accounts, a fairly normal day. It was after school, and I’d been helping my sister with a ‘Motte and Bailey castle’ (don’t ask) model she’d been making for a class project.
A quick sconce at the Radio Times listings for that day also reveals that Children’s BBC was a mostly uneventful one that afternoon – ‘Help! It’s the Hair Bear Bunch’ and ‘Goosebumps’ anyone? Then, at 17:10pm, came the following:
17.10: MIAMI 7
First in a new 13-part comedy drama. With great songs and dazzling dance routines, pop band S Club 7 are ready for fame, fortune and fun.
And from the moment they burst onto that TV screen, a bright, tropical, technicolour haze of poptastic glory, I was suddenly hooked for those 30 minutes and every single one of the 12 Thursdays after that – for two reasons. Firstly, of the pop acts I knew so far, it was rare to have one with a mixture of boys and girls, let alone so many members.
Secondly, that they had their own TV show. True, this was not the BBC’s first attempt at a ‘kid’s com-dram vehicle starring real life pop band’ – see ‘No Sweat’ starring the clever but not quite big boyband North and South that had come two years before, and indeed The Monkees who had done it some 30 years prior to that – but the concept, the story of a seven piece pop group struggling to make it into the music industry working in a rundown Florida hotel, was still a genius way to launch a new pop act.
Of course, none of it would matter if it wasn’t for the music being so darn good either. The show’s theme tune and their debut UK #1 ‘Bring It All Back’ was a blast of sunshine soaked pop that spoke to 9 year old me like a pop song had never spoken to me before. At a time at school when I wasn’t blessed in the popularity stakes, and had minimal friends and was constantly being told I belonged in a remedial class, ‘Bring It All Back’ gave me the hope that maybe I wasn’t doing it all wrong. Take this set of verses, for example:
Hold on to what you try to be, your individuality
When the world is on your shoulders, just smile and let it go
If people try to put you down, just walk on by, don’t turn around
You only have to answer to yourself
S Club 7 was as much a group of mates mucking about and who made you wanna be part of their gang, and taking on the world together as it was a pop group. A hard concept to the snotty few who think a supposed ‘manufactured’ pop act could never achieve that, but they really did. Which is partly what drew me to being such a huge fan of theirs in the first place.
Whatever was going on in my life that wasn’t so pleasant, I knew that my seven mates – distant, but ever supportive – Tina, Jon, Paul, Hannah, Bradley, Rachel and Jo were ready for me to escape with them to that Miami or LA sunshine for half an hour after school or with their albums and singles for longer than that in those weird transitional years of primary and secondary school in the early 00’s when I still felt a bit lost and unsure of myself.
And most importantly of all – they were my discovery on that April afternoon in 1999, they were the first band who I could say felt like my band. Hence why I’m all the more excited about their imminent return. And the testament that held true 15 years ago has stuck: that there really ain’t no party like an S Club party.