Hello one, hello all. Today is Saturday, 26th August 2017. Which means that a whole 28 years ago, yours truly was born to the world. So it’s my birthday. Happy birthday to me etc (cue the birthday emojis).
😄😄😄 🎂🎂🎂 🎁🎁🎁 🎈🎈🎈 🎉🎉🎉
Now, those of you who are regular readers to the blog may remember that two years ago, around about this exact time, I published a little celebratory blog and accompanying Spotify playlist called #26in26. The premise was a simple one: via my social media platforms, people voted daily for the first 26 days of August for a given song from a given year of the previous 26 years I’d been alive for at that point, to be included on a specially curated playlist and blog, published on my birthday. It was quite successful, to the point I kind of outdid myself when it came to anything else playlist related.
A lot of people have asked me since then if I’d do a follow up one for every subsequent year. And I always resisted the idea. Why follow up what couldn’t be bettered? Until I struck upon a potentially brilliant (or tragic, depending on your viewpoint) concept for a second playlist. I’m sure we’re all aware of what’s been number one in the UK charts on our birthdays via the numerous wealth of sources – the Official Charts website for one. But what about what’s been #1 on every subsequent year we’ve celebrated a birthday?
With this in mind, my challenge for the long awaited sequel to the original #26in26 – which I am calling #26in26 Plus 2 – is to take each of the singles that have been number one in the UK on my birthday for the last 28 years, put them onto a playlist, and review them, giving them a score out of a possible 28. So it’s not unfair to say that unlike last time, where I actually enjoyed all the songs, this time some I will enjoy, some I’ll be pleasantly surprised by, and some I will hate every second of. But rules are rules, and they should thus also make for some entertaining reading. Hope you enjoy it (and the playlist too), and a hearty thank you for all the continued love and support with this here corner of the internet and my blogs. Much love to you all!
(Credit, by the by, to those lovely people at OfficialCharts.com for supplying me with the official stats of who was number one on which birthday of yours truly. A valuable source indeed)
#26in26 Plus 2: THE REVIEWS
1989: Jive Bunny – Swing the Mood
This? This is what greeted my arrival in the world? Just what was it with the brief UK fascination at the end of the 80s with rubbish European based megamixes of golden oldies? No wonder Pete Waterman gave us the Reynolds Girls to declare (albeit briefly) that ‘We don’t want them back’. We had a Jive Bunny video as kids and it used to terrify me witless. 28 years on and just one look at the video on YouTube again has confirmed that little has changed in my views on this.
28s out of 28: 0
1990: Bombalurina – Itsy Bitsy Teeny Weeny Yellow Polka Dot Bikini
In which irritating kid’s TV tyrant Timmy Mallett and everything wrong with the then turn of the decade pop culture – with some help from Andrew Lloyd Webber (we’ll meet him again in eight songs’ time) – grin like idiots through this inane, irritating ditty about bikinis. Like a more British and thus God awful ‘Thong Song’, set in Bognor Regis instead of Miami.
28s out of 28: 0
1991: Bryan Adams – Everything I Do (I Do It For You)
A quick check confirms to me that this was almost halfway through the mammoth 16 week run this song, from the ‘Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves’ soundtrack, was enjoying at the top. It’s probably a good thing I was too young to know what was going on in the charts at that time, as I can imagine I’d have got sick of this pretty quickly if I was say, 9 in 1991, and not 2. Fortunately, I appreciate the old gravelly rock tones of Mr Adams, so I quite enjoyed doing my celebrated imitation of him doing this song whilst listening to it. Altogether now: ‘Dooon’t teeeell me, it’s not worth fighting fooooorrrr…’
28s out of 28: 16
1992: Snap! – Rhythm is a Dancer
At last, a bit of a rave! One of my favourite 90s dance anthems this. And it was also the source of a quite amazing mashup that Girls Aloud’s Nicola Roberts did of it, with her lesser remembered solo hit ‘Lucky Day’, back in 2011. Points knocked off however, for the frankly awful line ‘I’m as serious as cancer / That rhythm is a dancer’. Aces otherwise.
28s out of 28: 18
1993: Freddie Mercury – Living On My Own
Call me a pariah, but there are only two songs of Queen’s I can take listening to in full. And usually only when drunk. They are ‘Don’t Stop Me Now’ and ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’. This is neither of them, being as it is A) a largely forgotten posthumous solo Freddie Mercury track and B) a bit of a so-so offering. Kind of like someone hit the button marked ‘I’M A SRS ARTIST NOW YAH’ without actually making it engaging beyond two listens.
28s out of 28: 7
1994: Wet Wet Wet – Love is All Around
Ah. Like Bryan Adams, another of the 90s notorious long running chart toppers. Now this I can’t be too hard on, given it’s from one of my all time favourite films – namely, Four Weddings and a Funeral. But I must confess that as the grand scale of ‘songs from Richard Curtis films’ go, this is somewhere after Elvis Costello’s remake of ‘She’ from Notting Hill and Girls Aloud’s version of ‘Jump’ from Love Actually for me, i.e. it’s not as good as those. Fine otherwise. Just not for 15 consecutive weeks mind.
28s out of 28: 14
1995: Blur – Country House
City dweller! Successful fella! He thought to himself ‘Oops I’ve got a lot of money’…(sorry. Had to sing along there. And now back to your regularly scheduled blog.) I have my eldest sister, then in the throes of her Britpop and indie loving days to thank for getting 6 year old me into Blur, thanks to countless Saturday mornings watching her tape the indie charts off ITV’s Chart Show with her. This was of course their single that went up against Oasis’ ‘Roll With It’ in an almighty chart battle dubbed ‘the Battle of Britpop’. The more deserving victor by far – and one of their best singles to boot.
28s out of 28: 26
1996: Spice Girls – Wannabe
And this is where my original 2015 playlist and the sequel draw even, as this was the 1996 victor on that one too. And wouldn’t you? This is under three minutes worth of sassy, quirky and downright awesome girl power pop that launched one of the best girl groups – and pop groups generally – that Britain and the world has ever had. You’d be a fool to try and resist otherwise. Zig a zig aah indeed.
28s out of 28: 28
1997: Will Smith – Men in Black
Aka the point the Fresh Prince left his comedy rap and sitcom roots behind for the big smoke of Hollywood blockbusters, scoring an instant number one with the title song from the first of three Men In Black films. If memory serves me correctly, myself and a good friend learnt the dance from the video for a school disco, shades and all. Also used the same sample as George Michael’s ‘Fastlove’ a year previously.
28s out of 28: 22
1998: Boyzone – No Matter What
We did say we’d meet Andrew Lloyd Webber again, did we not? Taken from a musical about some kids discovering what they think is Jesus in a barn, Boyzone released the signature song of their career. Ronan is easily impersonatable on this, whilst the late Stephen Gately delivers the best vocal performance he ever did. I like it more now than I did then, mind.
28s out of 28: 19
1999: Geri Halliwell – Mi Chico Latino
¿Dondé esta el hombre con fuego en la sangre? Quite, Geraldine, quite. Having been denied the number one slot with her brilliant solo debut ‘Look at Me’ (she has the act before her in this playlist to thank for that, who released a bobbins Anne Murray cover the same week), ‘Mi Chico Latino’, a song she’d recorded as a tribute to her maternal Spanish roots in the autumn of the previous year, wound up her first of four solo number ones during the whole Latino craze that summer. Olé etc.
28s out of 28: 21
2000: Spiller featuring Sophie Ellis-Bextor – Groovejet (If This Ain’t Love)
In a year plentiful of great dance records – ‘The Time is Now’, ‘Toca’s Miracle’, ‘Lady (Hear Me Tonight)’ to name but several – this disco house offering from an Italian DJ gave the world one of 21st century pop’s greatest female performers fresh from the ashes of her old band Theaudience, and in the process ensured Victoria Beckham was to never achieve what her other Spicies did – a solo number one. Or duetting with Dane Bowers. (Apols for the live version peeps. It was the closest I could get as the original is M.I.A on Spotify)
28s out of 28: 27
2001: Five – Let’s Dance
Looking back, Five were definitely a riddle wrapped in an enigma. Cool as cucumbers, and the most accepted boyband in late 90s/early 00s British school playground currency, they released some of the best pop singles of their era, but as has been well documented, they were just not very nice to each other and were thus a total trainwreck behind closed doors. Who else stays at number one for two weeks these days with a chunk of funky disco pop with a video that features one of your awol members (Sean Conlon) as a cardboard cutout? Exactly. No wonder they imploded after this.
28s out of 28: 25
2002: Sugababes – Round Round
Aka one of the defining records that shaped 00s pop music – and another point of mutual agreement for our original playlist, where this was 2002’s victor. Truthfully, Brian Higgins’ first stab at pop glory was Dannii Minogue’s brilliant ‘All I Wanna Do’ five years previous to this, but this is the moment Xenomania – and Sugababes – came to be recognised leaders in their field.
28s out of 28: 26
2003: Blu Cantrell and Sean Paul – Breathe
Dutty yeah etc. ‘Sean the Paul’ (as Una Healy calls him) was everywhere in 2003, yet his only connection to the top slot that year was on an R&B number that came virtually out of nowhere, from a woman that had made the top 20 two years previously with ‘Hit ‘Em Up Style’. Sean’s bit is the best thing about this, I won’t lie. Ms Cantrell is a bit shrill.
28s out of 28: 14
2004: Natasha Bedingfield – These Words
The more tolerable of the Bedingfield dynasty was that curiously oh-so-00s phenomenon. Hugely successful and talked about for first album era – see both this number one single and album with ‘Unwritten’ – then buggered off to America, losing whatever fanbase she had back here in Blighty. Also: ‘Read some Byron, Shelley and Keats / Recited it over a HIP. HOP. BEAT’. Hmmm.
28s out of 28: 17
2005: McFly – I’ll Be OK
Now this I remember fondly. In which McFly launched their second album with a song that for all the world sounded like the great lost Bluetones single that never was. Up there with ‘Obviously’ and ‘All About You’ in their singles canon for unfettered, straight ahead jangly pop rock that reveals its charms more and more with every listen.
28s out of 28: 24
2006: Shakira and Wyclef Jean – Hips Don’t Lie
And now the final point of reference between my original playlist and this one. It’s fair to say both Shakira and Wyclef had been musically quiet or irrelevant for some time when this got released. A straight up Latino influenced banger that could teach that ‘Despacito’ rubbish a thing or two. ‘So be wise. And keep on. READINGTHESIGNSOFMABODY…’
28s out of 28: 25
2007: Kanye West – Stronger
Ugggh. As a Daft Punk fan (well I own a copy of ‘Discovery’, what more proof do you need?) I can’t say I care too much for Old Ego Features That Wot Married a Kardashian butchering ‘Harder Better Faster Stronger’ to within an inch of its life. Next.
28s out of 28: 1
2008: Katy Perry – I Kissed a Girl
I came to like Ms Perry a bit further into her career – i.e. when she released ‘Firework’ and ‘Roar’. This however was right at the beginning of her career, when she was all ‘Oooh, I’m singing about kissing girls, how naughty am I?’ when it was obvious she’d done nothing of the sort in her life, and it was thus irritating beyond all belief.
28s out of 28: 4
2009: The Black Eyed Peas – I Gotta Feeling
Well remembered by me for two reasons. 1) Will.I.Am did a DJ set at my university’s then reopened student’s union at the time they were releasing this single and just being the biggest band on the planet. It was quite a special night, more so when this got played. 2) This was my sister Cat (of Dear Cat and Fi fame) and her husband’s first dance song at her wedding four years later. For sentimental reasons I thus love it.
28s out of 28: 20
2010: Flo Rida and David Guetta – Club Can’t Handle Me
In which Flo Rida did another song about being ‘in da club’ and David Guetta gave him a production sounding exactly like all his singles prior to that. It also kept The Saturdays off the top with ‘Missing You’ despite that having the midweek lead which I wasn’t happy with, no. Next.
28s out of 28: 3
2011: Olly Murs and Rizzle Kicks – Heart Skips a Beat
Oh yes. This was a great period of my life – and birthday – indeed. Only two days before this I’d bagged front row seats for the Wembley Arena show of his first arena tour the following February. This then promptly became his second number one with help from those Brighton rapscallions Rizzle Kicks, silencing his critics who said he wouldn’t get past a first album in one foul swoop. Nice one Murs.
28s out of 28: 27
2012: Sam and the Womp – Bom Bom
Oooh. Now I’ll be honest when I say I wasn’t paying a great deal of attention to the music around in the charts on this particular birthday. I’m sort of regretting that now because this is fabulous. Kind of like a holy union between Björk and ‘Doop’.
28s out of 28: 23
2013: Ellie Goulding – Burn
I rather loved Ellie Goulding’s first album ‘Lights’ when it came out three years previously. Ever since then she has released the occasional great single – ‘Still Falling for You’ off the recent Bridget Jones soundtrack for example – but nothing album wise that has topped the brilliance of her debut. This is all atmospheric and kind of ‘lighters at the end of the night before they kick everyone out at 3am’. In a good way.
28s out of 28: 19
2014: Nico & Vinz – Am I Wrong
Again, not a time when I was really paying attention to the charts this. I do however remember (somewhat unfairly) tarnishing this with the same brush as a lot of the samey EDM/tropical house bobbins tag I’ve applied to a lot of the biggest chart toppers in recent years. With my eyes closed and listened to objectively, it’s actually not that bad. Not unlike the sort of thing Hot Chip might have released on their second album (the one with ‘Ready for the Floor’, in case you’re wondering).
28s out of 28: 21
2015: Charlie Puth featuring Meghan Trainor – ‘Marvin Gaye’
Yes, it took hearing this on the Fiat TV advert it was used on for me to be introduced to it. I am a twenty something man who has to stumble upon new music in this way that doesn’t involve Zane Lowe yabbering in my ears, now get over it. It sounds a little less brilliant with two years’ distance, mind.
28s out of 28: 16
2016: Major Lazer featuring MØ and Justin Bieber – Cold Water
And so ends the playlist much as it started – with a phenomenon I refutely cannot get behind at all. I have the grand total of one Major Lazer song in my iTunes library. That being the brilliant ‘Pon De Floor’ with Diplo and Vybz Kartel. This as you’ve gathered, is not it, and is proof that Justin Bieber, who now looks about as with it as Britney Spears did post-meltdown, could get away with reading extracts from Clifford the Big Red Dog whilst stoned over a bobbins Tropical house beat and still reach #1 with it. I’m going back to Radio 2. Where’s my slippers and glass of wine?
28s out of 28: 3