It’s Thursday, meaning that it’s time for us, as always, to throw things back two decades to the hits and hitmakers of the pre-Y2K charts. This is The Story of Pop: 1999. This week: four girls from Dublin make chart history – and cement their place in the record books in the process…
In less than a year, Irish girl group B*Witched had gone from nowhere to everywhere, and were without question one of the biggest pop acts around. With all three of their first three singles racing to number one in 1998 – ‘C’est La Vie’, ‘Rollercoaster’ and ‘To You I Belong’ – and a double platinum self titled album, the Celtic denim clad quartet were hot property.
1999 started with them flying over to the US to support *NSYNC on their stadium tour, covering the length and breadth of the States – with ‘C’est La Vie’ also hitting the top 10 of the Billboard charts. They’d also been nominated for Best International Breakthrough at that year’s Brit Awards – missing out to Natalie Imbruglia. But even with all their growing international commitments, a fourth single from their album wasn’t totally an out of character proposition to close their first chapter off.
A guitar flecked, maturer number from the album, ‘Blame It On The Weatherman’ marked a new progression from the day-glo sugar rush of their earlier releases – even down to the ominous thunderstorm effects peppering the intro of the song. The video was also their most ambitious to date, as they sailed through a flooded city on an upside down articulated lorry.
This being officially the watermark of a time where you had to chart high, or in B*Witched’s case, hit the top first week out with a new release or be considered a failure, there was, they felt, a monumental amount of pressure on them to maintain their earlier success. ‘As amazing as [that run of hits] is, we knew that as soon as we didn’t have a number one, there would be something to be seen to be going wrong or that the press would be negative,’ said the band’s Keavy Lynch in a 2013 interview.
Fortunately, even though it had a bit of a job all week to overcome Edele and Keavy’s brother Shane’s band Boyzone with their Comic Relief single we discussed two weeks ago, by week’s end ‘Blame It On The Weatherman’ saw to it that the Lynch sisters, along with Lindsay Armaou and Sinead O’Carroll, broke records by becoming the first act ever to go straight in at number one in the UK with their first four singles, with Mark Goodier revealing the news on Radio 1’s Official Chart Show that Sunday to a giddy Keavy in the clip we’ve linked to.
And, although ‘Jesse Hold On’, the first single off their second album ‘Awake & Breathe’ halted their unbroken run of chart toppers later that year when it entered at #4, leaving Westlife to best that record a year later with seven number one debuts out of their first seven releases, they still hold the record for a girl group twenty years later – a remarkable feat when you consider how short their chart career was. But it’s proof that B*Witched really did have the remarkable luck of the Irish on their side at their peak.
Don’t forget to follow our playlist on Spotify – updated weekly so you never miss a song from the story of pop in 1999. And you can leave your memories of the songs below in the comments or Tweet us, using the hashtag #StoryofPop1999.