The Story of Pop: 1999 (Chapter 24)

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It’s Thursday, and time once again to bring you the best of the UK chart’s biggest hits from two decades ago like an amazing pop tardis. This is The Story of Pop: 1999. This week: one of the largest – and loudest – new pop groups of the year make their debut at the top via one of the biggest kid’s TV shows around…

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1999 is remembered more often than not as the year of the launch of some of pop’s best known and loved names. And it’s unquestionable that the act behind this week’s featured classic hit was one of them. But as with the Baz Luhrmann track we featured last week, the story of this one starts way back in 1997. Malcolm Gerrie, a TV executive at the production company Initial, was searching for a young, fresh faced pop act to be the subject of a new BBC children’s TV series.

At the same time, pop impresario Simon Fuller, the man who’d overseen the careers of everyone from Annie Lennox to Cathy Dennis, had just been given the heave ho by possibly his most famous charges to that point – the Spice Girls. He was to then spend the next year or so conducting auditions in the UK and across the world finding the band he wanted to replace them and also be the stars of this new TV comedy drama series.

Not so much a band, but a huge multimedia concept combining the worlds of pop, TV, technology, acting, fashion and dance, the end result was as fresh, wild and as explosive as they came. With a final lineup chosen of Tina Barrett, Jon Lee, Paul Cattermole, Hannah Spearritt, Bradley McIntosh, Rachel Stevens and Jo O’Meara, S Club 7 finally came together at the end of 1998 to record their first album, before they began filming the TV show that they would be starring in.

The BBC’s children’s strand had already had a comedy drama series starring a real life pop band – 1997’s No Sweat starring BMG/RCA signed boyband with guitars North and South. But despite the high ratings for that show, the success with the subsequent music from it had been fleeting to say the least. The twist with S Club was that their show had top writers on it that had worked on everything from Friends to Red Dwarf – instantly making it a show with an international appeal.

Whilst playing camped up versions of themselves, they would star in a thirteen part comedy drama series about an up and coming seven piece pop band from the UK, who thanks to unscrupulous management, wound up working in a rundown hotel in Miami, Florida, with a performance of a song in each show. Launched on 8th April 1999 on BBC One, Miami 7 was an instant hit, and within weeks, it was the top rated kid’s TV show in the UK, with broadcast rights subsequently sold to over 100 countries.

It also helped however, that the accompanying music that was garnering exposure from the show was brilliantly good pop. Simon Fuller had also launched a couple of other pop projects in 1999, amongst them, the British answer to Hanson in familial Essex boy trio Next of Kin, and glam rocking girl band 21st Century Girls. But the biggest and best hits in waiting were being saved for S Club.

Co-written by all the group with Sheffield born hitmaker Eliot Kennedy, who had delivered hits for Spice Girls as well as Bryan Adams, East 17 and Take That, the sunny and motivational Motown soul pop of ‘Bring It All Back’ opened and closed each episode of Miami 7 as its theme tune. So by the time it came to be released on 7th June 1999, it was instantly recognisable to an army of punters.

Despite fierce competition that week from the queen of pop Madonna with her Austin Powers tune ‘Beautiful Stranger’, S Club 7 had the best start possible to their career by shifting 190,000 copies in their first week on sale to crown ‘Bring It All Back’ as their first ever number one single. It stayed in the charts all that summer, long enough to wind up being one of the year’s biggest selling singles.

And the hits kept on coming that year, with ‘S Club Party’ zooming in at #2 in September, and double-a-sided Christmas release ‘Two In A Million / You’re My Number One’ also hitting #2 in December, as well as a double platinum album in their debut release ‘S Club’. They even found time to star in a one hour special for ITV, titled Back To The Fifties, and they turned on the Christmas lights in London’s Regent Street.

At the following year’s Brit Awards, their incredible success in just those twelve months would be capped with a win for the Best British Breakthrough prize at that year’s ceremony. So twenty years on, here’s to S Club 7 – the multi platformed pop package who proved that the old adage is true: there ain’t no party like an S Club party.

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.

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