Needing a trip back to a time when the UK singles chart was chock-a-block with pop and a new number one every week? Then you have come to the right place, for you’re just in time for this week’s edition of The Story of Pop: 2000, our week-by-week retelling of this altogether crazy time for pop music. This week: when bad boy pop meets rock legends…
Fresh from the success of their first ever number one single with “Keep on Movin'” and their second album Invincible, Five had become the UK’s leading boyband by the start of 2000. They completed their first sold out arena tour of the UK, which then subsequently went worldwide over the course of the next year.
And at the very start of the new millennium, they also had one of the biggest honours of all: opening that year’s BRIT Awards ceremony, where they also won Best British Pop Act, voted for by viewers of Saturday morning pop show CD:UK.
The song that they opened the show with wasn’t their then current single (the decidedly average “Don’t Wanna Let You Go”, which had underperformed slightly, debuting and peaking at #9) but instead a cover of a song that was also on their new album, which had been touted as a future single instead.
“We Will Rock You” is largely considered to be one of Queen’s signature songs. Released as a double-a-side offering with “We Are The Champions” in 1977, it had peaked at #2 here, and of course went onto inform the title of the West End jukebox musical of the same name featuring their back catalogue.
The version of the song that Five performed was actually radically different to the one on the Invincible album, as the then remaining members of Queen – Brian May and Roger Taylor – had given their blessing and offered to re-record their guitar and drum parts for the single mix, and also perform live with them on their BRITs show opener.
It was a cover version that – mainly because of Jason ‘J’ Brown and Richard ‘Abz’ (née Abs) Breen’s new rap sections that had been bolted on – was derided as sacrilege to the memory of Freddie Mercury by all and sundry, this despite Brian May saying he actually preferred the way his guitar solos sounded on the Five version.
Even with all the snobbery and critical scorn poured on it, Five’s stock remained resolutely high, as indeed was Queen’s following a recent third instalment of their Greatest Hits being released. So there was little stopping ‘We Will Rock You’, and once released in July 2000, it stormed to the top of the UK charts to give Five their second number one and Queen their sixth.
Of course, as a contrast to all this, Five were – as once stated by Dermot O’Leary – perfectly nice boys, but just not to each other (as was well documented on ITV2’s The Big Reunion). Bitter tensions had started to show in their fiery bad boy brotherhood at this point, tensions that – following their third chart topper a year later with “Let’s Dance” – finally led them to splitting in September 2001. But to this week, we remember their updated take on ‘We Will Rock You’ that took it to the top under 25 years on from the original.
Don’t forget to follow our brand new playlist on Spotify – updated weekly so you never miss a song from the story of pop in 2000. And you can leave your memories of the songs below in the comments or Tweet us, using the hashtag #StoryofPop2000.