The Story of Pop: 2000. It’s our weekly retelling of the stories behind the UK chart hits from the first year of the 21st century. This week – another huge dance anthem of Y2K, and an amusing anecdote about me starting school…
The collective name for producer Romain Tranchart and vocalist Yann Degastnol, French filter disco house combo Modjo were, in a sense, to September 2000 what Eiffel 65 had been to September of the year previously.
Sampling Chic and Nile Rodgers‘ “Soup for One”, off the soundtrack of the 1982 film of the same name, their debut single “Lady (Hear Me Tonight)” spent much of the first summer of the new millennium burning up charts and dancefloors all across Europe.
The UK joined a list of twelve countries that crowned it as a number one single upon release that early autumn, spending two weeks at the top, eleven weeks in the top 40 and selling over 600,000 copies all told to confirm it as one of 2000’s biggest dance anthems.
I also happen to know of one of those 600,000 people who bought it. To tell the story, this was the single that was sat at the top of the charts as I started in Year 7 at secondary school. It’s forever engrained on my consciousness thanks to one of the first school assemblies I can remember.
Every Thursday, our “form houses” that we were assigned at school had house assemblies. This was led by the “Head of House”, a lady who was one of the female PE teachers at the time, who looked for all the world like the lovechild of tennis star Maria Sharapova and the late Sir Bruce Forsyth.
This was also around the time that panic was ensuing up and down the UK, as fuel companies hit the picket lines and the petrol strikes took hold, and all began to fear – much like this year, in fact – that the country was on the cusp of grinding to a literal and actual halt.
What followed from our Head of House was, from my memory, a sort of “Welcome aboard your new school” speech to us wide eyed, mostly innocent newbies, clad in oversized blazers we were yet to grow into, crossed with a reflection on the scarcity of things we take for granted like fuel and the finite nature of these that was attempting to be earnest and yet narrowly missed achieving its aim.
She then proceeded to lead us in prayer (Catholic school and all that, in case you’re wondering) and then rounded things off, announcing words to the effect of “I went to ASDA last night, not to buy petrol, but to get the number one song”. And cue “Lady (Hear Me Tonight)” blasting from the tinniest sound system possible to a bemused hall of teenagers.
The strike ended a couple of days after that. As for Modjo, they were resolutely two hit wonders. Their second single, “Chillin'”, essentially this song but in a different melody, made #12 in March 2001, before they ended on a #57 flop with “What I Mean” in October of that same year, thus confining them to the same league of many a summer dance hit before them.
I suspect that I am alone in my memories of their biggest hit being tied to a school assembly in deepest Essex with a confusing message at its heart, as opposed to say, remembering living my best life and getting my rave on in Ibiza or Aiya Napa. But that for me will always be my lasting memory of “Lady (Hear Me Tonight)”, now fully exorcised to you readers 20 years later.
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