The Story of Pop: 2002 (Chapter 36)

Revisiting the hits from the year that two new music channels – The Hits and TMF – were launched, and when tennis champ Emma Raducanu was born, this is The Story of Pop: 2002. This week: a third and final chart topper from a purr-fect girl group…

  • Artist: Atomic Kitten
  • Song: The Tide Is High (Get The Feeling)
  • Released: 26/08/2002
  • Writers / Producers: John Holt / Tyrone Evans / Howard Barrett / Bill Padley / Jem Godfrey / Wise Buddah
  • Highest UK Chart Position: #1
  • Weeks on Chart: 16

Back when we first wrote about Liverpudlian trio Atomic Kitten on The Story Of Pop: 1999 three years ago, they slipped in almost unnoticed amongst the wave of new pop acts launched that year into the top 10 with their debut single “Right Now” in December before the new millennium dawned.

In the year that followed, the original lineup of Liz McClarnon, Natasha Hamilton and Kerry Katona were perhaps the most promising of the new pop acts around, with barnstorming and genuinely brilliant follow up singles “See Ya” and “I Want Your Love” following it into the top 10 during the course of 2000.

Yet for all the brilliance of those early singles, what crossover appeal Mk 1 of the Kittens had was limited to say the least – the singles had fairly short chart runs, and weren’t selling in anywhere near the amount say, for comparison, a Spice Girls or All Saints single would sell at that time.

When their fourth single “Follow Me” stalled at #20, and their album – also called Right Now – just crept into the top 40, suddenly things had fallen on the dreaded proverbial stony ground of any pop act, as there was a serious chance that Innocent / Virgin were on the cusp of dropping them from the label altogether.

Which made the events that followed in February 2001 nothing short of a pop miracle, as even with Kerry leaving the band to settle down with Westlife’s Brian McFaddenJenny Frost, ex-member of Eurovision girl group Precious, was her replacement – their fifth single “Whole Again” managed the unthinkable and went onto spend four weeks at number one, on its way to becoming a 21st century pop classic.

With a reactivated lineup, their album was re-recorded with Jenny’s vocals, and that, along with a cover of The Bangles‘ “Eternal Flame” both topped the chart in July 2001. Suddenly, Atomic Kitten were no longer dumper bound, but were – as this week’s featured hit will testify – for a brief moment in time, one of the biggest British girl groups around.

With their second album, Feels So Good (the title of which came from a song on the album co-written by Kylie Minogue), Innocent had a direction for the Kittens that built upon the sound and appeal of “Whole Again”. It was admittedly one that displeased the original founder of the Kittens, OMD’s Andy McCluskey, to the extent he cut ties with them altogether.

Stargate produced first single, the laidback cod C&W midtempo “It’s OK!” had peaked at #3 in May 2002. But Hugh Goldsmith, then director of Innocent Records, had an ace up his sleeve for the second single, with a cover of a track that had very nearly gone to one of his former charges.

Back in 2000, Billie Piper had recorded a cover of The Paragons, then Blondie hit “The Tide Is High” for her second album Walk Of Life. It had been mooted as a future single and – if you listen to her version – sounded like the potential of another hit in waiting.

But when disappointing sales of that album, combined with stalkers, death threats and a crippling eating disorder saw to it that she exited the music industry for good to pursue her first love of acting, it sat unloved, but not forgotten about, in Hugh’s drawer. When first presented to the Kittens, they couldn’t get their head around it, especially as the original was very much a reggae sound that was miles away from what they were doing.

But having the clever idea to add an additional set of lyrics from the Wise Buddah production team of Bill Padley and Jem Godfrey (who had also worked their magic on “Whole Again”) meant that “The Tide Is High (Get The Feeling)” – as it was now called – had legs to become one of the Kittens’ biggest singles to that point in their career.

Coupled with a memorable neon bright promo video that was never off the music channels, plus added press attention at the time – this was the single they were promoting when Natasha was heavily pregnant with her son Josh, who was born just as this hit the charts – when unleashed as a single at the end of August it promptly restored them to the summit.

With first week sales of over 147,000 copies, “The Tide Is High (Get The Feeling)” eventually went onto spend three weeks at number one, and was the thirteenth biggest selling single of 2002. It was joined a week or so later by the Feels So Good album debuting at number one in the album chart, making Atomic Kitten only the second girl group in UK chart history after the Spice Girls to hold down joint single and album chart toppers.

In America the following year, it also gained them a small flowering of success, after its use on the soundtrack of The Lizzie McGuire Movie starring Hilary Duff for the Disney Channel. And whilst the girls would carry on notching up hits until their indefinite hiatus in April 2004, they were truly never quite as huge again as they were here. In that respect, this single remains a high point of Atomic Kitten’s career in pop.

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 2002. And you can leave your memories of the songs below in the comments, Tweet us or message us on Instagram, using the hashtag #StoryofPop2002.

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