The Story of Pop: 1998 (Chapter 5)

The Story of Pop: 1998. It’s our weekly revisit in the form of a pop time capsule to the UK charts as they sounded and looked exactly 25 years ago. This week: Denmark’s biggest pop export silence their “one hit wonder” critics in style…

  • Artist: Aqua
  • Song: Doctor Jones
  • Released: 26/01/1998
  • Writers / Producers: Anders Øland / Søren Rasted / Claus Norreen / René Dif / Johnny Jam / Delgado
  • Highest UK Chart Position: #1
  • Weeks on Chart: 18

Pop history is littered with acts behind songs that, by rights, should have remained a one hit wonder. Few are the people, however, that can genuinely recall say, Lou Bega following his number one smash “Mambo No. 5” with the #55 flop “I Got A Girl”, or that Whigfield had another three top 20 hits following her million selling chart topper “Saturday Night”.

So really, with those odds, Danish pop band Aqua shouldn’t have been remembered much beyond the song that introduced them to the world at large in 1997; that song of course, being the Mattel baiting, plastic fantastic Europop banger “Barbie Girl”, which stayed at number one here in the autumn of that year for four weeks.

But when you consider that, had it not been for Elton John’s version of “Candle In The Wind” for Princess Diana, it would have been the biggest selling single of that whole year, Aqua had demonstrated they were clearly no flash in the pan – as Lene, René, Søren and Claus were about to emphatically prove once and for all, with their second single from their debut album Aquarium.

“Doctor Jones” swapped out Barbie in her dream house with Ken, for the jungle and Indiana Jones, the heroic professor of archeology played by Harrison Ford in the series of titular films, for something that, even though it was making another broad pop culture reference, was a little more nearer to the mark of a straight ahead pop song – or at least, as near to it as Aqua could get.

And even though it’s still a Europop banger, it’s less busy than “Barbie Girl” was; chirping crickets and jungle noises lead in to Lene’s opening vocal, sounding especially wistful as she recounts about “Heart beat and kisses so sweet / Summertime love in the moonlight”, and her and René riff off each other in the bridge’s call and response: “Baby I am missing you / I want you by my side / And I hope you’ll miss me too / Come back and stay / I think about you everyday / I really want you too / You swept my feet right off the ground, you’re the love I found”.

If that wasn’t enough, there’s a highly memorable chorus and Lene yodelling (yes, really) “Ay-yippee-ai-ooo, Ay-yippee-ay / Ay-yippee-ai-ooo aaah” that just about manages to stay on the right side of catchy: “Doctor Jones, Jones / Calling Doctor Jones / Doctor Jones, Doctor Jones, get up now (Wake up now)”. What it was decisively showing was that Aqua were more than capable of coming up with the goods a second time around.

Another tongue in cheek video accompanied the single, this time starring Rene as Doctor Jones as he rescued Lene, Claus and Søren from being taken hostage by a jungle tribe. It showed off their in-built sense of humour, that made them endearing and was so befitting of the general pop landscape of the time. All in all, it was a record that just made you smile and happened to be brilliant with it.

The chances of “Doctor Jones” emulating the exact same success as “Barbie Girl” might have seemed slim to none – especially because the continued chart success of the latter caused the former to be pushed back from it’s originally scheduled release. But in the event, it was a bonafide hit all of its own accord, smashing straight in at the top to give Aqua their second consecutive UK number one single, as they joined an elite list of artists who had topped the charts with their first two singles, selling over 600,000 copies in the process and pushing their Aquarium album into the top 10 for the first time. And we will meet them again once more this series, where we’ll discover if they made it three in a row…

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 1998. And you can leave your memories of the songs below in the comments, Tweet us or message us on Instagram, using the hashtag #StoryofPop1998.

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