Mar 31, 2024

Ultimate 90s number one: Keyboard wizards and their Block Rockin' Beats (International)

Hold on to your wig. It's time for the latest episode of Fat Roland Waffles On Aimlessly About 1990s Music Under The Vague Guise Of A Music Competition.

Here are another ten contenders hoping to be crowned as the ultimate 1990s number one single. They are randomly picked from a much longer list of all 206 1990s chart-toppers. Only the most banging and most bleepy tracks will win this competition.

The contenders

Adamski: Killer  |  Beats International: Dub Be Good to Me  |  The Chemical Brothers: Block Rockin' Beats  |  Coolio featuring L.V.: Gangsta's Paradise  |  Jimmy Nail: Ain't No Doubt  |  Oasis: All Around the World  |  Robbie Williams: She's the One / It's Only Us  |  Simply Red: Fairground  |  Take That: Back for Good  |  The Righteous Brothers: Unchained Melody †

Almost all bangers

This is a remarkable rack of big hits. I don't think there is a bad song on this list. Actually, that Oasis song's pretty boring, so let's discard that one straight away. But the others can all claim to be bangers in some way or other.

Having said that, Simply Red is not my cup of tea. It's not even my cup of lukewarm herbal tea with the tea bag still festering in it. And we can eliminate The Righteous Brothers' Unchained Melody at this stage too. It's a massive tune, achieving number one status with two different acts in the 1990s, but it's not the bleepy goodness I'm looking for.

Not the ones

I once popped to the North East to do a gig, and in the first pub I went to, some bloke was singing a Jimmy Nail song, as if he was planted there by the North East Tourist Board. Ain't No Doubt is a classic pop song, as is Take That's Back for Good. Iconic tunes, both of them. Not enough for this competition, though. I also suspect if Manchester went to war with Newcastle, Jimmy Nail would beat seven levels of brown ale out of the Take That lads.

The tracks by Coolio and Robbie Williams are each stealing someone else's thunder. Although it's a classic single, Gangsta's Paradise is an inferior take on Stevie Wonder's 1976 original. The Wonder song was revolutionary for using a synthesiser usage: sadly, we're it's the Coolio track we're judging here. And Williams did a pretty straight cover of World Party's far superior She's The One. The fact Williams took the song without Wallinger's blessing is pretty naff. Rest in peace, Karl.

Which leaves us with Adamski, Beats International and the Chemical Brothers.

Not an actual seal

I cannot give enough praise to Killer by Adamski. The keyboard wizard had synthesisers stacked up to the eyeballs, and its clinical waveforms seemed to signal an exciting electronic future. True Adamski heads preferred NRG, but Killer made us kids feel like we could all become bedroom producers. And Seal was really impressive too, even though he wasn't an actual seal.

We have several things to thank Beats International for. A banging tune, obviously. They gave us a post-Housemartins Normal Cook, later to become Fatboy Slim. It gave us the brilliant Dub Pistols-collaborator Lindy Layton. And it gave us graffiti-spraying trip-hopper Req, a key voice in trip hop and lo-fi beats.

And finally, we have Tom and Ed, better known as the Chemical Brothers. Block Rockin' Beats earned the pair a Grammy award, which seems odd considering how dirty that track sounds, and how middle-of-the-road the Grammies tend to be. There's something special about their loops of fury.

I can't decide between Adamski, Beats International and the block-rockin' Chemicals. So it's a joint win for all three. Gold medals all round. Yellow jerseys all round. Chufty badges all round. Delete as appropriate.

Mar 20, 2024

Electronic Sound 111: Steve Strange, Distressed Puce and a load of old bangers

The latest edition of Electronic Sound leads with Rusty Egan and Steve Strange's Blitz club, which helped form the new romantic movement.

Which is handy because it coincides with the launch of my new Fat Roland make-up range. Shades include Distressed Puce, Seeping Pore Blush and Nude Idiot. 

In this issue, you'll also happen across Kim Gordon out of Sonic Youth, some wayward pilgrims called Lost Souls Of Saturn, a mate of Brian Eno called William, a Ninja Tune act that sounds woody and sharp, and a Detroit techno act who may or may not be related to Little Red Riding Hood. Cryptic enough for you?

My 111th column for Electronic Sound turns its focus on "bangers". I've put speech marks around that word like some kind of grandad. I'm currently running a blog series that picks out the greatest bangers of the 1990s, so this column kind of ties in with that. Get ready for full banging mode. 

An excerpt:

Fireworks. Sausages. Old Ford Fiestas. If you’re clever with words like what me is, you’ll recognise these as “bangers”. Fireworks go bang when you put fire on them. Sausages go bang when you don’t fork them with holes. And old Ford Fiestas go bang when you drive them off a cliff. However, I have little interest in careening cars or meat tubes. My favourite kind of “bangers” are massive tunes. Killer beats, wicked synths, mad lyrics, total bangers.... 

Read more by getting the latest issue of Electronic Sound.

Mar 18, 2024

Ultimate 90s number one: (G)love (puppet)'s got the world in motion

This is the latest in a long line of terminally dull blog posts about all of the awful music that topped the charts too many years ago to be interesting.

I'm attempting to discover the best UK number one single of the 1990s. Criterion number one: is it a banger? Criterion number two: does it bleep? In other words, does it have electronic music credentials?

There are 206 UK chart-toppers to get through, so can you please shut up so I can get on with it. Here are the latest 10 contenders...

The contenders

2 Unlimited: No Limit  |  Backstreet Boys: I Want It That Way  |  Boyzone: No Matter What  |  Boyzone: Words  |  The Clash: Should I Stay or Should I Go  |  Eiffel 65: Blue (Da Ba Dee)  |  Englandneworder: World in Motion  |  Mr. Oizo: Flat Beat  |  Spice Girls: Spice Up Your Life  |  UB40: (I Can't Help) Falling in Love With You

Banned bands

If your band name begins with B, you are automatically eliminated. That means Backstreet Boys and Boyzone are out. There has never been a good band beginning with B. Please do not analyse this statement; let's just pretend that it's true. Bombalurina. Bob The Builder. Bluetones. See? Every single one of them, terrible.

Now let's deal with The Clash, the Spice Girls and UB40.


Spice Up Your Life was a good single. The United Colours of Benetton wrapped up in girl power. Just don't pay too much attention to its wanton lyrics.

Which brings us to The Clash and UB40. The latter's take on Elvis's Can't Help Falling in Love takes all the charm of the original and squeezes it into a husk of uninspired pop drudgery. And The Clash's rock plodder is so ploppily plodding, when I first heard it, I thought the entire history of music had suffered one massive seizure. 

The fact that these reached the top of the charts while Transglobal Underground failed to score a single top 75 chart hit should be investigated by the UN immediately. Criminal.

Still. It couldn't get any worse. Could it? Surely not.

It gets worse

Next up is 2 Unlimited's No Limit and Eiffel 65's Blue (Da Ba Dee). Excuse me while I feed my earballs into this woodchipper.

Whenever I mention that I'm into techno, people quote 2 Unlimited at me. "Techno, techno, techno, techno." Right into my face. These people are idiots and do not know the world of The Black Dog and Autechre and the like. I can't allow 2 Unlimited to progress in this competition.

I would have ranted about how stupid Eiffel 65 were, but a couple of years ago David Guetta achieved the mathematically impossible feat of releasing a cover version that was nintey-twelvety trillion-bajillion times worse. Please don't google it: your ears will hate you forever. The Blue song goes in the same bin as 2 Unlimited.

But wait! Just when I thought all hope was lost, we have two genuine bangers.

Doo-bi-doo dee dooo

You've got to hold and flibble, do it at the right time, doo-bi-doo dee dooo, something about getting to the line. You tell 'em, John Barnes. Englandneworder's World in Motion is possibly the best football song of all time. Yes, even better than Pop Will Eat Itself's Touched by the Hand of Cicciolina.

Meanwhile, Mr. Oizo's Flat Beat introduced the world to Flat Eric, that floppy yellow puppet that smoked sausages while nailing business deals. Despite the novelty feel of this 1999 number one single, Quentin 'Oizo' Dupieux has impressive music and film-making pedigree. AND he stopped Eminem's debut single from getting to the top of the charts. That puppet is out of CONTROL.

Both of these songs have electronic music credentials, and they are back-of-the-net bangers. They were hits at opposite ends of the decade, but Englandneworder progress hand-in-hand with Mr. Oizo to the final of this competition.

I bet if you inflated Flat Eric until he nearly burst, he'd make a great football.

Mar 11, 2024

Ultimate 90s number one: Steel and Spice and some things nice

The fight for the best 1990s number one single continues. (See all the posts here.) This series of hastily-written and ill-thought-through blog posts will decide, once and for all, which 1990s chart topping single is the bestest and bleepiest of the decade.

Each time, I randomly choose ten (or so) singles, then pick one (or so) to go through to a final. Let's finger through the latest buffet of tasty tunes.

The contenders

George Michael: Jesus to a Child  |  George Michael and Elton John: Don't Let the Sun Go Down on Me  |  LL Cool J: Ain't Nobody  |  Prince: The Most Beautiful Girl in the World  |  Shakespears Sister: Stay  |  Spice Girls: Say You'll Be There  |  The Tamperer featuring Maya: Feel It  |  Vengaboys: We're Going to Ibiza!  |  Westlife: If I Let You Go  |  U2: The Fly  |  Whitney Houston: I Will Always Love You

Bright balls

Let's start with opening a window to release the guff. George Michael doing Jesus to a Child is about as exciting as Alan Titchmarsh doing I Can Sing A Rainbow. I like a bit of Prince falsetto, but his ballad about beautiful girls was a load of Hallmark slop: "A face to be soft as a flower." Yeah, and balls as bright as begonias. Thanks for that insight, Prince. There's a Westlife single in this list, but I've already forgotten it exists.

The childish party anthem served up by the Vengaboys put me off Ibiza for life. Can you imagine being stuck at a resort with them? I just want to sit on a sun lounger and read my book. Preferably indoors. This would be the most annoying song on this list, but Whitney Houston belting out I Will Always Love You has my ears bleeding. The only positive spin on Whitney's overplayed warble waffle is that it kept Michael Jackson's shmaltzy Heal the World off the top spot.

Medical gloves

The mid-tier songs on this list are... fine. George Michael duetting with Elton John was enough to blow the cobwebs away, and the spiders along with it. LL Cool J's take on Chaka Khan's Ain't Nobody was fairly pedestrian. Meanwhile, Say You'll Be There is one of the better singles by the Spice Girls, heightened by a sci-fi video in which they kidnap men in a desert. Baby Spice wears blue medical gloves. They were definitely putting alien probes up bottoms.

Not feeling it

This list is randomly picked, and the top tier will not always turn out to be both banging and bleepy. Unfortunately, this is the case with this selection.

When it was released, U2's The Fly sent me wild. Steel and leather, and lots of television screens. A glorious U2 period. My one gigging regret is that I never got to see the Zoo TV tour. Despite Brian Eno having his hands on Bono's tiller, it doesn't really fit the bleepy criteria.

Next we have Stay by Shakespears Sister, one of the greatest number one singles of all time. The moral of its video narrative? Don't mess with Siobhan Fahey: she looks terrifying. In a way, its sinister sci-fi tones make it a sister single to Say You'll Be There. In a way.

All this brings us to The Tamperer's take on Can You Feel It by The Jacksons. It's the danciest song of this selection, but it's only a few grades above Vengaboys. I can't get excited about this being the best of this list. The high point of any wedding buffet are always the sausage rolls, but they're just sausage rolls. They'll never win a culinary award. Can You Feel It isn't even the best track called Can You Feel It (step forward Mr Fingers).

So all of this comes to nothing. You may be disappointed, but to quote the aforementioned Mr Fingers track, I am the creator and this is my house. Plenty more to come in this 1990s number one competition. Keep reading.

Mar 4, 2024

Ultimate 90s number one: Frosty Madge versus the ambient sheep guys

We are in the throes of battle. Not Blur versus Oasis, not City versus United, not Emu versus that green witch woman that kept knocking at the door. This is much more epic. It's the fight to decide the ultimate UK 1990s number one hit single.

The basic criteria for judging the best chart-topper is (a) whether it's a banger and (b) whether it bleeps. Let's enter the arena and check out our musical gladiators.

The contenders

Aqua: Turn Back Time  |  ATB: 9 PM (Till I Come)  |  Chef: Chocolate Salty Balls (P.S. I Love You)  |  The KLF: 3 a.m. Eternal  |  Madonna: Frozen  |  Queen: Bohemian Rhapsody / These Are the Days of Our Lives  |  Right Said Fred: Deeply Dippy  |  Spice Girls: Too Much  |  Take That: Never Forget  |  Take That: Pray

Flushing the poo

It's confession time. I have a plush toy of Mr Hanky the Christmas Poo in my bathroom. Yes, I am a grown adult. So I have fondness for South Park, although if I watched it these days it would probably offend my fragile snowflake sensibilities. In any case, Chef's comical poo song isn't worthy of this competition, so this can be flushed pretty early on.

Sad songs

Two of the tracks make me sad. Queen's Bohemian Rhapsody returned to the top of the charts in 1991 following the death of Freddie Mercury. It's a belter of a banger, but it's more of a weepy than a bleepy. And I'm ignoring Right Said Fred on the basis of one of the brothers being a right bell-plop. Which is a shame because Deeply Dippy is their best song.

Next come the all-dominating Spice Girls and Take That. Between them, they had 16 number one hits in the 1990s. The Spices delivered a slinky ballad with Too Much, while the Thats gave us Pray, an efficient ballad, plus Never Forget, their iconic stadium singalong. Never Forget, or Nev Forge as I like to call it, is the dictionary definition of a pop music banger. But none of these shall proceed in this competition, which is unashamedly biased towards electronic music.

A final four

The final four tracks in this selection are notable in different ways. Let's stroke their bleeps one by one.

Scandi candy-poppers Aqua surprised us with Turn Back Time, displaying a melancholic maturity hiding behind their plastic pink prattling. This is a bit of a banger, certainly compared to their previous nonsense, and part of the verse reminds me of Heart by the Pet Shop Boys.

After fooling everyone into thinking religion was sexy, Madonna transformed her identity with Frozen. Electronic music producer William Orbit cast a real, er, ray of light on this stage of Madge's career. I love the idea of Madonna listening to Orbit's Strange Cargo albums and thinking, "yeah, I'm gonna work with this guy".

Everyone got their trance pants in a twist when ATB knocked Vengaboys off the number one spot. ATB chose 9pm as his time after a long day in the studio. In all fairness, that is a late finish, and the local Spar probably shuts at 8, so he can't even get a cheeky Pot Noodle on the way home. Both this and the Madonna record would have won this week. Except for...

All hail Rockman Rock and King Boy D, otherwise known as the KLF, furthermore known as the JAMs. The career of the KLF sounds like a random plot generator gone rogue. Timelords, success manual, stadium house, extreme noise, cash combustion, ice cream van, rambling helpline, Stonehenge destruction, machine gun and ambient sheep. At the pinnacle of all of that is 3am Eternal. Everything that pop music should be about. If you don't believe me, look up their eccentric hooded Top of the Pops performance.

Because the selection was so strong, let's pick two of these tracks to go through to the final of this 1990s chart battle. The KLF are the kings of heavyweight jams, so they go through. As does Madonna and her chilly tune.

Mar 1, 2024

Ultimate 90s number one: Fat Roland says uh-oh


All is woe. My 1990s number one countdown has gone horribly wrong. I flew too close to the blogging sun, and my feathery quill has burst into flames.

Let me explain.

I am judging every UK number one single of the 1990s to find the most banging and, crucially, the most bleepy chart-topper of the decade. All was going well. Fatboy Slim scored a big fat success, and Enigma chanted their way to victory.

I loaded up my third batch of contenders... and this is where things fell apart. Let's go through this latest list one by one, and you'll see what I mean.

The contenders

B*Witched: Rollercoaster  |  Charles & Eddie: Would I Lie to You?  |  Christina Aguilera: Genie in a Bottle  |  Gary Barlow: Love Won't Wait  |  George Michael: Fastlove  |  Gina G: Ooh Aah... Just a Little Bit  |  Iron Maiden: Bring Your Daughter... to the Slaughter  |  KWS: Please Don't Go  |  Pato Banton featuring Ali and Robin Campbell: Baby Come Back  |  Teletubbies: Teletubbies say Eh-oh!

Not so bewitched

Let's start with B*Witched, the double-denimed Dubliners. Rollercoaster is an insipid Marks & Spencer's Sunday shop of room-temperature pop that clearly got ejected by every act on earth before the B-star crew said "ah well, we'll give it a go".  At least the Charles & Eddie track has some songwriting oomph about itself, although if that guy squeaks "oh year" one more time, I'm going to weep.

What is Christina Aguilera waffling on about? Genies don't come in bottles. Absolute tosh. Let's skip past Gary Barlow. He was meant to be the songwriting talent in Take That, yet his solo career was so unmemorable, I've already forgotten-- oh look, a pony. Where was I? Oh yes. George Michael's Faslove is one of his better tunes, made even better by using the same Forget Me Nots inspiration as Men In Black. But none of this twiddles my tassel.

Music for babies

That Gina G song did pretty well in the Eurovision Song Contest, but let's be honest: it's a babyish tune for babies who suck at being babies. It makes the Vengaboys look like Rachmaninov. Next on the list is Iron Maiden, whose New Year 1991 chart-topper came as a surprise to everyone. A wonderfully stupid and bombastic triumph, but nothing that can be considered as a bleepy track.

This list is in alphabetical order by artist, but I really think it's trolling me. KWS's cover of KC and the Sunshine Band's Please Don't Go is one of the most soulless singles ever. It stayed at number one for a month, preventing SL2, Shut Up And Dance and Kris Kross from topping the charts. I think it may be evil.

Cheesy mediocrity

I thought I had reached rock bottom, but next comes the cheesy reggae mediocrity of Baby Come Back, with Pato Banton having any potential credibility beiged out by the UB40 guys. And then there's the Teletubbies. Four overgrown cuddly toys, who have their stomachs ripped out and replaced with televisions, talk absolute gibberish while a burning, decapitated baby's head laughs at a sentient hoover. No. Thank. You.

That's it. That's the list. Not a single song to recommend. Complete waste of time. Let's hope the next batch throws up something better.