May 31, 2024

Ultimate 90s number one: Everyone's got a gun – but Keith's got matches

Here's another instalment of my blog series Ultimate 1990s Number One, wherein I sift through every UK number one singles of the 1990s. Most will get rejected, while a select few golden nuggets will shine. The criteria? Bleepy bangers. The best electronic chart toppers.

Let's go!

The contenders

Ace of Base: All That She Wants  |  Armand van Helden featuring Duane Harden: You Don't Know Me  |  Blur: Beetlebum  |  The Offspring: Pretty Fly (for a White Guy)  |  The Prodigy: Firestarter  |  Rednex: Cotton Eye Joe  |  S Club 7: Bring It All Back  |  Spice Girls: Mama / Who Do You Think You Are  |  Take That: Everything Changes  |  Take That featuring Lulu: Relight My Fire

The Visa Cash App RBs of pop music

Let's throw some of these tunes straight into the waste disposal. The Spice Girls and Take That are coming in strong with several smokin' bangers, and Lulu's guest spot on Relight My Fire is one of the '90s top pop moments. But they're not right for this list.

Sometimes I think that Take That and Westlife are worst band names in pop music. But lo and behold, here comes S Club 7. An absolutely terrible name. There's currently a Formula 1 team called Visa Cash App RB. This band's name isn't far off that level of awfulness. The song's pretty uninspiring too. 

Fans of The Offspring's insipid skater-bro playground punk might be surprised to learn the band had been releasing music since the 1980s. Pretty Fly For A White Guy transformed them from a genuinely interesting punk act into sniggering Beavis & Butthead college pop plonkers. Terrible. Instead, go and listen to their scrappy debut single I'll Be Waiting from 1986 instead. 

Gun nonsense

"Beetlebum," sings Mr Blur on Blur's Beetlebum. "What you've done, she's a gun, now what you've done, Beetlebum." A moving tale, I'm sure you would agree.

"His eyes was his tools and his smile was his gun," sing Rednex on Cotton Eye Joe. "But all he had come for was having some fun."

Why is everyone turning into guns? Neither of these songs make much sense. At least Blur had a tonne of credibility. Have you listened to that Rednex album. the one with the band members being urinated on? Possibly one of the worst albums in history. If you want some proper novelty banjo techno, get The Grid's Swamp Thing on your record player.

Anyway. Ignore the Rednex. And apologies to Blur, but you're not bleepy enough for this 90s chart-topper contest. 

Popping off

As with previous selections, I've sifted out the runts of this litter and now we're left with the prize puppies.

Produced by powerhouse music clever-man Denniz Pop, Ace of Base's All That She Wants is clearly a banger. The band brought dinner table reggae pop to the masses, and shifted 600,000 units in the UK. The single released boasts bhangra and piano house versions of the track. Neither sounded very bhangra or piano house-y.

Next up it's the only solo number one single for US producer Armand van Helden. (He later hit the top spot when he made Bonkers with Dizzee Rascal.) The track is a sample factory, using an old 1970s soul hit by Carrie Lucas, Jaydee's classic Plastic Dreams, and even a clip from Dexter's Laboratory on its extended version.

And then we have The Prodigy's Firestarter. When this hell-raise of a track topped the charts in March 1996, commercial dance music was about to pop off. Underworld's Born Slippy was ready to break through having scored a minor chart place the previous year, and the Chemical Brothers were firing up their rocket pants and aiming for chart domination. Dance music was about to be EVERYWHERE. But Keith Prodigy and his silly hair was there first.

Of course The Prodigy go through to the final. There was never anyone else. The guy starts fires, for goodness' sake. He'll incinerate your brain. Well done, the Prodge.

More of the Ultimate 90s number one

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