May 1, 2024

Ultimate 90s number one: Fugees in the place, got a bittersweet face

Why? Why? What have we done to deserve this? Whyyyyy?

And there is my introduction to the latest episode of the Ultimate 1990s Number One, in which I trawl through every chart-topping single of the 1990s to decide the bestest of the best.

This competition has notional judging criteria of (a) is it a banger and (b) is it bleepy, but to be honest, I've been drunk on absinthe for most of these blog posts, and I'm currently convinced that my legs are made of spaghetti.

Let's go!

The contenders

Billie: Girlfriend  |  Celine Dion: Think Twice  |  Cher, Chrissie Hynde and Neneh Cherry with Eric Clapton: Love Can Build a Bridge  |  Five: Keep on Movin'  |  Fugees: Killing Me Softly  |  Oasis: Don't Look Back in Anger  |  Oasis: Some Might Say  |  Robbie Williams: Millennium  |  The Shamen: Ebeneezer Goode  |  Shanks & Bigfoot: Sweet Like Chocolate  |  The Simpsons: Do the Bartman

Scratchy eyeballs

I would rather massage my eyeballs with hedgehogs than listen to a single second of Celine Dion, so she’s out of contention straight away. Do the Bartman by The Simpsons makes me want to do similar things to my peepers, such is the blot this single put on the reputation of Groening’s genius cartoon series.

I would definitely go on a camping weekend in the countryside with Cher, Chrissie Hynde and Neneh Cherry. They’d be a right laugh, and we would drink hot chocolate under a starry sky and throw peanut M&Ms at the sheep. However, for Love Can Build a Bridge, we’ve got to spend our rural retreat with Eric Clapton and his toxic opinions. No thank you.

I am not a blokey bloke. I don't wear Ben Sherman, I'm not impressed by exhaust sizes, and I have zero opinions on Premier League football and/or hot sauces. With this in mind, I am immediately ejecting from this competition both Oasis singles and Robbie Williams's John Barry-aping ode to the millennium.

Let's move on.

Aaargh bees

When I was eleven, I was chased by bees. I got too close to their nest in the local park, and I ran up a hill until the bees had stopped pursuing me. Only problem is, I kept on running upwards after the hill had stopped, so I ran up into space and accidentally knocked Jupiter off its orbit. There are alien lizards on the rings of Saturn that now worship me as a god, but it's a hollow victory.

What's the purpose of this definitely actually true story? It's to distract you from how boring I find Billie and Five. Yes, pop princess Billie is impressive, dropping pop bangers before she had finished her GCSEs. And Five, or to give them their proper name, F5i5v5e, are cheeky scamps it's hard not to love. But I want to, erm, keep on movin' past these two.

Doughnuts, chocolate and pills

Now we get to the good stuff. The real deal. The genuine juice.

Lauryn Hill strummed our pain with her fingers when she fronted the Fugees. Killing Me Softly was the bestselling single of 1996, and with good reason. If I were to kill someone softly, I'd use doughnuts. Thousands of them. Pile them on. Death by sprinkles.

I am conflicted about the Shanks & Bigfoot track. It was so fantastic having a garage track at number one in the charts. The track was cheeky, like a little scamp stealing your false teeth. But it was also awful, with lyrics like "you are warm like the rays of the sun" and "holding you is a gift from above". This isn't chocolate: it's cheese. But oh so tasty cheese.

Finally, and this is my top pick for this week's selections, there's a guy in the place with a bittersweet face who goes by the name of Ebeneezer Goode. Mr C was a controversial choice for frontman of The Shamen, who had genuine rave credentials and didn't necessarily need to become a comedy band doing an impression of a Victorian Kenneth Williams.

But if I had an orphan child for every fantastic moment in this top-drawer pop single, I'd be able to run a fully-fledged chimney sweep business. The Syd James laughter. The snappy lyrics. The responsible drugs advice (yes, really). The bit where the guy goes "Ello!"

Ebeneezer Goode was produced by The Beatmasters, who also gave us Betty Boo. The comic perkiness of it all kind of makes sense. This was a form of The Shamen that seemed a long way from singles like Hyperreal. But there was enough rave wonkiness in there for this to become my anthem for many years to come. So great.

The Shamen it is. Plenty more to come in this series. Turns out there are LOADS of number ones in the 1990s.

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