Friday, July 17, 2015

Top 100 Songs From the 1990s (No. 32- No. 30)

32. "Common People"
Artist: Pulp
Year: 1995

31. "Sour Times (Nobody Loves Me)"
Artist: Portishead
Year: 1994

30. "Alright"
Artist: Supergrass
Year: 1995

It's not all that fun or interesting for me to give accolades to smash hits, but the next few spots on the countdown will be occupied by just that. To ignore them simply because they were commercial successes wouldn't be honest. I really loved these songs, but I'm sure living in a far-off land during their meteoric rises, away from all the hype, helped with my enjoyment of them, even as the super saturation of being played on radio and in movies and in commercials have kept them in our collective consciousness all these years. Let's also remember even though we may share a common language (more or less), a huge song in the UK often gets lost in translation as it's imported. Although this trio of singles did fairly well over here, none of them broke into our Top 40. In fact, two of them never even cracked the Billboard Hot 100, which I find utterly amazing.

A few words about these bands. I should say up front I don't consider myself a big fan of Britpop. Yes, there are a few songs that somehow found their way to me. To be perfectly honest, though, I nearly missed the movement. For example, and I know you will think I'm kidding, but to this day, I have only heard one song by Oasis... ever. From the isolation of living in a rural part of a foreign country, there are big holes in my mid-'90s musical education I never bothered to go back and fill. It just didn't interest me all that much.

I was never into Pulp before they exploded with 'Different Class,' and I may have missed them as well if not for John Peel going on about them during his program for BBC World Service. He was an enormous fan... and so were his listeners. If you don't believe me, check out the '95 Festive Fifty and the all-time Festive Fifty that came out in 2000, as well as Peel's personal list of favorite albums that he assembled in 1997. So, yes, Peel's spiel got me to buy that one while I was in Japan. 'Different Class,' however, is the only album I have ever had by them. I'm only slightly more advanced with the Supergrass collection, but at least I can say I had a couple of singles before "Alright" took off, and I have gone back for more since then. As for Portishead, I remember the term trip-hop being bandied about, but that didn't really mean much to me. Put simply, I found Beth Gibbons' delivery alluring and the overall atmosphere of "Sour Times" intoxicating. I own this one as a CD single, and that's all I've got. I never even bought 'Dummy' when I returned home. I admit I kind of regret that decision.

So, if you think I should do a better job filling those musical holes, this is as good a time as any to give your opinion on Pulp, Portishead and/or Supergrass. In case you're wondering, there will be more Britpop in my top 30... but not much more.


Dirk said...

Although I think it doesn't come close to the sheer class of 'Common People', you should at least check out Pulp's 1992-1993 stuff, 'Babies', 'Razzmatazz' and especially 'O.U.' come to mind ... dunno all too much about Supergrass myself and even less about Portishead!

George said...

When I met Jo she had an Oasis album, a gatefold of the first Oasis album. I sold it on Ebay (with her permission, I hasten to add) for £36 (I think that's about $50). Shamefully, that money went to my account and resulted in the purhcase of several prog albums. As for Pulp, I've onkly got Different Class, a tremendous pop record, but their earlier and later work did very little for me. By the way, starting to get slightly sweaty palsm at the thought of there being no Fall in this 100.

TheRobster said...

Pulp's final album 'I Love Life' is one of my all time faves. But to be honest, I'm also far more likely to listen to 'His 'n' Hers' and 'This Is Hardcore' more than 'Different Class' these days.

Always loved Supergrass. if you get nothing else, you should check out their singles album. It's not definitive, but it shows what a remarkable singles band they were. Their albums were more than decent too.

As for Portishead, they did very little for me at the time. Not much has changed.

drew said...

Check out Like A Friend by Pulp probably my favourite, it was a b-side to This Is Hardcore which is also very good. Sorted For E's and Wizz is also great and as Dirk say Babies.

Unlike Robster I had no time for Supergrass, a bit pish really.

I still listen to the first Portishead album, can get a bit too dark depending on my mood.

drew said...

here's a link to the Pulp song and a rather good mash up of it and My Coco by Stellastarr

Ian Balentine said...

In my opinion one needs to own His n Hers, Different Class and This Is Hardcore. For Supergrass, one needs to own them all minus the swan song. Regarding Portishead I am no expert, but Dummy is an absolute stunner of a record.

I'd just moved from Canada to San Diego at the start of Britpop, but kept up...kind of. Blur became a favorite, as did the above 'Grass and Pulp, but other than that it kind of escaped me as well. I did like Definitely Maybe, still do, but the charms of Morning Glory were lost on me. Suede's Coming Up album is excellent retro-glam too, but Brit Pop, for the most part, was a creation by the NME to arouse interest in all things Britain at the height of Grunge, and it worked beautifully, but the majority of all of the really great British records came out prior to that "genre" (Boo Radleys Giant Steps as one mammoth example). Again, just my opinion.

Wow, great post, got my juices flowin'!

Echorich said...

Have to agree with Mr. Ballentine here on Britpop...a scene manufactured by journos and played to almost soap operatic heights. So many of the Britpop bands had so little to do with each other and to call it a scene was sort of obscene.
Of the three on offer here, I gravitate to Portishead. Pulp has always been a singles band for me - though Different Class is a really good album. As for Supergrass, I've never been able to get into their work. They probably deserve some reflective attention from me. Alright is currently a Kellogg's Mini Wheats commercial.

Brian said...

Dirk, Thanks for the Pulp recommendations. Seems you like the stuff before Different Class, and I don't know that era at all. I'll check 'em out.

George, Sticking it to an Oasis fan and buying more records with the profits... my hero. I'll come clean about the Fall right here and now. They will not be on my list because of one of my self-imposed rules. If I didn't know them in the '90s, they can't be on the countdown. Sadly, I was very late to the Fall's charms... an Internet-era find. Sorry, pal.

Robster, Even though I don't have them, I am more familiar with the Pulp albums you mention. I really like the Supergrass is 10 singles collection, and I'm assuming that's the one you are thinking of as well. I completely agree with you that some of their albums are worth having as well. Everything I have heard from that new Gaz Coombes record sounded pretty good to me as well.

Drew, Thanks for hooking me up, like a friend, so to speak. Too beautiful to be just a B-side. I love all of the singles from Different Class, and Sorted For E's and Wizz received serious consideration for the Pulp spot. Since you and Dirk are both high on Babies, I'll have to seek that one out.

E, Thanks for the kind words. You seem to be high on all three of these bands, which puts you in the minority. I do plan to seek out Dummy and, after this round up of comments, more Pulp as well. I'm set on Supergrass. They managed to break my tough Britpop barrier.

Echorich and E, I think you nailed it regarding the press, and I think that's partly why I missed much of this. I didn't have access to the magazines at the time. So, I didn't really know about this NME-generated genre. Yes, I obviously heard and liked a few of these bands, but I had no idea they were lumped into this bigger group. I just knew what I liked. I eventually figured it out when I returned west, but by then there were so many bad bands (in my opinion) that the labels were pushing with the Britpop tag. Those in the know had already moved on, I should think. I will say this, though, anything to move grunge along is at least somewhat OK in my book. Echorich, I'm not surprised you like Portishead. Seems up your alley during what I know was a pretty down time for you musically. If you haven't been to the Robster's place today, he has something up today you will really be happy to see and hear.

Anonymous said...

Some great points and recommendations here Pulp are the highlight bans for me but their best stuff is on the darker hardcore lp and totally agree with Dirk - the pulpintro ep captures the best stuff from this era and in babies has their best single after CP.

Now for my defence of Britpop, while agree it was press manufactured but then aren't most movements? If you lived in the UK in the late 70s outside of London /cities punk was non existent - I grew up in the dark edges of Lincolnshire and punk arrived cc 1982 via a few rebellious school boys. Again agree the bands often had little to do with each other but again isn't that always the case - in the uk counting crows were seen as part of grunge where they are probably closer to old school 70s american rock! Having said all that suddenly britsh bands were cool again and the radio, charts and top of the pops went from being totally shit with the odd diamond in the dirt to full of interesting bands who played guitars and didn't whine about how shit life was all the time. Or if they did it was with a wink/glint in the eye. The Blur v Oasis thing was again a press set up but is that any worse than the pistols v the clash or at the other extreme duran v Spandau. There were the great the okay and the crap as at any time (for every stone roses there was a northside) but for every menswear there was a Gene. even the crap bands seem to have one great single in them. The legacy may have been a load of indie fodder but I'd take that over the current obsession with karaoke shows and endless 1 guitar , soaring vocals with nothing to say singers that dominate the download age. I guess with anything retrospective thinking can be a dangerous thing ,especially in music with social trends and importance often attributed in glorious 20/20 hindsight. Not the best of times , not the worst of times , but it gave me a renewed passion for music when I was in danger of only listening to "used to be the lead singer of ..." music - so better times than most. end of rant and I will now go and perfect my Gallagher swagger.

Anonymous said...

Pulp's I Love Life is essential. I loved Dummy but haven't listened to it for years and I may rectify that this afternoon. Supergrass didn't do much for me I'm afraid.
Swiss Adam

Brian said...

FORW, You sound like a man in need of a forum to express your passion for music (blatant hint). Any movement that took you down your path certainly can't be all that bad. A great blog series would be those Britpop bands that had one great song in 'em.

SA, Thanks for chiming in. Not just you. Lots of indifference for Supergrass. Go give Dummy a spin. I would be interested to hear if you think it has stood the test of time. Pulp fandom seems to run the gamut, but I have a feeling there is some great early stuff I may have never heard.

The Swede said...

I'm a latecomer to this post and as I rolled down the comments, practically everything I'd want to add has already been said, particularly eloquently by FORW.
For what it's worth I'd lend my support to the Supergrass singles collection and the latterday Pulp LP's and I'd also recommend that you check out a clip of Pulp's astounding performance of 'Common People' at Glastonbury in 1995. If there was ever one defining Britpop moment, that was surely it. I probably play Portishead records most out of these three bands these days, I love 'em all, though right at the moment Gaz Coombes' latest solo LP 'Matador' is shaping up to be in my top 20 of 2015.
Funnily enough, I have a little ongoing list of lesser known (mostly) one-off tunes from the Britpop era that I'm considering incorporating into a mini-series someday. Perhaps I should go back and take a look at it.
My fingers are crossed for your remaining Britpop era tune, as well as a couple of other 90's faves that I'm still hoping will put in an appearance in your top 30.
Brilliant post and excellent comments, lots to think about.

Brian said...

Swede, As I read up on Common People last week, two things popped up time after time: the Peel version and Glastonbury in 1995. As you say, a defining moment. Would love to see your mini-series come to fruition. I imagine there would be some new ones on me since I was sort of out of the loop at the time... and many of the minor players received no attention in my home country. I'm with you on Matador. I think I'll have a place for it at the end of the year too. Space is getting limited on the countdown. Hopefully there will be some more songs you'll agree with, but I think there might be a few disappointments too. I can think of one band you and Adam might be mad about that are part of the list of first ten out. Anyway, we'll see. I'll let you get back to your organizing now.

TheRobster said...

MrsRobster had a double CD by Pulp called 'Countdown'. It compiled singles and album tracks pre-'Babies'. That might be a good early Pulp starting point for you, Brian.

FORW's comment was outstanding! Totally agree with every word, especially as I was writing a music column myself at the height of Britpop. A "Great Lost Britpop Tunes" series would be awesome, and I think The Swede may be just the guy to do it!

Still think Supergrass were a dead good band. Some cracking tracks on the albums that remain sadly overlooked.

Brian said...

Thank you again, Robster. That sounds like a great comp for someone like me. That FORW has always had a lot to say, and his blog is sorely missed by this former reader... and I always found your pieces on the journalism years to be among the the best posts around. I spent five years at a traditional newspaper (in another life), and I'm sure that weighs into my interest as well. Let's turn the screws on Swede about that series! Completely with you on Supergrass too.