It is a terrifying-to-imagine 25 years since the album “Parklife” by Blur first appeared in old timey record shops like they had back then. Preceded by just one single – “Girls and Boys” released the previous month – the album went straight in at No.1 and has so far hung around for 119 weeks. A lot has been written about how the band came back from the brink after “Modern Life Is Rubbish” failed to find the audience it so richly deserved but being a stat-headed pop idiot I’m more interested in what else came out alongside Blur‘s third record back in April 1994.
Clearly the charts were in desperate need of something to blow off the cobwebs as this very middle of the road selection of records from the previous week shows….
Even that glimmer of light “His ‘N’ Hers” would drop to 48 the following week. But what else lined the “new releases” section of your long dead record shop that week in late April 1994? Other than Blur, the only new entry to the top ten is, perhaps surprisingly, Senser‘s debut album “Stacked Up” at No.4 despite no real breakthrough hit. A lazy person might describe them as a British Rage Against The Machine but while their political rap / rock was tipped for bigger things, it ultimately seemed too noisy for the supermarket shoppers and not heavy enough for the Kerrang! crowd. This is “Switch”, their sole top 40 single to date, which reached 39 that year.
Next we shuttle down to 29 for “Anarchy”, the first album to chart for the undervalued Chumbawamba, who were at the stage of transferring into a genuinely great pop act. As if to counter the fact they were now sounding almost chart-friendly it was decided to put a crowning baby on the cover as if to say “AHH BUT WE ARE STILL GRRS, YIS?” As an image, it does upset me but only because it just looks a bit crap. “Timebomb” was the single released before the album and flopped at #59 the previous Christmas. Another deserved hit was the follow up – a pop dance remix of this album’s “Homophobia” featuring the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence should’ve been number one for a year. It reached no.79.
Down to 43 and “Listen” by Urban Species, a very smooth British hip hop act on Gilles Peterson‘s incredibly influential Talkin’ Loud label, who I must admit bypassed me at the time. Described as a UK Arrested Development, the album’s biggest hit “Spiritual Love” sounds great in the sun but maybe there was just a bit too much similar sounding in the charts for it to stand out at the time.
At 64 we’ve a re-issue of The Bangles‘ “Greatest Hits” although I’m not sure why other than “being great” whilst Bowie‘s “Santa Monica ’72” live set peaks at 74. Originally a much beloved fan bootleg, this semi-official release was apparently not authorised by Bowie himself and would quickly disappear from the market, eventually getting an official release in June 2008. Presumably he didnt want people getting confused with his “Buddha of Suburbia” work.
And finally The Wildhearts‘ 1992 “Don’t Be Happy…Just Worry” double EP which had been reissued as a single CD. Another band that deserved better whilst ceremoniously dropping anvils on their own career, they remain beloved by fans and when I saw them live last year were absolutely brilliant. I’m glad they’re still around.
Over in the singles chart, Tony Di Bart was holding court over a delightfully odd top 40 featuring new entries by artists as varied as Judy Cheeks, Cypress Hill, The Cranberries, Sonic Youth, Meat Loaf, N-Trance, Killing Joke, Grace Jones and Stiltskin…I wont spoil which one. Ok, it was “Inside”. Man, I miss the charts being weird…
So thank you “Parklife” for bringing a little colour and zing into a chart that much needed it. Even if you did then fall to number three behind the Crash Test Dummies and the best of Deacon Blue the week after. Nonetheless, the kids had something new to get excited about and come the next summer, things were starting to look very different indeed…