The Top 10 Britpop One Hit Wonders
4 June 2022, 19:00
Britpop was an explosion of talent and vitality in the music industry - but for some artists, their moment in the spotlight was brief.
Radio X salutes the bands from the mid 1990s who made a huge splash at the time... but struggled to keep following up those big hits. Some acts kept going in, sometimes in a different form. Others called it a day. This is the greatest "secret" Britpop playlist.
Marion - Sleep
Hailing from Macclesfield in Cheshire (home to Joy Division's Ian Curtis and Stephen Morris), Marion sparked a bidding war among the labels, their debut album This World And Body made the Top 10, they supported Radiohead and Manic Street Preachers and this classic song was even used in a Citroën car ad on TV. Johnny Marr produced their second album, The Program, in 1998, but singer Jaime Harding's troubles with heroin spelled the end for Marion. Guitarist Phil Cunningham now plays with New Order, and Harding was set to play in 2020 under the Marion name, but COVID spelled an end to those shows.
McAlmont And Butler – Yes
Bernard Butler was the guitar wunderkind who left Suede as the Britpop wave was breaking, and it was with Thieves singer David McAlmont that he recorded this huge tune, which was released in May 1995. An album followed, and while their reunion outing, 2002's Bring It Back, actually performed better than the first effort chart-wise, it's Yes that's the most-remembered song by the duo.
S*M*A*S*H - (I Want To) Kill Somebody
Welwyn Garden City's contribution to Britpop, this trio whipped up some controversy with their "feminist anthem", Lady Love Your C**t. (I Want To) Kill Somebody made the Top 30 after being made available for just one day, but the band called it a day in 1996 after their debut album Self Abused failed to set the world on fire. They unexpectedly released a second album 13 years later, 2007's Icon, and a third in February 2017, before splitting again. Frontman Ed Borrie is now performing solo.
Northern Uproar - From A Window
The biggest thing to come out of Stockport until Blossoms, Northern Uproar were signed to the super cool Heavenly label and had a fan in Manic Street Preachers' James Dean Bradfield. Their second album, 1997's Yesterday Tomorrow Today, didn't do as well as the self-titled debut and the band split in 1999. They reunited in the Noughties for live dates, which included a slot on the Britpop loving Star Shaped Festival tour in 2018. In 2014, founding guitarist Jeff Fletcher was tragically killed in a collision with a lorry in his home town of Stockport.
Salad - Motorbike To Heaven
Fronted by Dutch model and MTV presenter Marijne van der Vlugt, this London band had some big tunes, including this one, Your Ma and the risqué Drink The Elixir. A support slot with Blur in 1993 put them on the map for a lot of people and the dreamy video to Motorbike To Heaven even made it onto ITV's The Chart Show. While their debut album, Drink Me, made Number 16, the follow-up, Ice Cream, only scraped to No 127. Salad split in 1998, but van der Vlugt and guitarist Paul Kennedy started performing acoustic shows together in 2016, which turned into a full-blown Salad reunion the following year, which resulted into a third album, The Salad Way, in 2019.
The Auteurs – Showgirl
Luke Haines was the songwriting genius behind The Auteurs. This debut single - based on the life of controversial comedian Lenny Bruce - got plenty of airplay and the accompanying album, New Wave, was nominated for the Mercury Music Prize. The follow-up, Now I'm A Cowboy, had good sales, but the singles - Lenny Valentino and Chinese Bakery stopped just short of the Top 40. The Auteurs called it a day in 1999, leaving Haines to work on the Black Box Recorder project and write his hilariously sour memoir of life outside the Britpop bubble, Bad Vibes.
Kenickie - In Your Car
Kenickie took their name from a character in the musical Grease and were four women - Lauren Laverne, Marie du Santiago and Emmy-Kate Montrose - and one man, Johnny X. In Your Car led off their debut album, At The Club, which followed in June 1997, but the band split a year later. Laverne went on to host the Xfm Breakfast Show before becoming a broadcaster on the BBC, while Montrose is now a lecturer at Goldsmiths college. Santiago - under her real name Marie Nixon - now plays with the Cornshed Sisters.
Bis - Kandy Pop
This Glaswegian trio made a splash in 1996 when they performed this track from their Secret Vampire Soundtrack EP on Top Of The Pops - unsuual for an "unsigned" band at the time. The EP actually came out on the Chemikal Underground label, but subsquent releases struggled to get the same attention. Bis split in 2003, but have been playing together again since 2009.
Denim - It Fell Off The Back Of A Lorry
The mythical figure of Lawrence had many admirers when he fronted indie favourites Felt, but his bid for Britpop stardom was with the new outfit, Denim. Taking its cues from glam rock and cutting social observations, Denim were like a more savage Pulp, but their third album was cancelled when its release clashed with the death of Princess Diana. Lawrence called time on Denim and began a new project called Go Kart Mozart, whose latest album was in 2018.
Gay Dad - To Earth With Love
Arriving at the very tail end of the Britpop wave, Gay Dad were led by former journalist Cliff Jones with an aim to be deliberately provocative. This, their debut single, made Number 10, but their first album, Leisure Noise, didn't get much of a positive response and the follow-up, Transmission, didn't even chart. Their name meant that they didn't have much of a chance in conservative America and the band split in 2002.