The Top Of The Pops repeats on BBC4 have recently been flying through September 1991, a run of episodes where if we ignore Bryan Adams and his Robin Hood song (more a war crime than a single), Prince's single entendre Cream (chorus 'cream... get on top') and The Scorpions and their fall of the Berlin wall 'tribute' Winds Of Change it was wall to wall dance music, the rave dream come true, the long tail of what started in 1987/ 88 forcing its way into the charts and selling in huge quantities. Some of these singles were pop music dressed in dance music's clothes but they were rave/ dance music nonetheless. In some ways the episodes reminded me of those classic 60s pop music programmes where you got hit after hit - Hermann's Hermits, Sonny and Cher, The Animals, The Stones doing Get Of My Cloud, The Equals and whoever else had a single out that week. In September 1991 there was Sabrina Johnston doing Peace,(American soul/ dance music) and Rozalla's Everybody's Free, a song which the holiday makers in the Med bought on returning home from their two weeks in the sun. The Prodigy were making their first appearance with Charly. Oceanic were from Wallasey and their song Insanity was enormous, rave/ dance music for the masses (and nothing wrong with that). Super upbeat, bouncing rave pop with huge key changes.
More credible and authentic maybe were Utah Saints, a Leeds duo who came up through the clubs, booking all the big late 80s/ early 90s names and who moved into making records, sampling left, right and centre. Bill Drummond reckoned they were the first true stadium house band. In 1991 What Can You Do For Me?, sampling Gwen Guthrie and Annie Lennox, went top ten . They understood that dance music needed to be presented live and armed with banks of TV screens, a dreadlocked bassist pushed front and centre, a drummer and bags of energy they pulled it off.
Bizarre Inc were from Stafford and in 1991 had a hit with the brilliant Playing With Knives. By September they were back in the big sellers and back on Top Of The Pops with Such A Good Feeling. More TV screens, dancers dancing on top of banks of TV screens, full on pilled up chart music, piano house and techno from the north Midlands, a place where the clubs were full every weekend.
I don't have What Can You Do For Me? in mp3 form, despite its speaker shaking brilliance, but here's Playing With Knives, rave hoover bass, kick drums and the instruction 'just dance and move your body'.
Less frenetic but just as much a child of the acid house revolution was Zoe's dreamy, optimistic, Balearic pop, Sunshine On A Rainy Day (the metal guitarist, all frilly shirt and long hair is well Balearic). It reached number four in the charts and sold enough to be the eighteenth best selling single of the year.
It's easy to sneer at Top Of The Pops and the charts but in the late 80s and early 90s it felt like change was taking place and the previously comfortable environs of the BBC, all 80s pop and megastars, were being invaded by a bunch of outsiders making music in their bedrooms and feeding it into the culture through the clubs and radio stations, blaring out of cars late at night and bedroom windows. Big selling music isn't necessarily better or worse than underground music but the charts of September 1991 looked like a complete shift, a sea change was taking place (and that's without even mentioning the guitar bands that had discovered the Funky Drummer and remixes at the same time). In some ways the 90s was born here.