29 classic songs that are somehow 20 years old this year
Fortunately, 1997 was a very good year for music
Do you know that the amount of time – 20 years – that has elapsed between now and the release of Be Here Now is the same amount of time between the release of that and Never Mind The Bollocks? Remember how, at the time, that record was like something from the stone age? Well buddy, it’s official: you are O-L-D.
Fortunately though, the year in which Be Here Now came out was – Be Here Now aside – a very good year for music. So use this as an excuse to both utterly depress yourself about songs that you were sure only came out the other year but, it turns out were released fully two decades ago, and also nostalgically wallow in some absolute bangers. It’s win-win really isn’t it?
(There’s a Spotify playlist at the bottom of the article, or here if you cannot wait a second longer to hear ‘Your Woman’.)
1. White Town - ‘Your Woman’
One of the great one-hit wonders, this emerged in January 1997 and went straight in at number one. It’s one of those classic, not-quite-sure-why-it-works-but-it-definitely-does tunes, so lo-fi that the song was actually mixed on an Atari ST. We like to think that, after finishing making this track Mr Town did a quick restart and enjoyed a game of Monkey Island to celebrate.
2. Hanson – ‘MmmBop’
Right, forget that it’s 20 years since this slice of absolutely perfect summer pop was released and stormed to number one pretty much everywhere – forget that’s happened. Time is irrelevant, OK? Now, the thing that you actually genuinely won’t believe has happened is that the three members of Hanson now have ELEVEN KIDS between them. ELEVEN. You are old, we are all old, and we are all on a one-way ticket to, and hurtling at ever-quicker speed toward, that morgue. Still, fun tune eh?
3. Placebo - ‘Nancy Boy’
The fourth single from their debut self-titled album, ‘Nancy Boy’ was, nonetheless, the breakthrough single from Placebo who, at the time, seemed impossibly glamorous and weird. They’ve been around ever since, but listening back, I’m instantly transported to those heady indie club days when this was an absolute legit banger and it was £1.50 for a pint of watered down Carlsberg with the faint taste of washing-up liquid. Hmmmmmm, glorious.
4. Cardigans – ‘Lovefool’
It’s one of the best things in life when a song comes along, you listen to it, and you just think: “Well, that’s perfect isn’t it?” Every little bit of this three minutes and 14 seconds is absolutely, utterly unimprovable, from the little bllllrrrrring guitar intro, all the way through to that gorgeous ritardando (yeah, dig my latin) and final chord at the end. Impossibly stylish, groovy and ice cool, this is, you’ll be unsurprised to hear, still brilliant, fully 20 years on. The Swedes, they build things to last – Volvos and ‘Lovefool’, two sides of the same coin.
5. Chumbawamba - ‘Tubthumping’
It’s testament to the power of this track that I didn’t even have to look up that it was Chumbawamba’s Danbert Nobacon who poured a jug of water over John Prescott at the Brit Awards the following year. Off the back of this never-surpassed drinking song – and precisely nothing else from Chumbawamba’s back catalogue, which will remain a mystery to all but their most ardent fans – I learned the name, and still remember it 20 years on, of Chumbawamba’s keyboard player. To anyone who says that music can’t change lives, show them this paragraph.
6. Dario G – ‘Sunchyme’
POPFACT: Dario G were named after Crewe manager Dario Gradi. Right, now that’s out of the way, we can all get on with agreeing with each other that summer has only existed for the 20 years since this song was released. Before that? Oh, it was just a grey, bleak nothingness.
7. Prodigy – ‘Smack My Bitch Up’
It says something about what an ABSOLUTE BANGER this is that it still sounds exciting, dangerous and massive 20 years on from its release. And the video? Well it’s a damn sight more interesting than ‘Galway Girl’ isn’t it? Also: *brilliantly bittersweet YouTube comment on ‘Smack My Bitch Up’ alert*:
8. No Doubt – ‘Don’t Speak’
I refused for weeks to believe that this song wasn’t by Madonna, even when I’d seen the video (especially when I’d seen the video). What I did believe was that it was a massive tune, featuring some absolutely belting tambourine work throughout, and one of the finest cod-flamenco acoustic guitar solos ever committed to tape.
9. Gala - ‘Freed from Desire’
If this hadn’t been co-opted by Wigan supporter Sean Kennedy last year, this absolute, total banger, would probably have been lost to the sands of time, doomed to forever exist only on Smash Hits ‘97 compilation tapes rusting away in the garage. Fortunately, we can all now bask in the glory of a song that The Beatles would have been proud to have written.
10. Daft Punk – ‘Da Funk’
This may shock you guys, but ‘Get Lucky’ wasn’t Daft Punk’s first hit. It’s not even their best. That accolade goes to the still sensational ‘Da Funk’, which appeared on their 1997 debut Homework, and manages to combine about six different outrageously funky parts over the top of an unyielding, solitary, bass note. When the 303 finally kicks in, it’s electro ecstasy.
11. James – ‘She’s a Star’
There’s a chance that you won’t believe this song is 20 years old because you never heard it in the first place; even though it reached the heady heights of number 9 in the charts back in 1997, but has never gained the status of some of their other work. However, that is wrong because this song is absolutely brilliant. Also, Natalie Imbruglia (see later) nicked the guitar riff for ‘Torn’, which shows the measure of it.
12. Smash Mouth - ‘Walkin' on the Sun’
Oh, sure the internet might bang on about ‘All Star’ – and long may it do so as every single one of those is absolutely hilarious – but ‘Walkin’ on the Sun’ is the true Smash Mouth connoisseur’s song of choice. 20 years on, it still sounds resolutely fresh – and you can also see exactly where ‘Jerk It Out’ and ‘Bandages’ got their organ inspiration from. So thank you Smash Mouth. Thank you for everything.
13. Republica – ‘Ready To Go’
The sound of Sky Sports News for about a decade, I suppose it’s no surprise to find that this song came out 20 years ago this year. Back then, forget Kanye and Kim, or even Posh and Becks, the big indie romance was Saffron from Republica and Fast from Fun Lovin’ Criminals. Simpler times readers, simpler times. Still, despite the fact you probably feel you never need to hear this song ever again given its never-ending use at sports events, listened to in the cold light of day it’s actually a bloody good tune.
14. Spice Girls – ‘Who Do You Think You Are?’
Now this is a topic of some debate – and there are several worthy contenders, but we’re putting it out there that this is the best Spice Girls track, narrowly edging out ‘2 Become 1’. ‘Wannabe’ is a bit annoying, ‘Too Much’ was too sickly, ‘Spice Up Your Life’ was great, but a bit gimmicky, but this? It’s basically a perfect little funky, soulful pop song isn’t it. 20 years old though, can you believe that?
15. Monaco - ‘What Do You Want From Me?’
Finally free from the shackles of New Order, able to make whatever music he fancied, Peter Hook decided to… make a song that sounded exactly like New Order. To be fair, we all love New Order so it wasn’t exactly the worst decision ever made, and this song is still an absolute, undeniable classic.
16. Blur – ‘Song 2’
As Oasis went stratospheric and more stupidly big than ever with Be Here Now, Blur retreated into their shell with a self-titled album led by the OK-is-this-actually-good-we-think-it’s-good-yeah-it’s-probably-good-but-it’s-not-Parklife-is-it-lads ‘Beetlebum’. But, just when we thought Blur had given up on the whole bangers thing, out came this absolute riot of a tune which blew us away in, well, two minutes. Like ‘Ready to Go’, don’t be fooled by its ubiquitousness – in the cold light of day it’s an amazingly minimal, yet maximal rock tune. Loud, dumb and tons of fun.
17. Natalie Imbruglia - ‘Torn’
She employed the twin tactics of being impossibly hot and stealing guitar riffs from James – there was no doubt about it: Imbruglia was the woman for me. Strangely, we never married and now two decades have passed and I’m starting to think it might not happen. POPFACT: this track was mixed by Nigel Godrich, who also worked on an unfairly-overlooked album called OK Computer. This still gets played on Capital approximately 30 times a day, and quite right too.
18. Olive – ‘You’re Not Alone’
I’m going to lead straight with the POPFACT here: Tim Kellett, one half of Olive, was previously a member of Simply Red and played on four of their albums, including the amazing-and-you-cannot-deny-that Stars. Back to the song – you’d forgotten about this one hadn’t you? A track that wouldn’t have sounded out of place on the Hacienda during the acid house days, it still sounds great today. ALSO, before we get any smart alecs – yes, this one’s technically 21 years old, as the original version (which only made it to number 42) came out in 1996, but the remix version is 20 years old. THANKS FOR BEING A PEDANT.
19. Robbie Williams – ‘Angels’
Do you remember a time before ‘Angels’ existed? Now it’s basically the national anthem whenever anything sad happens, isn’t it. Before this though, Robbie was looking like a no-hoper, doomed to forever be in the shadow of Gary, who would surely become the new Elton. It didn’t quite go down like that did it – and Robbie has Guy Chambers, and these transcendental 267 seconds, 20 years ago, to thank for that.
20. Skunk Anansie - ‘Hedonism’
Skunk Anansie headlined Glastonbury back in 1999. Can you believe that? It seems strange now, but at the time they were massive, and this song was – and still is – an absolute belter, with the none-more-funky middle eight stealing the show. POPFACT: I once held the door open for Skin. Surprisingly small (Skin, not the door, the door was average height). Wouldn’t mess with her though.
21. Backstreet Boys – ‘Everybody (Backstreet’s Back)’
You show me someone who thinks that a better pop song than this has been released in the last 20 years and I’ll show you a liar. Co-written by pop god Max Martin, it’s now passed into the pantheon of guaranteed floor-filling wedding songs, and there can be no higher praise for a song than that.
22. U2 – ‘Discotheque’
They’d finished pretty much the biggest tour ever undertaken in the form of Zoo TV, and it took U2 a good few years to work out what the hell to do next. They decided that what they should do next should be the even bigger lemon-and-a-ludicrously-massive-McDonald’s-arch PopMart Tour, and to dress up as the Village People in the video for ‘Discotheque’. That big guitar riff is still great, and the song holds up pretty well even now, as does the Edge’s impeccably-crafted biker ‘tache.
23. Bentley Rhythm Ace – ‘Bentley’s Gonna Sort You Out!’
In every big scene, there’s one act that appears from nowhere, produces a belter which totally sums up the sound of the time and then disappears. The New Radicals’ ‘Get What You Give’ in Britpop, The Automatic’s ‘Monster’ in Britpop 2.0, and Bentley Rhythm Ace’s ‘Bentley’s Gonna Sort You Out!’ in Big Beat. Of course it was released on Skint. We bet you’d completely forgotten about this song until now, and we bet you’d completely forgotten how good it was/still is. 20 years eh? Bloody hell.
24. Oasis – ‘D’You Know What I Mean?’
It is impossible to overstate the levels of hype there were before the release of this track. People were desperate for the first taste of the third Oasis album – and it did not disappoint. Over seven minutes long (Noel Gallagher said that he expected people to ask him to edit down the intro – but, as they were so huge, nobody ever did), with helicopters in the video and the same chords as ‘Wonderwall’, it did the job nicely. The 2016 Noel-assisted mix of the track is well worth a listen while we’re here.
25. Super Furry Animals – ‘Demons’
Consistently one of the most inventive bands of the last couple of decades, the Furries’ first two albums, Fuzzy Logic and Radiator remain stone-cold classics, with this track still an utter belter. Released 20 years ago this year, they’ve maintained standards ever since and, we believe, are still as furry as the day they started.
26. Finley Quaye – ‘Sunday Shining’
What the hell happened to Finley Quaye? Well, he’s apparently bankrupt. But 1997’s Maverick a Strike remains an undisputed classic, full of brilliant songs, including ‘Sunday Shining’, which is, even now, a beautiful slice of reggae-tinged magic.
27. Radiohead – ‘Paranoid Android’
OK, so there’s precisely zero chance you didn’t realise that this song was 20 years old, given the Glastonbury headline appearance and the much-publicised reissue of its parent album OK Computer. But there’s no harm in reminding ourselves of the existence of one of the most brilliant, and bonkers songs ever made. It’s about five different tracks in one, and every single one of them is amazing.
28. Ultra Naté – ‘Free’
We’d bet good money that not a single week has passed since it was released on 31 March 1997 that ‘Free’ by Ultra Naté has not been played on KISS FM. And it remains, forever, an eternal banger.
29. Foo Fighters – ‘Everlong’
Like Radiohead, they headlined Glastonbury this year, but unlike Radiohead, no one seems to have made a big deal about The Colour and the Shape celebrating its 20th birthday this year. Which is a shame, as it’s the best Foo Fighters album, and ‘Everlong’ is the best Foo Fighters song. No discussion, no comeback – just four minutes and eleven seconds of total genius. Just go and play air drums to the whole song right now. Do it: you’ll be instantly happier.