During the mid to late 90s, the Shine series of compilation CDs became a touchstone for the rapidly expanding indie scene. They also tell the tale of the fast rise and slow decline of Britpop, alongside offering a vast selection of hits, classics, one-offs and obscurities. Over a series of articles Rob Morgan will examine each album, see how it fits into the indie timeline and explore the songs that soundtracked the era while putting a few forgotten favourites under the microscope.
Released 1st August 1995
We return to Polygram TV Records in July 1995, a few months after the “Shine” compilation album has briefly dented the charts.
Marketing Man 1 – “That ‘Shine’ album did ok, don’t you think?”
Marketing Man 2 – “It didn’t sell as well as ‘Dance Zone Level 5’ though”
MM 1 – “Different market, mate, different market. But this guitar music seems to be everywhere, and there’s a lot of it in the charts. I reckon we can make another compilation and make a quick buck or two”
MM 2 – “Can we try not to use old songs this time?”
MM 1 – “We can try… quick, get me Alan McGee on the phone again…”
And so “Shine Too” was born. This time the tag line on the cover was not “20 brilliant indie hits” it was “20 new brilliant hits” (to make the point, the word ‘new’ was in yellow). There was something happening to the charts, and it was good.
A brief scan of the track listing will give the average listener of a certain age a huge wave of nostalgia. This really was a soundtrack for the summer of 1995 for some people (and I confess right now that some of these songs are related to memories of my initial fumbling attempts at a relationship). There was a healthy crossover from the pages of the NME into the charts – well it seemed healthy at the time. Just looking at the chart statistics for the songs shows how this music was moving into the mainstream – thirteen top twenty hits, seven of them in the top ten. This was unthinkable two years previously. The times they were a’changin’.
The act who provoked this change were the act with their first number one single at the front of this compilation. “Some Might Say” by Oasis had been issued around the same time as the first “Shine” album and had rocketed to number one within a week of release by the end of April. Whether you were a fan or not, it’s hard to deny that “Some Might Say” is the sound of Oasis realising their potential, knowing they were capable of making music which would resound around bars, clubs and stadiums. At this point they were still on the rise, still a phenomenon in the making. But the music was catching up with their ambition, as was their popularity.
There were plenty of new names keeping Oasis company on the album too. The youngest act here were Ash, all of 18 years old and fresh from their A Level exams when “Girl From Mars” put them into the charts and Top Of The Pops. Sleeper’s fourth single “Vegas” makes an appearance, an odd choice as their previous single “Inbetweener” had been a bigger hit a few months previously and is arguably a better known song. “Haunted By You” by Gene had slipped into the charts in March, helped by Martin Rossiter’s Morrissey-esque vocals and turn of phrase. This song in particular still sounds fresh today – possibly helped by how some songs on the compilation have become overexposed with time.
The resurgence in interest in British guitar music wasn’t just about the hip young gunslingers though. Snuggling up to the youngsters were some elder statesmen of the pop scene – placing Paul Weller next to Ash on the track listing emphasised that he had his first hit with The Jam when the trio were in nappies. Weller’s re-emergence in the 90s was some compensation for the shoddy treatment The Style Council had received at the end of the 80s – splitting up in 1989 after their record company rejected an album based on the emerging dance music scene. “The Changing Man” seemed to capture the zeitgeist of his 90s comeback, even if it did borrow heavily from “10538 Overture” by The Electric Light Orchestra.
Weller wasn’t the only person on the wrong side of 30 on “Shine Too”. Edwyn Collins had been making music since Orange Juice’s debut “Falling and Laughing” in 1980, but had only hit the charts in 1983 with “Rip it up”. His solo career had progressed quietly below the radar for many years but “A Girl Like You” was picked up by Radio 1 and thrust Collins back into the limelight. It’s still a unique sounding song – using old 60s equipment and techniques created a fuzzy warm analogue sound – and you can never tell how far Collins’ tongue is in his cheek. Still a great song. Ian Broudie was a year older than Collins and was an alumni of post punk legends Big In Japan before becoming part of the Liverpool scene in the 80s with The Original Mirrors and Care, not forgetting his production work for Echo and The Bunnymen, The Icicle Works, The Fall and many more. Broudie started his own solo project The Lightning Seeds in 1989 and earlier singles like “Pure” and “The Life of Riley” had been blasts of pure pop, no doubt helped by the latter song’s use on “Match of the Day” goal highlights. “Change” was the second single from the Lightning Seeds’ third album “Jollification” and hid melancholy minor chords within its shiny surfaces, and it was a welcome addition to the top 20 chart at the start of 1995.
There were a few acts making their second appearance on a Shine compilation too. The Cranberries’ “Ridiculous Thoughts” scraped into the top 20 at the time of “Shine Too”’s release but is a minor song from the Irish quartet. “Staying Out for the Summer” by Dodgy may have reached #19 in June but was inescapable that summer, because radio just love songs about summer during the summer months. Good planning, Dodgy! (Note to editor – have I said ‘summer’ too many times in that sentence?). Elastica return for duty with their “No More Heroes” tribute “Waking up”, a hymn to underachievers everywhere and yes the lawsuit was settled out of court and yes the four members of the Stranglers are amongst the credited writers of the song now. Suede also appear with their epic single “Stay Together”, somehow edited down to four minutes here. Amongst the nascent Britpop on the album, the reverb soaked glam seems out of step with what was happening. But then “Stay Together” was issued in early 1994 and a lot had happened since that point.
There were also acts who had been around on the scene a while and were returning to the limelight in one form or other. The Stone Roses had kicked off Madchester back in 1989 before disappearing in a haze of litigation, paint cans and rumours in the early 90s. “Love Spreads” was their big comeback single in late 1994 and two decades on it sounds better than it did upon release. Back then, the bluesy Zep styled guitar of John Squire were a shock to the system for those expecting a return to indie dance beats, but seen in the context of “Give Out and Don’t Give Up” and “Definitely Maybe” not to mention “A Northern Soul” it makes more sense. Ian Brown’s whispered threats and promises are spooked, and the drop down into the repeated slow building coda works brilliantly. Trouble was already brewing for the Roses by this point, drummer Reni had left the band in April 1995 and the gang would never be the same again.
John Power had been the bass player in The La’s, a band whose one hit wonder status belies the large influence they have had on guitar pop over the years. The La’s were led by Lee Mavers whose gift for melodic Merseybeat was only matched by his gift for perfectionism. After a handful of singles and years of recording sessions, the La’s eponymous debut was issued in 1990 and instantly disowned by Mavers, who would record no new music from that point onwards. Power was obviously frustrated by this – his own song “Fly On” (later recorded as “Alright”) had been played by The Las during 1990-91 – and he left Mavers to form his own band in 1992. Cast (taking their name from the final line of the last song on the La’s debut album) launched in 1995 with their debut single “Fine Time” and live appearances which Noel Gallagher called “a religious experience”. “Fine Time” owes as much to the Who and “Paradise City” by Guns’n’Roses as to the La’s but was an effective opening shot for their album “All Change”, the single reaching #17 in July ’95.
For me, the most welcome newcomer to the charts that year were the Boo Radleys. I’d supported them since hearing John Peel playing songs from their noisy scratchy debut album “Ichabod and I” back in 1990 (wish I’d bought the album then, sigh). I’d followed them through shoegazing into a more expansive sound with the “Lazarus” single of 1992 and the explosion of ideas across 1993’s “Giant Steps” album, and grinned when singles from that album grazed the charts. I recall hearing “Wake up Boo!” for the first time and thinking “Bloody hell, they’ve done it, they’ve made the perfect pop song they always threatened”. It was immediately championed by Chris Evans on his R1 breakfast show, and just about every other breakfast radio show across the nation. It entered the charts at number four and the band were pictured on the cover of the NME shaking champagne bottles. The success felt like a victory and a vindication for every indie fan who’d loved them over the years, and for the band themselves. And yes this song did bring me into contact with the woman who would become (and still is) my wife. So yes “Wake up Boo!”, for all its ubiquity as a staple of morning radio, is a special song for me.
There were a few welcome oddities filling out the track listing of “Shine Too”. “Where I Find My Heaven” by The Gigolo Aunts had been issued originally in 1993 but was rereleased in 1995 due to its appearance in the film “Dumb and Dumber” and as the theme tune to “Game On”, the BBC2 sitcom which sat somewhere in the vicinity of “Men Behaving Badly”. The Gigolo Aunts were American power poppers who were in the same lineage as The Posies and Teenage Fanclub (more of whom shortly) but this song still remains fresh. “Now They’ll Sleep” by Belly seems like a strange inclusion, from its slow introduction to the speedy tremelo guitar throb of the main song, and it’s always a pleasure to see Tanya Donelly having her music exposed to a wider audience (and this was a top 30 hit anyway in February 1995). Which makes it all the more curious that “Sparky’s Dream” by Teenage Fanclub only reached number 40 a few months later. Seriously, how could such a brilliant song not get into the higher reaches of the charts? Creation could clearly manage it with Oasis and the Boo Radleys, so why not the Fannies? Sometimes the world doesn’t make sense. “Sparky’s dream” is of course complete genius and one of the greatest guitar pop songs ever and you don’t need me to tell you any more about Teenage Fanclub because they are a national treasure. Also when “Sparky’s Dream” was used as the theme tune to the Channel 4 sitcom “Life After Birth” why didn’t Creation reissue the single, instead of slapping a sticker onto the “Grand Prix” album instead? I mean, it worked for the Gigolo Aunts…
Having compiled eighteen “brilliant new hits”, Polygram got nervous and ended up having to add a few oldies to make up the numbers. “Kinky Afro” by Happy Mondays appears in a curious mix I don’t think I’ve ever heard before (a quick play through various mixes on Spotify reveals it is the “Euro Mix”) while the contemporary release of a Joy Division compilation “Permanent” gives the compilers a chance to include the ’95 mix of “Love Will Tear Us Apart”, a very odd listening experience for anyone / everyone familiar with the original version. Whoever created this mix strips away all the reverb, highlights guitar parts previously submerged in the murk and forces Ian Curtis’ vocal to the foreground. Martin Hannett would be spinning in his grave.
The final track on “Shine Too” is another curiousity. As noted in the article on the first “Shine” album, Pulp were on the verge of their big breakthrough, and that happened with the release of “Common People” in June. Suddenly Jarvis Cocker was a national hero, a class warrior and the new Ray Davies (take that, Damon). At this point, maybe Island Records didn’t want to license the song to a compilation (though it did appear on “Now 31” alongside “Some m
Might Say”), so this compilation ends with “Underwear”, the b-side of “Common People” and one of Pulp’s finest moments to these ears. There’s subtlety, bleak humour and pathos here in spades and it’s not just in Cocker’s lyrics and delivery, the music as a whole ebbs and flows with the words. An underacknowledged gem of a song and a great way to end the compilation.
In a way, the timing of “Shine Too” could not have been better – it was released the week after the Britpop War – Blur Vs Oasis, “Country House” Vs “Roll With It” – and all the publicity involved in that battle (from the NME cover aping a Muhammad Ali poster to the final story on News At Ten) must have helped sell the compilation. “Shine Too” first charted on 2nd September 1995, at number 4, and then spent 8 weeks on the chart. It could not compete with other compilation albums of the time like “Summertime Soul”, “100% Carnival”, “Acoustic Freeway”, “The Rebirth of Cool Phive” and “Serve Chilled”. But somewhere in the marketing department at Polygram TV Records, it was seen that these compilations could be quite profitable and handy for those who wanted to dabble in the indie scene without having to actually buy those annoying seven inch singles. Ideal for someone who was reading their elder siblings’ copy of New Musical Express but didn’t really want to engage with the surly staff at the local independent record shop. And soon there would be more and more of these types of indie fans / customers and of course Polygram TV would be there with the inevitable “Shine Three”.
But that is for the future.
But that is for another time. Until then enjoy delving into “Shine Too”. Perhaps you have some memories about the album or particular songs you would like to share with us on Twitter
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Rob writes about music and other less important subjects at his blog A Goldfish Called Regret (https://agoldfishcalledregret.wordpress.com) and also creates podcasts for Goldfish Radio (https://m.mixcloud.com/robmorgan589) and hosts the Everything Indie Over 40 album listening parties over at @eio40LPParty
He never achieved his ambition of making a Sarah Record.