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1996 – Firestarter

March 9th, 2019 · Posted by Skuds in Music · No Comments · Music

For somebody who had a serious music-buying habit until fairly recently, I don’t have a lot of stuff from 1996. Maybe I was snapping up bargains in back catalogue, maybe it was a weak year for music.

Looking at the singles of the year, there were few highlights: the football song Three Lions, Bentley’s Gonna Sort You Out by Bentley Rhythm Ace, Fastlove by George Michael, Virtual Insanity by Jamiroquai, Nour El Ain by Amr Diab. Otherwise it was all Spice Girls in 1996.

Having said that, my track to represent 1996 on my playlist is a single from which would have stood out in any year – Firestarter by the Prodigy. Very few songs have made the sort of impact that this one did, greatly assisted by the child-scaring video. It prepared the ground for a tidal wave of British electronic dance music and ‘big beat’ and is a real landmark song. Obviously it has been all over the place this week after Keith Flint died, and there is now a touch of sadness when hearing it, but it is still a song I want to hear. The Prodigy also released Breath in 1996. In a normal year it would have been a dead cert for getting on the playlist, but it loses out to the mighty Firestarter.

There were some debut albums from dance acts who would be be huge within a year or two – Faithless and Fatboy Slim. Metallica released the disappointing Load, while a quartet of Finnish cellists released an album of Metallica covers which was much better. Bilingual by Pet Shop Boys was very enjoyable, as was Everything Must Go by the Manic Street Preachers. A different band without Ritchie. Not better. Not worse. Just different. It was critically acclaimed and a commercial success and deserved to be even if only for the track A Design for Life which has one of the best opening lines of any song and one of the best endings to a song ever, the way it finishes with just the drums for the last couple of bars.

The Fall had a new album out as well. I just realised I should have been saying that for just about every year.

Of interest to me, and probably few others, was the release of Sahra by Khaled ( he had dropped the “Cheb” by now) and Fifa by Angelique Kidjo. Both featured more modern and western production although that didn’t overcome our national resistance to foreign-language songs. A shame because they are both great albums, and did quite well elsewhere.

Last, but not least, there was an album called Keys to Ascension by Yes. It was a double CD featuring one-and-a half-dics of live tracks plus a couple of new tracks. Only the two new tracks, but they were long ones. Most exciting for me was that Steve Howe and Rick Wakeman were back onboard to the band lineup was Anderson/Squire/Howe/Wakeman/White which is the version I saw at Wembey on the Tormato tour, and still in my mind the classic version of Yes. It even had a Roger Dean cover, featuring the ‘proper’ Yes logo.

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