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Saturday, January 24, 1998 Published at 08:29 GMT



Special Report

Pop: Hello, Hello, it's good to be back.
image: [ Noel and Liam Gallagher, the original derivatives? ]
Noel and Liam Gallagher, the original derivatives?

The British band Pop Will Eat Itself were on to something when they named themselves. But as Radio One's entertainment news reporter Robert Nisbet writes, in the world of pop, what goes around comes around.

Every year around December, music journalists are asked to predict the musical trends which will dominate the following year. At the end of 1997, it was easy. The rise of bands like Rialto, Spiritualised and Jamiroquai coupled with the new wave punk movement led by Campag Velocet meant all of us could confidently predict a seventies revival. Rialto even gave us a visual clue by smashing up a 'trim-phone' in one of their videos

There's nothing new of course in adopting the sound of a decade. Oasis have made a career out of it - without the hint of an apology. Their latest track 'All Around The World' is even accompanied by a video 'inspired' by The Beatles' film 'Yellow Submarine'.


[ image: Status Quo's Rick Parfitt and Francis Rossi show how it's done]
Status Quo's Rick Parfitt and Francis Rossi show how it's done
This musical reflection is mirrored in clothes shops and the cinema, but suggests to some a cultural bankruptcy. When we will look back at the 90s, record companies and fashion designers will stand accused of robbing our past to ensure their future.

One tactic being employed by the international conglomerates who run the industry is the 'undercover' cover version: songs that are written and then recorded by a variety of different artists until they become a hit. One track - seemingly written for an emerging act - could have been already been performed by a whole succession of unknowns.

The most recent example is Natalie Imbruglia's 'Torn'. Launching a musical career when you are saddled with the label, 'ex-Neighbours star', means you have to acquire a considerable amount of credibility. Quickly.

Her record label RCA had an idea. They went shopping for a song they knew she would be able to sing. The track had been recorded by three other acts - but that was, of course, buried under a mound of glossy promotional snaps.


[ image: Slade's Noddy Holder, modelling a fetching coiffure]
Slade's Noddy Holder, modelling a fetching coiffure
When the BBC's Radio 1 dug out the various versions from Denmark, America and Norway it became clear the version borrowed more than just the tune and lyrics - the production was similar too.

A nice little earner for both Natalie and of course the writer. That single has now sold over a million copy in the UK alone. It will give added hope to thousands of songwriters who have a song which may have flopped with one band, but could easily be revived by a record company looking for a vehicle for a new signing.

Good business, but yet another sign of how the industry seems to be bereft of new ideas. Why struggle when you can always buy or adapt old styles and even tunes? When a group of friends set up a band and called themselves 'Pop Will Eat Itself' they weren't being rebellious - just prophetic.








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