Monday, 20 August 2012
But it is fascinating to note that the current line up of the band are on hiatus, whilst the original three members are in the process of recording together. It is almost as if there is some sinister record company ploy at hand. But the original three will not be allowed to record under the Sugababes banner, not at least whilst the current line up continues to exist. It’s all quite interesting, but it does tend to take away from the fact that with Girls Aloud, the Sugababes were the other saviours of Pop in the post-Spice Girls world. The general consensus is that they lost their way with each line up change (four in total), but I quite like the fact that, in one form or another, they’ve kept going for over a decade. Most bands nowadays seem to form with a business model in mind, as if they know when they will be splitting up and when that career spanning greatest hits will appear, to coincide. In the world of pop, to release seven albums is quite impressive.
Throughout their years, the Sugababes went from All Saints style misery-pop, through to banging-Ibiza trance pop, via some other made up genres along the way. Maybe they never did quite top Girls Aloud in terms of sheer thrills, but they came close. And as the top 40 continues to be full of god awful blandness, as if it was 1983 all over again, let’s look back to the good old days when pop stars were still actually quite good.
But no sooner had the debut LP been released, than trouble started. Donaghy simply walked out on the group during promotional duties for the album during the following summer, with the real reason behind her departure often cited as being a falling out between her and the other two band members. By this point, the band had not performed live very often, and most appearances had been PA’s.
Promo work on the album subsequently ended, although by this point, four singles had been released, so it is doubtful as to whether or not any more singles would have been taken from the record. Donaghy was replaced by Heidi Range, who soon became the band’s pin up girl, with her blonde hair, and the group started their “glam” phase. I recall seeing the band a few times where the “Heidi, Heidi” chant filled the air.
The first single to be released with this line up was 2002’s “Freak Like Me”. It came in the middle of the ‘bootleg mash up’ craze, and was overseen by producer Richard X, who created a mixture of the Adina Howard original with Tubeway Army’s “Are ‘Friends’ Electric?”. The original plan was to issue the mashup with Howard’s original vocals, but the request to do so was turned down, and the Sugababes were asked to record the vocals. It gave the band their first number 1, and was included on their next album, “Angels With Dirty Faces”, issued later the same year. The album represented a more “pop” feel when compared to “One Touch”, and indeed, every Sugababes album since would represent a more “upbeat” sound of the group.
Although the band were dogged by persistent rumours of a split, usually revolving around Buchanan and Buena “isolating” Range by using their own “special” language that Range didn’t understand, the second line up of the band recorded a fourth album, “Taller in More Ways”, issued in October 2005. The lead single, the sparkly power pop of “Push The Button” gave the band another ultra-hit single in the UK, and helped put the album at the top of the charts. But problems were afoot yet again. Just after the second single from the album, “Ugly”, had been released, Buena announced her departure, as she wanted to concentrate on bringing up her newborn baby. She was replaced by Amelle Berrabah. The decision was taken to re-vamp three songs from the album by getting Berrabah to record new vocals to replace Buena’s (“Gotta Be You”, “Red Dress” and “Follow Me Home”), as well as recording a brand new song to close the album, “Now You‘re Gone“. The ‘new vocal’ versions of “Red Dress” and “Follow Me Home” were later issued as singles, whilst the new version of the LP appeared in 2006 in a brand new cover.
A greatest hits set, “Overloaded”, appeared at the tail end of 2006. Just in time for Christmas. Despite it’s title being cribbed from the first hit single, the cover featured the current line up of the band, two thirds of which had had no involvement in said song. A couple of new songs, “Easy” and “Good To Be Gone“, were included on the album, with the former being released as a single to coincide. An accompanying DVD, featuring fourteen of the band’s videos, including “Easy”, was also released.
The first album to feature, for it’s entirety, the third line up of the band was 2007’s “Change”, trailed by the incendiary “About You Now” single, which was issued on an array of formats, including the band’s first commercially available 7” edition. The title track was issued as a single on a Memory Stick several weeks later, a format that a few bands and singers dabbled with at the time before the virtual death of the physical single. It was followed, in 2008, by “Catfights And Spotlights”. Like it’s predecessors, reviews were mostly positive, although some dissenters - including Mrs Shergold - claimed that the band were losing their way, and that the sound of the band was now wholly unrecognisable when compared to the earlier albums. Certainly, putting a duet with Taio Cruz on the album was the sign of a band either selling out or struggling to work out what to do next. Nonetheless, the two singles from the LP, “Girls” and “No Can Do”, were sprightly affairs, both denting the UK top 30, although Range later claimed that the longevity of the album as regards it’s chart run was poor, not because of the quality of the record, but because of the record companies’ failure to plug the album properly.
And so it was that the group’s “leader” was ousted. Buchanan released a statement saying she wished the girls all the best, and that she was leaving of her own free will. But the mixed messages coming out from both camps helped to cause some bad blood. Buchanan has apparently since forgiven her former bandmates, although Buena has not been so forthcoming, claiming that the record companies' decision to sack who was the one remaining founder member was proof that the label wanted to keep the Sugababes going as a brand name, more so than keeping them together as a group.
Within days of Buchanan going, Jade Ewen was ushered in as her replacement. Ewen had been mentioned as a replacement for Berrabah when all that hoo hah was going on, which goes someway to explaining how she was more or less already available to film the band’s next video. The rumour was Ewen knew she was already in the band before Buchanan knew she was out. Said single “About A Girl” was issued as a single in November 2009, barely six weeks after Buchanan had left. Along with a re-recorded “Get Sexy”, the band’s seventh album “Sweet 7” appeared in March 2010. However, the knives were out, and critics tore into the album, many of them citing Buchanan’s departure as the catalyst for the band’s fall from grace.
So where are we now? Well, legal issues mean that the Buchanan/Buena/Donaghy lineup will be required to release any new material under a new name. A bit like when bits of Yes formed Anderson Bruford Wakeman Howe. Meanwhile, the eighth Sugababes album was apparently abandoned after the planned issue of a new single, “Freedom”, was met with shrugs of shoulders of indifference (the song surfaced as a download only), but Range and Co have already mentioned that although the band are currently “doing solo stuff”, plans to record again are being lined up for the end of 2012. And you know what? I hope they do. “Sweet 7” was not quite the unmitigated disaster people might tell you it was, and let’s face it, an eighth Sugababes album has got to be preferable to a Westlife comeback.
As regards the albums, the band have been unusual in that not one of these were ever issued as “limited edition” first pressing - never have the Sugababes issued their new LP with a free “watch once, then never again” 20-minute long bonus DVD. And as far as I can recall, none of these were ever reissued at a later date with any sort of bonus disc either. There are some unusual pressings from overseas - a “Greatest Hits” version of “Change”, with the album radically altered to include bits and pieces from the band’s past, and the “eco packaging” European pressings of the “Amelle” version of “Taller In More Ways”, which featured the CD tucked inside a tray which could be pulled out from the inside of the card sleeve packaging, but which had nothing in the way of lyrics, sleeve notes, or extra photos.
Like most bands, the Babes’ singles have been, for much of their existence, issued on at least two formats per single, although in many instances, the second format was not necessarily a second CD, and the list below includes a mix of MC’s, Vinyl and USB releases. For a short while, there was some sort of oddball merger of Island Records and MCA, meaning a handful of singles in the mid-noughties appeared on Island, but with MCA style catalogue numbers. This practice was stopped before the release of “Push The Button”.
One Touch (CD, London 8573-86107-2)
Angels With Dirty Faces (CD, Island CID 8122)
Three (CD, Island CID 8137)
Taller In More Ways (“Mutya” version, CD, Island CID 8162)
Taller in More Ways (“Amelle” version, CD, Island CIDX 8162, alternate track listing, different p/s)
Overloaded (CD, Universal 170 9334)
Overloaded (DVD, Universal 171 3477)
Change (CD, Universal 174 7641)
Catfights And Spotlights (CD, Universal 178 7209)
Sweet 7 (CD, Universal 272 7295)
Overload (Album Version)/Lush Life/Overload (Capoeira Remix - Vocal Version) (12” in die cut sleeve, London LONX 449)
Overload (Original Edit)/Lush Life/Overload (Instrumental) (CD, London LONCD 449)
New Year (Single Version)/Sugababes On The Run/Forever (CD1, London LONCD 455)
New Year (Single Version)/Little Lady Love (About 2 Remix)/New Year (Protest Remix)/(Video) (CD2, London LOCDP 455, patterned p/s)
Run For Cover/Don’t Wanna Wait/Run For Cover (Zero Gravity Suga And Spice Vocal) (CD, London LONCD 459)
Run For Cover (Video)/Overload (Nick Faber Mix)/Overload (Edit Of Video)/New Year (Edit Of Video) (DVD, London LODVD 459, unique p/s)
Soul Sound (Radio Edit)/(Medway City Heights Edit) (Cassette, London LONCS 460, plays same both sides)
Soul Sound (Radio Edit)/Run For Cover (Live)/Soul Sound (Live)/(Video) (CD1, London LONCD 460)
Soul Sound (Soulchild Remix)/(Medway City Heights Mix)/(Joey Negro Club Mix) (CD2, London LOCDP 460, unique p/s)
Big Bag EP (CD, Warners 07382-003, Various Artists release sold exclusively via McDonalds in cardboard carry case, includes “One Touch (CREAM Remix)”)
Freak Like Me (Differentgear Mix)/(We Don’t Give A Damn Mix)/(Capoeira Twins Mix)/(Jameson Mix) (12”, Island 12IS 798)
Freak Like Me (Radio Edit)/(We Don’t Give A Damn Mix)/Breathe Easy (Acoustic)/Freak Like Me (Video) (CD, Island CID 798)
Round Round/Groove Is Going On/Freak Like Me (Girls On Top Dancehall Mix) (CD, Island CID 804)
Round Round (Craigie & Crichton Remix)/(Alternative Mix)/(Soulwax Remix)/(Seani B Remix featuring Zaguzaar) (12”, Island 12IS 804, unique p/s)
Stronger/Angels With Dirty Faces (Audio Drive Remix)/Stronger (Almighty Club Mix)/(Video) (CD1, Island CID 813)
Angels With Dirty Faces/Stronger (Antoine 909 Remix)/(Live Leeds University 5.10.2002)/Angels With Dirty Faces (Video) (CD2, Island CIDX 813)
Shape (Radio Mix)/Killer/Freak Like Me (Remix)/Shape (Video) (CD1, Island CID 817)
Shape (Album Version)/(Salaam Remi Remix)/(Double R Remix Featuring Romeo)/(D-Bop’s Vocal Breakdown Mix) (CD2, Island CIDX 817, different p/s)
Shape (Radio Mix)/Killer/Shape (Live London The Scala 11.11.2002) (Cassette, Island CIS 817, plays same both sides)
Hole In The Head/Who/Hole In The Head (Full Intention Vocal Mix)/(Video) (CD1, Island CID 836)
Hole In The Head (Clean Radio Edit)/This Ain’t A Party Thing/Hole In The Head (Gravitas Mix) (CD2, Island CIDX 836, different p/s)
Too Lost In You/Someone In My Bed/Too Lost In You (Kujay Dada’s Bass Shaker Mix)/(Video) (CD1, Island CID 844)
Too Lost In You (Love Actually Version)/Down Down/Too Lost In You (Kardinal Beats LA Remix) (CD2, Island CIDX 844, different p/s with calendar, some/all copies failed to include the whole calendar)
In The Middle (Radio Edit)/Disturbed (CD1, Island MCSTD 40360)
In The Middle/Colder In The Rain/In The Middle (Ruff & Jam Metaltronik Mix Edit)/(Hyper Remix Edit)/(Video) (CD2, Island MCSDX 40360, different colour sleeve)
In The Middle (Ruff & Jam Metaltronik Mix)/(Hyper Remix) (12”, Island MCST 40360, unique p/s)
Caught In A Moment (LP Version)/(D-Bop Remix) (CD1, Island MCSTD 40371)
Caught In A Moment/Conversation’s Over (Live)/Hole In The Head (Live) (CD2, Island MCSXD 40371, different p/s)
Push The Button/Favourite Song (CD1, Island CID 911)
Push The Button/Like The Weather/Push The Button (DJ Prom Remix)/(Video) (CD2, Island CIDX 911, blue text)
Ugly (Radio Edit)/Come Together (CD1, Island CID 918)
Ugly/Future Shokk!/Ugly (The Desert Eagle Discs Remix - Vocal)/(Suga Shaker Vocal Mix)/(Video) (CD2, Island CIDX 918, orange text)
Red Dress (Amelle Vocal)/I Bet You Look Good On The Dancefloor (Arctic Babes Mix) (CD1, Island CID 922)
Red Dress (Amelle Vocal)/(Cagedbaby Remix)/(Dennis Christopher Vocal Mix)/(Video) (CD2, Island CIDX 922, blue text)
Red Dress (Cagedbaby Remix)/(Dennis Christopher’s More Energy Dub)/Obsession (D-Bop Dub) (12”, Island 12IS 922)
Follow Me Home (Amelle Vocal)/Living For The Weekend (BBC Radio 1 Session Version) (CD1, Island CID 936)
Follow Me Home (Radio Edit)/Red Dress (Kardinal Beats Remix)/Follow Me Home (Soul Seekerz Vocal Mix)/(Video) (CD2, Island CIDX 936, different p/s)
Easy/Shake It (CD1, Island 171 2313)
Easy (LP Version)/(Seamus Haji & Paul Emmanuel Remix (Vocal))/(Seamus Haji & Paul Emmanuel Remix (Dub))/Hole in The Head (Live at the V Festival, August 2007) (CD2, Island 171 2314, “zoomed in” p/s)
Walk This Way (Original)/(Yoad Mix)/(Video)/(Behind The Scenes Footage - Video) (CD, Fascination 170 8478)
About You Now (Kissy Sell Out Remix)/(LP Version) (7”, Island 174 8658, unique p/s)
About You Now (Radio Edit)/Rocks (Napster Live Session Version) (CD1, Island 174 8515)
About You Now (LP Mix)/(Sticky Dirtypop Remix)/(Spencer & Hill Remix)/In Recline (CD2, Island 174 8657, different sleeve design)
Change (LP Version)/(Wideboys Remix)/(Vito Benito Remix)/About You Now (Radio One Live Lounge Session Version) (USB, Island 175 5581)
Change (LP Version)/(Wideboys Remix)/I Can’t Take It No More/About You Now (Radio One Live Lounge Session Version) (CD, Island 175 5606)
Denial (Radio Edit)/Hey There Delilah (Radio One Live Lounge Session Version)/Denial (Ian Carey Vocal Mix)/(Sanna & Pitron Remix) (CD, Island 176 5355)
Girls (Radio Edit)/Don’t Look Back/Girls (Danny Dove & Steve Smart Remix)/(Dennis Christopher Remix) (CD, Island 178 6986)
No Can Do (LP Version)/(Bimbo Jones Remix)/(Wawa Remix)/Spiralling (Radio One Version) (CD, Island 179 5155)
Get Sexy (Keisha Version)/(Max Sanna & Steve Pitron Remix)/(Bitrocka Remix)/(Superbass Vocal Mix) (CD, Island 271 7468)
About A Girl (LP Version)/(Martin Roth Nustyle Remix - Radio Edit)/(The Sharp Boys - Radio Edit)/(K-Gee Remix - Radio Edit) (CD, Island 272 5741)
Wear My Kiss (LP Version)/(7th Heaven Remix)/(Wawa Remix) (CD, Island 273 2016)
The band have also contributed other rarities to various artists collections, but I think I am missing a few of these, so if I can research this a bit more at some point, this might be worthy of a future article.