The NME, particularly in the late 70s, 80s and 90s, was seen as the weekly bulletin of all things indie-music. It was their championing of the music to be found on small labels that helped lead to the establishment of the UK Independent Singles and Albums Charts in 1980 and for many years these listings did mirror the contents of the paper as well as much of what you’d also find in Melody Maker, Record Mirror and Sounds (albeit the latter did lean more towards rock/metal than the others).

I previously had a feature on the blog which looked at past #1 singles in the Indie Chart from 10,20 and 30 years past, but gave up on it when it became clear too many of the best sellers were actually on major labels taking advantage of loopholes around the definition of an indie label. It’s just as well I never got round to focussing on 1993 as there’s barely a guitar or a floppy fringe to be found:-

2 January – 12 January : The Shamen – Phorever People
23 January – 29 January : The Beloved – Sweet Harmony
30 January – 26 March : 2 Unlimited – No Limit
27 March – 7 May : Snow – Informer
8 May – 21 May : 2 Unlimited – Tribal Dance
22 May – 16 July : Inner Circle – Sweat (a la la la la long)
17 July – 30 July : The Levellers – Belaruse
31 July – 6 August : Stan – Suntan
7 August – 27 August : Daniel O’Donnell – Whatever Happened to Old Fashioned Love
28 August – 3 September : Ian Wright – Do The Right Thing
4 September – 24 September : 2 Unlimited – Faces
25 September – 1 October : Depeche Mode – Condemnation
2 October – 22 October : DJ Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince – Boom! Shake The Room
23 October – 29 October : The Prodigy – One Love
30 October – 3 December : The Goodmen – Give It Up
4 December – 10 December : Bjork – Big Time Sensuality
11 December – 17 December : 2 Unlimited – Maximum Overdrive
18 December – 24 December : New Order – Spooky
25 December – 18 February 1994 : K7 – Come Baby Come

And yes, the indie #1 of 28 August 1993 is the work of ex-footballer Ian Wright….. …..I can’t ever recall hearing it and really don’t want to. The most astonishing thing about the song isn’t that Wright penned the pun-laden lyric but that the tune was composed by Chris Lowe, one half of the classy and stylish Pet Shop Boys.

Thankfully, the paper didn’t rely on the charts when it came to it listing the best 50 singles from 1993 with the roll-call featuring a fair smattering from those who have graced this little corner of t’internet as well as some from the dance/pop genre:-

Animals That Swim, The Auteurs, Belly, Bjork, Blur, The Boo Radleys, The Breeders, Chaka Demus & Pliers, Collapsed Lung, Compulsion, Cornershop, Credit To The Nation, The Disco Evangelists, Dodgy, Done Lying Down, East 17, Elastica, Huggy Bear, Ice Cube, The Juliana Hatfield Trio, Leftfield/Lydon, The Lemonheads, M People, Manic Street Preachers, Naughty by Nature, New Order, One Dove, Paul Weller, Pet Shop Boys, R.E.M., Radiohead, Rage Against The Machine, Sabres of Paradise, Secret Knowledge, Senser, Shaggy, Shara Nelson, Smashing Pumpkins, Snoop Doggy Dogg, Spiritualized, St Etienne, Sub Sub, Suede, Tindersticks, Ultramarine.

I had to look up some of those listed, including the first in the alphabetical list.

Animals That Swim are still, seemingly, kicking around having had an on/off career over the past quarter of a century. The band has always been centred around three brothers – Hugh Barker, Hank Starrs (born Jeffrey Barker) and Al Barker, along with Del Crabtree whose trumpet playing has always been central to the sound. They have gone through bass players in a way that is reminiscent of the way a struggling football club gets itself new managers, with the best-known being Terry de Castro (2000/01) either side of her membership of Cinerama and The Wedding Present.

The single which featured in the NME 93 rundown was just their second release, and it took the form of an imaginary conversation with the ghost of a famous singer:-

mp3 : Animals That Swim – Roy

Having tracked it down, I found myself beguiled and delighted by it.  More so when I stumbled across this review of debut album Workshy from 1994:-

“Literate, trumpet-assisted indie-pop for the left brain; shaggy-dog songs that concern fleeting alco-epiphanies and dying pensioners; when Starrs writes a love song (Madame Yevonde), it is to an obscure photography pioneer of the 20s and 30s.”

It really does sound very interesting. Any reader out there able to shine a further light and offer a guest post?


6 thoughts on “INDIE SCHMINDIE IN 1993

  1. I’ve got a couple of their albums. Particularly fond of their 2001 disc Happiness From A Distant Star. Not a million miles from the Prefab Sprout part of the world.

  2. Was that request for a guest post directed at me? Sure, I’ll volunteer… but right now I’ll disappoint you and say they’re not kicking around anymore. I mean, nobody’s died or anything, but Hank’s pretty clear on Animals That Swim being over.

  3. I would vouch for Alex G credentials where Animals That Swim are concerned. He is something of an authority. As long as he includes Faded Glamour in any such posting that is.

  4. Three brilliant albums and a clutch of great singles – the double best of Faded Glamour is also worth getting as it has a bunch of their great B sides too. One of my favourite 90s bands.

  5. The band biography from Tidal Streaming Service makes good reading. They also have a related artist section – The Blue Aeroplanes and The Jazz Butcher

    ‘An eccentric, hyper-literate cross between Scott Walker, Tom Waits, the Teardrop Explodes, and Ride, Animals That Swim were slightly too weird for mass consumption, but their oddball, half-beatnik/half-psychedelic pop was a refreshing response to the early days of Brit-pop. Formed in London in 1989, Animals That Swim were originally a duo of brothers Hank Starrs (vocals, drums) and Hugh Barker (guitar). Trumpeter Del Crabtree joined next, followed by a third Barker brother, guitarist and keyboardist Al, and bassist Tony Coote. Crabtree’s mellow but fragmented trumpet style, kind of like a free jazz version of Chet Baker, quickly became the group’s most distinctive feature, seconded by Hank’s dramatic vocals. After three years of woodshedding, Animals That Swim released their debut single, “King Beer,” on their own Beachheads in Space label. This single, like its follow-up “Roy” (a surreal tribute to the late Roy Orbison), was chosen as Single of the Week in Melody Maker. The positive reviews and decent sales of these two self-released singles led to a one-off deal with the experimental indie Che Records, who released the 10″ Fifty Dresses EP in early 1994. Elemental Music, a spin-off of the larger indie One Little Indian, then signed the band to record their first album, Workshy. Featuring tracks from all three previous releases plus some increasingly more bizarre new material, Workshy garnered more-than-appreciative reviews in the U.K. press as well as pretty good sales for an indie release, although it all but disappeared immediately upon its U.S. release. A fine second album, I Was the King, I Was Really the King, was released in 1996, but it didn’t receive the same critical attention or sales as the debut. Animals That Swim broke up the following year. ~ Stewart Mason’

  6. 1993 was *not* a good year for music. I mean, the best track on your list is the Djork one and I don’t plan on hearing her again until I’m queued up at the gates of hell and she’s serenading the line with a cover of “Don’t Worry, Be Happy.”

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