Monday, 29 December 2014

Wet Wet Wet 'Yesterday'

Chart Peak: 4
Wet Wet Wet's cover of the Beatles' 'Yesterday' brought the group's number of Top 40 hits to a staggering twenty-five... It reached No. 4 in August '97 and was their third hit this year.
Disc 2 starts here, although the sharp-eyed and numerate may have noticed we're already more than half-way through the "41 Chart Hits" promised on the disc tray: tracks are unevenly split due to the longer average length which means there are only nine tracks on Side 3 of the cassette. 'Yesterday' is something of an exception, getting out of the way within three minutes, although this is still significantly longer than the original. It doesn't seem the most obvious way to launch into a 78-minute CD but this was actually the second Now album running (and third overall) where the Wets had occupied this placing; with three appearances at the very start of the album as well they're almost Queen.

Anyone interested enough in British pop of the 1990s to be reading this will surely be aware that the last time Wet Wet Wet recorded a song for a movie, they spent 15 weeks at Number One with 'Love Is All Around'. Since they'd also topped the chart with a cover of 'With A Little Help From My Friends', you could be forgiven for thinking that Wet Wet Wet covering a Beatles song for a movie (Bean, in this case) was a licence to print money. The record company probably did think that, but of course lightning seldom strikes twice in the same place, and as it transpired this wasn't even the lead single from the soundtrack; the more fashionable Boyzone got that. Ten years into their career, the group were approaching something of a crisis point, with the drummer about to quit in a dispute over songwriting royalties whilst Marti Pellow was struggling with his own demons: 18 months later he collapsed in a hotel and was rushed to rehab for heroin addiction. This proved to the the last single release of their initial career, though they have reunited several times since.

Perhaps a great performer could have used this turmoil to wring out a truly emotional performance. But when faced with a ballad, Pellow reverts to low-budget Mick Hucknall form, whilst the production (by bassist Graeme Clark and unofficial member Graeme Duffin), is hamstrung by the need to give all five Wets something to do and the lack of original ideas, so it simply sounds overfussy as if they're playing along with the original track, but with more repetitions. I suppose it's a pretty strong tribute to the skills of Paul McCartney and George Martin that their string arrangements are copied almost directly, but the sparse and direct nature of the original recording is otherwise lost.

Also appearing on: Now 10, 11, 12, 16, 21, 28, 31, 37
Available on: Now That's What I Call 1997

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