7 tracks from the 1997 Hottest 100 you might have forgotten
Revisiting the music that was making us excited 20 years ago brings back so many great memories. But, on occasion, it also makes us scratch our heads. Reading through the list of the 1997 Hottest 100, you can’t help but stop and think on occasion, ‘what was that song?’.
The usual disclaimer applies here. Yes, we know that some of these songs might still be in high rotation in your life. That’s great. Very happy to hear it. But we daresay that some of these have slipped through the cracks over the past two decades, for better or worse.
So, do you remember these seven songs?
My Drug Hell – ‘Girl at the Bus Stop’
This uncomplicated, breezy, kinda cute piece of jangly pop was the biggest song of UK trio My Drug Hell’s career. In it, singer Tim Briffa tells us about a girl he ran into at the bus stop and became immediately infatuated with. He asks her out and (spoiler alert) she knocks him back.
It’s a real rollercoaster, (if rollercoasters went at 15 kilometres per hour in a straight line without any peaks or troughs).
But honestly, it’s still a pretty sweet song two decades on. And the rest of the album it was taken from – This Is My Drug Hell – is a really cool collection of retro throwback beat-pop. My Drug Hell didn’t release another album until 14 years later. They’re still going, though with a new line up, and appear to play modest shows around the UK with some regularity.
Arkarna – ‘Future’s Overrated’
The 1997 Hottest 100 is full of songs that you might not know by name, but that you’ll absolutely remember as soon as the first verse kicks in. ‘Future’s Overrated’ by UK group Arkarna is one of the most prime examples. This odd little tune is part Nine Inch Nails/part ‘Steal My Sunshine’, with a chorus that will absolutely stick with you for a long time to come.
Ollie Jacobs was the man behind Arkarna. In fact, he still is. After Fresh Meat, from which this track is taken, the band made one more record, The Family Album, in 2000. It then took another 13 years for another Arkarna record to surface, with the band releasing Music Is My Therapy on their own label and getting out on the road in support of it.
Things have been a little quiet in Arkarna land since 2013. But, as the band themselves say, ‘Who knows what the future holds?’
Ammonia – ‘You’re Not The Only One Who Feels This Way’
Writing a piece like this is a guaranteed way to have people on Facebook hassle you about including their favourite song. I can only hope that happens as a result of including this absolute barnstormer in this list.
Ammonia are one of many great Perth bands who made the Hottest 100 of 1997, but none of those other bands – Jebediah included – wrote a song as simplistic, beautiful, powerful and just plain genius as ‘You’re Not The Only One Who Feels This Way’.
No one talks about Ammonia anymore. A shame, given they also had a handful of other songs that were almost as good as this underrated classic. If you haven’t heard it in ages, I promise it still absolutely destroys today.
Brainbug – ‘Nightmare’
The first single from Italian trance producer Alberto Bertapelle under his Brainbug moniker was a terrifying song with an equally terrifying film clip (well, it seemed pretty scary if you caught it on Rage at 2 in the morning).
The strings that play such a huge part in this song became a touchstone for plenty of producers in the late 90s, meaning that Brainbug’s influence was enormous even if his list of hit tracks was more than a little short.
Dutch superstar DJ Armin Van Buuren re-released the track on his Armada label back in 2010 which gave it a renewed push in the modern dance circles. While a couple of its instruments sound a little dated, its creepy atmosphere and the way its beat drives so consistently gives it something of a timeless quality.
Sadly, Bertapelle passed away while performing on stage back in 2016.
Dana Lyons – ‘Cows With Guns’
There’s a long tradition of novelty songs faring well in the Hottest 100. Very few of them have much of a shelf life though, so don’t feel bad if you haven’t thought about Dana Lyons’ biggest hit in a couple of years (or decades).
‘Cows With Guns’ is an unbelievably silly song about the uprising of bovine in response to how humans treat them. But, as far as novelty songs go, it’s also pretty clever. If you can get past the fact that Lyons refers to the cows as male (come on, mate) then there are a few great lines about how these docile animals become revolutionaries, torching fast food joints and tipping over milk trucks.
Lyons has remained active as a socially conscious troubadour, releasing songs about environmental causes as varied as the infestation of cane toads in Australia and the labelling of GMO products (in the style of the Village People, of course).
But he’s also well aware of his biggest contribution to popular culture, his website cowswithguns.com and YouTube channel cowswithgunsguy suggest he knows precisely where his bread is buttered.
Robyn Loau – ‘Sick With Love’
Robyn Loau left the hugely successful Australian pop group Girlfriend to go solo in 1994. When her first solo single ‘Sick With Love’ appeared in 1997, it became pretty clear that Loau was no longer going to fit in the pop realm as she took on an edgier, trip hop inspired sound.
It was a massive departure for Loau, but one that seemed to fit pretty nicely. So it was a massive shock when her debut solo album didn’t see the light of day following its release. As she tells Double J, a change in ownership at her record company meant that she was dropped following the completion of the record and, following this disappointment, some soul-searching revealed that she wasn’t keen on pursuing a solo career any further.
Loau might not be a pop star anymore, but she’s still performing with regularity. Most of her work these days is in musical theatre and cabaret, as well as performing as a singer for hire with big time local and international acts.
Lard – ‘I Wanna Be a Drug-Sniffing Dog’
Jello Biafra and Al Jorgensen are two of the most uncompromising figures in rock’n’roll. These are men who waste no words when it comes to airing their grievances with the modern world, and those grievances are many.
Their presence together ensured that Lard was an explosive project and ‘I Wanna Be a Drug-Sniffing Dog’ is among their most incendiary works. References to infamous American crimes like the Rodney King bashing and the Susan Smith drowning sets it in a particular time and place, but most of the anti-authoritarian disdain is pretty general and timeless.
The same can’t really said for the music. This kind of industrial power-thrash still exists these days, but even its modern iterations sound directly ripped from the 90s. You can decide if that’s a good or bad thing.
Look, it’s nowhere near the best work Biafra gave us with Dead Kennedys or Jorgensen delivered through Ministry. But as a snapshot of pure, unbridled, incisive 90s angst, it’s nice to revisit every now and then.
Hear the Hottest 100 of 1997 from midday Sunday 28 January