Scarlet – Love Hangover
Sometimes when a new band scores their first hit I get a vision of a possible future – sort of like Rey’s in The Force Awakens but involving fewer lightsabers and more cash registers. I see a successful follow up single, top ten album, a valedictory performance on Christmas Top of the Pops, a range of poseable dolls and a first single from the second album that goes straight in at no.1, proving all the naysayers wrong.
This was the path I foresaw for Scarlet, makers of 1995’s most exciting chart debut, Independent Love Song. Readers, what a record. In all of pop I’m not sure there’s ever been a finer balance struck between graceful poise and reckless abandon. The lead vocal by Cheryl Parker is a thing of wonder (in that full-bodied-though-maybe-I-need-a-decongestant sort of a way) during the verses, before combining with Jo Youle and exploding into revved-up Elizabeth Fraser-esque howling on the choruses. All this and a truly glorious string arrangement from – who else? – Anne Dudley. It all combines to make Independent Love Song possibly the best record ever made for drunkenly shouting along to – just the other night it came on while I was round at a friend’s house for dinner and what had previously been a very civilised evening degenerated into a fabulously overwrought group performance which must never, ever be mentioned again.
I had pegged Independent Love Song as a surefire no.1 hit, but somehow – outrageously – it only peaked at no.12, and thus my beautiful Priority Act fantasies began to fade, and the reality of Contractual Fulfilment started to set in. The follow up, the lovely Tom Petty-ish I Wanna Be Free (to Be With Him) entered and peaked (the mid-90s standard) at no.21, meaning that it fell to the third single Love Hangover to get Scarlet’s career back on track. Its presence here means that obviously it didn’t – but my goodness me, it should have.
As was the custom at the time, Love Hangover was released on two CDs, one of which included the groups’s very first single, Piccadilly in the Rain. The sleeve is worthy of note, as it features an empty chair between Cheryl and Jo which I like to think is reserved for original third member Joanna Fox, who left before the band scored their first hit. Pleasingly, Love Hangover was granted a bit of a reswizz for its single release, which showed that WEA was still prepared to make a bit of an effort – and I for one was thrilled by the transformation, subtle as it was. I’m on record as saying that the addition of a string section will almost always make a song better, and this one is no exception; what was previously a lovely dreamy dog-days-of-summer-but-not-really-a-single sort of a song became an autumnal tour de force of love and regret, tugging at the same sort of threads as Wet Wet Wet‘s inescapable Love is All Around (this is perhaps not a coincidence). As a side-note, the makeover also distracted me from the slight urge I had to sing For Whom the Bell Tolls by the Bee Gees over the verses.
Had it come out at the time of year when the leaves are falling off the trees, you’re starting to think about chunky sweaters and regretting some of your life choices, I suspect Love Hangover might have done better at radio and reversed Scarlet‘s downward chart trend. But – no doubt with an eye on whatever momentum they had beginning to slip away – it came out at the start of August when we were all still in crop tops and short shorts and weren’t quite in the mood for comforting misery, even if it was spread across two discs attractively priced at ninety-nine pence each.
A second album, Chemistry, followed in 1996, but its first single obliterated any last lingering hopes by entering at no.54 and after that they were quietly dropped and we heard no more from them. But for that brief, amazing period, Scarlet were my favourites and I’m still listening to them twenty one years later. Hooray!
Entered chart: 05/08/95
Chart peak: 54
Weeks on chart: 2
Who could sing this today and have a hit? How I yearn for a proper old school girl band wintry ballad. Little Mix could get to no.11 with this.