We’re #2! – Real McCoy’s “Another Night”

“Another night, another dream, but always you.”

Inspired by Tom Ewing’s “Popular” (which traces the history of UK #1 singles) and Tom Breihan’s “The Number Ones” (which does the same for US #1s), “We’re #2!” looks at the history of those songs which almost but not-quite managed to reach the summit of the UK Singles Chart, beginning a quarter century back from this column’s inception (March 2019) up until whenever the Present Day comes about.


013] Real McCoy – Another Night

Reached #2: 13th November 1994

Weeks at #2: 1

You would think that most high-profile record label executives and A&R types would be satisfied enough finding just the one culturally-dominating pop act a year.  After all, getting it just right by finding the right group/artist with the right song at the right moment in time that the results become legitimately inescapable is hard enough.  Anyone who managed to pull it off even the once would be well within their rights to kick off their shoes and take a breather, relax for at least the remainder of the year amid a few high-five-laden victory laps of the head office.  Evidently not Clive Davis.  Back in March of 1994, Davis had strapped a rocket to Ace of Base, originally an errant find whilst holidaying in ‘93 that he instantly cancelled all of his plans in order to sign off the back of “All That She Wants,” and his faith paid off when Base brought him “The Sign” which went on to become the biggest single of the year in America.  For most execs, that would have been enough for their 1994.  As you might be able to gather by the fact that he had spent almost 30 years in the music industry by this point with no signs of slowing down, Davis instead was already on the hunt for his next megahit.  And as the year started winding down, there were some rumblings from the great white north that he just knew was the next big American pop movement in waiting.

Bear with me, this one requires a little explanation.  M.C. Sar & The Real McCoy were not Canadian.  They weren’t even Eurodance for the first four or so years of their existence.  The German project formed in 1989 was the brainchild of producers Juergen Wind & Frank Hassas and rapper Olaf Jeglitza (stage-name “O-Jay”) as part of their shared production company, Freshline Records.  They began making hip-house music with elements of sound-collage like the then-massive M/A/R/R/S/, Snap!, and Technotronic.  In fact, their debut single was a largely-faithful cover of Technotronic’s “Pump Up the Jam,” pumped out the exact same year as the original just with weedier synths and new raps composed and performed by O-Jay plus re-sung choruses by unofficial member Patricia Petersen.  (The original “Pump Up the Jam” peaked at #2 in the UK in 1989 behind Black Box’s mega-smash “Ride on Time.”  “Jam” is a 4, “Time” is a 5.)  In Germany, the cover surprise-peaked at #16 and sustained enough momentum for the project to become something full-time, particularly after sophomore single “It’s On You” became a Top 10 hit across Europe.

An album with more cuts in that vein soon followed, 1990’s On the Move!, as did a live show and music videos in which the trio hired a Black man, George Shampro Mario, to lip-sync the vocals of O-Jay, a White man, and pretend to be the frontman of the project which CHRIST.  I mean, I get the thinking – the electronic music scene of this time, Eurodance and hip-house, was notorious for replacing the actual vocalists of the tracks in promotional material with modellers and conventionally handsome lip-sync artists so this isn’t totally far removed from precedent, whilst White rappers were being dragged through the credibility mud by Vanilla Ice – but still YIKES, DOG.  The album and all post-“It’s On You” singles flopped, anyway, so Mario was dismissed in late-‘92 and the entire project underwent a rethink.

Freshline formed a partnership with BMG Berlin (originally known as Hansa Records prior to some financial woes in the 80s that saw them bought out) in late-’92.  That fact alone should give you a firm indication of where the group had their priorities and aspirations set.  M.C. Sar & The Real McCoy were now in the business of making hits.  Gone was the hip-house – and, as somebody who has listened through that debut album and therefore heard enough lyrical variations on “this is hip-house” to fill a thesaurus on the subject, THANK CHRIST FOR THAT – and in came the heavily popping-off Eurodance.  Admittedly, that wasn’t exactly a radical shift since both genres shared similarities; heavy reliance on synth-lines, Diva and Chicago house-y choruses, often-rapped verses.  But the move away from the repetitive loops and grooves of hip-house in favour of the pop structure and somewhat higher-tempo positivity of Eurodance marked a desire to permanently reach out of the clubs and instead latch onto radio dials, as evidenced by a demo that Wind, Hassas and O-Jay had been working on entitled “Another Night.”

Whilst sketching that song out, Wind was approached by freshly-starting out sibling production duo Frank & Christian Berman who’d heard the “Another Night” demo and recommended their regular session singer Karin Kasar for the choruses.  Wind listened to Kasar’s demo and immediately signed it for usage, her vocals on the song are unchanged from that original demo, although Kasar naturally didn’t get to have her face associated with her voice; the group instead siding with their label by having the more “photogenic” Petersen mime and be credited with the voice in all live tours, liner notes, etc.  With the groundwork all set, “Another Night” was unleashed upon the world in the Summer of 1993 where it immediately flopped.  #18 in Germany, #63 in the UK beaten out by a new remix of Diana Ross’ “Chain Reaction.”  Wind and Hassas moved on to producing different hit records under a different stage-name, The Movement and the Maxx project, and that would seem to be that.

But the pop music world can be a strange-ass place and what and when certain songs get their big mainstream push is often fickle and lacking in any semblance of proper logic.  In early 1994, BMG Canada suddenly decided that “Another Night” was going to be the next big Canadian hit and went on a marketing blitzkrieg for the single.  And it worked.  Improbably, “Another Night” became a #1 smash on the Canadian Dance Charts in March of 1994.  This then caught the burning ears of Mr. Clive Davis, fresh off the aforementioned Ace of Base saga and wanting to repeat the trick of crossing over a European pop act to the American mainstream.  Arista Records and BMG very quickly reached an agreement together, the public-facing duo of M.C. Sar & The Real McCoy became a trio with the hiring of Vanessa Mason – still fulfilling the image side of things but who, more crucially, was capable of somewhat approximating Kasar’s vocals in a live setting – Davis shaved the act’s name down to the somewhat less-stupid Real McCoy, and then it was off to the races.  Unlike “Rhythm of the Night,” there was no reworking or remix issued in place of the original to radio stations.  Davis knew he had a hit already, all he and the labels had to do was better market it.  By October, he was proven right when the single hit the US Top 10, just as the track prepared for its second UK shot.

The great tension of many a Eurodance song is that balance between its club-based origins and its pop radio aspirations.  These are songs that get their start being mixed into DJ sets, introduced in the sweaty neon-drenched beer-swilled club nights of yore and birthed out of the same movements as techno and Chicago house, but want to work equally as well blaring out of radio dials, Walkmans, car stereos, school discos, and supermarket tannoys the world over.  They need both the credibility of the clubs and the pop savvy of the radio, and every Eurodance song is effectively a fight between those two sides to see whose instincts best win out, although the best examples of the form manage to resolve in a kind of détente (such as the original version of “Rhythm of the Night”).  What’s most striking about “Another Night” is that it has many of the signifiers of a club jam – house-y piano chords, a buzzy synth melody, a bass-y burble, a breakdown where the beat cuts out for a moment before cutting back in – but otherwise is a capital-P Pop song.

With “Rhythm of the Night” or “What is Love” or even “The Power” and “Rhythm is a Dancer,” I can envision them playing in a club.  I can see those origins, I can see how you would mix from something like “What is Love” into Carl Craig or early Moby, I can see how shifting the released “Radio Edit” take of the song even slightly would seamlessly transition it into its own “Club Mix.”  “Another Night,” by contrast, would require substantial reworking to work in clubs – and, in fact, did as the previously-referenced Berman Brothers put together a “House Mix” for the single that bins almost the entire song in order to rebuild it from the ground up.  It pulls the signifiers and the sounds of club music but retrofits them into a straightforward non-threatening pop song.  The tempo lumbers more than bounces or raves, the vocal melody takes much higher presence and priority than any of the instruments, and the track hurriedly resolves itself with a fast fade-out in the final 10 seconds as if conscious that it’s approaching the dreaded four-minute mark of pop radio death.  This is like if Ace of Base attempted to write a club jam (which they actually did repeatedly on their debut album).

There’s no pretence to cool, no desire to be the song that makes clubgoers all whoop an “OH, SHIT!” in unison once the moment of recognition hits (unlike say K-Klass’ “Let Me Show You”), no euphoric high or section where the song pauses for a breakdown designed to get clubbers’ feet moving (a prime example of such a thing can be found in the house piano break of Adamski & Seal’s “Killer”).  “Another Night” is even structured like a classic pop duet of the kind whose roots go back to the genesis of pop music itself.  Kasar takes the chorus and pre-chorus, as she yearns for and speaks of this unknown man whom she keeps encountering in her dreams, whilst O-Jay raps the verses, which are from the perspective of this dream guy talking to her.  As is what happens when non-native-English-speaking Europeans try to pen story-based lyrics in English for English audiences, the words overall are extremely general and vague, designed more for how they sound as percussive instruments and melody rather than any coherent meaning.  But whilst the raps are not very good – none of O-Jay’s raps are very good and I’d be willing to cut him more slack given the obvious caveat if he didn’t deliver them all in this embarrassing affected baritone that’s like Jemaine Clement’s Flight of the Conchords character trying to seduce a houseplant – the parts sung by Kasar do scan and are effective if simplistic.

Yet, I can’t give myself over to the song completely.  Every time I hear it, I keep thinking that I should be liking it more than I do.  That hook is damn-catchy and the melodies for each section are distinctive and sticky in the ways that all the best shameless pop earworms are, even with them all clearly working from the same starting base.  Kasar’s vocals are understated and decidedly unshowy which both fit the song and make for a pleasing contrast with O-Jay’s drunk sexually-inappropriate uncle performance.  I really like the brief beat switch breakdown in place of the third verse and I would have liked it more if it lasted longer and O-Jay wasn’t there.  The sentiment of the lyrics is, as the kids say, a mood.

But I’m left rather cold, a tad frustrated.  Perhaps because it feels too calculated, too mechanical, too designed and restrained.  It doesn’t aim for transcendence or euphoria, which fits the lyrical concerns of the song but for me goes too far and lands on MOR techno.  Again, aside from the third verse breakdown where the bass dirties itself up and the synths start Catherine wheeling themselves around the place, “Another Night” is relentlessly predictable, safe and non-threatening.  I can time each transition, each chord, each slight pause in the lyric delivery or beat or sequencer flawlessly after just the first three listens.  It never upends my expectations, it never risks anything, it never reveals any lasting depth.  It honestly feels like Eurodance by-the-numbers.  Like if you got the world’s leading scientists and told them to soullessly engineer the most perfectly cromulent Eurodance song in existence, they would land on “Another Night” exactly.  It’s fine but slight and leaves a touch bitter of an aftertaste for me.

Thanks to the relentless marketing muscle of Clive Davis, however, it doesn’t matter what kind of aftertaste the song left me.  “Another Night” very quickly rushed its way back up the UK charts once re-released, whilst the US eventually saw it peak at #3 and become the sixth biggest song of 1995 (#63 in 1994).  Davis also proceeded to Ace of Base the rechristened Real McCoy with the full force of a jet engine: retitling their Space Invaders! album to the name of their biggest hit for the international release, goosing the track list by forcing the public faces of the group (O-Jay, Petersen, and Mason) to go back into the studio with all-new writers and producers to pump out some covers for additional singles and an all-new song to entice importers, and making over their whole image into something quote-unquote more romantic.  Because Davis I guess knows what he’s doing, this all did in fact work for a short while – Another Night the album went double-Platinum in the US, follow-up single “Run Away” was almost as big of a hit as the title track, and their cover of Redbone’s “Come and Get Your Love” (pre-­­Guardians of the Galaxy revival) cracked the Top 20 on both sides of the Atlantic.

Real McCoy fell apart astonishingly quick after their huge 1995, though.  Karin Kasar, despite having performed all of the female vocals on the project’s breakthrough album, was not invited back for the 1997 follow-up One More Time.  Patricia Petersen was also dumped from the group, both slots being taken over by new singer Lisa Cork.  Juergen Wind, amid The Movement’s disintegration, produced One More Time without Frank Hassas or BMG Berlin A&R’s David Bruner (who was a key player in shifting the project’s sound), instead working with the writers and producers Davis brought in to punch up Another Night.  The album and its singles all bricked completely, though the title track did peak at #3 and go Platinum in Australia of all places, and Real McCoy disbanded before 1997 was out the door.

That’s not to say the Real McCoy brand died that day, however.  O-Jay has tried to revive the project numerous times over the years.  First in 1999, when he recruited two female singers and another rapper, christened the line-up The New Real McCoy, and put out two singles – a rerecording of “It’s On You” and an original called “Hey Now” – to zero commercial interest and a quick disbanding.  In 2006, he collaborated under the Real McCoy banner on a prospective Eurovision song, “Follow My Heart,” with Polish pop group Ich Troje (which seems like blatant cheating given the differing nationalities but fuck if I know anything about Eurovision) that got shut out in the semi-finals.  Eventually, he would reunite with Karin Kasar and the pair today infrequently perform at festivals worldwide under the Real McCoy banner.  Perhaps O-Jay has warmed up to the project’s biggest hit nowadays.  In a 2009 “Whatever happened to…” interview with Digital Spy, he confessed to “never [being] that excited about ‘Another Night.’  I always preferred songs like ‘Run Away.’”

Bonus Beats: Gregg Gillis, a.k.a. mashup and glitch artist Girl Talk, featured extracts of “Another Night,” along with roughly a dozen other cheesy pop songs, on “Bodies Hit the Floor” from his sample-collage-assault sophomore album Unstoppable.  It’s slightly less relentlessly punishing than his debut was!

Bonus Bonus Beats: And speaking of unlikely samplings, cult Japanese hip hop artist Uzi built his ahead-of-its-time 2014 single “Money” out of a pitched-up, distorted loop of the piano riff from “Another Night.”

The #1: “Another Night” would ultimately be blocked from the summit of the chart by the final week of Paton Banton and Ali & Robin Campbell of UB40’s pop-reggae collab-cover of “Baby Come Back.”  The more I listen to it, the more that the strangely synthetic tone of the snare drum grates at me.  It’s still a 2.

A new entry of We’re #2! will be posted every Saturday.

Callum Petch will be a woman soon.

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s