Heard on Steve’s show, just a few moment ago, this week’s One Hit Wonder was Spaceman by Babylon Zoo; another case of unexpected success that a band failed to capitalise on.
The song rose to popularity after being featured on a TV commercial. As Fraser MacApline explains on the BBC America website:-
In 1996, a TV commercial for Levi’s jeans featured a very futuristic sounding 30-second snippet of music. A high-pitched squealing voice piped up “Spaceman, I always wanted you to go into space, man” while rave synths revved their engines, ready for takeoff. This went down so well the song immediately sold 420,000 copies in a week, becoming the fastest-selling single in the U.K. since “Can’t Buy Me Love” by the Beatles. However, when people got the record home, they discovered that it dramatically slowed down after that opening 30 seconds, and became a more grinding, swampy affair that wasn’t to everyone’s taste at all. Consequently, it also became one of the most returned singles in British chart history.
Whether that account is entirely fair is up for debate. The song did spend 16 weeks on the chart, 5 of those were at number one, so it certainly found a significant audience. However, there was also certainly a lot of love for the section of the track featured on the advert. A version of the song that was all speeded up did surface and was played on BBC Radio 1 as a ‘Dance Remix’ at the time. That didn’t go down well with the band’s record label taking legal action to stop it being aired. This caused many people to look on with astonishment at this metaphorical act of ‘shooting yourself in the foot’; perhaps a clue as to why the band didn’t make the most of their success.
Nevertheless, Babylon Zoo did enjoy success with other material including 2 more Top 40 hits that year, and another song that charted from their next album, 3 years later. But Spaceman is probably the only song that people really remember and so makes it to this week’s One Hit Wonder slot.
If you’d like to hear it again, there are links to the video on YouTube and also to purchase it on iTunes and Amazon (12″ Mix).
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