dispatches from the pop scene...minus the corn syrup.

Monday, June 02, 2008

Throwback: U R The Best Thing

As is the story with many a pop artist, often their chart-topping single isn't their best song. Case in point: early '90s Irish dance outfit, D:Ream, whose foxy lead singer Peter Cunnah (above left...not the guy with the jacked-up teeth) used to give me that D'luvvin' feeling back in the day!

With only two albums released, D:Ream cranked out some of the best dance pop during the act's active period of 1992 to 1997, and to me Cunnah proved to be one of the genre's most creative songwriting and vocally-talented forces.

Technically, D:Ream only had nine singles, but my personal fave, "U R The Best Thing," got about 57 re-re-re-releases alone and eventually reached its peak of #4 in the U.K. in 1994. And though D:Ream's "Things Can Only Get Better" hit #1 on both the U.K. pop and U.S. dance charts in '94, history stepped in to ensure it would forever be the band's magnum opus when Tony Blair chose it as his campaign song in 1997.

D:Ream's first album, 1993's D:Rream On, Vol. 1, is available on iTunes. Warning: the edits of many of the singles are remixed versions that differ from the original album versions, though all are good.

Here are the "U R The Best Thing" and "Things Can Only Get Better" vids:

God, I love that "U R The Best Thing" clip! With its sunny blue skies, the dancing on steel beams and uplifting chorus, it really seemed to capture all urban dreams and optimism of the time.

Unfortunately, as D:Ream started having hits after the original singles received re-releases with Brothers In Rhythm and Perfecto mixes, Peter Cunnah seemed to gain a reputation as a bit of an egotistical pain in the blarney stone.

James LeBon, the director of the "Things Can Only Get Better" video, wrote the following when he posted it on YouTube: "It was a huge hit, unfortunately due to a misunderstanding Peter and I fell out in the edit!" More famously, Cunnah got the tar kicked out of him by the Bananarama gals during a run-in at London's Gay Pride in 1994.

Check out this classiness from an interview with Keren Woodward of the 'rams:
"We'd be sitting there and he was saying some really, really odd things to us, and I think he'd had a few drinks. Then it all got a bit bitter and we'd just about had enough of him. He just turned round and said 'come and talk to me when you've written a hit song.' He'd had the one and we'd had quite a lot at that point. I think Sarah just gave him a push off of his seat and I gave him a dead leg on the way down really... Thanks for the memory, though I wouldn't want you to think that we were violent girls. I haven't done anything like that before or since in my life. But yes, he was a strange one and it's amazing how many people seem to have heard about that."
Sigh. With an attitude like that, mister... even Al Mackenzie, the other main member of the act, left after the release of the first album.

World, D:Ream's second album, yielded only one U.K. Top 10 hit, "Shoot Me With Your Love." I used to see the U.S. version of the single in record stores a lot in 1995, but I never bought it for some reason. Later I picked it up off eBay. There's a pretty rad Loveland radio edit!

After doing vocals on Chicane's groovy "Love On The Run" in 2000 (also on iTunes), Peter Cunnah "returned to his roots" and started writing jangly guitar music. And this seems like a good place to end the story!

Here's a Top Of The Pops live clip of "Shoot Me With Your Love," and the Chicane "Love On The Run" video Peter sings vocals on:

If you're interested, there's a sparse, official D:Ream website, but it hasn't been updated in two-and-a-half years. You can also find Peter Cunnah on MySpace, but his pictures are all set to private. Difficult!

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  • At 8:06 PM, Blogger Scooter said…

    Thanks for the D:ream post. I loved their first CD and played it to death. I thought Peter was so hot...made their music all the better!!

  • At 10:40 PM, Blogger John said…

    I remember these guys, but honestly, I never felt any oomph from what they were doing. I fully admit that the divas were rocking my world at the time, and their stuff was a bit weak at times in comparison.

    Thanks for mentioning Loveland remixes, though. Love their stuff!

  • At 1:32 AM, Blogger Paul said…

    Oh how i loved the first D:Ream album and you are so right - UR The Best Thing was a great dance tune. He was like a male cathy dennis! Shame he was a wanker. I suspect his pics are set to private because he has put on a tinsy bit of weight recently and isn't quite the muffin of stud he used to be :( Loved those tartan trousers tho!

  • At 8:50 AM, Blogger Mike said…

    I think the fact that he got ripped an arsehole by the old slappers from Bananarama is just too classy! I love that song and remember it gracing many a school disco. I always preferred it to TCOGB.

  • At 12:56 PM, Anonymous Talk 2 The Orangutan said…

    Ha! That 'Rams story is awesome. I used to love D:Ream, I still have a ton of their/his singles (which was quite easy given that they'd release given that they released about half a dozen 12"s for each song). But in retrospect while I still like pretty much all of their songs, I can't say I really love any of them anymore.

    These days I'd say Peter Cunnah's greatest triumph was in 2001 when he wrote the marvelous/hilarious "Talk To The Hand" for the Honeyz many years after that phrase had passed it's sell-by date.

  • At 5:36 PM, Anonymous Pranav said…

    I am so glad someone has written something about D:ream. While I did not really like "Things can only get better", I LOVED "U R The Best thing". I remember it was released in April 1994. I was a 7th grade kid at the time. I could never get over how awesome the video was. Interestingly enough, there is a Boston-based internet radio station that plays this track quite often (at least a few times every week - not bad for a forgotten track!!!).

  • At 10:49 AM, Blogger Adem With An E said…

    Hahaha, I used to sing this song about a boy I had a crush on when I started high school. Such an ace song and indeed much better than "Things..."


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