If “You’re In A Bad Way”, play some Saint Etienne. If you were born on Christmas Day, play some Saint Etienne. I have to go now, Saint Etienne are “On The Phone”…(!)
Bob Stanley (b.1964) and Pete Wiggs (b.1966) formed the group Saint Etienne in 1990 and spent the mid-90’s onwards, notching up top ten hits all over Europe and even number one’s in America, but despite what you may think, the group have continued to record throughout the 00’s and released their last album “Home Counties” in 2017! Let’s take a trip back to the 90’s and pay homage to one of Britain’s most colourful bands, who delighted us with song titles like “He Is Cola”, “Hobart Paving” and “Kiss And Make Up”!
Childhood friends Bob and Pete originally planned to use different singers for their tracks, and indeed, Moira Lambert and Donna Savage contributed to their debut album “Foxbase Alpha” (1991). But it was their ‘fascination’ with singer Sarah Cracknell (b.1967) that led them to reappraise their future. With the release of Neil Young’s “Only Love Can Break Your Heart” as their debut single, the group got off to a flying start and although it only made No.39 in the UK, it topped the US dance chart! The stage was now set and the band followed this with “Kiss And Make Up” (UK No.80) and “Nothing Can Stop Us” (UK No.54 and another US dance chart topper). “Foxbase Alpha” was a minor hit in the UK but with Cracknell now in place as the third member, Saint Etienne could progress.
Weirdly, the group’s next venture was not as Saint Etienne! They released the singles “7 Ways To Love” and “He Is Cola” under the name of ‘Cola Boy’. “7 Ways” went to No.8 in the UK and reached No.9 on the US dance chart in 1991, before writing and recording for their second album began. “Join Our Club” was the first release in 1992 and peaked at No.21. This was followed by “Avenue” (No.40), prior to “So Tough” being released in February 1993. The album would go on to reach No.7 in the UK, but not before their most recognisable song, “You’re In A Bad Way”, charted at No.12. The group returned to the US dance chart with “Hobart Paving” (No.5, UK No.23) and released their perennial festive offering “I Was Born On Christmas Day” at the end of 1993 (UK No.37), which was taken from their “Xmas 93” EP.
Saint Etienne were now much in demand, and not just as performers. Even the greats of music turned to them when it came to writing and recording. One such person was Kylie Minogue, who hooked up with the group in 1994 when recording her first album away from Stock Aitken Waterman. Kylie recorded her version of “Nothing Can Stop Us” and it was used as a B side to her first single, “Confide In Me“. A second track was also produced, “When Are You Coming Home?”, but like so many songs laid down for this project, it was ultimately binned and has never seen the light of day since. Saint Etienne themselves released nee material in 1994, their third album “Tiger Bay”, which featured the singles “Pale Movie” (UK No.28), “Like A Motorway” and “Hug My Soul” (UK No.32).
After just three albums and five years, the band released a best of in 1995, “Too Young To Die”, which attained a Gold certification in the UK and featured a brand new recording, “He’s On The Phone”, which reached No.11 in the, becoming their third top twenty hit (if you’re counting “7 Ways To Love”!). That same year they released the EP “Reserection” with French singer Étienne Daho under the collective name of ‘St. Etienne Daho’. The EP made No.50 in the UK and No.12 in France and featured the single “Jungle Pulse”.
After a well earned rest, Saint Etienne were back in 1998 with their album “Good Humor” (UK No.18), which included the singles “Sylvie” (No.12) and “The Bad Photographer”. In 1999, the band recorded a soundtrack album for the film ‘The Misadventures Of Margaret’. Titled “The Misadventures Of Saint Etienne”, the album only saw release in Japan, while the track “Saturday” was released commercially but never attained a chart position of its own accord.
Saint Etienne began the 21st century by guesting on DJ Paul Dan Dyk’s single “Tell me Why? (The Riddle)”, which returned them to the UK top ten and topped the dance chart. The single was released prior to their own fifth album “Sound Of Water”, which featured the top 40 single “Boy Is Crying”. They quickly followed this with “Finisterre” in 2002, which went to No.11 on the US dance chart and their seventh studio effort “Tales From Turnpike House” in 2005, which reached No.10 on the US dance album chart. After another greatest hits (“London Conversations: The Best of Saint Etienne”) in 2009 which included the hit “Method Of Modern Love”, the group took a well-earned break.
Saint Etienne returned in 2012 with the album “Words and Music by Saint Etienne”, which reached No.26 in the UK, their highest chart position since “Good Humor” in 1998. After a number of mix albums released in 2013 and 2014, the band released their most recent album “Home Counties” in 2017 and the “Surrey” EP the following year. Saint Etienne continue to play live at festivals and concerts to the delight of their fanbase as they approach their thirtieth anniversary together!