Album: De La Soul is Dead, 1991
Justification: It took me a long time to come back to this for one very good reason: everyone else’s answering machines.
See, back in 1991 I was still living at home while I was at university but many of my friends were moving into their first share houses. In those pre-mobile phone times – indeed, those pre-voicemail times – everyone had answering machines, and of course people sharing houses had to make sure their message was suitably personalised lest callers mistakenly think they’d accidentally called a bank or the Moon or something. Also, there was a direct correlation between the number of people of the same gender living in the house and the zaniness of their answering machine message. For example: couples tended to have messages that said things like “Steve and Kathy can’t come to the phone right now, please leave a message,” while places with five dudes living in them tended to go for “You’ve called Castle Bongsalot, we can’t come to the phone – because we’re out getting some sweet POONTANG! Leave a message, if you’re a hot babe! Whooo! Boobs!”
When De La Soul followed up the groundbreaking 3 Feet High and Rising with the far less joyful De La Soul is Dead this single was utterly ubiquitous: not so much on radio, but on the answering machines of idiots who realised that a) this song was about leaving a message on an answering machine, and b) that they were the only person on the planet who’d made this remarkable discovery. Maybe everyone was being super-ironic, but I can’t count the number of times I hung up as soon as the “hey, how you’re doin’” refrain hit my eardrum. What was even more amazing/embarrassing/awesome was when the person would perform the rap themselves, as one friend of my sister Alison’s memorably did. I’m pretty sure one household did it as a group effort with one housemate providing some impressively rhythm-free beatboxing, but maybe my brain just thinks it too funny not to have a possibly-entirely-false memory of. And brain? You’re totally right.
I assiduously avoided this song for the next 20-odd years, until it came up on a hip hop compilation that passed across my desk in 2011 and hit me in the face with its catchiness, its wit, its refreshingly unvarnished hatred for for new artists and, for the first time in decades, the following thought: “hold on, isn’t that the hotly-tipped, little-loved and short-lived 80s hopefuls Curiosity Killed the Cat?” And yes, it is: specifically, their 1989 single ‘Name and Number’ which is sampled in the chorus. I didn’t read Smash Hits for all those years for nothing, you know.
SONG YOU SHOULD HAVE REDISCOVERED THIS TIME IN 2011: Dear god, it’s Sigue “Sigue” Sputnik and their immortal ‘Love Missile F1-11′.
AND HERE’S THE LAST FIVE…