The race for the number one position used to be an exciting prospect that was until reality TV releases began to dominate the chart with a predictable entry at number one followed usually by….nothing. Remember Steve Brookstein, Joe McElderry, Leon Jackson and Matt Cardle. Where are they now? All short-lived careers but when the tabloids make it headline news, it can bring a whole new interest, especially for those who don’t normally watch the chart. The most publicised was the Oasis/Blur battle of 1995, but when Spiller came up against True Steppers and Dane Bowers, and featuring Victoria Beckham making her debut as a solo pop star, the press followed it all week and in the end the best song won.
Cristiano Spiller was born in Venice and had been a DJ since 1988. In 1996 he teamed up with another Italian DJ, Tommy Vee and began making records in Christiano’s home studio. They recorded a dance track called Spiller From Rio (Do It Easy) which they released under the name Lagauna and went to number 40 in the UK.
Sophie Ellis-Bextor, whose father, Robin was a television producer and her mum, former Blue Peter presenter, Janet, was born in London in 1979. Her brother got in on the act too by portraying a young Jarvis Cocker in the Pulp video A Little Soul. From an early age Sophie knew she wanted to make music. “I want to make sophisticated pop records that don’t talk down to people,” she said.
In 1997 she became lead singer with the indie band theaudience and had three hit singles in 1998 with If You Can’t Do It When You’re Young; When Can You Do It, A Pessimist Is Never Disappointed and I Know Enough (I Don’t Get Enough), the title of which would not look out of place on a Smiths discography.
Spiller continued making records and in 1998 came up with the instrumental track Groovejet, the title of which pays homage to a nightclub in Miami that Spiller had attended. It sampled the bassline from an obscure 1977 soul track called Love Is You by Carol Williams. “All the time I was playing Groovejet, many people kept saying to me ‘when are you going to put some vocals on it?’ I thought about it and liked the idea of putting a sweet white voice like Sophie’s on it,” Spiller recalled.
Spiller had collaborated with ex-Mud guitarist, Rob Davis, who came up with the chorus and so Spiller asked Sophie to write a verse. Sophie commented, “I didn’t really like the chorus. The line if this ain’t love, why does it feel so good was about this girl being indecisive and I didn’t really like that dithery mentality. What I tried to do with the verse was to set about the idea that, she knew the answer to the question isn’t love, it’s lust, so it’s all about a holiday romance.”
The week it was released, the Spiller vs. Posh battle that had media saturation, sent singles’ sales soaring. By the end of the week, Posh and co had sold 181,000 singles whilst Spiller sold 202,500. Sophie remarked, “I remembered being completely convinced we were going to be number two and I was fine with that, but when the DJ on the Top 40 show said we were number one, I had to make sure before I started screaming and making a fool of myself.”
It was a change of direction for Sophie. “I find my success with Spiller pleasant but ludicrous, because it is so incongruous to what I normally do,” she recalled. “I don’t listen to dance music. I don’t go to clubs. I’ve never been to Ibiza or any of the big clubs in London, and I couldn’t tell you my favourite DJ or anything like that.” But it was a direction she continued with.
Exactly one year later she released her first solo single, a cover of Cher 1979 song Take Me Home followed by an original song Murder on the Dancefloor, both of which went to number two. A DJ friend of mine who was resident at a Yates’ wine bar got told off to take it off one night right in the middle of the song. He asked why and told that a week earlier there had been a fight in a Yates’ in Manchester and someone died in the there and so their management ruled that the track was not to be played in any of the establishments, the only trouble is, no one told the DJ.
At the same time she released her debut album, Read My Lips, which also went to number two. Her second album, Shoot from the Hip, was released in November 2003 and the first single from it, Mixed Up World, which was originally recorded by Bobby O, peaked at number seven. The next hits, I Won’t Change You and Catch You both made the top 10.
Spiller, however, wasn’t quite as successful. His only other hit was Cry Baby, which sampled Zapp’s Dancefloor and limped to number 40.
In 2005 Sophie married Richard Jones, the bass player with The Feeling and the couple have three children. She has continued making albums with her latest, Wanderlust which was released in October 2013. She will be promoting the album with a headline slot at Bush Hall in London in January 2014 and has announced a 10-date UK tour, which will finish in Glasgow in April 2014.