With culture's ever-reliable 20-year cycle meaning that all things 90s are very much back in vogue, now seems as good a time as any to take a look back at the original artists that did it first. Whether you're staring into the nihilistic, grunge abyss, indulging in some giddy Britpop escapism or charging up your riot grrl power, these are the tracks that started it all. Words: Priya Elan, Matthew Horton, Ben Hewitt

50’Caught By The Fuzz’

You’ve blackened our name… You should be ashamed!” Whether those were the actual words Gaz Coombes’ mum used when she picked up her 15-year-old son from the nick doesn’t matter. ‘Caught By The Fuzz’ sums up the white fear of getting your collar felt then having to deal with the folks and Supergrass burst into British pop with wit, tunes and sideburns you could use for a doormat.

49’Losing My Religion’

Years of college radio respect finally turned into worldwide recognition for REM – and all they had to do was put a mandolin on the track. Peter Buck’s versatility makes the record but it’s Michael Stipe’s weepy performance that connected with record buyers. REM never looked back, took on the mantle of Biggest Band in the World and, in ‘Losing My Religion’, got that long craved-for Dutch No.1.

48‘For Tomorrow’

As Britain was enveloped by the shadowy squall of grunge, Blur returned from an unsuccessful tour of the States with nothing but disdain for the promised land. Damon Albarn took to studying from the Bible Of Ray Davies and from it came a new lyrical view full of character studies, everyday whimsy and what we now call Britpop. This story of Jim and Susan trying to make it through the modern world kicked it off.

47‘Jump Around’

Hip-hop trio The House Of Pain were Irish-American, but you would never have guessed it. Apart from all those shamrocks. But in a brief and undistinguished career they put out one stone cold smash: ‘Jump Around’ was irresistible, the ultimate easy floorfiller, and floor-destroyer. It was produced by Cypress Hill’s DJ Muggs, another thing you’d never guess, what with all those whistling kettles.

46‘Only Love Can Break Your Heart’

Sarah Cracknell’s pipes would eventually become synonymous with Saint Etienne, but it was Moira Lambert who provided lead vocals on their breakthrough single, a classy dance overhaul of Neil Young’s standard ‘Only Love Can Break Your Heart’. Tapping into a melancholic groove, it formed the centrepiece of their debut LP ‘Foxbase Alpha’ and provided the launchpad for their future success.

45’No Scrubs’

‘No Scrubs’ taught you a new word: a scrub is “a guy who thinks he’s fine/Also known as a buster”. TLC’s sinuous number flipped the bird at those divvies “hanging out… his best friend’s drive” and sailed by on a bed of looped guitar and creeping synths – but did the scrubs get the message? No, they came right back with a rubbish answer record, Sporty Thieves’ ‘No Pigeons’.


After the scratchy Buddhist funk meets thrash metal of ‘Ill Communication’ the Beasties came back dumb as ever with this electro larkabout based around Modest Mussorgsky’s ‘A Night On Bald Mountain’. All the classic BBs elements were in place – shouting the last syllable of each line, clowning around in boiler suits in the video – and they added up to their only UK Top 5 hit.

43‘No Diggity’

Roping in Dr Dre and Queen Pen to provide some steely-edged raps allowed Blackstreet’s smooth ‘n’ sexy number to romp the charts and gave them Top 10 hits on both side of the Atlantic (including nabbing the top spot in the US). Arguably, they’d never better ‘No Diggity’ – but there’s no shame in failing to top such a classy concoction of urban swagger and classic R&B.

42‘Where’s It At’

‘Odelay’ was Beck’s defining musical statement of the 90s – the LP that saw him become a fully-fledged darling of the music press – and ‘Where’s It At’ showed there was more to him than ‘Loser’. It defies categorisation – at its most basic it’s a rap song, but one that encompasses everything from washed-out Hammond synths to oddball samples. A genre-splicing genius was born…

41‘The Only One I Know’

The Charlatans’ first Top 10 hit invited the odd unfavourable comparison with Manchester forefathers The Stone Roses and Happy Mondays, and even had them pegged as one-hit wonders. They’d later prove such accusations monumentally daft, but ‘The Only One I Know’ was evidence enough that brilliance beckoned as they took the baggy grooves of Madchester and added a sprinkling of pop gold dust.

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