The Mock Turtles - Emissaries of Madchester, sadly relegated to one-hit status

The Mock Turtles - Emissaries of Madchester, sadly relegated to one-hit status
The Mock Turtles – Emissaries of Madchester, sadly relegated to one-hit status

The Mock Turtles – live At Manchester Academy – 1991 – BBC 6 Music

For all the bands coming from the now-legendary Madchester Scene of the early 90s many, if not most of them got lost in the shuffle, or came and went, or were unable to duplicate their initial successes. Not at all unusual – you could say the same thing with just about every Musical movement since Music began.

The Mock Turtles had lots of promise in the beginning. Their debut single Can You Dig It? shot up the charts to the top-20 and it followed a wave of positive press and “band to watch” proclamations in 1991.

Led by former Judge Happiness singer Martin Coogan, elder brother of actor/comedian Steve Coogan, the band began to pick up attention around 1990, with debut album Turtle Soup and tracks such as “Lay Me Down” and “And Then She Smiles” on the Imaginary label. It was “Can You Dig It?”, however, which gained them wider attention. Originally a b-side to “Lay Me Down”, the band’s new record label, Siren, re-issued it with additional guitar work, and “Can You Dig It?” breached the Top 20 in the UK Singles Chart. Their follow up single “And Then She Smiles” failed to replicate the success of the previous single, only reaching no. 44 in the chart.

In March 1991, the British music magazine NME reported that the band were appearing at the ‘Great Indie Festival – A Midsummer’s Day Dream’ at Milton Keynes Bowl in June that year. Also on the bill were 808 State, Gary Clail, Shades of Rhythm, The Shamen, Paris Angels plus Flowered Up.

The Mock Turtles, however, were unable to follow up the early success and were dropped by their label, three members briefly joining up as Ugli in the mid-1990s, remaining in limbo until Vodafone used “Can You Dig It?” for an advertising campaign in late 2002 and more famously in 2003. This saw the band make a comeback with Norman Cook doing a remix of the song, taking the track to No. 19 in the United Kingdom. Eight new tracks were included on a new Greatest Hits album, together with older songs from their early 1990s peak. Most recently, the track “And Then She Smiles” has been used as the theme song for the television program Stella on Sky1.

They were briefly resurrected in 2003, when their debut single was reissued, this time by Virgin Records. Virgin released an album which included 8 previously unissued tracks, and the buzz started back up.

But all of that wasn’t enough to get a reunion going. So The Mock Turtles have been relegated to the history books and this concert, recorded by the BBC at the Manchester Academy during the high point in their career, gives some idea of what might have been.

Rock n’ roll is seldom fair, but it’s true – it never forgets.

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