Steps made an impressive comeback last year with the release of their fifth studio album Tears On The Dancefloor which reached no.2 on the UK album chart and saw them take to the road for a successful UK tour. Today marks 20 years since they first album Step One, hit the charts and funnily enough it also debuted and peaked at no.2 on the UK album chart.
Come with us as we dust off our CD and give Step One another listen today.
The debut single from Steps, was released in November 1997 stands out from the rest of their catalogue for being somewhat a novelty single. It’s blend of country, techno and pop had us reaching for our lassos and thinking perhaps Rednex had returned with a Cotton Eyed Joe for 1997. It was the first time we’d see the five young hopefuls who had all replied to an advert in The Stage newspaper and had been chosen as the line up for Steps.
5,6,7,8 sees Lee take lead vocal with Lisa giving her best country twang to the spoken middle 8. H, Claire and Faye all providing backing vocals. It was root scooting and catchy as a cold and gave us the first glimpse of Steps the dancers as they sort of line danced across a beach in the video. The single took 8 weeks to reach it’s peak of no.14 and is actually their third biggest selling single to date having been certified Gold in the UK. Co-written by Barry Upton who was formerly in Brotherhood of Man (Steps should so do a cover of Save Your Kisses For Me!) and Steve Crosby with production from Karl Twigg and Mark Topham plus a certain Pete Waterman.
Last Thing On My Mind
It was Pete that had the vision that the band would sound like ABBA on speed and in April 1998 what was to become the Steps sound was unleashed to the public with second single Last Thing On My Mind.
Step One actually opens with a great teaser for the track with Step Intro slowly and quietly building to a crescendo as ‘This was the last thing on my mind’ is sung before the song itself swiftly follows. It’s pure pop heaven although when you stop dancing and start listening to the lyrics it’s actually about an unexpected break up; classic Stock and Waterman. This time it was the girls of Steps taking the lead vocals with Claire and Faye each taking a verse and Lisa on the middle 8 duties once more. The track, a cover of a lesser known Bananarama song, managed to climb as high as no.6 on the UK Official Chart giving the band the first of 14 consecutive top 10 hits.
One For Sorrow
The third single from the group was perhaps they biggest ABBA moment yet. Starting with the rain effect and gentle tickle of the piano, Claire’s voice tells the tale of wanting love but getting uncertainity as it builds to a big power chorus. In fact, Claire pretty much has all the vocals on this track and it saw the band get to no.2 on the charts, only to be held off by Manic Street Preachers. The band supported Britney Spears on her US tour and released a remixed version of this track as their US debut single with someone who looks surprisingly like Britney making a very brief cameo in the video.
Three singles in and Steps’ chart success was growing and they released Step One on 11th September 1998. As we mentioned the album starts with the tease of Step Intro, leading in to Last Thing On My Mind, then 5,6,7,8 and as the fourth track, One For Sorrow. The pace is slowed right down for their first ballad proper in the form of Heartbeat as the fifth track.
This track is often overlooked as it was the double a-side to Steps cover of Bee Gees’ Tragedy which got much more of the attention and saw the band score their first UK no.1. The double a-side single remains their biggest seller by far boasting over a million sales. Tragedy is perhaps one of the most iconic of their dance routines and still a firm favourite at weddings, but it’s not featured on this album. Back to Heartbeat. This song came with a cute winter themed video, a low budget homage to The Lion, Witch and Wardrobe, which could only have helped it’s seasonal release date.
Now we’re in to non single territory now with track 6 – This Heart Will Love Again. It’s a mid-tempo, sugary-sweet pop song, not too dissimilar to Britney’s Sometimes with the girls taking most of the vocals. Nice to hear to Lisa on verse 2. Then follows two H led tracks starting with Experienced which deals with an older woman taking H’s cherry and giving him the experience he wanted. Perhaps not a true story? It’s mid-tempo R&B tinged pop that was typical of the time. As is the next track Too Weak To Resist which is about H being a cheat. Really, how did we all love H when he was a cheat? We’re blaming that cougar who took his virginity and made him a nympho!
Better Best Forgotten
At track 9 we find the fifth and final single from Step One, the uplifting Better Best Forgotten. Once again there’s a great dance routine to this energetic pop song with fairytale references of happy endings and taking chances. This track is definitely not best forgotten and reached no.2 on the UK singles chart in March 1999.
Back To You continues the upbeat pop of Better Best Forgotten with Faye taking verse 1 before Claire chirps in with the bridge. Is it just us or does she sound like she’s got a bit of a cold on this song? It’s nice enough but feels a little too similar to Better Best Forgotten, yet not as good. Definitely just an album track.
Love U More
A missed opportunity for a single is Steps’ take on Sunscreem’s minor hit ‘Love U More’ which reached no.23 back in 1992. Steps version starts with an infectious electronic glockenspiel style hook and builds the beat slowly through the verse, adding more oomph and synths as we hit the stonking chorus. It’s poppers o’clock for sure!
After all the dancing around we’ve been doing to Love U More, things are slowed down for the album closer. Stay With Me, which sees Faye dominate the vocals alongside Lisa, is a gentle ballad begging for your lover to stay when you both know it’s not working.
Step One was certified 5 x Platinum in the UK and in 2017 The Official Charts revealed that the five singles from this album were the band’s biggest sellers to date. The singles are great but unfortunately some of the album tracks do sound a bit dated and flat. That said it’s still a fun listen and we can’t wait to see if they’ll be another new album in 2019.
Which is your favourite song on Step One? Tell us @entfocusmusic