Pop: And just what did we really, really want?

Moments That Made The Year: The Spice Girls slipped in where Take That left off. And Techno terrorists went chartside. By Emma Forrest
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The Independent Culture
It was the year that Britain's techno terrorists took over the pop charts. The Prodigy had two No 1 hits with "Firestarter" and "Breathe". Underworld's "Born Slippy" (taken from the Trainspotting soundtrack) dominated summer radio. The Chemical Brothers and Noel Gallagher had a No 1 with "Setting Sun" (an appropriation of The Beatles' "Tomorrow Never Knows", affectionately known as "Tomorrow Never Noels"). Tori Amos went the other way; her single "Professional Widow" didn't make much of an impact on the charts, but the re-mix by Armand Van Helden was the club-land hit of 1996.

After a disastrous performance at the Reading Festival, the Stone Roses finally called it a day (irrepressible bassist Mani defected to Primal Scream, while guitarist John Squire has written with Liam Gallagher). Their Manchester peers, the Charlatans, suffered the loss of their keyboardist Rob Collins in a car crash. But they returned with "One To Another", a kind of Nineties "I Will Survive" and the unchallenged single of the year.

Similarly, Manic Street Preachers overcame the loss of guitarist Richey Edwards to produce Everything Must Go, their most accessible and successful album yet. Fellow Welsh boys Super Furry Animals made Fuzzy Logic - as innovative an album as Beck's Odelay but more fun to listen to.

The Spice Girls sold Girl Power to the nation's young females and then urged them to vote Tory. The post break-up careers of the boys from Take That proved that context is everything. Away from his pals, band clown Robbie Williams became a drunken fool. Gary Barlow's solo effort was so tedious it made Celine Dion look like Frank Zappa. And little Mark Owens appears to be going for the Michael Jackson "I'm so creepy" market. Jackson's star fell as that of his evil nemesis Jarvis Cocker shot to the stratosphere. And Madonna, taking on the role of Evita, metamorphosed from pop tart to torch singer.

Blur spoke of their joy at being the underdogs again and of the spiritual enlightenment they have found while recording their new album in Iceland. Kula Shaker offered us their own danceable slices of mystic mumbo-jumbo. A spate of Oasis biographies were published that almost all managed to make a dreary story out of the most exciting band in Britain. The exception was Paul Mathur's witty Take Me There, which was affectionate without being sycophantic.

On the rap front, The Fugees made it huge with their lifestyle album The Score, while LL Cool J bounced back with the brilliant re-mix of "Loungin'". Tupac was killed and Chuck D compiled a list of reasons trying to prove that the long-lashed gangsta had faked his own death.

Richard Fearless was the best DJ in London, taking up residency at The Heavenly Social (the club that launched The Chemicals).

The gig of the year was Bruce Springsteen, stripping it down at the Brixton Academy (where he sang a stunning "Born in the USA" without ever saying those words).

Hotly tipped for 1997 are Hurricane - Alan McGee's latest signing to Creation - and Kylie's collaboration with James Manic. Meanwhile, Bjork is still unlistenable and Frank Sinatra is still not dead.