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Do 'Dreams' really come true, Gabrielle? [June 27, 1993]
Plus: New Order, Smashing Pumpkins, and Manic Street Preachers
We’re looking back at the week of June 27, 1993. This was the week that:
📰 Lorena Bobbitt became an international celebrity after cutting off her abusive husband’s penis.
📽️ Nicolas Cage and Dennis Hopper’s neo-noir Red Rock West lands in cinemas.
🎶 And the Number One song in the UK Top 40 is…
The story goes like this:
Louise is a shy teenager in Hackney. Her bedroom is filled with pictures of pop stars cut out of Smash Hits, and Louise spends her nights dreaming that, one day, she’ll be a pop star too. But by day, she’s mercilessly bullied about her height, her weight, and her lazy eye.
Louise finishes school and pursues a singing career. Eventually, a Soho nightclub hires her as a cabaret singer. The club owner feels that “Louise” is too prosaic, so she starts using her middle name: Gabrielle.
Gabrielle mostly covers popular artists like Luther Vandross. One night, a woman in the audience watches her set and feels compelled to approach her afterwards. She tells Gabrielle to enjoy singing covers in a nightclub because “this is as good as it’s ever going to get for you.” Gabrielle rushes off in tears.
But she doesn’t let this stop her. Nothing will stop her.
Gabrielle goes home, takes out her notebook, and writes a new poem about her unquenchable desire for success. She talks about her ambitions in the second person, as if fame is a lover she’s trying to woo. The poem starts like this:
Move a step closer
You know that I want you
I can tell by your eyes
That you want me too
A few months later, Gabrielle is in a studio. She and the producer build a song around these words (using a heavy sample of Tracy Chapman’s ‘Fast Car’). The recording gets picked up by some underground DJs and becomes a word-of-mouth hit.
Gabrielle signs to a record label, re-records the song (without the Tracy Chapman sample), and ‘Dreams’ smashes into the charts at Number 2—a record for a debut release.
It’s Number One for three weeks. ‘Dreams’ is nominated for an Ivor Novello, Find Your Way goes Gold, and Gabrielle wins Best British Newcomer at the Brits.
Dreams can come true. Which is why should always follow your dreams.
I know what I want
Or should you?
“Follow your dream” is such a cliché these days that we barely even question it. We tell kids to dream big; we tell adults to dream even bigger. Giving up on your dream is the worst thing that can happen, an awful living death.
But this concept of chasing your dreams has only become popular in recent years. Looking at Google NGram, we see that the phrase “follow your dream” surged in popularity in the 80s and 90s:
These days, we seem to be in a cultural moment where Follow Your Dream is almost a religious mantra. Everyone is supposed to have a clear ambition—to attain a perfect job, a perfect love, a perfect life—and all of your energy must go towards chasing that dream. As Captain Sensible once sang, “You got to have a dream/If you don’t have a dream/How you gonna have a dream come true?”
There’s a big industry of self-help gurus, motivational speakers, and life coaches who help people keep chasing their dreams. Tony Robbins has made $600 million just from yelling at people to keep working towards their dreams.
Or, if you believe in Manifesting, you don’t even have to work! To Manifest something, you just need to dream really, really hard and trust that The Universe will do all the hard work.
Oprah Winfrey is a big champion of Manifesting, and her website offers this advice on making your dreams come true:
When you’ve pinpointed exactly what your hopes, dreams, and goals are, you need to ask the universe for what you want. This can be done in a variety of ways—prayer, meditation, visualization, speaking your intentions out loud, a vision board and/or a “future box,” which is a container full of pictures of items you want to manifest—but you need to say exactly what you want.
You can also write your intention down on paper. If you’ve spent any time on TikTok, you might be familiar with the 369 method—in which you write down what you want in the following order: three times in the morning, six times in the afternoon, and nine times at night for 33 or 45 days—but it can also be as simple as a letter to the universe.
Maybe Gabrielle’s success wasn’t down to talent, hard work or good luck? Perhaps The Universe was peeking over her shoulder when she wrote the lyrics for ‘Dreams’ in her notebook, and The Universe decided to grant her wish.
Now, I don’t want to argue with the 24% of adults who believe in Manifesting, but all of this dream-chasing stuff sometimes feel like toxic positivity. People in their early 30s experience record-high levels of depression, much of it caused by a feeling that they’ve never got to live their dreams.
Dreams are nice, but what happens when they don’t come true
Gotta say how I feel
In Paul Thomas Anderson’s 1999 movie, Magnolia, William H Macy plays the former child star, Quiz Kid Donnie Smith.
Donnie tasted celebrity in the late 60s after his incredible run on a Jeopardy-style quiz show, but now he’s a middle-aged loser with a dead-end job. Still, Donnie never gives up on the possibility of finding success and true love.
The movie opens with Donnie listening to Gabrielle’s ‘Dreams’ on his car stereo, right before he crashes through a shop window:
(Spoiler alert: Donnie doesn’t find success or love. Also, there’s a bit where it rains frogs and Donnie is almost killed by a falling toad.)
Magnolia is a film about chaos, a world where people are constantly buffeted by forces they barely understand. The characters are following their dreams, but they’re thwarted by coincidences and random events (such as thousands of frogs falling from the sky).
Gabrielle’s own life story is an example of how life can veer off-course through no fault of your own
In 1996, Gabrielle was riding high after the success of her Platinum-certified second album and hit singles like ‘Give Me A Little More Time’. Her iconic eyepatch made her instantly recognisable, and she was becoming something of a national treasure.
One morning, the police knocked on her door to ask when she’d last seen Anthony Antoniou.
Antoniou was Gabrielle’s ex-partner and the father of her son. He’d been to visit recently and the visit had, from Gabrielle’s perspective, been entirely normal.
What she didn’t know was that Antoniou had brutally murdered his own stepfather. He then tried to conceal the evidence and carry on as normal—which included visiting Gabrielle and their son.
Gabrielle had to give evidence to prove she wasn’t an accessory, and she was soon released without charge. But the media still hounded her, drawn by the irresistible mix of gruesome violence and a pop star connection. Every report on the killing and subsequent trial included Gabrielle’s name.
She faded from the public eye after that. Her moment of stardom seemed to have ended.
You know you gotta have hope, you know you gotta be strong
An idea is growing in popularity at the moment, although it’s still spoken in somewhat hushed tones. I’ve heard it whispered on social media, in self-help books, in conversations with friends.
The idea is this:
Give up on your dreams.
It might sound downbeat, but it can actually be very liberating. Unfulfilled dreams can become a lifelong burden. People spend their 30s and 40s feeling empty inside because they didn’t become a pop star, they didn’t marry the cheerleader, or they don’t drive a Lambo. Even if your life is good, it can still feel empty because it’s not your dream.
So why not ditch it? Why not get a new dream? Or just take a deep breath and feel gratitude for what you have?
That’s kind of what Gabrielle did. After the trauma of the murder trial, she stepped back and focused on her two kids for a while. She says now that this was a good move for her, as it gave her a break from being treated like a piece of meat by her record label, who wanted to squeeze every penny from the Gabrielle brand.
In 1999, she returned to the spotlight with her third album Rise. The title track (which became her second Number One in 2000), featured the lines:
Just look at my hopes
Look at my dreams
I'm building bridges from these scenes
Now I'm ready to rise again
That lyric feels like a mature response to the optimism of her 1993 debut. Dreams are nice to have, but they have a nasty habit of crashing down around you. But that’s okay. You’re strong enough to start again.
Elsewhere in the charts
[Number 7 ↑] M People, ‘One Night In Heaven’
The first single from the smash-hit, award-winning album, Elegant Slumming. Like Gabrielle and many other 90s British soul, it suffers from bland production that’s somewhat dated now.
[Number 13, New] Jade, ‘I Wanna Love You’
Not much to say about this except that it’s not as good as ‘Don’t Walk Away’. Farewell, Jade, you will soon be eclipsed by SWV.
[Number 22, New] New Order, ‘Ruined In A Day’
Keith Allen directed a very odd video for this one (not available on YouTube, sadly) in which New Order play charades with a group of Buddhist monks. Hard to understand why they went in this direction. Maybe the monks were there to keep peace between Bernard and Peter?
[Number 31, New] Smashing Pumpkins, ‘Cherub Rock’
After posting about this track on Instagram recently (follow us there!), I’ve come to the following conclusion: everyone loves Smashing Pumpkins but hates Billy Corgan.
[Number 39, New] RuPaul, ‘Supermodel (You Better Work)’
Weird to think that drag queens were less controversial in 1993 than in 2023.
Album of the Week
Manic Street Preachers, Gold Against The Soul
But we didn’t explore why he hated Slowdive so much. It wasn’t just that he disliked the music, but that he felt that the music was fundamentally useless. Souvlaki might appeal to students smoking pot in their bedsits, but it wasn’t relevant to the average kid working in a chipper or a factory.
Music, Richey believed, should be socially useful. And to be useful, it must be accessible.
This is the key to the Manics mythos—and a big part of why Gold Against The Soul sounds the way it does. Behind all of the chaos and hyperbole and literal bloodshed, there was a burning desire to create something that could be a tool for liberation.
So, you hear a hook-driven rock song like ‘From Despair To Where’, and while you’re bopping along, you hear the lyrics about “open-mouthed crowds/pass each other as if they’re drugged/down pale corridors of routine”, and you realise that yes, there’s something not quite right in this world and yes, other people have noticed it too.
That was the theory anyway.
Most people, including the Manics themselves, regard Gold Against The Soul as a failed experiment. The album flickered in the charts and this era ended in the humiliation of disastrous appearance as Bon Jovi’s support act (Jon called them “The Maniac Street Preachers”).
The main complaint about Gold Against The Soul is its glossy production, a throwback to Appetite to Destruction when the world wanted Nevermind. The whole record seemed almost wilfully anti-zeitgeist.
For the small legion of GATS die-hards, that’s why it’s so great.
See, grunge by now was just as mainstream as pop music, and flannel shirts were as ubiquitous as football jerseys. If you felt like an outsider, grunge wasn’t going to make you feel better about yourself.
Genuine freaks were still culturally homeless. Which is why it was so thrilling to hear a kitschy guitar riff while James grunts lyrics like “my contemporaries are so in control/”Fuck you, fuck you”, I grunt and groan”
Perhaps the one concession to grunge here is that the lyrics are a lot more inward-looking than Generation Terrorists. There are still references to the miner’s strike and an entire song about WWII veterans, but we also get the claustrophobic self-hatred of ‘Yourself’ and ‘Life Becoming A Landslide’.
In these songs, we hear the seeds of The Holy Bible, where The Maniacs will forget about utilitarian pop music and instead try to make the bleakest record ever heard.
But that wasn’t the original vision of the MSP project. The goal was always to make songs as catchy and thoughtful as ‘Sleepflower’, in the hope that people might find them useful.
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