Released: 28th May 2001
Writers: Mark Topham / Karl Twigg
Peak position: #4
Chart run: 4-13-17-26-34-43-54-60-49-63
For a pop group like Steps with a bulging catalogue of hits, some will inevitably fall by the wayside. You’ll Be Sorry is very much the black sheep of the family; it remains among the group’s lowest-selling singles and was also the only one to be omitted from their (first) greatest hits compilation.
The release of the Buzz album saw Steps again attempt to assert their popularity in America, but it came at the expense of the UK. While the group had previously juggled their global commitments, this time things were left to lapse. It had been almost six months since their last single It’s The Way You Make Me Feel and, in the meantime, Buzz had dropped off the chart. For the first time since their debut, it felt like there was a distinct lack of momentum behind Steps. In which case, what better way to try and breathe life back into the album campaign than with a good old double-A side? Oh, and a B-side that just so happened to be one of the best songs the group ever recorded.
Both Here & Now and You’ll Be Sorry were obvious candidates to be released from Buzz, albeit for different reasons. That said, it was Never Get Over You which won a poll on the group’s website to decide the next single. The decision to turn a blind eye to the result was disappointing, but not entirely surprising because it didn’t quite fit with the evolution in sound that was now earning Steps some long-overdue critical plaudits. And as it turns out, this wasn’t the only time during the release of Here & Now/You’ll Be Sorry that the fans would get short shrift. Nevertheless, in the meantime, both tracks were more than deserving of being elevated to single status and further strengthened the group’s growing catalogue of hits.
For the release of the double-A side, both songs received radio edits, which proved to be something of a mixed bag. While Here & Now benefited from a nip and tuck (more formally known as the Q-Street Mix), You’ll Be Sorry lost more than it gained. In that respect, The Pardon Mix is not necessarily the best way to listen to the track. Although it amounts to little more than the start and end being cropped, some of the highlights are within the 30 seconds that were scrapped.
You’ll Be Sorry is – very deliberately – reminiscent of Deeper Shade Of Blue. It was cut from the same songwriting and production team and again sounds like a dance track that has been edited down into a four-minute pop song. It’s very obviously intended as a continuation but does much more than merely re-tread now-familiar ground. It’s a tale of heartbreak (what else), but instead of the morose self-pitying of Deeper Shade Of Blue, here we find Steps delivering a massive ‘f**k you’ against a backdrop of harsh, cold synths. Few tracks in the group’s oeuvre felt so aggressive and unsympathetic: “Heaven knows you’ll be back again, when you feel the cold, and the truth will find you out, for all the lies you sold”. The verses are left entirely in H’s hands, and it’s one of his finest performances; there’s a detached aloofness to the delivery, which perfectly captures the spite in the lyrics.
There’s a great transition towards the chorus: “I waited so long for you, now what am I supposed to do”, where all – or the majority, at least – of the group are audible. The chorus, however, adopts a rather interesting approach in that Steps’ voices are blended to such an extent that they become indistinguishable from one another. It’s certainly one way of getting around the contentious issue of Claire’s dominance, but it leaves You’ll Be Sorry sounding curiously anonymous. That doesn’t change the fact that the chorus is a tour-de-force and positively dripping with scorn: “Just wait and see how you’ll be sorry, one day your sky’s gonna rain, one day believe me you’ll come running, back to me again”. However, it’s the individual performances, infrequent though they may be, that are the highlights of You’ll Be Sorry. H’s: “When you realise I’m not forgiv-EH-EH-EN” into Claire’s: “Not forgiving YOU…” during the middle-eight is utterly tremendous. Meanwhile, Faye’s urgent ad-libs accompany the final chorus, culminating in a triumphantly shrill: “You’ll be coming BA-AH-ACK” and a thumping outro with distorted vocals floating around it. Alas, all of that was ditched for The Pardon Mix, which instead closes immediately with an abrupt series of synth strikes. Giving You’ll Be Sorry a punctuated end made perfect sense from a performance perspective. But it’s just a shame that the sole purpose was to shave seconds from the running time, rather than embrace and enhance the parts of the song that worked well.
The music video for You’ll Be Sorry also threw up some problems of its own. Double-A sides were common, but the single introduced a novel idea where one video would link to the other. In Here & Now, Steps find their way through a hedge maze and board a spaceship at the end. You’ll Be Sorry opens with the vessel landing in a weird discombobulated dimension which re-uses some of the CGI elements – like the hedge maze – from the first video. This wasn’t the original plan, because the group had initially recruited some competition winners to appear in the visual. The footage was filmed, but unable to be used due to issues with the green screen and special effects. Thus, the result is essentially Steps dancing in a disused Doctor Who set, with the occasional backdrop that resembles a Windows 95 screensaver. It’s not a bad video, per se, it’s just entirely uneventful and underwhelming after a six-month wait.
Steps were certainly not the only act to use a double-A side strategically. But this was the first time that one of the group’s releases felt so transparent in its attempt to prolong their streak of top-five singles. The single was quite literally split between two CDs, with one radio edit on each. Here & Now was the main draw, but You’ll Be Sorry had a trick up its sleeve: a B-side. And not just any old B-side. It came with the long-awaited physical release of Just Like The First Time.
In all honesty, this is a song that deserves a write-up of its own. But alas, it wasn’t a single. Indeed, it wasn’t even an album track (unless you lived in Japan or Australia, where it was included on Steptacular). Just Like The First Time was initially performed as a solo number by Lisa Scott-Lee during Steps’ first arena tour in 1999, and she remains lead vocalist on the studio version, which is everything you could want and more. It typifies everything the group was renowned for; there’s a dramatic build-up during the first verse, a hook-laden chorus and the whole thing is brimming with unbridled joy. The inclusion of Claire during the middle-eight additionally creates one of the group’s most blisteringly brilliant moments: “My heart keeps telling me you’re gone, can’t re-write history move on, somehow I broke the golden RU-OOH-ULE, like a BOLT from the BLUE, I’m falling for YOOOOOOOOU…”. It is no exaggeration to say that Just Like The First Time is as good as – if not better than – a large proportion of Steps’ singles. And for a group with such a consistently strong strike rate, that’s a compliment, not a criticism. Quite how this song ended up on the periphery of their back-catalogue remains a mystery, but it has, if nothing else, remained a genuinely delightful curio.
Here & Now/You’ll Be Sorry duly became another top-five hit for Steps when it peaked at #4. It didn’t hang around for long though and became one of the group’s lowest sellers. Something about this release just didn’t sit right; it felt like the record label had taken their eye off the ball and hurriedly thrown together a will-this-do single to try and squeeze a few more sales out of Buzz. Both Here & Now and You’ll Be Sorry deserved better than to be an afterthought and – either together or individually – would perhaps have been served better with an earlier release while there was still some momentum behind the album campaign.
On the surface, this was business as usual for Steps, but it felt like something behind-the-scenes had shifted. Rumours soon surfaced that the group’s next release would be a greatest hits compilation. And everyone – whether they chose to believe it or not – knew what that meant…