The Spaceman Cometh (Again)
It's late afternoon and nearly dark. I ring the flat doorbell and a man in black wearing tinted glasses and with almost alien features answers the door.

"How yow doing?" he says in a broad West Midlands accent. This is no extra terrestrial being, but the man responsible for one of the best-selling songs of the decade.

In the first week of its release Spaceman sold a massive 420,000 copies, sending its creator Babylon Zoo, aka Jas Mann, into orbit.

The song was used in the then current Levi jeans advert and went on to sell millions around the world.

That was at the start of 1996, but then things started to go wrong. The follow-up single peaked at number 17 and the third single fared even worse.

Now Babylon Zoo, or Jas, is back and hoping to storm the charts with the latest offering, All the Money's Gone.

Sitting in his West London flat, 27-year-old Mann remains philosophical about what has happened to him on pop's roller coaster.

"It was a surreal experience when everything started to happen. You'd turn up at an airport to be greeted by 3,000 screaming kids.

"We sold about three and a half million records around the world in the space of a month. It seemed like everybody wanted to know this Asian guy who was playing rock'n'roll.

"I remember the first place I went to was Milan - there was just me, my guitar and my manager. There was all these bouquets of flowers and all what seemed like thousands of people. It was just mad.

"My first thought was, who's arriving after me? You just can't imagine all these people have turned out to see you.

"There was all these gun-carrying uniformed guards and one signalled over to me. I thought he was going to pull his gun but he reached into his pocket and pulled out 10 picture postcards of me and said 'could you sign them for my family?'

In a strange-but-true revelation, Mann confides he had already been talking to the directors of the jeans advert about doing the video for his debut track.

"They had heard my song before they started work on the advert and when they got the contract they got in touch with me to ask if they could use Spaceman.

"I said yes because I was really keen to work with them."

Even now Mann isn't bitter about being associated with just one song.

"I don't mind being labelled because of Spaceman because as a song it's still strong and that's three years on. But having such a success does go against you."

After such a rip-roaring start, Mann's career faltered and his new single is the first offering from Babylon Zoo for more than 18 months.

"I won't deny that the success of this single is important for me to survive. I do want my music be successful and be heard. Otherwise I won't be able to make another album.

"But being told you're a one hit wonder is nothing compared to the fight you have when you have to start out. That was a nightmare.

"To begin with at home you have to try and explain to your relatives who just keep saying 'get a job'. That pressure is triple on Indian youngsters because there are no role models for us."

He was born Jaswinder Mann in Dudley, West Midlands. When he was three his family moved to India, living in the Himalayas for two years before returning home to the Midlands.

As a teenager he spent the majority of nights locked in his bedroom reading Marvel comics, science fiction books and watching Indian movies.

At the age of 11 he started playing the guitar when his dad brought a second-hand Fender from one of Mann's friends who was more interested in becoming a footballer.

Mann explains: "I was never really into going out. With our culture, going out boozing wasn't a big thing. It was never really encouraged by my parents.

"It was more, 'Go up to your room and study'. My folks are pretty good - my mum is a clothes designer and she's been a good influence on me creatively, while my dad worked in a foundry so he's kept my feet on the ground.

"I think they realised after a few years that music was what I wanted to do. To begin with all I used to do was turn the sound down on my telly and make up my own soundtrack. I got a bit obsessed by it, I suppose."

Mann has already performed the new single on the National Lottery and Live & Kicking, but it has failed to be play-listed by Radio 1. This is not a new experience for Jas.

"Radio 1 never played Spaceman. It was the biggest selling record with the least amount of plays ever. It got two playlists. They've never played my records - it's always been, 'We like it but it doesn't fit into our programming'."

Undaunted by what the future holds, Mann is planning a collaboration with Mott The Hoople's Ian Hunter, and soundtrack genius John Barry is arranging the strings for one of the album tracks.

"Time will tell. You do get stigmas attached but in the end if you produce good material it does break through," he says.

Whatever the case it won't be long until Mann finds out if he can get back into the Top 40 and exorcise the 'one hit wonder' ghost.
 
Other Information
Jas, fully named 'Jasbinder', was born in Dudley in the West Midlands on the 24th day of April 1971

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