Jyoti Mishra founded White Town in the UK in the late 80s after seeing a Pixies show. What began as a full complement of players dwindled down fairly quickly into a one-man operation with Mishra playing keyboards and creating his own beats on a drum machine.
In 1996, while watching a TV series called Pennies From Heaven, Mishra heard a song called “My Woman,” as performed by Lew Stone & The Monseigneur Band back in the 1930s. He decided to sample a horn riff from the track and build his own song around it using an 8-track recorder and his spare room for a studio.
Having no money, and no record label, Mishra could only afford to press five copies. One of these he sent to a popular radio DJ in London who actually played the unsolicited track on his show, and it subsequently became the most requested track of the week. Things happened quickly then as Mishra (aka White Town) signed with EMI and the single shot to #1 on the UK chart when released in early 1997. Suddenly, White Town’s “Your Woman” was everywhere: on the MTV, on the radio, and in da club.
Think about that for a moment. Imagine yourself writing a song and recording it in your bedroom. Imagine sending it to a local DJ, or–dream big–Ryan Seacrest. A few months later you sign a record deal with one of the most prestigious labels in music history, and the following year you have the #1 song in the country, Top 10 all over the world. That’s catching the zeitgeist.
Of course, once you catch that wave, the trick is to keep riding it. That’s the hard part, and White Town was never able to repeat that one moment of magic.