Sam Nixon and Mark Rhodes are one of the genuine success stories of reality TV pop. From the neutral’s perspective a large part of that success is that after this brief fling pop and ‘Smark’ left one another well alone. Instead theirs is a charming story: two young hopefuls enter Pop Idol, come second and third, and are smooshed together into a duo by a Simon Cowell needing a plan B after the Michelle affair.

Cowell’s instincts were half right. There’s no detectable on-record chemistry between Sam and Mark, but the two got on well enough to turn a moment into an 18-year career as kids TV presenters, DJs, celebrity contestants, and whatever else you need two likeable Northern lads for… assuming you can’t afford the other ones. Yes, Sam and Mark are very much the Leopard From Lime Street to Ant & Dec’s Spider-Man, but they’ve set their shoulders to that wheel unstintingly, and good for them.

It is inescapable, though, that at one point in this heartwarming tale they did make a record, and it did get to Number 1. It’s not difficult to see why this song was picked. Sam and Mark had become friends, they were helping one another… you don’t make money in this game being subtle, chum. 

Also, it had been Number One twice already. Long-time readers won’t exactly be surprised to learn that i) I like this “With A Little Help From My Friends” best of the three, and ii) that really isn’t saying much. The worst part of the song is when Smark (or is it Mam) does a hand-me-down Cocker-via-Pellow bellow on “I know it’s mine”; for the rest they stay in their lane and push through it.

As has often been the case with pop covers of this period, the music is a bit stranger. This version of “Friends” is arranged for a basic, thudding beat with snippets of strings and what sounds like a mellotron. There’s no mellotron on the Beatles’ track but it’s the most recognisably “Beatley” sound in pop, and that’s how it’s being used here. The overall effect is like a pub rock remix of Candy Flip’s “Strawberry Fields Forever”.

It’s a funny way to say goodbye to the Beatles’ involvement in Popular. They make one more cameo as part of a medley, but this, to date, ends the 41-year history of people getting to No.1 solely on the back of Lennon-McCartney songs. Only a few years before they had seemed like a crucial reference point again, but even then Oasis and their followers ended up reducing the Beatles’ music to a few sonic tics, just like Sam And Mark’s song does. And perhaps it’s appropriate their run ends here, with the light entertainment world they squeezed into and outgrew rising up to reclaim pop as its own.

Score: 4

[Logged in users can award their own score]