My first contribution to Something for the Weekend comes from the late, hugely missed and hugely talented Kirsty MacColl. But my choice of song is perhaps an obscure one – after all, the song was never released. I only know it from her brilliant From Croydon to Cuba Anthology. If you read on, you’ll understand why I chose this particular song from Kirsty’s back-catalogue for Citizens of Boomtown.
A bit of the backstory….
The seventeen-year-old Kirsty MacColl started out as singer with the Croydon band the Drug Addix, butshe started to write some stuff herself and eventually got picked up in ‘78/79 by Stiff Records. Sounds good so far butI don’t think it’s too unfair to describe what followed as a bit of a mess. Kirsty didn’t feel Stiff gave her the control she wanted over her music and a split was inevitable. But not before a new single You Caught Me Out was in the pipeline. Although never released, it was a close thing and there are a handful of highly sought-after test pressings of the 45 in circulation.
Moving on and after a lot of demo work, Kirsty eventually signed with Polydor and released her first full album Desperate Character in 1981. Desperate Character didn’t do that well and although work on a second un-named album was well underway, Polydor appear to have lost faith in her. WHAT a mistake! Judging from thetracks that survived from the Real Sessions, thissecond album heralded a completely new direction for Kirsty. Very much of its time (early eighties) and with a new electronic dance vibe, topped with her characteristic vocals and ever-present clever song writing, the surviving songs are Really(!) strong and I Really(!) like the Real Sessions material. It’s a Real(!) shame the album never got finished (OMG, I’m descending into BBC-style puns…where’s that whiskey!)
After the issues with Polydor, Kirsty re-joined Stiff Records and returned to the 60s-inspired multi-layered girl-group vocal style that had brought her early success. Very quickly however, she got the chart-recognition she deserved with her superb cover of Billy Bragg’s A New England. Stiff ‘folded’ in 1985 (they weren’t so Stiff then!) and once more, Kirsty found herself without a label. After a period of legal limbo which prevented her from working on her own material, she eventually signed with Virgin Records, releasing the wonderful album Kite. Kirsty stayed with Virgin until her untimely death in a boat accident in Mexico in 2000. Her Latin infused last album Tropical Brainstorm is brilliant - well worth checking out if you haven’t heard it. At the very least I’d recommend In these shoes? or Here comes that man again to get a real flavour of the mature wit she weaved into everything she did.
RIP Kirsty MacColl.
But back to You Caught Me Out
Co-written with our very own Pete Briquette and Simon Crowe (now you get the Citizens of Boomtown link…) and with Pete, Simon and Johnnie Fingers playing on the record, I really loved this song the first time I heard it on the From Croydon to Cuba Anthology. Initially, I didn’t know the Rats had any part in it but the unmistakeable powerhouse drumming, the fast-paced bass-line and the very Fine Art of Surfacing-style keyboards had me quicky reaching for the sleeve notes…and that’s when the penny dropped!
I can’t help thinking there are lots of ‘what ifs’ associated with this record and with Kirsty’s career as a whole. I reckon You Caught Me Out was a sure-fire hit and with the Rats at the peak of their chart success, who knows what would have followed???