27
Oct 08

FERN KINNEY – “Together We Are Beautiful”

FT + Popular51 comments • 4,858 views

#453, 15th March 1980

After “Atomic”, this is something of a let-down: a record about modesty that succeeds, modestly. I’m fond of “Together”, actually: there’s something refreshing about the candour of “I’ve been with better looking guys / You’ve been with prettier looking women”, and I like its rather tidy, bubbly take on disco. It’s a song that sets out to be sweet, and despite a somewhat cloying chorus it gets there. But ‘sweet’, in the middle of a landmark era for pop, isn’t really enough.

5

Comments

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  1. 26
    Will on 28 Oct 2008 #

    I remember this one all too well. I hated it. It’s the very epitome of a ‘Radio 2 record’; the kind of thing my mum would have nodded along to during TOTP while I grated my teeth. I seem to recall it had a stomach-turning cheesy organ solo too. 5 is very generous, I’d say.

  2. 27
    Mark G on 28 Oct 2008 #

    #25 – I find it’s Steve Allan, who got to number 67 in 1979, thanks to an online book of British hit singles…

  3. 28
    Rob K on 28 Oct 2008 #

    In a week we go from total horn to total corn. A slight number whose melody has stayed surprisingly clear in my memory it’s notable for having an organ break that comes straight from the Blackpool Winter Gardens ballroom dancing class.
    “I am the rain he is the sun and now we’ve made a rainbow” is indicative of the faintly embarrassing lyrical content but who cares? I haven’t heard this song for years and years but I could sing the first few lines and chorus immediately. An affectionate 5 from me.

  4. 29
    Malice Cooper on 28 Oct 2008 #

    Extremely weak I thought at the time and still do. It sounds like it cost $200 to make and I still don’t understand what took it to the top. She doesn’t have a good voice at all.

  5. 30
    intothefireuk on 29 Oct 2008 #

    The worst part of it is the dreadfully embarassing lyrics, the best, the horribly ugly Bontempi-style organ break. Not a record I could love.

  6. 31
    wichita lineman on 29 Oct 2008 #

    Re 16: As shown by Daniel Meadows’ phenomenal photo-document The Bus. Never been to Barrow to check if the people are more beautiful en masse.

    Re 27: It was a Radio 2 hit by Steve Allen too, and the words sound even sicklier and rather creepy coming from a cream-voiced man. I thought it was a few years older which would have explained the hippy-dippyness, but I guess it was just lousy. What are the redeeming qualities? I agree with Will, a 2 at best.

    Baby Jump is still unfathomable (which is why I love it). This got to no.1 for similar reasons to Dr Hook – soft disco for parents, with a big push from Terry Wogan. Disco was dying, with this cheese puff indicative of the death throes (the week Fern hit no.1 Liquid Gold’s Seaside Special take on the genre, Dance Yourself Dizzy was at 14 on its way to no.2; the Nolans’ I’m In The Mood For Dancing at 42 on its way down from 3; and a soon-come no.1 from Detroit that I won’t mention was at 20).

    More interesting club hits of March ’80 were far less generic, closer to jazz or funk (you know where this is heading, and the term ‘disco’ would be replaced by it before 1980 was out): two hugely atmospheric party songs were the Brothers Johnson’s Stomp at 25 and the Gibson Brothers’ Cuba at 16, both of which would have been deserving Popular entries.

  7. 32
    mike on 29 Oct 2008 #

    I’d still stick up for cheesy late-period wally disco, though; “Dance Yourself Dizzy” was great! Same goes for Ottawan, The Nolans (“Who’s Gonna Rock You”, with that killer reference to “party people freaking in their groove”) and Coffee’s “Casanova”, amongst others (including at least two forthcoming 1980 Number Ones).

    However, I’ll agree that this was all eclipsed by the sharp turn which the classier end of the genre took, almost bang on cue as 1979 turned into 1980. Early 1980s soul/funk (or “boogie” if we must) produced so many timeless classics…

  8. 33
    wichita lineman on 29 Oct 2008 #

    I’d include Coffee’s Casanova in the ‘classy’ category, too! But I like the idea of Wally Disco as a subgenre. Are the Nolans the only act to encompass Wally Disco and New Pop?

  9. 34
    Conrad on 29 Oct 2008 #

    I would add Hi Gloss “You’ll Never Know” to the classy category.

    And for early ’80, I love “Dance Yourself Dizzy”. It reminds me of Baccara but less luxurious, more ecstatic.

    Along with “Cuba” and “Stomp”, Spring of 1980 produced some great disco-Top 40 crossover hits, like Narada Michael Walden’s “I Shoulda Loved Ya” (great bass intro) and Rodney Franklin’s “The Groove” (more jazz-funk admittedly).

    As for Fern, it’s ok – I disliked it at the time, it doesn’t offend me now. 4 for me.

  10. 35
    AndyPandy on 29 Oct 2008 #

    I actually thought this wasn’t too bad at the time…quite pleasant. And it was always held in more esteem than stuff of the Liquid Gold, Kelly Marie, Gibson Brothers ilk. I think whoever said it was bought mostly by “parents” was pretty wide of the mark. I’d say the average buyer of this type of single were working class girls in their teens and early twenties.The kind of girls I went to school with at the time. The kind of stuff they’d have danced to down their local disco when the slow dances came on.

  11. 36
    Chris Brown on 29 Oct 2008 #

    Suddenly realised I hadn’t commented at all since we hit the eighties. Don’t worry (or do?) I haven’t retired yet.

    I think I remember what this sounded like, though not from the time obviously. As a result I’m neither curious nor excited enough to research it, but the record I remember was alright.

  12. 37
    Malice Cooper on 30 Oct 2008 #

    Nobody has mentioned Charo and the Salsoul orchestra “Dance a little bit closer”. That was real disco!

    This is the unforgettable promo clip

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=57_CJNL4eXc

  13. 38
    Billy Smart on 1 Nov 2008 #

    TOTPWatch: Fern Kinney performed ‘Together We Are Beautiful on 2 occasions; February 22nd 1980 and December 25th 1980.

    Also in the studio on February 22nd were; Shakin’ Stevens, The Beat and Iron Maiden, plus Legs & Co’s interpretation of ‘And The Beat Goes On’. The host was Peter Powell.

  14. 39
    Bob Barnes on 11 Nov 2008 #

    This record has an interesting history. Fern Kinney was the daughter of the family that owned Warner Communications Inc, the company that owned WEA (Warner, Elekra, Atlantic). Originally called Kinney National, it changed its name to Warner Communications. Kinney was a huge conglomorate that included Kinney Parking Systems – owning multi-storey car parks in the USA.

    Because of the family connection, when Fern Kinney released “Together We Are Beautiful”, all the stops were pulled out on both sides of the Atlantic, to ensure the record was a hit. At the time, in the UK, WEA Records had a “knack” of creating hit records. That “knack” was subsequently exposed on an ITV “World In Action” programme, which lead to the removal of the UK boss of WEA Records, (who also resigned his chairmanship of the BPI).

  15. 40
    AndyPandy on 12 Nov 2008 #

    Surely No 39 is a wind up.Kinney Parking was originally a mob owned company from the north-east (New York?) which after a few transformations and being bought by a more legit businessman bought the ailing Warner Brothers music. Fern Kinney was a black woman from the south (Jackson,Mississipi) who made her living as a session singer and who returned to that after her solo disco career finished.

  16. 41
    wichita lineman on 12 Nov 2008 #

    For shame! 39 was a good yarn, though I was wondering how such string-pulling could result in Fern being a one-hit wonder. Is the WEA/World In Action part true, then? I wouldn’t have thought the chart positions of Change or Cats UK reflected dodgy dealings.

  17. 42
    Pete Baran on 12 Nov 2008 #

    The WEA – World In Action story is referenced in this Music Week obit Of John Fruin:
    http://www.musicweek.com/story.asp?storyCode=23632&sectioncode=1
    “Embarrassingly Fruin, who was serving as WEA managing director and chairman of the BPI at the time, was embroiled in a major 1980 World in Action expose of chart rigging practices. “Everyone was doing it at the time,” explains Florey. “John was the fall guy.” The probe into the industry malpractice effectively ended Fruin’s years working at labels, but he demonstrated his entrepreneurial acumen and business skills by establishing SP&S in the early 80s, which quickly became Europe’s largest wholesaler of deleted records.”

    Where are those online World In Action archives when you want them (the only one I can find on YouTube is the World In Action Acid House expose).

  18. 43
    Erithian on 12 Nov 2008 #

    Wasn’t Fruin namechecked in BA Robertson’s “Bang Bang”?

  19. 44
    mike on 12 Nov 2008 #

    Erithian beat me to it!

    The lyric in question was: “Life was in a ruin, she loved Johnny Fruin”.

    B.A. Robertson was an Asylum recording artist. Asylum were distributed by WEA. “Bang Bang” was the singularly uncharismatic Robertson’s first hit, seemingly appearing from nowhere. Draw your own conclusions!

  20. 45
    Bob on 13 Nov 2008 #

    With reference to No. 40. Perhaps more research is needed, but I worked in record retail at the time, and had a number of friends in the sales dept of WEA. The pressure on them to get a hit was huge – and they were told Fern Kinney was the daughter to “one of the family”. At the time all the catalogue numbers to WEA record releases were K something. eg: K40008 was the Led Zep 4 album. K456789 was Chrisopher cross album. (These are from memory by the way). The K stood for Kinney.

    Whilst on name checks of Warner exec on records. Can anyone tell me which Chairman of Warner Music UK gets a name check on a No.1 single? (Answer in next comment).

  21. 46
    Bob on 13 Nov 2008 #

    Answer to No. 45

    Rob Dickins. in Orinoco Flow by Enya.

    Rob Dickins was CEO of Warners from the mid-1980s to mid 1990s.

    We can steer, we can near
    With Rob Dickins at the wheel
    We can sigh, say goodbye
    Ross and its dependency
    We can sail, we can sail (sail away, sail away, sail away)

  22. 47
    rosie on 13 Nov 2008 #

    [FX: Sets about Bob with large carrot]

  23. 48
    Erithian on 13 Nov 2008 #

    Another big hit seemingly appearing from nowhere, in Mike’s words. Chin-strokingly curious.

  24. 49
    wichitalineman on 26 May 2009 #

    K-Tel watch: they obviously didn’t figure on it being a no.1 when they licensed it, track 8 on side 1 of Hot Wax which ran like this:
    No Doubt About It – Hot Chocolate
    No Self Control – Peter Gabriel
    All Night Long – Rainbow
    Fool For Your Loving – Whitesnake
    Living After Midnight – Judas Priest
    Kool In The Kaftan – BA Robertson
    Don’t Push It Don’t Force It – Leon Haywood
    Together We Are Beautiful – Fern Kinney
    Everybody’s Got To Learn Sometime – The Korgis
    My Oh My – Sad Cafe

  25. 50
    punctum on 15 Oct 2009 #

    It may be that “Good Times” was as far as disco could go, and “Rappers Delight” a fitting beginning of another time, but “Together We Are Beautiful” is a disco hit which seems to be deliberately looking backwards towards the days of Philly – and there was another one to come virtually on its heels – though in this particular case only up to a point. The gentle shuffle and serenading strings suggest a return to “When Will I See You Again?” but the underlying rhythmic looseness, together with the spaces between shimmering organ and clipped guitar, are strangely redolent of lovers’ rock; the track is one heartbeat away from a skank.

    Like Anita Ward, Kinney was a jobbing soul session singer who struck lucky only the once. The overall impression from her performance is one of quietened awe; she has found her Other and swims in reveries of reverence. “I don’t need love affairs any more,” she reflects, and it seems an effort to express adequately the utter joy she clearly feels – “Can’t you see? It’s the chemistry.”

    The song celebrates love as a noble purity; witness her blushing aside of “I’ve gone with better looking guys/He’s gone with better looking girls/But now we’re beautiful” (and, just for the record, I have NEVER gone with better looking girls, oh no…)…but you get the picture; it’s a more sophisticated and reflective take on “My Guy” as filtered through elements of Minnie Riperton: “I am the rain, he is the sun/And now we’ve made a rainbow.”

    It’s nowhere near as profound or transcendent as Minnie at her highest (“Inside My Love”) but neither is the record as corny as other commentators have sometimes made out; the sustained chords bring us back to the rosary and hymn book, and the minor key subtext to the “together” of the title as sung in the chorus implies a kind of worship, as spelled out in the final, face-the-world verse: “And if the whole world fell in love/Just like me and my man/This would be beautiful.” As with “Welcome Home,” the personal scenario is transformed into the universal; and as a number one single I think it’s similarly underrated.

  26. 51
    Lazarus on 21 Aug 2016 #

    Good to see a mention of Charo and the Salsoul Orchestra at #37. Gives me an excuse to mention a wonderful malapropism on the Youtube comments, to the effect that she’s not much of a singer or dancer but is a terrific flamingo guitarist! I wonder if that means she plays standing on one leg?

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