Nov 08

KELLY MARIE – “Feels Like I’m In Love”

FT + Popular98 comments • 5,865 views

#466, 13th September 1980

One of the things that gives 1980’s number ones a queer, lopsided aspect is the way there’s not much of a middleground between hits which emerged more or less direct from youth subcultures and those shepherded into popularity by the likes of Noel Edmonds. In particular the pre-teen and tween market seems pretty dead at this point. This void would soon be filled with sound and light and ribbons and stripey noses but meanwhile pop was the stamping ground of young adults and not-so-young ones, a world in which hormone rushes had been replaced by messily consequential relationships.

The curious child – a seven-year-old like me – might have found this grown-up pop scary, mysterious and compelling. But (and this is what I did in fact do) they might also opt out entirely. My parents weren’t interested, and any influence I had over the TV ended with the closing Blue Peter theme. In Autumn 1980 I changed schools, and started getting more homework, so bedtime was rolled back: this is where I start remembering news stories (Mount St Helens, the Moscow Olympics), and could watch Top Of The Pops regularly. Not because I wanted to, just because it was there. If I’d grown up now, in a multi-channel world where I could have watched cartoons and sci-fi shows and dinosaur documentaries all afternoon, I might never have cared much about pop at all.

Kelly Marie falls just before this cut-off point, so what has this got to do with her? Just that there actually was still a version of pop made available to kids, a kind of light ent junior centered around Swap Shop and TISWAS on a Saturday morning. The watchword here wasn’t kid appeal but cheapness – low cost alternatives to chart staples with presumably low booking fees: Budgens singer-songwriters and Woolworths disco. This half-remembered take on pop culture isn’t much represented on Popular, unsurprisingly given that the major star was the omnipresent and quite useless B.A. Robertson. But Kelly Marie was totally part of it, of pop as I actually experienced it in 1980 – which perhaps explains why I’m fond of what is by any reasonable standard a shoddy bit of work.

“Feels Like” is a grotty, grubby, British version of disco, the syndrum hits from “Ring My Bell” relocated to the Maplins Hawaiian Ballroom, busybodying you onto the dancefloor. If the fantasy of disco – decadent, sexual, aspirational – has a Playboy style appeal, Kelly Marie was more readers’ wivesy. That’s not really because of her mildly saucy performances, it’s more to do with her vowelly vocal line – “fee-uhls like ah’m in lu-huv!” (DOO DOO). It gives the record an enthusiastically amateurish air, like it’s a karaoke version of itself. For listeners with a stake in club music, Kelly was no doubt a horror show, but in a year low on bubblegum I find it hard to judge too harshly.



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  1. 1
    rosie on 26 Nov 2008 #

    Nice to have a bit of bubblegum back, after all. As you rightly say, something slightly amateurish which makes it fine for the kind of places most people were doing their dancing – not the sophisticated metropolitan clubs frequented by serious subculturalists and their acolytes in the music press, but the masses out there in Stevenage and Bedford and, come to think of it, Hull. Where by this time I was grateful to have a babysitter in and go out with a bunch of friends for a bit of respite. All those nice warm fuzzies were wearing off. My marriage was starting to unravel. For this relief much thanks.

    This is the sound of a thousand college discos, community centres and Tiffany’s in Ferensway, Hull. The sound of the masses letting their hair down. It’s not great music, it’s not poetry, and it has no depth whatsoever, but it’s full of energy to make you feel good on a Friday night.

    A last hurrah too, I think, for Ray Dorset.

  2. 2
    Matthew H on 26 Nov 2008 #

    Clearly a hefty vocal influence on Clare Grogan.

    Well, a bit.

    Tremendously catchy ersatz disco fun, anyway. What’s not to love?

  3. 3
    Billy Smart on 26 Nov 2008 #

    There’s an inclusivity to the end of the pier feel of this single that – self-evidently superior though it is – there isn’t to the same degree in Ring My Bell. Its almost like this single is the most enjoyable karaoke performance you’ve ever heard.

    Another great pleasure of this is the merry-go round feel of it going slightly too fast for comfort, adding to the giddy, amateur sexiness and charm of the thing.

    No-body has yet said here that Ray Dorset orinally wrote it for Elvis Presley. Imagine how good that could have been in a ‘Burning Love’/ ‘Way Down’ style. “Wooo-Hooo-Hooo! Ma head is in a spin…”

    I think that the reactions of seven year old and thirty six year old Billy are exactly the same when I hear this cheery performance.

  4. 4
    Billy Smart on 26 Nov 2008 #

    #2 watch: Two weeks of Randy Crawford’s ‘One Day I’ll Fly Away’. A bit boring.

  5. 5
    Billy Smart on 26 Nov 2008 #

    TOTP Watch: Kelly Marie performed ‘Feels Like I’m In Love’ twice; the 21st of August 1980 and the 1st of January 1981.

    Also in the studio on August the 21st 1980 were; The Nick Straker Band, Sheena Easton, Shakin’ Stevens, Hazel O’Connor and Cliff Richard, plus Legs & Co’s infamous interpretation of ‘Bankrobber’. The hosts were Steve Wright and Cliff Richard.

  6. 6
    mike on 26 Nov 2008 #

    Obligatory “Strange But True” Fascinating Fact: Mungo Jerry’s Ray Dorset originally wrote this song for Elvis Presley. (Try singing it in your head in late-Elvis style. It sort-of works.)

    Yet another 1980 chart-topper for the provincial Wally Disco Silent Majority contingent (as Rosie points out), to file alongside “Xanadu”, “Use It Up And Wear It Out”, “Working My Way Back To You” and “Together We Are Beautiful”. As Dale would say (and this pretty much applies to all five of them): it was a little bit different, but we liked it.

    From “Love Don’t Live Here Anymore” to “Ring My Bell” to here, this was also where the ringing POO-POO! of the syn-drum came to die. (Were there any further examples in the early 1980s? I cannot recall.)

    Anyhow, this proved enough to keep Kelly Marie (mistress of the lively “elbow squash” manoeuvre, as I recall from her TV appearances) gamely plugging away on the gay toilet circuit for decades to come, so three cheers for her cast-iron indefatigability.

    I also rather liked her super-camp 1981 chart swan-song “Love Trial” (“Order order in the court! POO-POO!”), which missed the Top 40 and urgently needs digging out of the attic for a re-evaluation.

  7. 7
    Billy Smart on 26 Nov 2008 #

    A word of praise of Kelly Marie’s little remembered follow up number 21 smash ‘Loving Just For Fun’ – a cheekily brazen attempt to precisely replicate the ‘Feels Like’ formula;


    (Choo choo!)


    (Choo choo!)”

  8. 8
    lonepilgrim on 26 Nov 2008 #

    This sounds gloriously unaffected and free of baggage after the last two entries. I always had it filed as Hi-NRG in my mind which made me wonder about Tom’s ‘queer, lopsided’ comment.
    I seem to remember KM bouncing around in the obligatory 80s jumpsuit on TOTP and that scottish burr that links back to Lulu and for all I know Moira Stuart. Past posters would have been able to put it in it’s caledonian cultural context…

  9. 9
    LondonLee on 26 Nov 2008 #

    I think even my local Tiffany’s had more class than to play this. The Randy Crawford however, I remember vividly. Glorious record.

  10. 10
    Mark G on 26 Nov 2008 #

    Try singing this with late seventies Elvis’ voice:

    “My head is in a spin my feet don’t touch the ground
    Because you’re new to me my ACH! Torture! I ‘ate songs like that! STOP IT!!!”

  11. 11
    AndyPandy on 26 Nov 2008 #

    Another “interesting” fact and linked to Rosie’s comment at No1 mentioning Stevenage. Stevenage is of course the original inspiration for “Saturday Night Fever”.The original article by writer Nick Cohn entitled “the Tribes of Saturday Night” which he later transplanted to New York and thence to “Saturday Night Fever” was originally written about his observations of the lifestyle of those going out to discos in 1973 or 1974 in Stevenage (discos having caught on in Britain a year or two before they went massive in te USA).

    PS Isn’t Kelly Marie another in the line of the big-voiced but distinctively and definitely British slightly amatuerish singers of never cool dance hits played in high street nightclubs. Along with Tina Charles, Sonia and thge singers from Oceanic and N-Trance?

  12. 12
    LondonLee on 26 Nov 2008 #

    I just went to YouTube to refresh my memory of this and wish I could have those 3 minutes of my life back, it was even worse than I remembered. Exhibit A in the case of why the Brits were so bad at making dance music, tinny and paper thin and annoyingly chirpy. I like a bit of bubblegum but this has all the flavour of a stick of Juicy Fruit that you’ve been chewing for seven hours.

  13. 13
    pjb on 26 Nov 2008 #

    Terribly clunky, but somehow hard to dislike. Though I say that without putting it to the test and listening to it.

    There’s definitely something to be said for the HiHRG parentage of this one, as well as its more mainstream disco roots. And in that it seems to prefigure the PWL/Stock Aitken Waterman era that’s still a few years in the future, at least as much as it hangs, desperately, onto ‘real’ disco’s past. There’s that slightly lumpen, hyper-obvious construction and execution fused with a lowest common denominator pop-dance that became such staple of UK charts, albeit with just enough of a reference to the real dance genres of the time.

    Realising that I’m verging on claimed it as an influential text, at least commercially, when it’s probably just one of those cheery, low quality pop fillers, I’ll shut up….

  14. 14
    rosie on 26 Nov 2008 #

    AndyPandy @ 11: The parallel that springs to my mind is Lyn Paul’s spiritedly blowsy deleivery of You Won’t Find Another Fool Like Me. Although the comparison works against Ms Marie.

    Given Kelly Marie’s provenance, I think a Saturday night in Paisley would be the right environment for it, after another drubbing for St Mirren!

  15. 15
    Conrad on 26 Nov 2008 #

    Found its ubiquity irritating at the time. On reflection, it’s harmless enough.

    After all, it’s quite a catchy choon isn’t it? And if I’m honest I’d rather listen to this than “Ring My Bell”.

  16. 16
    rosie on 26 Nov 2008 #

    Oh and that Randy Crawford track is amazing!

  17. 17
    Stevie on 26 Nov 2008 #

    I am flabberghasted at Andypandy’s revelation at #11! Stevenage also indirectly inspired Quadrophenia – dedicated in the sleevenotes “to the kids of Stevenage New Town” who were apparently some of the most mental WHO fans. And Here We Go Round The Mulberry Bush was filmed there too, so my home town is evidently the secret capital of Pop cinema.

  18. 18
    Stevie on 26 Nov 2008 #

    — Subsequent research suggests Cohn’s Saturday Night was actually based on Shepherds Bush mods :/ —

  19. 19
    Tim on 26 Nov 2008 #

    I too embarked upon some research because I had heard “Another Saturday Night” was based on Shepherds Bush mods.

    This article tends to suggest that the Stevenage thing arose as a piece of over-enthusiastic reporting by someone on the Stevenage Telegraph and Argus (or whatever): http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_qn4159/is_20040606/ai_n12756097 But then it also suggests that the story was inspied by discos in Brooklyn… Hmm.

    HWGRTMB alone makes Stevenage top of the cinepop pile, though.

  20. 20
    LondonLee on 26 Nov 2008 #

    My Uncle Peter was one of those. A Shepherd’s Bush mod that is. I could be related to the real-life Tony Manero!

  21. 21
    Stevie on 26 Nov 2008 #

    re #19 – probably the Stevenage Comet, where Adrian Thrills learned his trade.

  22. 22
    a tanned rested and unlogged lørd sükråt wötsît on 26 Nov 2008 #

    21 is quite a tough claim to follow

    i thought the secret story behind SNF was that cohn just made it all up!

  23. 23
    Taylor on 26 Nov 2008 #

    I was just writing something about Stevenage on another forum, funnily enough: by gum, it’s grim. The train pulls into the station, and you think “Christ, look at that hideous retail park.” Then it pulls out of the station, the valley opens up so you can see for a mile or two, and you suddenly realise that’s not a hideous retail park, it’s Stevenage.

    I get a similar feeling from “Feels Like I’m In Love”. Still, the video is compelling in its abject misery, jumpsuited Kelly living it up with two men in sailor suits who probably aren’t sailors. And this is how I remember 1980, in a way – as a small child, the adult world looked intriguing but not too appealing. Everything rather cheap and nasty. Not a hint of intrigue, and only a very forced joy.

  24. 24
    peter goodlaws on 26 Nov 2008 #

    Well done, Tom. He calls it a karaoke version of itself and that’s exactly what it is. This record is not full-fat cheese but its getting there. I had to ask the guy you know as Waldo about Ray Dorset and he told me about Mungo Jerry and also that Kelly Marie was scottish and a bit of a borderline bow wow and now I’ve seen her I know what he means. I remember the song but again not at number one. I can’t criticise it too harshly as it doesn’t do any harm and is quite merry and poppy. Not for me, I’m afraid but as Rosies already said this is the pop chart we’re discussing and ripping pop music to pieces is clearly missing the point of this project. I’ve learned that now.

  25. 25
    Marshmallow Hamilton on 26 Nov 2008 #

    Like Lena Martell, Kelly Marie had been well known on the Scottish circuit substantially before she scored royally with this Ray Dorset deposit, which he had tried to drop on Presley for reasons known only to him. Kelly had also enjoyed an element of success on the Continent and in Ireland in the seventies with the odd disco turn. Nevertheless it was still something of a surprise that she suddenly found herself a number one act with one of the biggest sellers of the year. A good pop song it is too and the dividends were well deserved for both writer and performer. A follow up “Hot Love” (no, not that one) saw Kelly dancing on TOTP with a couple of black guys in kilts. I don’t think there was anything remotely racist or funny about this but the mocking reaction to it from some so-called wits both in the press and at large certainly was, grossly insulting black people and Scots in a single disgusting swipe. I can remember fuming about this as I don’t take kindly to prejudice on such a disgusting scale. I remember also walking out of my common room when people started taking the piss out of this. I don’t hang around with or tolerate racists and everyone needs to understand this.

  26. 26
    Taylor on 26 Nov 2008 #

    the adult world looked intriguing but not too appealing … not a hint of intrigue

    Yeah, I wrote that. I should concentrate harder. What I meant was, not a hint of… oh never mind, you know what I meant.

  27. 27
    Taylor on 26 Nov 2008 #

    I can’t criticise it too harshly as it doesn’t do any harm and is quite merry and poppy. Not for me, I’m afraid but as Rosies already said this is the pop chart we’re discussing and ripping pop music to pieces is clearly missing the point of this project.

    True, but if you love pop music and this is not for you, that’s worth exploring, isn’t it?

    Something I was just wondering – was this aimed at gay clubs at the time, or did it become a gay disco track after the fact? The rather camp sailors in the video suggest the former, but I’d always heard this as a valiant attempt at family-friendly / kids’ party disco, which sounded camp in the sense of “failed seriousness” (not that it was supposed to be serious, but you know what I mean), rather than a track made with a gay audience in mind. My lack of knowledge of the 1980 gay scene lets me down here, but I’d always understood that audience at that time as being very discerning, into dance music in a rather obsessive, Mod-ish way, not necessarily ready to fall for Kelly Marie’s tinfoil extravaganza just because it was, you know, campy. Anyone know the story here?

  28. 28
    Izzy on 26 Nov 2008 #

    I didn’t know this track until I started going out with the missus and she took me to places and parties that specialised in stuff like this – by which I mean the Rocky Horror soundtrack, Erasure, ‘Loch Lomond’ at the end of [i]every[/i] night – which has coalesced into an entire genre in my mind. I’d never heard any of it. That genre, I suppose, being music-so-mainstream-as-to-be-totally-invisible.

    It was quite bewildering to find a place where the canon counted for naught. Which sounds rockist, but it’s genuine curiosity at a world where the Rolling Stones, Motown, Madonna or Blondie don’t exist, and instead Abba, the Carpenters and Neil Diamond are the big players in musical history. I think what’s so weird about it is the absence of everything I associate with the black musical tradition. On the surface such music looks similar to what I’ve always thought of as classic pop, but the lack of excitement, its very politeness, turns it into wallpaper.

    Anyway, that’s what this song is to me. I’d never even have thought of it as disco if I hadn’t read this review. It reminds me most of all of the house band in Strictly Come Dancing, who’ll start playing a reasonably funky tune which sounds fine at first, and then the audience come in clapping on the on-beat and the spell is broken. Like most of the rest of its genre, I can see how it’s campy, decent fun and pleasant enough, but it lacks virtually every quality that I look for in music.

  29. 29
    Lex on 26 Nov 2008 #

    I’ve never heard this song, or even heard of it (and am too content indulging in the Ne-Yo album to go look for it right now), but this seems to be an interesting line of discussion. I can see why shoddy, amateurish takes on proper music exist, in a functional sort of way, and hating on them can feel rather mean-spirited, but as per Izzy @ 28, these just lack every quality I look for in music. In some ways I hate them even more than songs which might sound more unpleasant to my ears, because they’re such awful versions of genres I love.

    Does this phenomenon exist in other countries? Tom called it a specifically British version of disco, and it’s certainly a theme which has been unfortunately prevalent in British pop ever since I’ve been following it (and which continues to this day: how else to explain the popularity of the Saturdays?).

  30. 30
    Snif on 26 Nov 2008 #

    “…this was also where the ringing POO-POO! of the syn-drum came to die. (Were there any further examples in the early 1980s? I cannot recall.)”

    There was always “Simon Templar” by Splodgenessabounds.

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