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Nov 08

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

FT + Popular98 comments • 5,849 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but meanwhile pop was the stamping ground of young adults and not-so-young ones, a world in which hormone rushes had been replaced by messily consequential relationships.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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Comments

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  1. 31
    Conrad on 27 Nov 2008 #

    It’s certainly a disco track alright. To me, it sounds like an attempt to be contemporary, albeit the influnce on the production was Liquid Gold rather than say Chic.

    I can see what Tom means by this being a quintessentially British take on disco, but it also sounds like the beginning of Eurocheese as well.

    It’s not as polished as the record that came close to following it to Number One – Ottawan’s D.I.S.C.O.

  2. 32
    rosie on 27 Nov 2008 #

    Lex @ 29 says 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.

    I’m confuzzled. I could have said almost exactly the same thing as part of my response to the Sex Pistols, but clearly that would have a whole different resonance. I don’t understand what “proper music” means in this context. Pop is rooted in amateurishness – where would we be without the improvised skiffle bands of the 1950s? (I might mention Lonnie Donegan, I might mention the Quarrymen)

    I don’t look for the same qualities in pop as I would look for in a Beethoven symphony, say, or a Puccini opera, or even jazz. I do revel in the amateurish and the quirky, and I dislike the manufactured and mass-produced (whether the music or the personas).

    Ten years hence we might have had a chance to debate this but by a whisker it was not to be – I’d have been interested to see how Tom handled signor Pavarotti but in his place I’d have declined to give a mark.

  3. 33
    Tom on 27 Nov 2008 #

    The 3 Tenors. [/philistine]

  4. 34
    rosie on 27 Nov 2008 #

    You disappoint me, young Ewing!

  5. 35
    Matt DC on 27 Nov 2008 #

    It had never occurred to me that this record was that cheap and shoddy! Possibly because it’s one that I know through years of exposure without ever really thinking about it.

  6. 36
    Erithian on 27 Nov 2008 #

    Ray Dorset and Kelly Marie missed a trick here – they could have teamed up with that bloke out of Slik who was now fronting Ultravox and called themselves Marie, Mungo and Midge.

    I’ll get me coat.

  7. 37
    SteveM on 27 Nov 2008 #

    Now I’m wondering what the best British disco record was. Is ‘Southern Freeez’ disco enough?

  8. 38
    Kat but logged out innit on 27 Nov 2008 #

    Kelly Marie is terrifying. And although I know the melody to this song fairly well, I keep finding myself humming the awesome ‘Funkytown’ by Lipps Inc instead.

  9. 39
    Erithian on 27 Nov 2008 #

    Sorry, but this is the very definition of disco shit. Shallow, tedious, cringe-inducing. Popular has allowed me to reassess quite a few records I disliked at the time and warm to them, but this isn’t one. Neither are “Funky Town” and “Southern Freeez”, godawful both of them. And as for “D.I.S.C.O.”, Conrad… polished? What’s the phrase I’m looking for? – you can’t polish a turd, and that’s one of the biggest ever to hit us.

    Randy Crawford though, now what a great number one that would have been.

    Tom, you’re right about growing up now in the multi-channel world. It’s very possible, as my twins are finding out, to be almost untouched by pop at the age of nine. BTW, has Lytton discovered “Space Pirates” on CBeebies? Kids choose from three songs, one of them covered by the house band of puppet rats. Real-life acts featured include KT Tunstall, REM, Jamelia (in the studio!), Bjork and the Polyphonic Spree.

    Syn-drums later in the 80s – would you include the example you can hear round about 8pm four nights a week that goes “doof-doof…”?

    Marshmallow (#25), lighten up mate! (or is that an unfortunate turn of phrase?) What’s racist about black guys in kilts?

  10. 40
    vinylscot on 27 Nov 2008 #

    Possibly AFAIK the last “Opportunity Knocks” #1, although this didn’t become a hit because of the programme.

    Keli (or Kelly) Brown, as she was then known, won the show four times in the mid-70s and on the back of that had a number of hits on the continent and in Ireland (most notably a #2 hit duet with Joe Dolan), before finally getting success at home with this rather saccharine disco classic.

    One or two posters have alluded to the fact that she was no oil painting. I think that’s a little unfair; she may not have won any beauty contests, but she was exactly as you’d expect Jacqui McKinnon from Paisley to be!

  11. 41
    Tom on 27 Nov 2008 #

    #39 Erithian – no, because our aerial is f*cked so we can’t even get CBeebies. I will look it up on the iPlayer! He is a very keen dancer though.

    As will no doubt become obvious as the project continues, I have a very high tolerance for tacky high street club music from whatever era. I’m not quite sure why I don’t react negatively to this stuff where I would come out in a rash at its rock or soul equivalent, though. It might be that I secretly despise dance music and so hold it to laxer standards, but I think I’ve wasted an awful lot of time listening to it if so.

  12. 42
    LondonLee on 27 Nov 2008 #

    Off the top of me head I can’t think of a great British “disco” record proper but that depends how you define it. Certainly ‘Southern Freeze’ or ‘Hi-Tension’ or ‘London Town’ (to pick a few early Brit-funk tunes) would be considered great dance tracks from any country.

    Re: #35: Cheap and shoddy is the first thing that comes to mind when I hear this. That’s obviously different to the amateurishness of the Pistols (or Lonnie Donegon or Joe Meek etc.) but I’m not clever enough to define it properly.

  13. 43
    The Lurker on 27 Nov 2008 #

    #32 and #41 – I’m certainly much more tolerant of amateurism in “rock” – be it the lack of instrumental proficiency in punk, the weakness of voices such as Neil Young’s or the lo-fi production of indie records later in the 80s and 90s – than in “pop” (or soul or disco). I’m not sure why. I think with pop (and perhaps with disco too) I’m more interested and engaged with the production and voice than the song itself, and if the first two elements aren’t up to much there’s little point in the song. Can’t quite see why soul falls this side of the divide though.

    I’ll have more to say about this when Popular reaches July ’96, if not before.

  14. 44
    vinylscot on 27 Nov 2008 #

    If Heatwave are considered British enough to count (are they?), I would say “Boogie Nights” has to be the greatest British disco track evah!!

  15. 45
    mike on 27 Nov 2008 #

    #42 – I’ll add Central Line’s “Walking Into Sunshine” and I-Level’s “Minefield”. Beggar & Co also come close with “Somebody (Help Me Out)”.

    #41 – I share Tom’s “high tolerance for tacky high street club music”, and it’s difficult to explain why. Something to do with the surging optimistic sugar-rush, I suppose. But even I draw the line at Ottawan’s almost surreally awful “D.I.S.C.O”.

    What IS it with Scotland and ridiculously energetic and texturally unsubtle uptempo dance music, anyway?

  16. 46
    rosie on 27 Nov 2008 #

    Have you ever been to Paisley on a Saturday night, Mike?

  17. 47
    Erithian on 27 Nov 2008 #

    Don’t know whether it fits your remit, but the one I’ve shaken my inelegant booty to the most over the years is “Papa’s Got A Brand New Pigbag”.

  18. 48
    Erithian on 27 Nov 2008 #

    ##45 and 46 – there’s definitely somebody missing from this conversation, eh Rosie?

  19. 49
    mike on 27 Nov 2008 #

    If it’s the same somebody that I’m thinking about, then I’d like to think that he is With Us In Spirit. (And hello to him if he’s lurking.)

    #46 – Nope, never been to Paisley on a Saturday night! My knowledge of Scottish nightlife is restricted to some Awfully Nice Places during the Edinburgh Festival, some studenty bars in Glasgow, and two or three Edinburgh gay clubs, one of which rejoiced in the name of Douche Matouche.

    So I’m just going to have to fall back on the standard observation that the further north you go, the harder and faster people like their dance music.

    Is it something to do with colder climes necessitating more vigorous exercise?

    (As for that Best Of British Disco list: I always adored Linx.)

  20. 50
    rosie on 27 Nov 2008 #

    Erithian @ 48: I was thinking exactly that this morning, when I saw Tom’s thoughts on signor Pavarotti.

    There may well be two people missing, although at least one of those I suspect of being not too far away.

  21. 51
    a tanned rested and unlogged lørd sükråt wötsît on 27 Nov 2008 #

    anecdata-as-metric: the only popular artist not track downable via “material unaccountably available for free” is lena martell

    (unless my suppliers are just online at the wrong times)

  22. 52
    rosie on 27 Nov 2008 #

    Mike @ 49: Because “ridiculously energetic and texturally unsubtle” is a pretty damned good description of Paisley on a Saturday night.

    Mark @ 51: My suppliers didn’t let me down. I’m complete up to and a tad beyond my scheduled retirement date. With one exception. Up until now there’s nothing that really sends me flying to the off-switch when it comes up in the random mix (although Little Jimmy comes close), but there’s a dark day not far off when something I won’t countenance anywhere near my eardrums is coming up.

  23. 53
    Conrad on 27 Nov 2008 #

    Heatwave’s Rod Temperton was a real writing and arranging talent and one recognised of course by Quincy Jones, who enlisted his help for “Off The Wall” and “Thriller”.

    Heatwave produced some truly excellent singles in the late 70s/early 80s, as well as the aforementioned “Boogie Nights”. “The Groove Line” is a particular favourite of mine.

    On a sort of separate note, and something I’ve been meaning to write about for sometime…

    In the mid 90s I lived in Highgate and rehearsed in Camden. I used to do all my grocery shopping in the Camden Sainsburys.
    Anyway, there was a middle-aged black guy, I’d say around 40ish who was always in there. I think he was homeless. He seemed pretty crazed and he was always walking up and down by the cashiers’ tills shouting out “The Best of Luck”, “The Best of Luck” in quite a high spirited friendly way. He had a loud voice and his cry used to boom across the shop. There was something quite affecting about him and his repetitive chant. I never once heard him say anything else.

    It suddenly struck me as I was listening to Hi Tension a few months back that the chorus to their eponymous hit is basically “The Best of Luck” chanted in exactly the same way as this guy in Sainsbury’s. The band were from North London…

    At least 2 members of Hi Tension went on to 80s success – Phil Fearon and David Joseph. Perhaps one of the others went on to a starring role as lead singer in Camden Sainsburys….

  24. 54
    mike on 27 Nov 2008 #

    #52 – Oh Rosie, itsa notta SO bad…

  25. 55
    Tom on 27 Nov 2008 #

    There’s worse than that on the horizon!

    Apologies for the slow pace this week by the way – I have a shocking cold. I’ll turn to the next entry when I’ve finished shaking and coughing. Thanks to all the people – especially newcomers and names I don’t recognise – who’ve made the last few entries so fertile.

  26. 56
    rosie on 27 Nov 2008 #

    Mike, whassamadda you? I agree that’s not so bad – there’s been far worse than that already.

  27. 57
    Lex on 27 Nov 2008 #

    #32 – maybe pop was “rooted” in amateurishness, but I think its broad umbrella certainly covers many genres in which things like technical chops and craftsmanship are hugely important. Disco, like most dance subgenres, is definitely one of these – if the point of the music is to be at least somewhat functional (to make people want to dance), the sound and structure has to be absolutely right. You can’t just slap a vocal on here, a break in there and hope for the best, otherwise it just won’t work. With genres like rock I guess a degree of amateurishness can work, but that’s partly why I don’t tend to listen to them – it’s no coincidence that my own favoured genres are the more formalist ones (r&b, hip-hop, house, techno, UK garage).

  28. 58
    Marshmallow Hamilton on 27 Nov 2008 #

    “Marshmallow (#25), lighten up mate! (or is that an unfortunate turn of phrase?) What’s racist about black guys in kilts?”

    You’re exactly the sort of half-wit I’m talking about. If you had actually done me the courtesy to read and UNDERSTAND what I wrote, you would have seen that my objections were never black guys in kilts but racist reactions to them as demonstrated by your moronic little pun. I do not expect you to digest any of this. Your “wogs start from Calais” mentality is blatantly obvious and people like you are not only beyond the pale but beyond help.

  29. 59
    vinylscot on 27 Nov 2008 #

    It’s almost as if HE was back with us, isn’t it?

  30. 60
    pjb on 27 Nov 2008 #

    Back to the great British disco music question – since it has set me thinking that we’ve been far better at almost every other genre than pure disco – funk, soul, electro and on to the house explosion. But I did like Linx, like Mike @ 49, and I still think Imagination’s string of hits (from memory still a year away) hold up well, particularly now that the memory of the appalling visuals has faded.

    I am rather looking forward to glut of the high street dance pop to come, mind….

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