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Sep 09

SISTER SLEDGE – “Frankie”

FT + Popular60 comments • 3,642 views

#552, 29th June 1985, video

As I mentioned when we talked about “I’m Still Waiting”, most pop songs about lost childhood loves take them far too seriously – the magnifying power of pop turns some tweenage crush into a life’s great lost opportunity. An adult listener is more likely to feel pity than sympathy.

I had “Frankie” in mind in that discussion – I’d disliked it more than any other record of the time, and not revisited it since: I remembered it as pleading and cloying at the same time. I was quite unfair: if anything this is pop’s most accurate recollection of a lost early sweetheart – rose-tinted memories tumbling back with surprise, slight regret but no great pain.

Since the lyrics allow plenty of room for misplaced anguish, this lightness is down to the well-judged vocals – soft, full and with a chuckling warmth. They get the mood just right – what the singer and Frankie had was real, might even have worked out, but life went on and there we are. The music reflects this, of course – a song about remembered emotion bouncing along on a pastiche of girl-group soul from Nile Rodgers, all jumping saxes and sweet group vocals.

So I’ve come to appreciate “Frankie”, as craft, performance and feeling. But I still don’t actually like it: maybe the nausea it induced when I was 12 is just sunk too deep, or maybe the committed perkiness of the thing makes it end up simply too flimsy to get much from. “Frankie” is pop’s healthiest lost-love record, but sadly also its most boring.

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Comments

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  1. 51
    Steve Mannion on 29 Sep 2009 #

    ‘I am depressed to realise there are no real Chic #1s for us to discuss. I never cared for this at all’

    altho they have been sampled on at least one #1 – small consolation?

  2. 52
    wichita lineman on 29 Sep 2009 #

    Re 49: Wasn’t Spacer given to Sheila (B Devotion) for similar reasons of justifiable high confidence? Possibly the French 60s gal with the least charisma and international appeal, but the only one to have the cheek to contact Chic.

    Where the heck is the unreleased Johnny Mathis/Chic album? I heard clips from an imminent re-issue about 3 years ago and it sounded gorgeous.

  3. 53
    Snif on 30 Sep 2009 #

    Sister Sledge was also the name of a character in one of the 1983 Rogue Trooper stories in 1983’s run of 2000AD.

  4. 54
    Mark M on 30 Sep 2009 #

    Sister Sledge, then ten years younger than by the time of Frankie, are rather good in the Soul Power movie, which I think Lord Sukrat mentioned in the We Are The World discussion.

  5. 55

    They are! Though if memory serves we don’t see them perform on-stage, it’s more like an impromptu thing in the dressing room? They are hardly more than kids…

  6. 56
    crag on 30 Sep 2009 #

    i saw Sister Sledge live in about 1995- i remember being a smartarse beforehand and saying sarcastically “oh i wonder if they’ll do We Are Family or Lost in Music?”I soon felt a bit daft since for some reason they didnt do Lost in Music at all!They did do Frankie though unfortunately as well as a lengthy gospel medley. Bit of an odd night all told really…

  7. 57
    Kat but logged out innit on 1 Oct 2009 #

    They were excellent at Glasto 2004 (or was it 2003?) despite one of them having a sore throat.

  8. 58
    Andy Pandy on 14 Oct 2009 #

    This was vaguely notable at the time for its ommission from the “Blues and Soul” UK chart at the time as up to this all kinds of completely unsuitable (ie not an earthly of being played in the clubs or appealing to the ‘Blues and Soul’ demographic had been included in the chart merely by virtue of them being black ie Prince’s rockier stuff and Tina Turner’s 80s stuff, )had featured in the chart but this went too far and despite Sister Sledge having being responsible for definte classics it was announced that this track would be omitted from the chart…due to it being the worst kind of pop rubbish.

    Slightly different from ‘Thinking of You’ the previous hit from Sister Sledge which had only ever been released as a single (4 years after it appearing on their Chic produced album) due to its club plays by London/South East soul/funk mafia djs in 1983 and which therefore featured heavily in the Blues and Soul Club charts before release as a single.

  9. 59
    DV on 28 Dec 2009 #

    This song cancels out all the Chic Organisation produced stuff. Sigh.

  10. 60
    Brooksie on 16 Mar 2010 #

    The chorus of this song is so simple and instantly memorable that there was never any doubt it would be a big hit. It appeals to the twelve year-old girls skipping in the playground mentality. It’s light and frothy and about love. Worth noting that in a year dominated by ‘high’ intentioned music and ‘adult’ (read: ‘turgid’) ballads, this song was a perfect counterweight. Seriously; Elaine Paige / Jennifer Rush? ‘Frankie’ was a necessary hit.

    I like it just fine. But I’m not crazy about it because it sounds like candyfloss.

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