22
Jun 11

SHAKESPEARS SISTER – “Stay”

FT + Popular131 comments • 9,858 views

#674, 22nd February 1992

What people remember about “Stay” are its extremes – the teetering, cracking soprano of Marcella Detroit’s lead vocal, and Siobhan Fahey’s growled and throaty intervention on the bridge. The deliberate contrast laid the song open to plenty of parodies, and a faint air of gimmickry hung over it – so ambitious, so unlike the rest of the charts, but still somehow a little absurd, an awkward collision between “Nothing Compares 2 U” and “Total Eclipse Of The Heart”, switching clumsily between intensity and bluster.

And it is that, but it’s aged very well indeed. In a world where “Dark Romance” – Twilight knock-offs, basically – has its own bookstore section, the florid, crushed-velvet obsessiveness of “Stay” makes complete aesthetic sense. It’s gothy, needy, with a dangerous undertow, hard to take entirely seriously and intoxicating if you do – if the word “emo” had meant anything in 1992 it would have been slapped on this.

Obviously, the switched-dynamics form of the song matches its content: a tale of two worlds, the singer’s and the subject’s, and the relationship between them. One is claustrophobic, intense, something to escape: the other reached by risky passage, but where safety is hardly guaranteed and worse terrors may lurk. The specifics of what’s going on in “Stay” are obscured – but the emotional truth of it is keenly, melodramatically, felt. Some worlds, the singer is saying, change those who visit them: return is not an option. That applies whether the other world is a relationship, a lifestyle, a subculture, or even something more literal or fantastic. But if this was the song’s only message it would be a little trite, and the power of “Stay” is that it digs deeper. The idea of no returns is a self-serving one – it’s what the dwellers in those worlds tell themselves, and their secret terror (the terror at the heart of this song) is that this is a lie, you can go back.

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Comments

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  1. 121
    weej on 2 Jul 2011 #

    Ok, accept what you say there, but I clearly remember Bruno Brookes saying exactly that on the top 40 countdown on Radio 1 when it entered the chart, maybe he was misinformed, maybe it was a potential thing that didn’t happen, not sure, but he absolutely said it. The point I was making about albums on tape was that they were albums, not that they were tapes.

  2. 122
    hardtogethits on 2 Jul 2011 #

    121. A-ha! That explains a lot; I’m glad you brought the issue up, as I think it’s important it’s widely understood, thanks. It’s interesting, too, to know where some of the misunderstandings began and how they have been developed.

  3. 123
    AndyPandy on 12 Jul 2011 #

    Further to why the Tams’ ‘Hey Girl Don’t Bother Me’ became a hit it transpires that it was first played at the Catacombs* (Wolverhampton) by ‘Farmer’ Carl Dene (known for ‘discovering many big rare soul tracks’ – it was also him who got Tami Lynn into the Top 5 in 1971).

    Tony Blackburn then picked up on it and started to play it on his Radio 1 show and the rest is history. This was obviously sometime before Northern Soul became synonymous with stompers – even so how did you dance (without looking an absolute twat) to HGDBM?!

    *The Catacombs along with The Torch (Tunstall, Stoke-on-Trent) and Twisted Wheel (Manchester) were the big 3 Rare Soul (ie what was eventually renamed Northern Soul) clubs in the period 1968-72.

  4. 124
    a tanned rested and unlogged lørd sükråt wötsît on 13 Jul 2011 #

    Andy, is there a decent book-written history of all this anywhere, or is it all still just in the heads and memories of those who were present or paying attention? It is so much the secret second spine of the tale of British pop…

  5. 125
    AndyPandy on 13 Jul 2011 #

    Probably the most well known book on the NS scene is David Nowell’s “Too Darn Soulful” although I believe Neil Rushton famous NS and later AcidHouse figure also brought out quite a famous one.i don’t think they were definitive or necssarily amazingly well-written though and I think that one’s still to be written.

  6. 126
    Erithian on 13 Jul 2011 #

    As I recall there’s a good section of “Manchester, England” by Dave Haslam which covers Northern Soul in Manchester if not the vicinity.

  7. 127
    malmo58 on 14 Jan 2012 #

    I loved Shakespear’s Sister and still do. Went to see them live at the Town & Country Club soon after Stay’s reign at #1 – they put on an amazing show. For Stay, the whole place went pitch dark apart from Marcella highlighted and a backdrop of stars, then Siobhan was lit up too for her part. Spellbinding.

  8. 128
    hectorthebat on 2 Apr 2015 #

    Critic watch:

    1,001 Songs You Must Hear Before You Die, and 10,001 You Must Download (2010) 1002
    Bruce Pollock (USA) – The 7,500 Most Important Songs of 1944-2000 (2005)
    OUT (USA) – The 50 Gayest Songs of the 1990s (2011)
    Giannis Petridis (Greece) – 2004 of the Best Songs of the Century (2003)

  9. 129
    Ahmad on 21 Mar 2019 #

    It was my childhood and they were successful in the whole world. In germany and uk it was a hit and it later became a hit in the US peaking at #4 on the Hot 100. It got also some airplay on pop stations additionally to Modern Rock Charts. KROQ for example played it too.

    Great Thanks to Sophie Muller for that great video. SOPHIE MULLER has since become a great celebrity Director

  10. 130
    Bellavia Owusu on 26 Apr 2021 #

    I like this more now than I did at the time. 6/10 in my view.

  11. 131
    Gareth Parker on 1 May 2021 #

    I remember being spooked by the video when I was a 6 or 7 year old! However this one delivers on an emotional level, therefore I’ll give it a 7/10.

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