22
Jun 11

SHAKESPEARS SISTER – “Stay”

FT + Popular128 comments • 7,214 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. 91
    Ricardo on 28 Jun 2011 #

    #89, I think #88 is actually talking about the country pop end of things. There’s actually a Popmatters article written last year discussing country music as the new classic rock here:

    http://t.co/ymYnpp1

  2. 92
    JLucas on 28 Jun 2011 #

    80. I’d perhaps argue that Dolly Parton is probably the most popular and well-recognised enduring country music star in the UK. Not much of a singles chart presence, but certainly a lot of very well known and loved songs, she’s a huge live draw and her studio albums still manage to sell decently.

  3. 93
    LondonLee on 28 Jun 2011 #

    #91 Yes, that’s what I meant. “Classic rock” was probably a poor choice of words but it’s where the Eagles/Fleetwood Mac sound went — traditional AM soft rock/MoR — with a little bit of added twang.

  4. 94
    hardtogethits on 28 Jun 2011 #

    This is a difficult line to tread – records certainly were excluded and demoted in the past on grounds of (let’s call it) representativeness. It would have been pretty impossible to carry out the process in reverse ie promote songs thought to sell well in similar shops, but just unlucky. However, I’d like to see / hear a little more evidence of the specific victims of this before accepting that it conspired against a specific genre. Even then I would want to hear a convincing argument that this really interfered with the purpose of the chart, which was to reflect the sales in – and I quote so people can recognise this is not opinion – “conventional record outlets” ie if the sales were in unconventional outlets, then they hadn’t earned their chart in the place anyway.

    But above all, this well and truly belongs in the past. If people in Scotland or Southampton purchase a track as part of an orchestrated campaign, it now registers in the appropriate position on the UK chart. For better or worse.

  5. 95
    Cumbrian on 28 Jun 2011 #

    #91/#93: Interesting stuff – having grabbed the wrong end of the stick, I’ve learned something new and the Popmatters article was a good read.

    Given I was talking at a tangent to you, I was surprised to see that what you are driving at is what I am driving at too – but from the other end of the spectrum. My Morning Jacket are a biggish band in the US, selling out Madison Square Garden, last album debuting at #5, and, to my ear at least, they’ve got more than a minor element of both country and classic rock elements – less the air punching catchy stuff, but the widdly guitar histrionics and what not.

  6. 96
    wichitalineman on 28 Jun 2011 #

    Re 90: or Day Of The Jackal? Yes, it’s a great record but I dread to think what soul snobs would make of it. The youtube comments for Joanie Sommers’ peerless Don’t Pity Me are just awful. Worse than bloody mods!

    Sales for I’m On My Way must have been diluted over months and months. It’s one of the few Northern records I remember on the radio as a kid, though.

    It’d be interesting to see a definitive list of Northern Soul hits. I’m guessing things like Wayne Gibson’s Under My Thumb and Guy Darrell’s I’ve Been Hurt, both Top 20, were played at Wigan. But they’re written out of the mythology – no one ever mentions them or plays them out.

    Was the Tams’ Hey Girl Don’t Bother Me the only Northern no.1? Who played it and where? Anyone know?

  7. 97
    Chelovek na lune on 28 Jun 2011 #

    92. Yes, you’re probably right. Dolly Parton has certainly “crossed over” into the public consciousness to a far greater extent, for sure.

  8. 98
    AndyPandy on 28 Jun 2011 #

    90:
    I always thought it might be something to do with the very heavy drums sounding like a charging herd of rhinos and also wondered if it was in another life before the NS scene discovered it maybe the theme music from a wildlife film about rhinos.

    86: Dont know if its definitive but how about these and what have I missed:

    1970
    Frankie Valli – You’re Ready Now 11

    1971
    The Formations – At The Top Of The Stairs 28
    The Fascinations – Girls Are Out To Get You 32
    San Remo Strings – Festival Time 39
    The Newbeats – Run Baby Run 10
    The Showstoppers – Ain’t Nothin But A House Party 33

    1972
    Millie Jackson – My Man A Sweet Man 50
    Jackie Wilson – I Get The Sweetest Feeling 9

    1973
    Guy Darrell – I’ve Been Hurt 12
    Robert Knight – Love On A Mountain Top 10

    1974
    Wayne Gibson – Under My Thumb 17
    Javells featuring Nosmo King – Goodbye Nothing To Say 26
    R Dean Taylor – There’s A Ghost In My House 3
    R Dean Taylor – Window Shopping 36
    R Dean Taylor – Gotta See Jane 41

    1975
    Wigans Chosen Few – Footsee 9
    Mike Post Coalition – Afternoon of the Rhino 47
    Dean Parrish – I’m On My Way 38
    Franki Valli and the Four Seasons – The Night 7
    Harold Melvin and the Bluenotes – Get Out 35
    Al Wilson – The Snake 41
    Tommy Hunt – Crackin’ Up 39
    Gary Lewis and the Playboys – My Heart’s Symphony 36
    Maxine Nightingale – Right Back Where We Started From 8
    The Exciters – Reaching For The Best 31
    Wigans Ovation – Skiing In The Snow 12
    Wigans Ovation – Super Love 41
    Wigans Ovation – Per-So-Na-Ly 38
    Dobie Gray – Out On The Floor 42
    Jackie Wilson – I Get The Sweetest Feeling 25
    Tami Lynn – I’m Gonna Run Away From You 36
    George Benson – Supership 30

    1976
    Tommy Hunt – One Fine Morning 44
    Rodger Collins – You Sexy Sugar Plum 22
    Mistura featuring Lloyd Michels – The Flasher 23
    Little Anthiony and the Imperials – Better Use Your
    Head/Gonna Fix You Good 42

    1978
    Roy Grainer Orch.- A Touch Of Velvet, A Sting Of Brass 60
    Gerri Granger – I Go To Pieces 50

    1979
    Allnight Band – The Joker (The Wigan Joker) 50

    I’ve included all those that were undeniably hits because of the Northern Soul scene I haven’t included The Tams because it was rare soul but don’t know if it was a hit particularly because of Northern soul play (or if it was even partcularly played it seems so untypical of UK dancefloor tackle) or because of someone like Tony Blackburn picking up on it – similarly although what would get to be called Northern Soul had emerged by 1968 (at the Twisted Wheel etc) its hard to define exactly what if anything was purely a hit because of NS play back that far.After all funkier stuff had only just started too happen in 1968 and in the London clubs theyd have still played more traditional sounding 60s soul (as it still was the 60s!) with the emerging funkier stuff, reggae etc.

  9. 99
    Mark G on 29 Jun 2011 #

    missed one:

    26 Sharonettes Papa Oom Mow Mow Apr 1975

    They did “Going to a go go” as well, lower reaches of the chart…

  10. 100
    wichitalineman on 29 Jun 2011 #

    Nice work Andy.

    The only other one I can spot is Tami Lynn’s I’m Gonna Run Away From You – no.4 in 1971 (originally released in ’66).

    The glut of Motown re-issue hits that started in 1969 (Jr Walker’s Roadrunner, Isleys’ Behind A Painted Smile/This Old Heart Of Mine, Vandellas’ Dancing In The Street etc) were presumably the start of it, before ubiquity drove dj’s to dig deeper

  11. 101
    AndyPandy on 29 Jun 2011 #

    I missed these too
    1972
    Archie Bell and the Drells – Here I Go Again 11
    1974
    The Peppers – Pepper Box 6
    1976
    LJ Johnson – Your Magic Put A Spell On Me 27

    I didn’t include any of the late 60s re-issued Motown stuff as it was probably just as much a hit because Tony Blackburn etc played as “revived 45s” and it wasn’t much more retro than what was still being played in mainstream clubs and very hard to say it was in the charts because of purely “rare soul” play.

    Didn’t include the original issue of the Showstoppers or Flamingos “The Boogaloo Party” as these were both big in London soul clubs/mainstream clubs/on the radio too in the late 1960s.

  12. 102
    wichitalineman on 29 Jun 2011 #

    Which show did Tony Blackburn have in 69/70? Breakfast Show? In that case, you’re probably right. The only question I’d have about the extent of his influence on, say, The Tams is why the heck it was re-issued in the first place. Some club play, I’d guess?

    Showstoppers and Flamingos were contemporary hits AFAIK, just slightly dated sounding.

    One more:

    Archie Bell & the Drells – There’s Gonna Be A Showdown 1973, no.36

  13. 103
    punctum on 29 Jun 2011 #

    There may be a borderline case for Felice Taylor’s “I Feel Love Coming On,” #11 in 1967.

    “Pepper Box” wasn’t really Northern Soul. Chicken-egg situation re. Rockford Files theme and “Autobahn.”

    LJ Johnson – wasn’t that one of Ian Levine’s “re-creations” (see also Evelyn Thomas’ “Weak Spot”)?

  14. 104
    AndyPandy on 29 Jun 2011 #

    103 Yes I missed ‘Weakspot and ‘Doomsday’ – Ian Levine was also behind the Exciters’s track (his first I think). And the Sharonettes, Wigans Chosen Few, Maxine Nightingale, Javells, Wigan’s Ovation, Roy Grainer, Allnight Band and even Tommy Hunt were also of course mostly/all(?) British produced cash-ins of various degrees of authenticity.

    Re: Yes ‘Pepper Box’ is a strange one but often pops up on NS compilations/singles sales and was a hit 2 or 3 years after it was originally released at least partly because of NS play IIRC.

  15. 105
    Mark G on 29 Jun 2011 #

    The Sharonettes. 3 singles, no pics or info at all otherwise!

  16. 106
    AndyPandy on 29 Jun 2011 #

    Another one missed Tommy Hunt ‘Loving On The Losing Side’ (1976)

  17. 107
    Mark G on 29 Jun 2011 #

    Wigan’s Chosen Few “Footsee” was basically a USA Baseball ‘theme’ played twice with added crowd noises. Still, it had “7 days too long” on the b-side so hey.

  18. 108
    LondonLee on 29 Jun 2011 #

    Doesn’t “Love On A Mountain Top” count? There’s a Pan’s People routine to that so it must have done quite well.

    Edit: Damn, I’m going blind.

  19. 109
    Hectorthebat on 29 Jun 2011 #

    83, 94

    I know this is know going very far off topic, but I remember going to a Delirious? gig in the mid 90s, and being exhorted to buy their new single, but not from a Christian book/record shop, as this would not count toward chart position. Of course, with Itunes and digital charts, this should no longer be an issue, but I’m not sure what underground scene is now being helped by this shift away from national, non-genre specific record shops?

  20. 110
    AndyPandy on 29 Jun 2011 #

    107:
    Wasn’t it made by Canadians though and remixed in this country with crowd noise from the 1966 FA Cup Final – you can hear the crowd chant “Wedneday” (as in Sheffield Wednesday) at one point if you listen hard enough!

  21. 111
    Mark G on 29 Jun 2011 #

    That’ll be the bit between the two playings.

  22. 112
    wichitalineman on 29 Jun 2011 #

    Chuck Wood’s Seven Days Too Long on the flip of Footsee. Shame it wasn’t a double A. I wonder if Kevin Rowland bought Footsee…?

  23. 113
    Mark G on 29 Jun 2011 #

    More than likely.

    The sleeve of the single (a rare thing in those days) sort of presented it as a double A, but I guess it never got taken as such.

  24. 114
    Dan Worsley on 29 Jun 2011 #

    “But since the advent of the computerised till, this is surely no longer the case? (I mean the return from 95% of shops, not the gaming: that will always be with us…)”

    I don’t know the figures but I’d bet that the contribution of sales from physical media in the singles chart is now negligible. Unless you live in a city or large town, new release singles are as much a relic of the past as a communal water pump or tobaconnists. Unless downloads are weighted by IP address, I’d say that the charts are more likely to reflect nationwide taste now than any time in it’s history.

  25. 115
    hardtogethits on 30 Jun 2011 #

    83, 109, 114.

    Amid all of this what is often overlooked is that the industry had a LEGITIMATE interest in measuring, and intention to measure, what sold in “conventional” shops. Why would the British Association of Record Dealers (BARD) or the Entertainment Retailers’ Association (ERA) want to measure what sold in different types of outlet who did not pay subscription fees to the membership organisation and were not committed to the completion of chart returns?

  26. 116
    Mark G on 30 Jun 2011 #

    They would want to know this, so they would have an idea as to what was selling, and what to supply more of, to retailers.

  27. 117
    hardtogethits on 30 Jun 2011 #

    116. No, no. Read 115 again. Why would the retailers / dealers want to know what was selling in different types of outlet? Not why would manufacturers want to know, not why would the distributors want to know. Why would the shops want to know?

    The chart is and was a joint venture between retailers and the BPI. The shops are no more interested in having ‘other’ shops contribute to the chart than the record label is in having ‘other’ product in it.

    I suppose you might argue the retailers should be / could be / are interested in how CDs sell in bookshops and other outlets, but that’s irrelevant; if they are, they achieve this through other analyses and methods of monitoring the market. Retailers have continued to feel that the chart is a valuable way of reporting the demand for records sold in their outlets. (For a good long time they felt it was a good way of stimulating the demand too, but these days have passed.)

  28. 118
    Mark G on 1 Jul 2011 #

    Oh, ok, how about..

    If a record sells well in a tobacconist (we’re back in time right?), record shops might decide that they should stock it as well. Total Market Knowledge. In fact, the record co might say “this is selling well in ‘specialist’ shops”, and the retailler might decide to actually stock more of this sort of thing.

    I’d imagine there would have been much more Reggae sales, for instance. You might well argue that Reggae sales should only benefit Reggae outlets as opposed to the cost/price cutting “Harlequin” stores, but you can see why retailers might consider that information ‘interesting’…

  29. 119
    weej on 1 Jul 2011 #

    It was only a year after this that the chart started including Asian music shops – as far as I remember the biggest benefactor of this was Apache Indian’s ‘Boom Shack-A-Lak’ which got to number 5. Not a surprise it didn’t have more of an impact as my experience of those shops is that they mainly sold albums on tape.

  30. 120
    hardtogethits on 1 Jul 2011 #

    #118, yes, that’s a cogent point. However, the retailers have repeatedly taken on board the “Total Market Knowledge”, developed models to accommodate it and they have concluded that however much they stock of some specialist music, they can’t make revenue or profit from it. If they could, they would. However, time after time they have found that the core audience for certain types of music will buy it elsewhere. Occasionally, crossover hits happen (see above, see below).

    #119, The chart did not start including Asian music shops, and nor has it since. The chart has included cassettes since 1983, and any chart-eligible cassettes sold in chart return shops count towards the chart. Apache Indian made the charts by getting signed to a mainstream label, and getting good marketing. This resulted in two key things: getting his records into the mainstream record shops, and making people want to go there to buy them.

  31. 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.

  32. 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.

  33. 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.

  34. 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…

  35. 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.

  36. 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.

  37. 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.

  38. 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)

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