13
May 10

TIFFANY – “I Think We’re Alone Now”

Popular75 comments • 4,182 views

#603, 30th January 1988, video

Listening to it now, what strikes me most about “I Think We’re Alone Now” is how discofied it is. Its clipped drums and chunky bass synths mean it starts like a low-rent “Always On My Mind”, and it looks set to head down a similar hi-NRG path. Only a couple of the very mildest rock touches – that tiny organ flourish leading into the chorus, a very diffident bit of electric guitar over the coda – and its rather sluggish pace divert it.

Oh, and the way Tiffany Dawlish herself never lives up to the gusto of that opening – “Children behaaaaave”. You hear that and you think she’s going to belt the song out, grab onto of its urgency, ride its hormonal high stakes. Original singer Tommy James knew why being alone was a good idea: so most certainly did his band the Shondells, who play “I Think” with a hopping, blue-balled desperation. But that single-mindedness is missing from Tiffany’s version and so her “alone” seems a little more academic. You don’t really believe anything terribly naughty is going to happen, and actually the comforting swell of strings towards the end just seems to underline that Tiff’s parents don’t have a great deal to worry about: that trademark denim jacket is staying firmly on.

Teenpop stars are often accused of pushing a wholesome image to mask a less squeaky-clean reality, but actually remarkably few do: the people buying them want some level of glamour from even the most reputable star. This era is the larval stage of modern teenpop, but compared to 00s and 10s pop acts Tiffany seems quaint, hokey almost, and even at the time there was a sense of the amateur about her which served her quite well. Her record sleeves seemed defiantly basic, and all that homespun mythmaking about her touring malls was more endearing from her than similar gimmicks would be from anyone else after. Nothing wrong with the song either: it’s very strong and always fakes me into thinking I enjoy the record more than I do. But for me song and singer don’t really fit, and the arrangement drains the potential from both.

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Comments

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  1. 26
    vinylscot on 13 May 2010 #

    I’m another who much prefers the Rubinoos – another of these “should have been a hit” songs which possibly suffered due to the sheer volume of late 70s pop/new wave around. I seem to remember Lene Lovich doing a rather Lene Lovich-ish version too – after Rubinoos, but pre-Tiff.

    I caught the TOTP2 rerun earleir this week, and the gap before “anyone around” really grated with me. She was REALLY late first time with it, and it sounded rather like she had to do it that way for the rest of the song just to make it sound as if the first time hadn’t been a mistake!

  2. 27
    Mike Atkinson on 13 May 2010 #

    No comments thus far on the Girls Aloud version? I thought it was rather jolly.

  3. 28
    Steve Mannion on 13 May 2010 #

    to me it seemed massively ineffective and pointless but I do like GA’s Pointer Sisters cover (only cover by them I do like).

  4. 29
    Andrew Hickey on 13 May 2010 #

    The strangest thing about this is that when looking for it on Spotify to remind myself, I see that the accompanying album featured a cover of Panic by The Smiths…

  5. 30
    TomLane on 13 May 2010 #

    Oh, a quite harmless Teen Idol cover. A good solid 6. Nothing offensive to my ears. Obviously it doesn’t top Tommy James’ original. And quite frankly, it was and still is a good song no matter who covers it. BTW- Tiffany went No. 1 in the U.S. with this, and Tommy James’ got to #4.

  6. 31
    lonepilgrim on 13 May 2010 #

    The song is well crafted with a strong melody and a memorable hook and I don’t mind Tiffany’s rendition – even if the production sounds a little dated.
    There’s something quite unpretentious about the performance and I was surprised watching her on TOTP2 the other night just how unconcerned she seemed about presenting a glamorous image – with a big baggy jumper and scruffy hair. I found myself very irritated by Mark Radcliffe’s snide comments throughout the programme.
    I can see this song fitting in quite well to a Glee scenario – if it hasn’t already

  7. 32
    JLucas on 13 May 2010 #

    I don’t disagree with the review or the mark, but I’m slightly appalled at the idea that the gap in quality between this record and Belinda Carlisle’s number one amounts to a mere one point. For me it’s like comparing fine wine (Belinda) to a bottle of Lambrini.

    Of the American teen-pop of the time I’d have preferred Debbie Gibson to score a #1 over Tiffany, preferrably with the sublime ‘Only In My Dreams’. But she never seemed to really take off here.

  8. 33
    lockedintheattic on 13 May 2010 #

    I’m sure it can’t have helped Debbie that they launched her here with ‘Shake Your Love’, one of the most repetitive pop songs ever – and listening to it just now, I’d much rather listen to Tiffany. (Only in my dreams is ace though)

  9. 34
    thefatgit on 13 May 2010 #

    On the subject of Debbie Gibson, I found myself liking her even more in Megashark vs Giant Octopus!

  10. 35
    Kat but logged out innit on 13 May 2010 #

    I can’t bear this song. I don’t actually remember it from the time, but when decade nostalgia (I heart the 19#0s and so on) properly gripped the country about ten years ago it suddenly was played at every crappy disco I attended (there were a lot of those). What the hell was wrong with everyone? There are so many good equally-cheesy tunes from the 80s – what is it about Tiffany that makes girls my age scream along at the top of their lungs? It’s not even a comedy Rick Astley thing. My best guess is that the chorus is so basic (easy to sing, easy to learn) that it feels achievable for my generation. I was brought up in the 90s with far lower technical expectations of girls singing teenpop music*, though this argument falls down a bit when you take into account more AOR-targeted US diva pop (Mariah/Whitney) that ended up also being v popular with young girls despite not being aimed at them. Disproving my own argument there, marvellous.

    A better point: perhaps the age gap between myself and my sister meant that in 1988 she was busy listening Street Sounds compilations instead of bratty teenpop, so I missed out on all the hairbrush karaoke action. So when I hear Tiffany I am basically annoyed that other people are having fun listening to shit music and I can’t join in. Selfish and snobby and uncomfortably true.

    *By this I mean a) it’s much harder to sing Bonnie Tyler than Aqua b) more sampled dance music meant repetitive lyrics that were easier to learn c) everyone had to start singing live on the telly so simplified their vocal lines accordingly.**

    **Almost certainly not true but hey I like making points in threes.

  11. 36
    anto on 13 May 2010 #

    This has a wonky charm about it. That opening “Let me hear your heartbeat ” bit is good and Tiff delivers a nicely un self-conscious vocal.
    The backing track is functional in the best sense.
    My one major reservation is that crap synth break. Does it remind anyone else of soemthing that would have been better employed on an M&Ms advert?

  12. 37
    Tom Lawrence on 13 May 2010 #

    I wanted to give this a seven out of some kind of odd residual affection I don’t quite understand (I’m too young at this point to actually remember it the first time out, but I nonetheless feel warm nostalgia about it).

    However the cheapness of that backing really cut into me on re-listening, so a six it is. I get the feeling something similar is going to lop a point or two off a lot of my early 90s nostalgia…

    I still rather like the way her voice completely changes for the “I CAN CHANGE YOUR HEART BEAT” nit, which manages to sound slightly threatening.

  13. 38
    koganbot on 13 May 2010 #

    This is OK, better than I remember, actually, Tiff sings with feeling and has fun with “I can change your heartbeat” at the end, but it does seem clueless (they double-track parts of the chorus, which makes no sense); I vastly prefer “I Saw Him Standing There” (and “Danny” and “Could’ve Been”).

    In the U.S. we had a different followup number one. It will make you gawp, at least slightly.

  14. 39
    koganbot on 13 May 2010 #

    Danny,” my favorite Tiffany track.

  15. 40
    Conrad on 13 May 2010 #

    the audience in that mall is a very scary proposition.

    hard to get worked up about this really. it’s not terrible, the singer is not objectionable, but it doesnt have a whole lot to recommend it. a solid 3.

  16. 41
    Jonathan Bogart (but as they say logged out innit) on 14 May 2010 #

    I first knew this song from the Weird Al parody of it (“I Think I’m A Clone Now,” natch), so the backing and phrasing sounds right but the words don’t!

    But yes, my favorite real version is the Tommy James one too.

  17. 42
    taDOW on 14 May 2010 #

    i think ‘could’ve been’ was the only one i actually liked (shades of ‘i’m with you’ – “mature” powerballad turn from sassy teen pop girl) but i didn’t mind ‘i think we’re alone now’ (boy did i HATE ‘i saw him standing there’ though), preferred it to say the song that replaced this at #1 in the us *cue ‘synchronicity II’*. definitely preferred debbie gibson – love ‘only in my dreams’ and ‘shake yr love’ (LOVED the john leland spin mag piece from around then)(at this point i’m 13 so leland, fab five freddy, and wuog the local college radio station were huge in any pop awakening i was undergoing). only a notch below mel and kim for me – 6.

  18. 43
    taDOW on 14 May 2010 #

    man actually watching the vid again the amateurishness is stunning (and charming in a way – she seems almost as much secretly indie 1987 as taylor swift was not so secretly indie 2009), esp in comparison to ‘only in my dreams’ (which holds up nicely). watching both vids reminded me of another phenomenon (maybe this ties in to the next #1 also) – late 80s white girl dancing. JAZZ HANDS!

  19. 44
    swanstep on 14 May 2010 #

    @taDow,43. Good call on the jazz hands: Kylie’s Locomotion has a great example at ~2 mins 50s in.

  20. 45

    key to the secret history of JAZZ HANDS is BLOSSOM, no? Obviously it’s a bit later…

    There was a book about Blossom at the house we stayed in in France.

  21. 46
    MikeMCSG on 14 May 2010 #

    I think 5 is over generous. It’s only bearable in comparison to her utterly horrendous cover of “I Saw Him Standing There”. The video of her “singing” that live puts her on the same level as first week X-Factor cannon fodder.

    Wasn’t this a Jonathan King promotion ? It always depressed me when people seemed to act on his recommendations (eg Joan Jett).

    For a better understanding of the milieu from which Tiffany came check out Douglas Coupland’s “Shampoo Planet” which captures that whole mallrat culture very nicely.

    Have to say those Playboy pics were impressive although you suspect that Tiff’s adult charms are not entirely natural.

  22. 47
    Alfred on 14 May 2010 #

    The Debbie Gibson to know and love is “Out of the Blue,” whose static verses and guitar synthesizer evoke My Bloody Valentine of all things; the news that “you” loves her surprises her so much that she sounds motionless with awe.

  23. 48
    LondonLee on 14 May 2010 #

    Tom summed this up for me, the song is much better than the record, not so much for the bargain-basement production which I find rather charming but Tiffany herself who (despite her other assets) brings absolutely nothing to the table and seems to have no personality or character. Shame really, as the imaginary version of this in my head (white trash mallrat covers 60s bubblegum pop classic) is really good.

  24. 49
    Rory on 14 May 2010 #

    She’s managed to tilt her head at just the right angle on that sleeve to make it look like bad photoshopping, years ahead of its time.

  25. 50
    Mark G on 17 May 2010 #

    This song hadn’t been a hit in the UK before but there was a queue of versions that for one reason or another had missed..

    The Rubinoos would hit eventually with “I wanna be your boyfriend”, and Lene Lovitch had “Lucky Number”, both shortly after having done this song.

  26. 51
    wichita lineman on 17 May 2010 #

    Smash Hits watch: two covers for Tiff, 27 Jan and 4 May 1988. She revealed that the last thing she did before going to bed was to eat home made cookies (on a tray, no crumbs in the bed), and that at school she was called Whiffany.

    I wanted to like Tiffany more. She seemed as unforced and endearingly amateurish as anyone since Bananarama. No enduring classics, though (anything I’ve missed, anyone? Frank?). This record is a strawberry Chewit next to the box of popcorn that followed it, but – as everyone bar Kat has said – the song is imperishable.

    I have a strong, gleeful memory of the TOTP programme with Tiff and Debbie Gibson – it felt like a brisk pop breeze after the heavy air of the mid 80s, and all the hollow self-importance; I heard (almost) no rock moves. What’s more, both girls seemed entirely unpretentious. Clearly neither wanted to be prematurely middle aged like Tina Turner or as hard-assed as Madonna (who already seemed old beyond her years). In retrospect, it was as significant an episode as the Roses/Mondays one 18 months down the line – a victory for Pop where the latter was a hard-won battle in the Indie wars.

  27. 52
    Mark M on 17 May 2010 #

    Re 9 & 46: Belinda Carlisle also made a long after the years of fame appearance in Playboy, which I presume makes a unique sequence of No1 artists taking Hugh Hefner’s dollar.

  28. 53
    Erithian on 18 May 2010 #

    Not the customary use of these pages, but a shout-out to Rosie of this parish who suffered a brain haemorrhage on 12 May and is recovering in the Royal Preston Hospital. Get well soon Rosie, we need your take on the next number one as soon as you’re fit to give it.

  29. 54
    MikeMCSG on 18 May 2010 #

    #53 Amen to that

  30. 55

    :( That’s awful news!! All the best Rosie, quick recovery and warmest wishes!

  31. 56
    Mike Atkinson on 18 May 2010 #

    Co-signing the virtual “get well soon” card. All best wishes for a speedy recovery, Rosie.

  32. 57
    thefatgit on 18 May 2010 #

    I enjoy reading Rosie’s comments on here, so I too wish a speedy recovery. Get well soon Rosie.

  33. 58
    Tim on 18 May 2010 #

    :( Get well soon, Rosie.

  34. 59
    Tom on 18 May 2010 #

    God, how terrible – get well soon Rosie!

  35. 60
    koganbot on 18 May 2010 #

    Yes, hope you have a good recovery.

  36. 61
    anto on 18 May 2010 #

    Get well soon Rosie.

  37. 62
    Rory on 19 May 2010 #

    Indeed, what awful news. Get well soon, Rosie.

  38. 63
    will on 19 May 2010 #

    Wishing you a full and speedy recovery, Rosie

  39. 64
    punctum on 19 May 2010 #

    Good heavens. I’ve only now just looked at this thread and found out the news. A brain haemorrhage is a terrible thing to happen no matter which way you look at it. My mum had an aneurysm back in 1996 and she was lucky to survive that (she was with friends when it happened; if she’d been alone at home, I shudder to think what might have happened).

    So, yes, Rosie, I hope you makes a full recovery, however long it takes. Deep down I miss arguing with you, you daft old bat ;-)

    (Paging Waldo: if you’re in a position to do so please pass on all of our good wishes to R. Thanks.)

  40. 65
    pink champale on 19 May 2010 #

    Get well soon, Rosie

  41. 66
    LondonLee on 19 May 2010 #

    Best wishes and good thoughts to you, Rosie.

  42. 67
    Billy Smart on 19 May 2010 #

    Get well soon, Rosie.

  43. 68
    Martin Skidmore on 21 May 2010 #

    I echo the best wishes to Rosie.

    For me, this song illustrates why I am so in favour of cover versions as a general principle. I loved the song so much in the Tommy James and Rubinoos version that a lot of the feeling (which is very similar to that evoked by some great Shangri-Las singles) simply carried over for me, and the powerful emotions that Tiffany and the backing do so little to actually express are solidly embedded in the song, so I get them anyway even in a lacklustre version. Not that we needed a version as uninteresting as this, but when it was played everywhere I was able to enjoy it enormously more than if this had been the only version I’d heard.

  44. 69
    Waldo on 24 May 2010 #

    ROSIE UPDATE:

    Thanks for the paging, MC.

    I’ve only now had this opportunity to access Popular having been in Italy for a few days and then suffering loss of Internet at work.

    The news about Rosie is most encouraging after what were truly alaming events. She was moved back from the Royal Preston to her local hospital in resplendant Barrow over the weekend and the last text I received mentioned something about a romance with a chocolate orange. She particularly forbade me from exchanging jokey obituaries with Erithian (whenever someone of note edges one to the keeper, he and I are on a race to get the gag in first) as she assures everyone that she doesn’t intend to check out (of life) just yet.

    I would like to thank everyone for your messages of support, which I have passed on to Rosie. Her contributions to the Popular project have been considerable and the bunfights with Marcello, in particular, entertaining for a variety of reasons. I’ll let you all know when there is an update and copy this to whatever number one we are discussing at the time.

    Cheers, everyone.

  45. 70
    Tom on 24 May 2010 #

    That’s very encouraging Waldo – thanks so much for updating us!

  46. 71
    rosie on 24 May 2010 #

    What are you all gawping at? Have you go enough work to do?

    Carlin, my office. Now!

  47. 72
    Mike Atkinson on 24 May 2010 #

    SHE IS ARISEN! SHE IS AMONGST US! (see above)

    Welcome back, Rosie. You have some overdue coursework, but we are prepared to be lenient in this instance.

  48. 73
    Caledonianne on 1 Jun 2010 #

    I’ve been AWOL (for all sorts of reasons to complicated to explain), but – phew! – it’s great to scroll down, and have Rosamundo ‘erself dishing out the orders, just a few minutes after first learning of the incident.

    Hope the convalescence continues to go well.

  49. 74
    Billman on 15 Dec 2013 #

    Tiffany was good in the 80’s but now she is even better just listen to rose tattoo album to find out how good Tiffany is now

  50. 75
    Adam on 28 Mar 2015 #

    Any pop fans out there who find celebrity culture fascinating will enjoy this eponymous documentary, which matter-of-factly deals with two Tiffany stalkers long after her career had waned. Similar subject as Scorsese’s King of Comedy, I guess, but doesn’t try to judge; just shines a light on “the people behind the idolatrous comments”. https://vimeo.com/16528127

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