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Jun 12

TAKE THAT ft LULU – “Relight My Fire”

Popular34 comments • 2,747 views

#696, 9th October 1993

With “Pray” I made the case for Take That being – visually at any rate – something new in British pop. But they could do tradition, too – “Relight My Fire”, a confident consolidation of their stardom, put down careful markers on two different strands of pop heritage.

One was Brit-pop as light entertainment. Guest vocalist Lulu had the lungs for the job – she needed to, replacing a Loleatta Holloway vocal – but she also had the pedigree to sell Take That as a family act, pecs’n’kecks notwithstanding. Barlow’s songwriting was already doing the job of making his group cuddly – now here was a much-loved face from olden days to back that up. (At the time I only had a very fuzzy grasp on why Lulu was famous and I doubt I was alone in this.)

The other pop tradition was disco. Britain never tried to stuff the disco genie back into the bottle in the way America had – no heaps of burning disco records in, say, Cardiff Arms Park – and the music was uncool mostly in the way that everything 70s was. Until, all of a sudden, it wasn’t: Take That were far from the last pop act to put down roots with a disco cover – it was as accepted a move for 90s boy and girl groups as R&B covers had been for the Beatles’ generation. If anything, the mainstream disco revival ran slightly ahead of the hip version – it wasn’t until 1995 that the much-respected Mastercuts series got around to a Classic Disco Mastercuts, compiled by Dave Lee, AKA Joey Negro, who’d produced “Relight My Fire” for Take That.

Lee’s compilation led off with the original Dan Hartman “Relight”, reunited with its magnificent cosmic-dancefloor intro “Vertigo”. Hartman’s track was never a hit here, so perhaps Lee – having helped cement Take That’s version in people’s minds – wanted to remind them of the original. Which – and this is unfortunate for the boys – is a great deal better. Take That’s record is fine, though, very enjoyable – but though Lulu does her best all the enjoyment is from the song, not the performance. Most disco cover versions by pop bands lack vocal chops, but more, they lack urgency – any sense that something is at stake, that these three, four or nine minutes are the singer’s only chance to get a feeling over, rather than one of many opportunities to put on some glitter and a wig. “Relight My Fire” was a great record – this has no ambition beyond being quite a good one.

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Comments

  1. 1
    Mark G on 6 Jun 2012 #

    Unfortunately, Lulu’s singing shows Gary’s up for the work-bloke performance it was. Was Loleatta’s the same against Dan’s?

  2. 2
    Tom on 6 Jun 2012 #

    Dan is no Loleatta but he puts some welly in.

  3. 3
    swanstep on 6 Jun 2012 #

    Both Take That’s version and the original are new to me… and, wow, that nearly 10 minute Vertigo/Relight 12″ is utterly fantastic. And little things make a big difference. The Fire/Desire rhyme sounds a little more plonking as TT do it, we miss the brass instruments dreadfully, that soul-less ’90s house piano takes up way more room than it should, and so on. Original 12″ is an 8 or a 9 I’d say, whereas 5′s generous for TT.

    A side note: the awful anti-Disco night at Comiskey Park in Chicago in 1979, was followed only weeks later by the ‘We Are Family’ Pittsburgh Pirates winning the World Series. Whole baseball stadiums boogied to Sister Sledge night after night. There’s no reason to give one phenomenon more prominence than the other in mid-America’s attitudes towards disco at the time.

    Yes, there was a backlash against disco in 1979, with all sorts of not-at-all-nice-strands to it, but it’s not true that mid-west America purged it from their consciousness. Chic and Diana Ross would have massive hits in 1980 with Upside Down and I’m Coming Out, and people in Chicago, Pitstburgh, and everywhere in between bought them. Off the Wall played and sold everywhere. So, any attempt to put the disco genie back in the bottle was as half-hearted as it was utterly unsuccessful.

  4. 4
    punctum on 6 Jun 2012 #

    As I’m writing this, I’m listening to Lulu’s “Oh Me Oh My (I’m A Fool For You Baby),” her delicious, slow-burning debut single for Atlantic Records, released at the end of 1969, superbly produced by Tom Dowd and Jerry Wexler in Memphis and featuring a characteristically empathetic string arrangement from Arif Mardin, and in America her biggest hit since “To Sir With Love.” Then I remember that in Britain the single barely crept into the Top 50, and at the other end of that same year she scored her biggest British hit with joint Eurovision winner “Boom-Bang-A-Bang.” It seemed that all we wanted was the cutsey pie and the vaudeville wink-wink; Lulu herself continues to despise the record with rare intensity, and certainly has no complaints about Marvin’s “Grapevine” keeping it at number two. Even “To Sir With Love” itself – apparently 1967’s biggest-selling single in the US – was deemed worthy of B-side status only in her native land.

    So her imperious “Yeah!,” two minutes and 36 seconds into “Relight My Fire,” represents the outcome of a freedom long fought for. Nearly three decades after her “Shout” (the Isley Brothers, via Alex Harvey) she had finally made number one here, and it’s no accident that her own big hit of that year was entitled “Independence.” She also acts as a valuable mentor to Take That, who essay their revival of the 1979 Dan Hartman disco/proto-Hi NRG classic with a typically British reticence in spite of Joey Negro’s spot-on production, complete with period, but not tacky, syndrums.

    However, Gary Barlow’s reserve actually comes across as quite endearing here – note the way he politely pronounces the “got” in the line “I’ve got to say I only dream of you” and his nobly bluff “uh huh uh huh huh” aside, each syllable carefully separated and individually pronounced. A substantial improvement on their “Could It Be Magic?,” the fire, as such, really occurs with Lulu’s utterly confident and welcoming entry – “You gotta have HOPE in your soul!” she hollers to herself and to us as she strides easily through the octaves, gradually encouraging the boys to loosen up until they are comfortably trading eights with her, and it’s she who provides the punctum here, relighting her own fire (1993 also saw her first hit as a songwriter – Tina Turner’s great “I Don’t Wanna Fight”), proving to Mickie Most and anyone else who’d doubted her that she’d been right all along.

  5. 5
    wichita lineman on 6 Jun 2012 #

    “A disco cover… was as accepted a move for 90s boy and girl groups as R&B covers had been for the Beatles’ generation.” Good call! Never thought of that. I’d like to think Big Fun were the ‘game changers’ with Blame It On The Boogie.

    I had no memory of the Dan Hartman original, but me and my pals were very taken with the idea of updating another song by sticking ‘re’ in front of it: Re-open Your Heart, Re-carry That Weight, Re-do the Do.

    Re 3: Yes, there were some survivors – Chic and Michael Jackson were possibly immune from the Comiskey Park fall-out by dint of being much closer to R&B/Soul than, say, the Michael Zager Band. Check the US number ones before and after Comiskey Park – Disco fell off a cliff.

    Re 4: Oh Me Oh My is unspeakably beautiful, at least the equal of anything on Dusty In Memphis. Lulu’s Memphis rave-up Move To My Rhythm is terrific too – hard as nails, a guaranteed floor filler.

  6. 6
    Tom on 6 Jun 2012 #

    #4 Terrific comment Punctum.

  7. 7
    will on 6 Jun 2012 #

    As Wichita points out at 5 TT were if anything slightly behind the game at this point. As well as Big Fun we’d already had Kylie covering Kool And The Gang’s Celebration by this point. Sonia had taken her version of Boogie Nights into the Top 30 in summer ’92.

    Crucially though, Relight My Fire had never been a hit in the UK and felt fresh to all but dedicated disco officiandos. Everyone I know (apart the odd ‘real music’ curmudgeon) seemed to love it. They hardly needed Lulu on board to seal the deal with the British public.

  8. 8
    Pearly Spencer on 6 Jun 2012 #

    Spot on, Tom. And an interesting Dan Hartman/boy band point, found in a spot of light Googling – his single before Relight My Fire was Instant Replay, which was a hit for “top pop duo” (hmm) Yell! in 1990. Which sounds incredibly disco to me, although without the chops of Hartman’s original… http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dgx89lb2pm8. Actually, lots of late ’80s S/A/W sounds like cleaned-up disco to my ears.

  9. 9
    JLucas on 6 Jun 2012 #

    I used to love this but since discovering the original it’s really been rendered obsolete. Lulu does her best, but she really can’t compete with Loleatta’s disco scream. “WAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAGH!”

    One thing that doesn’t seem to have been touched on, that I find quite interesting, is how brazenly Take That were playing to the gay market at this time. Pray was already packed with homoerotic imagery, but this one even moreso. Drafting in an ageing gay icon for a guest slot just added to the queer appeal.

    Imagine One Direction or JLS doing that now. Unthinkable.

  10. 10
    Tom on 6 Jun 2012 #

    Even Westlife played G.A.Y, didn’t they?

  11. 11
    thefatgit on 6 Jun 2012 #

    I’d not heard the Dan Hartman RMF before either. Like most people at the time, I thought TT were doing ol’ Lulu a favour, but in hindsight it must have been the other way round. From this point onwards, TT seemed to become “important” (I’m not sure if that’s the right word, but there is definitely a shift away from flimsy, disposable Teen Idols, to something firmer and more permanent on the pop landscape). RMF is catchy and bouncy, almost “anthemic” (if there is such a term), with it’s place in the wedding disco canon assured. Lulu does a fine job although she’s not got the awesome lung capacity of Loleatta Holloway (few have), but more than enough to steal Gary’s fire. He sounds like a damp squib in comparison. He has the third best voice in TT, and given other people’s songs to cover, I always felt he afforded them a little too much reverence. Where Lulu sunk her teeth in, Gary merely nibbled.
    Still worth a 6, though.

  12. 12
    JLucas on 6 Jun 2012 #

    #10 – Yes thankfully most boybands will acknowledge their gay fanbase these days (McFly practically live on the cover of Attitude these days). But I was talking more about actively aiming for that market in the music and imagery.

    Obviously all pop music has a degree of gay appeal, for whatever reason, but I can’t think of a boyband since Take That who owned it to quite such a degree. It’d be like JLS doing a video shot in G-A-Y with feather boas and balloons and a guest slot from Dannii Minogue.

  13. 13
    Alan not logged in on 6 Jun 2012 #

    Yell! Instant Replay on ToTP http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dgx89lb2pm8

    lawks I remember this (ftb I loved the original) they were post-Bros london-boys-era ‘throw it at the wall’ stuff

    (ha I see someone else already linked the ToTP youtub)

  14. 14
    weej on 6 Jun 2012 #

    Just had a listen to the original for the first time. What strikes me isn’t so much that it’s better or that she’s a better singer (though it is, and she really is), but that the process of adapting the song to six singers hasn’t been carried out properly at all. Even the “yeah” the other four are occasionally allowed appears in fact to be also Gary. This is mystifying as (1) the original has multiple vocal lines at the same time anyway and (2) surely the whole point of having a boyband is to have multiple singers.
    The official version on Youtube ( http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=40Od45DjCA4 ) is credited to “Take That Featuring Lulu;John Noyce” – Who is John Noyce? Apparently the session’s bass player (?!?), later to join Jethro Tull (!?!?!?!) – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jonathan_Noyce
    The top comments on the video are also quite bizarre.

  15. 15
    sükråt tanned rested unlogged and awesome on 6 Jun 2012 #

    Where is Pete Frame when we need him? The prog-boyband family tree is U&K.

  16. 16
    lonepilgrim on 6 Jun 2012 #

    This is a strong song with a fairly anonymous performance from the Thatz, enlivened by Lulu’s contribution.
    It serves to provide TT with a backstory – a bit of disco, some House and a sprinkling of Light Entertainment

    I don’t know why Lulu hasn’t made more of an impact – she had Jimi Hendrix on her show in the 60s, worked with/covered Bowie in the 70s but never seemed to develop her profile beyond one-off hits.

  17. 17
    Alfred on 8 Jun 2012 #

    Thanks to punctum for citing Tina Turner’s “I Don’t Wanna Fight.”

  18. 18
    swanstep on 9 Jun 2012 #

    Does anyone know (or have any information about) why ‘To Sir With Love’ was left as a B-side in the UK? I only just got around to checking out its A-side, Let’s Pretend, and it’s OK at best, so *that’s* not the reason. One would have thought the recording’s quality + its movie tie-in would have guaranteed the record a big push (i.e., even without its massive success in the US).

  19. 19
    swanstep on 9 Jun 2012 #

    Hmm, looking at the single sleeve you’d never guess that TSWL wasn’t the A-side, so maybe nothing needs to be explained here.

  20. 20
    Special Girl AKA on 10 Jun 2012 #

    Worth remembering that TT’s first producer, Ian Levine, brought proto-disco to the Northern Soul scene (and invited one of the Miracles to sing bvox on Could It Be Magic); it seems that Gaz, Rob, Wee Mark, Jason and Howard ‘Dreads’ Donald had a disco pedigree reaching right back to the dark days of Take That And Party. NB look out for Mark Owen’s ‘Johnson’s Baddy Powder’ t-shirt in the video – coveted by thousands of tweenage girls in late 1993.

  21. 21
    Erithian on 11 Jun 2012 #

    Due congratulations to Gary Barlow on becoming only the second individual to return to Number 1 after being featured in Popular (the first having been Sir Tom Jones’ cameo appearance in the Rob Brydon/Ruth Jones Comic Relief record). And getting back to number 1 while you’re also the most recent Popular entry isn’t going to happen too often.

  22. 22
    punctum on 11 Jun 2012 #

    bunny bunny bunny bunny

    (although no congratulations to soft-shoeing Tory lickarse Barlow for making me have to spend money on and write about his wan sequel to The Duke Wore Jeans)

  23. 23
    Mark G on 11 Jun 2012 #

    Well,:

    GBarl either does not count because the current one is not just him, or it’s not a bunny because this one does count. Unless we can’t talk about the current number one on any official Popular entry (year ones are exempted), it’s complex.

    And anyways, wouldn’t Robin Gibb also count for his also cameo on the RJ/RB/TJ comrel record?

  24. 24
    punctum on 11 Jun 2012 #

    I think we should talk about Popular entries when we get to them.

  25. 25
    Erithian on 11 Jun 2012 #

    Spoiler bunny “rules” were intended to prevent discussion on upcoming number ones starting too early. I don’t think it’s going to disturb the bunny to note that someone has joined the exclusive “returned to number one since featuring in Popular” club, since we’re not discussing the record, just noting a factoid arising from its existence!

    If I were to mention that the record makes tambourine-playing Prince Harry by far the nearest person in line to the throne to feature on a number one, that might constitute discussing it, so I won’t.

    Oh yes, Mark, I’d forgotten about Robin Gibb’s contribution to the Comic Relief record, so that makes Gary the third member of the RTNOSFIP club – none of them yet as the same act that got them there before. (I think we agreed on the Jailhouse Rock thread that Elvis’s 2005 reissues shouldn’t count.)

  26. 26
    punctum on 11 Jun 2012 #

    I think we should talk about Popular entries when we get to them, in order to prevent discussion on upcoming number ones starting too early.

  27. 27
    Jimmy the Swede on 11 Jun 2012 #

    I do wish that St Etts would release “Popular” as a single and that it topped the chart. That would make the entry we already have on the site the most Bunny-abused act in the history of the world. The Nabob of the Scene would no doubt claim sanctuary because he would say he included “Popular” in good faith and as a heartfelt thanks to Bob, Sarah and Pete. And I for one would agree. But Bunny, who feasts on cider apples and gets angry very quickly, may not see it that way.

  28. 28
    punctum on 11 Jun 2012 #

    If they did release it as a single, however, it would scoot straight in at #123 and straight out again.

  29. 29
    JimD on 12 Jun 2012 #

    Bit of gossip from Barlow’s autobiography:

    “The plan for Relight My Fire was that Rob would sing lead vocals as his follow-up to Could It Be Magic. Rob was in the studio for two nights but he just couldn’t get his vocals right, so on the third day Nigel called me and said ‘Can you go to the studio tonight and sing it so Rob can copy your vocals?’

    I did and everyone loved the voice I found. Nigel, who wasn’t big on compliments, said, ‘Where did you pull that from? It’s one of the best you’ve ever done.’

    ‘I dunno, I just did it.’

    So that’s how I ended up on what was supposed to be Rob’s song.”

  30. 30
    Jimmy the Swede on 16 Jun 2012 #

    So Gary only lands a derisory OBE. Was it worth all the trouble, lad?!

  31. 31
    Erithian on 5 Nov 2012 #

    So we have a fourth member of the RTNOSFIP club. Strewth, Robbie’s back! (With a helping hand from Gaz of course.)

  32. 32
    wichitalineman on 25 Jun 2013 #

    Lulu has just announced her first UK gig in years at Stamford Bridge on October 4th. I love her dearly, but her press release is so ‘creative’ I can’t resist sticking it up here. Every line is sort of true but, um, not really:

    “It was the sixties when Lulu first burst onto the scene at the tender age of 15 with the mega, definitive and enduring Shout. Since then she has topped the charts in every decade, working over the years with some of the greatest talents of our time – from Jimi Hendrix, Johnny Cash and The Beatles to Elton John, David Bowie and Paul McCartney. Also an accomplished actress, her film debut was in the cult classic To Sir With Love, breaking hearts all over the world with her plaintive rendition of the title song.

    When Lulu turned her hand to writing, her song I Don’t Wanna Fight became a world-wide number one for Tina Turner and was nominated for both Grammy and Ivor Novello Awards. And who can forget the high-energy duet with Take That, lifting Relight My Fire to new heights and taking it to number 1 in the UK. While mentoring on American Idol, Lulu stopped the show with a powerhouse version of To Sir With Love – arranged by Barry Manilow – to an audience of over 70 million.”

  33. 33
    Izzy on 25 Jun 2013 #

    Stamford Bridge?! Is Lulu seriously going to pull 40,000?

  34. 34
    wichitalineman on 26 Jun 2013 #

    No. Somewhere within the ‘complex’ called Under The Bridge. No idea on capacity but £29 a ticket seems pretty reasonable to hear her mega, definitive, and enduring Shout.

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