Released today in 1988: I’m Not Scared

CBS SCARE1

CBS SCARE1

Although Eighth Wonder are credited on the label, I’m Not Scared is effectively a solo record by their singer Patsy Kensit, or perhaps, more accurately, a Pet Shop Boys single with a guest vocalist.

An instrumental version of the song had been written by Neil Tennant and Chris Lowe in 1985, but it remained as a demo recording only until Pet Shop Boys agreed to work with Kensit. Tennant: “We originally wrote this for Patsy Kensit in 1987… we used to meet Patsy Kensit at parties and she’d ask us to make a record with her. At the time Patsy Kensit had been in Absolute Beginners and she was in this group Eighth Wonder and they hadn’t had a hit…” 1

It was true that Eighth Wonder had not had a hit. The group’s founder was Kensit’s brother, guitarist Jamie, and they had been around for several years by the time they finally made with Top 40 with I’m Not Scared. The failure to make it on to Top of The Pops certainly wasn’t down to lack of publicity: considerable attention surrounded their early appearances in London in 1985, when they were looking for a record deal; CBS won the bidding frenzy and their first single, Stay With Me was released in the autumn. The sleeve declared “EIGHTH WONDER are The Girl and Five Boys…” and pictured drummer Jake Walters, keyboard player Alex Godsen, bassist Lawrence Lewis and lead guitarist Jeff Beauchamp, as well as the Kensits. Nevertheless, almost all the press coverage focused on The Girl: Patsy Pea-pod, the child star from the Birdseye television commercial in the early 70s; Patsy the star of the mega-hyped aforementioned movie Absolute Beginners, in production at the time the record appeared; Patsy the pin-up; Patsy the confident spokeswoman for the band who did all the talking in interviews.

Despite all this, or perhaps because of it, the single limped to a miserable #65, and the cynics – and there were many – satisfied themselves that that would be the last anyone would hear of them, barring an inevitable contribution from the band to the Absolute Beginners soundtrack. For a long time, it seemed the critics were right: 1986 passed without a new Eighth Wonder single and the two they put out in 1987 barely registered on the UK chart. This didn’t dent Kensit’s confidence. Even before the group were signed to CBS, she was telling Record Mirror: “I want to be successful. I want people to like our records.”

It was perhaps that fearless determination to succeed that influenced Tennant when he came to write the lyrics for the I’m Not Scared. “She was seen as a little girl and a controlled type and I thought that the way she was perceived could be changed. I thought it would be good if she could be seen as a strong woman. She seemed to me to be a very strong-willed person, slightly ruthless even, and I didn’t think it was good she was just portrayed as a sexy bimbo… In the song, the idea is that she’s got this horrible gangster boyfriend who’s pushing her around but she’s going to stand up to him because she’s not scared. The “dogs” are the hooligans and criminal elements around them.” 1

Pet Shop Boys’ idea that they could make Kensit a “European pop star” was perfectly possible: Eighth Wonder had already had some success in continental Europe (all their singles charted in Italy), and the French language element of the song made it tailor-made for that market. The release was timely for the British charts too: French Euro-pop was about to produce a couple of other big hits in 1988 for Desireless and Vanessa Paradis. I’m Not Scared paved the way, making the Top 10. Rumours that Kensit fell out with Pet Shop Boys after it charted (they apparently had ideas for the sleeve design and the promotional video, which Kensit rejected, feeling there had to be something of Eighth Wonder’s own identity attached to the release) were untrue, as she told Smash Hits: “There have been all these people saying how Neil and Chris hate me now…you begin to think, ‘Oh no I’ve done something really out of order’. Anyway I walked into this bar and who should be sitting there but Neil and Chris and they threw their arms around me and screamed and I was so pleased that everything was still cool with them because they are such brilliant people.”

CBS quickly capitalized on the record’s success. The follow-up single only narrowly missed the Top 10, and the long-delayed Eighth Wonder album finally made the shops in the summer. The band survived into early 1989, but their final single Use Me saw release that year only in Japan. Having waited so long for the hits, it seemed Kensit had lost interest in being a pop star: after the release of the blockbuster Lethal Weapon 2, in which she had a leading role, she focussed on acting full time and forgot about her musical career all together.

1 Tennant, Neil. “Liner notes”, Introspective/Further Listening 1988-1989, Parlophone, 4 June 2001.

NEW SINGLES on sale from Feb. 8
1988
AFRIKA BAMBAATAA AND FAMILY featuring UB40 Reckless (EMI EM41)
The ALARM Presence Of Love (IRS IRM155)
COLDCUT featuring YAZZ AND THE PLASTIC POPULATION (Yazz) Doctorin’ The House (Ahead Of Our Time CCUT2)
The COMMUNARDS For A Friend (London LON166)
ECHO AND THE BUNNYMEN People Are Strange (WEA YZ175)
EIGHTH WONDER (Patsy Kensit) I’m Not Scared (CBS SCARE1)
The PRIMITIVES (Tracy Tracy) Crash (RCA PB41761)

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