Released today in 1989: You On My Mind

Fontana SWING6

Fontana SWING6

Despite being as quintessentially ‘Eighties’ as any band of the era (Paul Staveley O’Duffy’s slick production of their debut album It’s Better To Travel made sure of that, if nothing else), Swing Out Sister took on board influences from throughout the twentieth century to complete their perfect pop package. The liner notes to their first LP mention singer “Corinne, glamorous flapper head” in reference to her bob haircut, a style popularized in the 1920s. (Her distinctive look explains why much of the band’s early press could be found in style magazines such as The Face and iD rather than the music papers.) Then there was the group’s name, taken from the 1940s film ‘Swing Out, Sister!’, a movie set in a jazz club: appropriately given some of their musical interests. Songwriter and keyboardist Andy Connell referred to their musical style as “electro-pop/jazz with Northern Soul influences” in that The Face interview; Corinne would also confirm that she attended Northern Soul gigs in the early 1970s, and the electro-pop element brought them right up to date. But it was the influence of the 1960s that was tamped all over their second album, Kaleidoscope World.

Firstly, there was the record label it was issued on: Fontana, a name that had been more or less absent from record shop racks for 15 years. A subsidiary of Philips launched in 1958, it released hundreds of singles in the following decade before the pooling of Philips’s and rivals Polydor’s distribution networks to form Phonodisc in late 1972/early 1973 led to the winding down of the Fontana brand; it was then rarely used until being fully reactivated in 1987. Swing Out Sister was one of the first groups to be transferred to Fontana on its relaunch, and the cover of Kaleidoscope World was styled to look like a release from the 60s, with the label’s logo prominently featured and an image wash applied to photograph to give it a retro appearance.

Then there was the music itself. Again, the technology and production values were very much of 1989, but this time there was a full orchestra on hand giving a lusher, fuller soundscape than the somewhat clinical approach taken on their previous album. Tellingly, legendary composer and producer Jimmy Webb receives “our thanks… for his invaluable contribution to this album” in the credits; he conducted the orchestra on several tracks. Connell said in the press release for the album, “We haven’t set out to make any kind of radical musical changes on this album, but in retrospect I think we’ve managed to fuse the elements that interest us – classic pop, jazz, movie soundtracks – into a more coherent whole.”

Adding to the depth of the sound were backing vocalists such as Clare Torrey and Stephanie De Sykes, who featured on lead single You On My Mind. The promotional clip made for the single also had a strong 60s theme, a kind of homage to cult 1968 movie ‘The Thomas Crown Affair’ with its split-screen graphics. The film, its imagery, and the musical interests previously mentioned by Connell above, very obviously inspired the closing track of the album, the almost instrumental The Kaleidoscope Affair, which certainly sounded like a soundtrack in search of a movie.

NEW SINGLES on sale from Mar. 28
1980
The CURE (Robert Smith) A Forest (Fiction FICS10)
PRETENDERS Talk Of The Town (Real ARE12)
The TEARDROP EXPLODES (Julian Cope) Treason (Zoo CAGE008)
The UNDERTONES My Perfect Cousin (Sire SIR4038)
1988
BANANARAMA I Want You Back (London NANA16)
BREATHE Any Trick (Siren SRN81)
EURYTHMICS I Need A Man (RCA DA15)
TRANSVISION VAMP (Wendy James) Tell That Girl To Shut Up (MCA TVV2)
1989
CHINA CRISIS Saint Saviour Square (Virgin VS1168)
FIVE STAR With Every Heartbeat (Tent PB42693)
SWING OUT SISTER You On My Mind (Fontana SWING6)

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