Released today in 1989: Waltz Darling

Virgin WALTZ1

Virgin WALTZ1

Waltz Darling was the title track of Malcolm McLaren’s 1989 album. A short work with just eight tracks, this was a superb collection, fusing classical pieces with funk and hip hop rhythms and adding McLaren’s spoken contributions and the voices of a number of guest singers. This didn’t always work: he only just about gets away with Shall We Dance, where the modern instrumental and the classical recording fight uncomfortably for prominence in the mix, but in the main he achieves a balance between the multiple influences. This harmony is captured on the album cover, which at first glance is a simple reproduction of Leighton’s stunning Flaming June painting, but on closer inspection incorporates a frieze depicting the contributors to the album. The album features a number of guests to whom the adjective ‘legendary’ is often applied, but McLaren also made use of the talents of lesser-knowns who received an ‘introducing’ credit. Here’s a roll-call:

Performers

The first of those ‘legends’ was rock guitarist Jeff Beck, billed as ‘featuring’ on two tracks. A prolific contributor to other people’s records, Beck has appeared on albums by the like of Morrissey, Jon Bon Jovi and Kate Bush. Jointly credited with McLaren was The Bootzilla Orchestra, effectively songwriter, producer and multi-instrumentalist Bootsy Collins: another ‘legend’. Active since the late Sixties, Collins is a prolific recording artist in his own right, as has influenced and contributed to many other people’s projects. ‘Bootzilla’ was the title of a 1978 single by Collins’ Bootsy’s Rubber Band which referred to Bootsy’s alter-ego (one of many he used), “the world’s only rhinestone rock star mother-of-a doll”.

Those ‘introduced’ on Waltz Darling include Pretty-Fatt, who had worked with Collins previously, and Gina Cie and Lourdes, who appear to have made their only professional recordings on the album. Others, such as Lisa Marie, had already started to make names for themselves prior to working with McLaren. Marie was a model who’d worked with Robert Mapplethorpe and Bruce Weber, including the latter’s campaign materials for Calvin Klein. She had also begun an acting career and appeared in a number of films directed by her partner in the 1990s, Tim Burton. Another American, N’Dea Davenport, credited as Miss Ndea, had also achieved some recognition as a dancer and session singer; she had been offered a recording contract by Dave Stewart of Eurythmics (also one Waltz Darling’s producers) prior to working with McLaren but turned it down as it meant relocating to England. She went on to achieve fame as a member of acid jazz group The Brand New Heavies in the 1990s.

The track Deep In Vogue ‘introduces’ Willi Ninja, a dancer and choreographer who would be featured prominently in the 1991 film ‘Paris Is Burning’ which in part documented the dance style ‘Vogueing’, also the song’s subject. McLaren explains in the song, “imagine runway modelling, in freeze frame, at the ball that’s what they call Vogueing”; Willi Ninja was a key proponent.

Producers

McLaren is credited as co-producer on all eight tracks, and he is assisted by seven others, each working on one or two songs. The big names were the previously mentioned Collins and Stewart, together with Phil Ramone. Ramone was active in the entertainment industry for over half a century and worked with some of the biggest names in popular and classical music during his long career; his appreciation of both the modern and classical made him ideal for Waltz Darling.

Others were Robbie Kilgore, Mary Kessler, David Lebolt and Andy Richards, the latter a British producer who worked on a number of big albums in the mid-80s. Also receiving credit for ‘additional production’ on Deep In Vogue were Mark Moore and William Orbit. McLaren liked their mix of the song so much that he replaced the original version with theirs on the album. Moore was already well-known as the main man of S’Express and worked with Orbit on several projects in the latter part of the 1980s when the two struck up a friendship. Orbit’s Eighties saw him both as a solo artist and as a member of ambient trio Torch Song. He finished the decade by recording an instrumental album of electronica (his second LP of this kind) and a dance/house album as part of a collective called Bassomatic, both of which were released in 1990.

Despite all this talent, the album was only a modest success, reaching #30, and only its first two singles made the Top 40 (the featured release at the top of this article, and its follow up Something’s Jumpin’ In Your Shirt, featuring Marie). Third single House of the Blue Danube was a very minor hit at the end of 1989, and Call A Wave failed to chart altogether. Fifth single Deep In Vogue was released nearly a year after the album and reached #83 in May 1990. McLaren’s thunder was stolen by Madonna, whose Vogue single had already topped the chart a few weeks earlier. Willi Ninja featured prominently in the video for McLaren’s single, which was not dissimilar to Madonna’s shoot.

NEW SINGLES on sale from May. 15
1981
HEAVEN 17 I’m Your Money (Virgin VS417)
SIMPLE MINDS (Jim Kerr) The American (Virgin VS410)
SIOUXSIE AND THE BANSHEES (Siouxsie Sioux) Spellbound (Polydor POSP273)
UB40 Don’t Let It Pass You By (DEP International 7DEP1)
1989
ABC One Better World (Neutron NT114)
Malcolm McLAREN Waltz Darling (Virgin WALTZ1)
The STYLE COUNCIL Long Hot Summer ’89 (Polydor LHS1)

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