Meanwhile, promotion for the girls’ third single F. L. M. continued, after a fashion: no PAs could be made with Mel out of action. In addition, the storyboard for the promotional clip to accompany the single had been finalized, but as Mel was unable to attend filming the girls’ intended roles in it had to be changed. Footage of them performing the song from a recent appearance at Montreaux was edited into the clip, which focussed on the extras hired for the shoot instead. (F.L.M., by the way, didn’t stand for ‘fun, love and money’ as the lyrics suggested, but for ‘fucking lovely mate’, an oft-used phrase of Mel’s to show approval of something.)
By November, the extended low public profile from Mel & Kim led to tabloid rumours that Mel had cancer. In Smash Hits (16-29 December 1987), Get Smart! reported that a spokesperson said the rumours were untrue and that she was recovering from three slipped discs, and confirmed that a new single, That’s The Way It Is, would be out in the New Year. Mel discharged herself from hospital to record her vocal for the song, but when it was released the photograph of the girls on the sleeve was from a shoot for Mizz magazine from a year ago, and this time they did not feature at all in the promotional video clip, save for a photograph in the closing frames. Nevertheless, it continued their run of Top 10 singles.
A few weeks later, they appeared on the BBC evening chat show ‘Wogan’ the week before European Cancer Week where Mel, in typical ebullient fashion, discussed her cancer diagnosis. She was frank in her description of some of the things she had had to endure while being treated, such as the removal of a tumour from her spine in a very dangerous operation that meant she couldn’t move her neck for some time and which had affected her balance and ability to walk (let alone to dance). Kim described the effect of the illness on their family. Despite the seriousness of Mel’s condition and the trauma it had caused their family, it was clear that Mel’s focus was on the future. She explained that she and Kim were writing songs together, using a portable studio in their flat, and when prompted by interviewer Terry Wogan they burst into song with one of their own compositions, working title ‘Oh Yes I’m Leaving’ ‡. They sounded just as they always did. The girls discussed the need for initial discretion about the cancer diagnosis in an interview for TV-AM later that summer. “The press were hassling me, they wanted a story and all that,” Mel said. “Mel was really depressed, the family was really down, and the fact that they wanted a story – which is fine – but wait until Mel gets better,” said Kim. “Mel was in no condition to speak to anyone. She wasn’t even speaking to me in the beginning.”
‡ This song was later retitled If You Cared and appeared on Kim’s album Kim Appleby released in late 1990; Mel had died on 18 January that year.
NEW SINGLES on sale from Jun. 29
Kate BUSH Sat In Your Lap (EMI EMI5201)
THOMPSON TWINS Sister Of Mercy (Arista TWINS5)
ULTRAVOX (Midge Ure) Lament (Chrysalis UV2)
MEL & KIM F.L.M. (Supreme SUPE113)
SWING OUT SISTER Fooled By A Smile (Mercury SWING5)