Released today in 1981: See That Girl

Polydor POSP326

Polydor POSP326

What the music industry gives with one hand, it takes away with the other… and no one knew this better than Kirsty MacColl. A talented vocalist and a gifted songwriter – her witty, original lyrics were some of the best the 80s had to offer – she enjoyed a certain amount of good fortune and suffered an unfair share of rotten luck. Just when things seemed to be going her way (usually as a result of hard work on her part, rather than by happy chance), something would spoil the mood…

👍 Everyone loves her debut single They Don’t Know.
Reviews for They Don’t Know were highly favourable and it received plenty of radio airplay.
👎 No one can get hold of a copy.
A distributors’ strike affecting the independent label Stiff, which she was signed to, began just as the single was released, meaning only a limited quantity made it to the record shops. By the time the dispute was resolved, promotion had ended and radio DJs had moved on.

👍 Her debut album Desperate Character is released by Polydor.
Being signed to a major label like Polydor meant a decent marketing budget and proper promotion: a single from the album, There’s A Guy Works Down The Chip Shop Swears He’s Elvis, was a big hit.
👎 Polydor reject her second album.
It seemed they only wanted more ‘novelty’ songs like that big hit single, and when there wasn’t one on her follow-up LP (the working title for which was The Real MacColl, recorded in early 1982), Polydor dropped her. (The album in its entirety has still never been released.)

👍 Billy Bragg writes her a song
Or rather, he re-wrote an existing track of his, A New England, and she recorded it. Again, the critics loved it and it was an instant airplay classic. And this time, despite being back on Stiff records, there was no problem for punters obtaining a copy.
👎 It is released at an inconvenient time
The single was released when Kirsty was already seven months’ pregnant, limiting the about of promotional appearances she could make. In fact, the very week it reached its peak of #7, she gave birth to her first baby.

👎 Stiff gets into financial trouble
Mounting debts led to Stiff being sold to ZTT, who then took over the contracts of the artists signed to Stiff. Kirsty was unable to record for another company until the legal issues were worked through.
👍 She has her biggest hit
Fortunately, she was allowed to record backing vocals and to guest on other people’s records. Her duet with Shane McGowan on The Pogue’s Fairytale Of New York resulted in the release one of the most celebrated Christmas singles of all time. (But it’s not all good news. Frustratingly, she was denied a chart topper when it peaked at #2.)

Happily, the decade ended with some success that seemingly had no flip side. Her third album (and second to be released), Kite, was a hit, with several of its songs returning to her singles chart. It was well received – and even had the approval of her father, folkie Ewan MacColl, who had never before expressed approval of any of her work.

NEW SINGLES on sale from Sep. 11
1981
Kirsty MacCOLL See That Girl (Polydor POSP326)
1982
ADAM ANT Friend Or Foe (CBS CBSA2736)
1989
ABC The Real Thing (Neutron NT115)
Bobby BROWN Rock Witcha (MCA MCA1367)
CLIMIE FISHER Facts Of Love (EMI EM103)
The JESUS AND MARY CHAIN Blues From A Gun (Blanco Y Negro NEG41)

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