Today would have been Kirsty MacColl's 51st birthday. It's hard to believe that in December it will be ten years since she was killed. Her songs remain a fixture on my iPod and her final, fantastic album, Tropical Brainstorm, is one of the ones I can listen to from start to finish.
A couple of days ago snacky mentioned Tracy Ullman's version of They Don't Know, which was written by Kirsty MacColl when she was in her teens. MacColl sings backing vocals on it; her own version failed to get into the shops because of a distributor's strike and so failed to chart even though it was in the top 10 on airplay.
It was that sort of luck that was to dog Kirsty MacColl -- her career is dotted with record labels going bust, being dropped, poor sales. She never seemed to have the impact that her songwriting merited. Yet if you're a fan of music, she's much-loved, and the equivalent of Kevin Bacon, six degrees from everyone else.
She sang backing vocals for The Smiths and The Wonder Stuff among others, she sang on the Greatest Christmas Song Ever and -- my favourite Kirsty MacColl fact! -- when U2 were trying to work out the running order for The Joshua Tree and couldn't decide among themselves what to do, Steve Lillywhite, who was working on mixing, asked his wife and Kirsty did it. They later asked how she had completed this task of musical alchemy, and she said she just put them in her order of preference.
I have trouble picking a favourite Kirsty MacColl song, but here are some I love.
This is Kirsty MacColl's original version of They Don't Know
And Ben Gibbard's lo-fi cover version
Walking Down Madison
There's A Guy Works Down The Chip Shop Swears He's Elvis
and one of the happiest songs I know Us Amazonians.
If you have spare cash, you could do worse than invest in copies of Galore, Titanic Days and Tropical Brainstorm.
Finally, one of my favourite songs, Kirsty MacColl's "All I Ever Wanted", as covered by Eliza Carthy
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