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Day #4: Kirsty MacColl

Finally, a birthday not missed: many happy returns of the day to [profile] marakara

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 [personal profile] 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

This entry was originally posted at http://finisterre.dreamwidth.org/2343.html. All comments welcome anywhere. comment count unavailable.


( 13 comments — Leave a comment )
Oct. 11th, 2010 12:35 am (UTC)
I read today that it was her birthday, and I'm glad you made a post about her. Every time I hear one of her songs, I feel joyous because she's so talented, but I also feel sad because her life ended too early.
Oct. 11th, 2010 10:11 pm (UTC)
That's a great way of putting it. She'd found such an interesting route for herself with her love of South American music and I would've loved to see what she would've done next.
Oct. 11th, 2010 01:19 am (UTC)
She's amazing, and I didn't even know that about U2. "In These Shoes" has been one of my faves for years.
Oct. 11th, 2010 10:11 pm (UTC)
It's great, because it's sexy and funny. The whole album is terrific.
Oct. 11th, 2010 03:57 am (UTC)
Everytime I listen to "Us Amazonians" I think of you. True Fact. And, thanks to you, I have impressed people with the Joshua Tree story!
Oct. 11th, 2010 10:14 pm (UTC)
I love that record very much. It's impossible to listen to without singing along
Oct. 11th, 2010 06:30 am (UTC)
Free World. Every time ^^
Oct. 11th, 2010 10:14 pm (UTC)
Ooooh. Why don't I have Free World on this computer? That seems Wrong.
(Deleted comment)
Oct. 11th, 2010 10:19 pm (UTC)
Raw Sex! She used to sing with Raw Sex, or perhaps I mean sing while Raw Sex were messing it up. I had forgotten that. A visit to YouTube is in order.

She did do a cover of A New England -- and added a verse. I love the story behind Walking Down Madison: Johnny Marr took a cassette of an intrumental track he had just written to Kirsty MacColl to listen to because he trusted her judgment. When he next saw her she'd written lyrics to it.
Oct. 11th, 2010 11:53 am (UTC)
My daughter gave me Tropical Brainstorm for Christmas 2000 - it was the first time she did her 'own' Christmas shopping - and she certainly knew what to get for me...
Oct. 11th, 2010 10:20 pm (UTC)
It is a grand album. Your daughter has excellent taste ;)
Oct. 12th, 2010 12:03 am (UTC)
Man ... how is it that long? They did a segment on a local radio show about her last week, most likely in advance of this.
Oct. 12th, 2010 02:54 am (UTC)
Thank you very much!

Take Care
( 13 comments — Leave a comment )