n what will hopefully be regular feature on Stylus (as long as that dude who filmed Reginald Denny getting beaten from a helicopter doesn’t get his way), we present our stash of YouTube clips worth watching. Or not worth watching. Or worth watching because they’re not worth watching. You get the point. On with the show…
One of the most-ignored features of YouTube is the menu of allegedly related videos you find to the right of the viewing window—a kind of “If you like that, you’ll love this” feature considerately provided to take users on an adventure through the world of 16-year-olds slapping each to the accompaniment of “Dragostea Din Tei.” I’d ignored it for a while, until fate intervened.
You see, I was watching the video for “Doop,” a song borne of some Dutchmen deciding that the problem with the Charleston was that it was nowhere near fast enough. The video features some people dancing about inside a box of washing powder, with the “band” dressed up and fannying about like they’re taking the piss out of Slade or something. It got to #1 over in the UK in March 1994 and has held an absurdly fond place in my heart ever since.
This isn’t about that, though. I was idly rolling down the sidebar of related videos, past a bunch of stuff by Army of Lovers and Stereo MC’s, when I spotted something that I vaguely remembered from even further back in my youth…
“I’d Rather Jack” is a song that has sort of passed into legend in the history of pop music in the UK as being among the worst things the production trio of Stock, Aitken and Waterman inflicted on the world. I remembered rather liking it when I was six, though, and so I decided to give it another go to see if my memory was playing tricks on me. Internet research reveals that the Reynolds sisters were Linda (18) and Aisling (16), that this single peaked at #8 in the UK charts in April 1989, and that they were dropped by PWL after this for refusing to cancel a holiday they had booked in order to record their second single. Apparently.
Their lone hit is a sort of up-tempo “spirit of youth” affair, wherein the girls complain that radio DJs that are more than twice their age took their hearts away by playing Pink Floyd and Dire Straits instead of Yazz. It is also the only pop song I’ve ever heard that actually uses the word “demographic” in its lyrics. The video’s attempt at conveying this youthful spirit could be politely described as misguided. This being the 1980’s, the girls are dressed in a collage of cut-off C&A; garments, because young people are crazy. The video sees them performing their dance routine in various locations around Liverpool. We can tell it is Liverpool because much of the video is spent dancing in front of a ship with ��LIVERPOOL’ written on the side.
The dance routine itself is somewhat harder to interpret. It basically involves the girls in a state of constant movement because they are young and bouncy and full of energy. It also involves them performing a series of bizarre pelvic marching manoeuvres that is somewhat impossible to imagine anyone ever thinking might be young, sexy, or of any aesthetic merit whatsoever. At the 30-second mark, for instance, Aisling literally bums Linda out of shot, before they both re-emerge seconds later performing a kind of back-to-back crabwalk thing that even Joey Styles would struggle to find a name for.
“Golden oldies” are signified by some oddly half-hearted air-lassooing, before “Heavy metal, rock ��n’ roll” results in a spot of air guitar that seems weirdly reminiscent of Mark King from Level 42. The highlight, however, is a few seconds from the end, when the girls are skipping down the street, and turn to yell “THAN FLEET-WOOD MAC” at some kids in a doorway. Except they’re miming, so the kids don’t actually notice. Substitute Girls Aloud for Linda and Aisling, and Radiohead for Fleetwood Mac… hmm. Hmm. This is probably the point at which Pete Waterman decides he invented TATU, anyway.
(This rather excellent SAW fansite has scanned in a two-page feature about the girls from Smash Hits and it makes for very entertaining reading indeed.)
A swift scroll down the sidebar and we come to what SAW were presumably trying to recapture with the girls. Except that Mel & Kim were something a bit more special than two giggly Scouse pelvic-thrusters: Mel & Kim were cool. For example, see the way in which, when they do the whole staring in each other’s eyes and striding across the set thing, there seems to be a certain bit of self-mocking about it, flickers playing on their lips. There’s the dress sense, too, all sharp corners and red-and-black ladies’ hats—a classy precision that not even the oddly wig-esque fringed haircuts they sport for the last bit of the video manage to ruin.
It’s more than looks, though, it’s confidence. Poise, elegance, beauty, style, whatever it is, Mel & Kim had it like few others in the eighties. It takes a special kind of pop star to make you feel jealous, and they make you feel jealous as fuck.
What on earth possessed me to click on the next one, I am not entirely sure.
Pat Sharp (mullet, cowboy jacket) and Mick Brown (sweating, raised eyebrows) were two rather popular DJ’s on London’s Capital FM. In April 1989 (the same month as the Reynolds Girls), they took this cover of Gonzalez’s 1979 hit to #9 in the UK, helping to raise money for Capital’s “Help a London Child” charity. For some reason, someone has seen fit to put the video on YouTube, so, er, hey-ho. Note Pat’s interpretation of the title: he spends pretty much the entire video trotting on the spot. Oddly enough, I also remember seeing Gonzalez doing their version on TOTP2 once, and their dancing was more or less identical to Pat and Mick’s. Hmm.
In search of further hijinks, we turn to Nathan Moore, sometime manager of Phixx, James Fox, Lisa Scott-Lee, Andy Scott-Lee, and Keedie, as well as the band formed on Channel 4’s “ Boys Will Be Girls.” And, to our surprise, it turns out his old band were actually quite good. It also carries on a lot of threads from the above videos—further awkward guitar posturing, further usage of Linda Reynolds’ haircut, some incredibly disconcerting smiles (especially the drummer, who appears to think he’s advertising Martini or something), and dancing that is founded on the belief that all you need is a constant outpouring of furious energy. This leads to Nathan (in the bomber jacket, yes) to stomp about and slap his hands together in the manner of a four-year-old with a saucepan on his head pretending to be marching off to war for pretty much the whole song, except for the bits when he’s flinging the mic stand about like it’s 1957 all over again. “He Ain’t No Competition” is also blessed with a pre-chorus that is nothing short of killer, and, like much of the other stuff here, the sheer energy of the whole enterprise more than makes up for whatever failings it might have.
Travel is dangerous, but sometimes it’s rather good fun, too.
By: William B. Swygart
Published on: 2006-10-18