Friday, May 8, 2009
Jukebox: Kirsty MacColl
I woke up the other night in a cold sweat, realizing that I didn't commemorate the death of the late, great Kirsty MacColl last December 18 on the eighth anniversary of her horrible death (which makes me want to scream every time I think about it). I'm ashamed.
If you don't know Kirsty MacColl, you've probably encountered her in some way if you were at all with it in the '80s. (With It in the '80s--great title for a memoir, no?) Besides writing and recording her own material—including "They Don't Know" in 1979, three years before Tracy Ullman would take it into the US Top 10—she sang back-up on the Smiths' "Ask Me" ("the bomb, the bomb, the bomb, the bomb, etc") and on Morrissey's "Interesting Drug"; she's the female singer on the Pogue's celebrated Christmas anthem "Fairytale of New York"; she covered the Smiths' "You Just Haven't Earned it Yet, Baby," turning its famous refrain of "you must suffer and cry for slightly longer" into a Phil Spector-ish, gleefully sing-songy summertime jam; and she famously (er, in the UK) covered Billy Bragg's "A New England," to which Bragg himself added two verses especially for her version. That video is above and is adorable.
Kirsty had troubles with record companies throughout her career and always had a hard time breaking the American market, due to her being so awesome. But she actually started shattering that glass ceiling in 2000 when she released Tropical Brainstorm, arguably her best album. It was Cuban-flavored with a bitter British twist, and you need to just go f**king buy it now. You probably heard her song "In These Shoes" in an episode of Sex and the City, if you watched that hideous program like I did.
Her overdue success in 2000 made her death on December 18 of that year while scuba diving in Mexico with her two kids all the more heartbreaking. I won't recount the whole sad story here, but here's her Wikipedia page and here's an official website dedicated to her memory and to getting justice from the Mexican authorities.
I remember one time a few years ago I was driving somewhere with my dad, and I put in her 1989 album Kite. After a few songs, Dad said "this girl is sharp." She was. And deeply, desperately missed.
But let's not end the week on a downer, y'all. Below please enjoy Kirsty's appearance on a skit in season 3 of French and Saunders. In the immortal words of Dawn French, "it's only tits."