Who: The Rockingbirds/ Flowered Up/ Saint Etienne
What: The Fred EP
Where: Wood Street Market, Walthamstow, London
I've ummed and ahh'ed at some length about uploading this one, since technically speaking it was a hit - reaching number 26 in 1992 - and all the artists involved bar one were involved in other records which had a far greater impact. Therefore, it's technically only a minor one hit wonder if you treat this as being a bizarre supergroup effort, or if you treat The Rockingbirds A-side as their only pick of the chart cherry.
Whatever, I decided to upload it for two reasons, one because it seems no less ludicrous now than it did at the time, and secondly because two of these three tracks seem to be commercially unavailable now, which seems a little daft. Launched to support the Terrence Higgins trust, this single was a chance for artists on the Heavenly record label to cover some of Right Said Fred's biggest hits. RSF seemed inescapable in '91 and '92, and various NME journalists seemed to adore the band as well, not least the contrary pure-pop loving likes of Steven Wells. Therefore, if a charity single of covers was going to be issued by some indie-schmindie late night Radio One types, and it was going to be a slightly camp effort for an AIDS charity as well, Right Said Fred probably seemed like a natural choice.
As different and as playful as the results sound, they do still detract from rather than improve on the originals, but The Rockingbird's country rock cover of "Deeply Dippy" sounds perversely as if it was meant to be, for reasons I really can't ascertain - perhaps there always was a seventies country element to RSF's music. Top marks to those chaps for making something so perverse sound so natural. Flowered Up, on the other hand, manage to come across as rather threatening and brutal, as if they're giving "Don't Talk Just Kiss" a kicking around some pub toilets in Camden. Thoroughly unnecessary, that (if quite funny for one listen). And whilst you suspect that Saint Etienne had some sneaking affection for the original material, the version of "I'm Too Sexy" contains lines such as "I'm too shaky for my Stevens" which leads one to think that they weren't sweating buckets taking this sort of thing terribly seriously. You almost suspect you'd be able to hear the giggling in the studio booth if you listen hard enough.
For me, this release sparks memories of a very strange period in the early nineties when a bunch of musicians from the Richard O'Brien school of imagery seemed to dominate the British music scene. Some people have since used this as evidence that the early nineties pop scene was utterly on its arse - but honestly, if it's between Ke$ha or Right Said Fred, whose record are you really taking home with you? There was an affectionate jollity about this material (and just the right amount of sauce) for it to be a pleasant enough inclusion to the summers of '91 and '92. Now, if we're talking about their ill-advised Comic Relief single "Stick it Out", on the other hand...
Sorry for not including Saint Etienne's effort in full, incidentally. It is still available on iTunes, and as I suspect the royalties from it are still Higgins-bound, please go and do the decent thing over there if you want to hear it.
Rockingbirds: Deeply Dippy
Flowered Up: Don't Talk Just Kiss
Saint Etienne: I'm Too Sexy