17 November 2010

Second Hand Record Dip Part 65 - Mojams feat. Debbie Currie - You Can Do Magic

Mojams featuring Debbie Currie - you can do magic

Who: Mojams feat. Debbie Currie (actually, Sinitta)
What: You Can Do Magic
Label: Gotham
When: 1997
Where: Music and Video Exchange, Camden High Street
Cost: 50p


Whilst truth is indeed frequently stranger than fiction in the music industry, sometimes when things seem too absurd to be true, it's because they are.  This single is a supremely odd confirmation of that fact, a scam so subtle in its execution that to this day, you can still see references to it on national newspaper websites as being a bona-fide piece of work.

Debbie Currie, the daughter of "outspoken" Conservative MP Edwina Currie, was attempting a career as a journalist when the team behind the investigative programme the "Cook Report" approached her with an intriguing offer.  The deal was that she would pretend to front a single produced by Mike Stock and Matt Aitken, and they would hire a gang of "hypers" to artificially push its position up the charts.  The aim was to ultimately expose the British charts as being open to abuse despite the BPI's continual assurances that hype was now easily spotted, and a thing of the distant past.

In reality, Sinitta sang the vocals, and all Currie really appears to have done is displayed her stomach on the sleeve (above) and posed for a few publicity shots.  The gossip columns of newspapers also ran a few short pieces about "sexy" Debbie Currie's new pop band which gave the project an air of authenticity, which was eventually blown on prime-time television.

I suspect that the "Cook Report" team would have liked to have seen the single chart within the Top 40, but in reality - despite the production team behind it, and despite the publicity - the single stiffed at number 81.  The end programme appeared to gamely claim that they'd exposed the fact that chart rigging still existed, but it's hard not to conclude that an average pop single produced by Stock and Aitken would have been expected to chart within the lower reaches of the Top 100 at the very least.  Music industry mogul Clive Selwood also dismisses the show's scoop in his biography "All of the Moves But None of the Licks", stating that the single should probably have charted higher on its own merits, and questions should have been asked of the distributors.  All it proved, he concluded, is that people can easily be tricked out of money for non-existent services, which is admittedly fraud, but not exactly headline news.

Perhaps it's due to the failings of the documentary to make a concrete point that to this day, journalists still cite Debbie Currie's "failed pop career" as evidence of the fact that she's "Edwina Currie's rebellious, wild child daughter".  This is an utterly incorrect version of events, and Debbie has gone on record as saying that she would never have seriously considered a career in music, and that her friends assumed that she was having "some sort of breakdown" at the time whilst she kept the pretence up.

As for "You Can Do Magic" itself, it's a passable little single, perfectly pleasant in a quickly recorded Saint Etienne B-side kind of way.  In a quiet week in January it might actually have performed moderately well in its own right, and it's certainly a strange tune to pick to prove a chart hype point.  Perhaps if something noticeably below par had been used, the researchers and producers behind the show might have worried that the authorities would have smelt a rat.

Interestingly, there's also an information service advertised on the sleeve, asking us to write to "Mojams, Freepost 1276, PO BOX 4100, London, SE1 0YW".  One wonders what anybody who scribbled a note to that address got in return - a signed picture of Roger Cook angrily pointing, perhaps.

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