The 13th of April marks the anniversary of the 'F.L.M.' album release which was released to rave reviews in 1987. 'F.L.M.' reached #3 in the U.K. and, incredibly, it was certified silver only one day after it's release. This was quickly followed by a gold certification in the U.K., just over one week later, on the 22nd of April 1987, and the album also charted in various other territories across the globe: including the US, Asia, Australia and throughout Europe. Kim said at the time "I love all the tracks on our album, we're both really pleased with the end result... and it was reassuring to read the good reviews after everyone's hard work! In fact DJ Gary Crowley was even heard on air saying that we're not just one hit wonders and that he enjoyed the LP – that goes a long way with us after some of the remarks that have been made in the past."
According to the official Mel & Kim fan club, back in 1987, the sisters multi-platinum début album was recorded between mid 1986 and early 1987 & was originally planned as an 8-track release with "6 strong dance tracks and two solo ballads - one sung by Mel and the other by Kim." This plan was eventually changed and the final release features nine tracks and only one ballad – 'More Than Words Can Say'. (Only recently revealed by the lady herself to be Kim's solo track with Mel singing with her on the chorus and backing vocals.) Nick East exclusively informed melandkim.com that Mel's solo track was originally planned to be 'Feel A Whole Lot Better', though this was eventually recorded by both girls with a view to possibly release it as a future single. Kim said at the time "My favorite tracks are 'I'm The One Who really loves You' and the title track 'F.L.M.' There is a strong possibility that one of these two could be our third single."
Eventually going platinum, 'F.L.M.' stayed in the UK album charts for around 6 months clocking up sales of over 400,000 in Britain alone, and in excess of 3 million sales worldwide.
The album title was a cheeky nod to an expletive ridden expression the girls and their producers had adopted during their many recording sessions. Following vocal takes Mel & Kim would often ask each other or those around them how they had sounded, only to receive the response “fucking lovely mate!” Because of the abbreviations true meaning it seemed to be the perfect title for an album that Mel & Kim were, understandably, exceptionally proud of.
Mike Stock recalled the writing and recording process for 'F.L.M.', "We avoided songs concerning a love interest and wrote about two East End girls going out and hving a good time. (The girls) image wasn't manufactured! We were responding to real lives and personalities! Mel & Kim had tremendous energy and enthusiasm and they were very talented, but they were totally inexperienced and couldn't sing with headphones on. We reorganised the studio so that they could sing with loud speakers as monitors instead!"
The majority of the 'F.L.M.' album was mixed by Mixmaster Pete Hammond with the exceptions of 'System', 'Showing Out' and 'Respectable' and provides a clear indication of Mel & Kim's diversity with various musical styles being tapped into along with the Chicago/London House sound they had become known for. Kim said at the time of the album's release, “There's some rhythm & blues and a ballad on it, I think our vocal range is pretty good but we've never had any lessons. It just comes out that way, it's natural.” Later in 1994 Kim recalled "We always wanted to do something that was to do with the entertainment world. I loved to dance in particular, Melanie was more of the singer to be quite honest with you."
'F.L.M.' - The album kicks off with it's 122 BPM title track. The letters 'F.L.M.' are sung before an electric guitar bridges to the bombastic house beat and a lyric which goes on to outline the sisters manifesto for life. Though more Eurobeat than London House in it's musical styling, the recording maintains the playfulness of the sisters' prior singles alongside their confident vocal deliver. This song received the remix treatment courtesy of Pete Hammond before going on to become Mel & Kim's third single release.
(Click here to access the 'F.L.M.'s single releases extended discography)
'Showing Out (Get Fresh At The Weekend)' - Mel & Kim’s 120 BPM début single which commercialized the emerging Chicago house sound and spring boarded them to fame is the second track on the album and it encapsulates the sisters personalities whilst showcasing their vocal talents and cheeky, ballsy attitude. The song became a major hit, topping the charts all over Europe and presented Mel & Kim as an original 'Girl Power' and launched the musical genre known as 'London House'.
(Please refer to the discography section relating to 'Showing Out's single release for extensive information on this song.)
'Respectable' is up next and is arguably the song the sisters are best remembered for. 'Respectable' is presented on the 'F.L.M.' album as an alternative remix to the well known 122 BPM 7” version which was a bold move as the album was released hot on the heels of Respectable’s worldwide success and the track would have been many buyers motivation for purchasing the album.
(Click here to access the 'Respectable single releases extended discography.)
'Feel A Whole Lot Better'/'Whatever It Is' – the forth song on the album is a beautiful mid tempo dance track that changes the pace set by the first three House infused recordings on 'F.L.M.' to a more relaxed 114 BPM. Kim said, "We loved dancing and were always jumping around in the studio. I remember telling Mike (Stock) 'when you dance, it feels like you don't have a care in the world.'" This is a song with a clear message that states that whatever your worries, dancing can chase your blues away. This idea was certainly indicative of the sisters own sensibilities with Kim also stating that 'Feel A Whole Lot Better' “Is one of my favorite M & K songs. I remember at the time thinking it should be a single.” Kim also said at the time of the albums release “Feel A Whole Lot Better is more our way of thinking and the lyrics really do relate to us.” Mel added “When we go out feeling down in the dumps we do feel a whole lot better after a dance.” This track was originally planned to be Mel's solo recording on the album but the obvious way both girls related to the lyrics encouraged the producers to have both sing lead with the plan to perhaps release it as a future single. The original instrumental plot for 'Feel A Whole Lot Better' was entitled Roundabout Bros and was actually written, all be it unaccredited, by Ian Curnow. Ian recalled "I had a hand in writing and producing two of the tracks on the 'F.L.M.' album unaccredited . When SAW were making the album, Matt [Aitken] came down to my studio and asked if I had any backing tracks I’d been working on that they could 'use for the girls’. Matt chose two of them and asked me to 'put them both down on multi-track tape and send them upstairs'. I did this, and the next thing I knew, my instrumental tracks were on the Mel and Kim album, with lyrics, as 'Feel A Whole Lot Better' and 'From A Whisper To A Scream'.
The song was re-titled 'Whatever It Is' on the US, Canadian & Japanese releases of the album.
'I'm The One Who Really Loves You' - The albums only track that had already been released as a single by another act is almost an exact blue print of the original version by Austin Howard. (released in 1986 to moderate success.) This 116 BPM song was planned to be the sisters forth and final single release from the 'F.L.M.' Album though this had to be shelved due to the sudden revelations around Mel's health. The single did have a promotional release in the United States and received extensive remixing by Robert Clivilles of hit production team Clivilles & Cole – The C & C Music Factory.
(Click here to access the 'I'm The One Who Really Loves You' releases extended discography.)
'More Than Words Can Say - This beautiful song was released as a promotional single in Sweden to promote the 'Something Special' compilation album and it is undoubtedly one of Stock, Aitken & Waterman's best ballads. The 94 BPM track was revealed to feature Kim singing solo on it's verses and the melody matches her vocals perfectly with the lyrics sounding all the more poignant in retrospect, “And I dreamt that you left me, taking away the light from my day. And I couldn't replace it.” Other PWL artists went on to record the track although none could match the emotive feel of Kim’s version and it remains the definitive and far superior interpretation of the song. Kim recalled, "When Mike (Stock) told me that he wanted me to sing the song solo I was absolutely terrified."
(Click here to access the 'More Than Words Can Say' releases extended discography.)
'System' – The original 110 BPM track penned for Mel & Kim’s début had an RnB/Soul sound, similar to Princess’s hit - 'Say I'm Your Number One'. Different mixes of 'System' were produced and it was even sent off to be pressed for release before the decision was made to relegate a dub mix of the track to the B-side in favour of 'Showing Out'. It was only with the release of Mel & Kim’s début album that listeners finally heard the full vocal version of 'System'.
(Please refer to the discography section relating to 'System's planned release for extensive information on this song.)
'From A Whisper To A Scream' – This stand out 122 BPM dance track moves the 'F.L.M.' album back into the musical territory that the sisters were best known for and features pitched vocal effects and an urgent house beat that powers to the songs climax. 'From A Whisper To A Scream' was originally born from an instrumental track, written unaccredited once again by Ian Curnow with the inexplicable title of 'Vindaloo', and it has been something of an enigma to fans given the ambiguity over who wrote it. The original pressings of the 'F.L.M.' Album credit A & A as the writers which many assumed meant Appleby & Appleby. The girls even referred to their writing credit on the album during interviews around the time of it's release. However reissues of the 'F.L.M.' Album credit Stock, Aitken & Waterman as the songs writers and, when Kim looked back on the album in 2010 she said of 'From A Whisper To A Scream' - “I love the energy that this track has, Mel and I really enjoyed recording it” - but Kim didn't make any reference to having written the track with Mel herself. However Mike Stock finally revealed to us that he did indeed write the song with the girls themselves during the album's recording sessions and expressed that he felt the track was "pretty experimental!"
Whoever wrote the song, one thing is for sure. 'From A Whisper To A Scream' is a bombastic anthem that would have lent itself incredibly to the extensive remixes an official release would have brought. i
'Who's Gonna Catch You' – The album ends on a high with the exuberant 118 BPM dance track 'Who's Gonna Catch You'. At the time of the albums release Mel spoke of her love for the song – “When I've got the 'ump which is quite often I go home and stick on 'Who's Gonna Catch You' and it brings me straight back up again.” Kim recalled later “it's really up there with my favourite M & K songs. It has a kind of melancholy about it lyrically but with a really uplifting chorus. It's so us” The track takes some inspiration for it's melody lines from the Stevie Wonder track - 'I Believe (When I Fall In Love It Will Be Forever)' which made the song all the more special to Mel & Kim who were both huge Stevie Wonder fans. The original demo of 'Who's Gonna Catch You' was entitled Seduction which, though similar to the final version, features less call and response vocals around the choruses (“When you fall – yeah – yeah – yeah – yeah, yeah”) and includes a burst of electric guitar, not used on the album mix, in place of the vocal bridge. ("Don't you know what love can do?....) 'Who's Gonna catch You' retained that title and went on to be recorded by both Sinitta and Pepsi & Shirley though both versions differ in their melody plots to Mel & Kim's original version.
Australian Magazine Advert
Dutch Magazine Advert
Autographed Supreme Records Publicity Photograph used to promote F.L.M.
Future reprints of the album sleeve flip the shots so that the colour photograph is displayed on the front with the black and white frame used on the reverse. As with the black and white picture sleeve, there remained a variation with some pressings placing the album title 'F.L.M.' under Mel's name on the sleeve whilst others displayed it midway under 'Mel & Kim'.
Some of the initial pressings of the 'F.L.M.' Album, with the black and white sleeve, came with a beautiful limited edition poster featuring a full colour body shot of Mel & Kim striking a pose during the Brian Aris album sleeve session. Unfortunately the inner sleeve does not include any more of Brian's beautiful photographs from the shoot, despite the many stunning shots this session produced, but it does include the song lyrics and credits.
Within the sleeve notes of the album Mel & Kim write:
“To Nick and Kate for all their support and backing and everyone at Supreme Records. Special love to Mike, Matt and Pete for being such fun to work with and for being such talented geniuses. To our dear mother special love. Love to Wayne and Sharna for being so understanding. Also to Steve Rowland for putting us onto a winner.”
Brian Aris shot the sleeve photography for 'F.L.M.' (except for the US, Canadian & Japanese album releases) and the styling moved the sisters image forward from the colourful ensembles, bolero style jackets and the trademark hats they wore on the sleeves of their first two singles to a softer, more natural look with the girls' beautiful facial features and hair being the focus. In preperation for the shoot the sisters both had a full head of 'real hair extensions' fitted for the first time which was a time consuming process that produced amazing results initially although required a lot of upkeep and maintenance. For the 'F.L.M.' album sleeve session the sisters are photographed bare shouldered, back to back with their long, newly attached dark hair extensions razor cut and teased into a spiky style by the talented Kathleen Bray (check out the Interviews section of the website to read Kathleen's personal recollections here).
The original album sleeve features a black and white photograph which has been shot to give the appearance of a charcoaled print. The back of the sleeve features a second shot from the session, this time in full colour and without the charcoal effect. There is also a slight variation from pressing to pressing with some placing the album title 'F.L.M.' under Mel's name on the sleeve whilst others display it midway under 'Mel & Kim'.
Limited edition poster included with some 'F.L.M.' album pressings
American 'F.L.M.' Press Release & Photograph
German 'F.L.M.' Press Release
The Japanese, U.S. and Canadian releases of the album feature completely different artwork with photography by Peter Ashworth from a session shot prior to 'Respectable's single release . The girls are beautifully lit and wear white hats and white dresses while striking high fashion poses for Peter's camera in a look more in keeping with the videos for their first two singles which were just being embraced by America, Canada & Japan. The artwork isn't the only way these releases differ from the UK and European editions. The Japanese, U.S. and Canadian releases also feature a slightly longer cut of 'System' and 'I'm The One Who Really Loves You' inexplicably utilises the vocals from the chorus of the Austin Howard version in place of the sisters far superior vocal take alongside what tantalisingly sounds to be a solo recording of the verses by one of the sisters! Other than this unusual move the sound production is identical to the original Album Mix. In addition the song, 'Feel A Whole Lot Better' was retitled ‘Whatever It Is’.
Cassette & C.D. releases of the 'F.L.M.' album included two bonus remixes 'Showing Out' – The Freehold Mix and 'Respectable' - The Extra Beats Mix though the latter was a longer instrumental mix of the Pete Hammond’s solo treatment rather than the vocal production from the 12” single release or the Instrumental mix on the B-side of the 7” single. The cassette version of 'F.L.M.' released in the UK was only printed using the black and white filtered shot on it's front cover although there was a cassette release in Italy which utilised the colour shot in it's place.
German Blow Up Release – The German Blow Up label released the 'F.L.M.' Album as a limited edition printed on white coloured vinyl and housed in the original black and white picture sleeve.
Benelux RCA Release – The 'F.L.M.' Album was released on RCA compact disk as well as on vinyl with a limited gatefold sleeve using the black and white filtered shot on the front cover and a fuller body shot of the sisters from the same session within the gatefold sleeve. This release includes a one sided 12” single of The 'Respectable/Showing Out Combi Mix'. Prior to this the Combi Mix had been available on promo 12" in the U.K. and was also included on the European F.L.M. CD. Single release.
Cherry Pop Release – in 2010 the 'F.L.M.' Album received an amazing deluxe reissue which included the original album tracks remastered alongside 'That's The Way It Is', 'You Changed My Life', 12” mixes and Remixes of the single releases and unreleased mixes of a number of the album tracks which had been prepared at the time of the albums original release for promotional purposes. These included the alternative and original vocal mixes of 'System' and extended versions of 'More Than Words Can Say', ''I'm The One Who Really Loves You' and 'Feel A Whole Lot Better'. This reissue came complete with a colour booklet featuring shots of Mel & Kim, cover notes and a forward written by Kim herself.
Although Supreme Records' plans to commission an 'F.L.M.' Remix Album did not come to fruition there were two remix album's of sorts that did received an official release. Both compilations injected promotion into the sisters début long player following their unexpected inability to physically continue promotion themselves and helped to temporarily satisfy the fans hunger for new material. The first of these was a cassette titled 'The 12" Tape.' Released in Australia in 1988 on Liberation Records this was a five track tape featuring: 'Respectable' (Club Mix), 'Showing Out' (Freehold Mix), 'That's The Way It Is' (House Remix), 'F.L.M.' (2 Grooves Under 1 Nation Mix), and the straight album cut of 'I'm The One Who Really Loves You'. To ease the listeners efforts 'The 12" Tape' carries an identical track listing on either side of the cassette and the cover featured a shot, by Peter Ashworth, of the girls dressed in their leather jackets and berets.
German Magazine Adverts
The second official remix compilation was a Swedish only 12" picture disc release titled 'Something Special' as part of Mega Records popular 'Something Special' series. Presented in a unique gatefold picture sleeve to show off the picture disc, the sleeve features a shot of the sisters sitting back to back from Mike Prior's 'That's The Way It Is' shoot. Inside the gatefold sleeve there is a shot by Peter Ashworth from the session featured on the 'Respectable' UK picture disc and the singles publicity postcards. The picture disk carries the 'That's The Way It Is' sleeve shot on one side and a frame from Brian Aris's 'F.L.M.' single sleeve session on it's flip. The vinyl tracklisting Side A: 'Respectable' (Extended Version), 'Showing Out' (Mortgage Mix), 'I'm The One Who Really Loves You' (U.S. Remix), 'F.L.M.' (Auto Mix). Side B: 'That's The Way It Is' (Acid House Mix), 'More than Words Can Say' (Album Version), 'Showing Out'/'Respectable' (Megamix), 'System' (Garage Mix). The vinyl release also includes a large poster of Mel & Kim from the 'Showing Out' beach sleeve shoot by Chris Edwick. The 'Something Special' compilation also received a Cassette and a CD release in Sweden. Although the CD edition did not come on a picture CD or include the poster, it did however include three additional tracks: 'Showing Out' (Freehold Mix), 'F.L.M.' (2 Grooves Under 1 Nation Remix), 'Respectable' (Extra Beats Mix).
UK Magazine Advert Promoting 'F.L.M.'
The 'F.L.M.' Album is a stunning début which displays Mel & Kim potential as artists who could comfortably shift between musical genres and who's collective star was soaring higher and higher.
The album demonstrates the sisters vocal range and rich voices to great effect throughout it's 9 tracks and Kim said at the time, “I bet people listen to our album and think it's just equipment that makes us sound like that but really it isn't.” Mel added – “We sing like that naturally all the time.” The album displayed the girls' abilities to take on different musical genres which were a true reflection of their own, wider musical tastes and influences. Record producer Steve Rowland recalled his pre fame discussions with Mel around what musical direction she wanted to take with her career telling melandkim.com “The kind of stuff that she (Mel) wanted to sing was not what Pete wanted. (He) wanted a dance direction and they were very successful with it. Mel wanted to do more RnB.”
Whatever direction the girls wanted to pursue musically one thing was certain, they had arrived on the world stage and their talents were truly being recognised by the pop press and music buyers alike. Kim said at the time "We're happy working with Stock, Aitken & Waterman who produce all our material at the moment but one day we'll write some stuff of our own, but until then we listen to them and they do some listening too! Maybe they'll play a track over to us how they think it should sound, then we throw in our own ideas...it's a good partnership."
On the 14th of April 1987 (The day after the album release) Mel & Kim held a 'meet & greet' at London's Tower Records where they happily laughed and joked with fans whilst signing copies of the album and posing for the collective camera's, seeming as excited as the huge amounf of people who had gathered to meet them. Kim recalled “It’s funny because the night before I had nightmares that we’d be the only ones there and that nobody else turned up but lots of our fans had been waiting around outside from 7 o’ clock that morning! Mel and I really enjoyed the whole day, we liked meeting our fans and signing their autograph books and records, they were really sweet. Yep, it was an exciting day.”
Mel & Kim's collective star appeared unstoppable and they had the world at their feet. They had made it and their lives would never be the same again. "F*cking Lovely Mate!"