"HEY. THEY'RE HOT!"
The 23rd of February marks the UK release of Mel & Kim's second single Respectable, which provided the duo, and Stock, Aitken & Waterman, with their first UK #1. Released in 1987, the song also hit the #1 spot in The Netherlands, Australia, Germany, Switzerland and New Zealand, as well as reaching top ten status across many other global territories. With sales of over 2 million copies worldwide, and Gold sales of 250,000 in the UK alone, Respectable was initially certified silver in the UK on March 1st 1987 - an incredible seven days after it's release - and then gold on the 1st of April 1987, and the smash hit follow up to Showing Out sent the sisters fame stratospheric.
Respectable also provided Mel & Kim with their second #1 on the U.S. Billboard Hot Dance Club Play chart.
Respectable shows a clear progression from the edgier, Chicago/London House sound of Showing Out, to a more commercial Pop/House sensibility, making it even more accessible and irresistible to the masses than its predecessor. The memorable hook of the song is the sampled and sequenced first syllable of the chorus: "Tay, tay, tay, tay, t-t, t-t, t, tay, tay, take or leave us..." which was created by Matt Aitken during post production. PWL 'Mixmaster', producer Pete Hammond told melandkim.com, “The 'Tay Tay Tay' was nothing more than Matt messing about impatiently and playing the start of the chorus vocals on three different notes. It sounded fun so it was recorded. It was very simple really.” Simple yet incredibly memorable, this hook burned the track into the mainstream consciousness and remains instantly recognisable today. Surprisingly, the ‘Tay, tay, tay’ effect was not appreciated by everyone around the girls at the time, including Nick East, (of Supreme Records). Pete Hammond recalled, “We were asked to take out the 'Tay Tay Tay' bit as (Nick) thought it was a bit naff. Shortly after that, the girls played a live appearance in Holland, where they mimed to one of the earlier mixes of Respectable. The crowd went wild when they heard the "Tay Tay Tay" bit.” Mike Stock finally put his foot down and let Nick East know that, if he wanted to continue working with the production team then the ‘tay’ would stay!
Kim recalled, “When we heard Respectable in the studio, we liked it straight away and I said then that it was a hit. I wanted to say it was a #1, but I was frightened - I used to keep it in ‘ere, but in my mind, I knew it was.”
The lyrics for Respectable perfectly captured Mel & Kim’s youthful, fun-loving personalities, and their feisty attitude, but the original inspiration for the song actually came from a full page advert Pete Waterman had taken out in Music Week (UK record industry trade paper). Pete wanted to send out a clear message to his detractors within the British Pop industry who had failed to acknowledge SAW in their B.P.I. Awards nominations for 1986, and his advert displayed the bold statement - ‘You can love or hate us, you ain’t gonna change us. We ain’t ever gonna be respectable!’ Following this, Pete was thinking through ideas for Mel & Kim’s second single, and he made the link between his advert and the press treatment that the girls were receiving at the time. Pete believed that Mel & Kim had the ‘balls’, theoretically speaking, to deliver a track featuring the tag line from his advert with strength and humour, and asked Mike Stock to write the lyrics for the remainder of the song from the sisters' perspective. Respectable provided Mel & Kim with the perfect platform to make their own declaration of independence, and they used the song as a clear response to the tabloid media who seemed to thrive on digging up dirt including the uncovering of Mel’s earlier career as a topless and nude model. Pete Waterman recalled, "Respectable became an anthem, not just for them and their image, but also for the company (PWL) itself." Years later, Kim recalled, “Respectable was written because we really didn’t give a shit about these pictures (of Mel) coming out!” However, the sisters had felt a little concern about how others may react at the time. Kim remembers, “Mel and I went to see Pete (Waterman), to warn him about the pictures. Pete, being Pete, turned to Mel and said ‘Kid, just tell me there are no animals involved!’ We laughed so much!!!”
SLEEVE DESIGN, PHOTOGRAPHY & EDITIONS
The U.K. sleeve for Respectable features a bold black and white design, housing two individual 'high fashion' shots of Mel & Kim. Shot by Peter Ashworth, on the 3rd of February 1987, the girls wear identical outfits, comprising of yellow bolero-styled jackets - with the obligatory 80s shoulder pads - black trousers, and black hats, by designer Peter Jones. (As worn in the Respectable video, and for some performances during the single's promotion). The flip side of the sleeve features two alternative poses from the same session, presented in the same design as the front cover, but on a white only layout.
The sleeve design was altered slightly to include the word ‘Remix’, printed in white, on the upper right corner, to alert fans to the two alternative Remix 12” editions. The Tabloid Mix (a title used to signal that Respectable was a response to the various press stories about the sisters) and The Shop Mix (a title that gave a nod to those who had sold stories to the press, and ‘shopped’ the girls.)
In addition to the 7” & three 12” releases, there was also a 12” picture disc produced for Respectable, in the UK, which features the same track listing as The Tabloid Mix edition.
The photograph used for the picture disc is another Peter Ashworth shot, although it is very different in style to the yellow jacket images. In these frames, the sisters are pictured in similar grey and black fine checked suits, black gloves and black hats, posing before overlapping metal, lattice shaped frames. The styling looks dated today, but it created a real fashion statement at the time, which added to the growing buzz around Mel & Kim as 'fashion icons', as much as singing stars. A shot from this photo session was also used by Supreme for their Respectable, publicity postcards, and another frame was used for a promotional print, both of which Mel & Kim would take to club appearances, to sign for their fans.
Some alternative, less sophisticated sleeve designs were used in other territories, for the Respectable release:
As well as utilising the same sleeve design as the UK for some of its pressings, the design for the German releases came in an alternative sleeve, featuring a different shot from the Peter Ashworth, ‘yellow jacket’ frames. These releases where presented in an egg shell blue & pink designed sleeve, which was then repeated for the German 12" release, on both black vinyl, and on green and white coloured vinyl, whilst both 7" releases came in black or red coloured vinyl.
The German Tabloid Mix 12" edition used the U.K. black and white sleeve design, but the writing is printed in pink lettering, which somewhat cheapens the aesthetic. Many editions of this release were pressed on a clashing green, grey, blue and white coloured vinyl.
The Benelux (Belgium, the Netherlands and Luxemburg), release of Respectable (RCA label) featured an almost unofficial/bootleg style to it's design, using a shot of the girls, taken backstage at the Dutch TopPop music show (where they performed Showing Out) rather than a photo from a studio session, on its cover.
The US and Canadian releases of Respectable were available across four formats, on the Atlantic label. The promotional 7" single came without a picture sleeve and carried the single mix of the track on both of sides. However, the commercially released 7" was housed in the same sleeve as the UK release, and with the same track listing.
The Atlantic promotional 12" format boasted three remixes of Respectable - The Vocal Club Mix, The Tabloid Mix and The Extra Beats Vocal Mix - but, as with the promo 7", it didn't come in a picture sleeve. The commercially released 12" single in the US and Canada, is two-track only, with the Vocal Club Mix backed with The Tabloid Mix. These releases were housed in the same sleeve as the original UK 12" release.
German Press Release
Autographed Publicity Postcard used to promote 'Respectable'
In Australia and New Zealand, The Tabloid Remix edition of Respectable was released in a slightly different sleeve layout to the UK design. Distributed on the Liberation label, the sleeve utilised the same black and white panelled design but, instead of the word 'Remix' being printed in white on the upper right corner, this sleeve design incorporated a diagonal title strip on either upper corner. The right strip was black with printed white lettering that said "From The Hot Debut Album F.L.M." whilst the left hand strip was white with black lettering, showing 'The Tabloid Mix'.
Respectable was originally released in the UK as a 12" promotional release to DJ's, in the generic Supreme 'Body Music' sleeve, with an identical track listing to the original UK 12" release, and other than on promotional 7" that was issued for radio play, this was the only promo release of the song, in the UK.
Across Europe, the Club Mix of Respectable was initially released as a one-sided white label promotional 12" single which did not mention Mel & Kim by name, but did include a black sticker with Respectable written in orange and red overlapping lettering on its blank white die cut sleeve.
Respectable was also made available sometime after its release, as a one sided blue 'flexi-disc, to inject promotion into the F.L.M. album. This was given away free in the UK, with a 1987 issue of Number One magazine, and, across Europe, with magazines under the same syndication.
Choreographer - Annie Shout - was hired to devise the dance routine for Respectable, and the sisters liked the results so much they also asked her to create the moves for their planned third single F.L.M. Both routines were perfected over a couple of weeks in London's Pineapple Dance Studios, with Annie also translating the Respectable routine to accommodate holding microphones, for the sisters promotional P.A.’s. It was during these rehearsals that Mel began to experience problems with her back, and this resulted in the filming of the Respectable video being delayed for two weeks. Mel recalled,“I pulled a slight muscle in my back during a lesson, so I held things back for a while.” This appeared to be a small glitch, and the sisters were soon filming their second video, under the direction of Simon West (who also directed the video for Showing Out). The 20-hour shoot took place on a purpose built set in Albion Wharf, Battersea, on the 4th of February 1987. Like Showing Out, the video for Respectable focuses mainly on dance performance, which the girls deliver on both a street and stage set. Mel explained, “It’s based on a kind of West Side Story set, which took three days to build. Just the two of us, a dog, and a black guy, who plays a copper, who we try to pick a fight with.” Kim further explained, “There isn’t really a story line. Just two girls making it good under the watchful eye of a copper.” By the time of Respectable's release, Mel & Kim had become known for their distinctive mix of street style and high-fashion, and the video for the track captures this to great effect. For the street scenes, the sisters are dressed far more casually than the photo shoots and public appearances, used to promote the single, but then, switch this up during the stage scenes by wearing the same high fashion yellow jackets ensembles that they were photographed in for the single's sleeve. In late 2016, Kim laughed as she recalled struggling with the stretched 'breton' style top she wore, saying, "That t-shirt I have on kept slipping down and I kept pulling it up. In the end, Mel said, 'Just leave it down (laughs!)"
The original treatment for the Respectable video included a third scene, which required fitted leather jackets to be commissioned, but unfortunately, these didn’t make the final edit due to the original filming of the clip being delayed. Mel explained, “We got in some lovely leather jackets for the shoot, but we ended up not wearing them as we were so far behind in the filming, they decided to cut out one of our costume changes. It’s a shame ‘cos they were really special.”
The Respectable film clip captured the sisters energy and fun perfectly and it went on to win Best Video at the Montreux Golden Rose IMMC Awards Gala, on the 28th of May 1987.
(Read Director Simon West's recollections from the Respectable video set here).
RECORDING & OFFICIAL MIXES
The official mixes for Respectable were produced by PWL ‘Mixmasters’ Pete Hammond and Phil Harding, with both talents coming together for the released 7” mix. The track was passed back and forth between the mixmasters, and their work to perfect the radio mix of 'Respectable' took many attempts to achieve. These initial attempts were logged under the working title of The Holy Reel Of Antioch, on the master tapes, as a nod to Monty Python, to reference their long search for the final mix. Pete Hammond revealed that they made several attempts to create the 7” mix before the final edit was chosen, although this did not kill his love of the track. Pete told melandkim.com, “I enjoyed mixing 'Respectable' most of all.”
Respectable was originally demoed on October 27th 1986. Pete Hammond recalled his focus on mixing the 7” Version - “After my first mix, it was impossible to understand the girls' lyrics, so Mike (Stock) and Matt (Aitken) re-recorded the vocals. I then mixed it a further six times” The sister’s re-recorded the Respectable vocals, (specifically the chorus), on October 31st 1986, following extensive coaching and ribbing by Mike Stock & Matt Aitken, who desperately and hilariously tried to soften their strong East London pronunciations of the word ‘respectable’.
On Its initial release, there were four mixes of Respectable available commercially, all coming in at around 122 BPM.
The 7” mix features some pitch altered vocals and stuttering samples, alongside the girls beautifully blended and sassy straight vocal take of the song. The vocal effects are more evenly spaced and less manic in comparison with Showing Out, and the overall sound of the mix is fun and pop, whilst still maintaining an edge. Mel & Kim’s playful 'girl power' manifesto is in evidence throughout the track, both in the strong statement lyrics and in the sampled laughter, which can be heard throughout the piano house break.
The Club Mix is similar in style to the 7” version, although the 'Mixmasters' have given it a slightly harder, less commercial sound. As with all the mixes of Respectable, the ‘Tay,tay’ hook is featured throughout, but the club mix cuts the commercial piano house break of the 7” production. Pete Hammond, however, utilises this piano break extensively, in two pitches, on his solo treatment – The Extra Beats Mix. This production begins with a hearty and thoroughly dirty laugh, followed by Mel’s excitable announcement of “Mel & Mel….I love it!” The beats kick in and the sound is edgier and sparser than the original production, taking obvious inspiration from the Steve ‘Silk’ Hurley’ track Jack Your Body. The girls vocals are sampled and altered to produce the line, “Give us, give us, give us the music”, with the next word of that line -“And” - slightly altered in pitch and stuttered so “And, And” sounds very like “Jack, Jack”, thus mirroring Jack Your Body, which was exploding on the underground club scene at the time.
The 7” release also features the Respectable Instrumental on its B-side. However, this is not a straight dub of the 7” mix senza voce! It is in fact an instrumental edit of Pete Hammond’s Extra Beats Mix, which cuts the girls vocals from the verses completely, but maintains their own harmonised backing vocals from the main chorus. As with Pete Hammond's other mixes, the sisters can be heard laughing throughout the production.
After the original four mixes were released, and heavily played, interest was reignited with Phil Harding’s The Tabloid Mix. Phil’s solo production presents a far less commercial treatment than the 7” mix, replacing the majority of the song's vocals (other than the instantly recognisable "tay,tay" vocal loc, the chorus and some sliced up lines) with samples from the Chicago house promos that had begun to flood the UK club scene. This was a clever move by Phil, as it took the sounds that the club kids were hearing on the club scene and linked them with a commercial pop track, thus bridging the underground and the mainstream, and making pop cool! In his exclusive interview with melandkim.com, Phil recalled, “I was in Ibiza, in the Pasha Club, and I remember hearing the Tabloid Mix being played in the main dance room, and being quite thrilled. There is a tabla on it that's really constant and hypnotic, and I remember that standing out when I heard it in the club. It's funny that something which, to you, is just part of the mix, suddenly stands out in a different situation when you hear it.”
A second remix 12” followed quickly, featuring The Shop Mix. Like The Freehold Mix of Showing Out, the Shop Mix of Respectable was more of a re-edit - this time of The Tabloid Mix - rather than a brand new treatment. However, unlike The Tabloid Mix, it did include the tracks full vocal.
On Mel & Kim’s debut album F.L.M., an alternative Album Mix of Respectable was used, which was a bold move at the time, as the album was released hot on the heels of Respectable’s worldwide success, and the track would have been many buyer's motivation for purchasing the album. The Album Mix utilises the talents of Pete Hammond & Phil Harding, and it ramps up the fun factor from its opening bars, which are overlaid with the sister’s excitably laughing between themselves, before a siren effect bridges to the ‘Tay,tay’ hook. The Album production stays true to the 7” mix after the verses begin, although there is an extended, laughter soaked, break which replaces the piano house chords with the guitar chords from Showing Out, before returning to the Respectable chorus.
The Cassette & C.D. releases of the F.L.M. album include The Extra Beats Mix as a bonus track, although this is actually a longer instrumental of the Pete Hammond’s solo treatment, rather than the released vocal production from the 12” single release. This mix uses the same sampled laughter throughout, with various pitch changes and, once again, the guitar chords from Showing Out also feature heavily, along with other samples from the sister's debut.
The 2015 Say I'm Your Number One - The Stock, Aitken & Waterman Singles Box Set release includes a CD devoted entirely to Respectable, and this includes six of the previously released mixes of the track - the 7" mix, Extended Version, Extra Beats Vocal, The Tabloid Mix, The Shop Mix, The Album Mix, The Dub Mix (which is the instrumental from the released singles b-side) along with the Full Album Mix, which had only been available on the rare Stock, Aitken & Waterman promo compilation CD Diamonds. This version is almost identical to the mix of Respectable which features on the F.L.M. album, but with the addition of a 55 second instrumental break, which begins at 3.43 .
Tantalisingly, the master tapes for Respectable, which are titled The Holy Reel Of Antioch, feature an array of unreleased versions spanning the various treatments produced to nail the final released mixes. Included on the master tapes is the original vocal take of the track, which was eventually scrapped for being too accent heavy, from October 86, and Pete Hammond’s Jack Your Body Mix, which was mastered in November 86. This remix, like Phil Harding’s Tabloid Mix, sampled the Steve ‘Silk’ Hurley house track – Jack Your Body. Also included on the master tapes are Phil Harding’s Bonus Beats Mix, various abridged and attempted masters of the released Mixes, The Capital Mix and The Underground Dub Mix.
The 2019 Singles Box Set, released by Cherry Red, included the 12" Instrumental, which edits together sections from The album mix and The Extra Beats Mix, without vocals. Also included is the Mega Remix , which, disappointingly is merely another re-edit of The Tabloid Mix, rather than an unheard remix. The box set also includes the Pete Hammond Mix, which edits together The 7" mix with The Extra Beats Vocal Mix, and the Alternative 12" Mix, which edits together The Club Mix with The Album Mix.
Although Showing Out was a huge hit for Mel & Kim, it was Respectable that really propelled them to the next level. Unlike Showing Out, which is edgy and raw, Respectable achieved the perfect balance of pop with an edge, and honed what was referred to as the London House sound. It was Mel & Kim’s biggest selling single, winning awards for sales as well as its video clip, and the songs production made an enduring impact that continues to resonate today. Pete Waterman recalled, “God knows where we would have ended up if Mel had not suffered with cancer. They had the world as their oyster. Mel & Kim were 'Stock, Aitken & Waterman', the rest of pop history started right there, everything we’ve got today – The Spice Girls, everything else started right there with ‘Tay,Tay,Tay’ because it liberated pop music!"
The sisters' elation at their second single taking the number one spot in the UK was evident as they posed for Dave Hogan and Tony Cook, amongst others, at a press call in a children's playground, Victoria Park (East London). The sisters joyfully larked around on the swings and slide, and cracked open a bottle of champagne to toast their chart success.
Respectable has been sampled many times since its 1987 release, most notably in the Pop Will Eat Itself's track, Hit the Hi-Tech Groove.
Respectable was also covered by the short-lived girl band – Girls@Play, who were working with Mike Stock and Matt Aitken in 2001. On paper, this should have been a success, but the groups interpretation of the the track lacked any of the originals vibrancy, energy or archaically fun spirit. More recently (2018), Respectable was covered by Australia's Zoe Badwi, who teamed up with fellow Australian DJ/producer Dan Slater (and Leomeo), to present a fun homage to the girls, and their success down under. The track was released over a number of club-oriented remixes, and Zoe sings the lyrics in their original plural form ("We ain't ever gonna be respectable").
Despite the years, Mel & Kim's superior original Respectable continues to be a sure-fire floor filler across the globe, and it remains a much loved and instantly recognisable track which captures a moment in time and pop history!