The 23rd of February marks the anniversary of the release of 'Respectable', which provided Mel & Kim 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 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 and then gold on the 1st of April 1987, and the smash hit 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 edgy, 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 it 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. 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 “Eventually we were asked to take out the 'Tay Tay Tay' bit as he (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 feisty attitude, but the original inspiration for the song 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!!!”
The U.K. sleeve for 'Respectable' features a bold black and white design which houses two individual shots of Mel & Kim who look sophisticated and high fashion. Shot by Peter Ashworth, they wear identical outfits comprising of yellow bolero-styled jackets with the obligatory 80s shoulder pads, black trousers and black hats by Peter Jones. The flip side of the sleeve features two alternative poses from the same session, housed in the same design as the front cover but on a white only layout. The sisters also used these outfits during the stage scene in the 'Respectable' video and for some performances during its promotion.
The sleeve design was altered slightly to include the word ‘Remix’ printed in white on the upper right to alert fans to the two alternative Remix 12” editions featuring 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 is 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 shoot. For this session the sisters are pictured in similar grey and black fine checked suits, black gloves and black hats posing before metal, lattice shaped frames which hang at an angle to overlap. 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 utilised by Supreme for the publicity postcards for 'Respectable', which Mel & Kim would take to club appearances to sign for their fans.
An alternative shot from this Ashworth photo session was utilised by Supreme Records for the publicity postcards used to promote 'Respectable'.
Some less sophisticated sleeve designs were used in other territories for 'Respectable'’s 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’ session. 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, as an even more limited pressing, on green and white coloured vinyl, whilst both 7" releases came in black or red coloured vinyl.
The German Tabloid Mix 12" edition uses 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 was pressed on a clashing green, grey, blue and white coloured vinyl.
The Benelux (Belgium, the Netherlands and Luxemburg), release of 'Respectable' features an almost unofficial/bootleg style to the design with 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 shoot on its cover.
The US and Canadian releases of 'Respectable' was 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 its 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 boasts three remixes of 'Respectable' - The Vocal Club Mix, The Tabloid Mix and the Extra Beats Vocal Mix - but, as with the promo 7", it doesn'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 are housed in the same sleeve as the original UK 12" release.
Autographed Publicity Postcard used to promote 'Respectable'
German Press Release
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 utilises the same black and white paneled design and the colour Peter Ashworth photographs but, instead of the word 'Remix' being printed in white on the upper right corner, this sleeve design includes a diagonal title strip on either upper corner. The right strip is black with printed white lettering that says "From The Hot Debut Album F.L.M.' whilst the left hand strip is 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 tracklisting 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.
In 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 it's blank white die cut sleeve.
'Respectable' was also made available sometime after it's 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.
The acclaimed 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 the Pineapple Dance studios in London 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 seemed a small glitch and the sisters were soon filming the 'Respectable' video which was directed by Simon West (who also directed the video for 'Showing Out'), over 20 hours on a set in Albion Wharf, Battersea on the 4th of February 1987.
Mel explained “It’s based on a kind of West Side Story setting 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.” The film clip went on to win Best Video at the Montreux Golden Rose IMMC Awards Gala on the 28th of May 1987 and begins with a close up of Mel’s feet as she walks along the street. Mel passes a dog and then a policeman leaning against a street light, sleeping. The shot then cuts to a camera looking down on Mel who hollers “Hey Kim!” before smiling and gesturing to come down. The shot cuts to suggest Mel’s view and Kim is seen coming down from what looks like a portakabin to join her sister. The music starts and Mel & Kim begin strutting their stuff on the street and playfully teasing the policeman by stealing his hat. “There isn’t really a story line” said Kim at the time, “just two girls making it good under the watchful eye of a copper.” The sisters are dressed more casually than the accompanying photo shoots and public appearances used to promote the track, which was a clever choice. Their outfits seem a more comfortable fit with the sisters' age and personalities and the image was incredibly accessible to their fans. The second scene features a stage set and spotlights with the girls performing Annie’s routine and singing in close up whilst wearing the high fashion outfits they wore for the sleeve photo shoot
The second scene features a stage set and spotlights with the girls performing Annie’s routine and singing in close up whilst wearing the high fashion outfits they wore for the sleeve photo shoot. This scene emulates a concert and gives the viewers a tantalising hint of what a Mel & Kim live show would have looked like.
The video culminates with cuts between the stage and street scenes before the policeman announces to the camera “Hey…they’re hot!” before the track fades.
In late 2016, Kim laughed as she recalled struggling with the stretched 'breton' style top she wore, saying "That t-shirt I have on... it kept slipping down and I kept pulling it up. It kept falling down and, 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 for Mel & Kim. 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 for the video 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.” Luckily for fans the leather jackets look was captured in a photo shoot by Peter Ashworth and the shots were used in the promotion of 'Respectable' across the globe. filming they decided to cut out one of our costume changes. It’s a shame ‘cos they were really special.”
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 months to complete. 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 though this did not kill his love of the track. Pete told melandkim.com, “I enjoyed mixing 'Respectable' most of all.” (Read more here)
'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 the east enders strong pronunciations of the word ‘respectable’.
On Its initial release there were four mixes of 'Respectable' available commercially, all coming around 122 BPM.
The 7” mix features some pitch altered vocals and stuttering samples alongside the girls beautifully blended and sassy straight 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. However Pete & Phil have maintained a strong Chicago house feel making it simultaneously commercial, edgy and fresh. Mel & Kim’s playful girl power manifesto is in evidence throughout, both in the strong statement lyrics and the sampled laughter throughout the piano house break.
The Club Mix is similar in style to the 7” version though the 'Mixmasters' have made it sound less commercial and slightly harder. 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 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.
The 7” release also features the 'Respectable' Instrumental on its B-side. However this is not a straight cut 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 - 'Respectable' – The Tabloid Mix. Phil’s solo production presents a far less commercial treatment than the 7” mix and is crammed with samples from the Chicago house promo’s 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 “What I specifically remember about that mix was that 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 and its funny that something that 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 'Respectable' – The Shop Mix though, like the Freehold Mix 12” of 'Showing Out', this was merely a re-edit of the Tabloid Mix rather than a brand new treatment.
With the release of Mel & Kim’s debut album 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 buyers motivation for purchasing the album. The Album Mix utilises the talents of Pete Hammond & Phil Harding and 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 though 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 of 'Respectable' as a bonus track though this is a longer instrumental of the Pete Hammond’s solo treatment rather than the released vocal production from the 12” single release which uses the same title or the Instrumental mix on the B-side of the 7” single. 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 sisters debut.
The 2015 'Say I'm Your Number One - The Stock, Aitken & Waterman Singles Box Set' release includes a CD devoted entirely tto 'Respectable' and 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 3.43 in.
Tantalisingly the master tapes for 'Respectable', which are titled 'The Holy Reel Of Antioch', feature an array of unreleased versions spanning the various treatments 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 'Respectable' – 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 'Respectable' – 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 'Respectable' 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 another re-edit of the Tabloid Mix, rather than an unheard remix. The box set also includes 'Respectable' 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 an east London children's playground. The sisters joyfully larked around on the swings and chute, and cracked open a bottle of champagne to toast their chart success.
'Respectable' has been sampled many times since it’s 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 though this version lacked all of the originals vibrancy, edge, personality, spirit and quality.
Despite the years 'Respectable' continues to be a surefire floor filler across the globe and remains much loved and instantly recognisable.