The 8th of September marks the anniversary of the release of Showing Out (Get Fresh At The Weekend).
Released in 1986, the 120BPM track proved a slow burner, initially smouldering in the clubs for months before entering the UK singles chart at #67. Before it's release and beyond, Mel & Kim promoted their single heavily, with months of club dates up and down the UK, and with every passing week, Showing Out slowly crept up the lower end of the UK singles chart - despite initially not receiving much airplay from Radio One. That all changed following a chance opportunity to appear on the popular UK music chart show Top Of The Pops. At that time, you had to be in the UK top 20 in order to appear on the show, but an unexpected cancellation to the bill, on October 30th 1986, resulted in Mel & Kim being asked to perform their song to a huge UK audience, and their three and a half minute performance propelled Showing Out into the UK top ten. The Top Of The Pops performance was the sisters' very first T.V. appearance, and Kim later referred to it as the moment in her life she would most like to relive, as well as it being "a buzz!" and "the scariest moment of our lives!"
Showing Out eventually peaked at #3, a staggering ten weeks after its release, and it remained in the UK singles chart for a total of 20 weeks. the single was certified silver on November 1st 1986, with sales exceeding 250,000 in the UK alone. Europe was quick to follow and the song reached the #1 position in Belgium, Germany and Switzerland, and also went top 5 all over the continent. Further afield, Showing Out also charted well, reaching #12 in Australia, #8 in New Zealand, #23 on the US Billboard Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Singles & Tracks and even #1 on the U.S. Billboard Hot Dance Club Play chart!
Written by Mike Stock, on Friday the 18th of July 1986, and recorded over that weekend, the 'fresh' sound of Showing Out was heavily inspired by the underground Chicago Garage House sound that was emerging from America, in cuts such as: Love Can’t Turn Around, by Farley ‘Jackmaster’ Funk, Jack The Groove, by Raze, and Steve ‘Silk’ Hurley’s Jack Your Body, although its production went a long way in making those heavy dance sounds more palatable for daytime radio. The merging of the Chicago sound with a very British vibe created an exciting hybrid which many at the time christened 'London House', and the cockney sisters were more than happy to be the face of this fresh new wave of pop/dance music with an edge.
Contrary to some reports, which suggest that Showing Out was originally written for Bananarama, the Stock Aitken & Waterman track was written for Mel & Kim personally. Kim recalled “It was great that Showing Out was specifically written for us and when you listen to the verses, it’s so us. It was all about just having great fun.” The production team had originally hooked up with the sisters to produce a soul infused pop track entitled System, but after the initial recording sessions - and the obligatory trips to the pub afterwards - it became apparent that the girls' appeal was as much in their lovable yet suss personalities as it was in their vocal talents and looks. This sent S.A.W. in a new, personality driven direction. Pete Waterman recalled,“(Mel & Kim) were larger than life, and this gave us a real focus to write the songs!"
Despite the instant appeal of Showing Out, as a début single, Kim was initially unsure. “At the beginning I wasn’t too keen on Showing Out. I just felt that there weren’t any hook lines, but once I played it over a few times, it worked out well. It just had all these sounds, and then it had ‘Show, Show, Show’, so it was just, kinda like…what is this?" Even Mixmaster Phil Harding was surprised by the mesh of sounds he was encouraged to employ in the production of Showing Out. Phil told melandkim.com, exclusively,“It’s not really a verse, bridge, chorus pop song. Its lots of bits and sections with quirky melodies put together which was unusual. I would call Showing Out ‘quirky pop’ almost a novelty record.”
The original U.K. sleeve for Showing Out features a cropped and heavily adjusted shot from Chris Edwick’s simple, yet beautiful, photo session, which was commissioned for the sisters' originally planned début release System. Referred to by fans as ‘The Beach Sleeve’, this session was Mel & Kim’s first official photo shoot, following their signing to Supreme Records, and was originally conceived to present System to the public. The sleeve features a shot originally taken of Mel & Kim standing on the sand, but the frame has been altered to appear as if the girls are standing ankle deep in the sea. (See the montage shot in the 'Showing Out' by Chris Edwick' Gallery here for some pre-effect examples). The sleeve does show 'Mel & Kim' – in that order - but is actually printed in reverse, then the girls repositioned to still show Mel, who's dress colour has been changed from beige to pink, on the left of the sleeve. This was pre-photo-shop so, by today's digital standards, the overall quality of the sleeve artwork is poor, and the photograph suffered from the various treatments it was put through, appearing less sharp than the original frame.
Some of the original UK 12” singles also included a free colour poster which featured the 'hats pic' used for the imminent sleeve reprinting.
The design of the beach sleeve was further altered to show the same design in black and white, and the sleeve lettering changed from black to pink, to alert fans to the alternative UK Remix release, featuring the ‘Mortgage Mix’ of Showing Out. This mix title was used to reference the house sound of the track, and it was soon followed by an additional remix release, presenting The Freehold Mix, which was presented, this time, in the generic Supreme Records Body Music sleeve.
An alternative shot from the Beach photo session was utilised by Supreme Records for the first printed publicity postcards, used to promote the Showing Out single's initial run. (See later in his section to view this postcard!)
As promotion gained momentum, Mel & Kim had perfected their 'look'. Black and red was a consistent theme, alongside bolero jackets, gloves and the striking and sophisticated addition of those hats, which went on to create such a memorable fashion statement. This was the image the girls had adopted for their endless club P.A.’s, prior to Showing Out hitting the charts, as well as the look they used for their first video, and the image was strong. However, it sat at odds with Chris Edwick’s photography, which featured the sisters looking beautiful and relaxed, if a little less styled, dancing and playing bare foot on the beach in light make up and long hair pieces.
As the single was due to be re pressed, to satisfy the demand that the video and their Top Of The Pops television performance had brought, Supreme decided to change Showing Out's sleeve image, to echo the sister’s more instantly recognisable look, Advertised as a 'New Picture Bag', the second sleeve, (known as 'The Hats Sleeve' to fans) featured a frame from David O’Dowd's photo session, which captured Mel & Kim with hats firmly in place, and a look they were already famed for. It was believed that this would help the record buyers to connect the singles they saw in the shops with the hottest new pop act they were seeing on T.V. - and it did!
As with the earlier beach sleeve release some of the newer ‘Hats Sleeve’ pressings, as the fans refer to it, came with a free colour poster using a fuller frame of the same David O'Dowd shot.
The 'Hats Sleeve' design was adjusted slightly to include the word ‘Remix’ in the top right corner to present the The Freehold Mix 12” edition, as a limited run in a picture sleeve.
Additional pressings of The Mortgage Mix were also pressed though these were housed in the Supreme Records Body Music sleeves, as were any additional pressings of The Freehold Mix.
The Body Music sleeves were also used to house all the Supreme Records promo releases, and display a jacket covered shoulder and arm, with a hand exposed and clicking fingers. (This is actually a close up of a shot of Supreme artist - Princess!)
Limited edition poster included with some pressings
Chris Edwick Recollections...
"Supreme Records asked me to take promotional shots of a newly signed girl duo Mel & Kim. I think it was their first photo shoot and I was pretty inexperienced myself but I came up with the idea of going to the beach. I thought it would be a nice simple open space where the girls could play in the sand and along the shore and we’d do some very natural shots and I’d try to catch their natural beauty.
Mel and Kim were stunningly beautiful in the fullest possible sense. They were beautiful to look at but they both had personalities that made them very attractive to be with. I remember that day was magical. Fascinatingly, although sisters, they had very different characters. Kim was modest and perhaps a little shy but had extraordinary presence, whereas Mel was outrageously confident with a wickedly naughty sense of humour. Both had an overwhelming charisma. It was beyond doubt that they would be immensely successful.
We sat in the dunes and had a picnic, waiting for the sun to go down so I could catch the light directly on them in the late summer afternoon. It was moments like that which make being a photographer one of the most special things you can do.
They burned with life and enthusiasm all day and even when we finally got back late at night they were preparing to go off to a party. Mel suggested I should go along with them but I couldn’t match them, in any way, for energy and was collapsed on a sofa... Now this proves how young and stupid I was. I passed up an opportunity to go to a party with Mel and Kim!! I’ve slapped myself for that one many times!!
Looking back my only regret is that I was still very young and lacked the experience to capture them in all their beauty. It was a brief moment and a valuable experience for us all but other photographers went on to capture their true beauty. For me it was a moment of great privilege and one to always treasure. "
CHRIS EDWICK SEPTEMBER 2013
Supreme Records Publicity Postcards used to promote the first Showing Out (Get Fresh At The Weekend), inc Autographed card
Once the decision was made to shelve System, and to write and record a brand-new track for the girls, things moved quickly. A mere one day after the final mix of the track was completed, Showing Out received its first radio play, all be it off the acetate, by John Sachs on Capital Radio Tuesday - 22nd of July. This was followed by the promotional copies which were issued on Friday 25th of July.
Before, and after, the singles official release, Mel & Kim promoted Showing Out heavily, with months of club dates up and down the UK. As part of their deal, the girls' then manager, Alan Whitehead, negotiated a 'Power Play' deal through The Mecca Leisure Group, the first deal of its kind, which guaranteed Showing Out seven plays a night, seven nights a week, in 185 of their nightclubs - and with a promotional tour included. Showing Out received its official release and, over the next ten weeks, its chart position continued to creep slowly upward. However, it was a chance opportunity to appear on the popular UK music chart show Top Of The Pops that jettisoned the track up the UK charts and changed things forever. An unexpected cancellation to the bill resulted in Mel & Kim being asked to perform their song to a huge UK audience and their three and a half minute performance propelled Showing Out into the UK top ten singles chart.
Showing Out was released in the UK, and across much of Europe, in the last months of 1986, however the song was not released in France until June 1987, and the sisters recorded some French promotional performances of the track, and even fitted in a photo shoot with Pierre Terrason, whilst over in Europe to perform at the Montreux Rock & Pop festival. Sadly, promotion stalled after Mel's back pain caused her to fall in a restaurant in Montreux, and the girls were unable to return to France to continue their promotions schedule.
It was around this time that Showing Out began to take off as far afield as Japan and, after a forced few weeks of bed rest for Mel, the girls flew out to Tokyo to perform and promote the track there, including plans included a live performance and The Tokyo Music Festival. The flight proved to be too much for Mel, and the sisters found themselves holed up in a hospital room in Tokyo, and all plans had to be cancelled.
The buzz around Showing Out began building at a steady rate, prompting Supreme Records to commission the filming of an accompanying video clip. Filmed in August 1986, and directed by Simon West, the film clip is simple yet effective. It features the girls, beautifully lit and looking much more their age, than they did in many of their initial photo sessions, performing a dance routine that they had put together themselves, in Kim's living room. Both girls look natural in front of the camera, as if they had been making film clips for years, and their post System image was now heavily in place. The sisters' youth and beauty, as well as their ability to project their personalities and sense of fun, made the overall impact of the video immense! Kim recalled later, “I absolutely loved that video, as it is 100% Mel & Kim. We’ve got such an attitude in that video!” The video comprises three performance-based scenes. The main featuring Mel & Kim in a lit studio, performing the track and showing off their dance routine to camera. The second scene, filmed mainly in tight close up, is of the girls walking into the studio, and also singing the chorus. Kim looks sensational in a leather strapless dress while Mel sports a more conservative white shirt which is tied at the waist to show off her leather mini skirt and amazing legs. Finally, the third scene features the sisters dressed in matching black and white dresses and identical long Chinese style wigs from Selfridges, singing before a sky backdrop.
Director Simon's West original planned a much more involved treatment for the Showing Out video, as these photographs, obtained exclusively by melandkim.com, reveal. Simon had envisioned the video showing the girls working in "a dull day job, in a shop" (as seen in the photograph of Mel, above). Mel would then, "pull off her white coat, and have her 'club-gear' underneath, ready to go clubbing". In another scene which didn't make the final cut, Simon filmed the girls sitting in his sports car., with the plan of keying in a variety of backgrounds, in post-production. Simon explained, "Initially, the background was going to give the impression that they were driving through the city lights at night, on a night out. Then it was gonna get more silly, where they would end up in the countryside, with fields and blue sky behind them - and then it was gonna get even more crazy, where the car would take off, and there were clouds going past and a near miss with a seagull and a hot air balloon (laughs)". But, a lot of these storyboard ideas fell by the wayside because the girls were just so watchable that, at the end of the day, everybody just wanted to watch them sing and dance". It is safe to say that, had Simon seen all of these original ideas to fruition, the Showing Out video would have been very different.
The official mixes for Showing Out do not stray too far from the original production which was initially mixed as a 12” version by ‘Mixmaster’ Phil Harding, then edited down for the 7” radio mix. There are varying abridged edits of the track that vary somewhere between the official 12” Mix and 7” mix and some, such as the Vocal Edit (which appears on the US 12" single) are better edited than others. The original mixes play with the mainstream belief of how a 'pop' track should flow, and switch abruptly between its various sections with little respect for a smooth sonic flow. The various instrumental tracks are overlaid with a plethora of samples taken from Mel & Kim's recorded vocals, which have been used on the recording almost as instrumentation in themselves. These vocal triggers have been cut up and pitch altered, to stutter and slice through the track, and they provide additional layers and add to the excitably chaotic craziness attributed to Showing Out's mass appeal! The middle eight of the track, which begins with the line “I can supply you things”, features Mike Stock singing alongside Mel & Kim, whose pitch had been altered to sound more masculine. This practice of altering the vocal pitch was a new concept at the time and was used throughout the production of Showing Out, as well as many of Mel & Kim’s future tracks. In doing so, it became one of the girls' production trademarks.
After the original release of the standard 7” and 12” mixes the Showing Out - Mortgage Mix followed. This mix continues to play with the abrupt changes explored in the original mixes, but takes it further with many sharp jumps within the sound plot of the track. The mix begins with the songs guitar chords being played, before the beat drops in, and there is much stopping and starting within the beat progression before the sisters' vocals are employed. According to the sleeve notes, this remix was produced by Pete Waterman himself, though the studio master tapes refer to the mix as The Funky Sisters NCO 12” Mix. 'The Funky Sisters' was in fact an in-house alias used by Pete Waterman & Phil Harding, to title work they completed together.
The second remix 12” soon followed and featured the Showing Out - Freehold Mix, though, disappointingly, this was merely a re-edit of The Mortgage Mix, rather than a brand new treatment.
In October 1989, Alan Coulthard was commissioned to produce some new mixes of Showing Out, alongside his work in producing an official megamix which would become the released Megamix Ninety. Alan produced two main mixes for Showing Out - The Italio House Mix, which is also available as The Italio House Edit, and The Techno Mix. The Italio House mix received an official release alongside the Megamix Ninety, and is a drastically different treatment which utilises the smoother, and then current, italio house sound that was sweeping the charts. The mix is good although it loses many of the surprises that the original production of 'Showing Out' holds. Originally, the Techno Mix was only available on issue 42 of the Music Factory Mastermix albums, released for DJ use only, although it was eventually also featured on the 2019 Singles Box Set, released by Cherry Red. The Techno Mix is similar to the Italio House treatment, but with differing instrumentation similar in style to the huge hit song Big Fun by Inner City, which had been a chart smash in 1989.
Alan remembers, (These remixes were) “done at the home studio of James Adams (Radio presenter & Producer) in Newport Pagnell when I was without access to a studio, and with Mike Stevens on keyboards, I think. This was part of the package commissioned by Nick East towards the end of 1989, a package which also included the Mel and Kim 'Megamix Ninety'. Unfortunately, this was just before Mel's tragic death and the release was limited as a result. You'll hear some samples from Chic’s 'Le Freak' though it sounds a bit slow compared with today's beats and it's a bit heavy on the digital delay!! Happy days!!!”
The 2019 Singles Box Set, released by Cherry Red, included the 'Showing Out' Instrumental.
Many years have passed since Showing Out (Get Fresh At The Weekend) was released, yet it remains recognisable and a favourite with fans and D.J.’s, and Kim, herself, has crowned it as her "favorite" of she and Mel's songs. Like Mel & Kim themselves Showing Out has an enduring quality which was ahead of its time, and it continues to inspire many to cover, remix and sample the track. Notable mentions include the the 1987 Phil Fearon track Ain't Nothing But A Houseparty (Fun'Kim-Mel Remix), by Phil Harding, which heavily samples Harding's own Freehold Remix and, more recently, the New York band - Hercules & Love Affair, who brought the house down with their cover of Showing Out during their European tour in 2011 , the Mini Viva/Pete Hammond homage in the form of The Retro Mix of I Left My Heart In Tokyo, and the more recent remixes of the track produced by up and coming D.J.’s - Nicole Moudaber & Serge Santiago.
For the fans, Showing Out will always be a classic. Not only because of its fun and effervescent sound but also because it was the springboard that perfectly introduced us to two sisters from East London whose spirit, beauty, attitude and energy continues to resonate to this day.