"EVERYBODY'S GOT A SYSTEM.
WHY'S MINE NOT WORKING ON YOU?"
Following their success with Princess's hit song Say I'm Your Number One, Supreme Records and Stock, Aitken & Waterman were keen to repeat that success with their newly signed female duo - Mel & Kim - and a similar 110 BPM, RnB/Soul track was written for the girls. The Stock, Aitken & Waterman production team was pre-'The Hit Factory', so there was much more time given to record and perfect the tracks they produced for the artists, prior to their release. This allowed much more time for the sisters to adjust to the studio environment, and over the following months, System (or Everybody's Got A System, to give the track its full working title) was recorded and mixed, and a photo shoot, with Chris Edwick, was commissioned for its sleeve. The master was even sent to be manufactured for release, and the first batch of sleeves printed, before Pete Waterman took a chance and halted its production. Kim later recalled, "Mel and I were very excited but about a week later I got a call from Nick East, saying that Stock, Aitken & Waterman had scraped the track. Mel and I were devastated, 'cause we thought it was because we didn’t do it with the right vocal or they didn’t like us, but Nick assured us that they would call us when they came up with another track."
Pete was aware that he had found something different with Mel & Kim, and he believed that the sisters needed a different début - a fresh tune - that had attitude and impact to match their feisty and fun personas. In 2008, Kim recalled, "They were thinking - two black chicks from East London - we will take them down the Princess route. Then they took us down the pub, and we were all ‘Cor blimey mate, ow’s your father?’ and they thought, this song is too soft for them. Pete said, ‘Scrub the track. We need something tough for these girls!’ Pete really does tune into the artist!”
With an incredibly fast turn around, Pete linked the girls with the emerging 'Chicago House' sound, which was still underground on the London club scene, and the writing of Showing Out (Get Fresh At The Weekend) was undertaken. System did make Mel & Kim's début release, although only in dub form, on Showing Out's b-side. It was only with the release of Mel & Kim’s début album – F.L.M. - that we finally heard the full vocal version of System.
THE OFFICIAL MIXES
The House Mix (also referred to as The Garage Mix) was the first mix of System to be released, appearing on the B-side of, both of the 7” & 12” international releases of Showing Out, in its nine minute, full length form and as an edit. This initial treatment was definitely Garage/House in flavour, although there is also an unmistakable Soul vibe running throughout its production. The mid tempo dub treatment gives little away in terms of the songs lyrics and vocals, only utilising the chorus and a few of the sisters' vocal ad libs, over its length.
It was only with the release of the F.L.M. album that listeners were finally able to hear the full vocal version of System, and wonder what impact Mel & Kim would have made had it been their debut single. The Album Mix is very similar in sound to The House mix, although the production is fuller, with the addition of guitar and keyboard chords - and, of course, the full vocals.
A slightly longer edit of the System album mix was used on the Atlantic Records issue of F.L.M..
With the 2012 reissue of the F.L.M. album, in its extended deluxe form, on Cherry Pop Records, three previously unreleased mixes of System were included. The Garage Vocal Mix revisits the previously released House Mix, with the addition of the sisters' full vocals. Other than this, the production doesn't stray far from its original treatment. The Cherry Pop Reissue also includes The Original 12” Mix, which was intended to be the first released version of the song, before the decision was made to release Showing Out (Get Fresh At The Weekend) instead. This version is different in sound from The House Mix, and begins with Mel & Kim's vocals, in acapella, before it launches into some vocal effects, using lines from the same chorus lyrics. The mix progresses with very similar instrumentation to the album mix, but it feels slightly sparser, and is without some of the additional instrumental tracks and chord progressions. The vocal samples return during the middle instrumental break, before the vocals kick back in and carry the mix to its conclusion. The Alternative Mix presents the song in an edited form of the Original 12” Mix, and offers a slightly sparser version of The Album Mix.
The 2019 Singles Box Set, also released by Cherry Red, included The Dub Mix, which is similar to The House Mix, but with addition of some vocal locs, which weave throughout the production. Also featured is The Instrumental of the album mix.
Looking back, it is difficult to surmise what impact System would have had, had if it had been Mel & Kim's début single. Given it is similar in sound to Say I'm Your Number One, it would certainly have created a stir on the dance floors and pop charts of the U.K. and Europe, although it may not have brought with it the same impact that Showing Out's 'London House' sound created. Nor would it have been indicative of Mel & Kim's youthful and exuberant personalities, which were as much a factor in their success as their voices, songs and image. What is true is that Pete Waterman's commercial instinct was arguably never more attuned than it was when he took the lead in directing how Mel & Kim would be presented to the public, by changing course with their début release. That said, System does display Mel & Kim's ability to be diverse with their sound, which they no doubt would have explored more as their career developed.