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Tight Fit – Secret Heart

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In pop, nothing stings quite as sharply as the unexpected interruption of an unbroken run of top 5 singles – but sometimes you just have to admit that Hot Chocolate had in fact gotten it all wrong and accept that every 1’s NOT a winner…baby. Then again, sometimes the public’s distrust of the artist simply overtakes the irresistible nature of their output and brings the pop palace crashing down around their ears. Case in point: Tight Fit.

Tight Fit didn’t even exist as a proper group when their chart career began with Back to the Sixties, a no.4 pop-medley hit in the summer of 1981, when unknown session singers were replaced by lip-syncing models for TV promo appearances. The following year, an aspiring record producer employed a different group of session singers to create another classic cover version and this time, while deciding it was only prudent to release it under the already successful Tight Fit moniker, the track was set to be fronted by a more ‘permanent’ line-up of three models/dancers/singers – Steve Grant, Denise Gyngell and Julie Harris. While the threesome were undoubtedly pretty – looking like they belonged on the same pop factory conveyer belt which serviced the creation of spare Nolan sisters and countless second rate Eurovision hopefuls (Co-Co, Bardo, Prima Donna) –  their vocal prowess was slightly less assured. But as it seemed unlikely they would ever be required to sing live, this line-up was deemed fit for purpose.

Unfortunately, when that single, The Lion Sleeps Tonight, went on to become one of the biggest hits of the year, the spotlight was well and truly on the trio in front of the microphones. The non-singing-puppet approach was deemed too risky for future releases and for the follow-up, Fantasy Island, the trio’s real voices were used – a gamble which duly delivered another top 5 hit.

While it’s hardly a new story – it’s pretty much the plot of 1952’s Singing in the Rain – it’s probably fortunate the producer at the heart of this particular morality tale was the phenomenally talented Tim Friese-Greene. It seems an unlikely starting point considering he was soon to become an unofficial ‘fourth member’ of synth-pop pioneers Talk Talk, credited with guiding them to unexpected breakthrough US chart success with the It’s My Life single and album and producing their subsequent career-high trilogy of LPs. But Talk Talk main-man Mark Hollis had cited a desire to capture some of the clarity and pure-pop sheen of Friese-Greene’s early productions in his own band’s music as key to his decision to approach him as a collaborator. That purity and dazzling shine is no more apparent than on Secret Heart, Tight Fit’s next single.

Released in July 1982, Secret Heart is a shimmering confection of swirling keyboard melodies and (100% artificial) orchestral crescendos which could simultaneously be heard enlivening virtually every track of ABC’s masterpiece debut, The Lexicon of Love. Like Trevor Horn, Friese-Greene had a great ear for inescapable pop hooks and it would seem they also shared an overwhelming desire to perform the ‘silk-purse-from-a-pig’s-ear ‘trick (see also Horn’s work with Dollar and Frankie Goes to Hollywood). Not even a triumphant performance on BBC1’s Seaside Special and a heart-shaped picture disc (see video for details) could push Secret Heart higher than no.41 in the UK singles chart as the British record buying public began to lose interest in studio-created, manufactured pop groups like Tight Fit, and instead began to embrace real musicianship and transparency in the form of Milli Vanilli and Black Box.

As a small footnote, Secret Heart was given an unlikely second wind by none other than Barbra Streisand, when it was re-written by Earth Wind and Fire’s Maurice White for her 1984 album, Emotion.  Re-titled Time Machine, the song had been given a completely new lyric but retained much of the original arrangement, but even La Streisand’s magic touch couldn’t rescue it from the pop recycle bin and it was never issued as a single in this form.

Entered chart: 31/07/1982

Chart peak: 41

Weeks on chart: 6

Who could sing this today and have a hit? – With its ‘poison chalice’ effect on the career of Tight Fit, the song feels like a musical version of the cursed videotape plot device used in the various adaptations of the Japanese horror story, The Ring. Maybe it could be used to bring about the end of my own personal pop nightmare, the inexplicably successful Pixie Lott (have you seen her chart positions lately? Ed.)

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