Exposé – Let Me Be the One
In rock music there seems to be an unspoken rule which states success automatically attracts success. Generally, as an artist grows in stature and the money starts to flow, the hiring of a top class producer more or less guarantees their next album will have every chance of being bigger than the last. The resulting collaborations create a seemingly never ending upward spiral, a survival of the fittest, a natural selection evolution process which has seen the transformations of David Bowie, Coldplay and U2, in association with the likes of Brian Eno, Brian Eno and, well, Brian Eno, into the biggest artists in the world at various points over the last few decades, while lesser artists are left to wither and die on the ‘let’s see if Stargate are available’ scrapheap. In pop, there exists a much more refreshing and altogether more spontaneous approach. Decades of pilfering and ‘interpolation’ have created a decidedly looser, ‘pick ‘n’ mix’ attitude to the whole idea of artist collaboration and, until recently at least, it was more or less a case of anything goes. In a time before Pharrell and Robin Thicke’s Blurred Lines was found guilty of stealing Marvin Gaye’s ‘vibe’, it seemed nothing was sacred and whole careers could be built on the use of un-credited vocal snippets, beats and melodies – step forward Black Box, Moby, Fatboy Slim et al.
In dance music in particular, sampling turned the whole genre inside out and upside down for much of the 1990s and beyond, while in the pop market, the ‘magpie effect’ could spark a rolling evolution which created whole sub-genres, such as the Motown sound and Stock, Aitken, Waterman’s Hit Factory.
Probably my favourite bit of artistic cross-pollination occurred in 1988, when Pet Shop Boys brought the sunny, Latin-pop sound of the Miami club scene to the dreary, rain-spattered streets of miserable old Britain, in the shape of their Lewis A. Martineé produced Domino Dancing. The story of what would become one of their many undoubted career highlights began when Neil and Chris apparently fell under Martinee’s spell during the summer of ’87 as they travelled around America promoting It’s a Sin and the US release of their second album, Actually.
That particular summer it was virtually impossible to avoid Martineé and his ubiquitous sound, in the shape of chart-conquering, three-piece girl group, Exposé. Over a twelve month period, from February ’87, Exposé managed to score four top 10 singles from their debut album, Exposure, becoming the first group to do so in US chart history and racking up double platinum sales along the way. Their second hit, Point Of No Return, exhibits the most obvious shared DNA with Domino Dancing and in the US Exposé’s signature song was unquestionably Seasons Change. Providing the girls with their one and only US No.1, it was the type of ballad which would become (and not a moment too soon) the staple of Gloria Estefan, halting her seemingly unstoppable descent into ‘nightmare-novelty-party-madness’ which would have undoubtedly resulted in the Miami Sound Machine’s version of The Hokey Cokey appearing at some point in 1988.
For me, best of all is Let Me Be The One. Released in August 1987, it would achieve the lowest chart placing of the four singles released from Exposure in the US – eventually peaking at No.7 on the Billboard Hot 100 – but ironically, in the UK, it would be the closest they would come to breaking the top 75 with anything lifted from their debut.
Perhaps it was the cheeky nods to Jam and Lewis’s S.O.S Band/Change productions, the unapologetic pop-dance sensibility this track shares with the brace of irresistible smashes Shalamar released circa 1982 or the nagging, insanely catchy synth runs which hooked into my brain and have never let go. I can honestly say listening to this track today has the same effect on me as it did back in December 1987 – and what might have been reasonable behaviour for a ‘just about to graduate’ 21 year-old art student is positively unacceptable for an unemployable 48 year-old website contributor. Check out the 12” version which remains one of my all-time favourite extended versions, with Martinee filling the 8 minute running time with endless percussive breakdowns, pushing his trademarked stuttering edits to the absolute outer limits and one moment, at around the 6 minute mark, that’s so stuffed with fairlight orchestra stabs and hi-energy riffs it couldn’t be more Pet Shop Boys if you threw Dusty, Liza and a whole Welsh male voice choir into the mix to ride the track towards its closing couple of minutes. Excuse me, I’ve just got to go and embarrass myself at an art school disco…I may be some time.
Entered chart: 05/12/1987
Chart peak: 76
Weeks on chart: 5
Who could sing this today and have a hit? – Wouldn’t it be great to hear Emeli Sandé singing something that didn’t sound like it was escaping through the crack in the church doors at a particularly depressing funeral service? I’d love to hear her go old-school with an Arthur Baker production and remix of this.