C.C. Catch – Strangers by Night
Us Brits have always been a bit snooty about Europop haven’t we? We may have grown to love the pop output of the Swedes and Norwegians, but the rest is deemed just too cheesy for our refined tastes. In fact, I’d challenge you to name more than a handful of Euro hits that were as equally successful here as on the continent.
In the mid 80s, aside from two novelty (albeit excellent) pop songs, – Joe Le Taxi by Vanessa Paradis and Boys (Summertime Love) by Sabrina (and we really didn’t want too much to do with either of them afterwards, thank you) – we pretty much closed the borders to anything that was popular on the continent.
Whilst I can probably live without Polish R&B or rock music from San Marino, sometimes I simply want to listen to something that doesn’t take itself too seriously. It is here where we’ve missed out on some incredible releases, specifically something those on the continent do far better than we do. This is the combination of (sometimes unknowing) camp, soul free vocals and dance pop.
Which brings us onto C.C.Catch (aka Caroline Catherine Müller) – a Dutch-born German pop singer. If you were to put Hazell Dean and early era Kylie Minogue into a pop blender – in Hamburg – she would be the resulting heady mix.
She was discovered by the German singer-songwriter Dieter Bohlen, a member of Modern Talking, a band which has its own place in the Into The Popvoid hall of fame. It comes as no surprise then that she sounds exactly like a female fronted version of the band. Amazing.
If Mylène Farmer was the Dynasty of 80s Europop, C.C.Catch was the Kate O’Mara starring Triangle – inherently not as good, but compelling nevertheless. She burnt brightly, securing ten consecutive top 10 hits in Spain (and a multitude of smashes across Europe) between 1985 – 1988. It’s a surprise then that she remains almost wholly unknown in the UK.
Sadly she only managed one charting song here (number 96 in 1988 with the S/A/W aping Soul Survivor), but it is her five minute thirty, melancholy 1986 masterpiece Strangers By Night (produced and written by Dieter Bohlen), which stands as her greatest pop moment.
Against a keening minor key refrain of ‘heartache’, icy synths and a pulsating rhythm, it is one of those epic 80s power pop productions, with a rousing chorus and totally incredible pronunciation you’ll be mimicking from today onwards – “Strangers by night / Be strangers tumeureuw…” The instrumental synth breakdown which lasts a good 60 seconds (starting at the three minute mark) begs to be heard on a dance floor.
With that peculiar 80s phenomenon of a supernatural themed music video, and pure mid 80s, adult-contemporary pop production, it bears more than a passing resemblance to Laura Branigan’s Self Control. This mixture of electric guitars and synths is a sound Lady Gaga updated so successfully on her Marry The Night single. But unlike Lady Gaga, whose I AM BEING SOULFUL vocals dominate that track, C.C.Catch’s delivery is brilliantly detached and drama free. Why bother when your hair can do the emoting for you?
After a career hiatus throughout most of the 90s and early noughties, C.C.Catch is performing and recording once again, and by the look of things is thoroughly enjoying herself. I love a happy ending.
Entered chart: did not chart
Who could sing this today and have a hit? Update the production, and this has Lady Gaga written all over it.