Swing Out Sister – Notgonnachange
We don’t have to worry about it so much in the digital age, but something that frequently used to happen to pop stars was deletion. Having your album deleted generally meant one of two things: either it was vanishing for a bit before coming back at mid-price (with a slightly thinner booklet printed on cheaper paper), which was the pop equivalent of a nice quiet retirement, or it was being taken out the back, shot in the head and buried. For a good few years, an awful lot of albums that didn’t deserve the second of those fates seemed destined to live on only as expensive items on eBay, but then along came iTunes and Spotify and the like and lots of them came rushing back from beyond the grave, unencumbered by physical form and none the worse for it. But one that so far hasn’t, in the UK at least, is Swing Out Sister’s third album Get in Touch With Yourself. This is particularly annoying to me because it’s genuinely bloody brilliant.
1992 was a bit of a make or break year for Andy Connell and Corinne Drewery. 1989’s masterpiece Kaleidoscope World had, for reasons I’ll never understand, sailed over the heads of most of the record buying public, peaking at no.9 in the UK (although it did make no.3 on the CD only chart) and yielding a solitary top 30 single, the perfect in every way You On My Mind (I recall Carol Decker and Ronnie Rogers of T’Pau reviewing it in Smash Hits and saying something like “you can just tell a big hit the second you hear it” – shows you how much they knew). So for album three there might perhaps have been a little record company pressure to come up with something a tad more commercial, and that would certainly explain the first single, a fabulous cover of Am I the Same Girl (originally performed by Barbara Acklin and subsequently Dusty Springfield, though Young-Holt Unlimited had a huge US hit with an instrumental version under the name Soulful Strut). Swing Out Sister’s version came tantalisingly close to the UK top 20, becoming their biggest hit since Surrender in 1987. Follow ups generally tend to peak a bit lower, but at this point I wasn’t worried at all. Thanks to a helpful purple sticker on the CD proclaiming ‘includes Am I the Same Girl and Notgonnachange’, I knew what the second single was going to be and I knew it was going to be huge. Which shows how much I know.
The subtly tweaked single mix of Notgonnachange proved to be Swing Out Sister’s graceful entrance into the club, and boy did they do it in style. It opens with a quite magnificent string arrangement – I always appreciate this as it gives me time to get to the dancefloor – and it is joined shortly thereafter by the beat of a handclap, which is the first warning you get that actually, things have changed quite a bit. While all of the elements that made us love Swing Out Sister in the first place were still there, now there was a lovely warm and full-bodied groove (powered by a prominent bassline and some very decisive keyboard work from Andy) subtly but insistently underpinning things. It’s by no means a dance record as we understood it in the early 90s, but it is most definitely a record to dance to – a point driven home by the video, which is all clubby tops (as well as no tops) and looked rather like Andy and Corinne had wandered onto the set of a C+C Music Factory shoot by mistake.
For me, the absolute best bit of Notgonnachange is the miniature symphony that crashes in at 2:51 over those lovely clip-cloppy beats, giving you a moment in which to strike dramatic poses, as well as appreciate the message in the song: “I’m not gonna change / I’m not gonna change now / If you walk away / There’s no turning back now”. There’s nothing more effective than an ultimatum delivered calmly with a smile, and in all pop there’s really no-one better than Corinne Drewery to do it.
Sensibly, the label (Fontana, reactivated in the late 80s as a home for Swing Out Sister, Tears for Fears and later the Cocteau Twins and the House of Love) spotted the potential here and commissioned Frankie Knuckles to do some remixes, and they turned out stupendously well – in particular the Classic Club Mix as featured below. As a result, Notgonnachange made it as high as no.21 on the Billboard Hot Dance Club Play chart, and while I’m not sure how it fared in the clubs here it was certainly on heavy rotation in my bedroom in a student flat in Glasgow, which is almost as good. As for the single itself, despite everyone I knew liking it and an appealing 99 pence price point in most shops, it peaked at a criminally low no.49 and marked the point when Swing Out Sister graduated from mass market popularity and became something of a connoisseur’s concern. Not such a bad thing, really; it’s just a bit of a shame it’s not out there for anyone to discover at the moment. So if someone with a bit of clout could reach into the netherworld of pop and get in touch with Get in Touch With Yourself I would be most grateful.
Entered chart: 20/06/1992
Chart peak: 49
Weeks on chart: 2
Who could sing this today and have a hit? More for the epic dance routine they could do in the middle than anything else, Little Mix.