22 March 2011

She just walked right in

Sad to read of Loleatta Holloway's death today. An extraordinary voice but, beyond the hi-NRG and disco devotees who lapped up everything she did, not as commercially successful as she should have been.

Of course, here in the UK, her voice is most familiar on Ride On Time, the Black Box single that sold more copies than any other record in 1989. It's extraordinary to think that the band, an Italian dance outfit who were chancing their arm, believed they could get away with not only not crediting Holloway on the record, but also actively passing off her vocals as those of someone else.

The story is well-thumbed. They took isolated lines from Holloway's underground disco hit Love Sensation, manacled them into their frantically catchy piano-led house rhythm and then, when the tune caught on and they needed to promote it on telly, roped in Katrin Quinol to learn the lines and mime at the front.

Quinol, a French model, did not know a word of English. This was quickly established by those that knew her and so any effort to suggest that the vocals were a re-record by a Holloway soundalike soon fell flat. Holloway never got the credit - of both kinds - that she merited, and eventually had to go to court, along with the song's writer Dan Hartman, to get her rightful share of the substantial royalties.

Perhaps less well remembered is the song's second appearance on a "modern" record for that period. Donnie Wahlberg, of New Kids On The Block, had a teenage brother called Mark - yes, him - who ditched a childhood of crime by launching a career as a shirtless, Calvin Klein underpants-exposing rapper called Marky Mark, who with his backing troupe called the Funky Bunch - loads of imagination went into both of those names - released a song called Good Vibrations. This title was nothing to do with the Beach Boys and everything to do with Holloway, using the chorus from Love Sensation and learning from (or capitalising on) Black Box's greed by giving her equal crediting AND inviting her to do the full publicity run onstage with them, including appearing in the video. Which she did.

If ever there was a case of someone hanging on to a famous sibling's coat tails, it was this. The record was terrible but with Donnie producing and promoting it, the younger Wahlberg had a number one hit in his homeland. Mercifully, the NKOTB followers in the UK only had a passing interest and took it to a comparatively meagre number 14. Wahlberg minor spent his short period in the pop limelight seducing as many sixth formers as he could while using expressions like "on your turkey" in interviews. No, me neither. He is now, of course, one of Hollywood's most respected actors and has - I expect - done far better in the long term than his brother, who was a proper pop superstar for a good couple of years.

Holloway appeared on loads of dance records in the 1990s after her exposure via Ride On Time. Within the music industry her voice was legendary, yet to mainstream audiences she had never really caught on. It's a pity her solo career didn't match those of her contemporaries in that late 70s hi-NRG boom, such as Chaka Khan or even Jocelyn Brown, as she was a better singer than both.


Louis Barfe said...

This - http://amzn.to/fv29IB - is worth every penny. I Might Not Be There When You Want Me is a favourite, as is the original of Runaway. Meanwhile, mention of Dan Hartman reminds me that he shared with Lee Brilleaux of Dr Feelgood the appalling misfortune to die at roughly the same time as Kurt Cobain (same week possibly?), meaning that his massive contribution to music was given far less posthumous coverage than it deserved. Same with Brilleaux. No Feelgoods, no punk.

Atlanta Roofing said...

Rest in Peace. Never heard of her before, or heard any of her songs... but she obviously was quite loved.