Sunday, 26 March 2017

KCM Hotshot #3: Running Back For More – Delage

A look back at the underrated second single from 1990s SAW girlband Delage…

As discussed previously on this blog, Stock Aitken Waterman entered the 1990s in search of a new sound; a quest which became more important as their signature sound became less prevalent in the marketplace. This would result in a period of experimentation akin to that of 1985-1986, yielding some real undiscovered gems. One of these gems was Running Back For More, a 1991 house-inspired track from four piece girl band Delage.

A new band put together by PWL and named after one of Pete Waterman’s favourite classic cars, Delage were originally called Dazzle (and indeed, the promos of their debut single carried this name). The band originally comprised Rhonda, Karena, Charlotte and Judy, and were first referenced in a fascinating Smash Hits article entitled “Are Stock Aitken Waterman Down The Dumper?”. The Dumper, as Smash Hits put it, was the place that unsuccessful acts and records would end up after failing to achieve chart success, and 1990 had indeed seen a decline in the amazing success SAW had enjoyed in 1989. This article, built around an interview with Mike, Matt and Pete, enabled the trio to answer back to the critics who had written them off, and as part of that, they outlined some of their future plans. Boy Krazy were referenced (albeit as Boy Crazy), as were Delage; both as new acts to relaunch SAW in the 1990s.

Delage’s debut single would emerge a few months later, just ahead of Christmas, released via the PWL/Polydor joint venture which had been set up on the back of the Band Aid II single. The Boy Krazy singles were also issued as part of this arrangement, as were the two Grease-related megamixes put together by Phil Harding and Ian Curnow.

This debut release – a cover of the Hues Corporation’s 1974 hit Rock The Boat – was produced by SAW, and issued with a computer-generated cover of a boat, rather than a photograph of the band members. It’s a robust SAW production and a faithful cover, carried along by some energetic brass and strings, plus the inclusion of more modern elements such as a “1-2-3-4” sample, and a sax riff which tipped its hat to Chad Jackson’s Hear The Drummer Get Wicked.

This release reached #63 in the UK Singles Chart, which whilst unspectacular, wasn’t too bad for a single with limited exposure in the run up to Christmas. However, it would be nearly a whole year before a follow-up appeared.

The classy and understated SAW-composed and produced Running Back for More was issued in October 1991, by which time there had been a change in line-up between singles, with former members Charlotte and Judy replaced by Emma and Frances.

Certainly you can tell the difference in the vocals between Rock The Boat and Running Back For More; however, to my ears at least, the vocals on Rock The Boat sound very much like SAW stalwarts Mae McKenna and Miriam Stockley (who were indeed credited for backing vocals on the sleeve), whilst Running Back For More adds Cool Notes’ lead singer Lorraine McIntosh for backing vocals, therefore it is difficult to get a real sense of what Delage really sounded like. That’s not to suggest they did not sing on these tracks, just that I wonder if the vocals of McKenna & Stockley, and McIntosh were very prominent in the mix.

Running Back For More features one of Mike Stock’s most impressive lyrics; a story of a woman chastising her friend for remaining in an unsuitable relationship, Stock makes very word count and tells the story with maximum emotional effect. “You ain’t learned nothing at all / And you still ain’t closing the door / On the boy who tears you apart / Telling you every lie you know by heart” is the first verse, and that final line carries so much truth in its effective simplicity. The melody of the verses is wonderfully fluid, and adds even more to the delivery of the lyrics.

The track gives us yet more lyrical gold with “So don’t you come to me for advice / If the truth hurts more than his lies”; a line which may not mean much on paper, but is dynamite within the track itself.

The chorus is perhaps more sedate than most SAW choruses, but it totally works within the song. This is the apex of the song’s message: “Running Back For More / Like a fool / I don’t think you know what you’re doing / He’s gonna break your heart, that’s for sure / You’re running back for more / Running back for more”. It’s an understated chorus, but is clearly influenced by the US house style of that time.

More than any other SAW composition, the entire melody seems very organic with the chorus growing effortlessly from the building of the verses and bridge. There are no key changes, or dramatic shift in instrumentation, so there isn’t the usual lift into the chorus. This is no bad things though; this change of approach results in a cool, minimalistic house-influenced track.

Production-wise, there’s a change of emphasis in the sound. The arrangement is relatively sparse, driven mainly by a house piano and punctuated by techno bleeps, although there is effective use of strings at key moments. At the time of release, I wished that the track had a more typically dense SAW arrangement, but I’ve come to appreciate the delicacy of its instrumentation and its attempt to try something different.

The single was released on 7”, 12” and CD single formats, with the main track restricted to a 7” mix and an extended mix, both mixed by Dave Ford. (An unreleased 12” Remix of Running Back For More would emerge when a Running Back For More single bundle was issued on iTunes). The B-side was a further SAW composition and production, I Wanna Shout About It – a powerful, contemporary dance track. Ironically, this was possibly a more obvious candidate for the A-side than Running Back For More, as it was more in line with other chart fare at the time.

As I’ve written previously on this blog, SAW were experiencing mixed fortunes chartwise in 1991, and Running Back for More was a particular casualty. In fact, its #153 chart placing ranks it amongst the worst performing SAW singles – a great shame, as it is a much stronger track than this position suggests.

I can only speak for myself but it was difficult to actually find a copy of the record; even in a city the size of Liverpool, I only managed to find the CD single and 7” in the new releases rack of a second-hand record shop the week after release. That said, the PWL/Polydor releases seemed to suffer from distribution problems (aside from Band Aid II of course), and certainly this is reflected in the scarcity of the Running Back For More CD single, which now commands high fees on the record collecting market.

In some ways, the record’s availability is almost irrelevant when you consider its TV, radio and press coverage was virtually non-existent. I don’t recall any major radio play, or seeing the video on TV. And perhaps the main press coverage I do recall was in Number One magazine, when Sonia carried out that week’s single reviews. Coming not long after her split with SAW and PWL, Sonia rather predictably gave a negative review, dismissing the track as “yesterday’s beats” – highly ironic given that Sonia’s recent singles included the 60s-styled Only Fools (Never Fall In Love) and Be Young Be Foolish Be Happy!

Given the commercial failure of the single, there would be no further releases from Delage. There was however a further unreleased track, a SAW-produced version of the Bananarama track Ain’t No Cure. This latter track in particular was a missed opportunity for Delage and SAW; Ain’t No Cure had been recorded by Bananarama during the abortive 1989 sessions with SAW, and, on the basis that it was unlikely that the Bananarama version would be issued, it was called into use for Delage. The Delage version is a beefier, full-on hi-NRG assault with house overtones, and most notably employs a different emphasis on the verses (which is perhaps why Sara Dallin’s co-write credit is absent from the Delage version). This will be sacrilege to most Bananarama and SAW fans, but I much prefer the Delage version and genuinely think it would have had a great shot at chart success. However, Bananarama elected to include their version on Pop Life, which I assume removed it as an option for a Delage single.

Whilst Delage themselves parted ways with SAW and the PWL/Polydor deal, they did continue under the new name of Eden, and released two European singles in 1992.

Running Back For More -- as is the case with Rock The Boat and also Ain’t No Cure -- is available as single bundles on iTunes, including various mixes, instrumentals, backing tracks and B-sides.

Delage were cited as one of the bright new hopes for SAW in the early 1990s, but for various reasons they were not given the full support required to make this happen. However, Running Back For More remains an underrated track which represents an experiment in a new sound for SAW, and boasts an impressive lyric and melody. Well worth a listen.

No comments:

Post a Comment