G.L.A.D. Tidings from Kim Appleby [February 18th, 1991]
Life and death in the post-SAW era
Chart data from Official Charts UK
Hear this week’s charts on Spotify
Stock Aiken and Waterman had been fixtures on the British music scene since the 70s, producing hit records for Hazell Dean, Dead or Alive, and Divine, but the Hit Factory sound that dominated the late 80s didn’t emerge until they connected with Mel & Kim Appleby, two sassy sisters from Hackney with amazing hats. The duo announced themselves in 1986 with the house-ey “Showing Out (Get Fresh at the Weekend)” and gave SAW their first proper number one in 1987 with the extremely catchy “Respectable”.
Four years is a long time in pop music.
SAW’s era of chart domination was coming to an end in 1991. Kylie (in this week’s charts at number 7) was their only reliable Top 20 artist left. Meanwhile, not one but two SAW refugees appear in this week’s chart: a long-haired, post-Hit Factory Rick Astley with a track from his new album very pointedly named Free; and Kim Appleby enjoying her second solo hit, “G.L.A.D.”
Back in 1985, before “Respectable”, before SAW, before the big hats, Melanie Appleton had been diagnosed with paraganglioma, a rare and unpredictable form of cancer. She was in remission during the peak of their career, but the cancer had returned in late 87. Mel discharged herself from hospital in early 1988 just so she could get to the studio to record the vocals for their final top 20 hit, "That's the Way It Is".
The duo broke away from SAW and began working on solo material, collaborating with Craig from Bros on a new album. Sadly, Mel didn’t make it to the recording booth. She died in January 1990, at the age of 23.
The resulting album, Kim Appleby, doesn’t sound like it was written by people facing down death. It sounds like it by two extroverted twentysomethings who liked dancing in clubs and wearing really big hats. There’s perhaps a tinge of melancholy to lead single “Don’t Worry”, which hews faithfully to the Hit Factory template. “Your heart aches, it won't last, it will pass, don't worry,” sings Kim, over a big, synth-driven beat.
There’s nothing but sunshine in the second single, “G.L.A.D.”, a big floor-filler with lyrics about kissing boys. It breaks away from SAW formula a little by including a hip-hop break in the middle eight, and it’s tinged with an early-90s sensibility that eluded SAW, whose records were beginning to sound very dated.
Kim Appleby released another album, then quit performing. In a 2018 interview, she said:
After Mel passed away, I made the first solo album in her honour. I put so much energy into it and wanted to showcase some of the songs we’d been writing during her illness. By the time of Breakaway [the second album] I wasn’t enjoying it anymore or happy with the way the music was going. I wanted to take a rest and collect my thoughts. I was on a personal quest to show the world the legacy she had left behind and didn’t really take any time out to grieve. I found it quite lonely. Especially on the road travelling without Melanie. I missed my homelife and decided that I didn’t want to be in the limelight.”
Kim became a songwriter-for-hire and went on to chair some of the Ivor Novello Awards panels.
“G.L.A.D.” didn’t win any awards. The good people of 1991 listened to it, danced to it, and forgot it. But hey, that’s what pop music is about. That’s what being young is about.
Elsewhere in the charts
Everyone was still Doing the Bartman this week, with The Simpsons holding the Number One spot. Second and third places were occupied by two all-time dance classics: Nomad’s “(I Wanna Give You) Devotion” and The KLF’s “3AM Eternal”.
This week’s Top of the Pops had live performances from Chris Rea, Kenny Thomas, D.J.H. feat. Stefy, Xpansions, and Oleta Adams.
Oleta Adams was high up the charts with her cover of “Get Here” by Brenda Adams. Fun story about Oleta Adams: she got married because of the massive LA earthquake of 1994. She decided that the quake was a message from God directly to her, telling her it was time to get hitched. People died, Oleta.
All in all, there wasn’t much happening in the charts this week, with only two new entries in the top 20, which were “Blue Hotel” by Chris Isaak and “Good Times”, a bar-rock collaboration between Aussie legends Jimmy Barnes and INXS. “Good Times” was originally recorded for the Lost Boys soundtrack in 1986, which means that Chris Isaak had the only genuinely new song in the top 20.
I’m not sure. We might dunk on Vanilla Ice again if I’m in a bad mood.