Friday, January 13, 2006

1001 Greatest Pop Songs Of All Time - #13 - Read My Lips by Melissa

Alyson: In 1991, a revolution took place in the playground - Kylie Minogue was out. SO out. In something of a vacuum for a Nation not immune to the charms of a fab pop princess, stepped Melissa. Cool, risque, controversial, gorgeous, strident and demanding, she grabbed everyones attention, particularly the girls of my school. We all wanted to be Melissa at the time, with her seemingly endless troupe of hunky boys in tow. It helped she launched with an Australian Pop landmark. Read My lips has never truly got the credit it has deserved, and some people hold it up as some kind of ridicule object - it is patently ridiculous, since this comes from a landmark era of Australian Pop that, in 1991, was still ongoing.

Melissa Tkautz was an actress on the TV show "e-street" (another guard change, as e-street became far more must see playground TV than Neighbours) and the plan was very, very simple. On the show, Melissa's character, Nikki, would habitually dream she was a popstar, and voila, her video clip would play - an easy, simple way to launch Read My Lips to the nation. Westside Records, the recording arm of e-street, had hoped for a top 10 hit to help publicise Melissa (she dropped the surname for her musical career) and the show, but on the 13th of July, 1991, Melissa hit #1 in the Australian charts. A star was born.

Read My Lips has a very early 90s production, but is no bad thing for it. Underpinned by sampled keyboards and sound effects, and joined together by segments and moments, it works for two reasons: firstly, Melissa is a perfect pop star - blonde, gorgeous, and glamorous, and possessing of one of the worlds finest pouts (she doesn't smile at all during the video). Her presence in this song lifts it out of ordinary hands. Secondly, the lyrics, probably pops most open declaration for a shag, are full of rather wonderful moments. Not just the famous "If you want to late til later, hands off my detonator", but also the rather wonderful spoken word interlude that ends with Melissa declaring rather emphatically "end of conversation" and the short spoken "DOITDOITDOITDOIT" phrase that crops up from time to time (not to mention the coy either disappointed or satisfied "Aren't you gonna do it?" which ends the song). It's hard now to credit the video was regarded as insanely controversial, since it features merely topless boys (including future Guardian actor Simon Baker-Denny and jigger Tom Williams) and a man who puts paint on his mouth, but the video captures the mood of the song beautifully - it's full of colour, movement and vibrancy, and was beloved by the girls of the era - in short, it's a classic, in every single way.

Sadly, tragically, heartbreakingly, Melissas two week stint at the top was cut short by of all things, Bryan Adams, and his mind numbing, bewildering, infuriating 10 (10!) week skint at #1 with (Everything I Do) I Do It For You, which spoiled the mood utterly - and by the years end, Melissa was floundering, signing too many bad management deals, and worse, losing a major award to Jenny Morris. It was a golden era of Australian Pop, but some things, sadly, never change.


Claire: Melissa is our friend Megs B all time favourite artist, but was another phenomenon I missed out on while I lived in the UK - Read My Lips was a song I heard on a cassette sent to me by Alyson wrapped in a piece of paper which in giant orange crayon proclaimed how crap Kylie was, and how Melissa had taken her place (news to me, a very proud recent purchaser of Shocked).

I'd contend Melissa is a perfect popstar due to her vacancy and innocence. She was naive about the lyrics, and it shines through - it probably allowed them to get the references to detonators and doing it through some reasonably strict early 90s censorship. I love listening to this song, mostly because I can't imagine something so day-glo and bouncy getting to #1 these days. It's a fantastic disco/nighclub song, but I'm never quite sure WHY I love it - it's just a fantastic slice of early 90s pop, so breaking it's components down simply lessen it. And the next song was even better, but that's another story.


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