I’m sure I won’t be the only person here in the blogosphere that will be writing a post in memory of Kirsty MacColl today, for today it is 15 years since this astoundingly talented woman was so cruelly taken from us.
In case you don’t know the story of her untimely demise, on 18 December 2000 she and her sons were on holiday in Mexico, and went diving in a designated diving area at the Chankanaab reef, that watercraft were restricted from entering . As the group were surfacing from a dive, a high-speed powerboat entered the area. Kirsty saw the boat coming before her sons did; Jamie (then 15) was in its path but Kirsty was able to push him out of the way. Tragically, in doing so she was struck by the boat and died instantly.
The powerboat involved in the accident was owned by Guillermo González Nova, multimillionaire president of the Comercial Mexicana supermarket chain, who was on board with members of his family. One of his employees, boat-hand José Cen Yam, stated that he was in control of the boat at the time of the incident. He was found guilty of culpable homicide and was sentenced to 2 years 10 months in prison. However, under Mexican law he was allowed to pay a punitive fine of 1,034 pesos (about £61) in lieu of the prison sentence. He was also ordered to pay approximately £1,425.22 in restitution to Kirsty’s family, an amount based on his wages.
To add insult to quite literal injury, eyewitnesses contradict Cen Yam’s claim that he was in control of the speedboat, and people who have spoken to him since say that he has admitted to receiving money – presumably from Nova – for taking the blame.
If you’d like to read more about Kirsty and the campaign to get justice, you can do so here.
All of which just makes me…well, sad. And not just because of the injustice, nor for the frankly gruesome nature of her death. That too, of course….but what makes me sad is the fact that whenever I hear any song by her or featuring her, I am immediately reminded of all that I have written so far here today.
Which means whilst I love all I am about to post, I do it with a very heavy heart.
So, let’s start this tribute off with one of her very earliest single, from 1981, the catchily-titled:
Kirsty MacColl – There’s a Guy Works Down The Chip Shop Swears He’s Elvis
Here’s Kirsty doing the very same song on Top of The Pops:
And, from her debut album “Desperate Character”, a slower, more country, version:
Kirsty MacColl – There’s a Guy…(Country Version)
Personally, I always thought that version was very much a template for the next song, a single from 1989’s utterly wonderful “Kite” album:
Kirsty MacColl – Don’t Come the Cowboy With Me Sonny Jim!
In between these two albums, due to some wranglings of a contractual nature, Kirsty earned her corn doing session work as a backing singer, and became very much in demand, particularly after she appeared on “Fairytale of New York” with The Pogues. Either side of that she appeared on (to name but a few):
The Smiths – “Ask” (not to mention the B-side too, a cover of Twinkle’s “Golden Lights”)
Billy Bragg – “Sexuality” (She looks fantastic in this, happy, the sort of woman you would have a right laugh down the pub with; the bit when she mocks the size of Billy’s….er….lil Bill behind his back always raises a smile round these parts)
Happy Mondays – “Hallelujah” (This is from that legendary edition of Top of The Pops when the Mondays appeared along with The Stone Roses, one of those era defining moments when us indie heads finally felt like we might be winning…and there’s Kirsty, right in the middle of it, wisely electing not to try to out-Bez dance Bez)
Morrissey – “Interesting Drug”(His fourth solo single following the messy end The Smiths met, and there’s Kirsty again, popping up on backing vocal duties, if not in the video. Not one of his better efforts this, mostly only notable for The Moz sneezing as the track edges towards fade-out.)
The Wonder Stuff – “Welcome to the Cheap Seats” (I can’t say I’m overly fond of this one, big fan of The Stuffies that I am. Suffice it to say, in my opinion, Kirsty is by far the best thing about it.)
Without fail, every interview you read given by anyone who worked on any of those records, they will say one, if not all three, of the following things:
- What a delight she was to work with
- That she never needed a second take, nailing her part first time..
- …a skill which inevitably draws comparison with either Karen Carpenter or Dusty Springfield.
That’s the sort of illustrious company in which Kirsty’s name should rightly be mentioned.
But all of this belittles what a wonderful artist she was in her own right. And to prove it, here’s two live performances of songs from what turned out to be her last album, “Tropical Brainstorm”, where she was experimenting with Latin American rhythms, instruments and sounds, not the sort of thing I normally go for, I’ll admit, but since I could happily listen to Kirsty singing my shopping list, I love.
Kirsty MacColl – “In These Shoes?” (Live on Later with Jools Holland)
Kirsty MacColl – “England 2, Columbia 0” (Live on Later with Jools Holland)
And thankfully, Jools is kept well away from the piano, thus preventing it turning into more of his tiresome boogie woogie.
I’ll be raising a drink to Kirsty tonight. Thanks for the memories. I just wish there were more of them.