How did I get hear? #1 - Jeremy Taylor on Kirsty MacColl's "Kite"

British singer/ songwriter Kirsty MacColl’s second album “Kite” was released in 1989. I was in my final year of high school in Timaru, and I bought it from Newman’s Music And Pianos on Stafford Street, essentially because it featured guitar playing and a couple of co-writes by probably my favourite musician, Smiths guitar slinger Johnny Marr.

It is an interesting path which leads you to particular albums that you feel become ingrained or etched into your musical memory – but here the path is very clear. Kirsty had come to a lot of people’s attention as Shane MacGowan’s duet partner on The Pogues 1987 hit “Fairytale Of New York”, (probably still my favourite Christmas song of all time), and had also performed backing vocals on The SmithsAsk” (and its’ much maligned B-side cover “Golden Lights”), Happy MondaysHallelujah”, Billy Bragg’s “Greetings To The New Brunette” and Talking HeadsNaked” album, amongst a host of others. 

In short – she was all over a whole host of records I had loved. She was also born into British folk music royalty, being the daughter of Ewan MacColl, who penned the now-standard “The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face”.

Then married to record producer Steve Lillywhite, she also, famously, created the final tracklisting for U2’s massively successful “The Joshua Tree” album, apparently by ordering the songs according to how much she liked them…

The songs on “Kite” are sharp, acerbic, effortlessly melodic, and given a big budget, glossy sheen by her husband’s production. She achieves the rare distinction of having Robbie McIntosh (Pretenders), Marr and Dave Gilmour on wistful album highlight “Mother’s Ruin”, as well as bass ace Pino Palladino (D’Angelo, Paul Young, The Who) on a bunch of tracks, and her layered harmony vocals are simply glorious.

It also features a particularly wonderful cover of Ray Davies-penned Kinks classic "Days” – to me now, pretty much the definitive version, and the song that came into my head after her tragic, shocking death in Mexico in 2000. 

This is one of those records where I feel like I know every corner of its’ sounds, words and melodies – I can pretty much count off the seconds between tracks and know where the next track lands (along with tracklisting, a bit of a lost art in the age of Spotify). What this record is for me, though, is a deeply satisfying, and now hugely familiar and comforting selection of songs by a cherished, and deeply missed artist - supremely confident, and just bursting with ideas. 

Subsequent albums like “Electric Landlady” and the recently reissued “Titanic Days” are also strong sets, but for me – “Kite” is the one. If you already know it, I reckon dig it out and give it another spin, and you will find it sounds remarkably fresh; if you do not, I envy you, as you have a whole new world of song to discover!!

Jeremy Taylor