552. ‘Frankie’, by Sister Sledge

We pass the midway point of 1985, and it’s turning into a pretty eclectic year… Glossy ballads, Hi-NRG bangers, early EDM, charity plodders

Frankie, by Sister Sledge (their 1st and only #1)

4 weeks, from 23rd June – 21st July 1985

And now, out of the blue, Sister Sledge are at number one with a fun slice of retro girl-group pop. And why not? Hey Frankie! I do like the cheesy horns, and the bass riff is funkily cool. Do you remember me…? There are finger-clicks, and silky smooth backing vocals. I’m not so sure about the You were fifteen, And I was twelve… line, though, or the I looked into your big eyes, And said to myself we could have twins… I suppose they were keeping the ‘back in the day’ feel going.

Immediately I can see two comparisons. One is with Phyllis Nelson’s ‘Move Closer’ – another sixties throwback dressed up in the latest mid-eighties style. My favourite bit here is the bridge… Oh, how you brought me down… Followed by some down downs that are cribbed straight from The Shangri-Las. And the other is with KC & The Sunshine Band’s ‘Give It Up’, in which a disco act scored a chart-topper years after their heyday.

The video takes the ‘cheap and cheerful’ vibes to a whole new level. Sister Sledge torment a middle-aged postman through a series of cards and letters that come to life and sing to him. He goes to a bar to dull these terrifying visions, only to find the real Sister Sledge performing. He is Frankie, it turns out. I don’t want to be nasty, but he’s hardly the sort of person you’d see in the street and think ‘there’s the one that got away…’

But it’s fun, just like the song. Except I’m not sure why it was such a big hit now, in mid-1985. Sister Sledge hadn’t been in the Top 10 with an original tune since ‘We Are Family’ in 1979, though a Nile Rodgers remix of ‘Lost in Music’ had made #4 a year before this, so they would have been in the public consciousness. I was surprised to see classics such as ‘I’m So Excited’ and ‘Jump (For My Love)’ missing from their discography, until I realised that I’ve been mixing up Sister Sledge and The Pointer Sisters for most of my adult life.

One final thing I’ll say about this record is that, as fun as it is, it would sound even better if it had been recorded without all the eighties flourishes. Real drums instead of a drum-machine, actual finger-clicks rather than the computerised version, that sort of thing… Phil Collins did it nicely when covering ‘You Can’t Hurry Love’. I’m sure at the time it sounded wonderfully modern, and maybe led to it being a bigger hit, but it’s why ‘Frankie’ feels dated, and possibly all but forgotten now.

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9 thoughts on “552. ‘Frankie’, by Sister Sledge

  1. The Chic era Sister Sledge were top notch. Pure class disco that Rodgers and Edwards generously gave away when they could have kept them all. Even the 1975 hit oldie Jackson 5-alike Mama Never Told Me was great fun. Lost In Music was brilliant. The B side Thinking Of You was brilliant and brought them back in 1984 after the hits dried up. Cue the A side finally getting a big hit – radio played the original version. And then more reissues. And in the 90s they were remixed hits all over again. So in 1985 they took advantage of the high profile and bunged Frankie out. It got on my nerves very quickly after a few weeks of saturation airplay. Its still annoying. Give me We Are Family or Hes The Greatest Dancer anyday!

  2. I mixed them up also…the first thing I thought was We Are Family! Then I realized…no that was Sister Sledge… this one WOULD have been better with real instruments…I kinda like real instruments in case you didn’t know…you can’t get more 80s in the video.

  3. Pingback: 555. ‘I Got You Babe’, by UB40 with Chrissie Hynde | The UK Number Ones Blog

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