The first word that comes to mind as this next number one begins is ‘lumbering’. Like Godzilla trampling Tokyo underfoot, the beat here is heavy, and relentless…
Killer, by Adamski (his 1st and only #1)
4 weeks, from 6th May – 3rd June 1990
It’s a fourth consecutive dance #1, and each one has done something slightly different within the genre’s confines. ‘Dub Be Good to Me’, ‘The Power’, ‘Vogue’, this. They’ve all had one thing in common, though: pretty low bpm. There have been moments, while listening to each one, in which I’ve wondered whether you could do much dancing to them. The early ‘90s was the height of rave culture in the UK, of people off their tits and mad for it in a field in Hampshire, but you wouldn’t necessarily know it by listening to the most popular dance tracks of the time.
While ‘Vogue’ well and truly warmed up after a slow start, I’m not sure if ‘Killer’ ever quite rises above its plodding beat, decorated with creepy synth effects that sound like aliens trying to broadcast to the mothership. There’s a moment in the middle where some choppy trickery with the vocals turns them into a sort of dance Morse Code, and this kicks things into life. There’s a more traditionally ‘dancey’ piano riff after that, and a moment where you think this might be turning into a banger. But it doesn’t quite manage it.
Solitary brother… I like this line… Is there still a part of you that wants to live…? Again, not your run-of-the-mill dance lyrics. And while we should applaud strangeness, and creativity, and so on; it doesn’t mean that I particularly enjoy this record. I’d file in under ‘interesting’, rather than ‘fun’.
The vocalist was an at the time unknown bloke called Seal. (So unknown that the Official Charts didn’t credit him on the single, which seems a bit harsh.) He’d been a funk and soul singer in Britain and the Far East, and was sleeping on a friend’s sofa when he met DJ and producer Adamski, handing him a demo tape. The rest is history, though nothing he did after his big breakthrough hit has the same oomph. He went back down the smooth soul route, and along the way recorded one of my least favourite songs of all time: ‘Kiss From a Rose’. (It just gives me goosebumps, and not the good kind…)
What’s ‘Killer’ about, though? The lyrics, written by Seal, are an exhortation to freedom and to transcending whatever holds you back, according to the man himself. That sounds more like M People than this weirdly ominous record, while Adamski meanwhile thinks it sounds like the soundtrack to a movie murder scene. It ends with a message: Racism in amongst future kids can only lead to no good… Which is worthy, but which means the record ends on a strangely sombre note.
Seal released his debut solo album later that year, and has gone on to sell twenty million records around the world, and to marry Heidi Klum. Adamski, meanwhile, scored a #7 with the follow-up, before fading from popular view. He still records though, and tours as a DJ.
Of the past four number ones – the spring of dance, I’ll call it – I’d have ‘Vogue’ as my favourite, closely followed by Beats International. But I’d have ‘Killer’ in third, ahead of Snap! It’s a very odd song, an uncomfortable, edgy record; but there’s greatness there, buried somewhere deep. Up next, an act that are undoubtedly dance music pioneers, the daddies of all this electronic business, and one of the most influential bands of the 1980s… With Peter Beardsley.