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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