Kissing the Pink are a British new wave, dance and synthpop group from London, England. Members included Nick Whitecross, Jon Hall, George Stewart, Josephine Wells, Peter Barnett, Sylvia Griffin, Steve Cusack and Simon Aldridge.
In the 1980s, the record labels still ruled the music world. If a band couldn’t rely on a label to get their albums in the shops, make sure they were promoted to radio stations and MTV, and pay for videos and tours, they were pretty much limited to their local market. There were no blogs, no YouTube, no Spotify to serve as alternate sources of dissemination.
Consequently, even the indie labels exerted great power. If a band chose a producer, turned in an album, or even featured a member that wasn’t to the label’s liking, the label would simply refuse support until changes were made. The question usually was not whether a band would compromise, it was to what extent they would compromise.
The British band Kissing the Pink are a classic example. In 1985, less than a half-decade into their career, their label, Magnet Records, became impatient with the band’s lack of commercial success. The name was shortened to the less-suggestive KTP. A producer from the hitmaking Stock-Aitken-Waterman team was brought in, and the songs sold out for big radio hooks. A hit single in Italy and some dance chart success were all that came of it. The band all but disappeared.
The story is sort of a sad one, not because Kissing the Pink were a great band, but because they might have become one. The eclectic, confident, anything-goes collective you hear on Naked, their newly-resurrected debut from 1983, bears precious little resemblance to the band that fizzled out just a few years later, even though the key members and songwriters are basically the same.
Naked, helmed primarily by Duran Duran producer Colin Thurston, falls somewhere between the good-natured, synthesizer-heavy agitprop of Heaven 17 and the exultant, chaotically artful pop of Madness. It’s a sound of a band brimming with ideas, more of which work than do not. There are no “lost classics” here, but there is almost always something bright, interesting, and engaging going on.
The military marching song “The Last Film”, features a jolly whistled melody that is offset by eerie moaning and Nick Whitecross’s monotone delivery. The warm, multitracked chorus, though, was catchy enough to make the song Kissing the Pink’s lone Top 20 hit in the UK. “The Last Film” is what would happen if Robert Forster and Grand McLennan had gone 50/50 on a Go-Betweens song. Similarly, the nervy computer-pop of “Big Man Restless” is lifted by an earworm of a call to arms. “The legal quarter of tight-lipped men” is hardly your everyday singalong hook, but it’s the kind of twist that makes Naked more than just another ‘80s artifact.
Kissing the Pink’s grab-bag approach also takes in the vocodered robot eccentricity of “Frightened in France”, the underwater shimmer and sway of “All for You”, and the inverted synth-funk of “Broken Body”, in which Whitecross’s body, “bent for your pleasure”, is literally laughed out of the song. For sheer oddity, though, “Watching Their Eyes” is hard to beat. It would be a fairly standard minor-key goth dance track, were it not for the harrowing, operatic shrieking that punctuates every line like a crazed, corseted heckler. It takes a gutsy band to self-sabotage so deliberately.
There is just enough pop to keep the art from running completely amok. “Love Lasts Forever” is chamber pop on laughing gas, “Maybe This Day” is jazzed-up lounge lizardry, while the sleek, danceable “Desert Song”, featuring saxophonist Josephine Wells on vocals, sounds like a lost Kate Bush hit.
Naked was not exactly revolutionary. However, one can hear more than a few echoes of it in subsequent art-pop bands like Sugarcubes, Animal Collective, and Cymbals. Its creative spirit defies any record label’s agenda.
- Last Film – 3:29
- Frightened in France – 3:15
- Watching their Eyes – 3:56
- Love Lasts Forever – 5:38
- All For You – 4:04
- Last Film (Hymn Version) – 3:17
- Big Man Restless – 3:48
- Desert Song – 3:59
- Broken Body – 3:24
- Maybe this Day – 3:38
- In Awe of Industry – 3:18
- Mr. Blunt – 3:00
- Art Direction, Design – Shoot That Tiger!
- Bass, Violin, Voice – Peter Barnett
- Design, Layout – Jim @ Wolf Graphics
- Drums, Percussion, Voice – Stevie Cusack
- Guitar, Voice – Nicholas Whitecross
- Keyboards, Synthesizer, Voice – Jon Kingsley Hall
- Keyboards, Voice – George Stewart
- Painting [Front Cover] – Tim Barnett
- Producer – Colin Thurston, David King, Kissing The Pink, Neil Richmond, Peter Walsh
- Saxophone, Voice – Josephine Wells
Label – Magnet Records