“Well, I don’t care what they say” – Dina Carroll’s ‘Ain’t No Man’ turns 30!
By 1992, Dina Carroll had been trying for a hit for seven years. Aged 17, she joined the group, Masquerade. They released the single “Set It Off” in 1985, which did exactly the opposite. Dina, however, was picked out from the others and signed by Jive Records, who wanted to develop her as a singer in her own right. By 1989 they had a handful of songs in the bag and Dina was set for fame. Sadly, this didn’t come to much either, her superb dance number “People All Around The World” failed to find the audience it deserved and the follow up, a cover of Dionne Warwick’s “Walk On By“, also met with no interest. By late 1990, she found herself out of contract and still looking for that open door.
Fortunately, it wasn’t long in coming as British dance producers Quartz hired her to perform vocals on two tracks that would be included on their debut album, “Perfect Timing”. The first was another cover version, this time Carole King’s 1970 sombre classic “It’s Too Late”. This time, success cane both to Dina and Quartz as the song rose quickly up the chart to peak at No.8 in the UK in February 1991. Quartz capitalised on this by releasing the other song to feature Dina, “Naked Love (Just Say You Want Me)”, and this produced a second top 40 hit in the Spring. Dina had now been noticed and soon she was signed to A&M Records and introduced to songwriter and producer Nigel Lowis. The most successful of music partnerships happen when there is a genuine connection and mutual understanding between songwriters and that truly happened with Dina met Nigel. They spent the next twelve months creating a mix of catchy dancefloor tunes and soul ballads for Dina’s debut album, initially titled “Dina Carroll” but later to become “So Close”.
Twelve months on from “Naked Love”, Dina was ready to make another try at solo success. She did so with an almighty tune and one that would kick start a period of growing interest and growing success that would last well into 1994. At least four songs could have been in the running for the lead single. Dina’s collaboration with producers Clivilles and Cole (C&C Music Factory), “Special Kind Of Love”, the racy “Express”, the soul-pop number “Why Did I Let You Go?” and the equally, if not more mature sounding, “Falling”. “Falling” could be described as part one of a two part story and it would be part two, “Ain’t No Man”, that would become that first cruitial introduction, or perhaps reintroduction, to Dina when it was released in late June 1992.
“Ain’t No Man” is a real anthemic, throw your hands up, sing-a-long pop/soul/dance tune that really centres on Dina’s vocal dominance. He ability to command the less strenuous verses as much as the chant and rise of the chorus – those “There ain’t no man makes me feel like you do” and again “there ain’t no man, ain’t no doubt” that makes you stand up and proudly declare in agreement and also with Dina, are very clever and well crafted. Each verse is of a more sophisticated quality than that dished up by most of manufactured pop songs of the time, while the choruses are loud and alive with colour and stature. Two contrasting but well conceived elements that when combined, produce one hell of a tune and a grand entrance for Dina. If this didn’t win em over, nothing would! Dina embarked on much radio and television promotion of the song, thankfully with the backing of a much larger record label, who were also keen on commercial success for this and what was to come. “Ain’t No Man” also found favour with the most important radio station of the day in the UK, BBC Radio 1, who picked the song up and played it night and day, ensuring that when it hit the shops, the track would fly off the shelves and become a hit.
“Ain’t No Man” debuted at No.24 six days later, becoming Dina’s first solo single to make the all important top 40. It would eventually peak at No.16 but spend a total of six weeks on the chart. “Ain’t No Man” also found favour abroad where it became a mid-charting hit across much of Europe and hit No.3 in the Euro Dance chart. Curiously, for some reason, two different opening’s to the song would manifest themselves. The first, the single version, opened with piano and string that build up the drama as they intensify until the beat and the bass kick in. The opening that exists on the album version, released in January 1993, dispenses with this ascent and merely enters on one level and stays that way until the opening line of the first verse. In my opinion, the single version is far superior, but whichever way you look at it, it most certainly did not detract from the container loads of copies the album would later sell.
Dina was off and the rest, as they say, is history. We celebrate Dina’s career both before and after “Ain’t No Man” in our enduringly popular Where Are They Now? series, so you can read all about what happened to Dina next. Amazingly, as time marches ever onward, “Ain’t No Man” has reached another milestone in it’s life, its 30th birthday. But the song still sounds as awesome today as it did back in the world of Utah Saints, Kris Kross and an emerging boy band called Take That. “Ain’t No Man” held its own and it still does. There ain’t no doubt about that!