From “chugga chugga motion” to Disco heaven – 35 years of Kylie at the mic!
In the Summer of 1987, Neighbours star Kylie Minogue signed to Mushroom Records to record her version of Little Eva’s 1962 hit “The Locomotion“. Having performed the song at a charity concert only a few weeks earlier, someone suggested “you should record that!”. She did and it went to number one for seven weeks, becoming not only the biggest seller of the year but also the biggest selling single of the decade! Having just turned 19 years old, Kylie was queen of the TV ratings and queen of the pop charts in her native country and all this came at the same time she married her on screen love Scott Robinson, preventing her own wedding song, “Suddenly” by Angry Anderson, from being a chart topping single itself.
The rest of the world was oblivious to this success as it bathed in music from Madonna, Whitney and Tiffany. But just twelve months later, would find itself also moving around the floor to “The Locomotion” as the song hit the top ten and top five globally, beginning a worldwide obsession for this pint-sized actress turned singer that remains intact and, arguably, more so, 35 years after she first walked up to a microphone and blasted her young, untrained voice in its general direction. Following her much documented visit to the UK at the end of the year to meet with producers Stock Aitken Waterman and record the song that would get her a worldwide number one, Kylie made us all learn how to behave like a steam locomotive when her re-recorded, re-produced version of the song hit record shelves around the globe in the Summer of 1988.
“The Locomotion” went top ten in virtually every country and on every continent it was released, peaking at No.3 in America (still her highest charting single there) and No.2 in the UK, where it spent a whole month, begrudgingly ‘supporting’ Yazz‘s “The Only Way Is Up” at the very top. “The Locomotion” was aided in Australia by the B sides, “Glad To Be Alive”, written by Mike, Matt and Pete and “Getting Closer”, which had previously been recorded by singer Haywoode in 1985 and had been a minor hit in the UK. Both tracks were not included on Kylie’s debut album that came in 1988, although they featured on the “Greatest Remix Hits” albums of 1998 for the very first time. The rest of the world got the slowy “I’ll Still Be Loving You” as the B side, which was an album track from “Kylie“. The original video, however, was retained for the 1988 release, overlapped with the new recording of the song.
Although Kylie may have wished for a career as a pop star with global fame, lasting success and many awards, I am sure that even she was not prepared for what did follow. World domination in 2001, playing to a sellout crowd at Glastonbury in 2019, achieving a number one album in five consecutive decades and everything in between. How carefree those July days in 1987 seemed down under as the country learned about a dance that is so easy to do and oddly enough had made almost no impact whatsoever when Little Eva’s original finally saw the light of day there in 1972, a full decade after she had topped the US singles chart with it. Today, the Kylie machine is slick and disciplined having mounted fifteen world tours and very much in control of its media image and its social media approach. It takes a team to achieve that but always with a close, personal touch from the lady herself, never once stepping close to the line of arrogance or being spoilt by fame.
Kylie’s is a success story because she herself is still one of us. Forever grateful of the love and support her fans have shown her through good times and bad, we’ve always been there and we always will. The Kylie ‘magic’ is perhaps summed up with that song, proving she still has ‘it’, more confident and more polished than the Kylie of 1987, but nevertheless the same 19 year old that captured our hearts with her smile and her love of a good song. “The Locomotion’s” own development and evolution is a good indication of how Kylie herself has matured as an artist. From its showbiz make over for the Showgirl tour of 2005-07 to an orchestral “Locomotion” for “The Abbey Road Sessions” and then a disco makeover for the Golden tour of 2018, “The Locomotion” has seen album and tour come and go. It’s Kylie’s grand master. Her first, and in some countries, still her most recognisable recording, as odd as that seems.
As we eagerly await album number sixteen, sometime in the near future, let’s remember that incredible achievement has been 35 years in the making. 35 years of hits, 35 years of touring, 35 years of growing as a songwriter and as a singer, whose voice sounds almost indistinguishable from the one that recorded “The Locomotion”, 35 years earlier. 35 years is a long time in music. Most fall by the wayside after ten. Only a chosen few make it this far. Those with real talent and a passion to succeed, and with a strong army of supporters with them all the way. That’s Kylie – c’mon baby, jump up, jump back, well I think she has the knack now!
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