You donâ€™t get much more â€˜right place, right timeâ€™ than Bryan Ferry and his sole Top 40 entry, â€œKiss and Tell.â€ Despite his superstar status in his native England â€“ 16 Top 40 singles as a member of Roxy Music, 16 Top 40 singles as a solo artist â€“ Ferry couldnâ€™t buy a hit in America. He did have one thing working in his favor, though: MTV. They loved Ferry, putting several of his songs into much higher rotation than his chart success would suggest they deserved. In return, he gave the network the perception of good taste and hipster cool, something that came in handy between the videos for â€œTarzan Boyâ€ and â€œKyrie.â€
In 1987, Ferry went for the brass ring on BÃªte Noire, using Madonnaâ€™s producer (Patrick Leonard), a discarded Smiths song (Johnny Marr gave â€œLove Changes Everythingâ€ to Ferry, who christened it â€œThe Right Stuffâ€), and, as always, David Gilmour. The album featured Ferryâ€™s trademark sultry lounge cool, but was a decidedly more upbeat affair in comparison to his 1985 solo album Boys & Girls and Roxy Musicâ€™s swan song Avalon. That newfound enthusiasm was apparently contagious: Reprise placed the albumâ€™s second single, â€œKiss and Tellâ€ (download), on the soundtrack for Bright Lights, Big City, where it rubbed shoulders with Depeche Mode, New Order, Prince and M/A/R/R/S. The movie was a crashing bore, but the soundtrack, home to two recent Top 40 hits (New Orderâ€™s â€œTrue Faithâ€ and M/A/R/R/Sâ€™ â€œPump Up the Volumeâ€), was a modest hit out of the box. That modest success lent itself to Ferry, propelling the song to #31 on the US charts, which is ten spots better than it did on the UK charts, strangely enough.
Now for the tough love: the lyrics to â€œKiss and Tellâ€ are pretty damn bad, even for a Ferry song. (Hey, I love Ferry as much as anyone, but he was prone to some purple-ass prose.) Ten cents a dance, love for sale, Adam and Eve, faded magazine, flash photograph. Wowzers. Those are not deep thoughts, though feel free to insert your own â€˜vapid late-â€˜80s radioâ€™ joke here. What the song lacked in lyrical prowess, though, it made up for with a catchy chorus and, once mixer Alan Meyerson was finished with it, a monster rhythm section, featuring a typewriter percussion track that predates the score for Atonement by 20 years. Meyersonâ€™s mix is pure muscle, putting a huge flange over the guitar solo and fleshing the rhythm section out with about a dozen percussion tracks. Perhaps the most surprising thing about Meyersonâ€™s 12â€ mix is that the edit work by the splice-happy Latin Rascals â€“ making their third but by no means last WLW appearance â€“ is more low-key than usual, only flashing their wares after the first chorus. They are, however, given carte blanche on the dub mix (download), and the Rascals waste no time hacking Ferry to bits.
MTVâ€™s love affair with Ferry would end soon after the success of â€œKiss and Tell.â€ The third single from BÃªte Noire, â€œLimbo,â€ received only mild interest, and by the time the â€˜90s hit, Ferry was out of the picture completely. And one suspects that Ferry was perfectly fine with that, knowing that the success of â€œKiss and Tellâ€ owed more to good fortune than anything. Like most artistsâ€™ biggest hits, it is by no means Ferryâ€™s best song, but itâ€™s not an embarrassment, either.
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