13 December 2009
More infamous than famous, Black Lace are best known for their agonisingly bad hit single Agadoo, possibly the only song in which the listener is encouraged to jostle fruits and jiggle foliage with gay abandon. Agadoo, despite its negative reputation, must have something going for it: it has hit the UK charts twice, and is almost certain to be played at any village hall disco or wedding reception. Failing this, the risk of other Black Lace hits popping up makes it almost worthwhile carrying a pair of emergency earplugs, as Superman and Do The Conga are at least as irritating, and just as popular.
Right from their first appearance in 1979, when their song 'Mary Ann' represented Great Britain in the Eurovision Song Contest, Black Lace had a clear agenda. Their self-appointed mission, embodied in such albums as 'Party, Party', 'Party Crazy', 'Action Party' and the more recent 'What A Party!', is to bring simplistic and well known tracks (Generally with a 'party' theme, the careful reader may have noted) to the masses, each one perfectly designed to increase audience participation at... well, at 'parties'. The songs' very nature lends them to horrific acts of organised dancing and allows the keen 'party'-goer the opportunity to demonstrate their in-depth knowledge of what are colloquially known as 'the actions'.
It was the 1983 top-ten hit Superman which first brought Black Lace real success. A repetitive synth bassline with an occasional stab of melody, not without its charms: Superman featured a set of instructions to which the audience provided the appropriate action. Similar in this sense to Madison Time, the culmination of such dance moves as 'Squirt!' and 'Comb your hair!' was the intensely exciting instruction 'Superman!', at which point everyone (including the grannies, thank you) would raise their right hand in an abysmal imitation of the aforementioned super hero. Even now, it's disturbing to see...
Agadoo quickly followed, met with great success, and was eventually hounded by Spitting Image's satirical 'The Chicken Song', which perfectly captured all that was wrong with Black Lace and added large rubber puppets to the fun. 'Do The Conga' allowed dancers to chain themselves together (not literally) and shuffle aimlessly around the local area, the distance which could be travelled constrained only by the three minute length of the song. Even now, the drunken chain will happily leave the establishment on New Year's Eve, recognise, in temulent despair, that inside was far warmer than outside, and trundle back in for the denouement, just in time to sing Auld Lang Syne and hug an acquaintance they've secretly hated since childhood..
In November of 1984, Black Lace faced disaster as their distribution company collapsed, taking with it a sizeable quantity of royalties. Thankfully (for Black Lace, anyway), their album 'Party, Party' (heralding a new theme... oh, hang on) hurtled for the top ten. Shifting 650,000 copies in five weeks produced enough cash to ensure Black Lace's continued survival. A 1986 appearance in the cult film 'Rita, Sue And Bob Too' helped matters along, and their rendition of 'Gang Bang' is typical Black Lace stuff and certainly fits the theme of the film.
Although Black Lace are easy to mock, from the content of their work right down to the inane, 80s timewarp clothing they still insist on wearing, it must be understood that Black Lace still exist. It is this continued existence that is, to some extent confusing. Given that everyone - everyone! - hates Agadoo, the question must be asked - how did it once again return to the charts over a decade later? Why is Black Lace consistently played at hired discoteques? Why did The Old Grey Whistle Test recently play tribute to Black Lace with a fifteen minute documentary? And the fifteen appearances on Top Of The Pops - how do we explain those? Are Black Lace really absolute tosh, or are they merely misunderstood musical geniuses?
Let's look to Black Lace themselves, for we cannot discount their appearance in a series of advertisements. As part of Britain's television-backed drive for environmentally friendly living, Black Lace appeared in a series of adverts promoting the glories of recycling. Picture it: Agadoo, Agadoo and more Agadoo, in each of its maligned incarnations. The slogan? Recycling rubbish works. It certainly has for Black Lace, and you know what? I think they know it...
Black Lace: party band extraordinaire, voted Wally Act Of The Year and yet, somehow, adored.
Ironically, Agadoo, the band's biggest hit and the song named recently as the worst of all time, (even beating Orville's song, Itsy Bitsy Teenie Weenie Yellow Polka-Dot Bikini, The Birdie Song and There's No-One Quite Like Grandma) was not written by Black Lace. Originally created by French songwriters, the song hit Club Med resorts in 1974 but thankfully steered clear of British shores until Black Lace released an English translation in 1984. Thirty weeks later, the song was still in the charts. Following a 1999 re-release, one has to wonder if humanity will ever be free of it...