Kirsty MacColl

Kirsty MacColl (1959–2000) was an English singer and songwriter who released three albums and twenty singles between 1979 and 1991 and collaborated with Tracey Ullman, The Pogues, and Billy Bragg.

She debuted with “They Don’t Know,” a sixties girl-group pastiche that became a 1983 hit for Ullman. MacColl herself charted with “There’s a Guy Works Down the Chip Shop Swears He’s Elvis” and covers of songs by Bragg (“A New England”) and The Kinks (“Days”). She duets with Pogues frontman Shane McGowan on “Fairytale of New York,” a UK yuletide evergreen.


Background

She was born Kirsty Anna MacColl on October 10, 1959, in Croydon, South London; the second child of folk singer Ewan MacColl (1915–1989) and dancer Jean Newlove (1923–2017). She was conceived during a brief reunion between her once-married parents.

Ewan (real name: James Henry Miller) was a radical of Scottish parentage who wrote more than 300 songs, including “Dirty Old Town” (popularized by The Dubliners) and “The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face” (a hit for Roberta Flack). In 1949, he married Jean and they had a son, Hamish (b. 1950). They separated by 1956 when he started a relationship with American folksinger Peggy Seeger: the half-sister of Pete Seeger and the muse behind TFTEISYF, which they performed together in folk clubs during the late fifties (they finally married in 1977 after raising Kirsty’s three half-siblings).

Jean raised her two children in Croydon, where Kirsty became a thespian at John Newnham High School.

Under the stagename Mandy Doubt, Kirsty sang backing vocals for the Drug Addix, a pub-punk band signed with Chiswick. In 1978, they released Make a Record, a four-song EP with “Gay Boys In Bondage,” which also appeared on Rock ‘n’ Roll Suburbano de Londres, a joint EP with punkers Riff Raff (led by Billy Bragg) and The Jook (a long disbanded Jet–Radio Stars forebear). Chiswick’s main competitor, Stiff Records, rejected the Drug Addix but signed Kirsty as a solo artist.


Singles:
  • “They Don’t Know” / “Turn My Motor On” (1979)
  • “You Caught Me Out” / “Boys” (1979)
  • “Keep Your Hands Off My Baby” / “I Don’t Need You” (1981)
  • “There’s a Guy Works Down the Chip Shop Swears He’s Elvis” / “Hard to Believe” (1981)
  • “See That Girl” / “Over You” (1981)
  • “You Still Believe in Me” / “Queen of the High Teas” (1981)
  • “Berlin” / “Rhythm of the Real Thing” (1983)
  • “Terry” / “Quietly Alone” (1983)
  • “A New England” / “Patrick” (1985)
  • “He’s on the Beach” / “Please, Go to Sleep” (1985)
  • “You Just Haven’t Earned It Yet Baby” (1988)
  • “Days” / “Still Life” / “Happy” (1989)
  • “Free World” / “Closer to God?” (1989)
  • “Innocence” / “Clubland” (1989)
  • “Miss Otis Regrets” / “Just One of Those Things” (1990 • Kirsty MacColl + The Pogues)
  • “Don’t Come the Cowboy With Me Sonny Jim!” (1990)
  • “Walking Down Madison” / “One Good Thing” (1991)
  • “My Affair” / “All the Tears That I Cried” (1991)
  • “All I Ever Wanted” / “What Do Pretty Girls Do?” (1991)
Albums:
  • Desperate Character (1981)
  • Kite (1989)
  • Electric Landlady (1991)
  • Titanic Days (1994)
  • Tropical Brainstorm (2000)

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