Tuesday, October 13, 2009

The Legendary Collette

Once upon a time (in the late 80s) in land far, far away (Australia) a fair maiden emerged to briefly turn the music scene upside down with her stunning lycra outfits and cheerful pop tunes. Of course, I'm talking about the legendary Collette. The cult icon is currently experiencing something of a revival after being featured on D Listed (I believe she'll also be making an appearance on The Isle Of Deserted Pop Stars in the not too distant future) and I thought this would be the perfect opportunity to write a little tribute to one of my favourite Australian pop stars of all time. Most people dismiss Collette as little more than a highly amusing footnote in local pop history but she deserves credit for producing two glorious albums and for carving out an enduring niche in popular culture. What would the 80s be without Collette's fluorescent lycra bike shorts?

Collette first came to prominence in the early 80s as a fashion model, becoming one of the faces of Dolly Magazine. Her wholesome good looks were enough to generate interest among the record labels and she eventually signed with CBS. Happily, nobody seems to have noticed her complete and utter lack of vocal ability and she promptly started work on her debut single! The interesting thing about Collette is the fact she was one of the few local divas to hitch her wagon to Kylie's Hi-NRG dance-pop sound. Only she took things to the next level by immersing herself in the emerging house movement - making her Australia's first Queen of clubs! I don't think anyone expected Collette to be a massive success but the response to "Ring My Bell" was instant. I still remember the first time I saw the ravishing beauty's trashtastic cover of Anita Ward's disco classic on Video Hits. Those tinny dance beats were irresistible and I was utterly mesmerised by Collette's amazing approach to fashion. The song leaped into the top 5 (a rare achievement for a local act at the time) and teenage girls across the nation started leaving the house in outfits that should never be seen outside a gymnasium! Check out the deservedly iconic video:

With a massive smash hit on her hands, Collette rushed into the studio to record a follow up - again with DJ Pee Wee Ferris at the helm. "All I Wanna Do Is Dance" is another cracking club anthem with a slightly harder dance edge than "Ring My Bell". I love the catchy chorus and that crazy foghorn hook. Again Collette brought her A game to the film clip, wearing a stunning array of lycra outfits including leopard skin print bike shorts! The song was relatively successful, peaking at a lofty #12 - which proves once and for all that this diva was no one hit wonder! Collette's third single "That's What I Like About You" is one of my favourites and wouldn't sound out of place on a Stock Aitken Waterman compilation from the late 80s. Despite being a bubbly little pop gem the song stalled at #31. However, the video became an instant camp cult classic. The scenes in the nightclub are just too fierce! At around this time, Collette's debut album was finally released. "Raze The Roof" served up more of the same and is highly recommended to trash lovers but interest had started to fade and the album only limped to #48. It's a shame because "Raze The Roof" is an endless source of enjoyment and contains one of my all time favourite 80s anthems in the form of "Ordinary Man". That song still sums up what I'm looking for in a partner. Collette speaks the truth!

After "Raze The Roof", Collette swiftly re-emerged in 1990 with a "sophisticated" new image. Gone were the lycra outfits that made her a household name. Instead, Collette rocked a short haircut and wore even skimpier outfits than before. Personally, I think ditching the lycra was her downfall but I guess times were changing and she had to switch things up. That goes doubly for her music. Collette dumped the club beats in favour of an R'n'B sound (!) on her stunning comeback anthem "Who Do You Think You Are?" The song is an unintentionally hilarious Janet Jackson rip off but I love it to pieces. The production is a lot of fun and the almost spoken verses are... memorable. I love the chorus and the "street" video (below) is just too trashtastic for words. Unfortunately, the general public wasn't buying Collette's transformation and the song flopped at #56. In a slightly desperate attempt at re-claiming her "Ring My Bell" glory, the diva returned to dance music and covered another disco favourite. This time Collette revamped Diana's "Upside Down" but it performed even worse than her previous single, scraping into the charts at #91. It's a shame because I think the world needed and still needs a tacky Hi-NRG/acid house re-working of this gem. I still give it a spin every chance I get, particularly around disco enthusiasts who always get intensely annoyed for some reason! Check it out here.

After the miserable chart performance of "Who Do You Think You Are?" and "Upside Down", Collette did a reverse Kylie - joining Home & Away to restore her profile. It didn't really work. She only released one more single, a dance cover of the soul classic "This Will Be (Everlasting Love)". The video clip - complete with MC Hammer dancers - is a sight to behold and the 90s overhaul works surprisingly well. I love the song but it didn't even chart. Shortly thereafter, Collette's sophomore album "Attitude" was released but it also disappeared without a trace. However, it's definitely worth hunting down. I love the faux R'n'B numbers as much as the dance trash. The title track is particularly fun. Unfortunately, Collette is yet to bless the music world with another album but she hasn't disappeared from sight entirely. I was lucky enough to catch her perform at Arq in 2005 and she wowed a huge crowd at Mardi Gras in 2007. She still looks amazing and knows how to bust a dance move. 2009 is the year of the cougar, so keep your fingers crossed that Collette joins Stacey Q, Sam Fox and Sabrina on the comeback trail!


Poster Girl said...

This post makes me miss the CFB Goes Pop girls :(

She's so adorable. Somehow I only have "Who Do You Think You Are" (which is marked as being from a singles collection--that better be right, because I love the idea that she got to release a singles collection somewhere. Probably Japan) but I think I'm going to have to go get more.

inscrutableted said...

I think some of the shots in "Ring My Bell" were the inspiration for Kylie's "Wow" video!

Craig said...

I LOVE her! Ring My Bell is a classic! Strangely i had no idea she ever release an album let alone two. Where can I find them?

Jump! said...

I used to lovingly refer to your blog as "Aussia Pop Bitches" because you always introduced me to great local talent. I wasn't sure if anything could come close to topping Ms Tkautz' "Sexy is the word" but Colette's "upside down" update about does it for me. Hannah's "stopnthink" is of course the biggest hit from your blog for me- 123 plays on the ipod and counting.

Mike said...

Brian, I swear you are the only person who likes Hannah apart from me! She really needs to make a comeback. I'm glad you're feeling "Upside Down". Let me know if you need an mp3.

Inscrutableted - I wouldn't be surprised. Kylie has been living in Collette's shadow for the past 20 years!

And PG, I miss the CFB Goes Pop girls too :(

Craig - try Ebay. Although I have a feeling Collette might appear on the Isle of Deserted Pop Stars shortly, so keep an eye out.

Cade said...

Collette actually had a 3rd album and performed tracks from it at Reactor One in Penrith in about 1993, the lead song was something like 'the power and the glory' - it was only released somewhere in Asia but I remember being hideously drunk and stalking her from one side of the stage to the other (I didn't have much competition as everyone else kinda stood back being 'too cool' to go near the stage). I ended up going back stage and she signed a photo for me, I don't have it anymmore but still have my signed "Who Do You Think You Are" single from Parramatta HMV when she appeared. I ADORE Collette, if there was a queen of trash/kitsh pop she would own the crown. Adoreably tragic but undeniably addictive!! Get some Collette in your diet haha

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Anonymous said...

No mention of her (Collette) hit (miss) with The Nation "You Can Run" in 1995. It was shown on Video Hits. Check out Youtube!