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!