Sunday, October 13, 2013

Tracey Ullman - They Don't Know

Tracey Ullman has enjoyed a long and diverse career as a singer, actress and comedienne, helped by her gentle and observant comic touch.  Although we are more focused on her 1980's music for the blog, her TV shows The Tracy Ullman Show (which spawned The Simpsons) and Tracey Takes On ... are definitely recommended.

While Ullman is best-known for her sketch comedy, she got her start in West End (London) musical theater, and her growing visibility there led to a recording contract.  Ullman's first album, 1983's You Broke My Heart in 17 Places is a quirky, nostalgic take on 1960's pop that became a surprise success in both the U.S. (#34, with 2 top 100 singles) and the U.K. (#14, with three top 10 songs).

For the blog, we went with Ullman's biggest hit, "They Don't Know," a cover of a 1979 Kirsty MacColl song.  The video is pure Ullman, with bowling reminiscent of The Big Lebowski, a cameo from Sir Paul McCartney and grocery cart dancing.  The comic touches are really outstanding, as well.

Unfortunately, Ullman was unable to maintain her success and refocused on comedy and acting when the follow up LP did not do as well ... but I think things turned out all right for her.

The Kirsty MacColl original version of the song received a bunch of airplay in the U.K., but did not do as well on the charts, hurt by a distributors strike.  By the by, MacColl was an  English singer / songwriter who flirted with major success, but never quite broke through.  In the U.K., she had 7 top 40 singles 4 top 50 albums.  She also performed with The Pogues and sang backup for a bunch of artists including: Robert Plant, The Smiths, Alison Moyet, Simple Minds, Talking Heads and Big Country.  Sadly, MacColl died in a tragic boating accident in 2000.

The Ullman video:

The Kirsty MacColl original:

Note that the Pogues song "Fairytale of New York," which features Kirsty MacColl, was posted on ERV in December 2014.


  1. One of the rare 45s I bought in the 80's
    Full Length Albums are the way to go.
    Never know what else would be just as cool as the Hit Song. Right?

    The video is entertaining. I thought the album would be a comedy album.
    Bet Kristy MacColl Loved Ullman's cover. And the residuals.

    1. Hey, Sam, welcome back. (Was wondering if we were going to see you again). Agreed on albums and MacColl -- Ullman covered 4 MacColl songs on her 2 solo albums, named both albums after MacColl songs and had MacColl sing backup on "They Don't Know," so it seems likely that they got on pretty well.