It may seem oddly inappropriate to some: Referring to Tracey Ullman on Kirsty MacColl's birthday. But this missive shall attempt to cursorily explain my circuitous connection to Kirsty MacColl. Trust me: the details are so NOT worth it.
I never met her.
But "Tracey Ullman" is as easy a point to sally from as any. During a telephone interview with Ms. Ullman -- who was, at the time, just about almost "regarded" in the popular lexicon as "Oh. yeah, her" -- the point was made to me that her "big hit" was written by and originally performed by a Kirsty MacColl. I was, of course, incapable of making any kind of intelligent conversation about Ms. MacColl and asked Ms. Ullman to squeeze a few lines out over the phone, to perhaps jar my listeners' (read: "my") memories.
"It's the one that goes 'BAY-bee.'"
Years later, I was told that they actually used MacColl's "BAY-bee" in Tracey's single because Ullman -- whom I consider terrifically talented as a character mimic -- couldn't hit that note.
So, here's the original '79 recording that some YouTuber put together with some lovely photographs of Kirsty. Which is better than the rest of the truly horrible videos from those olden days:
Kirsty's dad was Ewan MacColl, whose "Shoals of Herring" and "Dirty Old Town" (or its cover by The Pogues) were favorites on my "Celtic" music radio show. I scared the crap out of the Station Manager/Program Director/Sales Manager/Morning Guy/Much-Loved Local Douchebag when I played Ewan's version of "The First Time Ever I saw Your Face" and disclosed that the song was written by Ewan -- a socialist!!1! -- and not by Roberta Flack.
The story goes that he had written the song for Peggy Seeger. Pete's sister. (Journal frequenters know that's a name that I like to drop.)
American radio being what it was -- and it's even worse now -- I never had the opportunity to even play her music. Except for one "Celtic Christmas" show that featured Kirsty and The Pogues' "Fairytale of New York." Which, of course, drew an angry phone call from a listener who promised to complain to the station's owners, whom she "knew personally." I'm sure that at least one of the old idiots would have preferred that I go with one of the clever "novelty" tunes of MacColl's daughter. If they had ever heard one...
Recently, I've been encouraging the success of former GusGus vocalist Hafdis Huld (whose new album, Synchronised Swimmers, is out soon) for no other reason than that I like her. She records for producer Calum MacColl's Red Grape Records, and I have exactly one e-mail communication with him about his relatives -- from the Seeger side -- who were neighbors of mine.
( "Days" is a 1968 Kinks song by Ray Davies. )