I remember pretty clearly the day that Racey changed my brain so that from that day on, a little bit of my brain would be forever Racey. As a treat for being patient whilst going shopping with my mother, she took me and my brother Aki to Debenhams’ record department. We were allowed a single each. Aki bought Cool For Cats by Squeeze. I plumped for Lay Your Love On Me by Racey. To Aki, my choice embodied everything that sucked about having a little brother. Punk had happened and, by virtue of being “new wave”, Squeeze were briefly affiliated to it.
With hindsight I can now see what Racey were. They were one last hurrah by RAK’s in-house songwriting magicians Nicky Chinn and Mike Chapman. A dud Mud. A Showaddywaddy lacking a waddy. At least that’s how they’re fated to be remembered. Thirty years later though, with that bit of my brain that will forever be Racey, I am not most people. I hear Lay Your Love On Me, with Richard Gower’s oddly pleading vocals and an organ hook that begs to be sampled and a Proustian avalanche ensues. Kept from the number one spot by Bright Eyes, Some Girls (originally intended for Blondie, trivaholics) remains probably their best known hit – and where, for most people, the story ends.
But my loyalty knew no bounds. I bought their only album Smash And Grab and remember feeling moved by the valedictory self-written rallying cry We Are Racey (“We are Racey,” it claimed, “And we move with the speed of sound”). But, as Racey’s stock plummeted, so did my local record shop’s stock of Racey records. I had to get them ordered in – although in pre-internet times, I’m not sure how I even knew that they were coming out at all. In the years that followed, I tried to get into cooler music, but throughout this time, I showed unerring loyalty to Racey.
And, indeed, continue to do so. Written by Gower, their 1981 b-side Let Me Take You Home Tonight lives in the special box I keep in the kitchen where all my best sevens live – Fats Domino woozily reconfigured by a lovelorn pygmy from Weston-super-Mare. Bob Stanley likes it and he’s in Saint Etienne, so there. Convinced that their 1981 non-hit Rest Of My Life still had “legs” if covered by the right person, I sent an MP3 of my scratchy vinyl copy to Ronan Keating’s A&R man, and received precisely the sort of reply that A&R men send to lunatics. Fair enough, really. He probably passed my email around the office to general hoots of merriment. You’re probably laughing too, aren’t you? I know I’m not cool. But I am Racey. And that’s enough for me.