Words by DJ Autograph
Recently, I was digging through my ‘80s video collection in preparation for a new video mix and came across a clip that I had never seen before. The video was for “Respectable” by British pop duo Mel & Kim. As it turns out, the duo–Melanie and Kim Appleby–were of mixed Jamaican and British parentage. The two sisters reminded me of another sister pop duo of Jamaican parentage, Brick and Lace, who have also had international success.
Mel recorded two demos under Allan Whitehead’s management in 1985 before she teamed up with her sister to form Mel & Kim. Their first and only studio album, 1987’s F.L.M., was an instant success. “Respectable,” the second single from the album, charted at No. 1 in the U.K., Germany, Switzerland and the Netherlands. It also crossed the pond and charted at No. 1 on the U.S. Dance charts.
“Respectable” was written as a sort of response to Mel’s controversial topless photos in Mayfair magazine, the U.K. equivalent of Playboy. The lyrics, “Take or leave us only please believe us we ain’t never going to be respectable” referenced the carefree attitude of the sisters and the video reflected this as well, with the sisters performing dance routines in an alleyway and on a fashion runway, while pretending to run away from a police officer.
Sadly, Mel and Kim’s success was short lived because Mel died in January 1990. She became ill during a promotional tour and, after returning to the UK for tests, she was diagnosed with spinal cancer. The duo retreated from the public eye while Mel was being treated, aside from a few last TV appearances. Kim began a solo career after her sister’s passing and is still active today. “Respectable” remains their biggest hit, and the video offers a priceless window into the world of late ’80s British pop, albeit with a (half-) Jamaican twist.