From a Latin disco drumbeat to a politically charged lyric, here’s the story behind the 80s pop duo’s biggest hit
Alongside Wet Wet Wet, Simple Minds, Del Amitri and Deacon Blue, blue-eyed soul-pop duo Hue & Cry were one of the most successful acts to emerge from the Scottish music scene that stormed the charts in the 80s. North Lanarkshire-born siblings Greg and Pat Kane started making music together in 1983, when Pat was about to graduate from university and his brother was still at school. Their debut album Seduced And Abandoned spawned their biggest hit Labour Of Love in 1987, after the first single I Refuse had failed to make the UK Top 75 the year before.
Being the classically trained musician and producer of the partnership, Greg tells us about the rhythmic and melodic genesis of the song, while with his vocal responsibilities, brother Pat explains what inspired the lyrics…
“We had a Roland CR78 drum machine and I think there’s a preset on it called Latin Disco. Pat and I were always fans of Latin jazz music, so I was fooling around with this thing and some arpeggios on a Yamaha DX7 piano. They were all based around an A-minor drone, that gives it a real tension and when you come off the drone it releases.”
Pat: “You can hear quite a lot of influence from The Temptations and all that late 60s, early 70s protest-oriented funk and soul. There’s even a bit of early rap in the scansion and metre of the lyric. I was excited by the idea of a semi-percussive vocal, so I wrote into that space.”
G: “When we took it to the publishers, they thought it was too complicated. They gave it to a few different producers and it just didn’t connect. Then the New York producer Harvey Goldberg was approached, and he came to see us play in Sheffield. He was the one who encouraged us to keep the whole Latin influence.”
P: “We were in the mode of looking at British politics from a different perspective, so the verses are all about realising you’re voting for something that’s actually not in your best interests, because you’ve been suckered into it. It’s about the love affair that existed between parts of the British working class and Margaret Thatcher. We made it sound like a love song so it could get on the radio, but really it’s a hell of a lot more than that.”
G: “A lot of it’s got to do with Pat’s lyric. It’s quite a difficult song to sing, and you need to understand Latin music to make it work. So we never thought it would be a hit because we knew it was quite a complex thing. That’s one of the reasons we were so overjoyed when it was a hit.”