Bandwagon jumping vanity projects are never good things in music.
Especially when they involve children’s television presenters.
By the time Michaela Strachan had released her début single, a version of Edwin Starr’s ‘H.A.P.P.Y. Radio’, in September 1989 under the Michaela moniker, it wasn’t uncommon to see the stars of Children’s BBC and ITV release musical offerings.
In this niche area of music, there were two types of singles.
The most common, and well-known, efforts were seen as novelties. Usually, tracks like Roland Rat Superstar’s ‘Rat Rapping’ and ‘I Wanna Be A Winner’ by Multi-Coloured Swap Shop’s musical combo Brown Sauce, weren’t undesirable and flirted with Top 20 success.
The stars that took it seriously and, subsequently, sunk into musical obscurity were part of the second and much rarer camp, mainly because soap stars were becoming regular chart fixtures by the late 1980s.
Kim Goody, for instance, relentlessly plugged her version of ‘Don’t Turn Around’ on TVS’ Saturday morning show ‘No. 73’, yet it failed to break into the UK Singles Chart’s Top 100.
Unsurprisingly, for someone who admitted to Smash Hits that she always wanted to be a popstar for the attention, Michaela’s brief music career fell into the latter category.
And, despite the fact that ‘H.A.P.P.Y. Radio’ was produced by Mike Percy and Tim Lever from Dead Or Alive, its questionable quality wasn’t surprising either.
The cover rigidly follows the same template that was used by Stock Aitken Waterman, even though ‘H.A.P.P.Y. Radio’ sounds cheaper and tackier than singles like ‘Hand On Your Heart’.
There wasn’t anything particularly new to be heard, especially if you had already listened to tracks by Sonia and Samantha Fox.
You can forgive a lack of imagination in the production department, especially considering that it is a cover, but there’s no excusing how vapid it is.
Percy and Lever were experienced enough to know that adding radio sound effects, in a desperate attempt to tie the cover in with the lyrics’ radio theme, does not make it any more flavoursome.
As for Michaela: she was professional – after all, she blew an inflatable saxophone in the promo video and seemed to enjoy it – but her performance had little life and energy.
However, unlike some of her contemporaries in the late 1980s Hi-NRG scene, she didn’t come across as over-enthusiastic or desperate. She seemed canny enough to know that a duffer was being produced.
At least this meant that Michaela came out of this whole sorry affair with some dignity intact.
Unfortunately for Michaela, though, its impact on the charts was just as tepid as the cover itself; it only peaked at Number 62 in the UK Singles Chart.
However, she was keen enough to co-write the b-side, ‘Time Flies’, and with a bit more luck, she could have had a decent chance of doing well in the music industry.
Even when Michaela collaborated with Ralf-René Maué, best known for his work with the London Boys and Sinitta, she could not make a dent in the charts.
It was not just the terrible first impression that put an end to Michaela’s musical aspirations, though.
The Eurobeat sound, that was made popular in the UK by the likes of Maué and SAW, was going out of fashion. Even though SAW had seven UK Number 1 singles in 1989, for instance, their sovereignty was starting to show cracks.
By late 1989, Donna Summer and Sonia were struggling to replicate the success of their SAW débuts, and by mid-1990, it was Big Fun and Jason Donovan who were running out of steam.
Furthermore, in February 1990, SAW released what was regarded as their biggest mistake, Kakko’s ‘We Should Be Dancing’. This was a blatant attempt to tap into the Japanese market, as shown by its oriental pentatonic hook, and it flopped at Number 101.
It was a far cry from the success of Rick Astley and Mel & Kim in 1987 but, if Michaela had reacted a bit quicker to the bullet and teamed up with her “Hit Man”, she may have faired better in the charts.
But, given the quality of ‘H.A.P.P.Y. Radio’, its lack of success was deserved.
For Michaela Strachan, chart dominance wasn’t meant to be.
This review was self-published in May 2012.
Gambaccini, Paul et al (eds) (1995) The Guinness Book of British Hit Singles. 10th edition. London: GRR Publications.
Kadis, A. (1989) Michaela. Smash Hits, Wednesday September 6 1989, p.10-12.