Shampoo – ‘I Know What Boys Like’ (1996)

Shampoo’s ‘I Know What Boys Like’ peaked at Number 42 in the UK Singles Chart. Image courtesy of Leon Brocard via Flickr.

I’m not afraid to defend the musical merits of Shampoo.

For example, ‘Trouble’ was irritatingly catchy and infectious – the duo got the song’s cheeky teenage angst down to a tee and the track was a lot of fun.

Although their follow-up singles, including ‘Viva La Megababes’ and ‘Girl Power’, were vacuous and shallow, they still had stains of likeability.

And, best of all, their songwriting collaboration with Saint Etienne’s Bob Stanley and Pete Wiggs in 2000 brought about a number of credible ditties including ‘Shampoo’s Cupboard‘.

When it came to covers, though, Shampoo were like a group from ‘The X Factor’.

This doesn’t mean that their cover versions were bad but, for them to be good, they needed to pick the right song.

Their version of East 17’s ‘House Of Love’ (which appeared on their début album, ‘We Are Shampoo’) was performed without a hint of irony and, minus Tony Mortimer’s rapping, almost sounded like a replica of the original.

Similarly, their cover of Gary Numan’s ‘Cars’ (a b-side to 1996’s ‘Girl Power’) had a low-budget sound and was a little rough around the edges but, as per usual, it had its quirks.

Meanwhile, The Rezillos’ ‘Top Of The Pops‘, a b-side to ‘War Paint‘ was also faithfully covered by the girls and suited their rebellious streak.

And their next cover, The Waitresses’ ‘I Know What Boys Like’, looked like a good choice on paper. After all, Shampoo clearly modelled their sound and look on the likes of Fuzzbox and The Waitresses.

The original was deliberately raw, clunky and repetitive – they were, in fact, qualities that made the track likeable. In that respect, ‘Trouble’ was a very similar song but this cover doesn’t work at all.

‘I Know What Boys Like’ should be a contemporary-free zone; it doesn’t need slick production and there definitely shouldn’t be any clichéd guitar solos.

Shampoo ignored key elements of this song at their peril and, subsequently, it ripped out the original’s good humour and subtlety.

And, unlike The Waitresses’ version, this was not tongue-in-cheek; it sounded tacky and boorish. Not only is it embarrassing, but it’s the musical equivalent of middle-aged women wearing mini-skirts.

At best, it’s a mess and, to make matters worse, it still sounds like someone vomiting all over a Helen Love record.

They really should have known better.

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This review was self-published in September 2012.

Non-web sources

Roberts, D. (ed) (2001) The Guinness Book of British Hit Singles. 14th edition. London: Guinness World Records.

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