Toni Basil’s 1982 hit Mickey was actually a cover of a song originally called Kitty, co-composed by Mike Chapman (famous for writing and producing dozens of hit records including Blondie’s Parallel Lines) and recorded by British pop group Racey in 1979 – although the original didn’t include the cheerleader chant, which was Toni Basil’s own idea:
“I was always a cheerleader and I remember the echoing in the basketball court of cheerleaders, of us, stomping, chanting. I said I would do it if I could put the cheerleader chant on it. The record company asked me not to put the chant on because they were concerned it would ruin the rest of the tune.”
Basil had been head cheerleader at Las Vegas High School, which is why the sweater she wears in the song’s original video reads LVH. The video – made before MTV first aired – was produced, directed, and choreographed by Basil herself and was the first dance video of its kind. An alternative video, also produced by Toni Basil, was later made for a BBC special and featured a band instead of cheerleaders…
I have to say, I kinda prefer the alternate version. The classic is the classic, but the band version is just funnier and more layered. It’s more Saturday morning kids TV show. It’s Toni choreographing a whole band, keeping players in character, and it has a story. And that story, with Toni and guitarist Spaz, played out through the song, is just mental. Kids like mental.
But hey, what do I know? As far as the videos are concerned, it’s like steak and cheesecake: they’re two completely different things, and they’re both great. Toni brings in the chant, which totally elevates the song and makes it a classic, and then she choreographs two completely different pioneering videos of the same track, which are both brilliant in their own right. She’s a legend.
Without Toni – a dancer they tried to make into a pop star – choreographing, directing and producing her own dance videos, you maybe wouldn’t have had Madge or Britney…or any of those who followed in her (dance) steps.
In 1987 Run-DMC consciously used Mickey‘s structure for their song It’s Tricky. According to DMC: “I just changed the chorus around and we just talked about how this rap business can be tricky to a brother.”
Fun fact: The drums on Mickey were played by Ric Parnell (ex- Atomic Rooster) who also played Spinal Tap’s ill fated drummer Mick Shrimpton.
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