Kiki Dee arrived in this world (as opposed to an alien world) as Pauline Matthews during 1947 (the same year as Elton John). At the age of 16, Dee began singing with local bands around her local township of Bradford. Around the same time she also showed an interest in acting and in 1965 had a cameo in the film ‘Deadline For Diamonds’, a thriller produced by Pinewood Studios, London.
Songwriter Mitch Murray came up with the stage name Kiki Dee, and during 1965 she signed with the Fontana Records label, releasing the single ‘Why Don’t I Run Away From You’, and by 1968 her debut album ‘I’m Kiki Dee’. During the mid to late 60s, Dee also worked as a session singer, backing the likes of Dusty Springfield, and regularly appeared on BBC Radio singing cover versions.
During August of ‘69, Kiki Dee came to the attention of the famed Motown label, and became the first female British performer to sign with the label. It was arranged for her to record her first album for the label with producer Frank Wilson in Detroit. The album ‘Great Expectations’ was realised and released in 1971, and yielded the minor U.S. Hot 100 hit, ‘Love Makes The World Go Round’ (#87). The album featured 12 tracks in all, covering some Motown classics including ‘I Second That Emotion’ and ‘For Once in My Life’, alongside a cover of Dusty Springfield’s ‘You Don’t Have To Say You Love Me’ (evoking the vocal style of Springfield in the process).
But great expectations weren’t realised, and Dee was dropped from the Detroit label. But though label-less, Dee had an ally in former British Motown executive John Reid, who had gone on to manage Elton John. Reid introduced the two singers, and Dee was signed to John’s Rocket Records label in 1972. She sang backing vocals on a number of Elton John albums, but by late ‘73 was ready to record and release her first solo album for Rocket Records.
During 1974, Kiki Dee assembled her own backing group, and recorded the album ‘Patterns’ (released in the U.S. as ‘I’ve Got The Music In Me’ - #28), under the banner of the Kiki Dee Band. The single, ‘(You Don’t Know) How Glad I Am’ (UK#33), originally recorded by Nancy Wilson, did solid business, but it was the upbeat, and appropriately titled, ‘I’ve Got The Music In Me’ (originally recorded by Sabrina Lory) that kept the Dee Band (and brand) in the upper reaches of the charts (US#12/ UK#19/ OZ#52). Within eighteen months Kiki Dee would reach the uppermost of those charts with one of the biggest selling singles of the decade.
Elton John and Bernie Taupin had already written a number of songs for Kiki Dee under the pseudonyms of Ann Orson and Carte Blanche. During the first half of ‘76, the prolific song writing team penned an effervescent love song titled ‘Don’t Go Breaking My Heart’. Regular Elton John producer Gus Dudgeon had the reigns in the control booth, for the recording of the planned duet. But John and Dee recorded their vocals separately (due to scheduling issues), with John firstly recording his part at the Eastern Sound studios in Toronto, Canada. The tape was then sent to London, where Kiki Dee added her vocals. Credited to Elton John and Kiki Dee, it was John’s first appearance on his own Rocket Records label. A promotional video was shot for the song in a recording studio, featuring John and Dee playing off one another - with the obvious chemistry of good friends apparent throughout.
‘Don’t Go Breaking My Heart’ burst on to the British charts mid year, and had reached #1 by the end of July ‘76, replacing Demis Roussos at the top. Astoundingly, it was Elton John’s first involvement in a British chart topper. The song set up residency at #1 for six weeks, in turn being replaced by ABBA’s ‘Dancing Queen’. A similar trajectory occurred for ‘Don’t Go Breaking My Heart’ in Australia, with the track replacing ‘S-S-S--Single Bed’ by Fox (see separate post) during August, and a week later being danced off the top spot by ABBA’s ‘Dancing Queen’.
Kiki Dee released a self titled album in early ‘77 (UK#24/US#159). The fourteen track album realised a couple of British top forty hits in the form of ‘First Thing In The Morning’ (#32), and ‘Chicago’ (#28), along with a U.S. re-release of the 1974 track ‘How Glad I Am’ (#74). However, despite featuring an impressive array of guest players, Dee’s 1979 album, ‘Stay With Me’, her final release on Rocket Records, missed the charts altogether.
The 80s kicked off with a good start for Kiki Dee, with the 1981 single ‘Star’ hitting the celestial heights of #13 in the U.K. (OZ#64). It was lifted from Dee’s first album for the Ariola label, ‘Perfect Timing’ (UK#47). Produced by Pip Williams, the album boasted another impressive cast of guest players, including keyboardist Patrick Moraz (Moody Blues - see separate post), and drummer Steve Holly (ex-Wings). Elton John also joined Kiki on a cover of the Four Tops’ ‘Loving You Is Sweeter Than Ever’.
All remained quiet on the Kiki Dee front for the remainder of the 80s, save for the 1987 album ‘Angel Eyes’, and regular backing vocals duties for Elton John. Dee and John returned to the charts as a duet during 1993, with a cover of Cole Porter’s ‘True Love’. They fell one place short in Britain of equalling the #1 triumph of ‘Don’t Got Breaking My Heart’ (OZ#23).
Though she will long be associated with the mega-hit ‘Don’t Go Breaking My Heart’, it would be remiss to overlook the forty plus year career of Kiki Dee in its entirety.