Fairground Attraction - The First of a Million Kisses

Fairground Attraction: “The First of a Million Kisses” Expanded Edition

Against the run of play in the spring of 1988, for one glorious, solitary week Fairground Attraction had the UK’s number one single. Replacing the recycled disco of Theme From S-Express at the top of the chart, their first release Perfect couldn’t have been more different. Its folk guitars, gently plucked bass and brushed drums were a million miles away from the electronic frenzy of homemade sample records and increasingly generic Hit Factory product that had dominated the chart in the early part of the year.

Released a couple of weeks later, the group’s full-length début The First of a Million Kisses rarely deviates from the path broken by their biggest hit. Over the LP or cassette’s twelve tracks (fourteen if you shelled out for the Compact Disc version, a hefty investment back in 1988) there’s plenty more strumming, plucking and brushing where that came from. Whereas Perfect exuded confidence, the even better follow-up single Find My Love oozes quiet despair, while the raucous Clare is a gloriously off-kilter jazz frenzy which barged its way into the top fifty but was just too unorthodox for greater success. This is about the only time the band breaks sweat though, seeming otherwise content to meander through a series of mid-tempo folk songs; despite Eddi Reader’s engaging delivery of some wonderfully evocative stories from the pen of Mark E. Nevin, after an hour or so it becomes quite hard to differentiate one track from the next. Nevertheless, The First of a Million Kisses won Best British Album and Perfect scooped Best British Single at the 1989 BRIT Awards, although you probably don’t remember because that year’s winners were overshadowed by the ineptitude of hosts Sam Fox and Mick Fleetwood.

Inevitably, the law of diminishing returns came into play and the band split during sessions for a second album. RCA cobbled together 1990’s Ay Fond Kiss from B-sides and a couple of unreleased tracks, while Reader went on to a successful solo career. Meanwhile guitarist and songwriter Nevin took the songs earmarked for the band’s second album and recorded them with Brian Kennedy under the name Sweetmouth, after which he worked briefly with Morrissey and Kirsty MacColl before also going solo.

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So, with used copies of the original CD selling for 1p on Amazon, why should you shell out for this new expanded edition from Cherry Pop? Apart from the gloriously remastered sound quality and detailed booklet (including new interviews with both Reader and Nevin), this double CD expands the original album into an almost-complete overview of the band’s recorded output, adding most of the tracks that made up the Ay Fond Kiss compilation, a brace of live recordings and half a dozen previously unreleased demo versions. Among its treasures you’ll also find the closest thing yet to the band’s mythical second album, as all but one of the songs that became Sweetmouth’s Goodbye to Songtown album are included here in some Eddi Reader-fronted form. Fairground Attraction didn’t fit in with the zeitgeist at the height of their success, and they still don’t; more so than ever, The First of a Million Kisses is a monument to doing your own thing.

7/10