Words: Simon Button
When Nick Kamen whipped off his shirt and dropped his trousers in a 1985 launderette-set TV advert, gals and gay guys were left swooning. So, it appears, was Madonna.
As recounted in the booklet that accompanies the new Nick Kamen: The Complete Collection CD boxset, Madge recalls of the pretty boy in the pristine-white boxer shorts: “I kept seeing this incredible-looking guy in magazines.”
Then, after being asked to write a song for Kamen’s debut album, she checked out the Levi’s ad and his demo tape and declared: “Wow, this guy’s got everything.”
The resulting collaboration - a bright and brilliant pop song called ‘Each Time You Break My Heart’, which Madonna co-wrote with her ‘True Blue’ teammate Stephen Bray and even sang backing vocals on - propelled Kamen out of the laundromat and into the pop charts.
Reaching Number 5 in the UK and doing well across Europe, it proved that the dark-haired, soulful-eyed model wasn’t just a pretty face atop a flawless body - he was also a fine singer. Indeed, the Essex boy who had previously graced the cover of The Face only did modelling at a friend’s suggestion, while music was his true passion.
He didn’t have the voice of a belter, more like a sweet 60s crooner with sex appeal to spare. In fact, most of the material on his self-titled debut album was comprised of little-known songs from the 50s and 60s, making it a very poppy affair that with hindsight was somewhat lacking in personality.
Kamen addressed the balance on follow-up ‘Us’, co-penning many of the tracks and serving up a more cohesive sound. Madonna popped into the studio again to lend backing vocals to the sparkling single ‘Tell Me’ - a great song that somehow floundered at number 40 over here but topped the charts in Italy, a territory in which Nick continued to find favour long after the Brits had moved on to other pop idols.
Two more albums are included in the boxset: 1990’s ‘Move Until We Fly’, with its superb guitar-driven lead single ‘I Promised Myself’ and a clutch of equally strong songs, and 1992’s ‘Whatever, Whenever’, a muddled attempt to fuse indie and dance that would prove to be Nick’s final long-player.
Also included are more remixes and rarities than devoted Kamen fans could ever wish for. The booklet also includes plenty of swoon-worthy pictures, including one of Nick and Madonna at the mixing desk where - even pretending to look bored with heads in hands - they’re 80s pop beauty personified.
Nick Kamen: The Complete Collection is out now on Cherry Red Records