Recently, I was going through a pile of old audio cassette tapes for the first time in a while. Some of them featured various things that were recorded off the radio a long time ago now like adverts and songs, and I had forgotten what was on a lot of them. On one was a show called Kisstory, that used to be on Kiss FM on Sunday evenings in the early-2000s.
This was where lots of old-school dance songs from the 80s and 90s were played, and I thought that this would be a good opportunity to hear some of these songs again to bring back memories (before you could track down just about everything played online), or maybe for the first time (this was clearly a good idea as the Kisstory format has since become a fully-fledged digital radio station in itself).
When going through the tape, I came across a rather bizarre song that I don’t think I’ve heard on the radio before or since, which made me go “huh?”, and trying to find out more about it has just made me go “huh?” even more really. The song was “Mr Kirk’s Nightmare” by British group 4 Hero, which is rather well-known for featuring this sample:
“Do you have a son named Robert, Robert Kirk, age 17?”
“I’m sorry Mr Kirk, you’d better come down to the stationhouse, your son is dead”
“He died of an overdose”
“Oh my god…”
Now when you put that on a dance song, and mostly repeat the “your son is dead” part over some thumping and buzzing noises, it does become all rather unusual and removes the intended seriousness. Apparently in the early-90s, people in the nightclubs were rather fond of this one. It also proves that anything was fair game to be sampled, however strange it was.
But I did think to myself, where’s that sample from, what’s the original context? Well it turns out that the sample is taken from a song called “Once You Understand” by Think, which was a hit single in America in 1971. It features the lyric “things get a little easier/once you understand” over and over in the background, as various domestic arguments between parents and their children are played out.
It has to be remembered that this was at a time when the generation gap was growing, and older people night not have been able to comprehend the more “psychedelic”-type music that was coming on to scene and being appreciated by rebellious youngsters that wasn’t around in their youth. Comments include “I’ll be expecting you to get a haircut by Friday” and “I don’t want you in that neighbourhood“.
This all abruptly stops for the exchange at the end, and although this was a song that was trying to pass on a serious message, most people seemed to find it all rather ridiculous and unintentionally amusing rather than shocking, and consider this to be one of the worst songs to have made the US singles chart. And there’s another mystery.
When 4 Hero’s song entered the UK singles chart in November 1990 and peaked at no. 73, this was credited as “Combat Dancing EP”. In its second and final week on the chart, this changed to “Mr Kirk’s Nightmare”, even though it was exactly the same song. 4 Hero went on to make some more influential dance songs that were hits in the 90s, but they can’t have been more bizarre than this one.