Eternal Flame by Atomic Kitten

‘Eternal Flame’ by Atomic Kitten was another number 1 hit record for me, but it might never have happened had I not been taking a break on a session at Studio A, Metropolis at the same time that Hugh Goldsmith was in the building and asking to see me.

I was friendly with Hugh, who ran his own imprint at Virgin called Innocent Records (Blue, Billie Piper, Atomic Kitten) and had previously done some production for the label. At the time, Atomic Kitten’s song ‘Whole Again’ was number 1 in the UK and Hugh told me they really didn’t know what to release as a follow-up, their previous releases having more or less failed to light up the charts.

They’d decided to do a version of ‘Eternal Flame’ by The Bangles, and he played me what they had – which, to be honest, was a really straight, and pretty uninteresting cover of the song, not really bringing anything new. I’d recently worked on a track for Simply Red and The Fugees called ‘Angel’, and Wyclef Jean had this thing where he’d play these really simple acoustic guitar riffs as the main theme over things, which sounded really good - and I’d also done a track in LA with Susannah Hoffs, (lead singer of The Bangles) using the same kind of idea. So on the spur of the moment I said to Hugh, ‘you know you ought to do it like a Fugees thing’, and I picked up an acoustic guitar and came up with the riff.

It so happened I had drummer Geoff Holroyde on the session with me, and I got Geoff to play a beat, and I played the riff, and it sounded really good, and the next day Hugh called me and said we have to do this – you have to do it with us!

The biggest problem we had was that Atomic Kitten were at number 1 and their promotion schedule was incredibly tight and tricky, and there was only one possibility for me to do vocals with them, which was on a Sunday. I’d actually arranged to go away for that weekend for a family thing, but, making myself extremely unpopular, I got a driver to take me back to London early on the Sunday morning so that I could do the vocal sessions. Kerry Katona had just left the band and been replaced by Jenny Frost, so it was all a bit new for everybody, but I recorded all the girls, worked out a good vocal arrangement, and also got in the late, great, Claudia Fontaine to work on the backing vocals, which play a big part.

I remember driving away from the session knowing it was going to be a hit, which is a rare thing for anyone. But I couldn’t see any way that it wouldn’t be a hit; the fact that they were at number 1 at the time, and that it was a brilliant song, and also, that we’d done a really great, cool version of it.

The track duly went straight to number 1, and I got a lovely message from Billy Steinberg who co-wrote the song (along with the likes of ‘True Colors and ‘Like a Virgin’) congratulating me on the version we’d done.

Looking back it was fast and furious – a hit drawn from lots of things that were part of my world at the time – and sheer chance that I had the opportunity to grab a guitar and demonstrate an idea directly to the head of the label!