S1: Welcome to a podcast of pop chart history from Slate magazine about the hits from coast to coast. I’m Chris Melaniphy, chart analyst, pop critic and writer of Slate’s Why is This Song No. One series on today’s show? Do you recognize this funk instrumental I’m playing? This is The Soul Searchers led by Washington, D.C.. Go, go. Music pioneer Chuck Brown with their 1974 Jam Ashlee’s roach clip. Don’t feel bad if it’s not ringing a bell yet. It wasn’t a big chart hit, but part of this song was a hit part of many, many hits. In just a few seconds, we’re going to hear a drum break that should be instantly familiar. If you listen to hip hop about 30 to 35 years ago. Here it comes. The Ashlee’s roach clip drum break is a formative beat in rap history, sampled on dozens of tracks. It’s the beat that powered hip hop classics by Golden Age rappers T La Rock, Eric B and Rakim, Slick Rick Schill, Rob G. The Ghetto Boys, Tupac and Ice Cube, among many others. And it also anchored several big hits by, well, these guys who I guess you could say do rap the. My understanding. This is girl, you know, it’s true, the debut global smash by Milli Vanilli, nominally, that’s the name of the dance pop duo Rob Politesse and Fabrice Morvan, a pair of modern, gorgeous men who danced energetically, almost manically, running in place in biker shorts, flailing their dreadlocks, even taking running leaps into each other, smashing their chests together on MTV in concert and even at the Grammy Awards, Rob and Fab presented themselves as Milli Vanilli. But, of course, as his now infamous politesse and Morvan weren’t singing or rapping on any of the hits credited to Milli Vanilli, a name that is now equated in the public’s mind with musical fraud. This despite the fact that whether we all want to admit it or not, those of us who were alive in 1989 were listening to a whole lot of Milli Vanilli. No act on the charts of that year, not Bon Jovi, Bobby Brown, Janet Jackson or Madonna had more number one hits than Milli Vanilli. Whoever was actually vocalizing on the records, this German musical project succeeded beyond anyone’s imaginings, including the man who dreamed the whole thing up, a guy who’d already tasted fame more than a decade earlier.
S2: He’s crazy, like.
S3: Bye bye, Daddy.
S1: Producer, musician and pop impresario Frank Feria had scored a string of hits in the 70s with his euro disco act, Boney M, but none of their singles became big U.S. hits, which is what made fashion’s success in America. With his 80s group so stunning, we bought more Milli Vanilli recordings than any country in the world. Milli Vanilli caught lightning in a bottle showing up when the charts were undergoing a rap driven metamorphosis. Some of the hit acts rapping in the late 80s sounded authentic to the streets. I want to rap right now. It’s a good dance. While others dabbled in rap, in songs that were really more pop,
S4: too hot to handle, too cold to hold the call to go back and
S1: control the team behind Milli Vanilli took full advantage of this early crossover moment. They pilfered from everywhere, from the music of the 60s.
S4: Spinning wheel got to go
S1: around to the underground hip hop and club music of the 80s
S4: and now go down, girl.
S1: Yes, the story of Milli Vanilli is one of both theft and fraud, but it was a fraud. The whole country and much of the world embraced until it all got just a little out of control.
S4: And the winner is. What? Milli Vanilli,
S1: even if many of us would prefer to bury the music of Milli Vanilli in some deep memory hole, its popularity does explain something about where the sound of pop was headed at the turn of the 1990s. It’s easy now to forget that at the time, legitimate media outlets, industry executives and even songwriters took this group somewhat seriously, seriously enough that a certain hit generating Oscar nominated songwriter would give Milli Vanilli their most enduring single great. Was about. And that’s where your hit parade marches today, the week ending November 25th, 1989, when Blame It on the Rain by Milli Vanilli reached number one on the hot 100. It was the third straight chart topper by the duo group project and the fourth of their five top five hits affirming that Milli Vanilli was one of the top pop acts of the year. It was also the second consecutive number one by a celebrated songwriter who’s still generating hits today. And that’s just one of many interesting footnotes in the story of this massive pop swindle, one with a bit more of a legacy than you might imagine. How exactly were we all seduced by Milli Vanilli?
S3: You know, something else, something. Raymond Ray.
S4: In Russia long ago, he was strong in I.
S1: Now, this song might sound familiar if you’ve been on Ticktock lately or maybe if you’re a video game player who enjoys the music game, just dance to. It’s a 1978 single that’s reappeared on several Billboard charts just this year, even though it was never a hit in America in its heyday.
S1: Rasputin, or perhaps I should say rah rah Rasputin, given the way the word is sung, was a hit across Europe back in 1978, including number one in Germany and Austria and number two in the U.K. The song is named after the 19th century Russian mystic Gregoretti Rasputin, and it tells mythical, likely apocryphal stories of his healing powers and romantic prowess, including romancing the Russian Sarena. Its tempo suggests a Russian prison or squat dance kadence. If you dance to it on Just Dance To. All the moves you were imitating were a watered down Slavic folk dances and its rhythm guitar hook is even played on balalaikas. This despite the fact that no actual Russians were involved in its creation. Credited to the euro disco group Boney M.. Rasputin was written by two Germans and an Austrian, and its co lead vocals are by a pair of Jamaican British women
S3: in the same.
S1: In short, virtually everything about this song is kind of phony and pretty irresistible, which makes Rasputin a metaphor for the entire career of its creator, German singer, songwriter, producer and trickster Frank Feresten, the hit maker who, like a cat, seems to have nine lives. So does this song. Although Rasputin never cracked the Hot 100 just this year, it was the subject of a Tick-Tock challenge, both in America and globally, and a twenty twenty one remix by British Majestic made the top ten of Billboard’s Dance and Electronic Songs chart and its global excuse chart. So that’s more royalties flowing in the direction of Frank Ferring, even into the twenty twenties. If you’ve ever heard some version of the Milli Vanilli story, for example, infamously they were the subject of the first ever episode of Von’s Tell All Biography series behind the music way back in 1997. You might think the mastermind behind pop music’s most famous fraud would have been run out of the music business, tarred and feathered. Quite the contrary. Frank Ferrin kept producing and co writing with dance pop acts for decades. If you put on a radio station right now that plays older dance pop from a couple of decades ago, like New York’s WQ or pull up a vintage dance music mix on Spotify, there’s a pretty good chance you will eventually hear a Frank Farin production
S3: that at that.
S1: In his day, Farin was like the title character of What Makes Sammy Run, an irrepressible hustler on the make. And what made Frankie Run was a hunger for hits by any means necessary, which made him a good fit for the music business.
S4: Don’t call me scar face.
S1: This is essentially the first song Frank Saryan poached and turned into a hit for himself. It wouldn’t be the last. Al Capone is a 1964 single from Jamaican ska and rocksteady pioneer Cecil Bustamonte Campbell, a.k.a. Prince Buster Brown. By 1967, Al Capone was a hit in England, and it was heard by a young German fan of British and American pop, the man born Franz Reutter in Cologne, Germany, had already changed his name to Frankie in the then 25 year old, had quit his job as a cook and was trying to release records under that name, including covers of U.S. and U.K. hits. But nothing clicked for Frankie Farin until the mid 70s, when he interpolated Prince Buster’s hit into this song. This single was called Baby Do You Want a Bump? And this time for an artist named Frankie Ferrin decided to hide behind a made up group that he called Boney M.. Now, this might seem like Marion’s first act of chicanery, but to be fair, rock and pop history is littered with examples of Meetup groups having to become real groups after a hit record. For example, in 1962, L.A. based trumpeter and future A&M label boss Herb Alpert, who, by the way, has no Latin heritage whatsoever, scored a left field top 10 hit with the lonely bull. He recorded the song by himself, overdubbing his trumpet to resemble a full group of mariachis. And he credited the single to the authentic sounding but totally made up Herb Alpert and the Tijuana brass. It wasn’t until Alpert and his group scored multiple hits that he formed an actual Tijuana brass, which went on to score five number one albums. Or consider this bubblegum classic. Hi, honey. We talked about the Archies, a fictional garage rock combo based upon the famed comic book characters and their 60s Saturday morning cartoon in our Creedence Clearwater Revival episode of Hit Parade. Their smash Sugar Sugar was one of the many singles that prevented John Fogerty was banned from getting past number two on the Hot 100 as a band, the Archies was composed of real life session musicians, and they scored real hits on the actual Billboard charts. After Sugar Sugar became the top selling single of 1969, the Archies became a regular combo, recording several more albums and scoring a handful of additional hits. One more example also from 1969. When songwriter and producer Paul Llorca recorded Na Na, Hey, Hey, Kiss Him Goodbye in 1969 with a pair of his singer friends, he intended it as a throwaway be signed, but the label wanted him to put it out as an aside. So Lako gave it the made up group named Steve when Kiss Him Goodbye wound up a number one smash. By the end of that year, Llorca had to recruit an actual band from Bridgeport, Connecticut, and rename them Steve just so they could record and tour. So yeah, releasing singles under a phony band name that later becomes an actual band was a well-established, if slightly shady tactic by the mid 70s when Frank and recorded Baby Do You Wanna Bump? After the single was a hit in Holland and Belgium, Baron turned Boney M into a real group. He recruited a troupe of West Indian vocalists, all people of color, three British women Liz Mitchell, Marcia Barat and Maisie Williams and Bobby Farrell, originally from Aruba. That wasn’t the fishy part. What was more slippery was only two of these members, Liz Mitchell and Marcia Barratt, actually sang on Boney M recordings alongside Farin himself, who never appeared on stage. Fashion’s very Teutonic, German accented vocals were mimed by frontman Bobby Farrell and Maisie Williams, a former model also lip synched on stage. Improbable as this euro British Caribbean formula sounded on paper, this version of Boney M really took off in the. Daddy, cool. The group’s second single became a hit across Europe in 1976 with 20/20 hindsight. If you watch Farrall in Boney M’s early TV appearances, disco dancing maniacally encouraged by faery and to flail his limbs all about, you can see the seeds of what Milli Vanilli would become more than a decade later. Daddy Cool kicked off a remarkable streak of hits for Boney M in addition to Frank Farallones, native Germany, where the group unsurprisingly scored a string of number one hits. And across continental Europe, Boney M were amazingly popular in the United Kingdom. Frank Ferenz brainchild scored nine straight UK top 10 hits, a special delight for a German man who grew up idolizing the British charts. This epic streak included a euro disco cover of Bobby Hebes Soul Jazz Standard Sonny, which became the first Boney M single to crack the UK top three. Ray. Michael Baker, whose mama mama cook was decades later borrowed by Lady Gaga for her hit pokerface. Rivers of Babylon, which sold over two million copies in England alone and still ranks as one of the UK’s seven best selling singles of all time
S3: by the river. There are ways that.
S1: And Mary’s boy child, which we played in our U.K. Christmas No. One’s edition of Hit Parade, Boney M’s cover of the Calypso Christmas classic, made famous in the 50s by Harry Belafonte, was Britain’s official Christmas number one of 1978.
S3: Best My Child, Jesus Christ was born on Christmas Day.
S1: In fact, during that UK holiday season, Mary’s boy child sold one point six million copies in just four weeks, it’s still ranks among the three best selling holiday hits in British history alongside bandaids. Do they know it’s Christmas and Wham’s last Christmas? Yes, seriously, Boney M.. They were that popular. At least they were on that side of the Atlantic. Boney M might have been just a little too exotic for U.S. tastes. They cracked the American top 40 only once Casey Kasem counted it down.
S2: The countdown continues now with Boney M. Their first hit song was a former number one song in England at number three Rivers of Babylon
S4: by the river. The Valley of Now.
S1: That first hit was also their last in the US. This American disinterest would prove ironic in retrospect when Frank Ferenz other musical project took off a dozen years later. As for Boney M’s British and European hit streak, it finally began to tail off as disco fizzled on the charts when got to go home just missed the top 10 in England in late 1979. Boney M’s days as hitmakers were largely over, Farin did continue to produce albums and singles under the Boney M name well into the 1980s. He even let Bobby Farrell vocalize for real on a track or two on a 1984 Boney M comeback single called Happy Song, Pharrell performed an ungainly rap break, which again tonally foreshadowed the sound of Milli Vanilli.
S4: We All Have a
S1: happy song was not a major revival for Boney M, it was only a top 10 hit in Germany, but by then Ferrin had already diversified his clientele after making the acquaintance of several members of 80s American hitmakers Toto. Burián hired three players from Toto to record with some others he borrowed from a couple of UK bands to form a short lived supergroup named after himself, Frank Ferrin Corporation, which was shortened to far corporation on the LP sleeve. FA Corporation are an odd footnote in chart history. The only act ever to crack the Hot 100 with a version of the classic rock song Stairway to Heaven. Led Zeppelin famously did not issue the track as a retail single in 1971. In 1986, Far Corporation’s version of Stairway reached a lowly number eighty nine on the US chart, although it was briefly a top 10 hit in England, also a first for that song in the U.K. the band only lasted one album around the same time, Farin was also producing American singer Meatloaf. Yes, that meatloaf. You will recall from our prior hit parade episode about songwriter Jim Steinman that meat spent the 80s professionally estranged from his mentor. And by the way, while I am mentioning Jim Steinman rest in peace Jim Meatloaf’s project with Frank and did nothing to reverse his fortunes during the Steinmann Less Wilderness years. The Famine produced 1986 LP Blind Before I Stop Sold Poorly. It generated one single, a histrionic duet with John Parr of St.. Elmo’s Fire Man in motion fame that just missed the UK top 30 and didn’t make the hot 100 at all
S3: called the bucket by some name talking about. Money and power and power is.
S1: Or faring even as the 80s was a fallow period, Hitwise, these experiments with new collaborators did eventually point him in the direction of his next breakthrough. It all started with a pair of remakes in 1985, Boney M, still limping along with much smaller hits, recorded a remake of Dreadlock Holliday, a 1978 Chod reggae hit by the white British rock band 10 S.S. Boney M’s remake sounded like a product of its time, very 80s, and it was pretty much a flop. No. Because Frank Ferrin would never give up on an idea, by 1987, he arranged a remix of The Dreadlock remake and he brought in a new vocalist to add a rap to the song. This is a
S4: good thing, but without. The.
S1: Charles Shaw was an African-American former military man who was stationed in Germany and took up session work there as a vocalist. He did the rap on the Dreadlock Holiday remix, and Frank Feria liked the sound of the Americans voice around this time, a pair of German deejays, professional acquaintances of Franks who would tip him off to hot club records past Feresten, a copy of this American import 12 inch single to ferry. And it sounded like a smash in the making.
S4: Now, though, the girl doesn’t know this is true.
S1: Newmark’s was a Baltimore deejay crew who had written Girl, you know it’s true. In 1986, the single was only a minor club for a Newmark’s, but it was doing relatively well in Europe. By the way, another fun footnote among the members of Newmark’s was future Def Jam label executive Kevin Lyall’s the same Kevin Lyall’s, who in the late 90s would sign rapper DMX to Def Jam and generate all of exs big hits. And, by the way, rest in peace. DMX wanted to tell you that this is not the last time our story of Milli Vanilli, that goofy group of euro dance pop hit purveyors, will cross paths with more legit American rap. Indeed, and I realize this assertion might get me in trouble with hardcore hip hop heads. Milli Vanilli played an undeniable role, however dubious, in mainstreaming rap for pop fans in the late 80s. Of course, by the time Frank Farin heard that Newmark’s track rap had broken through on the charts both in the US and across Europe, thanks to Run DMC s smash 1986 remake of Arrowsmith’s Walk This Way.
S3: Want to tell me I love the way she talk to.
S1: Moreover, by 1987 and 88, hip hop sampling and turntablism were infiltrating the clubs and in turn the pop charts, as on the seminal smash by Mars, pump up the volume,
S2: up the volume, pump up the volume, pump up the volume before.
S1: And additionally, some R and B stars like former new additions member Bobby Brown were sprinkling their new jack swing jams with frequent rap breaks. I know.
S4: I know you got the diamond ring just about
S1: giving you everything. And even the harder edged, more street savvy rap was moving toward dance music.
S2: So why stop my mission, leave my residence thinking, how could I get a better president than
S1: he paid in full? Was the title track of the seminal 1987 debut album by Eric B and Rakim. The latter, still considered one of the greatest emcees in rap history, paid in full, already had an irresistible tongue tripping flow in its original version. But the track really went global when British deejay duo called Cut Remixed paid in full in a now legendary seven minutes of madness mix cold cuts version added film dialogue as well as needle drops of James Brown, Israeli singer of Rajasa, and other cuts by Eric B and Rakim themselves. But one thing called Cut didn’t mess with. If anything, they pumped it up was paid in fools irresistible beat the legendary sample of the Soul Searchers Ashlee’s Rosenquist. Cold cuts version of paid in full reach number three on Billboard’s Club chart, the biggest hit Eric B. and Rakim would ever have on any billboard chart. That wasn’t the rap songs chart, by the way. The duo’s deejay, Eric B, reportedly hated the cold cut remix. Rakim, VMC loved it. In addition to its hit status in U.S. clubs, the cold cut remix of Paid in Full was also a chart smash in England, Germany and about a dozen other countries. So it wasn’t a big leap for Frank Ferrin to hear that Newmark’s club track
S4: full of girls just enough girls.
S1: This is true. And for him to go into the studio with an array of his favorite session, musicians throw the Ashlee’s roach clip beat on top of it and turn it into this. Burián had transformed girl, you know, it’s true from catchin to catnip, but the crew he’d assembled to record the ditty, including rapper Charles Shaw and session singers John Davis and Brad, how all of them approaching middle age didn’t strike Ferrin as hip enough to be the image of his new rap pop project. That’s when Ferrin decided he could do with this track of what he’d already done with Boney M and Bobby Farrell more than a decade before he had the song. It was recorded and already in the camp he just needed the faces. And Farin had just met two young guys with pretty faces who could be his new Bobby Farrell’s.
S2: He said, Look, we have a problem here. We spend money on the single already, you know. So basically, he said he needed an act. Since I’m an actor and entertainer, a model comedian, actor who poses as a singer,
S1: German born Robert Politesse and French born Fabrice Morvan, a.k.a. Rob and Fab were models and dancers who had met in Munich in 1988 and bonded over their shared status as people of color in the German club scene and their desire for fame. That eagerness led Rob and Fab to sign what they later called a devil’s pact with Frank Farin to be the faces of Milli Vanilli. Now the story of Rob and Fab. Both the hilarity and the tragedy has been told and retold. Most versions of the Milli Vanilli story focus on this aspect. Robin Fab’s naive entry into a deal with Frank Feria and the toll Milli Vanilli boom and bust took on them. This indeed is why Milli Vanilli was the topic of that. First Behind the music, a classic tale about the price of fame, including elements of sex and drugs. This is all very compelling. I’m not going to pretend it’s not, but I won’t focus much on these aspects of the story. We’ll link on the show page to the BTM episode, which does an exhaustive, frankly exhausting job telling Rob and Fab’s story. We had hit Parade, have our own behind the music story to tell not only about the music itself, but about how it became such a massive hit, even despite Frank Ferenz subterfuge and Robin Fab’s Play-acting. However scant Rob and Fab did have some musical experience, both had tried session work and politesse, had even backed up a song that in one very high profile arena had been a massive success. Germanies 1987 entry in the Eurovision Song Contest, a track by the band winners called Forgive My Terrible German Lust Dzung Indictments or Let the Sun into Your Heart.
S3: Last night at.
S1: You can even see Rob Politesse singing in at least one version of the wind performance video, the song placed second in Eurovision 87, making Germany that year’s runner up behind Ireland. Maybe Rob was hired by wind for the same reason Frank Ferrin later hired him his good looks. It probably wasn’t his singing voice. Most accounts of Milli Vanilli claimed that between the two young men, Fabrice Morvan had the greater musical talent. And virtually all accounts agree. Neither Rob nor Fab had much musical skill when they auditioned for Ferrin. But like Bobby Farrell miming Ferenz Boney M vocals back in 1976, Rob and Fab looked convincing and striking. Did they look like rappers or even RB singers? Hardly. But they were the right combination of pretty athletic, exotic and energetic to carry off Milli Vanilli. And speaking of energetic, that mean there are multiple stories about where Milli Vanilli came from. The most repeated story originally claimed in the Act’s publicity materials was that Milli Vanilli means positive energy in Turkish total hogwash. But there have been so many other folk etymology for Milli Vanilli, a defunct disco in Berlin, a riff on the pop band Screeds Pollini, a nickname Frank Ferrin and gave his office assistant. I tend to think that last one might be the right one. Wherever the name came from. It was catchy and didn’t pretend to be a hard edged Milli Vanilli was going to be a pure delivery system for hip hop era musical hooks.
S3: Ziplining. I understand.
S1: In the video that catapulted Milli Vanilli to fame, Rob and Fab, dressed in big jackets, biker shorts and boots, played their parts expertly striking poses running in place and swinging their dreadlocks, a move that looked really cool in slo mo. A band mimes along behind them, including a drummer just barely approximating the Ashlee’s roach clip sample. Fab takes the harder vocal part lip dubbing Charles Shaw’s rapid fire rap and Rob sings the Davis and how melodies when he’s not leaping, kicking or executing a split. Probably most important, the duo give meaningful stares to the camera when singing I love you. It was silly, but not much sillier than most of what was on MTV at the time. Like my
S4: know, when you are
S3: making the jump, the gun in the form.
S1: Given Frank Ferenz track record in Europe and the minor success of the original Newmark’s 12 inch in European clubs, Milli Vanilli? S version of Girl You know it’s true broke in Europe first in 1988, it was number one in Germany for six weeks. In August and September of that year, the track was slower to break in England, where Boney M did so well in the 70s. But before the end of the year, Girl had risen to number three on the UK charts. A full Milli Vanilli album titled All or Nothing, was released in November on the German label Hanse in the U.K., an acid house label, Cool Tempo, picked up the album for distribution. All or nothing was filled with tracks that emulated the sound of the smash first single. So this is around. When America started to take notice, Clive Davis was having a good late 80s Arista Records. The label Davis had founded in the mid 70s was commanding the American hit parade with a spate of danceable diva pop from the likes of Taylor Dayne exposé and of course, Clive’s flagship artist, Whitney Houston,
S3: with Up Feeling Down and you’ve got to toughen up.
S1: The line on Clive Davis has always been that the man has issues. He can hear a hit, and even with his limited knowledge of either rap or euro dance music, Davis could tell a girl, you know, it’s true was a smash. His team signed Frank Fashions project to an American distribution deal. But being the hands on executive he is, Davis insisted the American version of Milli Vanilli s album would swap out some tracks so long as Davis wouldn’t send any of his Arista executives out to Germany to watch Frank and work. Frank, desperate to keep his Milli Vanilli secret, readily agreed.
S3: You do what you want to do,
S1: for example, Davis proposed that Milli Vanilli record an R and B classic Americans would know well, the Isley Brothers, 1969 KITT, it’s your thing fairings team. Gladly a block
S4: do you want to do now?
S1: Davis also passed Team Farin, a song he had been given by Diane Warren, a superstar American songwriter who’d already generated multiple chart topping hits. Warren was herself on a hot streak, having scored no ones just in the last two years for rebooted 60s band Starship. No. And rebooted 70s hit makers, Chicago
S3: and now and.
S1: The American version of the Milli Vanilli album would be titled after its lead single Girl You Know It’s True. And that single on Arista made its debut on the Hot 100 the first week of January nineteen eighty nine. It was a good time to drop a track that leaned in the general direction of American rap. Rising on the charts at that very moment was West Coast rapper Tone LOC with his horny smash Wild Thing, which one month later would peak on the chart. At number two,
S3: the wild was
S1: like Wild thing girl, you know it’s true would help make rap palatable to Middle America. The Milli Vanilli single opened at number 83 on the Hot 100 and rose steadily for the next two months, cracking the top 10 in its tenth week, the top five for week.
S3: Lady Gaga. You know it’s true.
S1: Finally, in early April, girl, you know, it’s true, topped out at number two, the same peak tone LOC had reached two months earlier and Milli Vanilli might have gone all the way if they hadn’t been sandwiched between a chart topping ballad by The Bangles. Phil.
S4: Am I only doing.
S1: And at number three, a rising hit by Swedish pop duo Rock Set, which would leap to number one the following week, blocking Milli Vanilli live.
S3: He’s got a new members, has been in the and is an 11 is a wild dog. She’s got a look.
S1: So, yeah, early 1989 was not the edgiest time on the pop charts. And of course, girl, you know, it’s true, wasn’t edgy either. But here was the remarkable thing. One month before it peaked, Billboard launched its first ever hot rap singles chart based on sales reports from retailers of their top selling rap singles. And guess what appeared on hot rap singles in its very first week, sandwiched between kid and play at number four?
S4: Everybody’s say.
S1: And Rob Base and D.J. Easy Rock at number six, because this is
S4: what you want to get on the dance floor.
S1: Yep, you guessed it Milli Vanilli. I am my
S4: mom. You know what I think about every
S1: so, OK, maybe record retailers weren’t sure what to call this dance pop single with rapping on it in March of 1989. But the panel of stores reporting to Billboard’s new rap chart included black owned retailers who also contributed to the magazine’s R and B chart, where, by the way, Milli Vanilli were also charting that week, peaking at number three between top five hits by LaVert and Anita Baker. Girl you know it’s true was a legit crossover smash through.
S3: And that is
S1: the girl, you know, it’s true album debuted on the charts in late March of eighty nine. Within a month, it had soared into the top 20 and gone gold to take it to platinum. Arista Records didn’t mess around. They dropped a second single. That was a near carbon copy of the first. Gasmask. Baby, don’t forget, my number used the exact same Ashlee’s roach clip beat on the chorus as girl, you know, it’s true, it had the same wrapped verses and sung chorus formula as the prior hit, and its melody was like, girls gone even pop. Baby, don’t forget, my number flew into the top 10 on both the RB and pop charts in just two months with a second hit now all over the radio, the girl you know, it’s true album rose into the top 10 and went platinum. And for the week ending July 1st, Milli Vanilli had their first chart topper in America as baby. Don’t forget, my number went the distance on the Hot 100, having scored their first number one Clive Davis team at Arista wanted to see if Milli Vanilli could survive a sonic change up a ballad. This was a typical move for a pop act leading off with an Up-Tempo cut or two and then downshifting. The summer of 89 in particular, was awash in ballads with syrupy no ones by everyone from new kids on the block. To Richard Marx, where is. Frank Fairings team had indeed written a Milli Vanilli ballad with the rather obvious title, I’m Going to Miss You, but they hadn’t tried it as a single anywhere in the world yet. The American label went for it and to doubly insure its success. When they issued it as a single, they put Milli Vanilli? S favorite word in front of the title Girl I’m Going to Miss You, featuring yet another video starring Rob and FAPE, this time shot in black and white in tight muscle T-shirts brooding at the camera Girl I’m Going to Miss You was an easy smash. It was the hot 100 highest new entry, the first week of August, and it rose quickly. Milli Vanilli were now a known quantity to radio programs. By mid-September, Milli Vanilli had its second straight No. One and third straight top two hit.
S4: That was nothing to do to make you stay. I’m going to miss you.
S1: Something odd had now happened to Milli Vanilli. They were officially more successful in America than anywhere else in the world. They call it the magic touch of Clive Davis’s promotion machine. But the group hadn’t scored a second number one any place else. Moreover, the same week, girl, I’m going to miss you rose to number one on the hot 100, the girl you know it’s true album also reach number one on the album chart. That was better than the all or nothing album had done anywhere in Europe. Milli Vanilli started receiving superstar level opportunities before the summer was over. They had been invited out on the road by MTV, the channel’s dance music show club. MTV, was launching its first packaged tour. Among the acts on the bill were rapper Tone LOC before
S2: he was much, much meaner. But now all the boys want them out for the funky Coleman up St..
S1: Paul, Minnesota Techno Pop Act Information Society.
S3: I want to know your name. Tell me what’s on your mind.
S1: And Paula Abdul, one of the biggest new pop acts of the year and the only artist scoring as many number ones that year as Milli Vanilli. Rob and Fab had broken into the big time. They loved their superstar status, arriving in limos, partying with scores of women, making fans scream the club MTV tour should have been a high point. Unfortunately, it was also the place where this now infamous incident happened.
S3: No, no, no, no, no, no.
S1: Bristol, Connecticut, looked like it was about to be Milli Vanilli Waterloo, the moment when they very publicly went down in defeat on July 21st, 1989, at a date on the club MTV tour in Bristol in front of thousands of screaming fans, the backing track supplying Rob Poultices and Fabrice more Von’s vocals got stuck in a loop. This piece of footage is the most damning evidence in the Milli Vanilli story. It’s frankly amazing in the era before camera phones or even light camcorders that this moment was captured on tape at all. As the story goes, Rob Politesse ran off stage, mortified, convinced the game was up for him and for Breece, and he had to be coaxed back on stage by club MTV host downtown Julie Brown.
S5: So with a bit of pushing and screaming, a couple of friends, I think as well, I got them back out there. And the funny thing is they got back out there and nobody cared. The audience didn’t care. It was more basically people were laughing at them behind the scenes, more than in front.
S1: It’s logical that a live audience would be unfazed by this glitch at a dance music show where performers routinely played to track, even if they are not usually lip synching, even their vocals. The thing about the Bristol, Connecticut incident is it wasn’t Milli Vanilli s Waterloo. The revelation of their deception and the heavy fallout wouldn’t happen for more than a year. Maybe that was because as of 1989 and 1990, hit dance records with selectively hidden vocalists were becoming commonplace, particularly among acts that originated in Europe and
S3: found a place to stay. But I
S4: make my day
S1: later. In 1989, the Belgian electro dance project Techno Tronic began a small streak of hits on the Hot 100 with their number two smash Pump Up the Jam, the full credit for the hit Red Techno Tronic featuring Feli. That was Congolese model Feli Kalinga, who lip syncs the vocals in the video for Pump Up the Jam. But the actual vocals on the track were by YA Kid K, a deliberately unglamorous rapper and singer who preferred to dress in street fashion. Techno Tronic didn’t take long to become more truthful by the time of their follow up hit Get Up Before the Night Is Over Yolked K was appearing in the video and later singles credited her as the featured artist saying Get up, get up, get
S4: busy, get up.
S1: And somewhat more contentious was the situation with Italian house music group BLACKBOX, an act whose very title suggested a kind of mystery about who exactly was performing black boxes debut single the 1989 global hit Ride on Time.
S3: It was built
S1: out of a chopped up sample of the 1980 public love sensation by Lolita Hollywood, by the way, that’s the same hit we told you about in our featured artists episode of Hit Parade, because Holloway’s jam later also became the basis for marketing marks. Good Vibrations,
S3: it’s. A feeling that.
S1: When Blackbox couldn’t clear the sample of Hollaway singing, they hired a session vocalist Heather Small to simply rescind Holloway’s part.
S3: Yielder. Y y y.
S1: But then in the video for Ride on Time, Blackbox hired, yepp, a Marvel Katrín Quinault to lip sync the song. So a vocal that had started as lowly of and had been rerecorded by Heather Small was performed without either of them for the cameras unchastened a year later when Blackbox had their U.S. chart breakthrough with the hit. Everybody, everybody. They were still using different vocalists in the studio and in their videos, famed vocalist Martha Wash was the singer on Everybody Everybody and Quinnell continued as the face of the group. Wash would end up suing the producers and the label and won a large settlement, even as Blackbox scored two more Top 40 hits with her invisible vocals on the tracks. The difference between Milli Vanilli and either Techno Tronic or blackbox was one of sales. The Milli Vanilli album and singles were chart toppers and celebrity profile. The models employed by those other groups were used largely for music videos, whereas Rob and Fab were more than faces for Milli Vanilli. They toured, made TV appearances and gave interviews and frankly, the fame was going to their heads. In one infamous Time magazine article, a hubristic Rob Politesse told interviewer Jaycox, quote, Musically, we’re more talented than any Bob Dylan or Paul McCartney. Mick Jagger. His lines are not clear. He don’t know how he should produce a sound. I’m the new modern rock and roll. I’m the new Elvis, unquote. Whatever your opinion about those prior rock legends, you have to agree. Rob and Fab were asking for trouble. One other big difference between Milli Vanilli and other contemporaneous dance pop acts was the bona fides of their songs. Well, one song in particular, anyway,
S3: they got to be something someday.
S1: Remember that Diane Warren track I mentioned earlier, the one she gave to Arista Records president Clive Davis, who then bequeathed it to Frank Farin, Blame It On the Rain, was a song Warren had intended for family pop group the Jets, who declined to record it. But the Journey woman, songwriter, the author of so many hits with the uncanny ability to turn Hallmark’s sentiments into songs would not be deterred. And Clive Davis knew a Diane Warren song was Money in the Bank. If I could come back to. Nearby. Indeed, 1989 ranks as one of Warren’s most successful years, her late 1988 hit with Chicago Look Away wound up being Billboard’s number one song of 1989. In September 89, the same week, Milli Vanilli were at number one with girl, I’m Going To Miss You. Another Diane Warren composition was sitting at number three, Cher’s perennial, if I could turn back time.
S3: I want to see.
S1: Two months later, Diane Warren pulled off her biggest chart coup, two consecutive No ones on the hot 100. First, the shlock rock supergroup Bad English, consisting of singer John Waite fronting members of Jurnee scored an immediate number one with the Warren Pend Power ballad, When I See You Smile. I see. Then after two weeks at number one, bad English gave way to Milli Vanilli, who had indeed recorded blame it on the rain. It spent its own fortnight at number one. That was four straight weeks where America’s top song was written by Diane Warren. Decades later, in an interview about her songwriting career with Rolling Stone, Diane Warren said simply, quote, Whoever sang that song, I love it, unquote. To be precise, the main verse vocal appears to be the work of Brad Howe, who is then joined on the chorus by John Davis. Frank fairings other ghost vocalist and how does indeed do a stellar job singing the song.
S3: Now, you wish that you had. And you feel like the top. You want to
S1: blame it on the rain is arguably the most enduring Milli Vanilli hit of all, the one you’re likely to still hear on the radio decades later, it was the group’s third consecutive number one hit and their second to go platinum after girl. You know, it’s true. Rain also pushed the girl. You know, it’s true. Album by January of 1990 to a stunning six million in U.S. sales. Beyond these chart and sales achievements, blame it on the rain. More than any of Milli Vanilli s hits gave them the stamp of industry legitimacy. Even after the whispers in the business coming out of the Bristol, Connecticut incident. The fact that the so-called duo had reached the top not only multiple times but culminating with a song by one of the industry’s most celebrated songwriters, made Milli Vanilli seem legit. That sense of legitimacy might help explain what began happening in the winter of 1990.
S4: American musical world. And the winner is. What? Milli Vanilli.
S1: It started with the American Music Awards, the less prestigious of the annual Music Awards shows where prizes were determined by an industry cabal. Later, the AMAs would be turned into a kind of people’s choice awards of music. Whoever did the voting in 1990, Milli Vanilli took home the favorite pop rock New Artist Award, defeating hard rock band Living Colour. And the George Harrison fronted supergroup the Traveling Wilburys do the. But the AMA is not the prize for which Milli Vanilli is most famous or infamous. That was, of course, the Grammy Award. And before I try to explain how exactly Rob and Fab won the gramophone that brought about their downfall, I first need to provide a bit of background on the specific, somewhat dubious Grammy category. They won Best New Artist. To this day, Best New Artist is considered one of the big four prizes at the Grammys alongside album record and Song of the Year, but it’s the weirdest, most oddball category. For starters, it’s the only Grammy presented not for a specific work, a song, an album, but rather to the artists themselves. It’s sort of like a most promising newcomer prize, the recording academy, placing a bet that an actor has a long career ahead of them, which then has a tendency to look foolish when they choose an act like 70s. One hit wonders. The Starland Vocal Band is
S4: getting so excited.
S3: Skyrockets in like.
S1: The members of the Starland Vocal Band themselves called their best new artist Grammy a curse, quote, the kiss of death, said singer Taffy Danoff. Maybe that’s also because the prize tends to go to the rockiest, most middle of the road act in the category like in 1963, when the Four Seasons and Peter, Paul and Mary were beaten for Best New Artist by Robert Goulet.
S3: My name is. But even show
S4: me your screen,
S1: or in 1981, when Christopher Cross took the prize, I mean, hey, we hear it hit Parade, love our yacht rock. But he won over The Pretenders. And Cross himself has said that best new artist out of all the Grammys he won that night was a particular albatross on his career.
S3: But I’d like to win back.
S1: Or in 1992, when both boys to men and seal were beaten for Best New Artist by Marc Cohn made famous for his only Top 40 hit Walking in Memphis, The
S3: Walking Dead Man who was walking with my feet 10 feet off a bill.
S1: Or lest we forget, 2014, when a murderer’s row of Kendrick Lamar, Kacey Musgraves, James Blake and Ed Sheeran were all defeated by Best New Artist winners Macklemore and Ryan Lewis. I’m going to
S2: have some tags. Only got twenty dollars
S3: in my bag. And I’m looking for a.
S1: It’s easy to pick on the best new artist winners whose careers fizzled out, some legitimately great acts, took that Grammy like Carly Simon in 1972. Survation. Anticipate. Cyndi Lauper in 1985, you
S3: can go, you will find me time after time.
S1: And Lauryn Hill in 1999 up. But even in these cases, the award is no guarantee of career trajectory. Simon had a roughly 10 year run as a reliable hit maker. Loppers platinum phase lasted less than half a decade, and Hill famously has never recorded a studio album follow up to her now legendary The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill. So even for the greats, Best New Artist is just a strange prize, one that is trying to project forward in time rather than simply reward a musical work that already happened. This brings us back to the Best New Artist competition of 1990. The fact that Milli Vanilli were in the category at all probably had something to do with the hit they had right around voting time. The Diane Warren penned blame it on the rain, rain, rain. And here were the other contenders for the prize folk rock duo The Indigo Girls see my source for some.
S4: Closer I am.
S1: Gravel voiced rapper and hitmaker Tone LOC, but that’s what happens when a body starts slapping
S3: from doing a wild ride while
S1: British dance and R and B music collective soul to soul. And Swedish born American raised rapper and singer Nana Cherrix, really taking a stand down in your opinions on these four acts, may vary. I, for one, ranked Cherrie’s Buffalo’s stance among my all time favorite singles. And I have long loved the Indigo Girls, whose career is still ongoing. What is inarguable is that any of the four of these acts winning Best New Artist would have been less embarrassing than Milli Vanilli winning, less embarrassing for the Grammys and for Rob and Fab themselves. It should also be noted that this was the only Grammy category Milli Vanilli were up for that night. None of their hit songs nor their smash album was nominated, not even in the genre categories like Pop, RB or dance.
S2: This isn’t all that often. And you often say, Oh well, I like you say in French, we want to say thank you to our producer, Frank Burián, to our manager Sandidge Ellington Headly, and to you.
S1: On the other hand, Milli Vanilli? S win may have been misbegotten, but it wasn’t inexplicable. Consider this just in terms of sales numbers. Milli Vanilli had moved more albums by February 21st, 1990, the night of the Grammys. Then the other four acts combined. Cherry’s album Raw like Sushi and the Indigo Girls self-titled major label debut were to that point both gold sold to Souls. Keep On Moving was platinum by Grammy night and tone lokes chart topping Lochte after dark was double platinum. That’s roughly four million albums total to Milli Vanilli s six million plus Milli Vanilli had generated three number ones and a number two on the Hot 100. The other four acts had no number one hits. Among them, Cherry Lokke and Soul to Soul had a couple of hits apiece, most of them top tens. Mind you, this isn’t much of a defense of Grammy voters rationale for bestowing the prize as they did. Best New Artist is supposed to be forward looking, not backward. And the recording academy claims its prizes are bestowed not for sales but for artistic merit. But this sales and charts comparison does explain the momentum Rob and Fab had going into the night. Milli Vanilli album was packed with hits that had kept radio and retail afloat for more than a year.
S4: It’s got to be some.
S1: Indeed, Milli Vanilli were not even done scoring hits the same week they won the Grammy. One more hit from girl, you know, it’s true, reached its peak all or nothing. The title track from the original European version of the album, which had also made the American album. It reached number four on the Hot 100. But even this last hit was not an unqualified victory. Later in 1990, Canadian singer songwriter David Clayton Thomas, lead singer of late 60s hit makers Blood, Sweat and Tears, realized that all or nothing for more than a passing resemblance to be his 1969 number two hit Spinning Wheel, as in the chorus melody of both songs, was identical. Note for note,
S4: what goes
S3: up must come down.
S4: And and we’ve got to go around talking about your troubles and cry in the cinema verite. A painted pony. Let the spinning wheel
S1: spin so Clayton Thomas would sue Frank Ferry over the copyright violation. The matter was settled with Clayton Thomas belatedly paid for the infringement. Still, the success of all or nothing kept Milli Vanilli hit making streak intact, it would be the last single issued from Girl, you know, it’s true, which had spent seven weeks at number one on the album chart between 1989 and 1990. Actually, all or nothing would also be the final Milli Vanilli single period, as it turned out. And again, all five of these hits had reached the U.S. top five. For my fellow chart geeks out there, this is an exceptional hit making ratio for an act to issue only five songs ever in a career and have all five reach. The top five is some kind of record. As we discussed in our One Hit Wonders episode, there have been plenty of acts with just a single top 10, top five or number one hit who never release anything again. There are also a small number of acts who released only two charting singles total and saw both of them reach the top 10 like Ugly Kid Joe or the top five like Jesus Jones. But five singles, each of them a top five hit. If you will allow me a creative metaphor. This makes Milli Vanilli the John Khazaal of Pop Acts Kazal, whose acting career was cut short when he tragically died of cancer at age forty two in nineteen seventy eight had only ever acted in five feature films total and all five were Best Picture Oscar nominees. Seriously, look it up. Milli Vanilli had a similarly abnormally short career and an unusually consistent chart streak. So at the risk of insulting a great actor whose work was far, far better than a Milli Vanilli record, the German pop act and the Italian American actor had a similarly perfect batting average
S4: and her older brother, Mike and I would step out of the way I wanted. I can handle things, I’m smart. And like everybody says, like what’s smart and I want to specked,
S1: as it turned out, Rob Politesse and Fabrice Morvan were not much smarter than Fredo Corleone and like him, their career was about to be snuffed out. Over the summer of 1990, Frank Ferrin stalled for time by releasing a U.S. remix album with the creative title Milli Vanilli, the remix album, it contained marginally different versions of all five of their American hits, plus tracks from the original European Milli Vanilli album that hadn’t made the cut for the American LP songs like Boy in the Tree. As critic Jimi Guterman would later write in his book, The Worst Rock and Roll Records of all time, quote, Imagine, if you can, the existence of songs not good enough to make it onto a Milli Vanilli record, unquote. But behind the scenes, a struggle was taking place. Rob and Fab were finally pushing back. They were telling fairy and they couldn’t keep up the ruse. And more important, that they wanted to actually sing on the next Milli Vanilli album. At various times between 1989 and 1990, Rob Fab and even the group’s studio rapper Charles Shaw, had all threatened to blow the lid off the scheme. Shaw even gave an interview in which he claimed he was the actual vocalist behind the group, but then, under pressure from Ferrin, rescinded his comments. Finally, in November of 1990, Ferrin himself had had enough and he decided he would unmask Milli Vanilli before anyone else could do so. In a statement to the press, Ferrin revealed, quote, The record company never knew. I never told them anything. Later on, after the record was out, there were some people who raised some questions, unquote. Things moved quickly after Ferenz revelation within days, Michael Green, the president of the recording academy, declared the best new artist Grammy would be taken back.
S6: We are taking it to our awards and nominations subcommittee and they may choose to give the Grammy to the second runner up. They may choose to give the Grammy to No. One this year. They just may say best new artist, no Grammy given.
S1: As it turned out, the latter was what the Grammy committee chose, vacating the prize entirely for 1990 and not awarding it to anyone among Nina Cherry, Indigo Girls, Tone LOC or Soul to Soul. We’ll never know who that runner-up was. Less than a week after Fashion’s revelation on November 20th, 1990, Rob Politesse and Fabrice Morvan, accompanied by a lawyer, held a press conference that was a feeding frenzy of reporters and photographers. Even MTV’s unflappable newscaster Kurt Loder was taken aback.
S6: Milli Vanilli did demonstrate a lot of guts and showing up at a press conference in Los Angeles last Tuesday to confront a roomful of reporters who were definitely out for blood. We ended it, Robin, and it would enough for me to tell them that, because when know record, you have to go to the press and say that we don’t think because we couldn’t break out of our contract, so we had to press the button. We finish this game right now. And sometimes the real thing is and I think they should get this great. So we give this Grammy back.
S1: Now, there were repercussions for everyone involved in the scandal. Arista Records wound up settling a class action lawsuit among buyers of the Milli Vanilli album. Interestingly, only the liner notes of the American edition of the album, not the European all or nothing listed Rob Politesse and Fabrice Morvan as vocalists, which made Arista liable. An estimated 10 million buyers of Milli Vanilli albums and singles in the United States were eligible to claim a refund of a few dollars for their purchase by 1992. Reportedly, not many took advantage of the offer for the performers behind Milli Vanilli, the people who really sang the songs. The revelation was a chance to, at last, put themselves in the spotlight. They recorded what would have been the second Milli Vanilli album with Frank Farin producing, and in 1991 they released the CD under the group’s name, The Real Milli Vanilli, and the album title The Moment of Truth. The video for Keep on Running featured singers Brad Howell and John Davis on camera for the first time keeping. The album was only issued in a few countries all outside of the U.S., and it only charted in Germany, the real Milli Vanilli soon disbanded. And what about Rob and Fab? They wanted to prove they could really sing. They moved to L.A., recorded an album called Rob and Fab, many of whose songs were co-written by Fabrice Morvan. And they released it in 1993, Only in America on the very small Joss entertainment label. They promoted it by appearing on The Arsenio Hall Show and even shot a video for the single We Can Get It On.
S3: So when the.
S1: Reportedly, the Rob and Fab album only sold 2000 copies, total even worse than the real Milli Vanilli album. If Frank Varian was craven, he was ultimately correct the combination of his ear for pop hooks, Rob and Fab’s stage presence and the studio musicians chops were what made Milli Vanilli a success. The hole was far greater than the sum of its parts. The rise and fall of Milli Vanilli was remarkably swift, barely two years boom to bust. But the Milli Vanilli approach that rap informed dance pop style that proved far more enduring a lot of chart topping music in the early 90s sounded like hipper permutations of Milli Vanilli.
S2: Take the breath, go for your own McCommon now hit the dance floor is going to make you sweat to believe if that opened up A, B,
S1: C and C Music Factory, the American multi platinum dance collective combined pop house books and prominent rapping. They even got into their own hot water by having a model lip sync to vocals by Martha Wash. Or how about these guys who, like Frank Farin, originated in Germany. SNAP scored a pair of enormous pop hits with the power and Rhythm is a dancer, both prominently featuring rapping from American vocalist Turbow B snaps beats were harder than Milli Vanilli and turbo BS, rapping more robust. But the overall approach was the same or a couple of years later, yet another Germany based actor.
S3: So. I took.
S1: The real McCoy, a Berlin based euro dance group whose debut album and single, both titled Another Night, went platinum in America in 1994, and they offered yet another catchy permutation of the frank and formula. And by the way, these are just the dance pop acts. What did Milli Vanilli do to actual hip hop out of the way? What makes her
S4: work? I guess the question to the
S1: experts, for one thing, they made the Ashlee’s roach clip beat safe for pop crossover P.M. Don, whom we talked about in our 90s rap episode of Hit Parade, built there in nineteen ninety one number one smash set adrift on memory, blissed out of a Spandau Ballet sample, and yet again, that irresistible dance. Even among rappers who didn’t borrow that beat, Milli Vanilli arguably opened top 40 radio playlists to more melodic rap like Naughty by Nature’s Top 10, smash up a street savvy rap track that would have been a harder sell at pop radio in 1988 than it was in 1991. Membership helping me get out without being seen. What about producer Frank Ferrin? Rather than shaming him out of the business, the music industry seemed to admire his hustle. Within a few years, he was back in the top 40 with hits he’d produced for Labash. He and their sister project let click. Burián even anticipated pop radios shift from hip hop back to pure pop in 1996 when he assembled a trio of Latin ex boy band style American singers whom he dubbed No Mercy, their single. Where Do You Go? Was a top 10 hit around the world, including number five in America.
S3: Where do you go now?
S1: Virtually everything Frank Farin, conceived for Milli Vanilli, became more commonplace on the charts in the decades to come, Pop acts with deliberately phony front persons. Damon Albarn of Blur created one of those in the early aughts with Gorillaz, an act fronted in all the videos by comic book style animated characters and. Or acts that use backing tracks and get caught lip synching in a live setting. Ask Ashlee Simpson how that worked out for her on Saturday Night Live in 2004,
S4: on a Monday
S3: anway. Tuesday, I think,
S1: very often even institutionalized the sub genre of hip hop, now commonly called the club rapper, acts that do rap but are aiming more for the dance floor than the street kingpin club. Rappers of the 21st century have included Flo Rida.
S3: And right now, you know,
S1: the Black Eyed Peas got
S3: a feeling. That tonight’s going to be. Good night
S1: and LMFAO,
S2: I’m sexy and I know.
S1: Like Jim Steinman before him, Frank Ferenz array of pop hits eventually made it to the stage. A jukebox musical called Daddy Cool The Musical made its debut in London’s West End in 2006, featuring mostly songs from Ferenz Boney M years, but also several hits made famous by Milli Vanilli.
S3: P.M. on something. Blame, though,
S1: the show wound up touring Europe for years, and Milli Vanilli hits like Baby Don’t Forget My Number were translated into several languages, including German and Dutch.
S3: Decompose. It smells.
S1: As for the front of Milli Vanilli, the epilogue to their moment commanding the Zaat, Gaist was far more poignant after the failure of the Rob and Fab album. Rob Politesse spent the rest of the 90s in and out of rehab. The boom and bust cycle of fame deeply, emotionally affected him. In the early 90s, he even attempted suicide. Around 1997, Frank Farin, guilt ridden over Rob’s condition, bailed palletize out of jail after an attempted robbery. And he even began working with Rob and Fab again for a potential Milli Vanilli comeback. But the potential comeback was short lived. On April 2nd, 1998, politesse was found dead in a hotel room in Frankfurt, the victim of an overdose of prescription drugs and alcohol. And what about Fabrice Morvan, the surviving half of the Milli Vanilli duo may not have been a good enough musician to sing on his smash 1989 album or make the Robin Fab album a hit in 1993. But he stuck to his music, and eventually in 2003, he released a fairly well-received solo album called Love Revolution. You just got to be. A decade and a half later, Belgian house music Jerry Romero invited Morvern to do the vocals on his European club hit celebrate.
S4: I like the way you
S3: made me feel.
S1: Perhaps the most touching moment for Fabrice Morvan in the last decade occurred on a German talk show in 2015. Fab was invited onto TV host Carmen Noble’s program to sing alongside John Davis, one of the two singers who recorded all of Milli Vanilli music back in the day. Fab’s vocal skills in the intervening 25 years had improved considerably, and he and Davis performed a live medley of Milli Vanilli hits. The German crowd sang along. Many of them appeared to know every word. And for those few minutes as Fab and the man whose vocals he lip sync to all those years ago sang together for real. Well, you know, it was true
S3: all the way through. Oh, I love you.
S1: I hope you enjoyed this episode of Hit Parade. Our show was written, edited and narrated by Chris Melaniphy. That’s me. My producer is Asha Solutia, and we also had help from Rosemary Bellson. June Thomas is the senior managing producer, and Gabriel Roth, the editorial director of Slate podcasts. Check out their roster of shows at Slate Dotcom Slash podcasts. You can subscribe to Hit Parade wherever you get your podcasts. In addition to finding it in the Slate Culture Feed, if you’re subscribing on Apple podcasts, please rate and review us while you’re there. It helps other listeners find the show. Thanks for listening and I look forward to leading the hit parade back your way. Until then, keep on marching on the one on Christmas. We see.