Mari Wilson is best - perhaps solely - remembered for her beehive hairdo and matching 60s kitsch sound on her one proper hit Just What I Always Wanted.
She followed it up with a cover of Julie London's jazzy ballad Cry Me A River (limited edition had a free hanky!), setting the course for this subtle and affecting version of Peggy Lee's Dance With A Stranger as the title song for the movie.
If it doesn't look like how you remember Mari Wilson on the cover, that's because it isn't. It's the movie's lead actor Miranda Richardson.
I saw Richardson outside Russell & Bromley's in Southport around this time, pretty soon after seeing Mike Score out of A Flock Of Seagulls outside a shoeshop in Liverpool's Church Street. What was it with me and minor celebrities adjacent to Merseyside footwear retailers in the mid 80s? Who knows?
Anyway, Richardson's familiar for being Queen Elizabeth in Blackadder II. A more different role is hard to imagine.
The film tells the tempestuous story of Ruth Ellis, last woman to be judicially hanged in the UK, and the violent relationship that culminated in her killing her boyfriend. Scripted by Shelagh Delaney of A Taste Of Honey fame, it's got that same unglossy sense of real lives that made her name, and Richardson's performance opposite Rupert Everett is superb.
Rather like Blue Velvet, they've taken a sweet contemporaneous song and made it eerie by juxtaposing it with a dark and troubling film. Once you know that, the recontextualising leaves a twist on the song forever. The song is all about meeting a stanger, it is light and full of understated tingle at the potential in meeting someone who makes you go all fuzzy inside. Yet you approach the film knowing the ensuing affair is brutal and ends horrifically. This provides the key element in most great pop music; to address simulataneous conflicting emotions.
Faithful to the 1951 original, Wilson's version is remarkably warm; this was the 80s, a time of such shiny digital sterility, yet this sounds so authentic that you could readily believe it was recorded any time in the last 50 years. Dreamy, soft, playful, intimate, seductive, but with an uneasiness lent to it by the film, it's a lost gem.
[MP3 deleted to make room for new ones. Sorry! Post your email address in Comments if you'd like it emailed you]