As comebacks go, Kylie's Spinning Around, released in 2000, was less a reinvention and more a reminder of what Kylie Minogue is all about: fun, sparkly and undeniably catchy pop tunes.
After taking a left-turn on 1998’s Impossible Princess, an intriguing, experimental album that divided critics, Spinning Around was a return to the core principles of Brand Kylie. It was fun. It was camp. It was for the clubs. It was tiny gold hot pants.
Rather than re-treading her Stock, Aitkin & Waterman sound, which didn't hold the nostalgic value then that it has today, Spinning Around played into the disco-pop revival happening in 2000 (see also: Spiller’s Groovejet and Modjo’s Lady Hear Me Tonight).
The result was Kylie’s I Should Be So Lucky for the new Millennium - and it went down a treat with the public. Spinning Around landed straight in at Number 1 on the Official Singles Chart with opening sales of just over 82,000. Against the odds, Kylie was back.
To celebrate the release of her new album, Golden, read back our interview from 2017 with Mike Spencer, who produced Spinning Around (and has also worked on this incredible list of hit singles) and told us more about how Kylie's big comeback track came together.
Hi Mike! 18 years on, Spinning Around is still a great pop song. It’s aged well, don’t you think?
"I guess it has, yes! It was part of the beginning of Kylie’s sort-of second incarnation. At the time, I was just starting out - I’d had very little chart success. In fact, Spinning Around was my first Number 1 record."
How does someone who was just starting out as a producer suddenly get to work with Kylie?
“I remember I was based in Roundhouse studios in London at the time. People at this point had assumed Kylie couldn’t get back inside the Top 20. Obviously she’s really famous and an iconic artist, but her career had gone adrift somewhat. I guess it was just one of those records that struck a chord.
“I’d been working with Beverly Knight at the time on music that had a very soul edge to it, and that’s what Spinning Around was in its original demo form. It was a soul record. The musicians I was using on it were Rob Harris from Jamiroquai and Winston Blissett who played for Lisa Stansfield. We upped the tempo and made it into a disco record. We didn’t know if it was necessarily the right thing to do, but it felt like a return to where she’d come from, back to what she does best."
You’d sort of updated Kylie’s '80s sound for the Noughties.
"In retrospect maybe, but we weren’t thinking like that at the time. The SAW (Stock Aitken Waterman) sound was very processed, very programmed. Although this was a processed dance record, it actually has real instruments playing, harping back more to the original disco era. In hindsight, it looks like a genius move, but at the time – honestly - it was a bit of a shot in the dark."
After that initial meeting, what was she like to work with in the studio?
"I recorded the instruments with the band in London and flew out to do the vocals with Kylie. I met her in a restaurant on Sunset Boulevard on January 4. I remember I was quite star struck actually. She was great in the studio. We spent a week out there recording the vocals [and] the whole experience was really fantastic."
Wasn’t Spinning Around originally intended for Paula Abdul? She has a writing credit on the song.
"I sort of knew it had been for her at some point – she definitely has a writing credit on it. That version was a lot slower – much slower in fact. It was a different song – the tune, production and concept were all different.”
Given Kylie’s career seemed to be on a downturn, was there pressure to make sure this was going to be a hit? Was there a brief on what sound they were going for?
“Not really, no. I’d had a level of success with Beverley at Parlophone and they seemed to like what I was doing with her, in particular a remix I’d done for her I’d based on Chic’s Good Times. The label liked that and asked for a similar treatment with Kylie. It was rough though. It was a, ‘Can you make this work? Can you unlock it?’ situation rather than specific instructions.
“There wasn’t much noise around Kylie at the time, which is probably why I was lucky enough to get the gig in the first place. Nobody was falling over themselves to work with her. I loved the whole experience though."
There’s an effortless quality to the song; how long did it take to bring it together?
“Quite a while. I remember I recorded the band in a studio in London on tape and ran it into Pro Tools. I also recorded a vocal on 2” tapes and took it out to LA. I remember because I got stopped at the airport with them.”
What’s your favourite bit of the song?
“I tend not to… because I’m so obsessive and so inside these records when I make them, I tend to distance myself from them when they’re released. When some time has passed and you hear the song on the radio, you have a sense of detachment from it, because the artist and the audience have breathed life into it, so I almost hear it in the way everyone else does.
“Its success and enduring appeal has always come as a bit of a surprise because, as is often the case with hit records, its success is an absolute bonus. You can never expect that.”
You’ve not worked with her since, would you be up for teaming up with Kylie in the future?
“I haven’t, but working with an artist [over several years] has never been my area of interest. It’s nothing snobby or anything like that. I tend to like working on first singles, first album. Kylie fell into that category in many ways. I like trying to unlock something and getting it right against the odds.”