Its been 30 years since bubbly red head, Sonia released her debut album, Everybody Knows achieving no less than five Top 20 singles from it. Not bad for a 19 year old Liverpudlian at the start of a musical journey.
The story began when a ballsy teenager decided to approach Pete Waterman, as he recorded his radio show in Liverpool, to tell him he needed to sign her; that teenage was of course Sonia. Pete called her bluff and asked her to sing live on his radio show and the switchboard (like the twitter of its day) lit up leaving Pete to realise there was something special about Sonia.
Stock, Aitken and Waterman (SAW) were ruling the charts in the mid to late 80s writing hits for Kylie, Jason Donovan, Donna Summer and many more. Sonia was the newest name to be added to this list when she recorded and released a classic pop track that only SAW could have written called You’ll Never Stop Me From Loving You in June 1989.
Comparisons were made to Kylie straight away, which is fair comment production wise; You’ll Never Stop could easily have fit on Kylie’s 1989 album Enjoy Yourself. The difference was Sonia’s soulful pop powerhouse vocal which really gets going as we hit the chorus. Lyrically (and like the entire album) it deals with love and is actually a bit stalkerish with the line ‘when I know that you’re alone, I wander to your home to catch a glimpse or two’. The accompanying video was a simple affair with Sonia dancing and flirting with a hot male dancer in a studio. I still love the middle 8 where she tries to copy his armography but then just gives up and does her own simpler moves instead.
The song itself is classic SAW and is very much of it’s time with that familiar drum loop used in so many of their tracks, but what helped it climb all the way to Number 1 on the UK’s Official Chart was Sonia’s instant likability. Sonia was an eighteen year old girl who never seemed to stop smiling and was very clean cut. It’s no wonder the Kylie comparisons came, although at the same time Kylie was starting to subtly move away from the cutesy look so Sonia felt like a natural successor especially having the SAW team behind her.
However, despite You’ll Never Stop Me From Loving You being a big Number 1 hit, the follow up track Can’t Forget You, stalled at 17. Released in October 1989, it was still unmistakably a SAW production, however the track was slightly more downbeat and mellow than it’s predecessor. The track was written specifically for Sonia after she had a chat with Mike Stock about her relationships. It’s a mid-tempo bop with another great middle 8.
For her third single, Sonia released the uplifting Listen To Your Heart at the end of November 1989. It gave her a second Top 10 hit when it peaked in January 1990 at Number 10. In the video Sonia showed off some more of her dance moves and the slinky bodysuit look that I still remember fondly as her wardrobe staple – that and floppy velvet hats!
Single four gave an even dancier Sonia as SAW added hints of New Jack Swing with their trademark bubblegum pop and it’s my favourite. I remember watching Sonia perform the track on Top of the Pops, effortlessly effervescent as she gives it her all with a dance routine that I wore out my VHS trying to master. Counting Every Minute reached number 16 on the UK Official Charts and built anticipation for the debut album, which now contained four Top 20 hits.
Sonia’s debut album, Everybody Knows was finally released on 23rd April 1990 with her smiley face appearing not once, but five times on the cover; three of those pics with her wearing floppy hats. It was unashamedly pop and Sonia was the new girl-next-door with bags of energy and a powerful singing voice. At the then standard 10 tracks, six were written by SAW, three were written by SAW studios extended family members Phil Harding, Ian Curnow and Bill Clift (Kylie fans will recognise Harding/Curnow for their amazing Shocked remix amongst many others) and the remaining track was a cover version.
I feel like the title track to the album may have been in the running for single status as it’s tracklisted second on the album (following You’ll Never Stop) and it’s another bouncy pop romp but like many SAW songs lyrically it’s quite melancholy as Sonia deals with having her heart broken and knowing that everybody else knows.
We’ve already discussed Listen To Your Heart above, and following that track is Someone Like You, the first of the Harding/Curnow/Clift penned tracks. It starts off like an ABBA track and has a slightly harder dance beat subtly in the background (a little like French Kiss). As it progresses I find myself thinking of Claire Richards from Steps and that’s not a bad comparison for Sonia’s voice actually. With it’s layered vocals in the bridge and chorus, this really could have been a track on Step One.
Counting Every Minute is next, followed by Can’t Forget You. Now That I’m Without You is track 7 and is even more Steps than Someone Like You, again with layered vocals making it sound like there’s a group of girls singing. The percussion in this song has some of the New Jack Swing influences that Counting Every Minute and also a bit of that Lonnie Gordon Happening All Over Again sound. It’s the second of the tracks not written by SAW themselves.
Can’t Help The Way That I Feel leans slightly in to House sounds mixed with classic 80s tinkles. This is another SAW track with a bridge that almost feels like it will go into You’ll Never Stop but then actually the chorus takes a more mellow down turn rather than the big in your face chorus you are expecting.
The penultimate track on the album is the final Harding/Curnow/Clift track Climb To The Top Of The Mountain. Featuring the ‘woo jack’ in the background as featured in Counting Every Minute which appeared in several tracks in the late 80s and early 90s. This is a positive track, where Sonia wants to shout from the top of a mountain about how great her relationship is – a nice contrast to some of the more downbeat lyrics elsewhere on the album.
The album finishes with the fifth and final single from Everybody Knows was a cover of the 1960’s ballad End Of The World which went to Number 2 in the US and 18 in the UK for Skeeter Davis. It gave Sonia a chance to showcase her voice and that’s exactly what she does as she gives a subtle, yet emotional vocal telling the tale of the aftermath of a break up. It reached Number 18 on the Official Charts in the summer of 1990 and was a great way to end the album.
Sonia of course went on to release more music (moving on from SAW), star in musicals, act alongside Lily Savage, narrowly miss out on winning Eurovision and much more. If you’d like to know more about what she’s up to today, follow her on Twitter.
What was your favourite song on Everybody Knows? Tell us @entfocusmusic