For those listeners of music in the 1980s, Brit sounds dominated the airwaves and one hit came from an actor/comedian – Tracey Ullman’s They Don’t Know.
Ullman had been a successful performer in London’s West End productions, including Grease, The Rocky Horror Picture Show and Starlight Express.
Thanks to a theatre competition, Ullman’s star began to rise, and she was offered a record deal with Stiff Records, with her debut album in 1983, You Broke My Heart in 17 Places.
The single that became a hit was Breakaway, with Ullman’s comedic turns in the video making it a UK hit. But the follow up single became an international hit: They Don’t Know.
Originally performed by Kirsty MacColl, the song had been a hit in 1979, rising up to number two on the UK music charts. Ullman recorded the song, with MacColl singing backup and the in 1983, the song hit number two again, as well as number eight on the US Billboard Hot 100 and number 11 on the US Adult Contemporary charts.
With a silly video to accompany the single, the song was played endlessly and eventually became the theme song of Ullman’s comedic show Tracey Takes On.
Ullman continued her career with the success of The Tracey Ullman Show, the second series produced by the fledgling FOX TV Network, but it was her unique combination of voice and comedic style that made her cover song a radio gem.