Divine ‘Maid In England’ – album review

Divine ‘Maid In England’ (Cherry Pop)
CD/DL
Released 17th June 2013

Divine, born Harris Glenn Milstead (October 19, 1945 – March 7, 1988) was an actor, drag artist, and singer who came to prominence having appeared in many of independent filmmaker John Waters early films including Mondo Trasho (1969), Multiple Maniacs (1970), Pink Flamingos (1972) and Female Trouble (1974) – the infamous dog shit scene featured in Pink Flamingos a film designed by Waters to be “an exercise in poor taste,” the film featured Divine as Babs Johnson, “the filthiest person alive” who in an effort to retain this crown actually ate fresh dog faeces as it was excreted!!

Milstead’s own upbringing could not have been further from his later persona; he was born in Maryland to a conservative, middle-class family, as he reached adulthood he abandoned his background and embraced the counterculture of the 1960’s initially becoming involved with Waters’ acting troupe, the Dreamlanders. In the 70’s, Divine moved into theatre but retained his interest in film later starring in Polyester (1981), Lust In The Dust (1985) and the original version of Hairspray (1988).

Having spent a considerable amount of his time within the gay community Divine had been exposed to the communities own niche music, at that time referred to as ‘Boystown’ – so when approached by New York based Bobby Orlando in 1981 it seemed almost natural for Divine to enter a new career phase, this time emerging as a ‘singer’ – all the early tracks were written by Orlando aka Bobby O and were initially released on his own ‘O’ Records including ‘Native Love’, ‘Shake It Up’ and ‘Shoot Your Shot’ – these tracks characterised by strident beats generally at around 160bpm, overlaid with repetitive keyboards and what sounded like cowbells were initially only heard in gay friendly clubs, but the sound began to spread and brought Divine to the attention of UK based PWL Records, the in house label/production facility of Pete Waterman, then home to Kylie Minogue – PWL were responsible for arguably watering down ‘Boystown’, re-branding it as ‘Hi-NRG’ and selling it to the masses via Hazel Dean, Dead Or Alive.

‘Maid In England’ does not contain any of the Orlando material; instead concentrating on the PWL and beyond era as such we get mega hits like ‘You Think You’re a Man’, ‘I’m So Beautiful’ and ‘Walk Like A Man’ – This is a CD with a strange history, initially released a few months after his death, and wrongly billed as Divine’s first album, the record compiled all of the post Orlando material in one neat package and was put out by UK based label Dance Trax entitled ‘Made In England’ – this same title was later used to re-release all the Bobby Orlando material, even the covers were the same bar a switching of flags from US to UK; the album has been sold as ‘The Best Of Divine – Native Love’ and remains available as ‘Essential Divine’ amongst many other titles.

This Cherry Pop release is a re-release of the original 1988 Dance Trax ‘Made In England’ album, itself re-released in 1996 on Galaxis (Germany) albeit the title has been tweaked to ‘Maid In England’, the cover retains the original artwork – Divine draped in a US flag, though for some reason the background has switched from yellow to pink, though even the Cherry Red website displays it as yellow…I think we know Divine was gay, surely everything linked to the gay community needn’t be pink?

The hits will be known to everyone; you either love them or hate them; myself I prefer the early Bobby O material, those tracks were specifically written to fill poppers fuelled clubs whose dance floors were packed with leather and rubber clad gentlemen; they had a darker edge, a sense of menace, whilst ‘I’m So Beautiful’ seems like a parody, saccharine soaked pop with the naughtiness removed; that said the album does contain tracks not available on CD anywhere else which certainly makes it of interest to collectors; all the expected Hi-NRG characteristics are present, frantic syncopated beats, massed male backing vocals insistent keyboard melodies, what lifts Divine from the ranks of Hi-NRG masses are the growled vocals and the knowledge that Divine actually lived a counter culture life style as opposed to just singing about it.

Released with full sleeve notes, and reproduction artwork.

Track list:

1. Divine’s Theme
2. You Think You’re A Man
3. Give It Up
4. I’m So Beautiful
5 Show Me Around
6. Walk Like A Man (Remix)
7. Twistin’ The Night Away (Remix)
8. Good Time ’88
9. Hard Magic (Magic Mix)
10. Little Baby (Remix)
11. Hey You! (Remix)
12. Divine Reprise

Bonus tracks:

13. Hey You! (The Trumpet Mix)
14. I’m So Beautiful (12” Mix)
15. Walk Like A Man/Man Talk (12” Mix)

1 COMMENT

  1. Now this is the album I can wait to have and listen to all these tracts! Thanks for the info! httpss://www.roycerolls.net/

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