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Thursday, February 18, 2016

Vanity - Vanity 6 (1982), Wild Animal (1984) & Skin On Skin (1986) TRIPLE POST!!!

It is with a very heavy heart that I make this latest post.  In case you haven't heard yet, my idol Vanity aka Denise Katrina Matthews passed away at the age of 57 due to kidney failure on February 15, 2016.  It has taken me a few days to deal with this, but now I feel I must honour her with a (very lengthy) post, a post that has been requested by several of you over the years. Vanity was the reason I started this blog nine years ago.  Like so many featured on this blog, Vanity was an unsung pop star who was forgotten over the years yet deserved recognition.  She did have a higher profile, at least in the 80s, than many acts featured here, which is why I resisted doing a post on her then.  But she was my initial motivation, as I was a huge fan of hers from the moment I saw her and she remained my ultimate diva.  I had even originally named this blog after her first major film, Tanya's Island, which she made before she was known as Vanity and was using the moniker D.D. Winters.  Even my 'Nasty G' name comes from the Vanity 6 song "Nasty Girl".  Much has been written about her over the past few days, so her past is well documented on the internet and I won't go into too much detail here.  For that you can also check her Wikipedia page. But I do want to share my personal memories of her.  The first time I laid eyes on her was in 1984 when I was 14 and she appeared on the Canadian music TV show The New Music.  They were doing a feature on Prince's female protegees.  At the time I was a casual Prince fan and had just become a Sheila E. fan, so I was curious about these other women.  The moment they showed an image of Vanity I was smitten.  She was the most beautiful woman I had ever laid eyes upon (and still is) and she had an irresistible magnetism just through that one image that drew me in forever.  Then they showed some clips from her music videos and I was all hers.  The fact that she was a fellow Canadian was a huge bonus.  This was around when she released her first solo album Wild Animal, and it was the only thing I cared about receiving for Christmas that year, which I did. I adored the album (despite family and friends insisting that she couldn't really sing) and I practically wore out the cassette the first week!  I was consumed with finding images of her after that and snatched up every magazine that she was in, from Right On to Playboy to Creem, The photos went on my wall immediately.  I also scoured the television for appearances by her, though back then we had limited channels and only video cassettes to capture things on.  But I wore out those video tapes as well whenever I was able to capture anything Vanity, especially her "Pretty Mess" video.  She was always a coquettish and magnetic presence in both her performances and interviews, with undeniable charisma.  Soon after a family friend managed to find a vinyl copy of the Vanity 6 album and I was in heaven!  The sexuality and naughtiness of both albums were just the kind of rebellion I needed as a lonely, overweight, awkward teen.  I delighted in shocking everyone around me with her lyrics and image.  Her outlandishness empowered me.  I remember my father watching the "Nasty Girl" video and dismissing her after she claimed that she needed "seven inches or more", clearly intimidated by her beauty and sexuality, as he fancied himself a Casanova but knew he'd never have a chance. This pleased me even more.  Soon her movie The Last Dragon was being promoted and I longed to see it, but living in a small town with a two cinema theatre, it was never shown, so I had to satiate myself with the soundtrack and soundtrack poster, which I begged to have from the only record store in town.  Obviously I immediately adored the song "7th Heaven" from it.  Luckily our theatre did show Purple Rain and I had become a bigger Prince fan because of it, as well as a fan of Apollonia, who had replaced Vanity in the movie after Vanity, having realized that Prince would never love and focus only on her, pursued the independence that could make her career flourish.  Unfortunately Apollonia (who is also featured on the Isle) paled in comparison to Vanity in my eyes, lacking her extreme magnetism and sensuality - though I do still adore Apples. As Apollonia herself admitted this week, Vanity was a tough act to follow. ;)  I wished at that time that Vanity had stayed with Prince, as everyone's career who was connected to him was blowing up.  (Though she managed to do quite well on Motown and had two Billboard Hot 100 hits.)  Teenagers being complicated and fickle, I was soon distracted with my awkward social world.  That, combined with the extreme difficulty in tracking anyone's career in those pre-internet times, led to my surprise when I came across her second album Skin On Skin. Of course I snatched it up, though while I adored the first single "Under The Influence", the rest of the album was a bit of a let down.  It lacked the extreme electro-funk and sexuality of  Wild Animal, and while she wrote and co-produced all of the material on Wild Animal, she was barely present in the creation of Skin On Skin.  Though her vocals had noticeably improved, it seemed a lot less personal. Of course, I still loved the album, and songs like "Animals" and "Ouch!" kept up that sexy silliness. The album didn't seem to get as much attention, however, and Vanity showed up on TV less and less. During that time she was also starring in many movies like Never Too Young To Die and Action Jackson (I adored the Jesse Johnson produced track "Undress" from it and was thrilled she was in the video for the Pointer Sisters' "He Turned Me Out", also featured on it), though of course they never made it to my two cinema town, and it took years before anything new came out on video back then.  These things combined to take my focus off of her.  There was one time in 1989, however, when she was filming an episode of the Friday The 13th TV series in Toronto entitled 'Mesmer's Bauble'  (in which she starred alongside Isle postee Robey), that a friend's brother was lucky enough to be at the filming, and he came back regaling me with stories of her.  I was extremely jealous.  She had been so close! But soon I was off to university and was distracted by my new academic and social life and all that that entailed.  I thought of her occasionally (like when I randomly scored a publicity poster of her as "Miss Audio-Visual 1984", and when I used "Strap On Robbie Baby" to shock a sociology class), but she fell to the back of my mind and became a bit of a teenage embarrassment.  In 1990 I did hear that she was filming a movie called Lambada: Set The Night On Fire and was extremely excited about the new song she was to record for it, but it was soon revealed that she dropped out of the film, and the song, "Gotta Lambada", ended up being recorded by female duo Absolut instead.  She did appear in the TV movie Memories Of Murder that year, which was the first Lifetime movie ever, but of course I didn't get Lifetime. After that she was totally off my radar until 1992, when she appeared in the Jackie Collins TV mini-series Lady Boss, which I watched with a sort of sentimental melancholy.  Around that time rumours were surfacing that she was a born-again Christian, and she then shockingly (to me, at least) appeared on The Joan Rivers Show that same year, renouncing her past and emphatically preaching the word of God.  It was very jarring and, I confess, made me very uncomfortable.  She talked about how she detested her carnal identity as Vanity, and discussed her addiction to smoking crack, which led to extreme kidney damage, a kidney transplant, and almost death!  It all came as a shock to me, though looking back it suddenly seemed obvious that she was on drugs in many of her early interviews and performances. I have to admit that this new Vanity, or Denise Matthews, as she now wanted to be called, frightened me, and like one of Joan's audience members suggested, it seemed to me that she had just substituted one drug for another.  She was an extreme literal bible thumper and even spoke in tongues!  It was all too much for me, though I felt ashamed for wishing that the old Vanity would return.  It seemed like a freak show, and I chose to turn my back on it.  Then, in the later 2000s, I started to feel nostalgic and began listening to all of the older music again, Vanity most of all.  Now that the internet was everywhere, I sought out copies of her old movies and finally saw many for the first time, including the extremely controversial Tanya's Island - now I finally knew what the song "Wild Animal" was about!  I introduced her into my new world and forced her on my friends and especially my boyfriend, who was (and still is) a huge Madonna fan, but he eventually warmed up to her as well.  I pulled out old pics and posters and put them up.  I joined forums and met friends while talking about her, and created several monikers for websites derived from her various aliases, songs and films.  I made her my computer and phone wallpaper and screen savers.  I was again entrenched in the world of Vanity. Only after she passed this week did I realize just how much of her physically surrounds me in all aspects of my world.  I did check up on the real Denise Matthews at times, visiting her website and Facebook page, and I was happy that she had found happiness through religion, even if I didn't get it myself.  I felt horrible for her continuing illness, and the revelations of her abuse as a child and adult.  I read Nikki Sixx's Heroin Diaries, about his drug addiction in the year 1987, when he was dating Vanity and she was going through an equally destructive drug addiction.  She wrote several passages in the book, and I got a better idea of what she went though.  But, though Denise preferred it, I couldn't let Vanity go, and I created a Facebook page dedicated to her. I was thrilled at the response from followers and realized that I was far from alone in my love for Vanity.  Then a year or two later, I got a Facebook message from Denise Matthews herself!  In it she asked that I take the page down, as she no longer wanted her old self to be celebrated.  She asked me to call her so we could discuss it and gave me her phone number.  You can imagine my delight and horror!  Out of respect I immediately removed the page, but I could never call her.  I don't want to meet my idols, and I was also wary of her possible attempts to "convert" me.  Now that she is gone, I regret that decision.  I had no idea that she was so ill in the past months, and though I knew she was lucky to have lived this long, I was still so saddened by her death.  And though I know that she did not want people to celebrate Vanity, and I do also celebrate the amazing woman that was Denise Matthews, I need to post this tribute to her and share the music that made me so happy all of these years.  As I told her when we corresponded about the Facebook page, though she was regretful about her personal life the years she was known as Vanity, she should not dismiss or forget the joy that her music and films gave so many of us.  Without her, I would not be who I am today, which I'd like to think isn't so bad, as for some undefinable reason she instilled in me a strength and sass that I desperately needed as a teen, and I'm not sure that I would have discovered that without Vanity.  I am sorry that her life was often so sad, but I think in the end she was truly happy to go to the God she loved so dearly, and that is how I'll remember her.  Please celebrate and enjoy her work and life!

Video for He's So Dull

Video for Nasty Girl

Video for Drive Me Wild

Download Vanity 6

1 Nasty Girl
2 Wet Dream
3 Drive Me Wild
4 He's So Dull
5 If A Girl Answers (Don't Hang Up)
6 Make-Up
7 Bite The Beat
8 3 x 2 = 6

Video for Pretty Mess

Live performance of Samuelle

Live performance of Pretty Mess & Wild Animal

Download Wild Animal

1 Flippin' Out
2 Pretty Mess
3 Samuelle
4 Strap On "Robbie Baby"
5 Wild Animal
6 Mechanical Emotion
7 Crazy Maybe

Video for Under The Influence

Live performance of Romantic Voyage

Live performance of  Under The Influence & Animals

Download Skin On Skin

1 Under The Influence
2 Manhunt
3 Romantic Voyage
4 Confidential
5 Animals
6 Skin On Skin
7 Gun Shy
8 Ouch
9 In The Jungle


  1. I just wanted to say thanks for posting this. I was also a huge Vanity fan, and your memories parallel mine. Here's hoping she's found the peace she was seeking! Let me know if you find any of the tracks she recorded with Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis on her uncompleted third solo album!

  2. I was lucky enough to see Vanity 6 open for The Time and Prince during the 1999 tour; she was quite the show woman. I'm happy to read your memories of her and to have you share her music.

  3. Wow! That is an amazing post!! I had not the chance to see Vanity on TV in the 80's; being born in 1978 I was still too young to watch TV in english and to understand it lol! While I was in my little Northen QUebec City in early 90's a local music shop closed and was selling LP; I clearly remembered that I bought 2 LP that day and was so excited to listen to it : One was Curiosity Killed the cat Keep Your Distance (the guys were so cute lol) and the other one was Vanity Skin on Skin LP. Then I tried to find out who she was and have more information, but internet was not existing yet. I am really excited to be able to listen to her work, and thanks for your vulnerability and authenticity. I am sure that from where she is now she is smiling down at you.

  4. Great Article i am Ray by the way :). i to myself felt sad as well. I really liked Vanity 6 alot i hope that one day someone releases it with all the bonus stuf that has been online for years that not the greatest sound quality.

  5. Great post! Wanted to thank you for doing those re-ups. And the best way I think I can do it is by giving you some...Yothers! Dig the sounds of Tina and her bro. Not bad, actually:

    1. Wow, thanks. I've always wanted to hear that album!

  6. What a lovely tribute. It was you who first introduced me to the unique charms of the great Vanity, would be quite a few years ago now, but I've continued to enjoy all of her albums and movies ever since. May she rest in peace. x

    1. Thank you! And glad I could are her with you. Great to hear from you again!

  7. She was a shining star her skin on skin album I thought was great!

  8. Excellent article. I have all of these albums and bought her book. Denise was a sweetheart. we would email each other from time to time. She even signed my book with a beautiful message without me paying extra. She was one of a kind, with a heart of gold. I will miss her dearly.

  9. God Bless Vanity, rest in peace

  10. Thank you for posting this tribute to Vanity and sharing your history. Ive just recently discovered her awesomeness, and just came across your blog. I bought her first album on vinyl over ten years ago but didnt give it much attention until last fall and then became interested in her other stuff. How unfortunate that she would pass less than a month after me youtubing all of her videos ;0( I am sitting here making a mix CD (yes I still do that haha) and jamming to it as I read your post. I look forward to checking out your other posts. Peace ;0)


  12. 2 gr8 lps but expensive to get on cd.

  13. Wonderful post. Vanity was great, and I hate it that she disavowed this period of her life, but it was her life, I suppose. Glad to have the music to remember her by, and hope that she's at peace.

  14. What an absolutely beautiful tribute. I felt much the same way as you did about Vanity in the 80s -- when I first saw/heard her, I was a shy, overweight girl who had just started college and felt a little lost. Her confidence and sass was an attitude that I tried to adopt, and I think being a fan of hers helped me to adapt to a college life that was very different from the sheltered home I'd lived in up until then. She was a truly unique and talented lady, and she'll be very much missed.

    BTW, do you know if the cover of Nat King Cole's "Nature Boy" that she sings at the end of the "Mesmer's Bauble" episode was ever recorded? I've searched high and low for it, but never found more than that bit of the song at the end of the episode. What I would give to have a full recording of that -- she sounded wonderful!

  15. Thanks for sharing these rare Vanity-albums. However, the Skin On Skin-link doesn't work. I would love to get that album as well. :)

  16. Hi! Could someone please re-up Skin on Skin? I'm so happy that you had the other albums though, so hard to find these days!

  17. Hi, could you please re-upload Skin On Skin? The link seems to be dead, thanks for the upload!

  18. Hi, would it be possible to re-up Skin On Skin please? Thank you so much!

  19. obrigado, gosto das musica vanity

  20. Hey Nasty G, do you watch RuPaul's Drag Race? If you do, how did you feel when Nasty Girl was featured on that lip-sync on Season 10?