By the time Tracey Ullman got together with Stiff Records she was already a household name as part of the BBC comedy trio Three of a Kind, with Lenny Henry and David Copperfield. Moving from mainstream TV to an indie label to record 60 bubblegum throwback pop singles might have seemed like a mad move in 1983 (initial contact had been made when Ullman bumped into Dave Robinson’s wife at the hairdressers!), but it worked.
Her first three singles - They Don't Know, Breakaway and Move Over Darling all went top 10 in the UK, with the latter two also breaking the US charts. They Don’t Know had been a single for Kirsty MacColl of course, and Kirsty and her band were heavily involved in shaping Ullman’s sound on record.
But on video – which is largely how these singles captured the public conscious – Ullman was in her element. She even went as far as roping in various celebrity cameos. Like when Paul McCartney pops up in They Don’t Know, and Neil Kinnock does a turn in her fourth single’s promo, 1984’s My Guy. That one was a female take on another Stiff single, Madness’ classic My Girl.
After seven singles and two albums - You Broke My Heart in Seventeen Places and You Caught Me Out - Ullman moved to the US and HBO to build an even bigger TV and film career. She started off with The Tracey Ullman Show – which spawned a spin-off animation in the form of The Simpsons – before venturing into movies from all over the creative spectrum, from Tim Burton’s Corpse Bride to the 2006 animation Flushed Away.