Having been elevated to superstardom off the back of 1986’s US No.1 hit single Holding Back The Years, and its parent album, Picture Book, Simply Red hurried back into the studio, with frontman Mick Hucknall keen to further flex his songwriting muscles. Released on 9 March 1987, their second album, Men And Women, was immediately met with strong global sales and boasted a typically eclectic range of songs, such as a cover of Cole Porter’s jazz standard Ev’ry Time We Say Goodbye and an experiment with reggae in the shape of Love Fire, proving Simply Red were still a musical force to be dealt with.
Listen to Men And Women here.
“Probably the most difficult album I had to make”
At this early stage of their career, Simply Red were relatively fresh from supporting funk pioneer James Brown at Wembley Stadium. As a result, Hucknall’s confidence was arguably at its peak, but the singer was beginning to notice tensions running high in the studio. “Men And Women was probably the most difficult album I had to make,” he later recalled, “because I was having to deal with a lot of internal politics within the band.” By assuming responsibility as Simply Red’s primary songwriter, some feathers were starting to get ruffled, but none of this is evident in the songs.
Men And Women’s lead single, The Right Thing, played up to Hucknall’s newfound role as 80s pop’s most surprising sex symbol, and attracted controversy due to the overtly sexual nature of its lyrics. A funk-inspired ode to enhancing one’s prowess in the bedroom, Mick was bemused that people were so shocked by it. “I just was astonished at the reaction,” he would say years later, noting how the album was actually banned in Singapore due to its perceived immorality. “I didn’t think that anybody would give two hoots about what the subject matter of the song was.” Recalling the same soulful grunts and groans as his hero Al Green, Hucknall’s bravura vocal performance no doubt helped the song reach No.11 in the UK and peak at No.27 in the US.