“I knew that if I didn’t write I’d be out on my ear”
Never Ever was the standout song on All Saints’ demo tape, and it won the group a deal with London Records. Lewis has claimed that, initially, the other three members recorded the song without her. They then touted this version to the label head. “He asked who had written it, so then they were forced to come back and get me,” Lewis said in 2004, after the band had broken up for the first time. “I think that’s why the whole time I knew that if I didn’t write I’d be out on my ear.”
The personality differences and individual ambitions revealed by this anecdote are telling. It speaks of a volatile band, where communication could be less than transparent. In time, these issues would destroy the first incarnation of All Saints but, as the group were on the cusp of success, these tensions were still largely kept in check.
Following their successful debut single, I Know Where It’s At – a slick slice of party R&B – the emotional heft of Never Ever came as a surprise to many. While the song itself (which Lewis crafted with co-writers Robert Jazayeri and Sean Mather) was the clear bedrock, the performance of all four group members is essential. Nicole Appleton, in particular, delivers a spine-tingling spoken-word intro, sitting alongside The Angels’ My Boyfriend’s Back, Blondie’s X Offender and Prince’s Let’s Go Crazy as one of the greatest of its type. The voices of Nicole, Natalie, Mel and Shaznay all bring out the best in one another – and while the bulk of the vocals were recorded in Washington, DC, Nicole Appleton’s raw intro was retained from the original demo recording.