Any catalog of memorable pop hits of the 1980s must include Swing Out Sister’s “Breakout,” a bouncy, synth-and-horns, girl-power singalong that, at the height of the visuals-saturated heyday of MTV, made smart use of singer Corinne Drewery’s fashion-forward style and beauty.
The Britain-based Swing Out Sister was never really a pop band, but a predisposition for jazzy, retro-soul was overwhelmed by the popularity of their 1986 single, which reached No. 7 on the Billboard charts.
Subsequent releases, including “Surrender,” “Twilight World” and “Waiting Game,” were infused with R&B influences to less commercial success. The band’s last hit on the U.S. charts went all the way: A 1992 remake of “Am I the Same Girl?” covered the yearning 1969 Dusty Springfield ballad in velvety, reverential soul.
“We had pop credentials, but it was quite apparent we were interested in a more chilled-out sound,” Drewery says. “Soul and R&B was always where our inspiration was, and it came to the fore as time has gone on.”
Swing Out Sister, with original members Drewery and keyboardist Andy Connell, began a U.S. tour earlier this month and will peform two shows each on Wednesday and Thursday at Jazziz Nightlife in Boca Raton.
Drewery, who has returned to the razor-sharp bangs that were her iconic ’80s look, was a fashion designer when she joined SOS in 1985, after singing in a series of college bands in England. But she did have an encyclopedic appreciation for the singers and songwriters that continue to influence her.
“Dusty Springfield, Shirley Bassey, Dionne Warwick, Petula Clark, all those great singers from Motown,” Drewery, 53, says from a tour stop in Norfolk, Va. “I’ve always loved great harmonies… the Beach Boys, the Mamas and Papas, and the Beatles, of course. The Beatles are always around.”
Drewery says her career might not have happened at all if not for a “near-fatal” horse-riding accident in her early 20s that left her with a fractured skull, requiring weeks of hospitalization.
“When you’ve nearly lost your life, you reassess,” she says of her convalescence. “I decided I better get busy doing the things I really want to do.”
The first thing, she says, was to overcome her lack of confidence in her singing voice and get serious about her career. Then came "Breakout."
The singer says the duo’s sets at Jazziz will borrow from all of their influences.
“Something old, something new, something borrowed and something a little bit blue,” Drewery says with a laugh. She demurs when asked if “Breakout” is on the set list, but promises a live version would probably not be the song in your head.
“It’s been speeded up, slowed down, stretched, condensed and combined in every style imaginable,” she says of recent interpretations of “Breakout.” “If you want to hear it in its original form, then you’ll have to get the record.”
IF YOU GO
Swing Out Sister performs 7 and 9 p.m. Wednesday, Thursday at Jazziz Nightlife (201 Plaza Real, Boca Raton). Tickets: $55-$85. Info: 561-300-0730, JazzizNightlife.com. More info: Facebook.com/SwingOutSister.