swing out

Swing Out Sister

Swing Out Sister are a British pop group best known worldwide for their 1986 song "Breakout".


Although Swing Out Sister is currently a duo, they began as a trio in the UK. The group was formed by Andy Connell (keyboards) and Martin Jackson (drums), and were later joined by Corinne Drewery (vocals). The name came from a 1945 movie starring Arthur Treacher, called Swing Out, Sister, and they claim they chose the name because it was the only thing the band could agree on, in that they all hated it. Both Connell and Jackson had been playing in other bands prior to forming SOS, while Drewery was actually a fashion designer and model before she became the band's lead vocalist.

"it's better to travel" (1987, debut album)

Together with their producer, Paul Staveley O'Duffy, they signed with Mercury Records. Prior to their first album, they released the single "Blue Mood" in the UK in November 1985. However, it did not chart.

In late 1986, the single "Breakout" was released. It reached the number four position on the UK charts, and number six in the United States.

Consequently, when they released their debut album, It's Better to Travel, on May 11 1987, it reached number one on the UK album charts.

The album registered with listeners for its mix of jazz and electropop, with a blend of real horns, synths (arranged subtly, to sound like strings), drums, and xylophones, scored by producer/arranger Richard Niles. The follow-up single to the effervescent "Breakout" was the brooding "Surrender", which featured a trumpet solo performed by John Thirkell. It rose to number seven on the UK charts in January 1987. The next single was the more serious and jazzy "Twilight World". This song was the subject of many remixes and was a dance club favourite worldwide. The final single "Fooled By a Smile" returned to the upbeat pop orientation characteristic of "Breakout".

The group was subsequently nominated for two American Grammy Awards in 1988: Best New Artist and Best Pop Vocal Performance by a Group or Duo ("Breakout").

In addition to long-time partner O'Duffy as well as Thirkell, Swing Out Sister also have enlisted the talents of saxophonist Gary Barnacle (who with Thirkell also comprise the Henpecked Horns known for their work with Level 42); percussionist Luis Jardim; guitarist Tim Cansfield; trumpet/fluegelhorn master Jerry Hey; and songwriter-arranger Jimmy Webb.

Kaleidoscope World (1989)

Original member Jackson, whose acoustic drums drove the "Surrender" single, left the group during the making of the second album, Kaleidoscope World. Although the liner notes give "special thanks to Martin Jackson" and his co-writing credits appear on the songs "Tainted" and "Between Strangers", they also point out that "Swing Out Sister are Corinne Drewery and Andy Connell." Drewery and Connell have been the core group on all subsequent albums. After leaving Swing Out Sister, Jackson later worked for Frank Zappa.

"Kaleidoscope World" was released in May 1989 and achieved critical acclaim. Their turn away from contemporary styles towards retro musical sources on this album would establish the musical path that they would continue to follow with their subsequent albums. The duo found inspiration in Easy Listening music, such as Burt Bacharach, as well as songwriter Jimmy Webb, who arranged two tracks, "Forever Blue" and "Precious Words". The incorporation of an orchestra to their recordings realized their sound in a richer, fuller way than their previous effort which relied more heavily on synthesizers. Consequently, this album featured arrangements and songwriting more classical in inclination. The lead-off single "You On My Mind" featured a more sophisticated blend of musical components (the video was strongly inspired by the cult movie of the 1968 the Thomas Crown affair) than their previous efforts while the upbeat tone of "Breakout" was echoed in the lead USA single "Waiting Game". Further singles included Where in the World and Forever Blue which featured a sample from the John Barry score Midnight Cowboy.

Get In Touch With Yourself (1992)

In May 1992, their retro orientation became even more evident in both their sound and image on their third album, "Get In Touch With Yourself". With strong dance rhythms reverberating throughout the entire album, tracks draw influences from 1960s and 1970s jazz, pop, soul, and funk, including a breezy cover of the Barbara Acklin classic "Am I The Same Girl?" (which became their last US hit, reaching #1 on the AC chart). The album's title track, a blend of 1970s soul music and modern pop, gained the duo heavy airplay on smooth-jazz radio and was a crossover hit, gaining airtime on adult contemporary stations. The musical influences of Stevie Wonder, The Jackson Five, and others would become evident on this album but continue on through their later releases. In line with the album theme, Drewery also grew out her hair from her trademark bob which had become a visual signature for their early years.

The Living Return (1994)

Numerous changes were afoot by the time the fourth album, "The Living Return" was released in September 1994. The replacement of producer Paul O'Duffy after initial studio sessions with Ray Hayden contributed to a looser, raw feel to the songs that were often the results of studio jam sessions. Though Drewery and Connell still led Swing Out Sister, additional musicians (including former 52nd Street bassist Derick Johnson; Pa'lante percussionist Chris Manis; drummer Myke Wilson, formerly of the Jazz Defectors; and trumpet player John Thirkell increased their group to ten members that replicate the live performances that had been captured on the Japan-only release Live at the Jazz Cafe. The album featured the single and cover song "La La (Means I Love You)", which was also included on the Four Weddings and a Funeral soundtrack.

Shapes and Patterns (1997)

Few of the band's releases charted highly on the pop listings in Western countries after the successful debut album (though they became radio-airplay staples on jazz stations). The band, however, became extremely popular in Japan. Their song "Now You're Not Here" (from their fifth album "Shapes And Patterns", one of several released in Japan before other parts of the world) was used as the theme to a Japanese TV program, and received a Japanese 'Grand Prix' (the equivalent of a Grammy) for best international single in 1997.

"Shapes and Patterns" was first released in Japan in March 1997, and then in Europe and USA the year after. Producer Paul O'Duffy, who co-wrote half of the songs, was back at the helm. As an orchestra was once again employed (led by Gavyn Wright), the lush arrangements characteristic of Kaleidoscope World resurfaced. The liner notes, written by Mary Edwards, point out the influences of Bacharach, Webb, and John Barry are perceptible in the string arrangements and Latin rhythms, as well as Minnie Riperton, Rotary Connection and The Fifth Dimension.

The album included a cover of Laura Nyro's "Stoned Soul Picnic" as well as the original version of "Better Make It Better", which appeared in a different mix on their previous album. A pervasive longing marks songs such as "Now You're Not Here", "Somewhere in the World", "You Already Know", and "Icy Cold as Winter". This album would also mark the beginning of the duo's use of Japanese musicians in their studio sessions.

Filth and Dreams (1999)

"Filth and Dreams", their sixth album, proved yet again that Swing Out Sister was eager to reinvent themselves. The album was released in Japan in March 1999, and it remains the only album not released in any other country. This album featured stronger jazz leanings than some of their early pop-oriented albums, and is restrained in mood. The track Who's Been Sleeping was promoted as a single and released with several remixes. this album has a Trip-Hop feel to it. For this record, SOS adapted to the growing popularity of hip-hop in the late '90s. "Who's Been Sleeping" kicks off the record with an aggressive beat and a few hip-hop flourishes (such as Drewery's counting and uttering "Yeah..." in the background.) The rest of the record incorporates such sounds a bit more subtly, through the soaring retro stylings of "Closer Than the Sun" and "When Morning Comes" to the excitable lounge of the title track to the mid-tempo trip-hop of "Invisible" and scratch-laced "Sugar Free." Traditional SOS sounds are challenged successfully with the darkly dreamy "If I Had the Heart" and "Make You Stay." Background noises, from telephone conversations to child's play, also enrich the record and give the listener much more to cue in on. Drewery strays out of the usual love lyrics and colors a portrait of a darker world (as the title indicates) by singing about more urban subjects such as drugs (the eerie "Happy When You're High") and prostitution ("When Morning Comes.") All of their experimentation works surprisingly well and the result is probably the strongest SOS outing to date. Ironically, "Filth and Dreams" is the first SOS record not released in their native England, and is currently the most difficult CD to find.

Somewhere Deep in the Night (2001)

A seventh album, "Somewhere Deep in the Night", was recorded in France, and released in May 2001 in Japan (with subsequent release in Europe and USA). It was dedicated to their friend Kazuhiko Yanagida. While it is quintessential Swing Out Sister, with lush, brassy and stringy arrangements, the melodic tunes which often feature melancholic, languid, or introspective atmospherics and is more sombre in tone. Many of the tracks are instrumental, or only feature vocal harmonies without lyrics. One song even features a French spoken-word monologue. O'Duffy, who produced the album, also has co-writing credits on all the songs, and provided backing vocals along with Connell and Cansfield.

Due to declining sales, their record label Universal dropped them from their contract in America. Consequently, they signed on with Shanachie Records.

Where Our Love Grows (2004)

Undeterred, the band bounced back with their eighth studio effort, Where Our Love Grows. It was released in Japan on April 28, 2004 with the UK edition following in July. GQ Magazine reviewed it and called it "indisputably their finest record to date". The album features a return to a rich, upbeat retro-sound that fuses jazz, soul, R&B, Latin, and Easy Listening music. Samples of Roger Nichols and The Small Circle of Friends and Herbie Mann were incorporated also into some songs.

Beautiful Mess (2008)

Late 2005 saw Swing Out Sister return to their studio in London to commence recording of their new album. The band planned on making a second tour of America in 2006, however due to recording commitments this had to be canceled . In 2006 they composed incidental music for the ITV1 drama The Outsiders, which featured Nigel Harman. August 2007 saw a new single "Secret Love".

The new album from the band was entitled Beautiful Mess and was released by the Japanese record company Avex on February 27, 2008. The title is taken from one of the tracks on the album. Prior to its release in late December 2007, two other tracks were made available for download: "Butterflies" and "Something Everyday".

2008 Asia Tour

In 2008, Swing Out Sister went back on tour and appeared at the Jakarta Convention Center then toured several venues in Tokyo, Nagoya, Osaka and Fukuoka and in the Philippines Islands.


  • The song "O Pesadelo Dos Autores" from the album "The Living Return" (1994) features a medley of cover versions of "Brazilian Rhyme", "Celebration Suite", "Come With Me", "My Cherie Amour", "The Smiling Hour", and "Butterfly".
  • In 2002, Swing Out Sister and female Japanese singer Akiko recorded a cover version of Antonio Carlos Jobim's "Waters of March".


For a complete list of Swing Out Sister albums and singles, see Swing Out Sister discography.


  • It's Better to Travel (1987) UK #1, US #40
  • Kaleidoscope World (1989) UK #9
  • Another Non-Stop Sister (1989)
  • Get In Touch With Yourself (1992) UK #27
  • Swing Out Singles (1992)
  • Live at the Jazz Café (1993)
  • The Living Return (1994)
  • ''The Big Elsewhere"" (1996)
  • Shapes and Patterns (1997)
  • Swing 3 (1997)
  • The Best Of Swing Out Sister (1997)
  • Filth and Dreams (1999)
  • Somewhere Deep in the Night (2001)
  • Cafe Orange - The Best of Swing Out Sister (2002)
  • Where Our Love Grows (2004)
  • Live in Tokyo (2005)
  • Beautiful Mess (2008)


Year Song UK U.S. U.S. AC GER

1985 "Blue Mood" - - - - it's better to travel
1986 "Breakout" 4 6 1 20
1987 "Surrender" 7 - 37 39
"Twilight World" 32 31 7 -
"Fooled By a Smile" 43 - - 34
1989 "You On My Mind" 28 - 23 7 Kaleidoscope World
"Where In the World" 47 - - 22
"Waiting Game" (U.S. only) - 86 6 -
"Forever Blue" 80 - - -
"Windmills of Your Mind" (Japan only) - - - -
1992 "Am I The Same Girl?" 21 45 1 8 Get in Touch with Yourself
"Notgonnachange" 49 - 22 83
1994 "La La Means I Love You" 37 - - 68 The Living Return
Four Weddings and a Funeral soundtrack
1995 "Better Make It Better" - - - - The Living Return
1996 "Now You're Not Here" (Japan only) - - - - Shapes and Patterns
The Big Elsewhere EP
"Heaven Only Knows" - - - - The Best Of
1997 "Somewhere in the World" - - 30 - Shapes and Patterns
"We Could Make It Happen" - - - -
1999 "Who's Been Sleeping" (Japan only) - - - - Filth and Dreams
2001 "Through the Sky" - - - - Somewhere Deep in the Night
2004 "Love Won't Let You Down" - - - - Where Our Love Grows
2007 "Secret Love" - - - - Beautiful Mess
"Something Everyday" - - - -

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