Pop Essays #20: Matthew Marsden, ‘Walk My Way’

Time once again to dig deep in my own vaults and dust off the cobwebs from another gem of forgotten pop with this week’s Pop Essays. And it’s to the telly box – and one of Britain’s most famous streets – we turn our attention to this week…

  • Artist: Matthew Marsden
  • Song: Walk My Way
  • Release Date: 05/04/1999
  • Writers: Andrew Hill / Wendy Pigott
  • Producer: Nigel Lowis
  • Chart Run: Release Cancelled – Did Not Chart

Just before we start, I have to tell you that it is a bit of an exclusive, this week’s essay. I originally wrote and submitted this for the brilliant pop blog, Into the Popvoid, about three or four years ago. However, they ceased posting after the beginning of 2018, so this is the first time this write up will appear anywhere on the web. As you were…

Unless we’re counting Sue Nicholls‘ – aka Audrey Roberts – brief top 20 sejourn in 1968 with ‘Where Will You Be?’ (when she was in Crossroads), the popular ITV soap Coronation Street wasn’t exactly a hot bed for new pop talent until the tail end of the 90s, when several of its cast members broke away from the famous Wethersfield cobbles and into the charts in hopes of “doing a Kylie Minogue / Jason Donovan / Stefan Dennis” (possibly not the last one).

Some were more successful than others; Tracy Shaw’s unnecessary take on Lonnie Gordon’s “Happenin’ All Over Again”, for instance, or Adam Rickitt’s bizarre hi-NRG Kavana meets Liberace bit on “I Breathe Again”. One that is almost forgotten though, is the brief but brilliant pop ventures given by the soap’s then dashing mechanic Chris Collins, aka actor and former model Matthew Marsden.

Corrie was his second bite of the soap cherry, having done a three month stint on ITV’s other serial stalwart Emmerdale back in 1995. Despite being voted Best Newcomer at the National Television Awards, and attracting a host of fanmail from female fans, he left exactly a year after he started, in March 1998.

When hinting at a desire to move into music, Columbia, under Sony, quickly snapped him up for a record deal worth half a million. But not for him was there to be a pursuit of campified, PWL disco pop. 1998 had seen the emergence of Neighbours’ most successful export after Kylie, in the shape of Natalie Imbruglia, whose guitar tinged, credible pop with the likes of ‘Torn’ and ‘Big Mistake’ had earned her a huge following and worldwide success. Therefore, pitching Matthew as the male and British equivalent didn’t seem too wild a proposition.

When debut single ‘The Heart’s Lone Desire’ arrived over three months later in July 1998, it was very different to what most had been expecting when the music press ran with “Ex-Corrie star launches pop career” as their headline. A brooding, atmospheric but soulful offering, it sounded for all the world like Gary Barlow had rocked up on a Massive Attack record. And not only that – but he proved he had the vocal chops to boot.

The British record buying public seemed to concur, and the track was rewarded with a top 20 entry and a six week stay inside the top 40. So far, so good. But then came the damaging misfire. Alongside his labelmates – a pre-mega fame Destiny’s Child, no less – his second single was a passable but totally unnecessary cover of Hall & Oates‘ 1976 track ‘She’s Gone’. We don’t think we’re being too unkind here when we say that, compared to his debut, it was about as exciting as a reheated portion of Betty’s hotpot.

When it tanked out at #24 in October, it immediately caused the pushback of his debut album release, Say Who. Fast forward to the spring of 1999, and Matthew was ready to try again with what was to be the third single from the album.

Remixed for radio by Brian Rawling and Metrophonic, who had not long seen Cher to the biggest selling single of her career (and 1998) with “Believe”, “Walk My Way” was a bright, breezy and pretty damn catchy guitar pop number that was closer to the peddling of him as Mattalie Himbruglia (you can use that one for the future).

With a desert set video filmed and in the can, and the single scheduled for release at the start of April, he’d barely been on the TV and radio promo trail for a week, when creative disputes with his label saw to it that the single was cancelled, and his contract with Columbia was axed after less than a year.

And if that wasn’t enough of a sore point, “Walk My Way” had been set for release the same week a recently axed star from Corrie’s rival over on the Beeb, EastEnders, released their debut single to chart topping glory. The artist and song in question? Martine McCutcheon with ‘Perfect Moment‘.

Matt’s since gone onto forge a creditable career in Hollywood, with roles in films such as Black Hawk Down, guest starring roles on TV shows like CSI: Miami and Two & A Half Men, and he even appeared alongside fellow soap to pop graduate Holly Valance in the action flick DOA: Dead Or Alive in 2006. But the Say Who album is worth an investigation on Spotify – it sounds a lot less time stamped than preconceived ideas might lead you to concluding.

Don’t forget to follow our brand new Pop Essays playlist on Spotify, which includes all the songs we’ve written about. What are your memories of this week’s featured song or band? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below or message us on our Instagram.

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