Lady Marmalade

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"Lady Marmalade"
Labelle-ladymarmalade.jpg
Single by Labelle
from the album Nightbirds
B-side "Space Children" (U.S.)
"It Took a Long Time" (Europe)
Released August 3, 1974
Format 7-inch single
Recorded 1974, Sea Saint Studios, New Orleans
Genre
Length 3:56
Label Epic
50048
Writer(s)
Producer(s)
Labelle singles chronology
"Going on a Holiday"
(1973)
"Lady Marmalade"
(1974)
"What Can I Do for You"
(1974)

"Lady Marmalade" is a song written by Bob Crewe and Kenny Nolan. The song is famous for its sexually suggestive chorus of "Voulez-vous coucher avec moi (ce soir)?", which translates into English as "Do you want to sleep with me (tonight)?" The song was originally recorded in 1974 by the group Eleventh Hour. It first became a popular hit in 1975 when covered by the American girl group Labelle. Labelle held the number-one spot on the Billboard Hot 100 chart for one week, and also topped the Canadian RPM national singles chart.

The song has had many cover versions over the years. In 1998, girl group All Saints released a cover of the song that peaked at number one on the UK Singles Chart. The 2001 version by singers Christina Aguilera, Mýa, Pink, and rapper Lil' Kim, recorded for the Moulin Rouge! soundtrack was a number-one hit on the Billboard Hot 100 for 5 weeks. "Lady Marmalade" was the ninth song to reach number one by two different musical acts in America.[3]

Origin[edit]

The song was written by Bob Crewe and Kenny Nolan, and was inspired by Crewe's experiences in New Orleans and the sex workers in the area. A sex worker named Lady Marmalade shows up to a man named Joe, flirts with him and takes him home. Joe drinks wine and he screams French words while she is in the [shower]. The song was first recorded by The Eleventh Hour, a disco group made up of studio musicians fronted by Nolan on vocals.[4] It was released in 1974 as a track on the Eleventh Hour's Greatest Hits LP which did not chart.[5][6] Crewe showed the song to Allen Toussaint in New Orleans, and Toussaint then decided to record the song with Labelle.[7]

Labelle version[edit]

Background and release[edit]

Labelle's version of "Lady Marmalade" was produced by Allen Toussaint and Vicki Wickham. It was released on August 3, 1974 as the first single from Nightbirds, their first album after signing with Epic Records.[8] Patti LaBelle sang lead vocals on "Lady Marmalade" with backing vocals being contributed by band mates Nona Hendryx and Sarah Dash. The song is best known for the French lyric "Voulez-vous coucher avec moi ce soir?" (English: "Would you like to sleep with me tonight?") in the refrain.[9] Although "Lady Marmalade" is about a prostitute, Patti LaBelle, the lead female vocal of the band, said: "I didn't know what it was about. Nobody, I swear this is God's truth, nobody told me what I'd just sung a song about."[10]

Reception[edit]

Steve Huey from AllMusic selected the song as one of the best tracks on Labelle's 1995 compilation Lady Marmalade: The Best of Patti and Labelle.[11] Critic Robert Christgau described it as "great synthetic French-quarter raunch."[12]

"Lady Marmalade" is billed as the song that made Labelle one of the "hottest girl groups" of the 1970s.[13] It was a number-one hit for one week on the Billboard Hot 100 singles chart in the United States during the early spring of 1975, and charted at number one for one week on the Billboard Top Soul Singles chart.[14] Along with the track, "What Can I Do for You?", "Lady Marmalade" peaked at number seven on the disco/dance charts.[15] The single also charted at number seventeen in the United Kingdom. "Lady Marmalade" replaced another Crewe/Nolan composition, Frankie Valli's "My Eyes Adored You", as the Billboard Hot 100 number-one single, a feat that made Crewe and Nolan the third songwriting team in Billboard history (after Lennon–McCartney and Holland–Dozier–Holland) to replace themselves at number-one.[3] Billboard ranked it as the No. 22 song for 1975.[16] Labelle performed "Lady Marmalade" on Soul Train on December 7, 1974.[17]

"Lady Marmalade" debuted at number 92 on the Canadian RPM singles chart on February 1, 1975.[18] It subsequently peaked atop the chart on March 29, 1975, after five weeks on the chart.[19] Labelle's version of "Lady Marmalade" was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 2003.[20] and was ranked number 479 on Rolling Stone's list of The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time. The Labelle version also appears in several films, including The Long Kiss Goodnight, Dick, and Jacob's Ladder. It was featured on the video game Karaoke Revolution Volume 2 as a version performed with Patti LaBelle.

Personnel[edit]

Track listings and formats[edit]

US 7" single
  1. "Lady Marmalade" – 3:14
  2. "Space Children" – 3:04
Europe 7" single
  1. "Lady Marmalade" – 3:14
  2. "It Took a Long Time" – 4:04

Chart performance[edit]

Chart (1974–75) Peak
position
Austria (Ö3 Austria Top 40)[21] 17
Belgium (Ultratop Flanders)[22] 2
Canada (RPM)[19] 1
Italian Single Chart 5
Netherlands (Dutch Top 40)[23] 1
Netherlands (Single Top 100)[24] 2
New Zealand (RIANZ)[25] 21
UK Singles Chart[26] 17
U.S. Billboard Hot 100[27] 1
U.S. Billboard Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs[28] 1
U.S. Billboard Hot Dance Music/Club Play 7

Certifications[edit]

Region Certification Certified units/Sales
United States (RIAA)[29] Gold 1,000,000^

^shipments figures based on certification alone

Sabrina version[edit]

"Voulez-Vous Coucher avec Moi? (Lady Marmalade)"
Sabrina-lady-marmalade.jpg
Single by Sabrina
from the album Sabrina
B-side "Megamix"
Released 1987
Format
Recorded 1987
Genre Soul, Italo disco, funk
Length 3:56
Label Baby Records
Writer(s) Bob Crewe, Kenny Nolan
Sabrina singles chronology
"Sexy Girl"
(1986)
"Lady Marmalade"
(1987)
"Boys (Summertime Love)"
(1987)

Background and release[edit]

"Lady Marmalade" was covered by Italian pop star Sabrina. It was released in 1987 as the album's second single by Baby Records. In some countries, including France and the Netherlands, the song was known as "Voulez-vous coucher avec moi? (Lady Marmalade)" and was released in 1988. Author James Arena named the cover among Sabrina's "relentlessly catchy" singles.[30]

Track listings and formats[edit]

7" maxi[31]
  1. "Lady Marmalade" – 3:55
  2. "Boys, Hot Girl, Sexy Girl" (7" megamix) – 4:10
12" maxi[32]
  1. "Lady Marmalade" (12" remix) – 5:57
  2. "Boys, Hot Girl, Sexy Girl" (12" megamix) – 6:04
CD maxi[33]
  1. "Lady Marmalade" (12" remix) – 6:08
  2. "Boys, Hot Girl, Sexy Girl" (megamix) – 6:04
  3. "Lady Marmalade" – 3:55
  • Remixed by Peter Vriends, produced by Claudio Cecchetto

Chart performance[edit]

The song charted at number 36 on the Belgian Flanders Singles Chart, number 40 on the Dutch Single Top 100, and number 41 on the French Singles Chart.[34]

Credits[edit]

Credits for Sabrina's version are adapted from CD liner notes:[35]

  • Written by Bob Crewe and Kelly Nolan
  • Design – Bart Falkmann
  • Producer – C. Cecchetto
  • Remix – Peter Vriends

All Saints version[edit]

"Lady Marmalade"
AllSaints-LadyMarmalade.jpg
Single by All Saints
from the album All Saints
B-side "No More Lies", "Get Bizzy"
Released January 27, 1998
Format CD single
Recorded 1997; Metropolis Studios
Genre Dance-pop, disco, R&B
Length 4:04
Label London
Producer(s) Johnny Douglas, Timbaland
All Saints singles chronology
"Never Ever"
(1997)
"Under the Bridge"/"Lady Marmalade"
(1998)
"Bootie Call"
(1998)
Audio sample
file info · help

Background and release[edit]

In 1998, English girl group All Saints recorded a cover version of "Lady Marmalade" as part of the double A-sided single "Under the Bridge" / "Lady Marmalade". In Europe, only the "Lady Marmalade" single was released. The All Saints version contains different lyrics for its verses; the only lyrics retained from the original composition are the chorus. A version remixed by Timbaland appeared on the Dr. Dolittle soundtrack.

Reception[edit]

"Lady Marmalade" was the third single taken from their self-titled debut studio album, it contained the "Marmalade" cover and a cover version of "Under the Bridge" by Red Hot Chili Peppers. The single reached number one on the official UK Top 40 chart, becoming the group's second number-one hit. A total of 424,799 singles have been sold in the UK, with proceeds from the single going to breast cancer charities.

Music video[edit]

The video shows the band members and other people having a party in one of the buildings in some large city, at night. British actress Kathryn Allerston appears in the music video.

Track listings and formats[edit]

  • All Saints CD maxi single
  1. "Lady Marmalade" ('98 mix) – 4:02
  2. "Lady Marmalade" (Mark's Miami Madness mix) – 7:55
  3. "Lady Marmalade" (Sharp South Park vocal remix) – 8:09
  4. "Lady Marmalade" (Henry & Hayne's La Jam mix) – 6:47
  • All Saints CD 1
  1. "Under the Bridge" – 5:03
  2. "Lady Marmalade" – 4:04
  3. "No More Lies" – 4:08
  4. "Lady Marmalade" (Henry & Haynes La Jam mix) – 9:23
  5. "Under the Bridge" (promo video) – 5:00
  • All Saints CD 2
  1. "Lady Marmalade" (Mark!'s Miami Madness mix) – 7:56
  2. "Lady Marmalade" (Sharp South Park vocal remix) – 8:10
  3. "Under the Bridge" (Ignorance remix featuring Jean Paul e.s.q) – 4:55
  4. "Get Bizzy" – 3:45

Chart performance[edit]