They Don't Know (Kirsty MacColl song)

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"They Don't Know"
Kirsty MacColl They Dont Know.jpg
Single by Kirsty MacColl
B-side "Motor On"
Released June 1979
Format 7" Vinyl, 7" picture disc
Recorded 1979
Genre Pop
New wave
Label Stiff Records
Songwriter(s) Kirsty MacColl
Producer(s) Liam Sternberg
Kirsty MacColl singles chronology
"They Don't Know"
"Keep Your Hands Off My Baby"
"They Don't Know"
"Keep Your Hands Off My Baby"
"They Don't Know"
They Don't Know single.jpg
Single by Tracey Ullman
from the album You Broke My Heart in 17 Places
A-side "They Don't Know"
B-side The B-Side (UK)
"You Broke My Heart in 17 Places" (US)
Released September 9, 1983 [1]
Format 7 and 12" single
Recorded 1983
Genre Pop
Length 3:00
Label MCA/Stiff
Songwriter(s) Kirsty MacColl
Producer(s) Peter Collins
Tracey Ullman singles chronology
"They Don't Know"
"Move Over Darling"
"They Don't Know"
"Move Over Darling"
Audio sample

"They Don't Know" is a song, written and composed by Kirsty MacColl, who recorded it in 1979. It became popular on radio in the United Kingdom, reaching #2 on the Music Week airplay chart.[2] However, complications involving a strike at her distributors prevented the single from being shipped and promoted properly, preventing release of the single. MacColl's version of "They Don't Know" thus failed to appear on the official UK Singles Charts, which is entirely sales-based.

Although the song was not taken from an album, it later appeared on MacColl's compilation Galore[3] (amongst others).

Track listing[edit]

  1. They Don't Know (K. MacColl)
  2. [Turn My] Motor On (K. MacColl)[4]

Tracey Ullman version[edit]

In 1983, Tracey Ullman recorded a version of the song. Already well known in the UK as an actress and comedian, "They Don't Know" was issued as her second single there, reaching #2. MacColl performed backing vocals on Ullman's version and reprised her original "bay-ay-be-ee" in the middle of the song, because Ullman had a very limited high-end range. The song was also included on Ullman's debut album, You Broke My Heart in 17 Places.

The track was released in the United States the following year, as Ullman's first single there. At the time, Ullman was almost a complete unknown in the US, as her TV appearances had not been seen in that country. Publicity for the single was aided by the fact that the video for "They Don't Know" featured a cameo from Paul McCartney; at the time it was filmed, Ullman was filming a minor role in McCartney's film Give My Regards to Broad Street. "They Don't Know" eventually reached #8 on the Billboard Hot 100 and #11 on the Adult Contemporary chart in the United States.

It is sometimes erroneously reported that Ullman's version of "They Don't Know" simply uses the backing track from MacColl's original single. In fact, Ullman's version is an all brand-new recording, and the two versions are noticeably different: Ullman's version, which was produced by Peter Collins, is in a different key, and it features a very slightly faster tempo, a distinctly different arrangement and a guitar solo that differs substantially from the one played on MacColl's version, which was produced by Liam Sternberg. The confusion may stem from the fact that Ullman did use a previously-existing MacColl backing track when recording her own version of MacColl's "Terry" in 1984. (Both versions of "Terry" were co-produced by MacColl.)

In 1997, "They Don't Know" became the theme song for the final three seasons of Ullman's later television series Tracey Takes On.... The Tracey Ullman version was also used as the theme for the opening credits of Our Nixon, a documentary about U.S. President Richard Nixon.[5]

Other cover versions[edit]

  • Cotton Club recorded the Swedish rendering "Vår Hemlighet" on their 1984 eponymous album.
  • Anja Niskanen recorded the Finnish rendering "Syy On Rakkauden" on her 1984 eponymous album.
  • In 1994, a cover by American power pop Gigolo Aunts was included on the Volume 10 compilation (Catalog Number: 10VCD10), distributed by RTM/Pinnacle.
  • In 1997, Young Fresh Fellows covered the song for their album A Tribute To Music.
  • In 2001, Kenny Howes and the Yeah! included a cover on their self-titled album. The album was later re-released in 2002 under the new title of Until Dawn.
  • In 2001, Leslie Carter recorded a cover for her unreleased album "Like Wow!" possibly done as an homage recorded shortly after Kirsty's death.
  • In 2006, indie band The Boyfriends covered the song as a B-side for their single "Once Upon a Time".
  • In 2006, Katrina Leskanich released a cover of the song.
  • In 2006, Belgian band Nailpin covered the song for their album "White Lies & Butterflies" and released a music video for it.
  • In 2006, Swedish pop singer Moneybrother (a.k.a. Anders Wendin) recorded a Swedish cover for his album Pengabrorsan as "Dom Vet Ingenting Om Oss" (They Know Nothing About Us). He also recorded an English language version with Swedish a cappella group The Sweptaways.
  • In 2011, after performing the song live in concert, Kim Wilde recorded a studio version for her album of cover songs Snapshots.
  • In 2011, Andrea Corr included a cover on her solo album Lifelines.
  • In 2013, Matthew Sweet and Susanna Hoffs covered the song for their album Under the Covers, Vol. 3.
  • In 2014, country singer Lydia Loveless recorded a version for her album Somewhere Else released by Bloodshot Records.[6]
  • In 2014, a cover by American singer-songwriter Graham Alexander was included on the compilation Here Comes the Reign Again: The Second British Invasion.

Live cover performances[edit]


  1. ^
  2. ^ Gajarsky, Bob (1995-02-27), REVIEW: Kirsty MacColl, Galore (I.R.S.), Consumable on line, retrieved 2011-02-04 
  3. ^ "Galore - Kirsty MacColl". Retrieved 2014-10-30. 
  4. ^ "They Don't Know 7" single - Kirsty MacColl". Retrieved 2014-10-30. 
  5. ^ Hachard, Thomas (17 March 2013). "Our Nixon". Slant Magazine. Retrieved 29 December 2013. 
  6. ^ "". Retrieved 2014-03-13.