Hitmakers: Sophie Ellis-Bextor on Murder On The Dancefloor

Hitmakers: Sophie Ellis-Bextor on Murder On The Dancefloor

Murder On The Dancefloor is back in the Top 10 for Sophie Ellis-Bextor following its appearance in the final scene of Saltburn.

Sophie Ellis-Bextor spoke to Music Week in 2019, when her biggest solo hit had been given an orchestral makeover for her album The Song Diaries. Here, she reveals the inspiration behind a disco classic...

I’d signed a solo deal with Polydor and they introduced me to Gregg Alexander. He had this cassette of him singing what became Murder On The Dancefloor.

He’d wanted to go to a club and then his car wouldn’t start. So he just sat in his car on the drive with the guitar and started writing Murder On The Dancefloor. He recorded it into a cassette player and it was really loose. The verses weren’t really there, it was just him singing nonsense lyrics. But he had the chorus.

I remember being in quite a high-tech studio and being played his cassette of this really rough recording. So I nurtured it and finished the lyrics – it was pretty easy and fun. It started us collaborating on quite a few things together after that.

Weirdly, I didn’t feel much pressure at that point because [Ellis-Bextor’s former band] Theaudience had been signed to Mercury and dropped a couple of years later. The thing you get scared of when you sign a record deal is that you’re going to get dropped. I’d already had that, so it removed my fear a little bit.

When it came to making my first pop record, I was more interested in what my friends thought of it than the record company.

We finished off the lyric and then I remember Gregg calling me after I’d sung it. He’s quite a quirky bloke. He’s lovely and very talented but he literally didn’t even say hello, he just went, ‘Sophie, you’d better not steal the moves, Sophie.’

I couldn’t tell if he was really annoyed with me or not. Luckily, it turned out he was happy.

It’s actually a weird song because it sort of has two verses and an A chorus and a B chorus, it’s quite an odd little structure.

It also has a really brilliant bassline, which was played by Guy Pratt – he’s got such flair for bringing melody to a bassline. With disco, if you haven’t got the rhythm section doing what they need to do, then it isn’t disco.

Making the video was one of my happiest experiences. It was just so much fun, because at the time pop was really quite a dirty word. There were a lot of manufactured bands back in the charts and the start of all the Popstars programmes. So people were very cynical, because the image of pop music was being in a club high-fiving models who were pretending to be your mates.

I didn’t want that [for the video]. I wanted to be a girl that’s really unpleasant, I wanted to be a villainess who’s cruel and evil!

I’d just seen the movie for They Shoot Horses, Don’t They? about a dance marathon, and by the end of it they’re all absolutely out of their minds. That kind of became the idea of maybe we do a dance competition, where I’m trying to do everything I can to win.

It’s just amazing really. There are songs where you don’t know when you sing them that they’re going to be the songs you end up singing for 20 years. It’s very exciting when a song has a life outside of you.

Murder On The Dancefloor took me all around the world. Once my album came out, I toured in South America, Australia, South East Asia, all over the place and it was brilliant.

With the re-recording [for orchestral album The Song Diaries] we’ve gone quite weird. I worked with Ed Harcourt and he suggested making it Spanish, so we put in castanets.

David Arnold did some additional production. He put in feet stomping and some handclaps, so it’s really quite robust and a has a party feel.

The title is definitely something that people remember, although every once in a while people think it’s Blood On The Dance Floor, which is the Michael Jackson song.

The only real nuisance with the title is that I really feel quite a lot of pressure to never be assassinated in any nightclubs, because my death would be a joke instantly. I just can’t end my days that way, it would be so annoying!

Writer’s Notes

Publisher Rondor Music/Keepin It Real How ’Bout You/Warner/Chappell Music
Writers Gregg Alexander, Sophie Ellis-Bextor
Release Date 03.12.01
Record label Polydor
Total UK sales (OCC) 493,043

author twitter FOLLOW Andre Paine

For more stories like this, and to keep up to date with all our market leading news, features and analysis, sign up to receive our daily Morning Briefing newsletter

subscribe link free-trial link

follow us...