"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).


 [hide*1 Track listing

Track listing[edit]Edit

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

Tracey Ullman version[edit]Edit

In 1983Tracey Ullman recorded a version of the song. Already well-known in the UK as an actress and comedienne, "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. 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.)

Much later, the track 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 notable versions[edit]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.
  • Gigolo Aunts cover the song on the 1994 Volume 10 compilation (Catalog Number: 10VCD10), distributed by RTM/Pinnacle.
  • Death Cab for Cutie lead singer Ben Gibbard often covers "They Don't Know" in live performance.
  • Indie band The Boyfriends covered the song as a B-side for their single "Once Upon a Time".
  • Nailpin covered and recorded a video for their version of the song.
  • Swedish pop singer Moneybrother includes this in his cover album Pengabrorsan as Dom Vet Ingenting Om Oss (They Know Nothing About Us).
  • Katrina Leskanich released a version of the song in 2005.
  • Young Fresh Fellows have covered this song, as well as Kenny Howes and the Yeah! on their 2001 debut CD.
  • Kim Wilde performed the song at the Kirsty MacColl tribute show on October 10, 2010 and it was featured on her 2011 album Snapshots, which consist of cover versions only.
  • Andrea Corr includes the song on her album Lifelines.
  • Leslie Carter offers a faithful cover on her unreleased 2001 album "Like Wow!" possibly done as an homage recorded shortly after Kirsty's death.
  • Lydia Loveless has a version on her Somewhere Else album on Bloodshot Records.[6]
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