Sisterhood: In 1988, Sinéad O’Connor teamed up with MC Lyte for “I Want Your (Hands on Me)”

By on March 2, 2018

“Today, women’s voices are more powerful than ever in new music, neo-folk and down and dirty rock ‘n’ roll,” Night Flight’s Pat Prescott tells us in this excellent June 17, 1988 edition of “Take Off to Women in Rock,” one of our classic ’80s “Take Off” episodes. Watch it today on Night Flight Plus.

Ms. Prescott continues: U2 protégé Sinéad O’Connor burst on to the music scene this year from Ireland with a haunting voice and a musical style all her own. In her most recent single, Sinéad proves there’s sisterhood in rock teaming up with New York’s 17-year old rapper MC Lyte.”

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Just 21 years old herself at the time of shooting this video, O’Connor had actually made her debut a year earlier with The Lion and the Cobra, an album she’d recorded while heavily pregnant with her first child.

The album was a huge hit for O’Connor, charting in the Top Forty in the UK and all across Europe, and landing at #36 in the U.S, staying on the Billboard Top 200 for 38 weeks.

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The album’s cover photograph — by Haysi Fantayzee’s Kate Garner — on the U.S. album was a softer, more subdued shot, compared with the angrier one that had appeared on the UK version (seen here).

“I Want Your (Hands on Me)” was actually the album’s third single, arriving in May of ’88, the video premiering airing on MTV’s “120 Minutes.”

It was also featured in the 1988 horror flick, A Nightmare on Elm Street 4: The Dream Master, featuring everybody’s favorite nightmare-invading killer Freddy Krueger .

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British filmmaker John Maybury did most of the art direction for nearly all of Sinéad O’Connor’s videos and albums, including her 1990 smash I Do Not Want What I Haven’t Got.

On June 3, 1988, O’Connor’s live appearance at London’s Dominion Theatre on June 3, 1988, was filmed and later released as John Maybury’s 37-minute film, The Value of Ignorance.

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Just as he did many times whenever pointing a camera at O’Connor, Maybury focused heavily, almost exclusively, on her face in extreme close-up, filling the screen with images of her expressive eyes.

This was an image he would return to again and again in and her videos, especially in the striking, memorable video she made for her Prince cover song, “Nothing Compares 2 U,” which likely still remains O’Connor’s most well-known hit.

Read more about Sinéad O’Connor below.

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John Maybury had been a face on London’s early ’80s club scene, and a regular at the legendary Taboo.

In the late ’70s and for the entire ’80s he worked on mostly small-scale independent film and video projects, and he also art directed for filmmaker Derek Jarman.

Before he became a director of feature films, Maybury lensed short films and music videos for Boy George, the Jesus & Mary Chain, Siouxsie & the Banshees, Neneh Cherry (“Buffalo Stance”) and many others.

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Here’s what O’Connor had to say about her unique look in Rob Tannenbaum’s and Craig Marks’ I Want My MTV: The Uncensored Story of the Music Video Revolution:

“I shaved my head after I signed a record contract. Two guys from the record company wanted me to wear mini-skirts. They described their mistresses to me, and said I should look like that.”

“I didn’t want to be pushed as some kind of pretty girl, so my way of answering that was to shave my head. I didn’t want to be governed by a load of middle-aged blokes.”

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“It was a time when you hadn’t really come across angry women. I wasn’t standing there with blond hair, saying, ‘Oh baby, do me.’ The way I looked caused a lot of opinions. Madonna did an interview at the time, saying ‘Sinéad O’Connor has about as much sex appeal as Venetian blinds.’

“I was an unusual character in all kinds of ways, and I suppose from the boring desks of MTV, I must have looked interesting. I didn’t conform visually, and that’s part of the reason MTV was attracted to me.”

“I often look quite serious, when in fact I’m not that serious of a person. But there was a fucking camera in my face, and I didn’t know what I was supposed to do. On videos, my job was just to turn up and let everyone do whatever they wanted to me. The phallic-looking flowers in ‘I Want Your (Hands on Me),’ that’s the director, John Maybury.

“John was obviously obsessed with penises.”

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O’Connor also said that it was funny was that Maybury said “Thank you to the plate of onions” when accepting one of his 1990 MTV Video Music Awards.

He seemed to be implying that it was actually a plate of onions that had made her cry in the video when it was actually remembering her mother, who had died three years earlier.

The video actually won three of MTV’s “Moonmen” awards, for Video of the Year, Best Female Video and Best Post-Modern Video.

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Interviewed shortly after the theatrical release of his film The Edge of Love by the UK’s The Guardian (“Madness and monsters”), Maybury said:

“I’ve never fitted in with the art world proper. The art world has always thought I was too commercial. And the commercial world always thought I was too arty. You can’t please anybody.”

Watch Night Flight’s 1988 “Take Off to Women in Rock” — featuring Sinéad O’Connor (and MC Lyte)’s beautiful video for “I Want Your (Hands on Me)” and additional videos by Joan Jett, Lita Ford and Annie Lennox, among many others — on Night Flight Plus.

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About Bryan Thomas

Bryan Thomas has been a freelancing writer/critic for All Music Guide, and a contributor to Launch, Music Connection, Big Takeover and numerous other publications and entertainment websites, blogs and zines, most of them long gone. He's written more than sixty sets of liner notes. He’s also worked for over twenty years at mostly reissue record labels -- prior to that he worked in bookstores and record stores, going all the way back to the original vinyl daze. He lives in the Miracle Mile neighborhood of Los Angeles, CA.