When Nicole Kidman did the ‘Bop’

Pat Wilson

Sometime in early 1984, an obscure Australian singer named Pat Wilson released a new wavish dance song called “Bop Girl.”

Don’t worry if you’ve never heard it. Few people did. The single never even cracked Billboard’s Top 100 in the U.S. It got as high as #104 on the Bubbling Under chart, then dropped off after one week.

 

That might have been the end of the story, but for one thing. The song’s video featured a cute, chubby-faced, up-and-coming 16-year-old Australian actress named Nicole Kidman. Thanks to the appearance of the former Mrs. Tom Cruise, “Bop Girl” has achieved something approaching cult status over the last few years.

 

And what of the song? It’s pretty great confection, actually. Its bump-and-grind, white R&B groove sounds like it might have been cribbed from Madonna’s “Material Girl,” but that song wasn’t released until nearly a year later. That makes you wonder if Madonna or then-producer Nile Rodgers had heard “Bop Girl” in a club and were trying to cop the “Bop.”

 

“Bop Girl” has a lot of other things going for it, though, like an impossibly catchy guitar lick and Wilson’s unaffected, enthusiastic lead vocal. The surprising appearance of fiddles halfway through even prefigures Shania Twain and Mutt Lange’s genre-mixing experiments of the 1990s. Maybe the biggest compliment you can give this record is that it really does make you wanna bop — even if you can’t dance.

 

The song was penned by Wilson’s husband, Ross Wilson, who was something of a musical star in Australia at the time, having been in the bands Daddy Cool and Mondo Rock. Of course, you can tell the record is the work of rock veterans who decided to don “hip” musical clothes and have a go at the new wave. Still, authenticity hardly matters on the dance floor, to quote the ditzy lyric, this “Bop girl’s A-OK!”

 

There’s probably a lot more I could find out about Pat Wilson. But that would probably spoil the mystery and fun of “Bop Girl.” Sometimes in life it’s best not to dig too deep and to just enjoy the superficial surface. Just ask any fan of Tom’n’Nicole.

 

“Bop Girl” was released as Warner 29361 and is out of print and not available on CD (at least not as far as we can tell). Wilson’s 1984 “Bop Girl” EP is not hard to find in used record shops, though.

 

Click here for the video. 

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