Sly was the combination of Craig Armstrong’s strings combined with Nicolette’s unique sensual vocals. Massive Attack had chosen Nicolette to appear on the album Protection after hearing her first album ‘Now is Early’ and being suitably impressed by it.
Some music press magazines reported just before the single release of Sly in the UK, that a ‘Future Sound Of London’ remix would also be apart of the single package. Whether this was simply inaccurate reporting or if the remix was pulled at the last minute remains unknown as the remix did not appear on the single release. It has never been heard and no confirmation of it’s existence exists otherwise.
One of the song-writers of this song is Vivien Goldman, whose credentials boast of being both a music journalist and musician. Even with her varied career in the arts, Sly is her only song she worked on with Massive Attack.
On Collected, the song’s duration is 04:56, as the sweeping orchestral strings at the songs end has been omitted.
Sly has never once been played live, not even in any known live TV appearances. Obviously, Nicolette never toured with Massive Attack and the only other Nicolette sung song, Three has likewise never been performed live.
7 Stones Mix – Respected dance DJ Tim Simenon was the main man behind this remix with the unusual name of 7 Stones. This would be his only remix for Massive Attack. Included on all single releases.
7 Stones Mix Instrumental – An instrumental mix of the original 7 Stones mix exactly the same as the original remix sans vocals. Included only on the promo 12″ vinyl release.
Underdog Mix – Underdog AKA Trevor Jackson offers his own interpretation of Sly here. This would be his first of three remixes for Massive Attack, the other two being Protection and Risingson. Included on all single releases.
Underdog Double Bass & Accapella – Removes the beat from the orginial whilst making the remix more minimalistic. Included on all single releases, but not the Singles 90/98 boxset.
Dogapella – A minor variation on the Underdog Double Bass & Accapella. Included only on the promo 12″ vinyl release.
Cosmic Dub – This is the first ever Mad Professor remix of a Massive Attack song released. Included on all single releases and on No Protection.
Eternal Feedback Dub – Another remix by the Mad Professor. Included on all single releases but not on No Protection.
Sly uses a sample from the song “Africa Talks to You ‘The Asphalt Jungle’” by Sly & The Family Stone. It appears primarily on their 1971 release “There’s a Riot Goin’ On”. It is not credited officially by Massive Attack. Massive Attack may have possibly named their own song Sly, after the sample they used from Sly & The Family Stone.
3D on working with Craig Armstrong during the making of Sly – “To sort him out we gave him a lot of influential tracks, a lot of 50s big band music like Les Baxter and stuff and really filled him in on what we wanted. And given like four or five reference tracks and the groove and the song, he could have gone anywhere with that, but he picked up on the vibe and came back with the mood we’re all into” [The Wire - September 1994]
Nicolette on why she choose to work with Massive Attack – “They heard my latest single at the time ‘Wicked Mathematics’ and got in touch with my then manager, asking if I would work with them on some tracks. I was really surprised because musically we came from two different worlds, but I was very happy to do it because I respected them a lot as musicians, and also because I knew it would be a challenge for me to work on something so different than what I was used to. So they brought me over to bristol to meet the band, we hit it off, and that was that” [MassiveAttackArea.com - February 2005]
I try to believe what I feel these days. It makes life much easier for me. It’s hard to decide what is real these days. When things look so dizzy to me. I already know my children’s children’s faces. Voices that I’ve heard before. There’s always more. There’s always more. Wondering leaving the sea behind . To my home which everybody owns. Wondering, wondering. Where we can do what we please. Wondering. I feel like a thousand years have passed. I’m younger than I used to be. I feel like the world is my home at last. I know everyone that I meet. Somewhere in the music I can hear the bells. I heard a thousand years before. There’s always more. There’s always more. Wondering is this there all there is. Since I was since I began to be. Wondering, wandering. Where we can do what we please. Wondering.
This would be the first and only video directed by Stéphane Sednaoui for Massive Attack.
The video was filmed on Wall Street at the same time as the film production for “Batman: Forever” was also filming there, which complicated the shoot for Sly. Coincidentally, Massive Attack would end up providing the song The Hunter Gets Captured By The Game for the “Batman: Forever” soundtrack in the following year.
Quotes About The Video
3D on the making of the video for Sly – “Sly was difficult because we did’nt know the director very well and we had to go to New York and get straight into it, and it was quite a fashion type thing and we were’nt expecting that and so we had a few rows about that. So it was difficult in terms of the vibe” [FHM Magazine - November 2001]
Stéphane Sednaoui on developing ideas for the video for Sly with Massive Attack – “For Massive Attack, I wrote a treatment and that’s it. We didn’t discuss anything. They were enthusiastic (at least I hope so), everything was prepared and we met each other to shoot. So I had really “carte blanche”. As I said, I had these ideas and this music was so “cinematographic”. It was like a soundtrack for an incredible movie then I let music take me away. This song was a little bit different because Nicolette was there” [MassiveAttackArea.com - October 2004]
Stéphane Sednaoui on developing ideas for the video for Sly with Massive Attack – “The shoot was fun! It was like playing make-believe as a child, but with better costumes! It was almost like a film set, there were so many personnel and extras and costumes. Two people had to hold my arms while I walked and sometimes i had to be carried because I was wearing these geisha sandals that only have a very thin edge to walk on…you didn’t see them in the video but they added some kind of authenticity to its energy that Stephane was looking for” [MassiveAttackArea.com - February 2005]