Can you believe it’s been 21 years since Aussie poppet Melissa Tkautz released her massive debut single, Read My Lips?

The track was the first of a short run of hits for Tkautz, including the equally racy Sexy Is The Word (considering she was a teenage Catholic virgin at the time, Tkautz predated Britney’s ‘good girl gone bad’ schtick by about a decade).

But by 1993, Tkautz’s music career had fizzled and she didn’t release a song again until 2005, focusing on an acting career in the interim.

Her post-2005 musical output has been mainly a case of one-off singles with dance producers and DJs, which is why Tkautz is now collating the cream of her recorded output into one tidy package: The Hits & More, released digitally on August 10.

“It was feedback from the fans that made me decide to release it. People haven’t been able to track down my early stuff, and because I’ve released all these one-offs, people just haven’t known about all the songs I’ve done,” she said.

Neither, it would appear, does Tkautz – when asked what would appear on the album, she was somewhat cagey.

“It hasn’t all been confirmed yet, and my manager doesn’t want me to give away too much, so I’m not sure. There will be all the hits along with some songs that were recorded back in the day but were never actually released.”

Read My Lips won the 1992 ARIA Award as the year’s highest-selling Australian single, but it’s surprising to learn that Tkautz’s musical career was initially nothing but a by-product of her popular role on the hit soapie of the moment, E Street.

Tkautz had to film a sequence in which her character imagined she was a famous pop star (as you do). Producers, stuck for song, commissioned Read My Lips. Before long, it had shot up the charts.

Such was the success of the song, it even spawned that greatest of honours for any Aussie singer – a Fast Forward parody starring Gina Riley.

“That was so funny. What an honour! That was a favourite show of mine, so I remember thinking – ‘she’s writing ME off’? Very, very cool,” Tkautz said.

“To be honest, it was a crazy, crazy time of my life. I was a teenage girl who wasn’t even allowed to sleep over at a friend’s place, and suddenly I was on this huge show with a number one single.”

And now, 21 years later – incredibly, still a few years shy of her 40th birthday – Tkautz credits her largely gay fanbase for her survival in a notoriously fickle industry.

“It’s all about the fans. I’m still gigging, I’m still releasing a single every year or so – sure, it’s not on the same level as it was back then, but my life is different now and I’m very happy.

“Our music industry is so small; the fact that I’m still around all these years later is crazy to me.”

INFO: Melissa Tkautz – The Hits & More, on iTunes August 10. Tkautz will also play Rock Lily at Star City Casino (Sydney) on August 10, Unity (Newcastle) August 11, Spice Market (Melbourne) August 18 and Brisbane’s The Beat on August 24.

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