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Bouncing back

May 14th, 2010 5 comments

I will hardly reveal myself as the music blogosphere’s slightly less ugly version of Dr Phil when I observe that people recover from the end of serious relationships in very different ways. In this series of songs about love we have looked at various themes, including splitting up. Here we look at how protagonists in ten songs have bounced back, or not, from the death of a liaison.

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Skeeter Davis – Gonna Get Along Without You Now (1964).mp3

Well, it’s easier to bounce back when our ex was a bit of a bounder. Look at the ex of Skeeter (or Teresa Brewer or Viola Wills or lately She & Him): one minute he proposes marriage, the next he’s running around “with every girl in town”, masking his two-timing ways by telling everybody that he and Skeeter are just friends. Who needs that? Not Skeeter (or Teresa or Viola or She). “I got along without you before I met you, gonna get along without you now.” And the philosophical lack of concern is followed by the triumphant zinger: “Thought I’d find somebody who is twice as cute , ’cause I didn’t like you anyhow.” Bouncebackability score: 10/10

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Ben Folds – Landed (Strings version) (2005).mp3
Ben got out of the clutches of a controlling woman (as he tells it anyway). He and the ex moved to the West Coast, and separated from their old social circle. She seems have bullied Ben: “She liked to push me and talk me back down till I believed I was the crazy one. And in a way I guess I was.” She controlled access to him, so when people phoned, she’d not convey the message. Now he has walked out — “down comes the reign of the telephone tsar” — and it’s okay to call him. He’s ready to resume his old life, if that is possible: “And if you wrote me off, I’d understand it. ’Cause I’ve been on some other planet. So come pick me up, I’ve landed” — from that “other planet” and from the West Coast. Bouncebackability score: 9/10

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Kris Kristofferson – From The Bottle To The Bottom (1969).mp3
Sometimes there is no bounce-back. Whatever solace there can be derived emanates from those friends in low places: Johnny Walker, Jim Beam, Jack Daniels. So it is here. Being asked whether he is happy apparently is bitter a joke. Or at least, “happy” is a concept that needs to be clearly defined before the question is posed. “It seems that since I’ve seen you last I done forgot the meaning of the word. If happiness is empty rooms and drinkin’ in the afternoon, well, I suppose I’m happy as a clam. But if it’s got a thing to do with smilin’ or forgettin’ you, well, I don’t guess that I could say I am.” Happy, that is. Freedom, eh? Living the dream? Not so much: “There’s no one here to carry on if I stay out the whole night long, or give a tinker’s damn if I don’t call. I’m livin’ like I wanted to, and doin’ things I wanna do, and nothin’ means a thing to me at all.” So we might think that Kris is not doing well. In fact, he’s doing worse.

How’s this for being down: “Did you ever see a down and outer waking up alone without a blanket on to keep him from the dew, when the water from the weeds has soaked the paper he’s been puttin’ in his shoes to keep the ground from comin’ through, and his future feels as empty as the pocket in his pants because he’s never seen a single dream come true? That’s the way that I’ve been feelin’ since the day I started falling from the bottle to the bottom, stool by stool.” He’s lost that bouncing feeling… Bouncebackability score: 1/10

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Rilo Kiley – The Execution Of All Things (2002).mp3
There’s no post break-up messing around here: the now defunct relationship must be snuffed out. The split was humiliating to her, as we learn in the first verse, and her business now is to get over that. “Oh god, come quickly, the execution of all things. Let’s start with the bears and the air and mountains, rivers, and streams. Then we’ll murder what matters to you and move on to your neighbours and kids. Crush all hopes of happiness with disease ’cause of what you did.” So pretty much a scorched earth policy. And that comes laced with a bit of vengeful anticipation: “And lastly, you’re all alone with nothing left but sleep. But sleep never comes to you; it’s just the guilt and forever wakefulness of the weak.” Bouncebackability score: 7/10

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Damien Rice – The Blower’s Daughter (2002).mp3
Here’s a guy not about to bounce back from what might be a broken relationship, unrequited love, unstated love, impossible love. Pretty much a love that has fucked over somebody to whom things tend to come fairly easy. He’s still obsessed: “I can’t take my eyes off of you”. Lisa Hannigan, giving voice the titular blower’s daughter, tries to calm him, pointing out that she didn’t say she loathes him, as he apparently thinks she does. Upshot is that much as he feels like hating her, he doesn’t. So he won’t keep his mind off her, “till I find somebody new”. So there’s hope for the bounce-back yet from whatever love our friend is suffering. Bouncebackability score: 3/10

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Marit Larsen – Only A Fool (2006).mp3
Marit’s boyfriend (or perhaps husband; a ring changed hands and unspecified vows were made) betrayed her, and now she has dumped the chump. Our Norwegian songbird has “been changing after what you put me through; there is just no way that I’ll be coming home to you”. She thinks she’d be a bit of an idiot to do so, as she notes with admirable forthrightness in the chorus: “Only a fool would do this again. Only a fool would let you back in. There is no you left to embrace, there is no word would make it feel safe.” Her naive trust was broken, and that must have hurt. But she’s in a better place than her apparently pleading ex: “It feels good here, better than you know. Isn’t it only fair that you try and let it go?”
Bouncebackability score: 10/10

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Mazzy Starr – Halah (1990).mp3
Sometimes you need closure before bouncing back. Hope Sandoval, Mazzy Starr’s singer, is still looking for that. Instead, there is a lot of confusion. “It’s like I told you, I’m over you somehow.” Well, that is good. But what’s this? “Before I close the door I need to hear you say goodbye.” Ah, not so much over it then. “Baby won’t you change your mind?” And that awful obstacle to closure and bounce-back: hope. The ex owes Sandoval an explanation which she won’t receive. So there won’t be closure any time soon. Bouncebackability score: 2/10

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Ricky Peterson – Livin’ It Up (1990).mp3
The song has featured in the songs about love series before, in Bill LaBounty’s original version (though that link is dead. The song is on this mix). Here jazz singer Ricky Peterson is giving vocals to the anthem for the false bounce-back. Our friend admits that he had gone through a tough time since the break-up. He even put a service on the phone. And whatever that is, it sounds like the action of a man in a deep funk. But he’s out of that, he informs us (and, more to the point, her). He scraped his heart up off the floor! Oh, and he’s having a majestic time now. Living it up, he is, “right from the women to the wine. Livin’ out all those fantasies I never did get to, crazy things I never got to do”. Now that’s bouncing back like kangaroo on methamphetamine. But all’s not as it seems. “Every now and then I must confess, I’m not up to all this happiness. Sometimes I wonder if the place I’m at is where I do belong.” So what’s missing from making this great life complete? Well, all this livin’ it up from women to wine involving crazy fantasies…” it don’t seem like living without you”. Bouncebackability score: 6/10

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Tom Waits – Innocent When You Dream (78) (1987).mp3
Oh curse you, wicked self-recrimination. Tom and his girl had something beautiful: “I made a golden promise that we would never part. I gave my love a locket.” Tell me more, tell me more, did you get very far? Evidently not. “And then I broke her heart.” So instead of running through a pollen paradise straight out of a shampoo commercial, Tom now observes that “the bats are in the belfry, the dew is on the moor”. But when he sleeps, he resuscitates the happy memories. “The fields are soft and green”, but “it’s memories that I’m stealing”. The song title will have alerted the reader of Waits’ punchline: “But you’re innocent when you dream.” Tom isn’t about to forgive himself for what he has done, is he? Bouncebackability score: 2/10

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Rainbow – Since You’ve Been Gone (1979).mp3
Head East – Since You’ve Been Gone (1978).mp3

Written by Russ Ballard, we have two proxies expressing his thoughts (Cherie & Marie Currie’s version must wait for a couple of months to feature in a different context). Our jilted lover can take a lot of punishment, including poison letters and telegrams that just go to show she doesn’t give a damn. And the cause for that readiness to be reconciled? Well, see, “these four walls are closing in” and recurring dreams cause our anti-hero to fall out of his bed at night, possibly as a result of reading her letter at night “beneath the back street light” (is he stalking her?). His mental well-being is on the edge. “Since you been gone, I’m outta my head, can’t take it.” Witchcraft may be involved: “Could I be wrong, but since you been gone, you cast the spell — so break it.” Oooohwaowaow ohwaowoawoh indeed. Bouncebackability score: 1/10

More Songs About Love (happy, unhappy, ending etc)

The Originals Vol. 6

September 22nd, 2008 No comments

In this instalment, we owe thanks to RH for the originals of Handbags And Gladrags and Since You Been Gone.Little Willie John – Fever.mp3
Peggy Lee – Fever.mp3
Idols audition in South Africa, a couple of years ago. The contestant enters and announces that she will sing Fever by…Michael Bublé. I can see grumpy Idols judge Randall Abrahams getting wound up. When the contestant has delivered her performance (as poor as you imagined), Randall berates her for lacking historical perspective. The song was originally done by Peggy Lee, he tells the hapless non-Idol, and she should have listened to that version instead of Bublé’s. Randall, whom I knew at university as a man of huge musical knowledge, was terribly wrong and also quite right at the same time. The original version of Fever was the work of Little Willie John, but the finger-snapping arrangement with which we associate the song was inaugurated by Peggy Lee.

Little Willie John should command a prominent place in music history, not necessarily for his catalogue of music, but certainly for his influence. Before Sam Cooke, before James Brown, before Ray Charles, he was at the vanguard of singers who build the bridge between the R&B genre which was then called “race music” to the relatively smoother sounds of soul. Perhaps dying in jail in 1968 while serving a sentence for manslaughter contributed to his legacy being relegated to the periphery. Little Willie John’s 1956 version of Fever is a light, jazzy affair with soul vocals which anticipate Jackie Wilson, co-written by Rock ‘n Roll legend Otis Blackwell (Great Balls Of Fire, All Shook Up, Don’t Be Cruel). Two years later, Peggy Lee set the template with snapping fingers, sparse bass and drum, and two added verses (including those namechecking Romeo, Juliet and Pocahontas), creating an almost unbearable sexual tension. It is her take which has been covered to the point of cliché.
Also recorded by: Ray Peterson (1957), Frankie Avalon (1959), Elvis Presley (1960), King Curtis (1961), Ben E. King (1962), Timi Yuro (1963), Conway Twitty (1963), Alvin Robinson (1964), Sarah Vaughan (1964), The McCoys (1965), Quincy Jones (1965), Little Milton (1966), Buddy Guy (1968), Wanda Jackson (1968), Marie “Queenie” Lyons (1970), Ronnie Dyson (1970), Sharon cash (1970), Rita Coolidge (1972), Suzi Quatro (1975), Boney M. (1976), Esther Phillips with Beck (1976), Sylvester (1980), Chaka Khan (1989), Madonna (1992), Anne Murray (1993), Tom Verlaine (1994), Don Williams (1995), Tito Puente (1996), Eva Cassidy (2002), Beyoncé (2003), Michael Bublé (2003), Alan Merrill (2003), Celine Dion (2004), Ray Charles & Natalie Cole (2004), Bette Midler (2005), Helmut Lotti (2008) and hundreds more.
Best version: For its impact alone, it must be Peggy Lee’s.

Chris Farlowe – Handbags And Gladrags.mp3
Rod Stewart – Handbags And Gladrags.mp3
Big George Webley – Handbags and Gladrags.mp3
The word “gladrags” is deplorably underused in pop music. So we ought to give credit to former Manfred Mann singer Mike D’Abo for popularising it in music. D’Abo didn’t immediately release it, producing British singer Chris Farlowe’s recording in 1967. Farlowe had made it a bit of a career of covering Rolling Stones songs in particular; his rather good version of Out Of Time topped the UK charts in 1966, his only Top 30 hit. He didn’t do very well either with Handbags And Gladrags, which tanked at #33, great harmonica backing notwithstanding. In 1969, Rod Stewart – a shrewd operator when it comes to recording lesser known songs, as we will still find in this series – recorded the track, arranged again by D’Abo himself. Released in 1970, it became a hit only two years later.

Strangely, the song has not been covered much. It made something of a comeback when it was used as the theme for the British version of The Office, produced by a session musician and writer of many TV themes called Big George Webley (bassist with Paul Young’s Q-Tips, who featured in the previous installment with Love Hurts), with vocals by heavy metal singer going by the terminally snappy name Fin of an outfit called Waysted (who took over lead vocals for the Q-Tips when Pal Young went solo). Nice piano in that version.
Also recorded by: The Love Affair (1968), The Rationals (1969), Mike D’Abo (1970), Gary Burton (1971), Kate Taylor (1971), Jon English (1973), Stereophonics (2001), Engelbert Humperdinck (2007)
Best version: I like all three featured here, but on balance you can’t beat Rod.

The Crickets – I Fought The Law.mp3
The Bobby Fuller Four – I Fought The Law.mp3
The Clash – I Fought The Law.mp3
Thought by many to be an original Clash song, the more knowledgeable will refer to the Bobby Fuller Four. But even that was a cover of the 1960 song by the Crickets, Buddy Holly’s erstwhile band. Written by Sonny Curtis, one can almost hear Holly sing it. In the event, the song made no great impact until Fuller’s 1964 recording. Fuller was found dead just as the single was becoming a hit (some say suicide, some allege foul play – few suicides involve beating one’s self up before imbibing petrol). The session drummer on the Fuller version, rumour has it, was a young Barry White. That may be apocryphal, but it is documented that White did drum for Fuller on other tracks. A generation later, it become something of a pub-punk classic as spat out by Strummer on the Clash version. The Dead Kennedys 1987 changed the song’s perspective, from that of a robber (and, in the Clash’s version, killer) to that of the man who killed San Francisco’s mayor and police chief in 1978. The song was also in the repertoire that flushed Manuel Noriega out of the Vatican embassy.
Also recorded by: Claude François (1966), Bryan Adams (1988), Stray Cats (1989), The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band (1992), Nanci Griffith (1997), Mike Ness (1999), Status Quo (2003), Green Day (2004), Colin Farrell (2004), Waco Brothers (2005)
Best version: I really can’t decide. Tossing a coin, the Clash win.

Brenda Holloway – You’ve Made Me So Very Happy.mp3
Blood, Sweat & Tears – You’ve Made Me So Very Happy.mp3
Brenda Holloway was perhaps Motown’s most under-used singer. Relegated by Berry Gordy to sing the songs rejected by Mary Wells and other female Tamla stars, it is ironic that Gordy helped her (and sister Patrice Holloway) write the song that has cemented her place in music history more than her Motown output ever did. Shortly after finishing the song, Holloway left Motown, released another album, sang backing vocals for Joe Cocker, and disappeared from the music industry for three decades. Her 1967 version of You’ve Made Me So Very Happy was a minor Top 40 hit in the US. Two years later, the song became a rock standard in the hands of Blood, Sweat & Tears, whose rich arrangement, with the horns and the gospel keyboard and David Clayton-Thomas impassioned vocals, virtually overhauled the song. On the same album, BS&T appropriated two other songs: Laura Nyro’s And When I Die and Clayton-Thomas’ own Spinning Wheel.
Also recorded by: Alton Ellis (1967), The Anita Kerr Singers (1969). John Davidson (1969). Bobbie Gentry (1969), The Honey Cone (1970), The Temptations (1970), Lou Rawls (1970), Sammy Davis Jr. (1970), Nancy Wilson (February 1970), Mina (1972), Shirley Bassey (1976), Gloria Estefan (1994), Diana Ross (1994)
Best version: Blood, Sweat & Tears’ is one of rock music’s finest 500 moments, probably.

Russ Ballard – Since You Been Gone.mp3
Rainbow – Since You Been Gone.mp3
Written by Russ Ballard of Argent, Since You Been Gone is usually associated with Rainbow, who scored a big hit with it in 1979/80. Singer Graham Bonnet sets the template for every big hair rock group that would soil the charts in the 1980s – ironically Bonnet had short hair (see how I resisted a pun here). Rarely have handclaps sounded as good in rock as they do here. I really like the version, released around the same time as Rainbow’s, by ex-Runaways member Cherrie Currie and her sister Marie, which fuses the poppier sound of the original with the rock sensibilities of the Rainbow version, though I don’t know if they were aware of it (check out the video).
Also recorded by: Clout (1979), The Brian May Band (1994)
Best version: Has to be Rainbow’s, with those tempo changes and handclaps

Perfect Pop – Vol.1

March 17th, 2008 7 comments

Jim Irvin in the latest issue of that fine British music magazine The Word makes the point that when his fellow critics describe something as perfect pop, it probably is neither. “It’ll be the work of a tone-deaf beanpole with a great haircut who sings like a rusty hinge while his mates commit acts upon musical instruments that the Spanish Inquisition would have thought twice about,” he writes, exaggerating for effect only marginally. Irvin mentions three songs as examples of what does constitute perfect pop: Britney’s Toxic, Take That’s Back For Good, and the Beatles’ I Feel Fine. I think these are excellent choices. But perfect pop is not a rarity, as I and a few Internet buddies found.

So, what are the ingredients in a perfect pop record? One pal suggested that pursuing a recipe is like “unweaving a rainbow” (a reasoning which might recall Stephen Fry’s immortal line, “Don’t analyse comedy; it’s beautiful as it is”). Unlike my pal, I prefer to approach such things scientifically, so here are some criteria I’d employ:

1. Great tune (obviously)
2. A killer chorus
3. Relative brevity (six-minute epics really must justify their time)
4. Instant recognisability
5. A certain timelessness (it should sound fresh three decades later)
6. Singalongabillity (or humalongability)
7. something undefinable; let’s call it aural fairydust (probably the one essential ingredient)

With all that in mind, and acknowledging that discerning perfection in pop is intrinsically subjective, let’s dip into the first bumper lot of 20 perfect pop records (enough to make a mix-tape, so take your time):

Hall & Oates – Private Eyes.mp3
It is easy to make fun of Hall’s mullet and of Oates in general, but Daryl and John were purveyors of many a perfect pop record. ‘She’s Gone’, ‘Kiss On My List’, ‘Rich Girl’, ‘Everytime You Go Away’, ‘One On One’, perhaps also ‘Out Of Touch’ (were it not for the horrible ’80s production) are all contenders. ‘Private Eyes’, however, towers above all of these in capturing a flawless pop sensibility: you sing along with it involuntarily, you do the drum thingy, your foot taps, you remember the lyrics even when you haven’t heard the song in years…
Best bit: The whipping drum thingy (0:42)

The Sweet – Teenage Rampage.mp3
It could have been any number of Sweet hits. ‘Ballroom Blitz’, ‘Blockbuster’, ‘The Six Teens’ or ‘Fox On The Run’ have no deficiency in the pop perfection stakes. When the verses are almost good enough to be the chorus, and the chorus tops it, and you have to sing along, then it has the main ingredients for perfect pop.
Best Bit: When the chorus kicks in (0:54)

The Jesus And Mary Chain – Just Like Honey.mp3
Can a record with excess feedback be perfect? In this case, I think it can be. Indeed, had the Reid brothers dispensed with the feedback for ‘Just Like Honey’, the song might have been just another Phil Spektor pastiche.
Best bit: The guitar solo gets even louder (1:42)

The Turtles – Happy Together.mp3
The sound of 1966, a great year in pop. A judiciously employed backing vocal of ba-ba-ba-bah and a martial beat can make a difference between a good pop song and a perfect one.
Best bit: “How is the weather?” (2:21)

Guildo Horn – Guildo hat euch lieb.mp3
Germany’s quite brilliant Eurovision Song Contest entry in 1998 seemed to at once embrace the contest and give it the finger (hence his relatively poor showing in seventh place). The name alone suggests some ribbing at the German Schlager (Guildo is phonetically identical to the surname of the late Schlager icon Rex Gildo, whose ‘Fiesta Mexicana’ can be found here). On ‘Guildo hat euch lieb’ (Guildo loves you [plural]), Horn accomplishes the impossible: he makes German sound good in a pop song.
Best bit: “Tief, tief, tief, ich hab’ dich lieb” (1:00)

Big Bopper – Chantilly Lace.mp3
This might have aged a bit since it was a hit 50 years ago, but if you have to listen to somebody speak on record, wouldn’t you rather it was the Big Bopper instead of bloody Fabolous?
Best bit: “Helllooooo baaaaaaybee” (0:01)

The Buggles – Video Killed The Radio Star.mp3*
Not quite three-and-a-half minutes packed with so many endearing touches, from the piano intro to the sing-along fade out. It’s impossible, surely, not to love this song.
Best bit: The drum comes in (0:31)

Kylie Minogue – Can’t Get You Out Of My Head.mp3
Would one say this song was perfect pop if it wasn’t for that video? “Spinning Around” is perhaps the bouncier pop song, but this creeps into your head without you even noticing and squats there like a hippie commune. Where do I apply for the job as Kylie’s gold shorts?
Best bit: “La la la, la-la-lala-la…” (0:15)

Abba – Dancing Queen.mp3
Some would say that this is the most perfect pop song ever. If one takes the view that there can be such a thing as a single “most perfect pop song” ever, then ‘Dancing Queen’ would be as good a choice as any (but there can’t be, of course). Indeed, there are a number of worthy challengers in the Abba canon: there is only a sliver of difference in the perfection of ‘Dancing Queen’ and, say, ‘S.O.S.’ or ‘Mamma Mia’.
Best bit: “You can dance, you can jive…” (0:20)

Pet Shop Boys & Dusty Springfield – What Have I Done To Deserve This.mp3*
The Pet Shop Boys are another outfit who could churn out some wonderful pop. The 1986 debut album, Please, in particular boasted four singles which accomplished or neared perfection, especially ‘Suburbia’. But it was in tandem with another purveyor of great pop that they conjured indisputable perfection.
Best bit: Dusty’s voice goes higher as she sings “make me feel better” (2:48)

Steve Harley & Cockney Rebel – Come Up And See Me.mp3*
Steve Harley’s periodically stuttering, spluttering and sneering delivery are complemented by a great tune, infectious hooks and an exciting arrangement, with sudden stops and those “oowooh-la-la-la” backing vocals.
Best bit: The two second pause between the acoustic guitar solo and Steve Harley resuming (2:19)

The Temptations – My Girl.mp3
One could fill a whole 2GB iPod with perfect pop from Hitsville, and still regret leaving out great songs. So we’ll settle for “My Girl” as a representative for Motown, appropriately so not only because it is a mindbogglingly great song, but also because it combines two agents of serial pop perfection: it was written by Smokey Robinson, and performed by the Temptations.
Best bit: “Hey hey hey” (1:42)

The Smiths – This Charming Man (Peel session).mp3*
There are people who have bought into the foolish notion that The Smiths were in any way depressing. Who created that idea? The Smiths were a great pop combo, and ‘This Charming Man’ is the best example of that.
Best bit: Marr’s closing chords (2:39)

The Kingsmen – Louie Louie.mp3
If you have the right hi-fi equipment and good hearing, apparently you can hear the drummer say “fuck” when he screws up as he comes into song. Which would be the first instance of the f-word word being released on record. Everything about this song is shambolic, which adds to its attraction. It makes even the untalented among us believe that anyone could do this rock ‘n roll lark. So it’s probably more punk than the Sex Pistols ever were.
Best bit: “OK, let’s give it to them, right now” (1:25)

Strawberry Switchblade – Since Yesterday.mp3*
My son’s 13-year-old friend Thabo was going through my iPod, and attracted by this duo’s name (mmm, strawberries) discovered ‘Since Yesterday’, a piece of pop heaven from 1984/85. Thabo was so enchanted by it, he recorded it on to his cellphone (when all he needed to do was visit this blog to get the MP3. Or just ask me for it).
Best bit: The instrumental break (1:32)

David Essex – Gonna Make You A Star.mp3
Is this glam rock or bubblegum pop? Either way, it is faultless pop with loads of little touches which reveal themselves the more familiar one becomes with this1974 hit.
Best bit: “I’ gonna make you a stah-yee-yah-yee-yah-yee-yah-yee-yah-ee-yah-ee-ye-yay-yeaaaa-ur (2:39)

Rainbow – Since You’ve Been Gone.mp3*
Great opening chords, some of the best handclaps outside a Motown studio, a catchy chorus, and fantastic pop-rock vocals of the kind that would come to influence every big hair rocker (by a dude with short hair).
Best bit: Things picking up again after the bridge (2:15)

Wham! – Club Tropicana.mp3
Wham! had their share of great pop tunes: ‘I’m Your Man’, ‘Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go’, ‘Freedom’. But this trumps any of these. It’s a total joy from the first few seconds when the crickets chirp to the final “coooo-ooool”. Only a curmudgeon could not derive pleasure out of this.
Best bit: The duelling saxophones (2:45)

DJ Jazzy Jeff & Fresh Prince – Summertime.mp3
It is indeed the sound of a lazy summer’s day. If this is going to be Will Smith’s sole legacy worth preserving (as seems likely), then we nonetheless owe him a debt of gratitude for adding to the pop canon this most evocative seasonal anthem. Props to DJ Jazzy Jeff who presumably was responsible for sampling so well from Kool & the Gangs ‘Summer Madness’ (download that as well).
Best bit: The Kool & the Gang sample throughout.

* previously posted

1980

July 16th, 2007 5 comments


Let’s go on a nostalgia trip. This is the first instalment of a journey through the ’80s. These songs represent moments in time; they are not necessarily the best songs of the year, nor my favourites (neither then nor now). These songs evoke for me the feeling of the time, they recreate a time the way a smell might, or taste or photo (like the one on the right, taken in January 1980 on a visit to Finsterwalde in East Germany).

Rainbow – Since You Been Gone.mp3
There were two versions out at the time (both covers themselves). This was one, the other was by the Cherrie sisters, one of whom was in the Runaways. I had both singles, and actually preferred the Cherries’ one. Had Richie Blackmore been a hot blonde woman, on the other hand…

Marianne Faithfull – The Ballad Of Lucy Jordan.mp3
One of two songs that appeared in 1979 about middle-age women committing suicide (the song was the Boomtown Rats excellent “Diamond Smile”). This one became a hit in Germany only in 1980. I didn’t quite understand the song — still don’t. Kill yourself because you’ll never drive a sports car in Paris with the warm wind blowing in your hair? If only that was the extent of my problems! You have children, of school-going age; pull yourself together, Luce!

New Musik – Living By Numbers.mp3
I seem to recall that I bought the 7″ single the same day I bought “My Sharona” by the Knack. It’s still a favourite song, and I still can’t get the different “They don’t want your name” voices right.

Dexys Midnight Runners – Geno.mp3
My favourite song of 1980, then and now. The two-tone cover of the single was cool, the song beyond cool, with the horns and Kevin Rowland’s strange voice. I don’t think I had ever heard anything quite like it before.

Peter Gabriel – Games Without Frontiers.mp3
The whistling! And working out that this was a song about the grotesque TV show we knew in Germany as “Spiele ohne Grenzen”! Plus, “Games Without Frontiers” was my 100th single. The album it came from also featured “Biko”, which got my left-wing teenage mind interested in the anti-apartheid movement. Two years later I (unwillingly) moved to apartheid South Africa.

Ramones – Baby, I Love You.mp3
I had liked the Ramones since I was a barely pubescent “punk rocker”. Gubba Gubba Hey and Sheena and all that. When this came out, I didn’t realise it was a cover version; I really thought the Ramones had changed their sound. I love this version; it’s terribly camp without intending to be so.

Robert Palmer – Johnny And Mary
I bought this album the same day as Bowie’s Scary Monsters and Paul Simon’s One Trick Pony. Then Lennon was shot, and I listened to his music for months (in fact, I was listening to the Beatles’ Blue Album the night before I woke up to the news that Lennon had been killed). So this track reminds me of the trauma I thought I had suffered through Lennon’s death.

Jermaine Jackson – Let’s Get Serious.mp3
Stevie Wonder produced this, and it sounds like it, in a “Do I Do” kind of way. This song is one funky bastard, coming out at about the same time as Michael’s Off The Wall. At the time I actually preferred Jermaine’s vibe. Is that Stevie actually doing guest vocals?

Olivia Newton-John & Cliff Richard – Suddenly.mp3
I’ve always been a leading candidate for the presidency of the Cliff Richard Hate Club. So I resisted this song for all it was worth (as I did with 1979’s “We Don’t Talk Anymore”). Still, the song is 1980, and with time I have come to accept it for the lovely bit of cheese it is.

Styx – Boat On The River.mp3
Styx were crap, really. And this song is a bit crap, too. And yet, as it is playing, I’m singing along with an unseemly amount of gusto. As a 14-year-old I thought I was rather sophisticated for appreciating the Greek-tinged vibe of this song.

Joan Armatrading – Me Myself I.mp3
I bought that album the same day I bought the Styx LP. My grandmother had given me money to buy new trainers. I bought a cheap pair so I could afford to buy a couple of LPs. In 1985 I saw Armatrading live in concert at the Hammersmith Odeon; second row, right in the middle of the stage. In the pub before I must have had a dodgy pint , because I fell asleep mid-gig. Eventually, introducing “Drop The Pilot”, Armatrading called the seated crowd to party in front of her stage, presumably so she didn’t have to look any longer at that sleeping fucker in the second row…

Ambrosia – The Biggest Part Of Me.mp3
This is how Steely Dan might have sounded had they developed like the Doobie Brothers. I imagined that this would be the perfect song driving along some random US highway with the car top down, and the warm wind in the hair. Bet Lucy Jordan never thought of that!