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Posts Tagged ‘Style Council’

Music For Bloggers: Vol. 7

July 23rd, 2008 6 comments

Last time I promised to post more Music For Bloggers within a couple of weeks. Almost month later… As always, if your blog doesn’t feature now, it might do so in the future. Does anyone find this feature useful?

Uncle E’s Musical Nightmares
This might look like an act of reciprocity: a little while back, Uncle E. posted a bunch of made-up and amusing “facts” about Steely Dan, in honour of this little blog. While I was genuinely touched by that, I really do enjoy Uncle E.’s lists, notes and the occasional rant. His fireworks about his “little iPod cigarette lighter FM ‘port’ thingy” (it’s called an iTrip, I think. At least when the fuckers from Apple make it) a few days ago is quite spectacular; and his alternative CD-R playlist not at all unattractive. Unle E. does not give us music, but he gives us some good ideas – and entertains us along the way.
Cat Stevens – 18th Avenue (Kansas City Nightmare).mp3

Jens Lekman – smalltalk
I don’t go in much for blogs written by artists. Maybe I’m betraying my utter lack of empirical research now, but my impression is that often they are either banal or written by the act’s PR interns. Armed with that prejudice, I don’t tend to seek out such blogs. Occasionally I’ll stumble upon one by accident; usually when I do research for this blog. That’s how I found Jay Brannan’s blog, and that’s how I found Jens Lekman’s. If it is necessary to introduce to the reader the great Lekman, the dear reader might right-click HERE for an introduction. Jens doesn’t update his blog with compulsive regularity, unfortunately. The last entry was on June 30. Still, so much greater the joy when he does. I like this, from his entry on 19 June: Everytime I play on some satellite radio station I always end up in the same discussion. [Satellite radio station guy] “You know you can say anything you want here right?” “Oh yeah? That’s cool.” “You know, really, anything.” “Sweet.” “I mean, you can say fuck if you want to.” “Ok.” (silence) “…We’d really like you to say fuck as much as possible.” This absolutely wonderful song namechecks Jens Lekman:
Hello Saferide – The Quiz.mp3

Ain’t Superstitious
The blog’s full title in full is “Ain’t Superstitious, but these things I’ve seen”, which by dint of a comma is an even bigger mouthful than Any Major Dude With Half A Heart. Like most music blogs with long names, it’s named after a song lyric, in this case a Faces song. Blogger Paul Madison, a resident of Wisconsin (one US state I know absolutely nothing about) has a nice, crisp style of writing; he knows his stuff and how to convey it. His music selections are invariably of interest — he scooped me with a post on Lennon/McCartney compositions recorded by other acts. To make sense of my dedication, you’ll have to visit Paul’s blog.
The Style Council – My Ever Changing Moods (12″ version).mp3

AM, Then FM
I could have sworn that I featured this blog before, but apparently not, as repeated scans of previous Music for Bloggers entries confirmed. Perhaps I wrote a masterful review and in the haze of a drunken hour miserably deleted it. Like Paul of Ain’t Superstitious, Jeff is from Wisconsin. His blogroll features many sites also included on mine, but not the blog of his fellow Wisconsan (and vice versa). Which means that either they don’t each other (possible, unless Wisconsin has a population of 250; as I said, I know nothing about Wisconsin) or they do know each other but are entertaining a long-running family feud. They’d like each other’s blogs, I’m sure. Jeff deals in mostly vinyl rips, some of them quite rare, and evidently in covers of the Rolling Stone featuring Linda Ronstadt in her loveliest pomp. And some good writing along the way. This reminds me, August 12 is Vinyl Record Day , and AM, Then FM and other friends of this blog will take part. I’m trying to organise a turntable (my Technics has no stylus, and I no money for a new one) and learn to rip vinyl before then, but I’m not hopeful that I’ll succeed.
Steely Dan – FM.mp3

PsD Photoshop Disasters
I discovered this blog only yesterday, when I had a shitload of work to do. Work, which includes the occasional bit of photoshopping, had to be damned for an hour or so while I guffawed at some of the idiotic things that can happen when you let the monkeys loose on clever toys. How likely is it to clone, if you need to clone at all, a solitary hand parked on a fence? How difficult is it to let the lovely model keep her belly button (I like belly buttons. Surely everybody likes belly buttons)? I can’t understand why some images need to be created from scratch in Photoshop instead of in a photo studio, or why a model’s arm needs to be stretched to unnatural lengths. And is there no quality control. Not in glossy magazines, Apple ads or DVD covers. DTP has made print media production much easier, but it has also allowed talentless amateurs on the steering wheel. They go crazy with layers and the cloning tool, they O.D. on fonts, they violate every rule of colour management. I once saw an NGO’s annual report which ran all text in red on black background. The design agency – for it was a graphic design company, not he secretary’s 12-year-old son who designed the report – won an award for it! The Photoshop Disasters blog is a healthy way to mock incompetence an

d sloppiness in design. The dedicated song is a 2002 track from a now disbanded South African rock group.
Perez – Picture Perfect.mp3

SibLingshot On The Bleachers
This is a fairly new blog, kicking off business just two months ago. In its first month, blogger ib created almost as many posts as I did in all of 2007, and just in July more than I have this year. And we’re not talking about quickly churned out one-liners, but well-written and thoughtful posts written from a position of knowledge. That is impressive. ib’s music selection is very good, too, covering a wide range of genres, from Deodato via Johnny Cash and Jonathan Richman to the 1910 Fruitgum Company. Normally there is just one song per post, which means that quite a bit of thought goes into choosing the most suitable song. Some of the stuff is very rare. Given ib’s eclectic tastes and weird blog title, I’ve been stuck for a dedication. I remember early in his career, ib posted the Dionne Warwick and Frankie Goes To Hollywood version of Do You Know The Way To San José. You can never go wrong with a bit of Burt, so from 1965…
Jackie Trent – Make It Easy On Yourself.mp3

Dr Forrest’s Cheese Factory
This is a treasure trove in a goldmine. It’s a malfunctioning cash machine which cannot stop spewing out loot – provided one wants comedy or collects really bad music, or gets a kick out of audio novelties. The blog’s narrative is manic, and so is the rate of posting. My heart leapt when I opened the blog yesterday and saw the Kids From The Brady Bunch album, which is truly terrible and needs to be listened to. Once. Ethel Merman’s famous disco album? It’s there. I’ve seen many albums for download in the Cheese Factory which are staples of the “worst album covers ever” type of lists. You know the type of obscure sleeves which may depict four fat brothers and their one-armed mother in matching brown polyester suits warning the kids of the devil in country style. Chances are good that the Cheese Factory has that album. The Cheese Factory also seems to share my obsession with horrible moustaches. To celebrate everything done in the best possible taste, here’s a song the Cheese Factory does not have:
Kenny Everett – Snot Rap.mp3

N.M.E. & Melody Maker
I don’t know whether there are more sites like it, but this unassumingly named blog provides a wonderful service: scanned articles from the Melody Maker and New Musical Express, circa 1987-96. At times, it might embarrass the hacks featured (I’d hate for someone to dig up some of the rubbish I wrote 15 years ago), but it’s great fun. And what fine writers there were: David Stubbs (whose Mr Agreeables and variations thereof also feature), Taylor Parkes (an incredible writer who is far too underused; just read his doubtless easily knocked out Smiths review), Simon Price, Andrew Mueller, Everett True… and a few NME types. Funny, I never liked the NME much, but, goodness, it’s so bloody horrible now that I miss the old incarnation. And the Maker is long dead. So, while we mourn the existence of the non-broadsheet, rather too laddish NME, we can revisit the good old days. Hey, is there a blog dedicated to Smash Hits’ Black Type? Is he Back! Back!! Back!!! somewhere? Of all the dedications in this post, this track was a no-brainer.
The Cure – Desperate Journalist.mp3

Previously featured:
Music For Bloggers Vol. 1: Totally Fuzzy, Not Rock On, Serenity Now (RIP), Stay At Home Indie Pop, The Late Greats, Tsururadio, 200percent, Jefitoblog (RIP), Television Without Pity, Michael’s World
Music For Bloggers Vol. 2: Fullundie, Mr Agreeable, Greatest Films, Peanut’s Playground, Just Good Tunes, Csíkszereda Musings, Mulberry Panda, The Black Hole, Secret Love, Hot Chicks With Douchebags
Music For Bloggers Vol. 3: Girl On A Train, Maybe We Ain’t That Young Anymore, Earbleedingcountry, Spangly Princess, Ill Folks, Deacon Blues, One-Man Publisher, CD Rated
Music For Bloggers Vol. 4: Pop Dose, Todger Talk, Holy Goof (RIP), Echoes In The Wind, Sunset Over Slawit, The Hits Just Keep Coming, The Ghost of Electricity, Guitariotabs
Music For Bloggers Vol. 5: The Quietus, Barely Awake In Frog Pyamas, The Great Vinyl Meltdown, Fusion 45, Inveresk Street Ingrate, The Songs That People Sing
Music For Bloggers Vol. 6: my hmphs, Visions of Wrong Terrence, Don’t Burn The Day Away, Mine For Life, 3 Minutes 49 Seconds

Perfect Pop – Vol. 3

April 4th, 2008 9 comments

The inquiry into what makes perfect pop perfect continues. My pal Andy thinks: “I think ‘perfect pop’ can’t be too alternative. It has to be very mainstream, on top of everything else. And probably fairly breezy. Populist and lightweight.” Somebody else suggested: “Perfect pop should feel timeless yet completely of its time as well, creating a wonderful paradox.” Another Andy also considered the question of timelessness: “Timelessness shouldn’t be consciously striven for. One of the qualities of great pop music is its ephemerality, and I think that pop music that doesn’t embrace that is lacking in a certain something. Of course, timelessness is what allows us to relate to music of different eras, and we do so very strongly, but it’s best when it’s an accident or a result of the quality of the song or performance, rather than a conscious striving for posterity by the creator.” And this suggestion pretty much sums it up: “The definition of a perfect pop song is simply a song which nothing could be added or taken away to improve it.”

Or consider this: there once was a review which praised a single along the lines of “great lyrics, great chords, two fine singers, great musicianship and the best production money can buy”. Of course, even with all these ingredients, the result can still be imperfect. But that is why perfection in pop is a relatively rare thing. Incidentally, the single thus reviewed was “Too Much, Too Little, Too Late” by Johnny Mathis & Deniece Williams.

And then there is the Paul Morley theory, mentioned in comments last time by Planet Mondo, that a good pop song is truly great when you can imagine Elvis singing it.

Dusty Springfield – I Only Want To Be With You.mp3
If I had to compile a shortlist for a top 10 of Perfect Pop, I Only Want To Be With You would be an automatic choice. It has been covered several times (Jackie DeShannon’s version was the first song ever to be performed on Top Of The Pops), and it is nearly impossible to mess it up. The Bay City Rollers did a particularly good version of it in the mid-70s, but Dusty’s rendition hits perfection on every single level. It is so good, I cannot decide what to choose as the “best bit”.
Best bit: The strings first come in, almost unnoticed (0:50)

The Style Council – Speak Like A Child.mp3*
It may not be an indispensable ingredient in perfect pop, but it helps when a song can communicate pure joy, as does Speak Like A Child. Try to feel miserable when listening to it. Unless you have genuine cause for unhappiness, it must cheer you up. Paul Weller has written quite a few great pop songs, but none reach the pop perfection of this.
Best bit: Talbot’s keyboard solo kicks in (1:38)

Cliff Richard – We Don’t Talk Anymore.mp3
I am a magnanimous observer of music. I never liked Cliff Richard (not unlike Whiteray, whom I’ll mention again later), and I particularly despised this song when it was on never-ending rotation on German radio in 1979 — and yet I acknowledge the perfection of this track. Not too long ago, I played the song to see whether it could still induce the same reaction of physical illness it did when I was 13. The memories it invoked did indeed do so, but I also had to accept what, deep down, I knew even then: this is a brilliant pop song.
Best bit: “Taaaalk anymore, anymooooore” (3:14)

Johnny Cash – Ring Of Fire (live).mp3
This is what you get when three forces of inspiration collide. June Carter’s beautiful lyrics, Merle Kilgore melody, and Johnny Cash’s mariachi treatment. This song is a good example of the “add nothing, take nothing away” theory of perfect pop. Apparently a haemorrhoid ointment manufacturer wanted to use Ring Of Fire for a commercial. Regretably, Roseanne Cash refused to give permission. This version is from the Live In St Quentin album, where it resides as a previously unreleased bonus track on the re-released CD.
Best bit: “…oooh, but the fire went wild.”

Bay City Rollers – Saturday Night.mp3
Thanks to ’70s nostalgia, the Bay City Rollers are not judged by their too short, tartaned trousers, but by the often wonderful pop they produced (or was produced in their name). So giddy retrospectives of ’70s pop will dig out Bye Bye Baby as representative of BCR’s musical contribution to the era, with the more forensic compiler opting for I Only Wanna Be With You (both cover versions). It is unfortunate that those songs when BCR achieved did actually pop perfection, or at least came close to it, tend to be ignored. Of these, Yesterday’s Hero and the superb You Made Me Believe In Magic (download link here) were released at the arse-end of BCR’s career, and made no impact on the charts and thus on he public’s consciousness. Saturday Night was a hit before BCR really hit their stride in the mid-70s, and so somehow tends to slip through the cracks too, which is entirely regrettable.
Best Bit: S-S-S-Saturday Naa-aaaight (0:57)

Hanson – Mmm Bop.mp3
I suspect that most people were like me: they hated the song because of the performers (and, possibly, its title). And just look at the Hanson brothers: precocious kids whose mugs would qualify for plastering all over pre-pubescent girls’ bedroom walls regardless of their musical merits. The same reasons why few people then proclaimed the Osmonds’ Crazy Horse the work of genius it really is, and the same reason why BCR were laughed at despite headlining some great pop. With the passage of time, knowing that the pre-pubescent girls are now young adults and that even the drummer’s balls will have dropped by now, Mmm Bop has been critically rehabilitated, to the point of a consensus that it really is a brilliant pop tune.
Best bit: The insistent chorus throughout the song.

Nena – 99 Luftballons.mp3*
When I posted this last July, I actually used the words “perfect pop” to describe 99 Luftballons. In fact, it is so perfect, that the German original topped the US charts (whereas in Britain the less satisfactory English version was a hit. Here German actually sounds better than English in a pop song). The US is not generally known for its expanding worldview which embraces different cultures. For most Americans, communication with non-English speakers tends to take the form of raising one’s voice and speaking slower (American readers of this blog excluded, of course). So the US pop consumers of 1984 bought into Nena’s hit purely on strength of it being a great pop tune.
Best bit: The song kicks in with a machine gun guitar after the slow rhythmic build-up.

Blondie – Denis.mp3*
Any number of Blondie songs might qualify for inclusion in this series, but Denis has that extra bit of brevity, energy and lots of likable little touches. Still unaffected by the disco wave, when Denis came out in early 1978, Blondie were still a band audibly rooted in NYC’s new wave scene, albeit with a distinctive pop bend. Denis still had the edginess of the wonderful debut single, X-Offender (download link here). Soon Blondie would pander to the Top 10 with faux-disco (Heart If Glass; Atomic) and cod-reggae (The Tide Is High). It wasn’t bad, but Blondie were never better than they were on those first two albums.
Best bit: Debby does Dalles, in French.

Britney Spears – Toxic (Clap Ya Hands remix).mp3
Jim Irvin, whose reference to “perfect pop” in The Word magazine inspired this series, used Toxic as one of three examples to illustrate what is perfect pop. He is entirely correct; this is a catchy bastard of a song. Forget all about the hype, degrees of undress and the scandals which have made Britney Spears more famous for being famous than for her artistry. Spears is just the vehicle by which the rich, inspired arrangement of a fine song reach us. I might be unfair on Spears, who delivers a good vocal performance, but Toxic could have been recorded by any number of female singers with no detriment to the final product — even if it was written specifically for Britney. The star of Toxic is really the production team, Bloodshy & Advant. Can’t imagine Elvis singing it, though.
Best bit: The intermittent guitar riff.

The Undertones – Teenage Kicks.mp3
The point when bubblegum pop met punk. And yet, its spiritual heart really resides in the ’60s. Strip down the loud guitars, maybe slow it down just a little, amplify the handclaps, and you have a chart-topper ca. 1965. Teenage Kicks was played at the funeral of John Peel, who had championed the song, and the line “teenage dreams so hard to beat” is engraved on his tombstone. How utterly appropriate.
Best bit: Two drum beats, and the guitar hits (0:01)

Walker Brothers – The Sun Ain’t Gonna Shine Anymore.mp3
This was #1 in Britain on 6 April, 42 years years ago (I remember that because I was born that day; I think my German #1 is a Stones song). That is why I’ve held back its inclusion for this installment of the series until today. And, my oh my, what a fantastic pop song this is! The tune is exquisite, the production mighty, the vocals are…oh, use whatever hyperbole does it for you. But the drumming tops it. Listen to it. The drums and percussions are totally bossing the song.
Best bit: The drums set up and emphasise the line “When you’re without love…” (2:18)

The Association – Cherish.mp3
This 1966 hit is a nomination by Whiteray, proprietor of the excellent Echoes in the Wind blog, who rates it has perhaps his favourite pop single of all time. It is indeed an astonishing song (with fantastic lyrics), but I’m not convinced it is perfect pop. Which demonstrates the bleedin’ obvious: perfection in pop is an entirely subjective thing. We may agree in great numbers that a song is perfect, even achieve near-consensus. We may even share our reasons as to why it is perfect. But play the next song, and I might rave about it and you’ll shrug your shoulders (or, later, come around to my way of thinking). And that is why talking about music is so great.
Best bit: “And I do…” (2:56)

Perfect Pop – Vol.1
Hall & Oates, Sweet, Jesus & Mary Chain, Turtles, Guildo Horn, Big Bopper, Buggles, Kylie Minogue, Abba, Pet Shop Boys, Steve Harley & Cockney Rebel, Temptations, ABC, Smiths, Kingsmen, Strawberry Switchblade, David Essex, Rainbow, Wham!, DJ Jazzy Jeff & the Fresh Prince

More Perfect Pop

Love Songs For Every Situation: Being In Love

February 12th, 2008 1 comment

Here’s the trouble with Valentine’s Day, apart from the crass commercialisation and pressure to spend a month’s salary on a dozen frozen roses shipped in from Argentinia or wherever. Valentine’s Day is just for the select few, the lucky ones who are experiencing love in a good way. It excludes those who yearn for love, those who have had their heart shredded to ribbons, those who love somebody they cannot have. No, it doesn’t just exclude hem; it mocks them. The forced inclusiveness — red and white dresscodes, the Valentine’s cards and, worse, Valentine’s e-mails to people — creates an illusion that love causes no pain, that love is like it is in the movies (and how many rom coms open at your multiplex on February 14?). Worse, Valentine’s Day makes people in a relationship say or do things they may not really mean, even if they don’t really know what they are doing. So for most people, the most appropriate Valentine’s Day song is the one I posted a few days ago: Gram Parsons & Emmylou Harris – Love Hurts.mp3

For most people, Valentine’s Day is a banal fraud, and so are many of the songs that extol the glory of love. In lyrics, romantic love, of whatever brand, is usually a musical McGuffin, the plot device that drives the song. The Beatles sang exclusively about romantic love until Rubber Soul, their sixth album, “Nowhere Man” breaking the mould. Some of the emotions portrayed in some of these songs ring true, of course. Sometimes the lyrics are eloquent even. But do they convey the feeling of love accurately? Does, say, Kylie Minogue communicate it today? The challenge today, as it was on the mix-tape I posted on Saturday, is to find songs that can convey being in love believably, in lyrics, sound and performance (songs marked with an asterisk have been recycled from older posts).

Art Garfunkel – All I Know.mp3
“I bruise you, you bruise me. We both bruise too easily, too easily to let it show.” Art Garfunkel breaks our hearts in his beautiful 1973 version of the Jimmy Webb song. Being in love is a fragile reality. You are vulnerable. Your future is determined by the one your with: “All my plans have fallen through, all my plans depend on you; depend on you to help them grow.” Hurt may be just around the corner. Is Art neurotic or realistic when he sings: “But the ending always comes at last; endings always come too fast”? All these questions have no answer. There is only one answer: “I love you, and that’s all I know.”

Sarah Bettens – Grey.mp3
Sarah Bettens, of the folk-rock duo K’s Choice, takes the vulnerable route too. Here, love isn’t red, nor black or white. It’s somewhere in between: grey. Love can die, and Sarah says it might do so from her side even as she pleads to be loved. “You can’t be my everything and I am not half you. But you can make it all worthwhile, and that’s why I love you.”

The Weepies – Cherry Trees (live).mp3
Yeah, posted again. This is a gorgeous love song based on Pablo Neruda’s poem. “I wanna do with you what spring does with the cherry trees”, the idea nicked from Neruda, means that love must renew itself and grow. “Sometimes our love is like a mountain: solid and steep, grounded in heat. And sometimes we rage like a river, cold and fast, then quiet and deep. We ride the storm, ’cause when it’s through we have changed and love is new.” This is the key love surviving summarised in two lines.

Everything But The Girl – Love Is Where I Live.mp3*
Some of the songs here are love-giddy, others communicate the fear of being in love. Of the latter, this is the darkest. Tracy Thorn seems certain that this love won’t last. It’s here now, but may not always be. So she repeats these three words like a mantra: “It won’t last”. She’s been burned in love before, clearly. Love is here, but it cannot survive when one partner thinks it is already doomed. What Tracy needs is a shot of Donny Hathaway’s brand of love.

Donny Hathaway – A Song For You.mp3
In this definitive version of Leon Russell’s stunning declaration of love, Donny Hathaway puts us through the wringer. He has treated the woman he professes to love poorly, but now he is going to articulate just how much he loves her back: “and if my words don’t come together, listen to the melody, ’cause my love is in there hiding”. He’s not lying: the melody is enveloped in pure love. It communicates tenderness and vulnerability. But the words do come together: “I love you in a place where there’s no space or time. I love you for in my life you are a friend of mine. And when my life is over, remember when we were together: we were alone and I was singing this song to you.” Would you not melt? Would that not reassure Tracy Thorn?

Herb Alpert – This Guy’s In Love With You.mp3
It may be a little premature to include this Bacharach composition here. It might belong in yesterday’s post. Our dude has only just picked up that the girl he desires seems to like him back. From here on, Herb gets into it. The deal, as far as he knows, is done. Back out of the deal, he tells her melodramatically in the best bit of the song, and he might not survive it: “My hands are shakin’, don’t let my heart keep breaking ’cause I need your love, I want your love. Say you’re in love and you’ll be my girl…if not…I’ll just…die.” To great effect, when it seems that the song has ended on that note, it resumes with Herb’s trumpet, indicating that probably the girl has not given him cause to die. Yay!

Blue October – Calling You.mp3
We’ve not dealt with the insecurity in love that produces quasi-stalker behaviour, have we? This is where alt.rockers Blue October come in to help us out. This seems to be quite a sweet song: guy finds girl (probably out of his league), life has become easier and better…except he feels the need to phone her all the time to see if she is thinking or dreaming of him (yup, way to keep the girl, dude, waking her up all the time). The thing is, love makes people act stupidly. We may laugh at our dude here, but who in love has not ever had the same impulses?

The Crimea – Lottery Winners On Acid.mp3
Let’s get giddy, kicking off with John Peel-championed Indie-rockers The Crimea (with the original EP version, not the inferior re-recording with which they scored a 2006 UK hit). The song has a ’60s-like exuberance about it, and not just because of the acid reference. Our boy is so deep-fucked in love, he even loses his grasp on basic grammar: “If she get a black eye, I want a black eye. If she get a splinter, I want a splinter too.” And later: “If she get a disease, I want a disease. If she go tripping, I go falling over.” And his Mom might rightly enquire: “If she jumps of a bridge, would you jump as well?” Of course our boy would. ” Everything she say, I was thinking anyway.” Isn’t that just the way love is, initially?

Style Council – You’re The Best Thing (extended).mp3
Presumably Paul Weller wrote this for Dee C. Lee, a former Wham! backing singer who joined the Style Council in 1984 when she and Weller hooked up. So when he sings stuff like: “I could be discontent and chase the rainbows’ end, I might win much more but lose all that is mine” (meaning Dee C.’s love), you sort of wonder what their chances are. All good intentions in vain, Weller and Lee ended up getting divorced.

Sarah McLachlan – Ice Cream (Live).mp3
Sarah McLachlan takes the more conventional route to explain love: it’s like ice cream or chocolate. A jubilatory song that conveys the euphoria that comes with being in love, and being loved back. A note of caution: ice cream and chocolate melt in heat; will the romance retain its shape in the heat of passion?

Minnie Riperton – Lovin’ You.mp3
A song just dripping with love. The birds are singing, so is Minnie, hitting orgasmically high notes. The song was written with her husband, and in the end Minnie sings, in multi-syllable mode, the name of their daughter, Maya (SNL comedian Maya Rudolph). Which is lovely, I think. The lyrics are simple, yet communicate all that needs to be said. The line, “Stay with me while we grow old, and we will live each day in springtime” is a great one for wedding proposals (though these are best not uttered on February 14). In the context of this song it is poignant: Minnie died of cancer in 1979, five years after “Lovin’ You” was a hit.

Earth, Wind & Fire – Love’s Holiday.mp3
Love finds expression in sex. So, to round this thing off, a couple of songs saturated with love and sex. On “Love’s Holiday”, Maurice White rocks his sonorous voice in the most seductive manner. Forget about Barry White or Isaac Hayes, Maurice’s is the voice of a sex god. “Would you mind if I looked in your eyes till I’m hypnotised, and I lose my pride?” Playa got game. But, ooops, what’s this: “Would you mind if I make love to you till I’m satisfied, once again.” Till you are satisfied, Mo? What sort of seductive proposition is that? Promise her satisfaction twice over before you think of yourself, you selfish goon!

Foo Fighters – Everlong (acoustic version.mp3)*
Maurice’s women may be better off with Mr Grohl, who may not look particularly hot, take much care of his hair (if the Grammys performance is a reliable guide) or have a particularly sexy voice, but he has a way with words: “Slow how you wanted it to be… Breath out, so I can breathe you in, hold you in.” And here is the beauty of Grohl’s seduction technique: he doesn’t make grandiose promises of being a bureau-of-standards-approved lovemachine; he doesn’t flatter about bodies being wonderlands. He just outlines how he plans to make an emotional connection while in the act of making love. Which makes this is one of the best song about sex ever.

1983

July 20th, 2007 4 comments

1983 was my least favourite year of the ’80s, personally and musically. I worked inhuman split shifts throughout the year, leaving no time for a social life in a country I had arrived in only a year before. So I was hanging around with fellow hotel people which means that by the age of 17 I was drinking and clubbing prodigiously.

Bonnie Tyler – Total Eclipse Of The Heart.mp3
I saw Bonnie Tyler live some years before, supporting Slade. Even then I was suspicious of her housewife rock. But, my goodness, this track is utter genius. Written by Jim Steinman, who was responsible for the pomp of Meat Loaf’s glorious Bat Out Of Hell (as was producer Todd Rundgren), “Total Eclipse” recreates the rock operatic drama, supported by a wonderfully gothic and hilariously camp video (with flying altar boys!). What I like best about this song, though, is the percussive sound of the lyrics.

The Smiths – This Charming Man (Peel session).mp3

1983 saw the emergence of arguably the most important and influential band of the 1980s, the Smiths. U2, who made their breakthrough the same year, might have shifted more records, but virtually every Indie act owes a debt to Morrissey, Marr and pals. “This Charming Man” featured Morrissey’s great yelp, which is still there in this recording from the BBC John Peel sessions in August 1983.

Big Country – In A Big Country.mp3
Scotland’s Big Country were widely considered a poor man’s U2. Ironic, then, that U2 (with Green Day) recently covered “The Saints Are Coming” by the Skids, from whom emerged Big Country. Stuart Adamson’s band had a big, rich sound dominated by guitars that sounded like bagpipes, lending their brand of rock a celtic flavour. This song did worse in Britain than it did internationally, reaching only #17 in the charts. It deserved to do better, if only for the fist pumping “Cha!” shouts and a kick-ass catchy chorus.

Aztec Camera – Oblivious.mp3
When I think of Aztec Camera, I think of Bright Eyes. Like Mr Oberst, so was Roddy Frame considered a bit of a prodigy. Frame’s huge talent never translated into stardom, just as Bright Eyes will never become mainstream (and let’s thank the good Lord for that). “Oblivious” was the hit single from the lovely, utterly exquisite High Land, Hard Rain album, making the British Top 20. It’s the poppiest track from the album, but “Walk Out To Winter” and “The Bugle Sounds Again” are just as great. But in 1983 I didn’t know that; I bought the LP only in 1985.

Malcolm McLaren – Double Dutch.mp3
McLaren is best known as the manipulative svengali who made the Sex Pistols the boy band of punk, paving the way for Tory bastards Busted. As a performing artist, he compensated for his vocal and musical limitations by helping create cocktails of genres which were, if not always great, then consistently engaging and often influential. He (and, more importantly producer Trevor Horn) fused hip hop and African music with pop, popified Madame Butterfly and later introduced the world to disco waltzing and to vogueing well before Madonna did (1989’s “Something’s Jumping In Your Shirt” was quite brilliant). “Buffalo Girls”, which came out in late 1982, brought hip hop into the mainstream before anyone else did. “Double Dutch” — bizzarely a song about country music dancing — rode on the sound of South African kwêla music, but used a New York group, the Ebonettes, to provide the distinctive backing vocals in the style of the Mahotella Queens (whom Horn used six years later for the Art Of Noise).

Rufus & Chaka Khan – Ain’t Nobody.mp3
By 1983, soul music was going to pieces. The Philly Sound was dead, Motown struggled, Stevie Wonder was preparing to record the truly evil “I Just Called To Say I Love You”. Luther Vandross was fine, but just too smooth. The even smoother Lionel Richie turned into soul’s biggest name. Despite the revolting “Hello”, you can’t dismiss Lionel (just hear “Love Will Find A Way” on Can’t Slow Down), but soul’s biggest name? OMG! Soul awaited its re-energisation at the hands of Jimmy Jam & Terry Lewis and their likes. In the midst of all that despondency, the amazing Chaka Khan said goodbye to Rufus with one of the mightiest soul tracks not only of the ’80s, but of all time.

Blancmange – Living On The Ceiling.mp3
This song sums up the sound of 1983 for me. If musically that year had any redeeming graces, it was in New Wave: New Order, Heaven 17, Depeche Mode, Human League, Bauhaus, XTC… But also Kajagoogoo.

Depeche Mode – Two Minutes Warning.mp3
“Everything Counts” was the killer track on Construction Time Again, and “Love In Itself” was close behind. Yet it was this song, with its fantastic chorus, that really stood out for me on an album I totally loved at the time. Why was it never released as a single?

Human League – (Keep Feeling) Fascination.mp3
What an uplifting song, the kind one puts on in the morning to force a good mood. I really like Phil Oakley’s deep voice when he sings: “And then the conversation turned, until the sun went down.”

The Style Council – Speak Like A Child.mp3
And in the unlikely event that “Fascination” can’t lift a mood, then the infectiously cheerful “Speak Like A Child” should. Paul Weller had foreshadowed the Style Council song on some the Jam’s latter tracks, such as “The Bitterest Pill” and “A Town Called Malice”. Now he introduced brass and Talbot’s jazzy keyboards. I like the way Weller emphasises the word “a” in the titular line. I later saw the Style Council live twice, in 1984 and 1985, and very good they were, too. But they did dress like a pair of pretentious idiots.

Heaven 17 – Temptation.mp3
My favourite song of the year probably, and a great companion piece to New Order’s “Blue Monday”. Quite unusually for a New Wave it featured an orchestra, plus the soul beltation (a word I just invented) of Carol Kenyon, who provided backing vocals for Pink Floyd at Live 8. Singer Glenn Gregory looked a bit like a young Christopher Walken — adorable creatures with unacceptable features?

Culture Club – Black Money.mp3
1980s revivalists tend to regard Culture Club as a bit of a novelty act, thanks to Boy George’s image and the substance-free “Karma Chameleon” (and let’s not even think of “The War Song”). That is a huge injustice. Culture Club produced some of the finest pop music of the decade (“Church Of The Poison Mind”, “Miss Me Blind”, “It’s A Miracle”), and Boy George was a very good singer. This blue-eyed soul track from Colour By Numbers shows Culture Club’s depth, a powerful and sad song about unrequited love, aided by the turbopowered lungs of Helen Terry.

Spandau Ballet – True.mp3
Another ’80s revivalist favourite, Spandau Ballet are another terribly underrated pop band. Yeah, they do look camp now; indeed, they looked camp even then. They were regarded as a teenybopper act in an era when teen favourites were creating some excellent music. Only a fool woul

d deny the masterful pop of Wham!. Likewise, Spandau Ballet merit a thorough rehabilitation. Songs like “Gold”, “Round And Round”, “Only When You Leave”, “Chant No. 1” and this great ballad deserve to be regarded as bona fide pop classics.

Oh yeah, and there was Michael Jackson’s Thriller. You might have heard of it.