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Being in love again – Part 1

February 11th, 2010 2 comments

Yeah, I know, Valentine’s Day is commercial and naff. All kinds of idiots will play Every Breath You Take or You’re Beautiful or similar inappropriate to complement the overpriced roses. There is nothing wrong, of course, with letting music doing your talking, but nothing declares love as sloppily as a badly chosen song. To be clear, Perfect Day and fucking With Or Without You are about love, but not in a romantic sense. Here is the first part of a few songs which, I think, do a good job of expressing romantic love, or talking about being in requited love. As an antidote to all the happiness, I’ll do a Splitsville edition next week.

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Lowell George – 20 Million Things (1979).mp3
The Little Feat frontman made one solo album before dying far too young. On 20 Million Things, Lowell encounters the procrastinating inertia that can accompany the preoccupations of being in love. So “all the letters never written don’t get sent” and broken rocking chairs don’t get fixed. He observes the nature of procrastination: “And all the things that I let slip, I found out quick, it comes from moment to moment, day to day. Time seems to slip away.” And all that because of love. “But I’ve got twenty million things to do, twenty million things. And all I can do is think about you. With twenty million things to do.”

At this point the alert reader will remind me that I promised songs about romantic love. Lowell may well be singing, like Lou and U2 about drugs or God. Or his favourite football team, for that matter. But unlike the songs I mentioned, 20 Million Things is a bit of a blank canvas. If it’s not about romantic love, it very much should be. More importantly, it is an absolutely wonderful song that is not heard..

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Linda Jones – Your Precious Love (1972).mp3
So your true love is far away, physically or emotionally? Why, write a letter (the song is from 1972, and so predates e-mail and Facebook messages)! This being a soul song, the notion of postal correspondence assumes fervent dimensions, and naturally God is invoked to deliver or preserve love. Linda, who is addressing “especially the ladies”, provides a template for a love letter in the spoken bits, albeit with a heavy bias towards cliché (“For your precious love I’d climb the highest mountain”). But when she gets into the song that was originally performed by Jerry Butler, it becomes immaterial what she is singing: romantic love, we learn, is driven by passion, desire, fear and hope.
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Ben Folds – The Luckiest (live, 2006).mp3
I’ve said it before: this might be the best declaration of love ever written in pop music. Alas, Folds has since divorced the woman he addresses in this song, performed here with the Western Australian Symphony Orchestra. Ben notes his tendencies to hit-and-miss (and, apparently, miss again), but “now I know all the wrong turns, the stumbles and falls, brought me here”. So as he is seeing her lovely face every day, he considers himself to be experiencing the ultimate in fortuitous fates. And having pondered the random quirks of generational timing, Ben picks up a sweet definition of true love: “Next door there’s an old man who lived to his nineties, and one day passed away in his sleep. And his wife; she stayed for a couple of days, and passed away.” Yes, not the most orthodox way of communicating your love, but bear with him: “I’m sorry, I know that’s a strange way to tell you that I know we belong, that I know that I am…the luckiest.” I hazard to guess that a woman to whom such a song is sung would probably think of herself as pretty lucky too. At least until the divorce.

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The Association – Never My Love (1967).mp3
They gave us one of the great songs about unrequited love, and here they give us one of the great songs about love requited. And not only is love reciprocated, but she is also fearful that it will end, which he knows (well, thinks he knows) will not be the case; hence the denial of the title. “You say you fear I’ll change my mind and I won’t require you. Never, my love!” In fact, he cheerfully admits that he needs her as much as she needs him. No manipulative power games for our friend: with this song he is proposing marriage. How can she say no?

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Angie Mattson – Thank You (2007).mp3
This singer-songwriter is not nearly well known enough. Here’s a song expressing gratitude to a partner’s unconditional love and support. “Sometimes I don’t land on all fours, but you come pick me up off my concrete floor. Even after what I said to you, you looked past it and you always come through.” Simple sentiments that articulate an essential constituent in real love. Incidentally, Mattson, apart from being a very talented musician, is a bit of an adventurer. At one point, she apparently sold all her possessions and moved on to a boat for a year, sailing in the West Indies. While on the seas she taught herself to play guitar and started writing songs. Back on dry land, she recorded a demo and in 2007 released her full debut album, Given To Sudden Panic And Noisy Retreat, on which this song appears. (Angie Mattson on MySpace)

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Ambrosia – The Biggest Part Of Me (1980).mp3
In the late ’90s, Christian a cappella outfit Take Six turned this into a love song to God. It was a smart adaptation of the original lyrics, in which the singer makes grand promises as though he was some sort of love genie: “Make a wish, baby, well and I will make it come true.” Ah well, love is beginning and hyperbole is to be expected. But we can’t doubt his sincerity when he pleads and pledges: “Ain’t no risk now in letting my love rain down on you, so we can wash away the past, so that we may start anew.” We feel his joy when he spells out just how much he is in love: “You’re the life that breathes in me; you’re the biggest part of me.”

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The Crimea – Lottery Winners On Acid.mp3
I posted this two years ago, but let’s get giddy again with John Peel-championed Indie-rockers The Crimea (here with the original EP version, not the inferior re-recording with which they scored their 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 off 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?

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And all this calls to mind an experiment apparently conducted by a New York psychologist called Professor Arthur Arun, who instructed his subjects, total strangers to one another, to reveal intimate information about their lives in face-to-face conversations lasting exactly 30 minutes, and then silently to stare into each other’s eyes for four minutes. Most of the subjects reported feelings of attachment to their experiment partners, and one couple later got married. Subjects who were told to stare at other body parts didn’t get off on that (not both of them anyway).

Dr Arun's research subjects, yesterday

It does sound like a good plan: the sharing of personal details facilitates emotional bonding, and during the staring contest, the pupils dilate, which evidently heightens attraction.

Any Major Love Mix Vol. 1
Any Major Love Mix Vol. 2

More Songs About Love happy, unhappy, ending etc)

American Road Trip Vol. 8

June 15th, 2009 4 comments

On the last leg of our American Road Trip, we had entered Ohio by way of Cincinnati. We have one more destinations in that state before we turn east, but we shall return to the northern parts of Ohio when we go west.

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Columbus, Ohio

champion ave

And here is where I take up Dane’s invitation for a cup of coffee (and while she is in the kitchen brewing it, I quickly borrow from her the song that will feature here). Dane is the exquisitely talented photographer whose blog All Eyes And Ears has inspired me to become ever more aware of the beauty in mundane things. Dane’s photos are all taken in Ohio, not a place you’d most immediately associate with photogenic qualities (see the great photo above, taken in Columbus). But Dane’s work persuasively argues that a rusty letterbox or disused signage can be as captivating as a Hawaiian sunset.

Anyway, Columbus. It’s Ohio’s biggest city and the state’s capital, with a population of 770,000. It is also smack-bang in the middle of the USA; according to Wikipedia, half of all US residents live within 550 miles (890 km) of Columbus. So why isn’t Columbus more famous than Cincinnati or any number of smaller US cities (such as, say, San Francisco)? Well, frankly, its history is a bit ordinary, and the city’s contribution to modern culture…well, there is Dane’s blog! OK, and Rahsaan Roland Kirk was born in Columbus, Dwight Yoakam grew up there, Rascal Flatts were founded there, and the sitcom Family Ties was set there. On the downside, Prescott Bush – the patriarch of the evil clan that gave us the two Georges – was also born in Columbus. Dane, the coffee was excellent, but we must be on our way…Goodbye Columbus, it’s a lucky day for walkin’ a new road.
The Association – Goodbye Columbus.mp3

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Wheeling, West Virginia

Wheeling is on the Ohio river in Ohio County. So it makes perfect sense that this city of 31,000 should be in West Virginia. And Wheeling doesn’t just happen to be in West Virginia; it virtually founded the state. It was in Wheeling that those Virginians who did not want to secede with the slave-owning states from the Union instead seceded from Virginia. The good people of Wheeling were a bit upset with The West Wing a few years ago when the would-be assassins of President Bartlett (well, of Charlie and Zoey) were identified as having bought their weapons in Wheeling. Well, they had to buy them from somewhere.

songs_in_the_atticIn his song Billy The Kid (the version featured here is the excellent live recording from Songs In The Attic), Billy Joel has the eponymous character born in Wheeling, West Virginia. You don’t want Billy Joel teach your children history, because Henry McCarty (or William Bonney, if you must) was born in New York City, and was shot dead by the horrible Pat Garrett, not hanged and buried on a hill that bears his name. Still, cracking song.
Billy Joel – Billy The Kid (live).mp3

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Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Here’s why I love US geography: Wheeling, West Virginia is in Ohio County (and, if Family Ties is to be believed, kids from Columbus take trips there because of a lower legal drinking age), and is considered part of the Pittsburgh Tri-State region, which seems to be headquartered in the Pennsylvanian city. Pittsburgh has become almost synonymous with industrial decay, especially its steelworks. Yet, Bruce Springsteen managed to write only one song about the city. Apparently, the city has been able to revive itself since the dark days of the 1970s, and offers all kinds white collar services now. And it has been ranked the United States’ tenth cleanest city, so screw you, steel.. There’ll be some fun to be had when the G20 summit is held there in September.

lemonheadsApart from the occasional shout-out in lists of US cities, Pittsburgh has inspired little by way of songwriting (certainly as far as my collection goes) – so little that a few years ago a radio station invited local musicians to submit their songs about the city. In the spirit of that dearth, I offer a 2006 song by the Lemonheads (whose newly released album of covers is said to be less than fantastic) which bears the title of the city and proceeds to make no mention of it. And a song from 1970s folk singer Sammy Walker’s Misfit Scarecrow album from last year.
The Lemonheads – Pittsburgh.mp3
Sammy Walker – A Cold Pittsburgh Morning.mp3

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Previously on American Road Trip

Unrequited love – Glad To Be Unhappy

February 6th, 2009 11 comments

What is worse: losing a love you once had, or never been loved, or not being able consummate reciprocated love, or never having been loved back? They all suck, of course, and we’ll visit all of these in this series. Here we deal with unrequited love, a subject we’ll return to again later in the series.

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The Mamas and the Papas – Glad To Be Unhappy.mp3
glad-to-be-unhappyThe group’s main songwriter John Phillips was a bit of a bastard. He had Cass Elliott singing about being fat, and he had his not always scrupulously faithful wife Michelle sing about her inability to remain monogamous. On 1967’s Glad To Be Unhappy he had Denny Doherty and Cass Elliott sing about unrequited love — knowing well that Cass was in unreciprocated love with Denny and that Denny was in love with John’s wife (need I post a Venn diagram?). There was, clearly, a lot of pain. So John has them croon the sadistic taunt “Like a straying baby lamb, with no Mama and no Papa, I’m so unhappy”! And then the mocking: “I can’t win, but here I am, more than glad to be unhappy.” The sentiment is not foreign to the experience of unrequited love, of course. “But for someone you adore, it’s a pleasure to be sad.” That ties in with the lyric of a song used in last year’s series (and which will be recycled this year): “There is pleasure to be had in this kind of pain” — the emotional masochism is a lifeline to hope, the delusion that the true love will come eventually.

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The Holmes Brothers – I Want You To Want Me.mp3
holmes-brothersThis is a slowed down, quite superb cover of the Cheap Trick hit by the blues/soul/gospel Holmes Brothers. The lyrics make more sense when sung by a goofy pop-rocker, but this version is just too lovely to be ignored. Unsurprisingly, the singer is promising sacrifices to get the girl, right down to shining “up the old brown shoes” and making himself even more presentable by wearing a new shirt (throw in the use of deodorant and shampoo, and you might clinch the deal). It is not clear, of course, whether our hero’s sartorial countenance is the problem. Indeed, he seems quite clueless if he thinks that shiny shoes will provide comfort to the girl who seems to be experiencing a case of dejection herself, as our singer observes: “Feelin’ all alone without a friend, you know you feel like dyin’. Oh, didn’t I, didn’t I, didn’t I see you cryin’?” Or is he just projecting?

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Damien Jurado – Simple Hello.mp3
Frienditis is the condition when the person you’re in love with just wants to be friends. It usually happens to nice guys. Women love these men, but “just not in that way” (the dreaded phrase). And if she gets a boyfriend, the former confidante might well be dispatched (and he’d be an idiot to stick around anyway, having her relationship mock him into perpetuity). This is what seems to have happened here. Damien in his 2005 song recalls that “we used to be friends” who’d talk on the phone every night. He later reveals that she has her own group of pals now, having previously established that she now completely ignores him (“Simple hello would’ve been nice. Instead you walked right by”). But this isn’t a song about just friendship; his feelings obviously ran deeper. Now she has a man: “Every time I see you with him I think: ‘Why even try?’” It’s not that Damien is bitter; he is despairing: “Think I’ve had enough, and I think I’ve lost control …Think I’ve lost my mind.” Sorry, mate, but you‘re on your own here. Burn the pictures. Let her go.

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Ani DiFranco – Untouchable Face (live).mp3
ani_difranco2There is an even more acute sense of hopelessness when the object of unrequited affection is in a solid, happy relationship. So it is in this superb song. “I think you two are forever, and I hate to say it, but you’re perfect together.” Which sounds pretty magnanimous. Except it isn’t, as we learn in the next verse: “So fuck you and your untouchable face, and fuck you for existing in the first place.” Quite right. This isn’t in angry outburst, though. There is some self-loathing and immense sadness in this song. Witness the final verse: “In the back room there’s a lamp that hangs over the pool table, and when the fan is on it swings gently side to side. There’s a changing constellation of balls as we are playing. I see Orion and say nothing. The only thing I can think of saying…is fuck you.”

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Weezer – Only In Dreams.mp3
weezer-blueAfter all this profundity, we can find refuge in Weezer and in dreamland. Mr Cuomo is in love: “She’s in the air, in between molecules of oxygen and carbon dioxide”, but evidently he is too shy or otherwise reluctant to approach her, except in his dreams where he has the courage to ask her to dance, and she accepts (rhyming ‘dance’ with ‘chance’ – charity impels me to interpret this as a shrewd homage to the lyrical genius of Abba). In his fantasy he is charming and considerate, literally sweeping the girl off her feet on the dancefloor: “It’s a good thing that you float in the air – that way there’s no way I will crush your pretty toenails into a thousand pieces.” We imagine she laughs with her head tilting back, revealing her throat (Body Language 101: it means she wants you). We don’t go to Weezer for lyrical sophistication, so we see the conclusion coming: “But when we wake, it’s all been erased.”

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The Association – Cherish.mp3
This 1966 hit was recommended last year by the great whiteray of Echoes In The Wind. The opening verse is perfectly eloquent in expressing the yearning of the fool in unrequited love: “Cherish is the word I use to describe all the feeling that I have hiding here for you inside. You don’t know how many times I’ve wished that I had told you; you don’t know how many times I’ve wished that I could hold you; you don’t know how many times I’ve wished that I could mould you into someone who could cherish me as much as I cherish you.”  Then comes the despondent resignation: “Perish is the word that more than applies to the hope in my heart, each time I realise that I am not gonna be the one to share your dreams.” So wonderfully poetic, you’d think she’d fall for him. And yet: “I’m beginning to think that man has never found the words that could make you want me, that have the right amount of letters, just the right sound that could make you hear, make you see, that you are driving me out of my mind.” The trouble is, our bard here thinks that she’ll call bullshit on his attempts of persuasion: “Oh, I could say I need you, but then you’d realise that I want you, just like a thousand other guys who’d say they loved you with all the rest of their lies, when all they wanted was to touch your face, your hands and gaze into your eyes.” And here’s the obstacle many people in unrequited love face: they are so fearful of rejection, the end of the dream, that they will scratch for excuses not to make a move. Some other schmuck will, she will fall for it, and The Association will sing their beautiful and sad song forever.

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Barenaked Ladies – Jane.mp3
The songs so far have described pretty straightforward situations of unrequited love. This one is more complex. He is what seems to have happened. Our hero met the apparently very lovely Jane (named after a Toronto street corner) in a shop where she worked. They moved in together and, at Jane’s insistence the relationship remained platonic (he’d sing and she’d dye his hair; sounds like frienditis to me). Jane is being admired by many men, but doesn’t want relationships. “Jane doesn’t think a man could ever be faithful.” Experience might have given her good reason to think that. And our hero seems to agree. “Jane isn’t giving me a chance to be shameful.” And he seems to think that the relationship wouldn’t work anyway (“I wrote a letter, she should have got it yesterday. That life could be better by being together is what I cannot explain to Jane”). The housesharing arrangement ends – nicely put by reference to Juliana Hatfield and Evan Dando. Jane still works at the shop, and our hero is “still dazzled by her smile while I shoplift there”.

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Billy Bragg – The Saturday Boy.mp3
billy-braggThere aren’t many songs that feature the word “unrequited”. We’ve had Glad To Be Unhappy earlier, and here’s Billy Bragg using it in perhaps the best song from his 1984 debut album. It’s the poignant story of a schoolboy crush. At first she reciprocates the affection, but after a while (which in schoolboy terms is a wink of the eye) things cool off. “But I never made the first team, I just made the first team laugh. And she never came to the phone, she was always in the bath.” The boy experiences his first broken heart, poor kid. “In the end, it took me a dictionary to find out the meaning of ‘unrequited’, while she was giving herself for free at a party to which I was never invited.”

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