Today, a song that I absolutely adored when I was a kid. And still do, obviously
Co-written with Jacob Brackman, Nile Rodgers, Todd Rundgren, and Steve Winwood, this was released by photographer-turned-singer Lynn Goldsmith under an alter ego.
It is performed as an instruction guide, a self-help tutorial, and has none other than Carly Simon playing the part of the “before girl” in those before and after adverts one sees, which act as the breaks between Goldsmith’s spoken lessons.
I’m still pretty sure this record is absolute genius – name me another song which conveys teenage fears of having a first snog with a rhyming couplet as bang-on as: “Will I spoil it with my overbite?/Will our noses bump in the moonlight?” – and simply cannot understand why it only got to #17 in the UK charts back in 1983. It deserved better.
Prepare to be transported back to when you were a young ‘un:
Oh, and in case you’re interested and wish to try it at home, the ‘romance chant method’ mentioned in the song goes like this:
“Hableme el unico del mundo. Digame: comoe te hare ese sonido. Tan glorioso. Que aun hoba con anticipation de el. Me ha reducio a un bestia. Grunedo. Entusiomandose why paliptando.”
Which, according to Google Translate (so y’know, large pinch of salt at the ready) means this:
“Speak to me the only one in the world. Me: I’ll make that sound for you. So glorious. That he still worked with anticipation of him. He has reduced me to a beast. Grunedo. Enthusiastic and palpitating.”
When I was younger, I was a serious vinyl junkie, much to my mother’s annoyance.
Every spare penny went on two things:
the bus fare into town and back so I could buy records.
And every time I returned home, square plastic bag clutched in my sweaty little hand, I would race upstairs to listen to my latest purchases, oblivious to my Mum’s calls after me that “money burns a hole in your pocket”.
Well, something happened this week which, when she reads this, will lead her to tut, roll her eyes and mutter how she was right and how nothing has changed.
I’ll explain. Wednesday evening, I’ve finished work and am waiting to catch the bus home. Just next to my bus stop is a charity shop which has fairly recently opened. I’ve no idea what charity it supports; I rarely check the benefactors of such establishments, just in case its one that I don’t like. You know, one of those notorious bad charities.
Anyway, the shop has closed but the shutters aren’t down yet so I thought I’d do a bit of window shopping. Truth is, I’ve done this quite a lot at this shop recently, ever since the chap who sits on the desk opposite me (also a vinyl junkie, also a lover of trawling round charity shops in the hope of unearthing a bargain) waltzed back into work after lunch, gleefully clutching a hardback copy “Alan Partridge: Nomad” that he’d picked up for £2.00 there.
The book shelves are quite close to the window, and with a bit of squinting you can make out some of the titles: Dan Brown, Dan Brown, Russell Brand, Dan Brown. The usual selections one finds donated to charity stores.
But underneath that, I spied a new addition to the Entertainment Section: a plastic container full of vinyl, and there, right at the front, a copy of “Now That’s What I Call Music Vol II”. I determined that I would return there the following day to investigate further.
Thursday lunchtime. I’ve been out visiting one of the schools in the Borough and have caught the bus back to the office. I say the office, but actually I swung by the charity shop in question en route. (S’ok, it was my lunch break.)
The 80s compilation album was there, priced up at £3.75. Reasonable, I thought, as long as the vinyl itself was in good nick. I slipped both discs from their inner sleeves (reassuringly, the previous owner had placed them with the opening facing upwards so the vinyl couldn’t roll out or attract dust), held them both up to the light from the window and examined them. A tad dusty, but not warped and no obvious scratches or blemishes. I decided to buy it. As I turned to approach the counter, I glanced down at the plastic container, and there, now, after I had liberated “…Vol II”, at the front was….
“Now That’s What I Call Music”.
The first volume. They didn’t call it “Now That’s What I Call Music Vol I” for much the same reason, I imagine, as the First World War wasn’t called that at the time: they didn’t know there was going to be Second one.
I knelt down again, pulled that one from the container. And behind it was “Vol III”. And “Vol IV”. And “Vol V”. And “Vol VI”. And “Vol VIII”. And “Vol IX”. And “Vol X”. And “Vol XI”. And “Vol XIV”. And “Vol XVI”. That’s 12 volumes, all in pretty good nick, all, bar Vols I & II, priced at just £1.10 each.
Five minutes later, I left the shop, just over £18.00 poorer, but immeasurably happier. So, what if it’s two weeks until payday, I don’t need to eat every day.
At work, one of the girls asked me what I’d bought. She’s quite a lot younger than me, so I showed her, but started off by saying “You’re probably not old enough to remember these…”, meaning when the “Now…” series started. “Oh, I remember those,” she said. “My Dad used to own some records.” Bubble of joy duly punctured.
I’ve mentioned a couple of times how much I enjoy watching the reruns of old 80s editions of Top of the Pops on BBC4, as they bring back so many memories and the same is true of these albums, the first couple being from roughly the period those repeats are no now. Although, perversely, I didn’t buy a single one of them back in the day. (I say perversely, but I know exactly why I didn’t: Quo don’t appear for the first time until Vol VIII. Had they featured earlier/more frequently, the teenage me would have undoubtedly been unable to resist. And to save you checking, yes Vol VIII was amongst the ones I bought.)
So I thought I’d spread some 80s joy today, and every now and again on a Saturday morning, picking my favourite track(s) from each side of each one that I picked up.
Volume I was released in 1983, and the compilers of the album have made my task somewhat easier by picking two tracks by Kajagoogoo (no thanks) and, one by former Kajagoogoo singer Limahl (by far the worst record on here, and given the inclusion of UB40 – also twice – that’s really saying something. Bop bop shoo be doo wah.) Seriously, breaking the golden rule of mix-tapes and compilations by featuring the same artist more than once really didn’t bode well for this series of releases, but here we are, 24 years later, and they’re still going.
Anyway, front and cover art is below, so you can have fun guessing which tracks I’ve picked, deciding which you’d have picked, and trying to remember what the significance of the pig was:
On “Waiting For The Great Leap Forwards”, the closing track of his “Worker’s Playtime” album, Billy Bragg muses:
“Mixing Pop and Politics he asks me what the use is I offer him embarrassment and my usual excuses”
The question is one which is often brought when musicians make a political record, the inference being that there is no point in doing so, it will have no effect, they are preaching to the converted.
Politicians, however, seem to have a slightly different viewpoint, and try to bandwagon-jump onto whatever seems to be the current musical zeitgeist in an effort to curry favour.
For example: 1984 America. Ronald Reagan attempted to ride on the shirt-tails of Bruce Springsteen’s “Born in The USA”, blissfully unaware that the song is in part a tribute to Springsteen’s friends who had fought in the Vietnam War, some of whom did not return, and also protests about the hardships Vietnam veterans faced when returning home – hardly topics the Republican Reagan would want highlighting, you would think.
More recently, Adele requested that current candidate Donald Trump stop using her songs in his campaign. Trump’s had a bit of a tough week of it, as it goes, with the Pope wading in to tell him some of his suggestions were not particularly Christian. Which is actually one of the kinder things one could say about the weirdly-bouffanted madman.
Our politicians on this side of the pond are no better: remember Gordon Brown trying to claim he was a big fan of Artic Monkeys? Or Johnny Marr telling David Cameron that he isn’t allowed to like The Smiths?
But why do I mention this? Because several of these examples are about permission, or rather permission not being given.
This week’s selection of songs includes several which fall very firmly into what many people would describe as “Guilty Pleasures”, and regular readers will know that this is a term I very much disagree with. Part of my mission statement for this place is to reclaim these songs back, in the same way that the gay community have recaptured the term “Queer”. There should be nothing Guilty about gaining Pleasure from music, much less so from something so inoffensive and transient as pop songs.
So, I give you permission to like all that I post tonight. There. No need for you to feel bad now, okay?
But first, some housekeeping. We need to link last week’s loud choices to this week’s, so first a couple of tracks to bridge the weeks together.
And I’m not alone in my love of this song; in the millennium edition of his Festive Fifty, where John Peel, rather than cataloguing the best fifty records of the year, widened the scope to best fifty records ever, “Another Girl….” came in at Number 18. Can’t all be wrong, can we?
We’re not into “this is not a Guilty Pleasure” territory yet, by the way. Almost, but not quite.
And have you spotted a theme yet, dear listeners?
This will do it for you if you haven’t. The opening track from their second album, “Hypnotized”, a tongue in cheek opener if ever I heard one, given the lyrical content of much of their eponymous debut album:
The Undertones are touring again, minus Feargal Sharkey unfortunately.
Right. Here we go. The moment when my credibility and musical taste will get called into question. Let me make something very clear: I like all of the records I am about to post. I recognise that many of them are kitsch or cheesy, and almost all of them are not, or have never been, fashionable or cool. I’m with Danny Baker on the concept of cool:
So, yes I like these records, and I’m neither embarrassed nor do I feel guilty to admit it. I am out and I’m proud.
Ready? Prejudices left at the door? Good. Here we go then:
Relax ladies, they’re married. Actually, since this came out in 1979, they’re probably not anymore.
This reached the giddy heights of Number 2 in the UK, and Number 1 in Australia, New Zealand, and South Africa, all countries renowned for their good taste and modern views on feminism and equality.
Racey’s “Some Girls” actually comes from good stock: it was written by Nicky Chinn and Mike Chapman, a song-writing/production due who reigned supreme in the 1970s and early 1980s, clocking up over fifty Top 40 hits, such as The Sweet’s “Blockbuster!”, “Teenage Rampage” and “Ballroom Blitz”; Suzi Quatro’s “Can The Can”, “48 Drive” and “Devil Gate Drive”; Mud’s “Tiger Feet” and “Lonely This Christmas”; Smokie’s “Living Next Door to Alice”; Toni Basil’s “Mickey”…the list is…well, not endless, but lengthy.
Something slightly, but only ever so, more contemporary now:
Get a grip. No not like that, put it away, you dirty boy.
Okay, part of the reason this is here is because the song title is the same as the Racey tune; but it’s here on its own merits too. This is from 2004, was produced by Richard X (more famous for that Sugababes “Freak Like Me”, Liberty X’s “Being Nobody” and Kelis “Finest Dreams” which all could easily have featured here tonight, and at least two of which will definitely appear on these pages in the future. You have been warned.), but cannot really be considered Miss Stevens’ finest moment.
If not this, then what would that be? Her founder membership of S Club 7? Nope. Her finishing 2nd on “Strictly Come Dancing” in 2008? Nope. Her involvement as a coach on “The Voice of Ireland”, the originally titled Irish version of “The Voice”? Nope. Her appearance in Series 5, Episode 1 of “Dick and Dom in da Bungalow”? Nope. The use of her 2004 version of porn star Andrea True’s “More More More” in a series of television adverts for SCS Sofas? Could be!
Is it just me that suddenly has this going through my mind now?:
Anyway. Back to the pop.
Some Girls has always reminded me of this, also from 2004:
Released at more or less the same time (I think the Goldfrapp single was marginally earlier), or at least close enough to “Some Girls” to negate any allegations of plagiarism anyway, I wonder what it is that makes Alison Goldfrapp be held up as a much-revered, credible artiste (which she is, and rightly-so) whilst Rachel Stevens is considered…well…less so. I can only think it is because of her earlier S Club career, which doesn’t exactly seem fair to me. Pop snobbery, is the phrase that springs to mind.
But whilst we’re back in what many will consider more acceptable waters (not me, all are equal), I give you this:
Glacier cool lady kraut-rock-esque vocals? Check. Uber-cool remix by Soulwax? Check. I love this, picking it up on a promo CD single in D’Vinyl Records, an absolute treasure trove of a second hand record store in the Roath area of Cardiff. If ever you’re down that way, pop in. I say pop in – you’ll be there for hours, I guarantee it. And you’ll come out financially poorer but culturally enriched by all of the goodies you’ll have unearthed.
And while we’re on Soulwax remixes, and since I mentioned them in passing earlier, have a go on this:
Another one I picked up in D’Vinyl. They do sell records that Soulwax haven’t got their greasy mitts on, I promise.
When Andy Warhol made that famous quote about everyone being famous for fifteen minutes, I very much doubt he realised that around 70% of them would be famous for being in Sugababes for fifteen minutes.
You may have noticed we’ve gone a bit girly. So, here is one hell of an all girl band, who in their early days were more about having a good time than being particularly proficient on their instruments:
This is one of those records that my brother and I both bought; he owned it first, of course, I went and got it after seeing them pop up on the Indie Chart section of The Chart Show, when it used to be on Channel 4 on a Friday evening, before it moved to Saturday lunchtimes on ITV. Now, like most music on British TV, it’s nowhere.
Anyway, what I love most about my version of this record is the fact it’s a 12″ and all 5 tracks are crammed onto one side. On the other side, this:
Not sure if that comes across well, but those are etched drawings of each of the girls in the band, or as eil.com call it a “1986 UK limited edition autographed and picture etched 5-track 12” ‘.
We’ve Got a Fuzzbox and We’re Gonna Use It resurfaced a few years later, with a truncated name (“Fuzzbox”) and a more glossy, polished sound and image, and frankly the appeal was gone for me by then. As Billy Bragg (yes, him again) said on his version of “Walk Away Renee” that I posted a while ago: “Then one day she cut her hair, and I stopped loving her”.
Moving on to 1991, and to the short-lived riot grrrl scene, and another all-girl band, named after the transport of choice for the heroine in Pedro Almodovar’s movie “Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown”:
That’s one of the greatest song titles ever, and quite why I haven’t kept my powder dry and posted it in my “The One and Only” thread instead of here is beyond me.
Now, I have absolutely now idea how I came into possession of this next track. It wasn’t a single, it featured on the artistes only solo album, and even then only as a bonus track on the Japanese release of it.
It is, however, one of my favourite ever out-and-out pop songs, wittily skewing that revolting old sexist comment blokes make about shagging an ugly girl with a paper bag over her head. Here though, the roles are reversed; the singer is in a club having recently split with her ex, and to quote The Suit You salesmen from the Fast Show, she “wants it” – so much so that she pulls a guy with roughly the same build as her former beau, and takes him home on the condition that when they sleep together he wears a paper bag over his head:
Go on, just you try and listen to that without bouncing round the room and joining in the “Yeh Yeh”s in the chorus. You can’t can you?
Another Brit-poppy tune next, from a band who found their most commercial success around the same time, having previously flirted with the idea of fame and fortune in their shoe-gazey, ethereal phase a few years earlier:
Lush announced they would be reforming and playing some dates and releasing some new material in 2016; if they play this live, as they surely must, I’ll be regretting not getting tickets.
Okay, time to wrap things up for another week, and this one’s an absolute doozy. Released in 1983, co-written by Todd Rundgren and Stevie Winwood and featuring Carly Simon on vocals at the chorus, but mostly the brainchild of photographer-turned-singer/performer Lynn Goldsmith, this is a “How To” guide to ensuring your first date ends well: