U2 – “The Unforgettable Fire”

Picture the scene: you have had a hard day at work; you have come home late; it is cold; you are hungry. You open the fridge. Alas! There is nothing to eat, save for a Weight Watchers lasagne. You think how much you like lasagne – meaty, cheesy, rich, heavy, flavoursome; perhaps to be enjoyed with a strong red in front of a roaring fire. You contemplate the Weight Watchers faux-lasagne resignedly. Even the picture on the packet is not appetising. You decide to eat it anyway.

You finish some 10 minutes later. It was not a rewarding experience. The food was saccharine sweet; gloopy; lacking in substance. You are still hungry. You resort to filling up on toast.

U2 - The Unforgettable Fire

U2 – The Unforgettable Fire

U2 are the Weight Watchers lasagne of rock and roll.

I have always found U2’s music to be an ersatz approximation of the real thing; occasionally superficially appealing but always strangely unfulfilling and unconvincing, even at its most passionate.

Mostly, of course, this is to do with Bono. He is maybe not a glassy-eyed, avaricious, self-aggrandising, heartless, pseudo-intellectual, hypocritical, shape-shifting lizard, but I strongly suspect that he bullies The Edge.

This much is obvious when one looks at promo pictures of U2:

U2

Figure 1: Witness The Edge’s bullied demeanour

SCENE: A recording studio outside Dublin in 1984. THE EDGE has arrived early and is diligently practising his riff, the one that BONO nicked for him off the first Associates album.

Enter ADAM.

ADAM: Alright there, The Edge? How’s tricks? I’ve just been shagging Naomi Campbell.

THE EDGE (embarrassed): Gosh Adam, that’s nice (blushes). Are you joining us for the recording session?

ADAM (surprised): Fuck no, you won’t be needing me – you can just fill in my bass parts, right?

THE EDGE: Of course, Adam. No problem.

ADAM (relieved): Righto. Righto. (Looks around; taps foot). Well, I’m off to the pub. See you later.

Exit ADAM

THE EDGE practices some more. Enter BONO with LACKEYS. BONO is dressed in a pork pie hat, checked trousers, a short-sleeved white shirt, Cuban heels and a leather waistcoat with pens in the breast pocket.

BONO (loudly): Alright der, da Edge! Edgie boy! Da Edgemeister!

LACKEY 1: Hur, hur, hur

THE EDGE (quietly): Good morning Bono

BONO (mimicking): Good morning Bono! Good morning Bono! Good morning Bono WHAT?

THE EDGE (avoiding eye contact): Good morning Bono, sir

BONO (to LACKEYS): Dat’s better isn’t it eh? Isn’t dat better lads?

BONO grabs THE EDGE in a headlock and drags him around the studio.

LACKEY 1: Hur, hur, hur

BONO (dragging THE EDGE back and forth): Are you me best pal, eh? Are ye?

LACKEY 2: Rub his head, Paul! Rub his head!

BONO (pausing, with THE EDGE still in a headlock):  Now why would Oi rub his head now lads? Why would Oi do a ting loike dat?

BONO grabs THE EDGE’S woolly hat and rubs it viciously across his head.

THE EDGE: Ow! Ow!

BONO: Aw, Edgie – does dat hurt? Let’s have a look and see, eh lads?

THE EDGE: No Bono sir, please!

BONO (removing THE EDGE’S woolly hat with a flourish to reveal THE EDGE’s bald pate): Ta da!

LACKEYS (applauding): Hur, hur, hur! Hur, hur, hur! Hur, hur, hur!

Enter bald ROBED FIGURE.

ROBED FIGURE (shrieking): SILENCE! What is the meaning of this IMPUDENCE! (To BONO) Explain yourself!

BONO (cowering): Please sur it was da Edge sur, I didn’t do nothing, Mr Eno, sur.

ENO (for it is he): SILENCE! A likely story. I will punish you later. For now we must commence recording and you must do exactly what I say! EXACTLY WHAT I SAY! IS THAT UNDERSTOOD?

BONO (craven): Yes sur, Mr Eno sur!

ENO: SILENCE! I despise you. I despise you all.

And so on.

For me The Unforgettable Fire LP is the acme of U2’s career: delicate and dark, sparse and rich. With the exception of the clattering Pride, Bono’s usual bombast is absent; instead his lyrics are impressionistic: stream-of-consciousness sketches.  The title track is both understated and dramatic. Phrases cascade and career off chiming guitars and sonorous strings, conjuring a multitude of perspectives and a feast of senses and colours – cold and heat, light and dark, pain and sensuality;  the red wine that punctures the skin.

I hear its echo in the bruised beauty of The National’s Alligator.

And I can’t think of higher praise than that.

Mike

Posted in 1984 | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Lotus Eaters – “The First Picture of You”

This post is a bit out of synch, and should have appeared no later than July. I’m blaming the season; high summer is the lowest point of the year for me, and if I could hibernate through sweaty August and awake to the clean crispness of September, I would.

The Lotus Eaters - The First Picture Of You

The Lotus Eaters – The First Picture Of You

Over-hot weather hasn’t troubled me much growing up in rural Scotland, (apart from the famous Scorcher of ’76!) but living in the city, there is an atmosphere of things being on the turn, over-ripe and unhealthy. Even if there’s no sun, there is a close, unpleasant swampiness that saps the energy, making it impossible to do anything.

I suppose I view summer holidays the way some people do Christmas, the enforced leisure, the commodification of the experience, and the imperative to have scheduled fun. Stay-cations are nothing new to me; I’ve always preferred just being off work, pottering about, to undertaking a big trip with the attendant stress of travel and arriving home, skint and sunburnt, with a giant case of laundry.

Certain old songs will always make me feel “summery” if that implies carefree and light-hearted, because when I first heard them that meant no school, clothes in pastel colours and long evenings full of freedom and possibility. (Drinking outside!) Nowadays, a couple of weeks off work is merely time enough to dread returning. I always like to think that this year I’ll embrace summer; I like the idea of it, imagining some sun-kissed idyll of wine and laughter, when in reality, I’ll be struggling with the commute, red-faced, irritable and lethargic. By the time I’ve assembled the summer wardrobe and thought of somewhere to go, it’s nearly September.

’83 seems to have been a good year, as Aztec Camera’s “Oblivious” and Jimmy the Hoover’s “Tantalise” both remind me of being young in the sunshine. This one is a little darker. I didn’t like it immediately, not until I heard it late at night, too hot to sleep, listening on a funny little mono radio under my pillow, and it seemed full of the intensity and disorienting colours, scents and sounds of summer. I had a powerful feeling of synaesthesia, in itself a magical midsummer thing, that returns every time I hear the record.

The dreamlike, swirling melodies and chiming guitars evoke the charged atmosphere of a hot summer night and the heightened emotion of being young as well as the inherent sadness in the transience of both.

So, here I am at the fag-end of the season; shorter nights, falling leaves and back to school, the moment has passed again. This is the sound of the idea of the ideal summer that never was, and honestly is better than the real thing.

Wendy

Posted in 1983 | Tagged , , , , | 1 Comment

Foreigner – “I Want To Know What Love Is”

Adult Oriented Rock. No part of this phrase is pleasing to me.

Foreigner - I Want To Know What Love Is

Foreigner – I Want To Know What Love Is

Adult – not childlike; sensible; mature; responsible; old.

Oriented – aligned to a market; tilted, as a man might position a lamp to illuminate a spreadsheet.

Rock – without its complementary, feminising roll, a thrusting, blokeish yang that makes me think of Jeremy Clarkson’s hair. Rock is the kind of music one finds on petrol station CDs entitled ‘100 Drivetime Classix’.

Rock is the Top Gear team driving a new BMW at 180mph up a mountain whilst ‘Layla’ plays in the background.  Rock ‘n’ Roll, conversely, is Thelma and Louise driving a ’66 Thunderbird off a cliff. If you can’t tell the difference, I can’t help you.

Tonight’s 80s45 is one of many, many AOR records that caused me great distress in my youth. Everything about it is displeasing. So bilious is this song that whilst researching this piece I had to watch the video in 30 second bursts, as anything more catalysed such profound nausea I feared I might vomit on my keyboard.

I also read that this song frequently appears on the disturbingly-entitled ‘US Billboard Hot Adult Contemporary Recurrents’, whatever that might be.

In addition to the song being turgid, dismal, enervating, tedious and devoid of all beauty, there are many things I dislike about the video. A few include:

  • The singer’s hair
  • The singer’s face
  • The singer’s age
  • The singer’s clothes
  • The singer identifying with the hard-working ethnic types in the video
  • The singer ‘getting down’ with the fucking gospel choir
  • The height at which the band wear their instruments
  • The constipated looks of suffering on the faces of the band

Constipation plays a big part in AOR. The pained, slightly grumpy looks on the faces of AOR protagonists might be mitigated if they were to have a nice big shit. Every time I see Peter Cetera’s face, I think he probably needs the toilet.

At school, 93% of people in my year liked this song. No, they LOVED this song. They went on about how wonderful it was, the incredible musicality of the composition, the precision with which the band played their highly-strung instruments, the profound spirituality of the gospel choir. These people were 15 years old. They told me that Foreigner were better than the UK Subs. They told me I was a philistine. They wanted to know what love was. I couldn’t show them. I got very upset. I drank hallucinogenic cider in the park and set fire to things. I wanted to destroy the world.

At this point I should conclude that in later life I have learned tolerance, or that indeed I have reached a sufficient level of maturity that the song now speaks to me, but neither of those statements would be true.

I imagine my former peers from school in their comfortable homes, browsing catalogues of light furnishings, whilst Chicago, Mister Mister, John Parr, Journey, Toto, Cutting Crew and Foreigner play lightly (but not too loudly) in the background.

Meanwhile down in the park a lonely figure in stained pants staggers around in the dark, clutching his bottle of Olde English Cider and howling at the moon.

Mike

Posted in 1984 | Tagged , , , , | 2 Comments

Billy Bragg – “Life’s A Riot with Spy vs Spy”

Apparently we are (politically and culturally) in the new 1980s so it seems appropriate to mention an overtly political artist from the time.

Billy Bragg – Life’s A Riot with Spy vs Spy

Billy Bragg – Life’s A Riot with Spy vs Spy

I am mightily pleased to have found a getaround that enabled me to include this 1983 mini-album. I would happily have written about the later stuff, but have more to say about his early records, and I had forgotten that the original issue was played at 45 rpm.

I first came across Billy Bragg when a boy in my class wrote out the lyrics of Saturday Boy for me, changing double history to double biology to suit our timetable. The boy was a sixteen-year-old Tory and an idiot, but I will always remember fondly our chats about music.

In the mid-eighties, Billy Bragg fronted Red Wedge, and was at the height of his party-political activism. These days, he is approaching national treasure status; in the past year, he has had to live down favourable press in the Mail and, on Question Time recently, even Baroness Warsi appeared to be flirting with him.

He comes in for some stick for his financial success, but as many anecdotes paint him a diamond geezer as a total arsehole; I don’t know the guy, and am not much for heroes, so I’ll just say that I feel his politics make him an easy target.

I’ve always thought him extremely canny, with a bloke-ish image that is deceptively natural, but astutely put together: Fred Perry, home-knitted-looking jerseys, jeans, DMs and donkey jackets. All these say working-class, earnest, manly, but it is celebratory rather than cynically contrived, of a piece with the cheery “economy” branding of his earlier records with “pay no more than…” stamped on the sleeves.

I could have written about any of the tracks, but chose a love song rather than a political one. I know there are those who find him unbearably worthy. I don’t, but The Man in the Iron Mask embodies everything I like about Billy Bragg. I have a weakness for the slightly awkward romance (my all-time favourite Billy song is A Lover Sings) and on this his sepulchral tones sound masculine and vulnerable at the same time; the image of an isolated everyman, heartbroken yet stoic.

I am always a fan of kitchen sink production, but this track packs the power of simplicity. The punk-ish brevity and lone guitar combine to emotive effect with the wistful lyrics, and the song is economically built round the metaphor of the man in the iron mask, referring to both the impossibility of escaping the relationship and the masculine impassivity he affects. At a little over two minutes, it is a concise, neat little song, as functional and as pleasing as the Utility Records brand itself.

Surprisingly, there appears to be no slick promotional video, so we will have to make do with this live footage from 1985 that captures his rather lovely stage presence. I particularly enjoy the way he ends sweetly, with a flourish, as if he were Jimmy Page finishing some intricate hour-long display of virtuosity.

Wendy

Posted in 1983 | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

2011 in review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2011 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

A San Francisco cable car holds 60 people. This blog was viewed about 3,000 times in 2011. If it were a cable car, it would take about 50 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

Posted in 2011 | Leave a comment

Band Aid – “Do They Know It’s Christmas?”

Wendy: In the spirit of the season, I was keen to do a joint post. Obviously Another Rock n Roll Christmas is off limits, I’m not sure we could adequately honour Shaky’s contribution to our collective Christmas tradition and nothing seemed more apt than this bumper selection box of eighties confections; I certainly couldn’t tackle it all by myself.

Band Aid – “Do They Know It’s Christmas?”

Band Aid – Do They Know It’s Christmas?

Whenever I hear Do They Know It’s Christmas?, I am reminded of the 1984 end of term Christmas service at the church near our school, when the minister gave a quintessentially eighties address, using the lyrics as a jumping-off point. If I could only remember the sermon, I’m sure it would have made the perfect Christmas guest post; alas, all I can recall is his disapproval of the line Tonight thank God it’s them, instead of you. And the giant home-made Rubik’s Cube he used as a prop, of course.

In the absence of the esteemed Rev McKenzie, I turned to another eminent spiritual beacon for his thoughts:

Mike: There is much to dislike about Christmas – the cost; the waste; Roy Wood’s face, clothes and hair; one’s grudging, half-hearted attempts at exercise; the hot-water-bottle consistency of one’s belly and arse; the sullen bitterness arising from one’s holiday time being consumed by the enforced society of neighbours, colleagues, friends and family; long empty days of gloomy self-reflection through a wine-glass, darkly; the dawning realisation that work, much as you hate it, is preferable; Christmas cards that won’t stand up properly.

I could go on. I will.

I was in John Lewis last Christmas, on a last minute dash to buy something utterly irrelevant but absolutely essential to the success of Christmas, something without which the entire holiday would be a total, unmitigated disaster, and that would result in me becoming a veritable pariah. I can’t remember what it was, other than that I couldn’t find it and I was extremely exercised about it and in a slightly unstable mental state. It was probably ribbon in a particular shade of taupe, or frosting to add to every third glass bauble on our tree.

As I stood there with my pulse racing and my hands clenching, from the tannoy came the ‘Feed the wo-orld’ refrain. It was that bit were the ‘Let them know it’s Christmas…’ descant comes in. The hair stood up on the back of my neck. Tears rolled down my face. A punk rock warrior weeping to Band Aid in John Lewis.

Much has been written whether Band Aid was a good thing or whether charity obscures the true reasons for world poverty. I am ambivalent about it. By which I mean I am unsure. Things that I think about it are as follows:

  • As it was the original charity record, I just cannot believe that the participants were completely cynical in their motivations if only because they had no idea of the consequences
  • Undoubtedly it has increased Bob Geldof’s personal profile and wealth
  • And all of the artists that played at Live Aid
  • I think people are poor, because other people, like Bono, are rich
  • It does not invite people to think about the bigger picture, but
  • Perhaps some were encouraged to learn more as a consequence
  • And, after all, it’s ‘only’ a pop record. Lighten up! The masses aren’t gonna listen to Crass.

But what a record it is. Things that I think about the record/video are as follows:

  • That Paul Young, Boy George and George Michael can really sing, man
  • That it is pleasing that Sting sings the line with ‘sting’ in it
  • That Bananarama never looked more gorgeous with their (literally) just-out-of-bed look
  • That it is right that Bono gets to sing the bombastic line with ‘God’ in it. On his own
  • That Weller looks like he has learning difficulties
  • That the preposterous lyrics are perfect
  • That the oafs from Status Quo are despicable buffoons
  • That the song structure is a stroke of genius – from the death knell first half to the joyous, spring-like refrain
  • That the success of the song is primarily due to Midge ‘Wee Jim’ Ure’s composition and production

Wendy: I have to agree. Never a fan of the grand gesture and with typical (affected) cynicism, at the time I could not see past the self-promoting aspect of the enterprise. Funny how things change; the world has waxed snarky since then, and I must have mellowed enough to take a more nuanced view; watching the video, there is a sweetness about it that cannot all be artifice. The ordinariness of the location, the fact that the artists (so young!) look as if they really have rolled out of bed, but above all, Midge Ure, working away in the background; his quiet industry easily outclassing the bombastic Geldof.

As 2011 gets its coat and makes for the door, and 2012 approaches, I don’t remember looking towards a new year with such a mixture of weariness and trepidation. (I suppose this is middle age.) This song and video remind me of when I was young and relatively carefree (although I didn’t think so at the time) and when the world seemed a little more compassionate (although I didn’t think so at the time).

And with that, a very merry Christmas and a happy new year from 80s45s.

Mike & Wendy

Posted in 1984 | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Soft Cell – “Say Hello, Wave Goodbye”

“I have a feeling,” I said to Mandeep, as we paused speculatively at the top of the glittering staircase, “that we are going to be tremendously successful in life.” Mandeep momentarily stopped glancing left and right and glared up at me. “You’re off your rocker, boy!” he boomed. He pointed ‘forward’ with both hands, “Now let’s go party.” We began our purposeful descent.

Say Hello, Wave Goodbye

Soft Cell – Say Hello, Wave Goodbye

We had just arrived at Fridays, a nightclub of sorts, in South Manchester. I don’t think I need to tell you much about Fridays; the fact that it was called Fridays probably furnishes you with sufficient information; however, for the record it was a kind of cocktail bar cum restaurant cum dancefloor type place frequented by Paul Calf-alike Mancunians, students and local gangsters. Typically we went to Fridays on Mondays, not because we were driven by irony, but because it gave free entry to anyone with a student card (even an expired one like mine) and served cheap drink. The latter was probably the root cause of my atypically positive outlook; I wasn’t much of a drinker in those days, and a mere sniff of the barmaid’s apron would catapult me into an altered state of energetic self confidence and euphoria: in fact, the precise opposite of what it does to me now.

Doubtless it was this, then, that some 20 minutes later caused me to leap enthusiastically onto the dancefloor to the opening chords of Jumpin’ Jack Flash. Some months previously I had been introduced to the non-shit Rolling Stones by dint of somebody rolling me a cigarette and then playing me all of Through the Past, Darkly. To say I was astonished would be an understatement. Before that moment I had deemed all music recorded before 1976 (with the honourable exceptions of the Who, the Kinks and the Velvet Underground) to be at best irrelevant, and the Rolling Stones in particular to be hairy, adult and pointless. Through the Past, Darkly changed all that. I am embarrassed to admit I suffered a brief Keith Richards fixation, like many a callow youth before me and since. I am even more embarrassed to admit that during this period I purchased a skull ring. It was particularly poor quality one; the type that is open at the back so it can be adjusted to suit finger girth. To (half) finish the look I imagined to be Keith’s, I wore a white granddad shirt and a 60s tonic jacket. Unfortunately I couldn’t afford to sort out the lower half of my attire, so I still wore regulation goth skintight black jeans and ludicrous jester/Blackadder II pointy poof boots, which as time wore on curled progressively upward at the toes. I imagine I looked as implausible as a centaur, but with none of that creature’s dignity, virility or fighting prowess.

On the dancefloor I flailed around over-confidently. Jumpin’ Jack Flash came to an end and the DJ immediately made matters worse by spinning Paradise City. I may have pogoed at this point; I don’t THINK I played air guitar: I hope I didn’t. Anyway, it was at some point during the song I noticed that a girl who had been dancing near me was still dancing near me. I looked at her. She looked back. I curbed my enthusiastic dancing a fraction. I looked at her again. She looked back again. We smiled. We danced some more. She moved a bit closer. We smiled again. I leaned forward. “Hello,” I said. It was a great opening line. “Hi,” she replied. She smiled again. Clearly she liked smiling. We padded around a bit more. I leaned in again with a commanding follow-up, “Wot’s your name?” She smiled at me again. “Kate,” she replied. Suddenly dancing and conversation became impractical as the song had reached that point near the end where it goes really really fast and Axl sings in a really screechy falsetto. And so it was necessary for me to hold Kate’s arms and she mine while I leaned into her long, scented hair and whispered my devastating, killer third line, “Shall we get a drink?” The next record started. Bizarre Love Triangle. It is impossible to dance to New Order. We quit the floor.

The ambiguity in my question about who would actually purchase the drink was not intentional, but was an issue, for I had no money to purchase even a, drink. However, such was my youthful optimism in those days I was confident that the situation would somehow resolve itself in the 45 seconds it would take us to navigate to the bar.

Kate touched my arm. “I just need to speak to someone first,” she said. “I came here with a guy on a date.” I tried to look cool. “It’s OK,” she said, “I don’t think he’s that keen – he brought his mate with him.” She looked around. “Oh hi!” A couple of blokes were standing there. I instantly despised them. They wore chinos and shirts and suede brogues and matching his and hers rollneck sweaters. Both held barely supped pints of bitter. They looked like they would rather be quietly discussing stocks and shares at a boat club than be with a girl at Fridays. Kate introduced them, “This is Bore and Drone.” She gestured at me, “This is…” “Mike,” I added. I shook their limp, damp hands. “We just met,” Kate explained. Bore was clearly the dominant one. The dater.  He seemed unfazed by the situation. “We were thinking of heading off…” he said to Kate, inclining his head (possibly unconsciously) towards his boyfriend. Drone looked at his brogues. “Would you like a drink before we go?” “Yes,” said Kate, “I’ll have a double vodka and coke and Mike will have a pint of…” “lager,” I added. Bore paused momentarily, but then perhaps realising he had resolved a problem for the price of two drinks, made for the bar. “Got a spare fag?” I asked Drone. Drone didn’t smoke, but Kate produced a packet of Silk Cut. Bore came back with the drinks and passed them over. The transaction was complete. “Well, we’ll be off. Nice to meet you Mark,” he said, nodding at me. He then shook Kate’s hand. They departed. After a dignified pause I retrieved their undrunk pints.

“Christ, where did you meet him?”I said, taking a long draft of lager. “Oh he just came into the shop and asked me out while he was buying a book,” said Kate, “and I thought why not? I had nothing better to do. But it was so boring when we got here. And then I saw you and you looked so cool.” She smiled. A chink of doubt appeared in my previously impenetrable armour of alcohol-fuelled self confidence. Did she really mean that? She touched my hand. “I like your skull ring.” I looked at it stupidly. It seemed a bit naff. “Here, you can have it,” I said, putting it on her finger. She smiled again.

Suddenly Adam’s head bobbed above the top of our seats. “Mike! We’re heading off mate; we’ll see you later.” He leant in towards me and whispered. “Here’s some cash for a taxi.” Adam was like that; always thinking of others less deserving than himself. He grinned, squeezed my arm and ran off.

“Shall I see you again?” I asked Kate. “Would you like to?” she replied. “Of course,” I said, “of course I would.” We made a date. “How are you getting home?” I asked. “Oh, I’ll get a cab or something.” “Here,” I said giving her Adam’s money, “take this for a taxi.” “You don’t need to do that.” said Kate. “I want to,” I said. She smiled again.

And then we kissed.

Kate was a graduate of the proper University and was an impossibly sophisticated four years older than me. She was from the Midlands, but of Romanian descent. Her name wasn’t really Kate; it was Ecaterina. She had an even more exotic and unpronounceable surname. Her looks were striking – she was slim with long black hair, pale skin, huge eyes and a full mouth, much given to smiling. Her look was somewhere between goth and rock chick – mostly black but sometimes accented with leopard skin or studs. It wasn’t fashionable, but it suited her. She looked a bit like Hammer Studio’s idea of an attractive female vampire. She was extremely undemanding, unambitious and easygoing; I don’t think I’ve met anyone since with such an even temperament. “That’s bostin’” she would say about stuff that pleased her; then she would laugh at her own colloquialism.

Kate worked in a book shop in town. This meant she had money. I didn’t have any money, ever, except on giro day, when I would live like a king. Kate didn’t seem to mind spending her money on me. She would take me out to bars and clubs and buy me drinks and cigarettes.  I felt moderately bad about this, but not quite enough not to do so. Mostly I drank pineapple juice to keep costs down a bit; it wasn’t too much of a stretch for me to abstain in those days. Kate liked a drink. I used to think she drank a lot, but she probably drank no more than I do now. Moosehead beer was her favourite. Mooses would stare at me across the table as we smoked and I nursed my pineapple juice.

Kate didn’t seem to have any girl friends, but she knew a lot of blokes, some of whom seemed to be ex-boyfriends. Often our nights out would involve going to see this bloke or that bloke playing in some dismal rock band. The blokes would be dismissively polite or indifferent to Kate. The one nice guy she knew worked in the book shop with her. He was bookish (perhaps unsurprisingly) and seemed protective towards her. When I came into the shop he would view me with an air of resigned disappointment. This made me warm to him.

After our nights out we would retire to Kate’s which was located in an insalubrious area of run-down pubs, kebab shops and betting houses. Kate rented a one room bedsit in a large house and shared a bathroom and toilet with four other single strangers. Her room had a two-ring cooker but no fridge. There was an unopened pint of milk on the table. Every time I went round the milk was progressively mouldier; the silver top more domed. We would drink black tea and lie on Kate’s bed and smoke whilst contemplating the milk bottle. “You’ll have to part with it one day,” I warned. Kate would shake her head and laugh, “Never!”

Kate had a mono cassette deck. Often she would play Lou Reed’s Perfect Day. ‘I’m glad I spent it with you,’ she would sing to me, and laugh. This was in the days before the song had been popularised by the BBC and was subsequently sneered at by snobs like me who thought we were superior to the hoi polloi from having learnt it in more poignant contexts.

One night we were lying on the bed as usual. I saw my skull ring on the bedside table. “Hey! You’re not wearing my ring!” I said. Kate laughed. “It’s broken; one of its arms came off.” She laughed again, “You’ll have to buy me a better one”. “I can’t believe you broke my precious ring!” I said, grabbing her wrists. We wrestled. Kate struggled and laughed. Suddenly I noticed an odd brown leather wrist strap on Kate’s arm and gestured at it. “What is this thing? It’s really ugly – take it off”. I grabbed at the press studs and pulled. The strap came away to reveal a series of scars on Kate’s arm. It was clear they were self inflicted. These were the days before cutting went overground and became a lifestyle choice. I didn’t understand. “What,” I said.  Kate slapped me in the face. She turned aside to the wall and refastened the strap.

After a while I lit a couple of fags. Time wore on. I made to leave. “You don’t have to go,” Kate said. “Nah, best get on.” I said. “OK”, she replied. I liked that about her; she never pushed things. We made plans to meet in a few days.

On the street outside it was cold. It was 3am. My house was three miles away. I hadn’t eaten in three days. I had a hole in my shoe. I plodded along a bit. I was weak and tired. I had 80p in my pocket that I was saving for cigarettes. I hailed a cab. “Can you take me 80p’s worth of the way towards Withington?” I asked. The driver sighed. “Get in”. I got in the cab. It was warm and safe. We sat in silence as the car glided through the night streets all the way to the village. “Get out then”, the driver said. I made to pay him. He sighed again. “Keep your money, lad.”

The following Thursday I was due to meet Kate in town. My housemates were off to a local pub quiz that had a cash prize. A custom of the pub was to give the winning team a gallon jug of beer to take home with them; the jug to be returned the following week. This suddenly seemed immensely more attractive to me than walking two miles into town. I went to a callbox and phoned Kate’s work. The bookish bloke answered. “Hi,” I said. “Is Kate there please?” He sighed. “I’ll just see if she’s free”. Kate came to the phone. “Hiya!” “Hi,” I replied. “I’m not feeling too well – think I’ll stay in tonight”. “Oh. OK. I could come round and look after you if you like?” “Nah, it’s alright,” I said, “I’m just going to go to bed, you’d be wasting your time”. “OK”, she said. “Well, get well soon – call me, yeah?” “Yeah,” I said. The money ran out on the phone. I replaced the receiver.

And that was the end of me and Kate.

Say Hello, Wave Goodbye does not require much explanation. Its strength lies in how the singer’s seemingly dismissive summation of a relationship is belied by both the melody and the vulnerability of the vocal. This inherent conflict is reflected in the instrumental accompaniment which manages to be both spartan and cold, and expansive and warm at the same time. Nowhere is this better epitomised than in the self-deluding line ‘We’re strangers meeting for the first time, ok? Just smile and say hello’ where the instrumental grows thin and bleak and dies out only to return in a huge emotive wash, as the singer repeats the mantra ‘goodbye, goodbye’, willing himself to let go.

Say Hello, Wave Goodbye is not an analogy for me and Kate but it is nonetheless the perfect acknowledgement of youth’s need to get on, its lack of emotional maturity and its inability to avoid collateral damage.

Some weeks later I went back to Kate’s bookshop. As I walked in, the bookish bloke was crossing the floor. He stopped in his tracks momentarily and looked at me. Kate appeared. “Hello,” she said, smiling at me. “Hi,” I replied. “Can you take a break or something?”

We went to the café in the department store next door. It was giro day and I ordered us cakes and hot chocolate. “I’m sorry,” I said. Kate smiled. “Don’t be. It’s OK”.

When the time came to part, I was awkward. “See you around, I guess”, I said. I think I meant it. Kate leaned forward and kissed me. The palm of her hand rested fleetingly on my chest. She smiled. “Goodbye,” she said.

Mike

Posted in 1982 | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Pet Shop Boys – “Left To My Own Devices”

This is where it all changed. This was where love turned to passion, the past became the future, and past sins forgiven. This was the end of the “Imperial Phase” of the Pet Shop Boys, but this was more Imperial than anything before or after. This was where the sublime became divine – or something.

Pet Shop Boys – Left To My Own Devices

Pet Shop Boys – Left To My Own Devices

West End Girls marked the start of that Imperial Phase, and the first three albums, Please, Disco and Actually, stomped round the charts mixing the dance sensibilities of New York disco and New Order with lyrics that were evocative, personal and political all at the same time. In fact, when Richey Edwards of the Manic Street Preachers carved “4Real” into his arm in 1991, it was during a discussion where he imagined (to the interviewer, Steve Lamacq) that there could be a group (subtext – this group would be the Manics) who combined the political nous of Big Star with the commercial success of Kylie Minogue. Lamacq responded: “They exist; they’re called the Pet Shop Boys”.

After the Imperial phase, they released Domino Dancing and I sulked. I hated the lyrics, I disliked the music, and Neil’s voice seemed to struggle with the “…watch them all fall down” line. It said nothing to me about my life. I quietly closed the file on the Pet Shop Boys.

Trevor Horn put the Hollywood into Frankie, but he could be more subtle. For Left To My Own Devices he left subtle at the door – Horn and PSB were made for one another. The orchestral opening, the turning motif sustained, leads into a harps and all expansion upwards, heavenwards, collides with some horns (or Horn, who knows), comes crashing back down to earth into that dancing beat. Around Tennant’s English RapTM, the music swoops and dives, dances and makes you dance, changes pace and volume and draws you in. It’s loud, it’s soft, but it’s gloriously introspective, appropriately. The lyrics are almost banal for the most part – a simple account of a day perhaps reminiscent of Soft Cell’s “Bedsitter”. “I get out of bed at half-past ten…” But here, the singer is not the party animal – that’s just a friend, and much of the life described is lived vicariously, comparing himself to that friend. The childhood reminiscences sounded so convincingly autobiographical (“I was a lonely boy, no strength, no joy, in a world of my own at the back of the garden”) Tennant had to apologise to his mother.

At the conclusion of the chorus Horn throws the kitchen sink into it, in a glorious celebration of the perfection of production, and I am absorbed in the magnificence of it all. But then the beats drops away, and the defining PSB lyric – in that it defines them – breaks in: “But in the back of my head I heard distant feet, Che Guevara and Debussy to a disco beat” – and all hell breaks loose again, towards the joyous climax, and I’m right there with them, spinning and dancing, singing to the sky. On my own. In my bedroom. Feeling slightly less introspective. And I probably would.

Jan

Posted in 1988 | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

This Mortal Coil – “Song to the Siren”

I often find it takes me years to ‘get’ music, but I loved this when it was released, and it has been a favourite ever since, surviving its inevitable inclusion on soundtracks and adverts. But then the whole concept of the dreampop supergroup, This Mortal Coil, was guaranteed to appeal to teenage me, with its eclectic mix of artists, covers of psychedelic folk songs and uncanny, otherworldly sound.

This Mortal Coil - Song To The Siren

This Mortal Coil – Song To The Siren

The prettiness of the Larry Beckett/Tim Buckley tune and its poetic lyrics can easily sound fey (as several insipid covers attest) but the impact of this recording is mostly due to the strength and shimmering intensity of Elizabeth Fraser’s singing. Her voice is often described as angelic, and on this track has a slightly droning quality that certainly sounds other than human, as remote and as beguiling as the siren of the title.

I enjoy the Tim Buckley original, but it’s not my favourite of his songs, sung by him, and the only version I have heard that approaches this one is by The Czars. Singer John Grant cites This Mortal Coil as his inspiration and, much as I think that Elizabeth Fraser’s perfect, glacial voice embodies that of the supernatural creature, John Grant’s is, to me, the poor mortal, confused and completely bereft.

The lyrics allude to the well-known classical legend of the sirens who, by their irresistible singing, lured sailors to shipwreck. In a twist to the familiar tale, the sailor sings back to the siren. The song echoes the siren’s own words, returned as both reproach and appeal: Here I am, here I am, waiting to hold you. The repetition creates an ambiguity about who is singing and as the vocal sounds either (or neither) masculine or feminine, the roles of sailor and siren, pursuer and quarry are further confused. The drama turns on the moment that the sailor recognises the siren’s caprice or his own delusion. Did I dream, you dreamed about me?

Against the seductive beauty of the vocal, the chiming guitars and wailing synths are soothing, almost apologetic, suggestive of calm seas and gentle breezes. At the time, I identified with the song purely as a metaphor for the disappointment of unrequited love, and I suppose it can be, but now I hear it as an elegy for innocence, lamenting the evanescence of desire itself. There is a languor, a total lack of momentum about the whole piece and the mood is unmistakably one of aftermath and tristesse.

Wendy

Posted in 1983 | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Killing Joke – “Let’s All Go (To The Fire Dances)”

Have you ever:

  • Gone up the hill with a couple of mates, drunk several litres of Woodpecker and set fire to a bunch of stuff?
  • Driven round a corner on a sunny Saturday afternoon into the middle of a full scale riot conducted for the most part by 12-14 year old kids?
  • Steered a stolen Mk III Cortina into an electricity sub station?
  • Come across a crate of empty milk bottles and thrown them into the air directly over your head and waited for them to fall?
  • Watched hundreds of fans of Cliftonville FC walk towards you after a match, in the 1970s?
  • Been startled as a child as a Saracen, a Land Rover, a Bedford truck and an armoured fork lift mount the pavement in front of you as you wend your innocent way to school?
  • Run en masse from the peelers and found yourself hiding behind a garage, breathless and exhilarated with a scruffy girl who suddenly pushes herself forward and you taste salt on her cracked lips and smell woodsmoke in her hair?
  • Considered that the phrase ‘stick hit the stick I hit the stick’ makes perfect sense?
  • Thought that civilised society is but a baw hair away from atavistic anarchy and, on some small, or even medium sized level, craved that?

If so, then it is likely that the good time music of Killing Joke is for you.

Killing Joke - Let's All Go (To The Fire Dances)

Killing Joke – Let’s All Go (To The Fire Dances)

I am not not saying that I haven’t not experienced some or all the above in my short life. The Cortina might merely have been abandoned. There has never been a time when I could drink several litres of Woodpecker. Certainly I have never kissed a girl. Nonetheless, such formative experiences are part of the average Killing Joke fan’s psssyche.

Variously described by the criterati as ‘lunatics’, ‘fascists’ and ‘complete and utter bollocks’, Killing Joke have ploughed a singular, if sometimes wobbly, furrow through the hinterlands of popular music. A casual Google of their name does not produce any descriptors that would encourage the uninitiated to investigate them, viz., ‘doom goth metal’ ‘quasi goth metal’ ‘pre-industrial goth prog metal’ ‘proto goth punk metal’ ‘dance rock metal’ and ‘the sound of the earth vomiting’. They are frequently cited as being a major influence on many bands I dislike intensely, bands with names like Korn and Prong and Tool and Worn and Dong and Stool that are typically staffed by fat, middle class petulant Americans in big shorts with stupid goatee beards and tattoos who sing about how they have ‘issues’, man, over turgid, grinding dirge-like metal. The kind of music you would imagine Donald Rumsfeld would sanction playing to internees in Abu Ghraib when waterboarding was proving a mite ineffective and he needed to ratchet things up a notch.

I find this perplexing, for I believe there is much joy, beauty and wonder in Killing Joke’s canon. There is rage and anger too, but it is focussed and directed and the overall effective is energising and cathartic. (Truth be told there is a fair degree of quasi-goth-metal-dance bollocks as well, but let us ignore that for now). Killing Joke’s music is not self-pitying and self-obsessed like the music produced by the real and imaginary bands referred to in the preceding paragraph.

Tonight’s tremendous 45 is the title track (of sorts) from Killing Joke’s 1983 LP, Fire Dances. Fire Dances, for the uninitiated, is a virile, thrusting, priapic, primitive, pulsing, percussive masterpiece of constrained, ordered chaos and delicate feminine beauty, which, from the opening drumbeat, both musically and lyrically drives the listener relentlessly forward and onwards to its conclusion. Let’s All Go is the penultimate song on the album: its deliberate placing next to the cathartic release of the last track a final urgent exhortation to join the madness, join the carnival, join the celebration – embrace your humanity before it’s too late! Its celebratory hedonism makes me think of fire and night and clean, crisp air and freedom and exhilaration and glee and wanton indulgence and joy and untrammelled, complete and utter childlike happiness.

ALL HAIL TO THE BEAST.

Mike

Posted in 1983 | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Abba – “The Day Before You Came”

Although Abba will be forever associated with Eurovision cheesiness and sequined kitsch, their output is actually a strange mixture of naff and eerily beautiful.  Away from the hen-night end of the spectrum, they are responsible for some surprisingly bleak lyrics about love and desire and I feel it is no coincidence that they hail from Bergman country.  I find this, apparently their last recording, poignant and quite profound; more so because of its unlikely source.

Abba - The Day Before You Came

Abba – The Day Before You Came

Written in retrospect about life before the arrival of a lover, it begins with the line I must have left my house at eight, because I always do, and recites the litany of tasks and habits that make up the typical day of the ordinary working person. There seem to be too many words in some of the lines, as if the singer is chattering to fill the silence, and there is something touching about her determination to record the events, despite her uncertainty about the specific details in the endless procession of days. Nevertheless, she reconstructs in a series of vague vignettes the entire nine to five and journey home, ending with a takeaway in front of the TV before she cuddles up for yet another night, the sound of rain on the roof.

This monotonous list and slightly nervous delivery is at odds with the ominous drama of the music. Propelled by a clockwork rhythm that echoes the sound, relentless, yet comforting, of the commuter train, the melancholic synthesizers and multi-tracked backing vocals speak of the alienation of modern life.

Like many of us, the singer seems to live that life of quiet desperation; recounting the quotidian pleasures/tortures of commuting, paperwork, the lunch crowd, as if to convince herself of her purpose in existing. She never even noticed I was blue; like a cartoon character walking off a cliff and falling only when they notice thin air beneath their feet, the song is about the day when her self-sufficiency ceases to sustain her.

Succumbing to the pressure of loneliness, she trades her solitary stability for something as capricious as love, which may be as flimsy a defence against the emptiness of existence. There is a powerful sense of finality, as the singing stops and the music swells in a sort of baleful triumph and I imagine the singer has thrown herself from the safety of her solitude into the terrifying maelstrom of dependency. Irrevocably committed to this new course, she is resigned to the impossibility of returning to former comforts having once left them.

Wendy

Posted in 1982 | Tagged , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Japan – “Nightporter”

I first heard Nightporter whilst listening to the Top 40 on Radio 1 one Sunday evening. It was sandwiched incongruously between Supertramp and Dionne Warwick.  The elegant simplicity and lack of clutter in the sound created space in my head. Everything else seemed clattering and brash by comparison; it was uniquely at odds with the world.

Japan - Nightporter

Japan – Nightporter

I went into town the following Saturday with my mate, and bought the single. It was already slipping away from the chart and had been remaindered. My copy still has the faint, felt-tipped x on the cover that indicated it had been marked down.

After town we went up the hill that lay behind where we lived. We were at an age where we still attempted to enjoy the things that had made us happy as children, but somehow they were no longer satisfying. Although we had been friends since childhood, increasingly we irritated each other. My mate abruptly decided he was going home. I recall him walking off, stopping, turning round and looking back at me, silhouetted against the grey, lowering sky. In the twilight I couldn’t see his expression. He turned again and walked away.

At home later, I played the record. The sound expanded to fill the room; the world outside receded. The dolorous piano notes were like stones dropped singly into a still pool, rippling melancholy, loneliness and languor. I studied the cover. A photograph rendered in charcoal and silver depicted a figure sitting in half light by a window. I imagined this to be the Nightporter, alone, marking time.

As an adult I have realised that the song is more nuanced; that solitude is used as a foil for completeness; that the Nightporter’s yearning and ennui in the quiet town where life gives in is matched with sensuality so intense it is voluptuous – the lovers cocooned in the width of a room that can hold so much pleasure inside; the rain temporarily keeping the world at bay; the indulgence all the more acute because it is so fleeting.

Nightporters go.
Nightporters slip away.

Mike

Posted in 1982 | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Robert Wyatt – “Shipbuilding”

One of the ways that 80s45s came into being was through recurring conversations about the diversity of music that was made and played at the time, despite the stereotype that has prevailed of a decade-long school disco.

Robert Wyatt - Shipbuilding

Robert Wyatt – Shipbuilding

However, in the 80s it was fashionable to be politically engaged, and protest songs regularly featured in the UK singles charts. These were not always by overtly ‘political’ acts, and were quite distinct from the decade’s rash of charity records, in that they expressed personal opinions on controversial and potentially audience-alienating subjects.

This one (in this case by overtly political artists) has stayed with me, an eloquent, intelligent lament not only for lives lost in the Falklands war and those blighted by the high unemployment and industrial decline of the 80s, but also for the human potential squandered by those in power. The personal and the political are combined in a miniature narrative, like a glimpse of a Mike Leigh film.

The lyrics are by Elvis Costello. I was always, and remain, a great admirer, but I confess to sometimes finding his cleverness a bit relentless – even he described himself as rock ‘n’ roll’s Scrabble champion. At its best, though, his wordplay is illuminating rather than dazzling, and this surely must be one of his best.

While other Costello songs, like Tramp the Dirt Down, are explicitly political and simmering with righteous rage, Shipbuilding’s lyrics are subtle and understated, alluding at first to the everyday concerns of affording “a new winter coat and shoes for the wife” and building to that beautiful and devastating line at the end of the chorus “when we could be diving for pearls”.

The song was written for Robert Wyatt, well-known as an experimental artist and associated with the prog scene (deeply unfashionable post-punk) and therefore a rather improbable visitor to the 80s charts. His plaintive voice sounds defeated and conveys the powerlessness of the individual and the inevitability of the situation. Elvis Costello later sang his own version, angrier and more dramatic, and with a gorgeous soaring trumpet solo that I like to think of, in keeping with the metaphor of the song, as both an estuary bird and a soul ascending.

The doleful elegance of the arrangement contributes to the mood of hopelessness and the piano sounds weary, yet defiantly lovely; a sophisticated response to the crude machismo that was very much the posture of the Thatcher government.

You could hardly describe it as a smash, but Shipbuilding was certainly a hit, and such an unlikely one, a humane and deceptively gentle protest song more powerful and enduring for being poetic rather than direct.

Wendy

Posted in 1982 | Tagged , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Bryan Adams – “Summer Of ’69”

Not much is known about Canada. It lies to the north of the USA, shrouded in forests and sparsely populated. Its primary export is logs. Its people keep themselves to themselves, stoically going about their business in a quiet, undemonstrative way; paying their taxes ungrudgingly, and voting for moderate political parties. It would be mysterious were it not so completely uninteresting.

Bryan Adams - Summer Of '69

Bryan Adams – Summer Of ’69

Until 1977, no famous or noteworthy people had ever come from Canada. Doubtless this state of affairs would have continued were it not for the accidental delivery of a guitar (originally destined for Detroit, USA) to Ontario. The natives were confused by this strangely shaped item, and relegated it to the back of a local Five & Dime store. It would have languished there for all eternity where it not for lucky happenstance.

For it came to pass that a young Bryan Adams was sent to the store to purchase clothes pegs for his mother. Instead, in a scenario not unlike that in Jack and the Beanstalk, he bought the guitar. As with Jack, the initial ire of Bryan’s mother was ill-placed, for untold riches were to follow. For Bryan was blessed with a God-given ability to write bland, but catchy mid-paced rawk anthems, the like of which are in constant rotation on drivetime radio and everywhere else on earth endlessly for all eternity, garnering countless millions in earnings.

I read recently with a mixture of despair and violent envy that Sting still earns about £2,000 a week from airplays of the 28 year old song, Every Breath You Take in the US alone.  That’s just ONE of his countless hits in ONE country.

I often fantasise about being as rich as Sting. Like Sting, I would live in a golden castle with a pygmy militia, own my own rainforest, dress in bejewelled panda fur, drive an armoured Aston Martin and bathe in asses’ milk. Unlike Sting, I would also have an Elton John style hair-weave, partake of regular liposuction and wouldn’t marry Trudi Styler.

Bryan Adams exhibits none of the vulgar affectations adopted by me and Sting. His face is blandly rugged and slightly cratered, like Canada itself. His jaw line is firm, with a hint of the stoicism and uncomplaining resolve of his fellow countrymen. He is handsome in an instantly forgettable, generic way. Perpetually clad in plaid lumberjack shirts and straight jeans, he has the appearance of someone who has just walked from his pick-up into a gas station to buy 20 Marlboro after a hard day herding moose.

Summer Of ’69 is one of Bryan’s many generic rawk hits. I have never voluntarily listened to it, but it is more familiar to me than my own mother’s face. Every single word of the lyrics has been laser-etched onto the back of my retinas.

It would seem that no context is inappropriate for Summer Of ’69. Places I have heard the song recently include:

  • a French restaurant
  • whilst crossing the finish line of marathon
  • a funeral
  • whilst buying dusters

1969 was an epochal year. Rupert Murdoch bought the News Of The World. Jan Palak set himself on fire. Men landed on the moon. British troops arrived in Northern Ireland. Youth sprang free of its chains and cavorted through the summer of love at Woodstock Festival. The Vietnam war ground on. At home, I crawled away from my mother, towards the television screen.

All of this was of little concern to the young Bryan. In Summer Of ’69 we learn that the things that had the most significance, that conferred upon him the greatest happiness he has ever known, were that he:

  • bought a guitar
  • was in a band
  • had a job
  • kissed a girl, on a porch

all summarised in the air-punching, lager-aloft, all-together-now line, ‘those were the best days of my life’.

The sentiment expressed here is, prima facie, an elegiac one, namely, that one’s best days are past; that youth is wasted on the young; that one subsists through the complexity of adulthood in reverie for a lost Arcadia.

However, let us not forget that Bryan is Canadian. Self-pity is not in his genetic makeup. Rather I think what Bryan is trying to say is that you should be happy with your lot; you don’t need the bejewelled panda fur boots, beauty can be found in the mundane.  Or to borrow a phrase from a play I attended earlier this year, it’s not about the moments in life, it’s the life in the moments.

I’m not sure about the bleeding fingers, mind.

Mike

Posted in 1985 | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Joe Jackson – “Steppin’ Out”

I would have chosen Is She Really Going Out With Him purely for the excellent first line “Pretty women out walking with gorillas down my street”. However, it was released in 1979, and therefore outside the scope of 80s45s. (Although I suspect this rule will be disregarded when necessary, and no doubt soon, by Mike.) I considered writing about Left of Center, from the soundtrack to the 80s brat pack film Pretty in Pink, on which Joe plays piano, but there was really only one possibility.

Joe Jackson - "Steppin' Out"

Joe Jackson – Steppin’ Out

Steppin’ Out is an iconic track from 1982, when Joe Jackson was moving away from the new wave towards a more jazz-influenced style. I did not at all like this type of music then, and still don’t much, but this is irresistibly catchy and Joe retains a pleasing lyrical clumsiness (of which the poignant but rather unfortunately-titled Be My Number Two is an example) that undercuts the gloss of the production.

Joe Jackson was and is an interesting artist; not contrived or extreme, but determinedly individual. He continues to make music, pursuing his interests in the jazz/”classical” direction, has written a moving, sharp and amusing memoir and occasionally shares his scepticism concerning the fairness and efficacy of smoking bans.

The video, shot in New York, is full of eighties style. There was a fashion in menswear at the time for retro dressing: hats and braces and slicked-back hair, I think inspired partly by the mini-series Brideshead Revisited. Joe sports the urban, noir-ish version of the look and he wears it well, but, sadly, the video has not dated as well as the song, and the overall effect to the modern eye is more “affordable glamour”. New York is a suitably aspirational setting, though, with both the surface glitter and dangerous depths suggested by the song.

The only places I’d have been steppin’ out to when this came out were the local park or someone’s house whose parents were away. This song conjured an elegant nightlife with bright lights and dark shadows. I didn’t exactly aspire to it, but I filed it away on the soundtrack of the way I expected adult life to be.

I feel I never will be grown-up enough to achieve the level of poise and sophistication conveyed so perfectly by this song, but I sometimes like to put it on while I’m getting ready to go out, to enjoy the sensation of the future you remember but that didn’t arrive.

Wendy

Posted in 1982 | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment