10
Jul 07

GILBERT O’SULLIVAN – “Get Down”

FT + Popular66 comments • 4,598 views

#328, 7th April 1973

A ‘first’ of sorts here – “Get Down” is, I think, the first record on the lists to feature on one of Sean Rowley’s Guilty Pleasures compilations, which are recontextualising 70s pop and making a pretty penny out of it for lots of people. The Guilty Pleasures concept has become a kind of shorthand for badness among some of my friends, and it deserves quick consideration. The most common counter-argument I hear is “but pleasure shouldn’t be guilty!” – I can get behind this but I think it’s a misunderstanding of Rowley’s idea. His point is that this stuff used to be guilty and is now guilt-free – I don’t get the sense he thinks these records are ‘actually’ bad.

Part of me is just annoyed that good pop music should need ‘reclaiming’ and ‘defending’, while records that were more publically praised go uninterrogated – I want Rowley’s Truth and Reconciliation Committee to have more of a punitive aspect, I want dreck like Dark Side Of The Moon raked over the coals while David Essex and Noosha out of Fox clink champagne glasses and laugh and the Andrea True Connection plays. But this is petty, and I agree with Rowley that the point is “AND” not “OR”, and besides you can’t un-play a record.

So what still annoys me about the “Guilty Pleasures” idea? I think it’s the chummy appeal to assumed experience – the creation of a shared narrative – remember how “we all” bought those embarassing records, and how “we all” liked the cool stuff, and how “we all” can listen now and admit they’re great when “we all” didn’t before. If this was Rowley’s own experience it’s struck a big mass chord, but it’s still a huge reduction of the interesting, complex web of personal experience – who you wanted to impress, who you lied to, who you told the truth to, what was it about the records that made you embarassed, anyway? (Dark Side Of The Moon was a huge favourite of mine at 14, for instance.) As it stands, Guilty Pleasures is just the inverse of “What were we thinking???”, a smoothing over of the past rather than an attempt to understand it.

(And OK, you may say, few of us are going to take massive steps forward in self-analysis by picking over our old music tastes. But there’s no need to hand-wring about it – the Popular comments boxes are a lovely rich source of light personal commentary and real-life experience, none of it fitting glibly into a “Then I was ashamed now I’m not, cor” template.)

At the back of all this, meanwhile, there’s a pop song: “Get Down”, a rumbustious thing built on an enjoyable chugalug pop-rock groove. The best and most obvious thing about it is the chiming piano hits on the chorus, the worst probably a dog/girl metaphor which Sullivan doesn’t take anywhere (though perhaps this is for the best – you can feel him tempted to write a punning “It’s his girlfriend! No it’s actually a dog!” track, which might have been ghastly). I’m a little surprised it’s here at all, to be honest.

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Comments

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  1. 51
    Waldo on 21 Jul 2007 #

    Yin and Yan’s “Butch Soap” was in fact the B-Side to their piss take of a record we will be discussing in 1975.

  2. 52
    Lena on 21 Jul 2007 #

    I’ve looked at the Guilty Pleasures cds again and am confused about why there are no songs by the Bay City Rollers anywhere. Are they a non-guilty pleasure (an innocent one)?

    If that’s the same “Loving You Has Made Me Bananas” then I heard it all the time on Dr. Demento.

  3. 53
    Doctor Casino on 22 Jul 2007 #

    So, guilty pleasures being rather well covered at this point (I think Tom and Marcello nail it for me – the term is offensive because it relies on your submitting to Their chummy simplification of a shared narrative), I’ll keep to Mr. O’Sullivan, none of whose work I’ve ever heard before Popular. As far as I can tell he’s basically a British Nilsson, yes? Somewhat more limited range, but same multitracked Beatlesey quality, bathrobe, doe eyes? I like these songs pretty good, and “Get Down” seems to me the best of the bunch so far. Fantastic hook! There’s a Chicory Tipness to the backing track, which I’m always a sucker for, and the turnaround on “…but I still want you around!” is as catchy a thing you could ever ask for.

    Minuses for the generally miscellaneous and non-specific quality of the lyrics – does the cat on the hot tin roof need to be in there? The whole bit about drinking some wine time goes nowhere, not even as an analogy for how he feels now or anything like that. He might as well mention that he once owned a Buick. This song gets better the less closely it’s listened to, but its emptiness is much better-hidden than, say “Chirpy Chirpy Cheep Cheep”‘s and it’s a better song for it.

  4. 54
    Marcello Carlin on 23 Jul 2007 #

    It may be helpful to know that the main influence behind Gilbert’s lyric writing was, and probably still is, Spike Milligan; see “Ooh Wakka Doo Wakka Day” (or maybe not) for a fuller demonstration of this.

    I think it’s pretty straightforward though; given that he is frustrated and perhaps also a little intimidated by his dog, the “cat” is a good and basic analogy of his current emotional position, but the “time/wine” meme only really works if one extends the canine object to a rather unseemly metaphor, i.e. once he was footloose and fancy free but now he’s tied down by this, um, dog, and perhaps we’d better not go down that dimly lit road…

    The British Nilsson isn’t a bad comparison point, though Randy Newman is possibly a better fit (so that “Get Down” becomes his “Short People”), though I should point out that neither of these distinguished gentlemen began their career dressed in schoolboy cap and short trousers as Gilbert did up until “Alone Again”…the idea being that he thought he’d get places if he looked the direct and polar opposite of how everybody else looked in ’69/70…

  5. 55
    Doctor Casino on 21 Sep 2007 #

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7xHyKyoEh5Q – Pan’s People dancers with a bunch of live dogs performing to “Get Down.” Thought some readers here might appreciate it…

  6. 56
    linda on 8 Oct 2007 #

    can you tell me what gilber osulivan is doing now and is he going to do any more concerts

    thankyou
    linda

  7. 57
    jeff w on 8 Oct 2007 #

    Current UK tour details can be found here:

    http://www.gilbertosullivan.net/

  8. 58
    richard thompson on 24 May 2008 #

    The music of Gilbert O’Sullivan was on in place of TOTP during his second week at number one, he sang this song first, the Pans People dog dance was on xmas day, does he really sing I don’t give a damn, as that word is used in the next number one.

  9. 59
    gilbert get down on 27 May 2008 #

    […] hits album in the M&ampVE 50p basement in the late 90s, and playing get down again and again.http://freakytrigger.co.uk/ft/2007/07/gilbert-osullivan-get-down/The man who will wake the monster – This is London&quotThe cathedral of the electrons&quot is how HJ […]

  10. 60
    Stevie on 22 Mar 2011 #

    Total Bang-A-Gong rip, but great for the same reasons.

  11. 61
    Mark G on 22 Mar 2011 #

    (and linda didn’t even say thanks, even though JeffW answered almost immediately: #56 and #57)

  12. 62
    wichita lineman on 22 Mar 2011 #

    She was asking about gilber osulivan, though.

  13. 63
    Erithian on 26 Aug 2011 #

    Just to alert Populistas to a mini-Gilbert O’Sullivan theme night on BBC4 this evening, a profile followed by a concert performance alongside, er, Chris de Burgh.

  14. 64
    Mark G on 26 Aug 2011 #

    Lady in red, get down.

    Actually, that sort-of improves it!

  15. 65
    AndyPandy on 26 Aug 2011 #

    44: I thought everyone knew about how synonymous Pink Floyd are with the Orb all the way from Alex Paterson making ‘Echoes’ off ‘Meddle’ such a big track in the original chillout room at Spectrum/Land of Oz in 1988 to last years collaboration album between The Orb and Dave Gilmour ‘Metallic Spheres’ (Incidentally a wicked album if you give it time).
    After all once chilling out as we know it now had arrived what more did you need than a few Pink Floyd, Tangerine Dream and Orb albums to keep you nicely relaxed till the pubs opened.

  16. 66
    Patrick Mexico on 2 Dec 2013 #

    I genuinely don’t think I’ve heard a single track on that first Guilty Pleasures compilation.

    (For reference, I was born in 1985 and my earliest TOTP memory was Ace of Base – All That She Wants in summer 1993.)

    My parents were both in the thick of their teens by “now”, but whether it was Motown or Van Morrison (for now, disregard that one about the pair of brown eyes that isn’t by the Pogues), both tended to appreciate classic songwriting and sincerity above kitsch appeal or gimmickry.. more out of disinterest in the GP market than real “guilt.”

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