10
Jul 07

GILBERT O’SULLIVAN – “Get Down”

FT + Popular66 comments • 4,769 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. 31
    Pete Baran on 11 Jul 2007 #

    Interesting there was never an Orb backlash!

  2. 32
    Pete Baran on 11 Jul 2007 #

    (To explain, Adventures Beyond The Ultraworld pretty much made any and all Pink Floyd irrelevant to me when I discovered it. Vis a vis drugs and everything else).

  3. 33
    Tom on 11 Jul 2007 #

    There was totally an Orb backlash!

  4. 34
    Alan on 11 Jul 2007 #

    when will tanya do an Orb album covers post?

  5. 35
    Marcello Carlin on 11 Jul 2007 #

    Er, Pommes Frites, anyone?

  6. 36
    Brian on 11 Jul 2007 #

    passez le ketchup…..

    My take on Guilty Pleasures is a compilation of songs that I would never had admitted to liking at the time because the artist ( Cap’t & Tenille , Helen Reddy ) were not cool enough for me.

    However there are many good songs that I secretly liked. This whole thing was brought back to me recently when I bought ( new ) a collection of Burt Bacharach hits. I don’t think I ever sang along to a Carpenters song until last week.

    But the pleasure was partially provided by great dripping wads of
    nostalgia. A refuge to which I find myself increasingly drawn.

  7. 37
    Waldo on 11 Jul 2007 #

    Marcello – “a beneign excuse for a Stalinist/Cameronite rewrite of musical history”??!! Oh, for crying out loud!

    Rosie – Guesses for 1978, with all attempts to avoid spoilers. How about UTR and RT? Do I win a bun?

    “Get Down” – My main memory of this thing is Industrial Action being taken (What? A strike in 1973?), which meant that TOTP was not broadcast for much of the period that this was Number One. I could never understand why Uncle Ray used the dog analogy to describe his bird… I can also recall being in a chemistry lesson and using the same bench as a little kid called George. George spent just about the whole 45 minute lesson singing this wretched song over and over without pause. I was just about at the end of my tether and reaching for a metal tri-pod in order to silence him (we comprehensive school herberts used to do these things) when I was beaten to the punch, quite literally, by an enormous lad called Errol, whose solitary blow ensured that George “got down” indeed. Happy Days!

  8. 38
    Mark M on 11 Jul 2007 #

    I certainly denounced The Orb as a front for Floydian tendencies at the time – Hopkins should be able to back me up on this.

  9. 39
    Rosie on 11 Jul 2007 #

    Waldo, for me a stonking good top-notch song is a 9. A 10 has to come from out of the blue and make me want to fall over, add something special to something that’s already good to very good, or perhaps even be a borderline 1 that has something that makes it irresistible. This is by way of saying that your guess scores 19 out of a possible 20.

  10. 40
    Waldo on 11 Jul 2007 #

    Rosie – Aha! How about WH instead of RT?

  11. 41
    Pete on 12 Jul 2007 #

    Hold yer horses there kids, the late seventies are a mere eight months away.

    Anyway, one of the key points missing from this discussion is the Pans People interpretation of Get Down on Top Of The Pops. If you are doing a clip show, and want to show the literalism of PP, this is the one to go for.Aaaaah, doggies…

  12. 42
    intothefireuk on 12 Jul 2007 #

    I believe I aluded to it in my first comment. Not one of PPs better moments or from a diff angle indeed their finest.

    Gilbert won’t be troubling us again so, give or take some ok and not so ok releases, 2 great singles (alone & rhymed) followed by 2 No.1 singles followed by ………. a long protracted legal wrangle that harpooned what was left of his career and made a few lawyers very happy (even though he won). Still he got some nice jumpers out of it (most with a big G on them).

  13. 43
    jeff w on 12 Jul 2007 #

    That reads a bit like an obituary, intothefireuk! GO is touring the UK and Ireland again later this year. He’s not given up, yet.

    Re: Orb and PF, I distinctly remember either the NME or Melody Maker putting them on the cover together one week.

  14. 44
    Alan on 12 Jul 2007 #

  15. 45
    Alan on 12 Jul 2007 #

    (sorry Gilbert o’sullivan)

  16. 46
    Matthew on 19 Jul 2007 #

    I think I’m a bit late to the party here, but I just see the Guilty Pleasures series as a chance to showcase some fine pop (and obviously some rubbish, depending) that’s been glossed over by the Official History of Rock. The canon triumphs for most punters, and many of the beauties Rowley reissued (at least on Vol 1) would never get their deserved look-in. I mean, The Fortunes had passed me by completely…

    It all has a whiff of very 90s pomo “irony”, obviously, but perhaps the means don’t always matter.

  17. 47
    Marcello Carlin on 19 Jul 2007 #

    I’ll consider amnesty if he puts “Central Park Arrest” by Thunderthighs on his next compilation.

  18. 48
    intothefireuk on 19 Jul 2007 #

    …..Oh and just to be irritatingly pedantic – if we are to include Vol 3 of GP then Blockbuster is the first No.1 to be compiled !

  19. 49
    Marcello Carlin on 20 Jul 2007 #

    Other things I expect to see on GP Vol 4:
    Adriano Celentano – Prisencolinensenaiciusol
    Dooleys – Love Of My Life
    Polly Brown – Up In A Puff Of Smoke
    Dee D Jackson – Automatic Lover
    Guy Marks – Loving You Has Made Me Bananas
    Sailor – One Drink Too Many
    Richard Myhill – It Takes Two To Tango
    Richard Barnes – Take To The Mountains
    Geordie – Can You Do It
    Slik – Requiem
    Drupi – Vado Via
    Reunion – Life Is A Rock (But The Radio Rolled Me)
    Jasper Carrott – Funky Moped
    Yin & Yan – Butch Soap
    Imperials – Who’s Gonna Love Me?
    Eli Bonaparte – Never An Everyday Thing
    Errol Brown – From The Top Of My Head
    Cher – A Woman’s Story
    Laurie Lingo & the Dipsticks – Convoy GB
    One Hundred Ton & A Feather – It Only Takes A Minute
    Lighthouse – Pretty Lady

  20. 50
    henry s on 20 Jul 2007 #

    anybody of a certain age who does not fondly recall “Get Down” must have had a lousy childhood…(or a marvelous one)…

  21. 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.

  22. 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.

  23. 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.

  24. 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…

  25. 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…

  26. 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

  27. 57
    jeff w on 8 Oct 2007 #

    Current UK tour details can be found here:

    http://www.gilbertosullivan.net/

  28. 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.

  29. 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 […]

  30. 60
    Stevie on 22 Mar 2011 #

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

  31. 61
    Mark G on 22 Mar 2011 #

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

  32. 62
    wichita lineman on 22 Mar 2011 #

    She was asking about gilber osulivan, though.

  33. 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.

  34. 64
    Mark G on 26 Aug 2011 #

    Lady in red, get down.

    Actually, that sort-of improves it!

  35. 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.

  36. 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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