Dec 07

BARRY WHITE – “You’re The First, The Last, My Everything”

FT + Popular40 comments • 4,955 views

#361, 7th December 1974

One of the things I’ve realised writing Popular is that Britain tends to like – or tended to like – songs and stars with a tiny hint of the absurd, records that hook you with sincerity but sugar it with the option of reserve. Barry White’s signature hit is straight-up rhapsodic disco, an explosion of love and desire. But the fact that the smoothie who performs it is so recognisable, such a giant, so open to pastiche, unlocks the song for an audience who can take part in it without needing to feel it. This is why it’s a wedding disco favourite (which in turn is why I’m sort of sick of it): anyone can jog around the dancefloor and join in with big Barry’s open-armed professions without feeling stupid, because there’s a level on which the guy who’s singing it has already absorbed any possible ridicule. Which is generous of him, but then it’s a generous record.



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  1. 26
    Marcello Carlin on 3 Jan 2008 #

    One of the most irritating features of oldies radio in the UK, apart from the fact that they only ever seem to broadcast an unending/unendable cycle of the same 150 or so songs, is that whenever they play this one – and inevitably, since it was Barry’s only number one, lazy Guinness-reading programmers slot it in routinely – they invariably use the edit which omits the spoken prologue and epilogue, although both are for me what makes the record great…the purring smile of his “isn’t that NICE?” at the beginning, the merging of sex with true sensuality, the knowing and loving glow of achievement that they have actually MADE it (not to mention the guitar and bass riffs later to form the basis of Pulp’s “My Legendary Girlfriend”)…and the consummation at the end. Both make the untrammelled passion of his delivery of the song itself that much more marked and palpable…and how can I not identify with the lyric; yes, my view of this record is very much based on ourselves having finally “made it,” and ooh yes, it’s a lovely feeling…

    About Barry in general, I find it remarkable how he and arranger Gene Page managed to maintain and develop an unlikely spirit of 1967; the forthright testimonials and whispered confessions of Isaac Hayes suggest a distant relationship to psychedelia (and of course a far less distant one to talking blues and to gospel) but listen to those swirling flutes and harpsichords on early Barry sides like “I’m Gonna Love You Just A Little Bit More Babe” or “Never, Never Gonna Give You Up” – preferably in their full-length album versions – and there are clouds of cotton candy as well as purple silk negligee; in particular, have a listen to the exceptional second side of 1974’s Stone Gon’ album which instrumentally is but a butterfly’s breath away from the Cocteau Twins.

  2. 27
    Geir H on 3 Jan 2008 #

    I have never heard a version with that spoken introduction. Is it possible that introduction was on the album version only?

  3. 28
    Waldo on 4 Jan 2008 #

    Geir H – No, it certainly featured on the single and was never edited back in the day. I too am irritated that you never hear it now when it surfaces as a “Revive 45”. It’s rather like cutting out the “I am the magnificent..” on Double Barrel.

  4. 29
    Marcello Carlin on 4 Jan 2008 #

    Confirmed – I checked my original 45 copy when I was up in Glasgow for the festive season.

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    tim davidge on 6 Mar 2008 #

    Sentiment was, by 1974, something that the older generation did. That’s why the listeners to this record needed the option of reserve, detachment or whatever they needed. It’s also, maybe, why White himself leavened the generous, unequivocal sentiment with something a little earthier. The arrangement matches the spirit of the record, being lush but with a bit of added edge and urgency, bits of percussion, a glissando – ‘George Melachrino meets Isaac Hayes’. And because it bears the indelible stamp of Barry White, who had a hand it its composition, arrangement and production, it doesn’t sound manufactured. It sounds ‘created’ and to my mind it’s one of the most likeable records of its era.

  6. 31
    intothefireuk on 31 Mar 2008 #

    I don’t ever recall hearing the intro played on the radio and certainly most of the versions of this song I have on CD don’t include it and right now I don’t recall it either.

    Regards the above discussion I find myself straddling both camps (ooh er missus) being both a musician & an analyser. Most musicians can readily disect a piece of music into it’s constituent parts but most would probably shy away from writing about it or psycho-analysing it’s emotional effect or indeed it’s social impact. That’s what makes a site like this different. Of course how we percieve a particular piece of music does vary depending on our own emotional state which is why at the beginning of popular Tom commented that the marks he gave would vary according to his mood.

    Dance music of course is designed with one thing primarily in mind which means generally it stands or falls on that. Bazza’s song certainly stands and has stood proud ever since. The thumping rhythm, vibrant string section & powerful, exhorting vocal bring the song to life and enable it to rise above it’s humble origins. Yes it’s a wedding favourite but I suspect it’s for musical reasons and not just because BW is a larger than life character. I would offer that Candi Staton’s ‘Young Hearts Run Free’ is just as big a floor filler at yer average wedding (in fact the two go together rather well) and I’m pretty sure no one knows or cares what she looks like.

  7. 32
    Billy Smart on 31 Mar 2008 #

    Funnily enough, I once DJed at a wedding and we had an anxious discussion about whether ‘Young Hearts Run Free’ would work.

    In the end we decided against it, because the bride and groom were both pop-smart enough to know that any song that begins “What’s the sense in sharing this one and only life, just to find yourself another lost and lonely wife?” would strike the wrong note.

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    intothefireuk on 31 Mar 2008 #

    Yes well that’ll tell you something about the sort of weddings I go to !

  9. 35
    Paul Ramsey on 5 Feb 2012 #

    I am delighted to say that the last wedding I was at played this record to welcome the bride and groom and they played the full version including the spoken intro. It was originally a country and western styled record that Barry took and turned into a dance floor classic. It’s also the first Barry white record where he sang instead of speaking/rapping. It’s a joyous roller coaster ride of a song with an irresistible hook and never fails to fill that dance floor ; every time you hear you just fall in love with it all over again; exceptional!

  10. 36
    Colin on 20 Jun 2013 #

    I have the original single on the 20th Century label. The full version on the album has quite a long spoken intro. On the single this was edited to “We’ve got it together, didn’t we? Nobody but you and me. We’ve got it together baby.” What you now hear on the radio and CD compilations is different edit without the spoken intro, and the vocal sounds to me like it’s a rerecording (listen for instance to the way he sings “Your love I’ll keep for evermore”, and the bridge after each chorus), and for me it’s frankly jarring, making me wonder what the hell happened to the original single. Anyway, although I haven’t found a clip of the original single, here’s the full album version. Just magine it with the spoken bit shortened to what I said above, and a shorter fade out without the spoken outro.


  11. 37
    wichita lineman on 20 Jun 2013 #

    You’re right, you know. I thought that was my memory playing tricks on me. Somewhere on Popular there’s a thread on other familiar hits where oldies radio now plays the wrong – ie non-hit 45 – version. Most jarring for me is the Four Tops’ Walk Away Renee, with a ham-fisted piano that was barely audible on the original single.

  12. 38
    hardtogethits on 20 Jun 2013 #

    Fascinating. The story behind hardtogethits.

    Some other relevant discussions are here
    http://freakytrigger.co.uk/ft/2008/12/roxy-music-jealous-guy/ (see #47+)
    http://freakytrigger.co.uk/ft/2009/02/queen-and-david-bowie-under-pressure/ (see #65+)

    What puzzles me is how archivists could now know definitively whether a digital copy is close to the original single version might be in instances where

    a) they do not have the original single, or
    b) they have a digital copy and the original version, the running times are the same and they don’t have a particularly trained ear
    (that’s me in b).

  13. 39
    weej on 14 Jul 2013 #

    Thanks to this thread (especially #26) for helping me write this.

  14. 40
    hectorthebat on 7 Jul 2014 #

    Critic watch:

    1001 Songs You Must Hear Before You Die, and 10,001 You Must Download (2010)
    Bruce Pollock (USA) – The 7,500 Most Important Songs of 1944-2000 (2005)
    Pause & Play (USA) – Songs Inducted into a Time Capsule, One Track at Each Week
    Q (UK) – The 1001 Best Songs Ever (2003) 959
    Q (UK) – The Ultimate Music Collection (2005)

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