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Apr 08

JOHNNY NASH – “Tears On My Pillow”

FT + Popular85 comments • 4,372 views

#373, 12th July 1975

Less pillow, more comfort blanket, this gentle, stringsified reggae lope starts with a promise of heartbreak – that bowed and broken intro – which the lyrics might keep but the music doesn’t. It’s not that reggae songs can’t be sad, but ones as jauntily and lightly played as this would find it difficult: the rhythm here is lending Nash strength, not underpinning his sorrow. It may not carry much emotional punch, but “Tears On My Pillow” is perfectly acceptable pop – a strong melody, well-sung. The only duff moment is the spoken word mumble in the middle – one of the least committed I’ve ever heard.

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Comments

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  1. 1
    rosie on 1 Apr 2008 #

    I’m never sure what to make of this. It’s pleasant enough, and I seem to remember it went agreeably with sitting out in the sunshine in my parents’ garden (parents being still in Canada and the last lot of tenants having been removed so that I could slob about in it for the summer!) with a glass of something cool and a book (I think this was about the time I sat and read the whole cycle of G K Chesterton’s Father Brown stories in a week).

    Agreeable it may have been, and its jaunty melancholy is certainly infectious, but it doesn’t induce any particular emotions in me. I’d rather remember Johnny Nash for I Can See Clearly Now from a few years earlier, but that might be an age thing.

    I may be a meringue but I believe we’ll be seeing this again at some point as another recycled title, if not a thinly-disguised recycled song.

  2. 2
    Tom on 1 Apr 2008 #

    “I Can See Clearly Now” is a lot better than this, yes!

    And yes, this one crops up again so we can compare and contrast then :)

  3. 3
    Marcello Carlin on 1 Apr 2008 #

    Not the Little Anthony and the Imperials song but *SPOILER* a version of that is still to come *END OF SPOILER*…

    Not too much to say about this one; I wish “I’m Not In Love” had been succeeded by a more potent record than this (for instance, “Jive Talkin'”) and while Nash stands as a key-ish figure in terms of popularising reggae – his “Stir It Up,” two years ahead of Clapton’s “I Shot The Sheriff,” introduced the music of Bob Marley to our charts – “I Can See Clearly Now” is so clearly his one great record that it seems bizarre that it stopped at #9 in the UK and yet this entirely unremarkable midtempo smoocher went all the way. Pop as Chinese food – half an hour later, you’ve forgotten it. Except that the first part of the song seems to come from another record altogether.

  4. 4
    Waldo on 1 Apr 2008 #

    A well-deserved reward for a solid performer who had been around for years. Nash, actually an American, plied his trade in doing a reggae turn and scoring nicely in this guise. Never a musical heavyweight, Johnny nonetheless did “pleasant” very well and TOMP rated high in this regard, the result being the CBS record selling bucket loads. It loses brownie points, as Tom says, when Nash goes talkabout in the middle, always very annoying, but in the main we are left with a nice enough little number, albeit one sung by a bit of a wuss, who clearly didn’t follow the manly principal laid down by the female voiceover in the middle of the last number one.

  5. 5
    LondonLee on 1 Apr 2008 #

    The “I Can See Clearly Now” album is rather splendid.

    I always thought he was a Jamaican or a Brit and was quite surprised to find out he was a Yank, I believe he even had a few minor R&B hits before he discovered Reggae (and a young lad by the name of Marley) while on holiday in Jamaica.

    I’ve a feeling I like this one more than most people here but I’m a sucker for 70s pop reggae.

  6. 6
    crag on 1 Apr 2008 #

    i’m no expert but wasn’t this stuff a bit passe by ’75? My knowledge of reggae is a bit poor when it comes to dates, strict chronology etc but i figured the heyday of smooth string-laden pop-reggae hit covers of US soul tracks had been around the 68-72 period and by this point most folk had moved on to Roots, Marley, Dub etc. I know pop history never moves along a straight line but having just listened to this for (i think) the first time i would have figured it originated at least 4 years earlier- was this a final horrah for this sound, something of a throwback to a slightly earlier period or am i (gulp)just plain wrong here?

  7. 7
    Marcello Carlin on 1 Apr 2008 #

    Radio 1 weren’t exactly going out of their way to spin things like “King Tubby Meets The Rockers Uptown” or “Slavery Days” during the daytime. Probably the closest the ’75 charts came was “Hurt So Good” by Susan Cadogan, produced by Lee Perry and marketed in Britain by Pete Waterman, but otherwise, apart from “No Woman No Cry” (which seems to do its best to avoid sounding like reggae at all, he says controversially), 1975’s pop reggae crossover as such was more accurately indicated by Judge Dread’s top ten cover of “Je T’Aime,” though the appearance of Paul Davidson’s splendid cover of the Allmans’ “Midnight Rider” right at the end of the year was most welcome.

  8. 8

    i think it depends a bit what you mean by “most folk” crag: the most militant reggaehead and roots expert at nme, penny reel, who not only knew all about the music but hung out with half its makers, was also a deep lover of the pop and MOR side of the sound*, which of course remained beloved of the non-youth end of the market in JA as well as london**

    *he wrote a very funny and loving piece abt boney m playing a UK seaside resort in 1978, called “by the rivers of babbacombe”
    **ie militant youth (black) weren’t fierce advocates of their mum and dad’s MOR faves, but they weren’t especially hostile either; militant youth (white), esp. if they’d ONLY JUST DISCOVERED REGGAE, tended to apply a much more rockish anti-parent discrimination; old-skool aficionados*** reacted a little against this earnest influx
    ***ie the writers at black echoes (later just “echoes”) mag

  9. 9
    jeff w on 1 Apr 2008 #

    I have a Nash ‘best of’ CD which is mostly great throughout. But I agree his masterpieces are “I Can See Clearly Now” and “Stir It Up” (the latter included on the first LP I ever owned, a K-Tel comp I’ve mentioned on about four Popular threads now).

  10. 10
    Lena on 1 Apr 2008 #

    I didn’t mention this at the time, but when “I Can See Clearly Now” was #1 in the US, “My Ding-A-Ling” was #1 in the UK.

    I don’t know this song, it sounds fine aside from the spoken word part though.

  11. 11
    Marcello Carlin on 1 Apr 2008 #

    SELF-CORRECTION (if only):
    “I Can See Clearly Now” actually made #5 in the UK, so that wasn’t so bad. The four above it? Donny and his Puppy Love, the double G with Rock ‘N’ Roll Part 2, the good Dr Hook with Sylvia’s Mother (the bad Dr Hook we’ll come to later) and the New Seekers sing Harry Chapin (“Circles”).

  12. 12
    intothefireuk on 1 Apr 2008 #

    You can always trust the Great British Public to cock it up royally – Nash’s ‘I Can See Clearly Now’ (with it’s sublimely dreamy ‘..there’s nothing but blue skyyyyy….’ section) should have been number one, not this ! That’s not to say TOMP is a bad record – it isn’t – it just seems a bit characterless and lightweight. At this moment in time Marley was still pretty unknown and reggae still a bit of a novelty in the charts (witness an upcoming entry). There was also Judge Dread……

  13. 13
    crag on 1 Apr 2008 #

    Marcello, i appreciate Diddy David Hamilton and The Hairy Cornflake weren’t spinning much I-Roy or Burning Spear at this time but would i be correct in believing that by ’75 unashamedly “pop” reggae was , at least for the time being, well past it’s commercial peak (apart from the odd exception of course, such as the track under discussion) and reggae had instead began to become seen by many as “proper” music, appreciated by serious, young white men with beards who read “Sounds” every week, worshpped Zeppelin and Clapton, and only bought albums, considering singles as “kids stuff”? Again i could be way off mark but i’m curious to hear from those around at the time.
    (Btw good point re: “Jive Talkin'”- a much more worthy number 1 than this, I say…)

  14. 14
    Marcello Carlin on 1 Apr 2008 #

    Not quite, crag; in ’76 you still had the odd “Dat” or “Sideshow” coming through…though the next major influx, unsurprisingly, comes in the wake of punk…

    Incidentally, Number Two Watch: Mr Nash kept off Ray Stevens’ radical reworking of Erroll Garner’s “Misty.”

  15. 15
    LondonLee on 1 Apr 2008 #

    The West Indian kids at my school derided even the sainted Bob Marley as “white man’s music” as they played their heavy 12″ dub tracks on the youth centre record player.

  16. 16
    LondonLee on 1 Apr 2008 #

    There’s a major pop reggae #1 coming up in 1978, probably the biggest one ever.

  17. 17
    Waldo on 1 Apr 2008 #

    Stevens’ “Misty” was wonderful says I. I remember having to correct someone once when he insisted that it was in fact JOEL Garner who had written it, Erroll presumedly being the fearsome pace bowler for both the West Indies and Somerset.

    Bunny alert, LondonLee. Tread carefully!

  18. 18
    LondonLee on 1 Apr 2008 #

    Biting my tongue.

    I just thought of a few others too.

  19. 19

    er did you not read what i said crag? “seen by many” is a very vague term: pop is not owned by the young, black or white, and nor are its commercial peaks solely defined by rockmag-readers

    i think it’s absolutely the case that this music was coming to be seen to be uncool by militant youth — but when londonlee sez “even” marley was “white man’s music”, there’s a specific history (of marley’s own choices) there which DISTINGUISHES him from the MOR reggae-pop that carried on selling big back in jamaica to black mums&dads, and could still sell out big halls in london for years to come, just off the radar of white critics

  20. 20

    also of course, american soul and soul-pop and soul-MOR (and country) were all enormously popular in the caribbean — but also off the radar of the recently-converted (white) critical militant

  21. 21
    Mark G on 1 Apr 2008 #

    Re: Post 8, subsection 2:

    Yeah, I always thought the Clash song had it “You can’t put UK pop reggae through backin’ fine sound systems”

    In fact, it was “Ken Booth, UK Pop reggae” and was being approved of. (It was the supposedly more ‘radical’ stuff that was ‘four tops all night’)…

  22. 22
    Waldo on 1 Apr 2008 #

    Spot on, Mark (#19, 20). I once walked into my nearest record shop just off the Brixton Road (I think to buy Gaye’s “Got To Give It Up”) and witnessed a dreadlocked guy in his thirties, I guess, purchasing a Perry Como record. The shop doubled as an electrical shop and the owner was a middle aged bespectacled white fellow in yellow overalls. His younger assistant looked like the guy out of Blue Mink. Very odd.

    “We don’t often get one of your lot asking for Perry Como,” the older man remarked.

    Whoops!

  23. 23
    crag on 1 Apr 2008 #

    sorry pˆnk s lord sükråt cunctør- i read ur v interesting post (#8) AFTER i’d written my own second post! Sorry for any confusion. Since i wasnt around at the time ive unfortunately had to rely on the “established history of pop and rock” as outlined by rock hacks(many of whom probably werent around then either)and i appreciate the chance to read post here about how these developments and changes in pop felt to real people who actually were there. I wasn’t actually enquiring about the percieved “coolness” of Nash and the like, merely the chart success of pop-reggae artists which i thought had dwindled by this point(and which, as several have been kind enough to point out, i was completely wrong in doing so!) Thanks to all for their thoughts on this matter…

  24. 24
    LondonLee on 1 Apr 2008 #

    I used the phrase “even the sainted Bob Marley” as an ironic joke considering how he’s now some kind of holy figure to white rock fans (epscially here in the States where they never bought any of his records when he was alive) but the reality at the time was a little more complicated, I remember his “Kaya” album getting mixed reviews because it was seen as being too light and fluffy.

  25. 25
    tim davidge on 1 Apr 2008 #

    unlike the last three No.1s, all of which marked their time indelibly (particularly ‘I’m Not In Love’), this one doesn’t seem to have left a trace in my memory for these things. Not a bad record, but I found myself saying: ‘so THAT’s when it came out. ’75. Hm..’

  26. 26
    crag on 1 Apr 2008 #

    Re-#24. It’s Marley canonisation by the the white rock fans that actually has always put me off investigating his work- his admirers tend to always be people who don’t actually particularly like reggae and probably havent even heard of King Tubby or Dr. Allimantado. Probably a slghtly stupid stance on my part but i do have a real fondness for certain types of reggae/ska rocksteady etc even though my knowledge of the genre is hardly perfect(as has already been demonstrated!)and feel many Marley fans think owning a copy of “Legend” means they know all there is to know about Jamician music- a stance i find irritating and a little distasteful.

  27. 27
    a logged out p^nk s lord sukråt wötsit on 1 Apr 2008 #

    yes, i didn’t mean to sound snippy! and i wasn’t jumping on yr point, lee, which i think is perfectly valid re marley, more that i’m just not sure if you can extrapolate from how marley was being talked about by angry black london schoolkids in the late 70s (?)*, to how they (or their parents) (or uncles and aunts back in jamaica) would have been talkin about the infinitely less “cool” johnny nash a few years earler: bcz very very uncool dadreggae or mumreggae — if broadly popular in jamaica or brixton — might still not in ANY sense be “white man’s music”; where marley (can be said to have) sold out, johnny nash never pretended to have “sold in”, and so wd have continued to have been held in much more fond regard (possibly)**

    *you didn’t actually say when exactly yr schooldays were!
    **of course there’s also that element of dread that was deliberate baffling black hipsterism — whereby notably “uncool” things wd be embraced precisely to throw off and trip up neophytes… this is what’s being celebrated and mocked, i think, on the legendary cover of dr alimantado’s “best dressed chicken”, where he has his flies open and his scarlet underpants on show… yr meant to be thinking “haha is this man the COOLEST GUY ALIVE?” (or is his flies undone?)

  28. 28
    rosie on 1 Apr 2008 #

    Aren’t some of these comments sailing a bit close to a particularly insidious wind of racial stereotyping? I’m sure there was a substantial body of Caribbean-heritage young people which was enthusiastic about heavy-duty dub. There was also a substantial body of enthusiastic white people. I doubt if they formed a majority of either sector. Certainly my experience of living in North Kensington suggested that large sound systems were a minority taste barely tolerated by most locals of any hue even at Carnival time. One might as well suggest that all the cool young English folks were into morris dancing.

    I like Bob Marley and mourned his passing way back in ’81, and I don’t get particularly excited about most reggae, if anybody wants to make something of that. I think Marley was more or less sui generis, and I wouldn’t like to see him portrayed as some kind of sell-out.

  29. 29
    crag on 1 Apr 2008 #

    re:#27- I’m intrigued with the comment that Nash, Ken Booothe etc ‘might still not in ANY sense be “white man’s music”- i’d always figured that their records had been specifically designed to be exactly that i.e. unashamedly ‘pop’ records, aimed at a mainstream (white, in other words)audience who bought records in the charts by anyone from Mud to Tammy Wynette as long they had a nice tune, a beat you tap your toes to, and a sound that was earcatching witout being too disorientating or ‘alien’. Surely it was these people who sent these records to number 1 more than the ‘mums and dads in Jamacia and Brixton’you refer to?

  30. 30
    LondonLee on 1 Apr 2008 #

    I do hope one off-hand comment by some loudmouth kid in my youth centre circa 1977 isn’t going to set off some kind of race controversy here.

    Reggae of all kinds was very popular among the (white) kids around my way in SW6, especially the home-grown Lovers Rock of the late 70s.

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