9
Apr 08

THE STYLISTICS – “I Can’t Give You Anything But My Love”

FT + Popular59 comments • 4,376 views

#376, 16th August 1975

For a song about a guy with empty pockets, this certainly sounds opulent! But its largesse of strings and brass is a little too showy, too ostentatious, at least compared to the understated richness of the sound the Stylistics achieved with Thom Bell. Even if this bling might be fake, “I Can’t Give You Anything…” is a fine record: Russell Thompkins Jr’s falsetto is as strong and lovely as ever – though sometimes he’s having to fight the turbulent backing when he could be soaring over something more sympathetic. That backing, by itself, is also good – arranger Van McCoy taking his delightful horn rhythms from “The Hustle” and beefing them up. The record ends up an intriguing and enjoyable mismatch, still slightly less than the sum of its high-quality parts.

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Comments

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  1. 26
    Erithian on 9 Apr 2008 #

    To return to the music and lighten the tone a bit – do you remember the Mad magazine parodies of song lyrics? I got a book of these in summer ’75 and one of the songs featured was “I Can’t Give You Anything But Love, Baby” – the Al Jolson number referred to by Marcello in the “Barbados” thread. Had a devil of a job trying to get the alternative lyrics to fit the Stylistics tune – I didn’t find out why until some time afterwards…

  2. 27
    rosie on 9 Apr 2008 #

    Well, to return to popular music at large and lightening things up a little, I’ve just learned that I’m invited to be a guest on a late night show on the local Abbey FM station and I’m to choose eight gramophone records to be played during the session, which are restricted to Top 20 from 1960s to present. Now, where should I begin…

  3. 28
    LondonLee on 9 Apr 2008 #

    I passed up the chance to see The Stylistics when I was at college in the 80s to my eternal shame. Not that I wasn’t a fan of theirs then but they were playing a bingo hall and appeared to be there as entertainment between games.

    I doubt if it was the original line-up but still.

  4. 29
    Jonathan Bogart on 10 Apr 2008 #

    One minor point of fact: the old standard “I Can’t Give You Anything But Love” was not a Jolson song, or at least nothing like primarily; it was a Jimmy McHugh/Dorothy Fields composition for the all-black Broadway show Blackbirds Of 1928, in which among others Bill “Bojangles” Robinson first came to national prominence, and was one of the early hits of mainstream black pop in the US. Louis Armstrong had the first hit version, and Ethel Waters, Billie Holiday, and Fats Waller were also associated with it in its first decade.

    Maybe the Jolson association came about because it’s on Judy Garland’s 1961 Carnegie Hall album, which was largely Jolson material?

  5. 30
    Snif on 10 Apr 2008 #

    Just wanted to say that I’ve only ever been to the UK once, and Walkers’ crisps are great!

  6. 31
    rosie on 10 Apr 2008 #

    Snif: But a pale shadow of what they were when they were produced by a small family company and not an international megaconglomerate. Which is almost invariably the way, I find. (Is this taught in economics courses?)

  7. 32
    Mark G on 10 Apr 2008 #

    Tudor crisps, folks!

    They were only available in the North of England (Scotland too?), but they were made in Reading, ironically enough.

  8. 33

    PLANTAGENET CRISPS

  9. 34
    Erithian on 10 Apr 2008 #

    Jonathan (#29) – the Jolson association came about because Marcello said it was a Jolson song! Tch, MC, usually so authoritative…!

    Rosie (#31) – I thought about Walkers the conglomerate on Saturday, when during the BBC’s Grand National preview they asked various Beeb sports presenters when they’d first backed a horse in the National. Gary Lineker’s first was the one narrowly beaten by Red Rum in 1973… Crisp.

    Tom (#14) – interesting that it’s doing Popular which got you into the Stones. Now that you’re nearly 23 years’ worth of number ones into this project, are there any other discoveries you find yourself surprised by?

  10. 35
    Marcello Carlin on 10 Apr 2008 #

    It is a shame that the distracting drizzle of egocratic racism masquerading as misplaced moral gliberalism has continued unabated.

    With regard to #24, I could tell similarly horrifying stories about Glasgow in the seventies and replace the terms “black” and “white” with the terms “Catholic” and “Protestant”. Since I am wise enough to avoid crass strawmanism, however, I prefer to view the bigger picture, namely to look at why this prejudice historically exists – and saying that the blacks were just as bad/worse round “my” way is yet another manifestation of what is essentially endemic, or at least ingrained, racism, in blissful and total ignorance of the circumstances which brought this sort of attitude and behaviour into being in the first place.

  11. 36
    Matthew H on 10 Apr 2008 #

    Some of my best friends are, um, called Neil.

    Anyway, I’m just too young (never thought I’d declare that again) to remember the Stylistics, but have a particularly lovely version of ‘You’ll Never Get To Heaven (If You Break My Heart’ on a Bacharach and David comp. I know ‘You Make Me Feel Brand New’, obv, but that’s the limit. Am getting the impression I should seek out more.

  12. 37
    Mark G on 10 Apr 2008 #

    Jonathan (#29) – the Jolson association came about because Marcello said it was a Jolson song! Tch, MC, usually so authoritative…!

    Um, no he didn’t. He said that he had a song of the same name, on the “Typically Tropical” Barbados discussion.

  13. 38
    mike on 10 Apr 2008 #

    I’ve always thought that the Village People’s original “YMCA” video was something of a nod towards the rooftop cavortings of the Stylistics.

    Not much to add about this one. I felt fairly neutral about it at the time, although I had quite a soft spot for its rather elegant, stately (and OK, not a little preposterous) follow-up, “Na Na Is The Saddest Word”. It’s the intro which sticks in my mind the most; there’s a cheesy lushness in there which puts me in mind of later US TV theme tunes – yer Dallas/Dynastys and such-like.

  14. 39
    Billy Smart on 10 Apr 2008 #

    Re 36: The Stylistics’ version of ‘You’ll Never Get To Heaven If You Break My Heart’ is sweet, but the Dionne Warwick version is one of the very best things either she or Bacharach ever did. It’s a wonderfully tactful reading of the song, from a singer who seems to know suffering, but has a real hope that her beloved might be good to her.

  15. 40
    Marcello Carlin on 10 Apr 2008 #

    I must say I’m kind of glad that Cilla didn’t cover that one (at least, not as a single) – her terrifying bark would have been totally out of place!

  16. 41
    LondonLee on 10 Apr 2008 #

    I’d just like to put in a word for Chipmunk crisps. I don’t think they make ’em anymore but their salt n’ vinegar was potent.

  17. 42
    Marcello Carlin on 10 Apr 2008 #

    Don’t think we ever got those up in Scotland. My preferred “crisps” at the time were the barbecue beef Potato Sticks that you used to get from M&S. Don’t know why they stopped making them ‘cos they were fab.

  18. 43
    Erithian on 10 Apr 2008 #

    Possibly the most memorable crisps ad ever:
    Newcastle United supporters’ coach returns to Tyneside, and Dad meets his lad off the coach.
    Dad: “How about that eh? 4-0 win away at Arsenal!…”
    Lad: “Aye, but they had horrible crisps…”
    (Dad gives lad a packet of his favourite Tudor crisps)
    Lad: “Aye, that’s canny… tell yer what, if they’d had Tudor crisps in London I’d have settled fer a gerrl-less draw!”

  19. 44
    Marcello Carlin on 10 Apr 2008 #

    Blimey. We definitely got Tudor Crisps but I remember that advert not at all.

    I distinctly remember Viv Stanshall’s ad for Smith’s Quavers, mind.

  20. 45
    Billy Smart on 10 Apr 2008 #

    I can remember the initial McCoys campaign “The BIG chip from the BIG country”, which I enjoyed because of its ASA-imposed suffix “Made in the UK”.

  21. 46
    Waldo on 10 Apr 2008 #

    Marcello # 35 – Sorry, I don’t agree with you at all.

  22. 47
    o sobek! on 11 Apr 2008 #

    who knew popular comments were filled w/ so many bernie goetz sympathizers? disturbing stuff

  23. 48
    Mark G on 11 Apr 2008 #

    I do remember the ad mentioned in #43.

    I don’t remember Viv’s Quavers ad but we all remember “Mr Cadbury’s Parrot”

  24. 49
    rosie on 11 Apr 2008 #

    o sobek!: I really do think that this matter should be close down now, but all the same I want to ask who has advocated shooting? There’s a world of difference between feeling menaced and overreacting to it.

    I once asked my late ex-partner Frank, a former lieutenant in the Royal Marines, what he would do if we were menaced while walking through St Pauls (it happens – accept that). He said we would cross the road to avoid a confrontation. I asked what he would do if we were pursued. He said he would ask the pursuers politely to desist. I asked what he would do if the pursuers ignored the request. He said he’d break their arms.

  25. 50
    Marcello Carlin on 11 Apr 2008 #

    o sobek! OT-freaking-M.

  26. 51
    rosie on 11 Apr 2008 #

    Tom, will you sort Marcello out please? He’s spoiling it for everybody else again.

  27. 52
    Marcello Carlin on 11 Apr 2008 #

    Responding firmly to repeated casual racism on the part of careerist trolls = “spoiling.”

  28. 53
    Erithian on 11 Apr 2008 #

    To paraphrase Clement Attlee, a period of silence on this subject would be much appreciated. It generates more heat than light.

  29. 54
    Tom on 11 Apr 2008 #

    I’m not “sorting anyone out” – as I’ve said before, both Rosie and Marcello contribute a lot to Popular and I would like them both to continue doing so.

    In this particular case Rosie made some controversial comments, then expanded on them. If people still wanted to continue the argument – and I’d have been surprised if they didn’t! – they could have done exactly that. Continue the argument. Spell out what they think, explain why they find what Rosie’s saying offensive, etc. Maybe take it to email if it got too heated.

    Not go the ILX route of one-liners and cryptic references and passive-aggressive sniping, this kind of superstring version of internet debate where every post has 6 curled-up dimensions hidden inside it. (And yes, I’m as guilty as anyone here – post #16 – and I apologise for it: old habits die hard.)

    I don’t want to keep argument out of Popular, or political comment – I don’t want it to overwhelm the threads either, but we’re all grown-ups and politics and personal experience are inescapably part of pop. But if you’re going to make a point, make a point clearly. Thanks.

  30. 55
    CarsmileSteve on 13 Apr 2008 #

    #43 Erithian, are you saying it was better than the “ah’d climb a mountain forra bag a tudor” (shockingly seemingly unavailable on youtube, resign internets!)?

  31. 56
    Erithian on 14 Apr 2008 #

    Steve – possibly the most controversial statement on this thread, but yes. Anything involving a 4-0 home defeat for Arsenal is fine by me.

  32. 57
    Roadhog on 26 Apr 2008 #

    The inclusion of the walkes Crisps debate is such an amazing coincidence for me.
    At the time this was high in the charts a peak time viewing programme devoted to the Stylistics was shown (It was called “The Other Broadway” don’t ask me how I rember that!. I remember it being on the night before my dad and I went down to my gran’s in Wiltshire to spend a week as he painted her house. Well every evening my dad would go across to the local pub and get himself a bottle of beer and a couple of packets of crisps for us. These crisps were Walkers crisps the first time I remember seeing them I particularly remember the “Did You Know?” fact on the back of the packet. In the South East where I lived it was all Smiths and Golden Wonder so it seems they were a more provincial thing back then.

  33. 58
    Chelovek na lune on 12 Sep 2010 #

    This is one of my favourite number 1s from this year (provisos about some of their earlier material being better – or even classic – notwithstanding), although I also hadn’t heard it before.

    Moving away from crispy potato products, there’s just one thing that gets me about this that I’m surprised hasn’t been mentioned here, which I’d like to present to the many knowledgeable minds here.

    There’s a sequence in the intro (and that is repeated later on) that seems to me to be remarkably similar, melody-wise to part of Christopher Cross’s “Arthur’s Theme” from a few years later….I found myself singing “you know it’s crazy, but it’s true” . So, coincidence? Or a direct, acknowledged lift on the latter’s part…or is there some other connection?

  34. 59
    wichita lineman on 3 Sep 2011 #

    File under unlikely: Betcha By Golly Wow was first recorded by the coy and cooing Connie Stevens, most famous for the gooey Sixteen Reasons from 1960.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_tDXGhmtDew&feature=related

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