May 08

JULIE COVINGTON – “Don’t Cry For Me Argentina”

FT + Popular80 comments • 6,488 views

#400, 12th February 1977

This is the first entry in Popular that I’ve written about extensively for Freaky Trigger before, in this long piece comparing different versions of the song. It’s one of my favourite longer FT pieces so this entry is very much an extract from it, since I’ve not changed my opinions on the track at all:

“Don’t Cry For Me, Argentina” opens Act II of Evita, a musical I’ve never seen about a woman I know little of. I’d assumed it was a finale, but no: Eva Peron sings it as the wife of Argentina’s new president – the song is her address to the crowd who – we know from the start of the show – will come to adore her. Andrew Lloyd-Webber wrote the music, Tim Rice the lyrics. It’s a classic show-stopper: dramatic, lavishly orchestrated, and (potentially) catastrophically over-the-top. It’s also the only Lloyd-Webber/Rice song to have become more-or-less a standard – which is odd, given Evita’s very specific political context and content.

But something obviously registered – the song is corny enough to be memorable and subtle enough to be a challenge to anyone taking it on. It can stand alone, and “Argentina” can stand for anything you want. Which is just as well, since from the brief readings I’ve since made of Argentinian history Peronism is not my cup of mate. I got flamed on a file-sharing website for uploading one version – “an ode to a bloodythirsty dictator’s wife” wrote a fellow-member. This is unfair to Rice and Lloyd-Webber in context – where Eva’s politics are constantly questioned by the young radical Che – and out of context, where the song is too abstract to be an endorsement of anything much.

But that’s not to say it’s not a political song. Evita the musical premiered the year after Margaret Thatcher won the Tory leadership. Evita the film opened the Autumn before Princess Diana died. One reason “Don’t Cry For Me, Argentina” is a fascinating song is that it resonates so much in an era when women are entering and operating in the public arena at last; an arena whose rules, like the song, are written by men. The song’s mix of empathy, spin and steel, though, is not specifically ‘feminine’ – it’s just modern. Thatcher is not the modern Prime Minister who “Don’t Cry For Me, Argentina” most fits.

Covington’s version, from the British soundtrack album, forms a musical template for most other readings: the huge juddering strings, the rhetorical dynamics, the switch into a slow tango-tempo for the penultimate chorus. She doesn’t actually sing the final chorus, letting the song end with Eva’s vulnerable final appeal (“Have I said too much?”). But she doesn’t need to. In Covington’s hands it’s an entirely staged vulnerability – hers is the haughtiest reading of the tune, sung by a career-politician Evita whose peasant origins have long been cauterised. Her key lines? “Couldn’t stay all my life down at heel / Looking out of the window”, the crushing emphases signalling a swelling disgust at the very concept of weakness, of inertia.

Many performances of the song find the singer switching between singing to the imagined crowd and singing seemingly to herself. Covington’s, forceful and direct, doesn’t: it’s pure balcony address, pure rhetoric. And if you take “…Argentina” as rhetoric, a key question needs answering – what is the sung character trying to do? The central ambiguity of the song is its dual role as victory anthem and defensive self-justification. “How I still need your love after all that I’ve done” – after all I’ve achieved? Or – after all my sins? Power and guilt are united in the need for recognition. Listening again, though, that’s not how Covington sings it – on “I love you and hope you love me” she’s defiant. It is a hope, never a need – her love is unconditional.

There’s only a few professions more based in performance, more reliant on public acclaim – and more potentially dishonest – than politician. Pop singer is one of them, though in pop we can enjoy our demagogues more safely. “…Argentina” is Tim Rice’s finest hour, speechwriting as much as songwriting. The opening is perfect, grabbing the attention, wrong-footing the audience – “It won’t be easy, you’ll think it strange”: what won’t? What’s strange? – and then at once explaining, “how I still need your love”, before setting up another ambiguity, “after all that I’ve done.”. The verse sets the tone – Eva is being utterly frank, honest almost desite herself – and the rest of the song carries through. Rice keeps using the trick of starting a verse with something spontaneous-sounding – “I had to let it happen”; “Have I said too much?” – and then turning it into something more prepared, more cadenced (the chorus, for instance). This is great songwriting and great rhetoric both. And you have to ask that question again – how honest is Eva being? Is it all scripted? And you have to answer, “Of course it is”.



  1. 1
    DJ Punctum on 28 May 2008 #

    I have purposely avoided reading Tom’s article, and the above extract, until now, lest it influence the following relevant excerpt from my forthcoming book Was Michael Powell Right?: High Tory Principles As Applied To Art; it may come to the same conclusion or a completely different one:

    For a pair of writers who were Conservative (with a capital C) in both background and instinct, you could easily mistake Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice for a couple of severely disillusioned Marxists. Jesus Christ Superstar seems for most of its duration to be an unyielding attack on unregulated capitalism and the imperialism to which it gives deliberate birth, as well as the occupational hazard of the destruction of visionaries which is one of its most characteristic by-products. But Webber and Rice were primarily fascinated with the spectacle (are we proceeding down the equally inevitable road to Barthes here?) and consequences of how people and things looked. Looks and appearances, and the judgements made on their primary basis, are the backbone of their fascination; the conjecture that the fate of the world can turn on the hue of Joseph’s coat, or the wiriness of Christ’s hands, or the hips of Eva Peron; what these are all trying to project, even if they’re projecting nothing. Perhaps this is to where humanity descends, in the end; the strength of belief and faith being entirely dependent upon how good a spiel their would-be saviour can weave. If the message is bright and loud enough, believers will gladly overlook the lack of actual content, the fatal avoidance of commitment, the shades behind the smile.

    Evita is an examination of a bright, possibly naïve and certainly corrupted mind; it doesn’t bother itself overmuch with the inherent corruption in post-war Argentinian politics, and how that fit in so astutely with the equivalent corruption in post-war British politics, paving the bright yellow road towards the Falklands. It may be a dream in which “Eva Peron” is only an imagined existence – yet that existence was real, and side-effects reverberated for decades as a result.

    “Don’t Cry For Me, Argentina” is a request, or possibly a plea, for redemption in the resentful eyes of the people out of which she rose; she has done too many bad things, turned too many backs, is centimetres away from tossing them fragments of semi-swallowed cake. But its pleading is the special kind reserved for the dock; not a genuine cry to be touched, but the cornered, faintly embarrassed confession of someone who’s been caught in the act.

    Fittingly, the music doesn’t have much to do with Argentina, apart from a very subtle tango rhythm; the song begins with a solemn tabula of low and very English strings, as though Elgar or Delius had been commissioned to write yet another commemoration of the prematurely departed. Then the voice of Julie Covington enters; hesitant, unstable, she whimpers: “It won’t be easy/You’ll think it strange…/That I still need your love after all that I’ve done.” Then, a pause for breath: “You won’t believe me.” The voice is an ideal one; Covington, one of the stars of Rock Follies, had floated unobtrusively between the worlds of theatre and folk-pop for some years (see for instance 1971’s “My Silks And Fine Arrays”); it is a voice which knows both how to act and how to believe.

    Brass takes over from strings in the second verse as Covington slowly attempts to assert herself: “I had to let it happen/I had to change,” then, with a sense of real anger slowly radiating into her tone, “Couldn’t stay all my life down at heel.” She immediately tries to excuse that incipient rage: “But nothing impressed me at all/I never expected it to,” and she sounds nowhere near convincing or convinced.

    Strings return for the chorus: “Don’t cry for me, Argentina/The truth is I never left you.” But what is the nature of that crying – is it mourning for a lost princess, or the baying of a disgruntled mob, crying for her blood? “I kept my promise,” she sings, again on the defensive, before lowering her voice to something like a threat, “Don’t keep your distance.”

    In the third verse, acoustic guitar and rhythm enter, together with a pan-pipe synthesiser, providing a direct link to post-Fairport Convention modes, she continues to justify herself (-love?): “And as for fortune, and as for fame/I never invited them in.” Later her voice softens again, “They’re not the solutions they promised to be/The answer was here all the time…I love you…and hope you love me.” It is among the least believable “I love you”s in all of pop. The music stops, like a curtain silently sweeping open to reveal the bloodied mouths and the gallows beneath the balcony – I think of Scott Walker’s concept of Clara Petucci, of the terrified sparrow trapped in the room; the difference being that Eva has walked straight into it, voluntarily and ecstatically (and the general tenor of the orchestration, for example the ‘cellos and basses as rhythm at the end of each chorus, suggests that Webber was more than somewhat familiar with Walker’s late ‘60s work).

    Over a drone Covington makes her central titular plea. There is another brief but seemingly eternal pause, before a chorus, evidently dreaming of Gerontius once again (think of the reinstatement of Elgar as revolutionary as proposed in Alan Clarke’s 1975 TV film Penda’s Fen), hums wordlessly, like a deliberating jury. Finally orchestra and rhythm join to frame Covington’s last chorus.

    Then the music glides to a complete halt, and Covington, now seeming for the first time genuinely distressed, whispers: “Have I said too much? There’s nothing more I can think of to say to you,” and is answered by trilling, descending flutes which sound less Latin American, more Le Sacre Du Printemps…and then she turns to her jury, to her people, to us, and intones with careful slowness and gravity: “But all you have to do is look at me to know that every word is true.” The syllables of each of these last four words she stretches out over a barline apiece; the tympani strikes a roll and she is left to ponder her fate.

    Or is she? As the orchestra plays the melody fortissimo, now reminiscent of Copland’s setting of Streets Of Laredo, there is suddenly a terrible sense of emptiness and not a small degree of numb shock as we realise that Eva has been addressing nobody, no one at all; the camera cuts to the dressing table mirror and she has been rehearsing the whole thing. As with Peter Sellers’ “Party Political Speech,” we gradually understand in retrospect that all Evita has been doing for the last five-and-a-half minutes – the era of the long single hadn’t quite died away with “Bohemian Rhapsody” after all – is sweetly and grandly saying nothing at all, save a string of crowd-pleasing clichés which in truth promise and pledge not an atom of what remains of her soul. The song and record end with the orchestra on a question mark of an unresolved chord, as is only right, and its full meaning can only be grasped by listening to it in tandem with its sister song, “Oh What A Circus,” a long hiss of post-mortem cynicism allotted to Che Guevara (played by David Essex) set to the same tune but at twice the speed and intensity (it was a top three single in the summer of 1978). But “Don’t Cry For Me, Argentina” has endured as one of the greatest exposés of bullshit masquerading as emotion in all of pop; the song itself is sad enough to make you cry, and then you check yourself – at what, or whom, are you crying, and why? How much “reality” do you actually desire to derive from a piece of music; and, to extend the argument into the fuller world, look – that is, look – at the Princess Diana Panorama footage, or the last Gordon Brown speech, and examine the minute slivers of genuine meaning which exist in either, or neither.

  2. 2
    Tom on 28 May 2008 #

    This is surely the highest wordcount for thread plus first comment ever!!

  3. 3
    vinylscot on 28 May 2008 #

    Oh dear…

  4. 4
    Tom on 28 May 2008 #

    Not that I’m complaining obviously :)

    Lloyd Webber and Rice were a big formative pop thing for me – acting in Joseph as a tiny and also listening endlessly to my Dad’s bought-in-a-service-station Jesus Christ Superstar highlights tape and later the “best of” that introduced me to the Evita and Tell Me On A Sunday material.

    JCS I think is interestingly double-edged vis-a-vis your “it’s all about spin” angle on their work: as audience you have perfect liberty to agree with Judas (in fact I think exposure to JCS helped form my own atheism! I found the arguments very persuasive!), but of course you also have knowledge of the aftermath (which may or may not include belief that Jesus is more than a showman) – obviously Judas is the identification figure in most ways, and definitely gets the best tunes, but his songs about manipulation getting out of hand are aimed at himself as much as their apparent target.

  5. 5
    DJ Punctum on 28 May 2008 #

    I’ve now read Tom’s highly enjoyable piece (which I am pleased to see comes to a not dissimilar conclusion!). Agree thoroughly about the missed opportunity of Madonna’s version (though as he says it’s partially redeemed by the so-absurd-it-gets-closer-to-the-bullshit-truth dance mix) and that Sinead’s cover is the best; apparently she won a prize singing this song while at school so in her autobiographical sense it works ideally.

  6. 6
    and everybody elses Mark G on 28 May 2008 #

    I think that’s just about covered it!

  7. 7

    i: somewhere in my flat i have a tattered copy of the book that came out after “jesus christ superstar”, the double LP of which i was bought as a tenth bday present (or xmas present?) bcz aged 8 i had liked “jospeh” so much — if i wasn’t quite busy with an actual real grown-up project at the moment i would promise an FT REVIEW of this er er literary artefact, as it is very bizarre
    ii: my dad bought and for a time apparently enjoyed the lloyd-webber LP “variations”, which formed the meat of the first ever SOUTH BANK SHOW <-- this is a bit away so i will hang fire on it (also i have to kind of steal the LP off my dad which i feel bad abt even tho i doubt he's listened to it or thought of it for 30-odd years) iii: PLZ TO TALK ABOUT ROCK FOLLIES A LOT

  8. 8

    “the book of the rock opera” <-- most despised genre ever?

  9. 9
    DJ Punctum on 28 May 2008 #

    Unjustly so, as well, since the best record ever made is a triple-album jazz-rock opera with oblique lyrics, not all of which are actually sung or spoken.

    The music to Rock Follies was strange in that it marked the transition of Ray Russell from berserko-neurotic Sonny Sharrock wannabe to mild-mannered TV cop show composer.

  10. 10
    LondonLee on 28 May 2008 #

    I’d agree it’s an 8. Covington is such a great singer it’s a shame she didn’t record more. But for two composers with such a successful track record in musicals it’s shocking how few Rice/Webber songs have become standards or are even that memorable, apart from this one, ‘Memory’ and ‘Another Suitcase In Another Hall’ are about the only two I could hum the tune of.

    I did like this a lot less during the Falklands War, it’s a depressing thing to hear it played at a Rugby Club disco and listen to a bunch of loud, Maggie-voting knobs singing it as if it was some sort of victory song.

    I loved Rock Follies but I’m scared to watch it again now because I might find out it wasn’t actually that good.

  11. 11
    and everybody elses Mark G on 28 May 2008 #

    Cov recorded Alice Cooper’s “Only Women” losing all the um, irony? sympathy? for a more strident statement.

    Oh, and yeah she recorded lots of things, but shied away from fortune and fame, ironically enough.

  12. 12
    Waldo on 28 May 2008 #

    Julie Covington. Okay, good. The androgynous girl from “Rock Follies”. Very good. And a song from a musical. And a Rice/Lloyd-Webber musical too. And those two were simply electrifying back then. I would fully expect one or two of you to sneer at them for their clear support for the Conservative Party, but as I have opined in another place such beasts in the entertainment industry are rare to non-existent and in any case one would be disappointed if a political standpoint, no matter how much it may be disagreeable to someone, should provide an intractable blinker through which one is not only able to see but is not even prepared to try to. Lloyd-Webber has composed plenty of guff over his lengthy career but much of his work, with and without Rice, has been wonderful and of immeasurable merit to the cause of UK arts, ironically populated so heavily by the Left. “Evita” was one such work and DCFMA perhaps its most celebrated sub-text. A wonderful song of many complexities, belted out impressively by Covington, who then surprised many by declining the stage role, thus allowing Elaine Paige in, who promptly commenced a relationship with Rice. Act I, of course, had already seen “Oh What A Circus” (a hit for David Essex) sung to the same melody, DCFMA being performed much later after the interval. Whether you wish to bracket these two songs together is a matter of personal taste. I prefer not to.

    A little personal note about Elaine (all four foot something of her). In 1982 I was at Wimbledon with a perfectly lovely girl called Anne, whom I had met in the queue. Anne was petit and just about peeked over five foot. We were walking past the outside of Centre Court, which in those days was the place to be in order to clock the arrivals and departures of players and celebs. Cue the arrival of Miss Paige (sans Rice) looking ravishing. Anne turned to me and said “Isn’t she short?”, which I thought was charming. Indeed before Paige was bitten by the musical bug, this the result of seeing Natalie Wood in “West Side Story” (my own favourite musical by some margin), she dreamed of being a tennis player but was not encouraged especially by her sports mistress who told her that “you couldn’t even see over the net”. She is now a malleable, but slightly touched, presenter of a Sunday Radio 2 show on musical theatre. Rice, of course, went onto to help edit “Guinness”, the very bible which we are following in order to fortify this project. So he can’t be all that bad.

  13. 13
    DJ Punctum on 28 May 2008 #

    She certainly did startling service to “Only Women Bleed” which I believe is still the only Top 20 hit single involving John Cale. The eponymous album she released on Virgin at the same time (late ’78, produced by Joe Boyd) is also very fine and deserves a CD reissue.

  14. 14

    since the best record ever made is a triple-album jazz-rock opera with oblique lyrics, not all of which are actually sung or spoken — but the book of this has not yet been written! (or, more to the point, it HAS, but is not yet published in book-form): DJP i’m looking at you! :D

  15. 15

    i always thought elaine paige looked a bit like a Q-tip (the ear-stick thingy not the band)

  16. 16
    DJ Punctum on 28 May 2008 #

    When I lived in Chelsea I used to see EP and her little Westie dog Tigger every Sunday morning when I went to the newsagents round the corner for the papers.

    Her regular Sunday showtunes session on R2 is a most sprightly listen. And since it won’t be troubling SB, a word for her brilliant performance of “Memory” (#6 in 1981) which is another of the songs of its century.

    Does anyone else remember her being part of the troupe on long-gone BBC1 teatime proto-karaoke medley show One More Time?

  17. 17
    Waldo on 28 May 2008 #

    Mark – She could have cued my tip anytime, buster!

  18. 18
    DJ Punctum on 28 May 2008 #

    #14: Jeremy B to thread and I don’t mean the late Beadle either… :-(

  19. 19
    Tom on 28 May 2008 #

    #10 – Memory isn’t Webber/Rice, it’s Webber/Eliot :)

    Webber/Rice, and Webber/X and X/Rice will all be back.

    My own favourite W/R not-#1 is “Take That Look Off Your Face” by Marti Webb. Now that’s a belter.

  20. 20

    (#18: marcello can you email me an update)

  21. 21
    vinylscot on 28 May 2008 #

    DJP – I vaguely remember that dreadful show. Was “David Copperfield” (the British one) in it too?

    Her IMDB entry says she appeared as a regular in “Crackerjack” in 1970-1, but I don’tt remember her from there.

    I first encountered her (without realising) on the 1969 single “Mother of Convention” by the altogether wholesome and slightly folky “Colors of Love” on Larry Page’s Page One. For some reason there seemed to be rather a lot of copies of it around Glasgow in the early 70s – maybe another member of the band was a local.

  22. 22
    DJ Punctum on 28 May 2008 #

    I remember Covington, on some late night show in the late seventies (or possibly early eighties) whose name I’ve long forgotten, performing a striking version of “Bony Maronie” where she didn’t change the gender of the lyric.

    The only singing female regular I recall from early seventies Crackerjack was one Christine Holmes, who later attempted to hitch a ride on the glam wagon as “Kristine Sparkle,” was a member of Bizarro World New Seekers group the Family Dogg and wrote the lyric to Sir Cliff’s “Devil Woman.”

  23. 23
    rosie on 28 May 2008 #

    I’d probably rate it Lloyd-Webber’s finest hour too. I’m not exactly a fan, to the extent that I passed up an opportunity to accompany a journalist to the press preview of Aspects of Love and I haven’t suffered a moment’s regret as a result. But Evita is his masterpiece, this song is a cracker, and Julie Covington’s performance is spot on. 8 is right I think.

    Sometime in the early 1980s somebody wrote a book called Who Rogered Who which attempted to apply the six-degrees-of-separation principle to coitus. My claim at the time was that, as I’d slept with somebody who had slept with Julie Covington, that gave me a route to some interesting people.

    Oh, and I think Only Women Bleed is a favourite of the period.

  24. 24
    DJ Punctum on 28 May 2008 #

    As regards that David Copperfield, I don’t recall him being on the show, but Glasgow’s very own Danny Street definitely was.

  25. 25
    H. on 28 May 2008 #

    I recall a Goodies parody, “Don’t Cry For Me Marge ‘n’ Tina”, from God knows which Goodies episode.

  26. 26
    and everybody elses Mark G on 28 May 2008 #

    Oh lor, Christine Sparkle!

    Anyroad, was surprised to find the second series of Rock Follies was *after* this! Memory not failing but shuffling!

    Of course, RF2 was ‘informed’ by punk…

  27. 27

    RF music written and produced by avant-garde oboiste (and roxy musicker) mr andy mackay! <--- invented punk btw

  28. 28
    DJ Punctum on 28 May 2008 #

    Quite right – Ray Russell did the arranging rather than the composing.

    I thought it was Simon Puxley who invented punk? Or maybe it was Gary Windo.

  29. 29
    and everybody elses Mark G on 28 May 2008 #

    anyroad: Tom, the odd thing regarding the pics: The current sleeve I only get the very top of, and on the front page right now, the bottom of the pic as well. Inbetween is a white ‘on-top’ foreground that presumably should be background.

  30. 30
    DJ Punctum on 28 May 2008 #

    Also a mention for Rock Follies’ very own ’77 top ten hit “OK” with its chorus of “You want to do me, but I don’t want to be done – OK?”

  31. 31
    and everybody elses Mark G on 28 May 2008 #

    Always reminds me of that “Beat Generation” Comic Stip episode, where Dawn French is “you want to do me? Hey everyone, he wants to do me!”

    (OK, the line is “he wants to do It to me!”)

  32. 32
    LondonLee on 28 May 2008 #

    Speaking of Mr. Andy Mackay, Micheal Bracewell’s recent history of the first Roxy Music album and the artistic currents leading up to it is a cracking read. Got me all nostalgic for my own art school days.

  33. 33
    Erithian on 28 May 2008 #

    Apparently Rock Follies did have a degree of influence on punk as well – as the Little Ladies’ fortunes improve during an early episode, Covington’s character says “We’re really getting a buzz, cocks!” Which reputedly inspired the name of a certain Manchester band.

    The single “OK?” (extra point for the question mark, Dignified) is probably the only single with a B-side entitled “B Side” – in which Charlotte Cornwell’s character bemoans her fate at being given the B-side of the band’s latest single with the payoff line, “Today I’m the B-side, tomorrow I’ll be – side A!”

    As for DCFMA, there’s not a lot to add after those excellent earlier posts, but you have to say that Julie Covington puts in one of the outstanding vocal performances of any number one ever. (And note that we’ve reached the landmark of the 400th UK Number 1 as well.)

  34. 34
    and everybody elses Mark G on 28 May 2008 #

    Other B-sides called, um, B-Side:

    Manfred Mann’s, on the bside of “Ragamuffin man”, used to be the Cadbury’s Flake music for some years afterwards if I remember rightly.

    Style council had one “Oh I do like to b-side the a-side” but that’s all I’m saying bout that.

  35. 35
    Billy Smart on 28 May 2008 #

    Re 22: Covington’s performance of Bonie Moronie is taken from the 1977 proto-Secret Policeman’s Ball gala ‘Mermaid Frolics’. It’s available on DVD and is something which I watch it all the time.

    Julie Covington is something of a heroine of mine, mainly for her 1971 Pete Atkin collaboration LP, ‘The Beautiful Changes’, which – if you like Atkin and James as songwriters probably has the best interpretation of their work, especially in the crystal note of wistfulness and regret that she sounds in ‘Ice Cream Man’, ‘If I Had My Time Again’ and ‘The Magic Wasn’t There’.

    Her theatrical career was also quite something too, I’d imagine, perhaps particularly in being one of the original cast of Caryl Churchill’s ‘Cloud 9’.

    What has she been doing for the last 20 or so years?

  36. 36
    wichita lineman on 28 May 2008 #

    Re 33/34 Manfred Mann’s A ‘B’ Side was the music for “dad’s favourite” advert for Mannequin cigars with exotic ladies lolling around on the beach, under waterfalls and presumably at some point (though I don’t remember) rolling tobacco leaves on their bronzed thighs.

    Tintern Abbey’s Beeside (which was the A side) 45 on Deram from ’67 is worth the best part of a grand because of its driving-yet-droning psych B side, Vacuum Cleaner.

    Does that make sense?

    Yes indeed, The Beautiful Changes is a wonderful LP; I love Julie C’s cut-glass diction. Not sure if it’s in print but there was a cd on See For Miles a long time ago…

    The depth of analysis on this show tune reminds me of an excellent piece on jazz buff Phil Schaap in the May 19 issue of The New Yorker. Did it feel like “there but for the grace of god” to anyone else?

  37. 37
    wwolfe on 28 May 2008 #

    While reading this entry, it occurred to me that Mick Jagger would make a great Evita. No one understood the dynamics of desire and distance like Mick. And if ever there was a suitable companion piece for Rice’s lyrics, it would be Jagger’s “Salt of the Earth,” a very similar “Heroic Figure Addresses Congregation of Little People” lyric, in which the verses’ never-ending salute to every Man of the People demographic is shattered by the bridge’s straight-no-chaser declaration:

    When I search this faceless crowd
    A swirling mass of grays and blacks and whites
    They don’t look real to me
    In fact, they look so strange”

    Don’t cry for me, Ian Stewart.

  38. 38
    LondonLee on 28 May 2008 #

    My old man worked with Julie Covington for a while, he was a stage manager at The National Theatre where she did a lot of work including the brilliant ‘Guys & Dolls’ revival where she played Sarah to Bob Hoskins’ Nathan Detroit.

  39. 39
    lonepilgrim on 29 May 2008 #

    re #38 I saw that production, which also featured Ian Charleson (later to feature in Chariots of Fire) in the role of Skye Masterson and was, as Lee says, brilliant

    I remember my Dad (along with many of my parents friends) buying the Evita album around this time and thinking it strange that someone would release a musical soundtrack before the musical itself had been staged – an early example of ALWs marketing strategy – now he gets the BBC to do it for him.

    I also found it strange that someone should be singing about Argentina, my knowledge of which was limited to those jigsaws that looked like maps which featured a picture of a gaucho on the pampas to represent the country – why write a musical about them? (I hadn’t asked similar questions about Austrian nuns years earlier, mind you). It seemed eerily prescient in the light of the Falklands conflict

  40. 40
    Erithian on 29 May 2008 #

    So it seems a whole lot of Popular regulars have more or less tenuous links to players in this particular drama. Marcello used to see Elaine Paige in Chelsea and Waldo spotted her while at Wimbledon with this charming Anne; Rosie had a lover in common with Julie Covington and Lee’s old man worked with her. As for me, I had my letter read out on Tim Rice’s radio show.

    For a brief period in 1985 Rice co-hosted a Radio 1 show with Paul Gambaccini, a feature of which was their playing a landmark Top 3 – the first all-British Top 3, the first Top 3 under a Labour government, that sort of thing. The one I suggested was the most static Top 3, the one that remained unchanged for five weeks over Christmas of ’77 (but wild bunnies wouldn’t get me to give any further details on that just now), and, yes, they played it. Bit of a naff claim to fame, but there you go.

  41. 41
    vinylscot on 29 May 2008 #

    Could this song title be the one most often used in “punny” headlines?

    It must have featured in several thousand, starting when England failed to qualify for the 1978 World Cup in Argentina. After that there were more headlines when Scotland wished THEY hadn’t qualified; more at Falklands war time; and more when Argentina knocked England out in 1998.

    B.A. Robertson was good for B-side titles – the B-side of “Bang Bang” was “B Side The C Side”, and the B-side of his earlier not-quite-a-hit “Goosebumps” was “The B Side”.

  42. 42
    Billy Smart on 29 May 2008 #

    Oh God, the B-Side of Harry Enfield’s hilarious 1988 top 20 smash ‘Loadsamoney (Doing Up The House)’ is also called ‘The B-Side’: “Alright? This is the B-side!”.

    Little in the way of thought and effort appeared to have gone into it.

  43. 43
    rosie on 29 May 2008 #

    LondonLee : @10 Memory is, I believe, one of the few bits of Cats that isn’t attributable to Tom Eliot (apart from the odd fragment of a phrase). It’s Webber/Nunn I believe.

    The ultimate professional bullshitters are actors, of course. Well, there’s barristers too but I don’t think a barrister ever had a British number one. But this is an actor in the guise of pop singer singing the role of an actor, and it needs an actor who can sing, rather than a singer per se, to carry it off. This is why, I think, Julie – a super actor above all – can carry this off better than Elaine Page. In my humble opinion anyway.

    Rock Follies trivia: Charlotte Cornwell is the niece of David Cornwell, aka John le Carré, and the model for the character of Charlie in The Little Drummer Girl.

  44. 44
    lonepilgrim on 29 May 2008 #

    another thing about Julie Covington was that she had that servalan/julie driscoll short hair thing going on which was strangely arousing and was kind of punk before it’s time

  45. 45
    DJ Punctum on 29 May 2008 #

    Best conceptual B-side plan: Mud, who on one B-side did a throwaway instrumental entitled “Watching The Clock” and a few singles later did another one entitled “Still Watching The Clock.”

  46. 46
    DJ Punctum on 29 May 2008 #

    I remember that Gambo/Rice programme very well (Sunday lunchtimes?) and especially Rice’s extreme enthusiasm about “Breakfast” by the Associates.

  47. 47
    Waldo on 29 May 2008 #

    1978 also saw Miss Argentina win Miss World. On cue she started crying – lovely beautiful young girl tears, certainly not the great big heaving sobs proffered by poor old John Terry. I personally would never haved cried like that. I would have simply fucking shot myself.

    UP THE BLUES!!!!!

  48. 48
    Waldo on 29 May 2008 #

    #44 – Servalan. Oh, yes indeedy!!!

  49. 49
    DJ Punctum on 29 May 2008 #

    Footballers should PRACTISE not waste their time poncing about on TV ads then maybe they might score GOALS.

    That also goes for Nicholas “Applaud Me For Breathing” Anelka.

  50. 50
    Waldo on 29 May 2008 #

    I couldn’t agree more.

  51. 51
    Erithian on 29 May 2008 #

    A top moment in Gambo/Rice was when Rice played my then-favourite single, Kirsty MacColl’s “A New England”, only for Gambo to literally take off the needle and announce that since Rice had just become the first serving Radio 1 DJ to write a Number 1 single, he was going to play [next bit smothered by bunny] in his honour. He did so, after which Rice apologised to Kirsty MacColl fans!

  52. 52
    Rob M on 29 May 2008 #

    Regarding b-sides about b-sides, there’s an Andrew Oldham single from the sixties – one of those “Rolling Stones Orchestra” things I believe – whose main title escapes me, but the b-side is entitled “I do like to see me on the b-side”. What’s odd about it is the composer credit goes to “Oldham / Wyman / Watts”!

  53. 53
    wichita lineman on 29 May 2008 #

    Presumably it was to rake in a bit of dosh (if it had been a hit) for the non-songwriting Stones. Which says a lot about what Andrew Oldham thought of Brian Jones.

    The Shadows released a double ‘B’ side in 1966, The Dreams I Dream b/w Scotch On The Socks, on a white Columbia demo with two lovely red B’s. It must have tickled them, but I bet their promo man could’ve wept. It duly became their lowest charting single in seven years, and they wouldn’t trouble the Top 10 until 1978, with Don’t Cry For Me Argentina.

    Ah, that felt good.

  54. 54
    vinylscot on 29 May 2008 #

    Don’t you just love it when a plan comes together?

    Well done, Mr Lineman.

  55. 55
    LondonLee on 29 May 2008 #

    Charlotte Cornwall was the one I fancied in Rock Follies (I was immune to Rula’s pre-Raphaelite locks and Julie C. was a bit too butch for me), there was an episode that involved them boxing for some reason and seeing Charlotte bouncing around the ring in little satin shorts and a vest gave me palpitations.

  56. 56
    Billy Smart on 29 May 2008 #

    – cue Waldo reminiscences and reflections here, surely?

  57. 57
    Billy Smart on 29 May 2008 #

    By far the best bit of the notorious 1977 “punk” episode of The Goodies, is their Rock Follies pastiche, ‘Rock Goodies’, in the first five minutes. As I remember, Tim is Julie Covington. They end every line with “cock”, and the number they play, ‘Shiny Shoes’, is one of Bill Oddie’s best songs.

    I really ought to get around to seeing Rock Follies… It does sound like 100% my sort of thing.

  58. 58
    DJ Punctum on 29 May 2008 #

    I’m blowed if I can remember anything about Sue Jones-Davies, though (she is credited on “OK?”).

  59. 59
    lex on 29 May 2008 #

    Ironically, given how blah her own version of this song is, I think the only reason I like Evita at all is because of Madonna. (I have a long-standing hatred of the entire musical genre otherwise, not unrelated to my hatred of all comedy ever. It’s too ‘wacky’, and it reminds me of the scary plastic smiles on the faces of kids’ TV presenters (NB: I hated kids’ TV even more when I was actually a child).)

    Not much to add to Tom’s og ‘Argentina’ piece – I also think the Sinéad version is the best I’ve heard, and the Miami mix of Madge’s is maybe the most camp thing in the world – other than to say I wish loads more people would cover this just because it’s one of those standards where, contra ‘Dancing Queen’, I think anyone can make their own, and where someone’s interpretation of it can be really revealing.

  60. 60
    vinylscot on 29 May 2008 #

    DJP @ #58

    You might remember her better as Judith, Brian’s sort-of love-interest in “Life of Brian”.

    I don’t remember her from RF either, I presume she must have been in the second series which wasn’t really as popular as the first had been.

  61. 61
    LondonLee on 29 May 2008 #

    She played a character called ‘Rox’ apparently, and has a long list of other credits


  62. 62
    Waldo on 29 May 2008 #

    # 55 + 56 – Actually, I can’t recall Charlotte as Dave Boy Green. I must have missed that episode. My abiding memory of “Rock Follies” is when they wailed out a number called “Glen Miller Is Missing”, which I thought was complete cobblers.

    Btw, I’d certainly like to see Daniela Denby-Ashe in boxing signet and shorts, although my next stop would be an oxygen tent.

  63. 63
    crag on 29 May 2008 #

    Re:B-sides- the B-side of Adam Ants Apollo 9 was called B-side Baby.
    For me Webber/Rice’s greatest achievement was undoubtably JCS-a better display of using the rock form to tell a whole continuous story than Odgen’s Nut, The Wall or any of Townsends efforts and, IMO, stands as one of the great records of the rock era.
    Julie Convington meanwhile will always be Beth from Jeff Wayne’s WOTW to me…

  64. 64
    Snif on 30 May 2008 #

    Of course, Napoleon XiV aka Jerry Samuels took the B side cake with the B side of “They’re Coming To Take Me Away Ha Ha!”, entitled “!Ah Ah Yawa Em Ekat Ot Gnimoc Er’Yeht”, and consisted of the A side played backwards.

    Never liked this track much, but loved JC’s version of “I Want To See The Bright Lights Tonight” which was a medium sized hit down under.

  65. 65
    Waldo on 30 May 2008 #

    Oh, what a circus. Oh, what a typo. I think I meant “singlet”, not “signet”, which is a little creature that provides sport to Canadians with clubs. I’ve only just noticed and will write the correct word out fifty times to satisfy our brace of teachers. As for Daniela, she is certainly the only reason to watch the risible “My Family”, the longevity of which is truly mystifying.

  66. 66
    DJ Punctum on 30 May 2008 #

    In viewer demographic terms, My Family is only a Heartbeat away…

  67. 67

    i’m hoping the russell t. davis revamp of “my family” will actually OVERLAP with the original run

  68. 68
    DJ Punctum on 30 May 2008 #

    With Kris Marshall in “who are these people” mode obv. and consequent hilarious additional amnesia-related long-running sitcom strand.

  69. 69
    rosie on 30 May 2008 #

    Did we get hacked, or what? My morning wasn’t complete without Popular and The Guardian…

  70. 70
    Tom on 30 May 2008 #

    I didn’t notice anything happening! I’ve been busy catching up at work after being off sick the last cpl days, though.

    Alan and I are working to make the Popular format a little more user-friendly (in terms of huge thread lengths, easier access to the list of reviewed #1s for new readers, etc.) – so it might be he was experimenting a bit.

  71. 71

    it was evil elves in flight from the fall of otherwhere

  72. 72
    rosie on 30 May 2008 #

    I agree about the list of reviewed number ones – we need an index of some kind. Now that we are up to 400 – yes, another milestone passed – it is getting cumbersome looking back. And after all it’s ‘my’ period – say 63 to 73 – that’s of most interest to me just as the later 70s sets some pulses racing and I’d imagine others like Tom finding ‘their’ music starting to emerge later in 1977… AAAAAARGH, NO, NOT THE GIANT CARROT!

  73. 73
    Tom on 30 May 2008 #

    There is already a list – http://freakytrigger.co.uk/populist/ – it’s just a matter of linking to it better :)

  74. 74
    Waldo on 30 May 2008 #

    DJP # 65 – …yep, and Miss Denby-Ashe can certainly do a turn keeping me warm night and day…

  75. 75
    Drucius on 2 Jun 2008 #

    Nobody mention Charlotte Cornwell’s bum!

  76. 76
    Billy Smart on 8 Sep 2008 #

    Re 41/42/45 et al – I’ve found a good conceptual song called ‘The B Side’ – its by Morecambe & Wise! “You’ve paid to hear me on the hipside – why should I have to bother with the flipside?”

  77. 77
    Dispela Pusi on 23 Dec 2010 #

    #58 and #60 – Sue J-D’s character Rox was a pretty key character in Series 2. She was brought in to the Little Ladies as a second lead vocalist when manager Kitty Schreiber decided only Dee (Julie C) out of the original three was up to the job (until then they’d all taken equal shares in the singing). Charlotte C’s character promptly took umbrage and quit, soon followed by Q (Rula L), who’d realised that harmonising solo behind two leaders was simply daft.

    Dunno why she’s credited for “OK” though. That was the (intended) big breakthrough single for the three-girl line-up. Rox came aboard afterwards.

  78. 78
    Mark G on 23 Dec 2010 #

    Probably because she’s singing on it. (in real life)

    I do remember the show when they performed the song, the shot of Charlotte showed quite clearly that the words she was singing were not present on the track.

    Which she made up for by being given the b-side to perform her song “b-side” which was her, solo. In the story, that is.

  79. 79
    swanstep on 18 Sep 2013 #

    Many ’70s kids have a soft spot for Linda Ronstadt. A fantastic, career-spanning interview with her is streamable and downloadable here: http://tinyurl.com/mjfgh2t. Highly recommended.

  80. 80
    Larry on 15 Nov 2014 #

    There are definite echoes of this song in “We Are the World.”

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