13
Jul 08

BACCARA – “Yes Sir, I Can Boogie”

FT + Popular83 comments • 5,867 views

#414, 29th October 1977

“Already told you in the first werse…”: I’m not sure whether “Yes Sir” is deceptively dumb or deceptively clever. On the one hand you can see why Goldfrapp, Sophie Ellis-Bextor and a generation of raised-eyebrow indie fans have been drawn to it. The arch and chilly fourth-wall breaking which inverts the song, recasting it as the hustle it always was, is smart stuff. On the other hand it’s not just pretending to be a low-rent “Love To Love You Baby”. I put it on a disco mix I made for my wife once, and she loathed it: all the “yes sir”, “no sir” business came across to her as creepily subservient. Which it is, deliberately, but the “Sir” in the song isn’t coming off too well either, the singer’s testy impatience effectively puncturing his illusions: no talking, no walking, do we have a deal or not…Sir?

The question goes unresolved: the track spirals out with mock-orgasmic coos, carried over from the intro, this time rather less pleasant. “Yes Sir” wouldn’t remotely be effective without its imperious strings, iconic chorus and chuckling bassline, and its those things that mean I’m writing about it now. But they’re vehicles for a calculating heartlessness that makes this record really stand out.

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Comments

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  1. 51
    Waldo on 15 Jul 2008 #

    DJP #37 – There was quite a bit of “I…I…I…” going on in “Fall Out”, of course. From my own standpoint, I have Dave Barker beating The Overlanders on anyone’s tariff.

    Lena # 50 – “Actually, Homer, I think she’s singing it to God!” Precious wonder it was number one for nine weeks!

  2. 52
    DJ Punctum on 15 Jul 2008 #

    Complete with verbal and visual Carmen Miranda puns…

  3. 53
    Erithian on 15 Jul 2008 #

    Mike #48 – as an exercise in allowing those who aren’t gay to understand and identify with the viewpoint and anger of those who are, “Glad to be Gay” has surely never been bettered. Tom Robinson was a hero of mine – the only bloke who could have got something like that into the top 20 in 1978! – even as a support track on an EP.

  4. 54
    fivelongdays on 15 Jul 2008 #

    41 – I’d argue that the thing about pop, or at least when approached from this angle, is that, as Supermac used to say, we’ve never had it so good. But, of course, we’ve never had it so bad, either!

  5. 55
    wichita lineman on 15 Jul 2008 #

    Re 33: For a short while there, I thought DJP was positing that Eden Kane’s Well I Ask You was the first example of an ironic number one. And after Tom’s Gordon Burn-esque summary I thought it was a pretty decent shout. But Baccara, surely, or at least their puppet-masters, had tongues firmly in cheeks. For my dosh, the lyric smells more of blonde Russian teens and moneyed gremlins than Benidorm naivety.

    Re 42: From New York To LA? Haven’t heard that in a very long while, but it does remind me of the anti-rockist argument for the pop continuum; with r ‘n’ r as an important blip, but a blip nonetheless; with the Brill Building as an extension of Jerome Kern, Hoagy Carmichael etcet, and room for neo-musical numbers like From New York To LA 20 years after All Shook Up. Punk schmunk!

  6. 56
    lonepilgrim on 16 Jul 2008 #

    re #43-46 – We’ve had experience of the spoiler bunny here in Northampton, details here: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/england/northamptonshire/7505911.stm

    my memory of YSICB is that it has a fairly tinny sound for a dance record but that may be because I only heard it on cheap transistor radios. There were few night clubs or discos where I grew up so I rarely had chance to hear pop music on anything like a ‘sound system’. One of the few occasions when I would hear music at a volume that would grab your attention was on the waltzers when the funfair rolled into town

  7. 57
    Mark G on 16 Jul 2008 #

    The last time I heard “Yes sir, I can boogie” was when Danielle Dax was using it as ‘exit’ music after her gig at Underworld (the Westway)

  8. 58
    Billy Smart on 16 Jul 2008 #

    In ‘Revolution In The Head’, Ian MacDonald makes quite a convincing case for ‘Paperback Writer’ as being the point where pop goes ‘meta’, in being as much a pop song about being a pop song as it is a song about an author, showing the way forward to 10cc, etc.

    MacDonald saw this as being an almost entirely bad thing. When executed with the Beatles’ sense of playfulness and wit, I really don’t share this view.

  9. 59
    Dan R on 16 Jul 2008 #

    To bring together two topics in this thread, I’ve often thought that Patsy Gallant’s ‘From New York to L.A.’ is the gayest single in history. There are songs more evidently (or cynically) aimed at the gay audience, like the recent ‘From Paris to Berlin’, or indeed the various Village People songs, but this seems to me to capture something of a post-liberation sensibility, the splendeurs and miseres of the emerging gay scene, and it does so in heterosexual disguise which is of course very gay, though of its time. It’s a pretty wonderful song only marred by that strange sausage-hitting-an-upturned-bucket sound that passed for a bass drum in the mid-seventies.

    I knew someone from Newcastle who used to sing ‘Yes sir, I’m a geordie’ to Baccara’s finest. It was funny the first time. I must say I don’t see much real evidence of submission in this song’s use of ‘sir’, except in that intriguingly insolent way that, say, Bruce Springsteen uses it all the way through Nebraska (the album, not the state).

    And there’s another artist who won’t be troubling us on these boards.

  10. 60
    Erithian on 16 Jul 2008 #

    Except for about two seconds in 1985…

  11. 61
    Erithian on 16 Jul 2008 #

    Patsy Gallant was a featured guest on Swap Shop one Saturday and featured in one of its most bizarre moments. The on-location swap meets with Cheggers tended to be wherever the BBC had sports outside broadcast cameras, and on that particular Saturday they must have been covering rugby league in Barrow – because I seem to remember Patsy Gallant being there on location and offering her album as a swap for a Barrow RLFC shirt – which she duly got. Rosie, can you confirm this by any chance?

  12. 62
    Dan R on 16 Jul 2008 #

    Irony, a generation later, was a dead hand over culture that responded perhaps to a generalised fear of making any judgments about anything (politics, art, morality, taste, etc.) but at this stage it still seems fairly benign, doesn’t it? The self-referential pop song undergoes a curious mutation on its way from ‘This Is Not A Love Song’ to various Oasis singles which the bunny forbids me from mentioning. Not wholly a bad mutation, but not a wholly good one either.

  13. 63
    Dan R on 16 Jul 2008 #

    # 60

    Oh yes! Along with Bob Dylan, Willie Nelson and other chart-dodging acts.

  14. 64
    DJ Punctum on 16 Jul 2008 #

    Dylan’s already had one number one as a composer and will have another one (some say another two).

  15. 65
    Dan M. on 16 Jul 2008 #

    Whew, that is one silly song. The pronunciation of “booogie” — not to mention “booogie vooogie” is worth the price of the p2p download I got it with. It really makes you marvel that that word was ever considered cool. As for the song-structure-self-referential-lyrics search how about the line, “Take it to the bridge, she sighs,” (from Pidgin English on Imperial Bedroom by Elvis Costello), which leads right into… the instrumental bridge.

  16. 66
    DJ Punctum on 16 Jul 2008 #

    Anyway, the correct answer is “Anything Goes” by Frank Sinatra – “as this record spins to a close”…

  17. 67
    rosie on 16 Jul 2008 #

    Erithian @ 61: I’m afraid not. For one thing, I don’t think I ever watched Swapshop more than a couple of times, not least because I found Chegwin one of the most irritating people on the telly. For another, although I know the song “New York to LA”, if you’d asked me who did it I’d be scratching my head. For a third, in those days I kept very quiet about my Barrow origins!

  18. 68
    Dan R on 16 Jul 2008 #

    ‘Frankie and Johnny’ (1904)

    ‘This story has no moral
    This story has no end
    This story only goes to show
    That there ain’t no good in men’

  19. 69
    Lena on 16 Jul 2008 #

    I can’t let the Patsy Gallant song go by without commenting that the melody comes from a Canadian all-time classic:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CH_R6D7mU7M

  20. 70
    LondonLee on 16 Jul 2008 #

    I was going to say earlier that there must be plenty of Cole Porter songs with meta, self-referential lyrics (he just seemed like the sort of smartypants swish who would do that) but I couldn’t think of one at the time.

    The one old chestnut that did come to mind was all the versions of ‘Mack The Knife’ (Ella, Bobby Darin) that mention the other people who have sung the song before.

  21. 71
    Venga on 16 Jul 2008 #

    #64

    He’s had two already hasn’t he? Tambourine Man and Mighty Quinn.

  22. 72
    wichita lineman on 16 Jul 2008 #

    I suppose I see the whole of YSICB as an exercise in irony (did the writers involved dabble regularly in disco? Anyone know?) rather than just the ‘meta’ lines – which maybe makes it a first. I’d rather think of Anything Goes as witty and Frankie And Johnny as a fable. YSICB surely ain’t either.

    Then again, Mighty Quinn (like Glass Onion) is a snidey self-referential song, poking fun at obsessive fans who’d be searching for meaning in a song about an Anthony Quinn movie. Is that ironic? Best ask Alanis M.

    One other thing which i don’t think has been mentioned. “Boogie voogie”? Since when are Spaniards unable to pronounce “w”??

  23. 73
    Dan M. on 17 Jul 2008 #

    On the Cole Porter question, (#70): I have heard “At Long Last Love” include the lyric, “Will it be Bach that I hear, or just a Cole Porter song?” Bobby Short sings it that way, I’m fairly certain. I looked up the lyrics on Google, and it seems that most version don’t have that line. But I assume that Porter wrote it that way– can’t see Bobby Short adding it in himself.

  24. 74
    Dan M. on 17 Jul 2008 #

    But speaking of irony in popular song lyrics — well, this is the old-fashioned version of irony, saying something while meaining the opposite: “I Get Along Without You Very Well,” a Hoagy Carmichael song, sung by Billie Holliday among many others. These are beautiful, sadly ironic lyrics — look ’em up! (There’s also quite a story behind the writing of the lyrics … “ironic,” itself in the news copy/Alanis Morisette sense — look it up!) But “I Get Along Without You Very Well” isn’t ironic in the “post-modern,” Warholian sense — a work that somehow conveys a distancing effect, or an attitude of being above the whole endeavor of meaning, while employing the conventions of narrative (or pictorial or lyrical) “meaning” — an attitude of looking down on everything, including one’s self, that the clued-in viewer/listener/reader/observer is invited to share in. Which is being ascribed to “Yes Sir, I Can Boogie,” because — well, God! They CAN’T be serious! (but the song is a lot funnier if it’s NOT intentionally ironic — it allows us sophisticates to provide our own irony in the act of LISTENING to it!)

  25. 75
    a logged-out pˆnk s lord whatnot on 17 Jul 2008 #

    spanish = they are ostrogoths, taking shots at lame old w-challenged wizigoths

    it is intra-nomad beef

  26. 76
    Malice Cooper on 16 Aug 2008 #

    “mister, your eyes are full of vegetation”

    Well it sounds like that to me.

    Mayte Mateus had a solo career as did maria Mendiola. the former had a magical single called “Souvenirs of Paradise” where she uttered the immortal line “The day that I told you a lie that I love Andy Warhol”

  27. 77
    Lena on 31 Aug 2008 #

    I just heard this for the first time today and thought for the first 10 seconds or so that it was “Don’t Leave Me This Way.”

  28. 78
    Mark G on 1 Sep 2008 #

    Very similar intros, yes.

  29. 79
    Brooksie on 10 Feb 2010 #

    “Subservient”? I always took the “Yes sirs” to be a reinforcement, as in; “Can I boogie? You better believe it. Yes sir I can boogie.” It is worth noting that the song and the singers are operating in a non-native language, so there might be something lost in translation.

  30. 80
    Brendan on 23 Sep 2012 #

    Following on from Silver Lady, ANOTHER annoyingly catchy chorus that had little me crying ‘make it stop!’. However, around 25 years later I heard it on Radio 2 and I thought ‘wow! – this is actually pretty good’. I did develop more of a taste for cheesy disco as I grew up and so I guess it finally caught up with me (or I with it). Now I will agree with Tom and give it a 7

  31. 81
    mapman132 on 24 Jul 2014 #

    #50 Actually it was TEN weeks – can’t blame you if you hit your head on the desk so hard that you didn’t have to experience the final week ;) One good thing: I doubt many Americans under the age of 30 (or even 35?) have ever experienced the full horror of YLUML – has any other such massive hit been so thoroughly wiped from pop history?

    As for YSICB, I never heard it before now. I can’t describe the imagery it’s conjuring in my mind for fear of political incorrectness. Amusingly, Wiki claims it’s the 7th biggest selling single worldwide of all time. Don’t think many of those copies were in the US though.

  32. 82
    Neil C on 18 Sep 2016 #

    Louis Theroux’s falsetto rendition of this song on the latest Adam Buxton podcast is really quite something, and oddly addictive:

    (from 1:00:49)
    https://soundcloud.com/adam-buxton/ep-29-louis-theroux

  33. 83
    ผลบอล on 8 May 2017 #

    it’s nice topic good post

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