Jul 08

BACCARA – “Yes Sir, I Can Boogie”

FT + Popular84 comments • 8,892 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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  1. 31
    wichita lineman on 14 Jul 2008 #

    From the solid efforts of previous Dutch songwriters of UK hits, I’m guessing there was an element of irony in the lyric. Gawdelpus. Is this the very first Popular instance of the ‘I’ word? Did Punk kickstart pop post-modernism that quickly?

  2. 32
    LondonLee on 15 Jul 2008 #

    I don’t hate this but it’s one of those records that gave Disco a bad name, hard to avoid the whiff of cheese, Cinzano commercials, Peter Sarstedt, Omar Sharif and Y Viva Espana.

    I don’t know what all that means but it’s what came to mind thinking about this record.

  3. 33
    DJ Punctum on 15 Jul 2008 #

    #31 – well I ask you! But I feel fine.

  4. 34
    DJ Punctum on 15 Jul 2008 #

    I Love You, All I Have To Do Is Dream…

  5. 35
    Erithian on 15 Jul 2008 #

    Marcello, I think the “I” word Lineman means is Irony…?

  6. 36
    DJ Punctum on 15 Jul 2008 #

    Aargh! Guess I got stung…

  7. 37
    DJ Punctum on 15 Jul 2008 #

    Anyway, the correct answer is probably “Michelle” (“I need you, I need you, I need you – I think you know by now”).

  8. 38
    DJ Punctum on 15 Jul 2008 #

    Irony’s a dangerous thing in pop. It laughs at you when you say you care for it.

  9. 39
    Drucius on 15 Jul 2008 #

    Dreadful europap that made me want to firebomb Top Of The Pops at the time. Hard to get worked up about now, of course.

  10. 40
    DJ Punctum on 15 Jul 2008 #

    The charts were actually in excellent shape at around this time. It’s hardly TOTP‘s fault that the public got it so wrong with the number ones, as will occur in other future key years.

  11. 41
    Tom on 15 Jul 2008 #

    The 1977 No.1s are pretty solid IMO, though no doubt there were better things lurking in the Top Ten – there usually are. (2008 is going to be frustrating from this perspective too. not that I’d characterise this as one of the “key years” in any sense).

  12. 42
    mike on 15 Jul 2008 #

    The charts were actually in excellent shape at around this time.

    Looking at the everyhit.com Retro Chart for late October 1977, and excluding any future Number Ones (and the three songs that I can’t remember), I’d give thumbs-ups to:

    8. Ram Jam – Black Betty (much as I hated it at the time)
    10. Sex Pistols – Holidays In The Sun (my favourite Pistols single)
    11. The Stranglers – No More Heroes (played to introduce the sermon at our school’s Rememberance Day service of that year; we had a trendy chaplain)
    12. The Emotions – Best Of My Love (immaculate)
    14. The Carpenters – Calling Occupants Of Interplanetary Craft (a cover of a song by Klaatu, who were briefly rumoured to be a reformed Beatles working incognito)
    15. Tom Robinson Band – 2-4-6-8 Motorway (in which the Gay Liberation Front and the lads from the First XV find common cause)
    16. Donna Summer – I Remember Yesterday
    17. Yes – Wonderous Stories
    20. Giorgio – From Here To Eternity
    21. Patsy Gallant – From New York To LA
    24. David Bowie – Heroes
    33. The Commodores – Brickhouse
    34. Leo Sayer – Thunder In My Heart
    35. Space – Magic Fly
    36. The Bee Gees – How Deep Is Your Love

    16 out 40 = pretty good really, and a better strike rate than I remember.

  13. 43
    DJ Punctum on 15 Jul 2008 #

    Um, Mike, there’s a Spoiler Bunny alert in there…

    (also Rockin’ All Over The World and the uncannily timely reissue of Virginia Plain)

  14. 44
    mike on 15 Jul 2008 #

    Well, arguably there are two SBAs. But then again, not really…

  15. 45
    SteveM on 15 Jul 2008 #

    they’re only spoilers if you say they’re spoilers

  16. 46
    DJ Punctum on 15 Jul 2008 #

    I don’t say, the Spoiler Bunny says. You know what happens if the Spoiler Bunny gets upset; you’ve seen Donnie Darko (whoops, there goes another one)…

  17. 47
    LondonLee on 15 Jul 2008 #

    “15. Tom Robinson Band – 2-4-6-8 Motorway (in which the Gay Liberation Front and the lads from the First XV find common cause)”

    But he destroyed that bond with his next single. I had a mate at school who claimed he threw away his copy of ‘Motorway’ when ‘Glad To Be Gay’ came out.

  18. 48
    mike on 15 Jul 2008 #

    To give them credit, the Rugby Lads at our school were pretty enthusiastic about “Glad To Be Gay”. (And there was always the lead track “Don’t Take No For An Answer” to keep ’em happy.) For all their lyrical agitprop, TRB enjoyed a surprising across-the-board popularity round our way…

  19. 49
    DJ Punctum on 15 Jul 2008 #

    The lead track which radio preferred and still prefers to play.

    Then again, at the time, were we not all bashful children, beginning to grow?

  20. 50
    Lena on 15 Jul 2008 #

    Meanwhile, America fell in love with “You Light Up My Life” and it was #1 for nine weeks…(sound of head hitting desk)…

  21. 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!

  22. 52
    DJ Punctum on 15 Jul 2008 #

    Complete with verbal and visual Carmen Miranda puns…

  23. 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.

  24. 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!

  25. 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!

  26. 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

  27. 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)

  28. 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.

  29. 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.

  30. 60
    Erithian on 16 Jul 2008 #

    Except for about two seconds in 1985…

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