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Jul 08

DAVID SOUL – “Silver Lady”

FT + Popular31 comments • 3,746 views

#413, 8th October 1977

I can’t help but wish this had been Elvis’ last single, though David Soul does a more than satisfactory job by himself. Where “Don’t Give Up On Us Baby” was a singer playing a role refracted through a TV character, “Silver Lady” drops the hearthrob palaver and sounds more like Soul’s just having a good time, singing the pop he wants to sing while his star’s bright enough to allow it. In that sense it’s closer to a lot of modern sleb-goes-pop material – chuck a saleable song the celebrity’s way, let them have a bash at it.

Muscular and hook-packed, “Silver Lady” is also (I think!) the final chart-topping fling for Tony Macaulay and Geoff Stephens, two titans of the British bubblegum era, the backroom boys behind many a track that’s glided serenely to a five or six out of ten on this blog – this no exception. So it’s fun to hear “Silver Lady” as a last hurrah for the bubblegum old school, its arrangement marvellously wasteful, string figures and pianos and moody street bass all used up and worn out. It certainly sounds like “cop show” was at the back of the writers’ minds when they crafted the lyrics – hard-bitten loner walking rain-washed streets in search of mysterioso broad – but there are moments when Soul’s gusto and the writers’ carpentry transcends the corn and almost hits Jimmy Webb levels of offhand evocation, and for pop craftsmen that’s high praise.

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Comments

  1. 1
    Tom on 7 Jul 2008 #

    I think this is the biggest gap between posting and comment for quite some time! Either

    i. I have unwittingly written the absolutely definitive piece on “Silver Lady” by David Soul or

    ii. There isn’t anything much to say about it :)

    (Or iii. I shouldn’t post stuff at 6pm and expect much response)

  2. 2
    Mark G on 7 Jul 2008 #

    The “Chilled to the bone” line in the Jesus and Mary Chain song “Sidewalking” reminded me of this song…

  3. 3
    rosie on 7 Jul 2008 #

    I must admit that I was floundering around for something to say and couldn’t find anything. It’s a nice song, perhaps a song that belongs to a decade earlier, and as far as the girls of 3F2 were concerned, David Soul (oh, those three identical flat vowels!) could sing Three Blind Mice and they’d rush out and buy it.

    I do like the trenchcoat-and-fedora feel of it, pulled tight against the autumn winds (Indiana being as flat, cold and windy Holderness only a lot more of it)

  4. 4
    will on 7 Jul 2008 #

    I loved this at the time and 30 years on still have a massive softspot for this record. SL has never been overplayed, covered badly, or indeed (as far as I know) even covered at all, which means it’s retained much of its period charm.

    It’s interesting too, to note how in recent years the not-dissimilar Rhinestone Cowboy has achieved something approaching ‘standard’ status whereas Hutch’s finest moment is still largely forgotten.

  5. 5
    DJ Punctum on 8 Jul 2008 #

    Maybe David Soul was meant to be the Bill Bixby of pop. The video for “Silver Lady” depicts him wandering dolefully along an empty, unspecified American highway, trying without much enthusiasm or success to hitch a ride, just as David Banner was invariably obliged to leave that week’s town under cover of night. He has walked out on his Other, has drifted into shameful degradation (“Seedy motels and no-star hotels/Still, I had to learn”) and is now begging to be taken back and redeemed (“But honey you’re my last hope/And who else can I turn to?”) and the strings duly swell up like a curtain of diesel behind him as he launches into his strained choruses.

    The imagery of “Silver Lady” could sound entirely different if, say, Nick Cave had been handling lines like “The Indiana wind and rain cut through me/I’m lost and alone/Chilled to the bone.” Cave would alternately growl and scream those words, and perhaps it required the genuine vocal talents of a David Cassidy to make the song work. The music is, shall we say, reluctant disco – it actually foreshadows, among other things, Frankie Valli’s “Grease,” but its arrangement is hampered by inopportune grandiose piano, bleats of oboe and a totally inexplicable banjo plucking away in the right channel. Soul gamely gives it his best shot, but it’s soon clear that he has the kind of second-string pipes you might hear aired in a big band novelty number like “Your Father’s Moustache”; he cannot summon any real desperation or urgency, so finally sounds vaguely irked, the dust of the just-missed Greyhound bus streaking around him, knowing there’ll be another one along in five minutes.

  6. 6
    DJ Punctum on 8 Jul 2008 #

    And as far as Number Two Watch is concerned it was:

    “Ve like zer musick! Ve like zer deesco sound!”

    Yes, La Belle Epoque and their epochal take on “Black Is Black” which like the original had to take the silver medal.

  7. 7
    Dan R on 8 Jul 2008 #

    There’s not much going on here. The single doesn’t even show off his averagely decent voice (at least, not the way that ‘Don’t Give Up On Us’ does). The arrangement is flatly lush, in that classic session-musician way. The bleak urban landscape is decisively uncaptured in the way the song is put together and sung. The chorus always seems to me disappointing, as if the song promises rather more, but I think it’s the wall of backing singers that kills it, rather than the structure of the song itself.

  8. 8
    Dan R on 8 Jul 2008 #

    It must be strange being David Soul. From international sex symbol, actor and pop star, to a bit-part actor in London theatre, eternally out of his depth. Dissociating himself from the ‘blasphemy’ of Jerry Springer The Opera, while playing the lead role, was not his finest hour. And is he the most famous actor to get a stinging review from a critic who hadn’t even bothered see the show? All these indignities must make his inner life a rather devastated place.

  9. 9
    Drucius on 8 Jul 2008 #

    This has become a certain kind of indie kid/student’s ironical favourite in a kind of “oh ha haaaa, I see what you’re doing there…” kind of way.

  10. 10
    Waldo on 8 Jul 2008 #

    For me, a few notches down on his inaugural chart topper but it’s inoffensive enough. I particularly liked the line about “no-star hotels” to the honky-tonk backdrop. But we have to face the broad fact that this would not have scored nearly as highly had this been Randy Edelman or Rupert Holmes,

    The tv cop’s third offering, which got stuck at number two, was where Hutch started to get slightly annoying but to his credit he pulled up the drawbridge after one more top tenner and another which just missed, which was fair play to him, to be honest.

  11. 11
    Lena on 8 Jul 2008 #

    This song didn’t crack the top 40 in the US so I don’t think I’ve ever heard it! I most certainly did hear the US #1, Meco’s “Theme From Star Wars” however, and I had to sing the next one, sadly, at my sixth grade graduation ceremony the following year; but then it was a monster hit that suited the purpose and there was no escape.

    Most of Indiana is flat and rural, with the occasional tornado to liven things up (just as my home state has earthquakes & alas fires – it’s always something).

  12. 12
    DJ Punctum on 8 Jul 2008 #

    Actually, “Silver Lady” was the TV cop’s third offering; it was the second one, “Going In With My Eyes Open” (not in the Westwood sense), which got stuck in second place. The next one was “Let’s Have A Quiet Night In” which quietly crept to number eight.

  13. 13
    Tom on 8 Jul 2008 #

    #9 – really? I’m surprised – this is one of the ones I’d never heard before the project started. Now, the next one — (*chokes on furry paw*)

  14. 14
    Waldo on 8 Jul 2008 #

    # 12 – I sit corrected!

  15. 15
    Mark G on 8 Jul 2008 #

    And let’s not forget “It sure brings out the love in your eyes” which is…

    So, two hit albums, a bunch of fairly consistent hit singles, all top ten (apart from one which JUST missed), but once again it’s the actor curse, where someone has to offer them some bit part in a movie and the whole singing thing suddenly becomes less important. (see also Roland Gift of the Fine Young Cannibals)

  16. 16
    DJ Punctum on 8 Jul 2008 #

    Is Sammy And Rosie Get Laid the worst film ever made?

  17. 17
    Erithian on 8 Jul 2008 #

    “It sure brings out the love…” was on the Record Mirror singles review page the day the guest reviewer was Bob Geldof. His verdict: “It sure brings up the puke in my mouth.”

    “Silver Lady” was definitely the pick of Soul’s singles output, atmospheric and (within his often-noted limitations) well performed. The swirling buildup of “the Indiana wind and rain” is especially nicely done. Back then I used to compile a “points chart” based on the simple system NME used to use, awarding 30 points for number one down to one point for number 30 each week, and David Soul was by a distance the 1977 points champion. Unusually, the acts in second and third place – Boney M and Showaddywaddy – didn’t have a number one that year.

    A decade or two later he was something of a professional Anglophile, turning up on an amiable BBC2 show I forget the name of, where he brought together old foes to kiss and make up. One bizarre line-up had him sitting outside a country pub with Joe Gormley, former head of the NUM, and Derek Ezra, former head of the National Coal Board, reminiscing about the strife of the early 70s. Very odd to see Hutch in between those two.

  18. 18
    Dan R on 8 Jul 2008 #

    re: #16

    It did indeed hold that honoured position for precisely ten years.

  19. 19
    LondonLee on 8 Jul 2008 #

    I was thinking last night about how 70s American cop shows gave us chart toppers like David Soul and Telly Savalas and wondered why something like The Sweeney never produced a pop single… then I remembered Denis Waterman. I know it was a different show, but still.

  20. 20
    DJ Punctum on 8 Jul 2008 #

    Greatest artist credit ever: Dennis Waterman And The Dennis Waterman Band.

    Sadly due to filming commitments John Thaw was unable to provide the lead vocal on the Waterboys’ moving 1993 tribute to the long-standing Morse sidekick “The Wonders Of Lewis.”

  21. 21
    Billy Smart on 8 Jul 2008 #

    Re 9: DJP will be appalled with me when I say that I’ve just been listening to this on the second ‘Guilty Pleasures’ album!

    It certainly goes on a bit.

    I love ‘Rhinestone Cowboy’. This has none of the impetus, the sense of necessity, of place, of yearning, of charm of that performance.

    It’s one of those songs which you can really imagine what the promo film must have been like, DS walking through deserted landscapes, troubled but in a handsome way, with a series of close-ups for the chorus, DS’ eyes soulfully looking directly into the camera/viewer/listener, imploring us to take him back in an adorably psuedo-sincere expression.

    The song isn’t quite good enough to carry this off.

  22. 22
    mike on 8 Jul 2008 #

    I was “going through changes”, shall we say, when the first season of Starsky & Hutch aired, and so basically I thought that David Soul was Sex. On. Legs. And then the second season came along, and oh the horror: his hair had gone all side-parted and gloopy, and there was this nasty moustache to deal with, and the clothes were suddenly all wrong (brushed denim? oh, PLEASE), and his once-horny-as-hell vitality had been replaced by this drippy earnestness, and… just… no thank you, basically.

    As for the recording career: WAY to kill off all remaining traces of a crush and stamp on them hard! Yeah, cheers for that. OK, so “Don’t Give Up On Us” was pleasant enough in its way – but I hated, hated, HATED “Silver Lady”, at a time where hatred came quite easily to me. It sounded limp, eviscerated, utterly lifeless – the weary, humdrum, spirit-crushing sound of Diddy David Hamilton at 3 o’clock in the afternoon, reminding you that everything stopped for tea, at a time when my spirit was damned nearly crushed anyway. (And little did I know how much worse things were going to get before they started getting better, either.)

    So, look, I don’t WANT to re-appraise “Silver Lady” through a sensible adult perspective, giving it a polite 5 for period charm. This time around, I want to hang on to a little residual scrap of that teenage hatred. I think that’s healthy.

  23. 23
    LondonLee on 8 Jul 2008 #

    Better than bottling it up.

  24. 24
    Waldo on 9 Jul 2008 #

    # 19 – It was indeed a great pity that “The Sweeney” didn’t generate a single. Regan and Carter certainly did their fair share of cabaret song and dance routines during the series and surely this was only a short step away from good ol’ Jack belting out an old Frankie Vaughan number with George wittering away “Leave it out, guv!” in the background.

    Well, I would have fucking bought it!!!

  25. 25
    Billy Smart on 9 Jul 2008 #

    ‘The Sweeny EP’ featuring ‘Leave It Out, Guv’, ‘Shut It!’, ‘Savvy?’ and “Put ’em Away, Luv’. I can see how that could work.

  26. 26
    Waldo on 9 Jul 2008 #

    Or indeed a full album with all of the above tracks plus:

    “Get Yer Trousers On, You Slag. You’re Nicked!”
    “We’re The Sweeney, Son, And We Haven’t Had Any Dinner!”
    “The 5th Floor Are Gonna Bury You For This One, Guvnor!”

    as well as the unforgettable:

    “We’re Not Wasting Any More Time On Rubbish Like You, Son!”

    Get it on K-Tel today.

  27. 27
    Erithian on 9 Jul 2008 #

    Not forgetting the immortal double A-side:

    “He’s Just A Little Toerag Like His Father”

    b/w

    “Can We Get Morecambe And Wise For The Police Christmas Ball?”

  28. 28
    intothefireuk on 9 Jul 2008 #

    Didn’t Starsky also have something of a musical career somewhere as well ? Only recalling that from memory so possibly bollocks. Silver Lady is, sadly, more pallatable now than it was then, in the midst of punk, disco et al it faded somewhat into the background although it does have a reasonably robust guitar riff running through it and a passably moody verse but, is scuppered by a weak chorus.

    Always thought ageing Hollywood hunk James Garner as Jim Rockford should have released something suitably miserable.

  29. 29
    thevisitor on 12 Jul 2008 #

    Does anyone remember Backstage Pass by McGuinn, Clark & Hillman – a record that takes all of its 70s FM orch-pop cues from Silver Lady? If I play Silver Lady (which I often do), then I have to play the MC&H tune – and from there, it’s not too great a leap to Van Morrison’s Wavelength and, inevitably, Rumours and, maybe even Spirits Having Flown.

  30. 30
    vinylscot on 13 Jul 2008 #

    Bland bland bland, but as a 16 year old boy that’s about the best I would be expected to think. It wasn’t worth hating apart from because it knocked Elvis off the top for what at the time looked like the last time, and it would have been preferable if something a little more worthy had done that.

    Now I do see it as some sort of low rent Jimmy Webb – you can see what they’re trying to do, but neither singer nor song are really up to it.

  31. 31
    Brendan on 23 Sep 2012 #

    This is where my memory of the charts began (I’m sure I heard I Feel Love and Angelo (though that was probably on some awful light entertainment programme) at the time but have no memory of Way Down from that time). I certainly remember this though, and even to this 5 1/2 year old with little knowledge of pop music of any kind it seemed so dull, while the chorus was maddeningly stuck in my head seemingly for months (hence my being secure in the knowledge that i remembered it at the time).

    Unfortunately, my stupid new e-mail address, which I set up around the time that I first found this site, won’t accept incoming mail so I wasn’t able to receive the password so I could log in and register a vote, so from this point on I will give one and this I give 4.

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