28
Jan 09

DAVE STEWART AND BARBARA GASKIN – “It’s My Party”

FT + Popular70 comments • 6,061 views

#487, 17th October 1981

If the Number Ones of 1981 had been scripted, this is where the editors would have stepped in. “Sorry, darling, you’ve gone too far. War Canoe? Great twist. The leather boys doing that old soul tune – brilliant stuff, really edgy. But two prog refugees with an experimental version of a girl group era classic? Nobody will believe it! You’ll lose our credibility. One of them used to be in Gong, for pity’s sake!”

I’m not honestly sure I believe it myself. You see, until a very short time ago I believed – like many others, I’m sure – that the Dave Stewart responsible for this record was, you know, Dave Stewart. Beard. Sweet dreams. Candy Dulfer. Bit of a plonker. And therefore the way I parsed this record was, well, Dave Stewart pissing about and getting lucky. It sounded to me like someone listening to some Flying Lizards records and thinking “yeah, why not?” and doing a self-consciously cracked cover version for a bit of a giggle.

But of course it wasn’t like that at all – it was a pair of progressive musicians with top Canterbury Scene pedigree who’ve continued making “pop music for grown-ups” until this day, and as such it’s in quite a different lineage, to be bracketed with Robert Wyatt’s remarkable series of 1980-81 EPs, perhaps. Hmmmmm. Already I’m backing down from my dislike of the track, see? Reassessing it, according it due respect. Pernicious stuff, context.

At any rate, whichever version of history I believed I thought it was interesting that the public had gone for this awkward little record. But the question I have to ask is, does it work? Do Stewart’s twisted treatment and Gaskin’s lost-girl vocals enhance “It’s My Party” or get in its way? To me the track still sounds like a mess, an update that’s trying to drag the Lesley Gore original into spookier, darker places but also can’t resist adding a dose of mockery – those simpering “ooh woo woo” faux-sobs behind the chorus, for instance, though the none-more-’81 video suggests that the synthpop scene is just as much an object of satire here as innocent pop is. The distortions, drumbeats and time dilations don’t dramatise the song’s abjection at all for me, and the note of emotional violence they introduce just distracts me.

Here’s another bit of context, though: at the time, I liked this. It wasn’t a massive favourite like Adam, but I’d been to enough fraught birthday parties to dig the sentiment at least, and the tune stuck with me. It didn’t sound weird at all – having only just started paying attention, I expected pop records to have odd noises on them; why wouldn’t they? It was only going back and hearing it again that made me think, hold on, what was all that about? My self-consciousness, my accreted understanding of pop’s limits, infected the song. So “It’s My Party” should rightly stand as a testimony to what a kaleidoscopic, fabulously arbitrary year 1981 was for pop music. But that doesn’t necessarily make it a great record.

4

Comments

  1. 1
    pink champale on 28 Jan 2009 #

    yep, until two minutes ago.

  2. 2
    rosie on 28 Jan 2009 #

    It’s hard to like this one when you grew up with the Lesley Gore original, which is a classic of sorts so I don’t very much.

    I have, without shame, enjoyed a lot of the stuff that this Dave Stewart did previously and have a very fond memory of an extraordinary gig at Liverpool Uni in which Hatfield & the North supported Stomu Yamash’ta, the Japanese percussionist who seems to have sunk without trace. Popularwise I much preferred the bunny-embargoed fare of the other Dave Stewart but then I would, wouldn’t I?

    And in a disturbing departure, the man with the electronic noise-making machine gets himself billed ahead of the singer. A sign of things to come (although I am aware that Ike Turner had pulled this stunt a generation earlier)

  3. 3
    SteveM on 28 Jan 2009 #

    I don’t see why the person actually making the music shouldn’t have their name listed first – especially if that’s the stronger part of the work (I’m not sure this applies here tho granted).

  4. 4
    lonepilgrim on 28 Jan 2009 #

    the prog lineage is about the only thing of interest about this. I always got a sense that they were slumming it and got lucky – which probably confirmed their sense of superiority to ‘pop music’ without understanding its richness and potential, something that Soft Cell, who were slumming it in a different sense, understood completely.

  5. 5
    Tom on 28 Jan 2009 #

    #2 – don’t imagine that my description of him as “a bit of a plonker” doesn’t mean I think the real other Dave Stewart made worse records!

  6. 6
    a logged-out pˆnk s lord whatnot on 28 Jan 2009 #

    in the swing era and before, danceband leaders actually often got pre-eminence over singers, who were after all generally their employees (and didn’t get to sing on all numbers: instrumentals had not at that time been purged from the top of the “charts”, insofaras they existed) — this isn’t totally cut-and-dried, the heirarchy somewhat dependent on genre, but the switch TO singer-as-top-of-bill had been a departure in its turn

    (in classical and light classical, the composer is still placed above the performer: i think this back-and-forth tension is highly interesting, because it really is an acknowledgment of a struggle for control, artistic or box-office-derived — there’s a similar power-tussle in film-making, between the big-name actors you need to get the project made, who are billed in big names as “executive producers”, and the “director”, who may end up not getting final cut, and almost never gets his/her FACE on the billboards, or name in large letters…)

  7. 7
    a logged-out pˆnk s lord whatnot on 28 Jan 2009 #

    i mean singer-as-top-of-the-billing — and that post is a bit all over the place, sorry; this is a complex evolving story that i have been muddling around in for years and need to write something extensive about…

  8. 8
    a logged-out pˆnk s lord whatnot on 28 Jan 2009 #

    incidentally: sleevewatch!! eep!! kate bush in “not equivalent to aneka” shenanigans called!

  9. 9
    Kat but logged out innit on 28 Jan 2009 #

    I like her Mystic Meg hairdo & crescent earrings. Otherwise, it’s a bit boring? Not as mental as eg Propaganda, anyway.

    Actually, it perks up a bit in the last minute or so. Why didn’t they do that for most of the track?

  10. 10
    Erithian on 28 Jan 2009 #

    This is a classic example of a simple song that is better off being kept simple, and doesn’t respond very well to being fannied about with (see also: every version of “Over the Rainbow” since Eva Cassidy’s). The Lesley Gore version says it all about teenage parties (of the 60s at any rate) and the fact that it’s not the end of the world anyhow; this one gives it what we might call the emo treatment and it doesn’t work!

    Number 2 Watch – imagine what we would have been saying about pop records with odd noises on them if Laurie Anderson’s “O Superman” had gone one place higher. Followed by three weeks at two for the delightful “Happy Birthday” from Altered Images. Two different songs with the same title stopping at 2 inside three months.

  11. 11
    SteveM on 28 Jan 2009 #

    ‘O Superman’s rise from 18 to 2 in just two weeks – quite a big deal? I’m still struck by it’s success but then I was completely unaware of this record until only a few years ago. It just never seemed to come up anywhere when I was growing up.

  12. 12
    Tom on 28 Jan 2009 #

    I have zero memory of “O Superman” from the time, unlike of this. Or of Black Lace’s “Superman” for that matter.

  13. 13
    a logged-out pˆnk s lord whatnot on 28 Jan 2009 #

    i recall one of the less edgy radio one djs joking about charabancs full of pensioners in the year 2025 singing along to “o superman” — sadly this prospect has gone the way of the personal jetpack :(

  14. 14
    SteveM on 28 Jan 2009 #

    O Supermanchiros

  15. 15
    LondonLee on 28 Jan 2009 #

    You mean this isn’t that Dave Stewart? Well, bang goes 28 years of assumption on my part.

    Though at the time the real one was still in The Tourists was he not* so he would hardly have been a “name” then would he?

    *I’ve no idea, my mental timelines of third-rate New Wave groups is incomplete.

  16. 16
    LondonLee on 28 Jan 2009 #

    This is a lot weirder than I remembered and that opening is another contender for the “most atonal #1” slot. Not a patch on The Flying Lizards and I sort of admire its random cut-and-paste quality without actually liking it much.

  17. 17
    Billy Smart on 28 Jan 2009 #

    Looking back at the enthusiastic Brooklands Primary School playground embrace of this single, what it really demonstrates to me is the robust indestructiblity of the original song, which we responded to the narrative and memorability of as must have children in 1963. (I consult my rather splendid Lesley Gore Greatest Hits – Gold, Gluck & Wiener – Who were they? Did they write anything else so good?) We weren’t aware that this was an old tune being torn apart and remodeled.

    I find this striking to listen to these days, and it does hold my interest, but I couldn’t really call it very good. For a grand example of this sort of cover being done really well though, I’d recommend John Cale’s disemboweled ‘Heartbreak Hotel’.

  18. 18
    wichita lineman on 28 Jan 2009 #

    Re-evaluating this (released within a year of Robert Wyatt’s exquisite cover of At Last I Am Free) in a Canterbury context is rather like furrowing your brow over late period Freddie Garrity (Little Big Time, anyone?) because he sprung from the same scene as The Beatles.

    In any case, weren’t Hatfield & The North lame Wyatt copyists rather than comparable contemporaries?

    The Original Dave Stewart, as I like to think of him, had form – his cover of What Becomes Of The Brokenhearted (with Colin Blunstone also receiving second billing, so no sexism at work here) had been Top 20 at the beginning of the year. It was interesting, earnest, and not that good. Whereas It’s My Party was (bracing intro aside) po-mo piffle, spoil-sporty in the way it audibly sticks its tongue out at both electropop and Girl Group melodrama. Most scenes die on their feet when a cash-in/comedy record scores big, and this surely sounded the death knell for New Romantics/Futurists.

    As for the Lesley Gore version, got no idea on Gold, Gluck and Wiener but a lot of its impact is down to the crisp, punchy arrangement/production by Quincy Jones, who will crop up again in a year or so…

    O Superman’s Top 20 stats (18-2-3-15) would explain why people don’t remember it any more than they’d remember most mid-ranking chart hits. I don’t recall ever hearing it on daytime radio (I was at school, I suppose) but Peel and Skinner and/or Jensen played it every night in the splendid autumn of ’81, along with Orange Juice’s LOVE and New Order’s Procession/Everything’s Gone Green. Ahhhh!

  19. 19
    Tom on 28 Jan 2009 #

    #18 My “Hmmmmmm” was meant to telegraph that my re-evaluation wasn’t to be taken entirely seriously!

    #17 Yeah, that’s true – the quality in this is almost all the original song’s doing.

  20. 20
    lonepilgrim on 28 Jan 2009 #

    It adds insult to injury that this kept ‘O superman’ off the top slot. I think the big jump may have been down to Noel Edmunds (again) who started plugging it on his weekend show – although I believe it was John Peel who initially gave it airplay. It still sounds great (and relevant) today.
    Years later I bumped into Laurie Anderson at Tate Modern where she was trying to get a light for her fag before heading off to give a talk. Great looking woman.

  21. 21
    wichita lineman on 28 Jan 2009 #

    Re 19: Sorry, listening to this had worn out my irony antennae!

  22. 22
    Erithian on 28 Jan 2009 #

    Great double bills that never were – Hatfield and The North and Kilburn and the High Roads.

    Bloody hell, I just about remember “Little Big Time” – I feel ancient.

    The Tourists’ “Loneliest Man In The World” shoulda been a monster. Nothing third-rate about that one.

  23. 23
    Billy Smart on 28 Jan 2009 #

    The Bryan Ferry version on ‘These Foolish Things’ is okay, but not exactly the highlight of that album.

    I’ve just been listening to Gore’s sequel disc, ‘Judy’s Turn To Cry’. To win back Johnny she kisses another boy at the next party, inflaming the jealousy of a still-infatuated Johnny who steps in to punch the fellow. Cue the gleeful chorus of “Now it’s JUDY’S TURN TO CRY! JUDY’S TURN TO CRY!”. I can’t help but think that the real victim in this situation is the anonymous boy who she uses. It’s a fun song, though.

  24. 24
    LondonLee on 28 Jan 2009 #

    Was it Noel Edmonds who plugged ‘O Superman’? In my mind it was Dave Lee Travis, but that could be because he did a similar thing with Talking Heads’ ‘Once In A Lifetime’ and liked to take credit for it’s chart success.

    ‘O Superman’ popped up on my iTunes Party Shuffle yesterday and it sounded wonderful. Better than I liked it at the time.

  25. 25
    wichita lineman on 28 Jan 2009 #

    Re 22: The Tourists – who definitely seemed third-rate at the time – have dated pretty well. So Good To Be Back Home Again sounds simultaneously melancholic and bouncy – had it come out in the mid-90s it would still be on heavy rotation.

    K-Tel watch: It’s My Party is the opening track on Chart Hits 81. Side One, the usual magical mix of the sublime and the gorblimey, in full:

    It’s My Party – Stewart/Gaskin
    Open Your Heart – Human League
    Pretend – Alvin Stardust
    Lay All Your Love On Me – Abba
    You’ll Never Know – Hi Gloss
    Si Si Je Suis Un Rock Star – Bill Wyman
    Kids In America – Kim Wilde
    Prisoner – Sheila B Devotion
    Everlasting Love – Rachel Sweet & Rex Smith
    Birdie Song – The Tweets

  26. 26
    mike on 28 Jan 2009 #

    Point of order! Dave Stewart was never really IN Gong. He did a tour with them in 1975, and he played with other Gong members on Steve Hillage’s Fish Rising album, but he never joined the official line-up.

    (I knew something would drag me back into the commenting fray – how predictable that it turned out to be a matter of prog pedentary.)

  27. 27
    Tom on 28 Jan 2009 #

    MY GONGBAIT WORKED! Though I thought Mark S would be the one ensnared.

    We’ve missed you Mike!

  28. 28
    adam on 28 Jan 2009 #

    I’m with the other surprisees on the Dave Stewart point. Wouldn’t this song have been more interesting if the much more likely Mari Wilson had covered it? I quite like this anyway, it’s interesting even if it isn’t wonderful, and that’s no bad thing.

  29. 29
    a logged-out pˆnk s lord whatnot on 28 Jan 2009 #

    ha! REAL gongheads know their pixies from their trolls

  30. 30
    wichita lineman on 28 Jan 2009 #

    Re 23: Yes, Ferry’s version is a bit Austin Powers (ie killing the thing you supposedly love), and could be a dry run for Gaskin/Stewart. River Of Salt was my favourite track on These Foolish Things, mainly because I was unfamiliar with Ketty Lester’s original at the time.

    Judy’s Turn To Cry was a distaff Hats Off To Larry. Nasty!

  31. 31
    peter goodlaws on 28 Jan 2009 #

    I think that this was not so much “an awkward little record” as a complete cut and paste train wreck. Lesley Gore’s original is so much better and more approriate, as it simply features a petulant teen whining about being dumped at her own party. As if THAT’S never happened before or since! Barbara Gaskin, meanwhile, whoever she is, attempts to cast her net for fish which simply weren’t there. I think that it’s annoying that this was praised as a “concept record” and that it did so well, especially since it thwarted “Oh Superman”, a bolder much more deserving project, which I loved even if I never understood it.

  32. 32
    Magic Fly on 28 Jan 2009 #

    I have a vivid memory of O Superman coming on the radio in the early hours of a morning in early ’91. As I lay there in the dark, reaquainting myself with its strangeness (I hadn’t heard it in a decade) it seemed eerily prescient of the Gulf War that was unsettling me on a daily basis back then (I had a tiny but niggling feeling I was going to be drafted). All those lines about petrochemical arms and justice and force and “American planes, made in America.” I was even convinced she said “George” at one point. And I remember listening to it ending, hearing those urgent, mechanical breaths, and suddenly thinking how much they reminded me of a life support machine, and how much I didn’t want them to stop…

  33. 33
    will on 29 Jan 2009 #

    I’ve always thought she sings “George” as well!

    O Superman is one of the few pop records that can honestly reduce me to tears. I remember hearing it on Peel for the first time circa Spring ’81 and just being utterly astounded that a single so long and so audacious even existed. Initially it scared the living daylights out of me and yet its beauty would eventually seduce me to the point that I parted hard earned pocket money for the 7 inch when it reached the charts six months later.

  34. 34
    mike on 29 Jan 2009 #

    I remember hearing “O Superman” being played at a Radio One roadshow – after which the DJ asked everyone in the crowd who liked it to raise their hands. Few did. “That’s very interesting”, said the DJ.

  35. 35
    rosie on 29 Jan 2009 #

    O Superman is wonderful but it’s hardly “pop” though, is it? Come on – it’s a chart aberration!

  36. 36
    Tom on 29 Jan 2009 #

    Anything at #2 in the charts is – at the very least – asking to be considered as pop! It might be that the answer is “NO”, but if that’s the case with “O Superman” it’s interesting to me that the system designed to reward pop records can also reward a record like that.

  37. 37
    thevisitor on 29 Jan 2009 #

    Vivid memory from the Christmas school disco, 1981: me and my friends dancing to this and all aware that if we sang, “Nobody knows where my JOHNNY!!! has gone,” en masse, with extreme, loud, puerile emphasis (as indicated) we probably wouldn’t get into trouble. Because we were “just singing along, sir.”

    Re 15, 22, 25: It’s heartwarming to see some love for The Tourists. So Good To Be Back Home and Loneliest Man In The World were both great – and Blind Among The Flowers and Don’t Say I Told You So confirm them in my mind (alongside Skids) as one of the great underrated singles bands of the era. Of course, back then Dave and Annie were an untapped songwriting force, as Peet Coombes (no longer with us) wrote all The Tourists stuff. His Wikipedia page suggests that his post-Tourists years were a little luckless and tragic.

    Re 3: Surely the ultimate case of downgrading the singer has to be Mike Oldfield’s Moonlight Shadow? It seems very harsh not to credit Maggie Reilly at all – although, might I add, I think she learned a few lessons from the whole episode. A couple of years ago, I found myself at some fairly dull publishing awards bash (v. smug-looking Gary Kemp at my table) and Maggie Reilly picked up an award for some huge Euro-dance hit she had helped pen. Ker-ching!

    Back to It’s My Party. This version seems strangely arbitrary to me, the sort of thing they might have been commissioned put together at an Music Expo in Utrecht to exhibit the benefits of some new electronic hardware. UNLIKE… DS and BG’s version of Thomas Dolby’s Leipzig! Which takes TD’s moderately pleasant Kraftwerk pastiche and makes it sound both futuristic and beatifically maternal! You’d almost consider moving to Leipzig if you heard it.

  38. 38
    will on 29 Jan 2009 #

    Re: 35. Like many others here I’ve always regarded pop as a broad church and as O Superman is catchy, instantly memorable and for a short while was extremely popular I reckon it qualifies, doesn’t it?

  39. 39
    Tim on 29 Jan 2009 #

    Thanks to thevisitor at #37 for pointing me to Peet Coombes’s wiki page. Sounds like a sad story, but also my mind is boggling at the news that veteran, sometimes amazing, feral UKHH dudes Task Force are the sons of Pete Coombes.

  40. 40
    SteveM on 29 Jan 2009 #

    Either ‘O Superman’ is pop (if not Pop) or it’s beyond any kind of meaningful classification.

    Am intrigued by this ‘Lepizig’ thing now tho!

  41. 41
    a logged-out pˆnk s lord whatnot on 29 Jan 2009 #

    it’s superpop

  42. 42
    Erithian on 29 Jan 2009 #

    Great Quotes Coined While This Was Number One:
    “My father didn’t riot – he got on his bike and looked for work”
    – Norman Tebbit at the Conservative Party conference reminding us why we all loved him so much.

  43. 43
    Billy Smart on 29 Jan 2009 #

    TOTP Watch: Dave Stewart & Barbara Gaskin twice performed ‘It’s My Party on Top of the Pops;

    24 September 1981. Also in the studio that tremendous week were; Slade, Depeche Mode, Japan, Heaven 17 and Imagination, plus a unique Legs & Co interpretation of ‘Endless Love’ with guest male dancer. Simon Bates was the host.

    15 October 1981. Also in the studio that remarkable week were; Gary Glitter, BA Robertson & Maggie Bell, The Exploited, Squeeze, The Creatures and Bad Manners, plus Legs & Co’s interpretation of ‘The Birdie Dance’. David ‘Kid’ Jensen was the host.

  44. 44
    AndyPandy on 29 Jan 2009 #

    Rosie at No2 as someone has since touched on there’s a history of the musician/musicians taking the main credit on recordings going back at least as far as the 30s/early 40s. For instance the very first American No1 in 1940 gave Frank Sinatra a far smaller credit than the Tommy Dorsey Orchestra and this was standard practice in the big band era.

    At least in this case Barbara Gaskin gets more or less equal billing.
    Far more glaring in its complete and utter lack of crediting, of who to the vast majority of record buyers would have been the primary reason for buying the record was ‘Street Life’ by the Crusaders where Randy Crawford isn’t credited at all. And without wanting to break the rules there was a No 1 in 1989/90 where again only the producer/keyboardist got any billing at all. AS it turned out in both these cases however their presence on the discs helped launch the respective singers’ subsequently much bigger solo careers.

    This practice happened as a matter of routine on many disco/funk tracks with just the producer, saxophonist or trumpeter being credited (eg Tom Browne on ‘Funkin for Jamaica (NY)’).

    And obviously post 1987 onwards although often there is a ‘featuring’ it it was generally accepted (see the unnamed No1 above) that the producer/dj was the ‘important’ one and the singers were often interchangeable (often literally, with them just being paid for the session and a model or someone doing the PA’s and Top of the Pops appearances etc)

  45. 45
    Malice Cooper on 29 Jan 2009 #

    I loved the original and was just pleased that a version of the song got to number one. Barbara deserved a hit after her fantastic ventures in the 70s with “ecstasy passion and pain”.
    This seemed good at the time but not so good now. I love their version of “Johnny Rocco” which followed this.

  46. 46
    wichita lineman on 29 Jan 2009 #

    I was rather surprised when I finally heard mod club hit Hear Me A Drummer Man by Phil Wainman. I’d always assumed it was an instrumental. You can hear Phil loud and clear on drums, but time appears to have completely erased the identity of the female singer (unless anyone knows different?).

    Maybe it was a young Maggie Reilly.

    Good disco/funk spots Andy. I’m assuming Quincy Jones didn’t sing Ai No Corrida, either.

  47. 47
    thevisitor on 30 Jan 2009 #

    I don’t believe Quincy Jones did sing Ai No Corrida (I think it was James Ingram and Patti Austin). Funnily enough, he didn’t write it either!

  48. 48
    Pete Baran on 30 Jan 2009 #

    But he saw the film!

    @43: It seems a bit of a cheat that Legs & Co. interpreted the Birdie Song, choreographer on holiday then? I tried to find a youtube of it, with no joy, but did discover that (bar dancing behind Haircut 100) it was their last performance on Top Of The Pops. One wonders if the BBC thought they were being as lazy as I do.

  49. 49
    Billy Smart on 30 Jan 2009 #

    In celebration of Legs & Co, this is my very favourite performance: http://uk.youtube.com/watch?v=BhpCfl6pfPg

  50. 50
    Malice Cooper on 31 Jan 2009 #

    Charles May sung the vocal for “Ai no corrida” though Chas Jankel wrote it and recorded it himself on the same label a bit earlier.

  51. 51
    David Belbin on 1 Feb 2009 #

    An awful lot of us bought ‘O Superman’ on import (an expensive, badly pressed copy) otherwise it would have been a number one on UK release I suspect. And it was all over some radio one shows long before UK release – not sure which now, but I wasn’t an avid Peel listener at the time. Only thing of hers I’ve ever liked.

    Dave Stewart had a very respectable prog career before he sold out, first with Egg and then with the still highly credible (thanks partly to Jonathan Coe) Hatfield and the North, then he formed the less interesting National Health before selling out with this shit. Don’t think he was involved in the H and the N reunion but there’s a full biog at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dave_Stewart_(musician).

  52. 52
    lonepilgrim on 1 Feb 2009 #

    …and it came as some comfort for me to realise that Laurie Anderson was to participate in a Number 1 success a good few years later….

  53. 53
    Mike Todd on 2 Feb 2009 #

    I remember buying O Superman from an Ex-Jukebox display stand in our Newsagents (the only place to buy records in our town) for either 39p or 49p. The surprising fact about this was it was still at Number 2 at the time. It must have lasted one play in a pub before some landlord prised it out of the machine and put it on the pile to go to the second hand carousel. I was delighted with my bargain which I still have.

  54. 54
    a tanned rested and unlogged lørd sükråt wötsît on 2 Feb 2009 #

    i just realised “o superman” = invention of techno!

  55. 55
    mike on 3 Feb 2009 #

    Well, I liked this a lot at the time. Admittedly, some of this was down to the sheer “ha ha WTF” factor of a Canterbury progger getting to Number One – but I think in those days I was a lot less snotty about cover versions in general, particularly covers of great songs that had been hits before my time. If the song was strong and the performance enjoyable, then I couldn’t have cared less about the attribution.

    This particularly holds true of Dave Stewart and Colin Blunstone’s cover of “What Becomes Of The Broken Hearted” from earlier in the year. I was already familiar with the Ruffin original, but it was the DS/CB cover which first connected with me emotionally (probably a case of right time, right place – I can vaguely remember the emotional context, but let’s not go there).

    But in both cases, the synthy reworkings sounded fresh, clean, modern, relevant, clever, inventive, cool. Even though they were done by Old People. And come to think of it, Gaskin’s arch, knowing age-inappropriateness in the face of the lyric’s original teenage petulance was all part of the charm.

    Oh lawks, we’ve entered The Age Of Post-Modern Irony, haven’t we? Well, I might as well say it now: the 19-year old me lapped all of that stuff up. I hadn’t yet divested myself of that teenage know-it-all cynicism, and on one level I was hyper-sensitive to, and hence hyper-critical of, anything resembling stock sentiment, unless it was approached through a prism of kitsch (I *loved* the Nolans, for instance). Predictability was the enemy, and conceptual innovation – mucking around with the very forms of pop itself – was highly prized. This was a time when practically my every spoken utterance came wrapped in implicit inverted commas and ironic mid-sentence capitalisations… so with that in mind, “It’s My Party” was well nigh perfect for my purposes.

    Hope this all makes sense. I was thinking aloud…

  56. 56
    Conrad on 3 Feb 2009 #

    I originally intended to comment on this on the day of Tom’s posting – which aptly enough was my birthday (impeccable timing as usual, Tom)…

    However my vast abriged history of the Canterbury scene disappeared into a void after I pressed “submit comment” so you are all spared!

    Always liked this very much – it does sound a bit disjointed now, but it is very evocative of a time and place for me. It reminds me of a wet football pitch, watery sunlight and muddy football boots clip-clopping to the changing room at Fields (our school sports pitches), indulging in general pop-related banter with some of my (pop-appreciating) team mates.

    Oh, and Dave Stewart struck me as a thoroughly likeable chap who played his keyboard standing up on TOTP, with a broad grin on his face. Nothing remotely pompous or po-faced, just a grizzled old progger enjoying himself in a series of collaborations/covers of his favourite songs.

    I had no idea who he was at the time, of course, but have since come to love his work on “Fish Rising”.

  57. 57
    Conrad on 3 Feb 2009 #

    #43 – Billy, that was David ‘Kid’ Jensen’s first TOTP since returning to radio 1 from his stint in the States.

    He also started his weekday Evening programme at around this time, which became the central part of a compulsive listening triumvirate for me – Peter Powell, Jensen and John Peel, the latter two linked by John Walters, who regularly guested on Jensen’s show, doing some thing called “Walters Week”.

  58. 58
    mike on 3 Feb 2009 #

    Ah, Fish Rising. Now we’re talking! There’s a 1975 interview with Steve Hillage on Rock’s Back Pages, in which he burbles on at length about the whole cosmology of angling:

    “The fish really get off on it, man. It’s their whole trip…But playing a fish is like some archetypal cosmic joust…”

  59. 59
    Conrad on 3 Feb 2009 #

    It’s my favourite Hillage album Mike. I loved some of the more trance-like grooves on Gong’s “You”, which Hillage really dominated, and then he just took it all a stage further on “Fish Rising”.

    None-more-hippy but still thoroughly enjoyable.

  60. 60
    MikeMCSG on 16 Jul 2009 #

    57 – Conrad, I remember at the time that a lot of people were upset that Richard Skinner was unceremoniously axed to make way for Jensen (and spent the rest of his R1 career as an understudy). Although Jensen played pretty much the same stuff it left a bad taste in the mouth and it served them right when Jensen walked out on them 4 years later.

  61. 61
    Conrad on 16 Jul 2009 #

    Mike, I liked Richard Skinner – and he did get the Top 40 in 1984 didn’t he? – but I think Jensen and Peel had a chemistry which worked well in linking the evening programming. Though I am sure you are right that Skinner was poorly treated.

  62. 62
    The Leveller on 29 Sep 2009 #

    kitschy pop mini opera / melodrama and all the better for it

  63. 63
    Conrad on 29 Oct 2009 #

    Top of the Pops watch update

    the magnificent 29 October 1981 edition featured the first airing of the video for “It’s My Party” – I guess they had just filmed it.

    New Pop celeb spot – the Johnny who walks through the door with Judy (Gaskin with blond wig) is Thomas Dolby, struggling to contain his amusement.

    Stewart and Gaskin covered Dolby’s Liepzig as well I believe, so with Hillage producing Simple Minds around this time, there’s an interesting Canterbury-Futurist thing going on there

  64. 64
    garax on 11 Feb 2010 #

    I love the talky bit in it – I mean it sounds like it was recorded under water – by some deaf people – but still – there is something so pure and I suppose its a kind of Junior Choice punk sound in a way – I wouldn’t listen to it a lot but I’m happy to hear it when I do.

  65. 65
    swanstep on 27 Feb 2012 #

    I like but don’t love the Gore original (she has many other tracks that are much much better), and I like but don’t love this cover. I recently got hold of a DS and BG compilation and it’s full of immaculate, so-very-’80s stuff (albeit with some tasty ‘off’, proggy chords livening things up). Compared to that, DS&BG’s It’s My Party is just OK. Others here have mentioned their Leipzig, which I tend to think is more just OK stuff, but things like ‘Henry and James’ and ‘I’m In a Different World’ are flat-out great (and to my ears at least they’ve been strip-mined by many others from the PSBs up to and including Mark Ronson recently).

    Agree that it’s a pain that IMP kept O Superman (which I recall topping a ‘record most likely to clear the dancefloor’ poll in the NME) and Altered Images (Clare Grogan – oh my) off the top of the charts. Oh well:
    5 (it’s tricksy though, so could easily go a 6)

  66. 66
    enitharmon on 20 Feb 2013 #

    The best place, I think, to say goodbye to Kevin Ayers.

    RIP Kev. You should have kept still. Or maybe there was something about the brown rice and fish. Either way you’ve reached heaven, whether on earth or otherwise.

    (I’m assuming Marcello at least will understand this).

  67. 67
    weej on 21 Feb 2013 #

    A shame there’s no better place – listening to Shooting At The Moon and Whatevershebringswesing, what a talent.

  68. 68
    Colin on 22 Jun 2013 #

    The B side of O Superman is the even more bizarre Walk The Dog, in which at one point Laurie Anderson lampoons Dolly Parton!

  69. 69
    enitharmon on 16 Feb 2015 #

    So it’s goodbye Lesley Gore.

  70. 70
    swanstep on 17 Feb 2015 #

    @69. Yikes, that’s terrible (too young and was giving well-received concerts only very recently…). I imagine that lots of people who don’t know much about Gore will now try to check her out on Spotify. Unfortunate, however, she’s poorly served there: no original albums and none of the standard anthologies. In general it’s a slightly confusing situation with Gore – she often recorded different versions of songs for the single and for the associated album, and sometimes there are distinct mono and stereo variants on top of that. E.g., Spotify only has the more ornate (to my ears, sickly) single version of ‘Look Of Love’ not the album version (which I much prefer): http://youtu.be/F5vgWxmEanE. In sum, I’d recommend youtube as a lot better for Gore discovery, whatever your level of interest, at this point than Spotify (people will disagree over the best versions of things and they’re all there on youtube).

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