13
Mar 09

BUCKS FIZZ – “My Camera Never Lies”

FT + Popular34 comments • 2,478 views

#498, 17th April 1982

“The Land Of Make Believe” was a good song made mysterious by its muffled production; “My Camera Never Lies” is an ordinary song with an arrangement that bristles and shines like a Swiss Army Knife. Unusually, it’s a record almost entirely carried by its backing vocals – all that jittery “ma-ca-muh-ruh-ruh” stuff which gradually takes over the whole track (to be replaced with more conventional harmonies, and children’s voices considerably creepier than the one at the end of “Make Believe”).

The result is jumpy, slightly desperate, annoying in repeated doses, but surprisingly effective. It’s like Bucks Fizz, aware their fame is running out, are trying to cram all of new wave and new pop into a single supercompressed hybrid, halfway between Devo and Dollar.

5

Comments

  1. 1
    rosie on 13 Mar 2009 #

    I have no memory of this whatsoever.

    Now I’ve heard it, I can’t say I’m surprised,

  2. 2
    lonepilgrim on 13 Mar 2009 #

    I thought I remembered it but having watched the video again on Youtube I seem to have imagined a different song. This really is quite dreary. The video is a hoot – the early 80s ( big hair/headbands/ alienated, pouting poses) distilled into a few minutes.

  3. 3
    LondonLee on 14 Mar 2009 #

    I was going to say that about the sleeve photo too, it’s like they raided the wardrobes of Duran Duran, ABC, T’Pau, Kate Bush and Bonnie Tyler. Sometimes I’m surprised how early the “1980s” started.

    My memory of this is was a blank too and listening to it made me think it was crying out for a Trevor Horn who could make it sound less cheap, it’s shine was more like tin foil than chrome.

  4. 4
    peter goodlaws on 14 Mar 2009 #

    I can’t recall this as a number one and my memory never lies. Listening to it, it’s very much the case of “find the melody”, which may be good or may be bad but quite frankly, who gives a stuff?

  5. 5
    Tom on 14 Mar 2009 #

    Blimey – have we found the “Baby Jump” of the 80s?

  6. 6
    The Lurker on 14 Mar 2009 #

    Well, I do remember it quite clearly (well, the chorus at least), whereas even the existence of Seven Tears or the Goombays was unknown to me until a couple of years ago. The seven year old Lurker was a Bucks Fizz fan. Watching the video again for the first time in 25 years, I think it’s actually better than I thought it was going to be/remember it – jitteriness in pop is a good thing in my book – and I find it less irritating now than I do LOMB.

  7. 7
    Billy Smart on 15 Mar 2009 #

    It’s the ticky-ticky sense of not quite rightness, a slightly half-formed feeling that makes this song an interesting listen 27 years on. Where does this come from, and what mood is this song trying to create? I’m not sure that I could tell you with any confidence.

    This is only true up to a point though, and its rather a shame that we aren’t talking about any one of the four astonishing singles Dollar made with Trevor Horn instead.

  8. 8
    thevisitor on 15 Mar 2009 #

    Over time, the virtues of this song had faded from my memory, even though I must have really liked it at the time. That much I know because I remember spending a good half an hour in my local Woolworths, staring at their big wall of singles (a numbered rack for each chart position), completely paralysed with indecision, because I simply couldn’t work out if I preferred this to Ain’t No Pleasing You by Chas & Dave or Give Me Back My Heart by Dollar (I plumped for Dollar in the end).

    When this got to number one, I remember a general mood of surprise. I don’t think it was so much that this “climbed” to number one; it was more that what preceded it had gone down, and the next “proper” number one hadn’t got there yet. This was merely there in a sort of caretaker role. Having said that, a few weeks ago, I heard My Camera Never lies for the first time in decades, just a few weeks ago, and I was surprised at what an odd song it is. The jitteriness to which The Lurker refers is the first thing you notice about it, but the components stick together pretty well. It’s a shame that The Futureheads covered Hounds of Love instead of this, as this one would have been a more natural fit.

  9. 9
    wichita lineman on 15 Mar 2009 #

    “It’s like Bucks Fizz, aware their fame is running out, are trying to cram all of new wave and new pop into a single supercompressed hybrid, halfway between Devo and Dollar.”

    Which, theoretically, is my idea of a 9.5. If there was a one-off brillo-pad icon for shiniest number one, this gets my vote. And “everything you tell me is booor-ring” is either splendidly compressed new wave or Shampoo ten years early. The overlapping vocals, overriding sunniness, and abundance of good (if semi-formed) ideas remind me, somehow, of the Beach Boys. So much to enjoy that the lack of an instantly hummable tune doesn’t really bug me. I’m semi-aware that I’m sticking up for an underdog here…

    Still, I’m surprised this has so comprehensively slipped from the collective memory. It creeps into my mind every time I pick up a camera, just as surely as that sax appears whenever I’m winding my way down to Baker Street.

    I love the shift from the near-ambient “click click” intro to the Phoenix-esque acoustic guitar, as hard and shiny as an 8 ball – if this was a brand new record you’d swear that was a machine-bred sound.

    I agree, it’s all production over song, and that buskers wouldn’t touch it, but I think that’s something to applaud in itself. I mean, how good is Have I The Right without its floorboard-busting stomps and Meek-gnarled guitar break?

  10. 10
    Billy Smart on 16 Mar 2009 #

    TOTPWatch: Bucks Fizz twice performed ‘My Camera Never Lies’ on Top of the Pops;

    25th March 1982. Also in the studio that week were; Altered Images, Foster & Allen, The Boomtown Rats, Killing Joke and The Goombay Dance Band. Peter Powell and Garth Crooks were the hosts.

    15th April 1982. Also in the studio that week were; Spandau Ballet, Shakatak, Dollar and Simple Minds, plus Zoo’s interpretation of ‘Ever So Lonely’. David Jensen was the host.

  11. 11
    Mark G on 16 Mar 2009 #

    If “buskers” did it, (they’d need four), it’d sound like a sound collage piece, a’la Furious Pig, with actual words.

    I’d give it 8 here.

  12. 12
    Matthew H on 16 Mar 2009 #

    I remember it, but I didn’t remember it at the time – if that makes sense. By 1982 I was hooked on the charts, so must have been on holiday or something when this hit the top. I was surprised to learn later in the year that it’d been a No.1.

    As you mention, it’s all about the bristles and shininess. It’s barely vocals/instruments; it’s LASER.

  13. 13
    Pete on 16 Mar 2009 #

    I wouldn’t say it was all that good, but just like WL, its a song that has been stuck in my head for twenty five years now and often drifts in when cameras are in question. Not unsurprisingly considering my record for
    a) lying
    b) liking films made with cameras
    the concept of cameras lying or not is one which interests me. Almost as much as the clumsy lyrics to the chorus which I have never really made out;

    I think (before checking on a lyrics site):
    “My camera never lies any more
    For there’s nothing for it lying for”
    Which has surely has the flaw of too many fors.

    (Actual lyrics:
    my camera never lies anymore
    ‘cos there’s nothing worth crying for – MAKES EVEN LESS SENSE!)

  14. 14
    Tom on 16 Mar 2009 #

    It’s clearly lying not crying. Isn’t it? ISN’T IT? Is this another Pete Sinfield job (can’t be bothered to check).

    Glad some people turned up to defend it – good work WL. I was feeling a bit sorry for it.

  15. 15
    vinylscot on 16 Mar 2009 #

    I found this a real disappointment after “Land of Make Believe”. It just seems to be trying too hard – an attempt to sound “grown up” by consciously steering away from formulaic pop.

    It also didn’t do them any good that Trevor Horn was with Dollar at that time, and consistently releasing out excellent singles, which this obviously fails to match, in terms of quality.

    Incidentally, I know a Dollar is a “buck”, but was it just coincidence that Dollar started using the prefix “Buck” on the catalogue number of their singles at this time?

  16. 16
    Alan on 16 Mar 2009 #

    i feel shameful that i didn’t turn up earlier to defend this. a quick re-listen…

    (blimey they seem to be stuck in a blakes 7 episode)

    still enjoy this a LOT and remembered it spot on. all the different sections. good stuff. a shame about the drwan-out fade at the end – a sudden end seems like it would be easy to drop in with all the tempo/rhythm tricks here.

  17. 17
    LondonLee on 16 Mar 2009 #

    The zone between Devo and Dollar sounds like a wonderful place in theory but like Shangri-La not an easy place to locate and you often find your reach exceeds your grasp. I don’t think this is bad record at all but it reminds me a little of the session musicians on English girl pop records of the 1960s trying to mimic the Motown Sound but just not having the chops or feeling for it. What they did had it’s charms but you knew it was a few steps short of the magical real thing. 5 seems about right.

  18. 18
    ace inhibitor on 16 Mar 2009 #

    5 seems about right except that that’s the same score as for Making Your Mind Up – and this is so much better than MYMU. But I thought MYMU was very overpriced at a fiver.

  19. 19
    Erithian on 16 Mar 2009 #

    I think this was one that I admired rather than liked – well crafted, complex vocals done well, fine production, but just not that much in the way of heart. It was impressive that the Fizz had had three number ones and had – fairly unexpectedly – moved on from Eurovision, but this wasn’t among their most affecting songs.

    No 2 Watch: unusually, a one-week number one had a one-week number two below it – the abovementioned “Ain’t No Pleasing You” by Chas and Dave. Don’t know what the rest of you made of that, but I really liked it – for a moment there it seemed like they’d hit on a formula that no-one else was doing, old pub singalongs that the likes of their “Gertcha” old man would have gone in for, but with brand new songs. You could sink a few pints, sway and go “Well if yerthinkIdon’tmeanwhatIsay an’ I’m only blaffin, yougoddernotherthinkcoming I’m tellinyerthat for naffin” and key into a tradition as old and cherished as the music hall. Being Northern I wasn’t exactly part of that tradition, but I saw them doing a half-time slot at White Hart Lane a few years later and it all made sense…

  20. 20
    DV on 16 Mar 2009 #

    One of my memories of Bucks Fizz is that they were surprisingly weird for a mainstream pop act. Not necessarily weird in a good way, mind.

  21. 21
    johnny on 16 Mar 2009 #

    i have to agree with some of the others that this is an 8, at the very least. it’s a pretty good signpost of what was happening in pop at the time, from the aforementioned dollar to the 10CC-ish vocals of the intro and the Antdrums in the chorus. It’s pure pop, meaning it sounds very much like a Pepsi jingle from this time period sounds.

  22. 22
    Tom on 16 Mar 2009 #

    Re 18: I’d forgotten I gave MYMU 5 but I’m pleased I did! The one tries too hard to be crowd-pleasing, the other too hard to be awkward – a nobler aspiration you might argue but I think they end up at about the same place.

  23. 23
    Stuart P on 7 Apr 2009 #

    Listening to this again, you’re struck by the bonkers production and song structure. In fact, if they’d toned down the ch-ch-ch-chorus it’d be a bit of a tour de force.

    It’s records like this that inspire Xenomania and other modern production teams to come up with the more interesting pop records of today. GA’s Biology has the bonkers template down pat.

    Bucks F were a bit of an anomaly amongst all the New Pop. Saturday teatime stalwarts with quite adult lyrics – esp for the time.

  24. 24
    Billy Smart on 14 May 2009 #

    NMEWatch: 20th March 1982, Barney Hoskyns;

    “Fizz now have a hard job trying to keep up with their mega-blond twin counterparts [Dollar], but this potent little essay on the fame game which has claimed their souls, while never whispering of such slickness or rococo utopias as ‘Give Me Back My Heart’, is a complex, almost excessive record that transcends the sphere of commercial mush into which it is born. The camera never lies because it never reflects, though Fizz bravely inform us that there’s “nothing worth lying for” anyway. Opening like Heatwave, ‘My Camera’ goes through an entire cycle of MOR superpop from Abba to the Dooleys to ‘Mirror Mirror’ but its almost too good to succeed. And my pen never lies either.”

    No single of the week was awarded. Also reviewed that week;

    Dollar – Give Me Back My Heart
    Josef K – The Missionary
    XTC – Ball & Chain
    Flipper – Sex Bomb
    Dead Or Alive – It’s Been Hours Now

  25. 25
    wichitalineman on 26 May 2009 #

    K-Tel watch: opened the second side Turbo Trax, followed quite spectacularly by Bardo’s One Step Further, Chas & Dave’s Margate and Altered Images’ See Those Eyes. Errm, odd one out anyone?

  26. 26
    Ashley Pomeroy on 27 Jun 2009 #

    I can’t think of many other pop videos that have a prominent role for the Zuiko 35mm f/2.8, which was one of the standard wide normal lenses for Olympus’ fondly-remembered OM system. If slrlensreview.com is to be believed, the 35mm f/2.8 was much less impressive than the company’s 28mm lens range, of which the 28mm f/3.5 can be had very cheaply on eBay.

    According to the website, the lens is sharp in the middle but very unimpressive around the edges on a full-frame camera until it is stopped right down to f/8 or so, which is a bit late for a conservative prime lens. A wafflier, less direct person than myself could turn this into a metaphor for the video and the song itself – sharp in the centre, blurry around the edges – but I am not that person. The song is not sharp in the centre at all anyway.

    Right now I’m listening to the collected works of Michael Jackson. I always wonder about the album tracks that were never singles; why do they exist? Presumably they are there to pad the album to 40 minutes, but why not write two or three more hits, and release them as singles too? Why not just put the b-sides of the hit singles on the album, thus saving a bit of time and money? You can’t argue that no-one would then buy the album because they would have already bought everything on it, because that is already the case; the people who bought “Bad” already owned the best songs, they didn’t buy the album for Speed Demon – which sounds like Kraftwerk’s The Robots – or Just Good Friends. I wonder if the producer and musicians felt slightly ashamed to be creating a song that people would skip past. I am not proud of the last-but-one sentence, the one that begins “You can’t argue”. It’s too long.

  27. 27
    MikeMCSG on 16 Jul 2009 #

    3- Yes I could never work out how they’d stolen a march on Dollar when the latter were making the better records.

  28. 28
    Brooksie on 2 Mar 2010 #

    @ MikeMCSG # 27: Well, Trevor Horn was producing the better records. I don’t know if they necessarily had the better songs. As far as I can tell this one is a solid pop effort performed with more vim and vigour than any of the Dollar records at the time. I think this deserved # 1… if only for the single week it held.

  29. 29
    punctum on 30 Mar 2010 #

    Strange how Andy Hill never quite became a producer of at least equal stature to Trevor Horn? It may be that – as, sadly, seems to be the case with Xenomania and Girls Aloud – some producers only work magic with one act alone. “My Camera Never Lies” was released in the same week as the centrepiece and masterpiece of the Dollar/Horn tetralogy “Give Me Back My Heart,” and while the latter’s greatness has seldom been equalled and perhaps never surpassed, together with “My Camera Never Lies” it provides the unanswerable argument for “manufactured pop” – if pop can manufacture records so complex and brilliant, then we need more of it.

    “My Camera Never Lies” could even serve as a premature starting point for the entire Xenomania way of thinking; a dazzling, vertiginous arrangement sheltering a shadowy and disturbing lyric. Musically it is vast; the layered Heatwave harmonies taking off from the dual electric piano tarmac before yielding to stinging semi-acoustic lead guitar, drums scattering like poison darts, the literal (camera) click track, the multirhythmic maze of the record’s final 90 seconds. The vocal arrangement alone would not have disgraced Rotary Connection; the fabulous arch which comes with the word “bor-ing,” the crouch to base level of the deep descending “lies any more,” the venom spitting out of the heavily ironic “I must apologise.”

    A year ahead of “Every Breath You Take,” the song is a sordid examination of surveillance and stalking in the context of an irreparably broken relationship, but Hill and lyricist Nicola Martin don’t even bother much with metaphors; the protagonist is tracking the betrayer so closely she cannot breathe (“You’re never gonna shake me now”) while all the time realising the utter futility of his cheap quest (“My camera never lies anymore/’Cos there’s nothing worth lying for” – an ingeniously tragic double entendre). The Brotherhood of Man could never have dreamed of pop this genuinely avant-garde and challenging – and after a while, neither could Bucks Fizz; later hits such as “If You Can’t Stand The Heat” tried just a little too hard. As for Andy Hill, he was responsible for producing Britain’s greatest-ever Eurovision entry, “One Step Further” by Bardo, proceeded to odd projects like David Van Day’s startling “Young Americans Talking” and the eighth and most straightforward version of Sudden Sway’s multi-single art project “Sing Song” – and then comes back into the Popular picture some time later, but more about that when he does.

  30. 30
    Conrad on 30 Mar 2010 #

    ““My Camera Never Lies” was released in the same week as the centrepiece and masterpiece of the Dollar/Horn tetralogy “Give Me Back My Heart,””

    with the same drummer on both records, as Tommy Vance helpfully informed us in the week they entered the chart together

  31. 31
    seekenee on 28 Apr 2012 #

    This is the only song between 1978 and 1985 where I knew the song but didn’t realise it was a number one. I’m pleased for them yet also bitter that it wasn’t ABC or Fun Boy Three.
    The amount of times I have been reminded of the songs of Bucks Fizz when I’ve heard common phrases like camera never lies, if you can’t stand the heat, piece of the action is directly disproportionate to the amount of time I have spent listening to them.

  32. 32
    chelovek na lune on 28 Apr 2012 #

    #31 Now those days are gone

  33. 33
    redhairkid on 26 Jan 2014 #

    My guilty pleasure, is this one.

  34. 34
    swanstep on 28 May 2016 #

    Like a brace of other commenters I find this record pretty fab. Yes, it’s a little cluttered, and yes I imagine Trevor Horn or Abba would have recorded the underlying song more impressively, but the crafting of so many hooks to fit together makes MCNL a hugely (‘Click’) pleasurable (‘Click’) earworm. Not just foreshadowing the hook-arama of Xenomania or early Gaga, I’d say that MCNL could be a #1 again for the right crew. And not just your Little Mixes and so on; MCNL is *almost* in The 1975’s wheelhouse for example…:
    8

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