18
Mar 09

NICOLE – “A Little Peace”

FT + Popular71 comments • 5,667 views

#500, 15th May 1982

In the world of Marvel and DC Comics, the 100th, 200th (etc) issues of a title were considered real milestones. To maximise sales of these anniversary specials, the companies would often use them to launch particularly big storylines: deaths, marriages, epic battles. But often this meant that the run of issues immediately before the anniversary were especially poor – the title would be in a holding pattern, putting out meaningless and unmemorable issues to kill numbers before the big one, and following it would become a chore. If the long-awaited 500th issue also turned out to suck – well, you can imagine how frustrating that was.

Anyway, here’s Nicole, Eurovision winner, earnest German lass, 500th UK Number One. Singing a song about peace – who could object to that? Not the Eurovision juries, who must also have appreciated the absolutely thumping key change at two minutes and the flowery string arrangement throughout. I’ve never been able to shake off a basic cynicism whenever a Eurovision entrant plays the peace card – of course every Song Contest entry is calculated but this seems such a clumsy gambit. Judging by the way the tactic has withered since the introduction of Eurovision democracy I’m not alone in this.

The only thing that stops Nicole’s song being completely dreadful (in fact raising it all the way to quite dreadful) is the way she redeems the key change with the yearning counter-melody of “we are feathers on the breeze / sing with me my song of peace”. It doesn’t make sense, but nor does her apparent belief that a leaf falling from a tree will be better off if there is someone below. Otherwise this is feeble fare – a crass bid for campfire immortality at the youth outreach group.

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Comments

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  1. 1
    Alan on 18 Mar 2009 #

    WELL DONE TOM.

    (at least)

  2. 2
    lonepilgrim on 18 Mar 2009 #

    it’s an extraordinary achievement to have reviewed so many songs to such a high standard.
    I hope as the number of responses have expanded that they have helped to raise your game.
    I’m happy to say that I have almost no memory of this song and have no desire to find out more.

  3. 3
    Alan on 18 Mar 2009 #

    you must at least remember Tracy Ullman’s “Rissole” on Three of a Kind (nb, this maybe a false memory)

  4. 4

    for some reason — which i cannot identify and doubt i could defend if i did — i have always been really fond of this song: i don’t think camp-singalong is an intrinsically flawed aim, actually, perhaps because the very very first records i “owned” (ie bought by friends of my parents for them to play for me) were by wally whyton

    (ps well done tom, yes)

  5. 5
    rosie on 18 Mar 2009 #

    Well done from me, too, Tom, on reaching the halfway mark

    But I really don’t mind this at all. I have the German language version – Ein bißchen Frieden – alongside the English version and I prefer that one. Partly that’s because I have very little German so I can more easily tune out the lyric (I sometimes think I’d like Wagner a lot less than I do if I could understand the libretti, which are less than towering poetry I understand). The other is that the song is clearly written around German sounds. Nicole embraces and kisses that sibilant in the contantly repeated “bißchen” in a way that is completely lost in the rendering “a leedle peas”

    I’m going to go all Janice Nicholls on you and say oi’ll geev eet foive.

  6. 6
    Billy Smart on 18 Mar 2009 #

    I don’t mind this. When I was nine I quite liked the way that I could follow what was going on, and it remains one of the tiny number of pop songs that my mother has ever expressed approval of (other examples, ‘Tahiti’ by David Essex, ‘Louise’ by the Human League and – bafflingly – ‘One’ by Metallica – “This is better than usual. Is it Indian?”)

    That said, I’m not so foolish as to make any great claims for it. Bardo wuz robbed! Kraftwerk, The Jam and (arguably) The Fizz apart, 1982 may thus far be one of the most undistinguished years we’ve travelled through.

  7. 7
    Tom on 18 Mar 2009 #

    You’re right – camp singalong isn’t an intrinsically flawed aim, as anyone who has been lucky enough to be near our tent circle at Glastonbury will surely attest.

    #2 totally – I’m a bit embarassed by how slapdash some of the early reviews are: I think things have got a lot better since a) people started commenting and b) I realised I should stop worrying about trying to hit every talking point or being ‘definitive’ as the marvellous mechanical comments organ would pick up the slack. Now I just try and focus on a couple of the things that interest me about a song, which keeps things nice and concise.

  8. 8
    Billy Smart on 18 Mar 2009 #

    #2 Watch. A week of Yazoo’s ‘Only You’ – certainly a better remembered song.

  9. 9
    Tom on 18 Mar 2009 #

    #5 yes I wondered if the Ger. language one was better – it often is. I really love German as a sung pop language – there’s a great example coming up of course which the bunny precludes me mentioning by name.

  10. 10
    Billy Smart on 18 Mar 2009 #

    Ha! Nicole was, by the narrowest possible margin, NOT a one hit wonder.

    August 1982’s prophetically-titled ‘Give Me More Time’ managed one week at #75.

  11. 11
    Billy Smart on 18 Mar 2009 #

    TOTP Watch: Nicole performed ‘A Little Peace’ on Top of the Pops twice;

    29 April 1982. Also in the studio that week were; Hot Chocolate, Bardo, Yazoo and Monsoon. Richard Skinner was the host.

    13 May 1982. Also in the studio that week were; Duran Duran, Joan Jett & The Blackhearts, The Fun Boy 3 and The Associates (yes!), plus Zoo’s interpretation of ‘Girl Crazy’. Dave Lee Travis was the host.

  12. 12

    what is the name of the typeface her name is in?

  13. 13
    Pete Baran on 18 Mar 2009 #

    Bardo were SO robbed. And yet I think you are being a little harsh here on poor old Nicole. Admittedly a lot more wholesome back then compared to her turn in the Pussycat Dolls, there was a winsome charm to this. Coupled with the fact that my sister was learning guitar and looked a bit like her I thought this was alright*. I was also most impressed that she could sing it in so many languages when she won, which shows a degree of overconfidence now looking back at it.

    *Also I thought One Step Further was the best single ever. If this beat it, my youthful logical brain worked out, it must CLEARLY be better, for Eurovision was like SCIENCE.

  14. 14
    Billy Smart on 18 Mar 2009 #

    Light Entertainment Watch: Just one appearance during Nicole’s brief time in the spotlight;

    SUMMERTIME SPECIAL: with Les Dawson, The Anderson Sisters, Dollar, Roger Kitter, Nicole, Rodolf Reyes (1982)

  15. 15
    Tom on 18 Mar 2009 #

    Campfire Sans

  16. 16
    rosie on 18 Mar 2009 #

    Billy Smart @ 8: Now that would have been a number one to stir the loins! (Bunny notwithstanding. ) I first heard it in the Kelsey-Kerridge sparts hall where I was learning to play squash, and I turned to my companion and said “who the fuck’s that?” or words to that effect. It was the most wonderful thing I’d heard in years.

    Such a shame we won’t get to discuss Basildon’s finest, the wonderful Alison Moyet. She turned up on Late Junction last week, performing with great aplomb in fields a long way removed from Vince Clark’s electronic noise-making machine!

  17. 17
    LondonLee on 18 Mar 2009 #

    Tip of the hat to Tom for getting this far. Is there a stopping point or are you just going to keep pushing that rock up the hill until the day comes when you catch up to the latest #1, I’m not good at maths but I guess that would be years down the line.

    Anything to avoid talking about this record.

  18. 18
    SteveM on 18 Mar 2009 #

    #12: It looks very similar to Dolphins
    http://www.1001fonts.com/font_details.html?font_id=626

    or Candice (which may be the original):
    http://www.linotype.com/88768/candiceregular-font.html

  19. 19
    LondonLee on 18 Mar 2009 #

    And I can’t name that typeface but it looks several years behind the times, like it’s wearing flares or something.

    Edit: Well done Steve. That yellow background on the page makes it look like an old Letraset catalogue, the one with the “fancy” typefaces in it.

  20. 20
    will on 18 Mar 2009 #

    Re Billy at 6. Yes, my mother expressed admiration for this song too. I remember her commenting that it was not surprising that the German entry was a song about peace, since in the event of a nuclear conflagration between the superpowers they would be the first to be wiped out.

  21. 21
    Tom on 18 Mar 2009 #

    #17 – If the singles chart stops then that’s a stopping point. Otherwise I’m hoping to catch up by the time I’m 40 (4 years away) and do 6-monthly updates afterwards until civilisation or I come to a stop.

  22. 22
    Tom on 18 Mar 2009 #

    #20 When I was last in Germany my colleague and host drove me back to Hamburg airport. On hearing I wrote about pop music he gave a delighted cry and turned on the CD player, which was playing the Best of Fischer Z. I then spent the 30 minute drive hearing about the many virtues of Fischer Z, who were apparently very big in Germany because of their habit of making serious new wave concept albums about the Cold War. My colleague had met the band on several occasions and seemed baffled that they had not, as yet, made an appearance in my writing.

  23. 23
    Erithian on 18 Mar 2009 #

    A landmark for you, Tom – yes, congrats on getting halfway to where we were about four years ago!! – and even more of a landmark for me. Having just discovered how to place the stork symbol on this forum (on “Wonderful Land”) now would be the time for me to place the exploding cherry symbol.

    For yes, that particular life experience – slightly late in life at 19, perhaps, but there you go – is associated with this record. Not because “it” happened while the record was number one, but because it happened during the Eurovision Song Contest! Yes, my first time happened on ESC night – in a tent in a field just outside Edale, at the southern end of the Pennine Way, with Eurovision playing on a transistor radio. Happy days. I do remember thinking that “One Step Further” (hey, what an appropriate title for what we were doing!) wasn’t robbed because the performance sounded like the worst screech-fest for a UK Euro entry this side of Jemini.

    It was quite a year for the Germans, with this and Kraftwerk going all the way (stop it!) and do you remember Trio stopping at 2 with “Da Da Da (Ich Lieb Dich Nicht)”, which was irresistible or irritating depending on your viewpoint? Trio appeared on TOTP a few days after West Germany reached the World Cup semi-final because England failed to beat Spain in the group stage – the band placed a football with the words “Thank You” on a table in front of them. Cheers guys.

    I later learned that on the German TV show “Wetten, Dass?” (the original of “You Bet” which ran for a few series in the UK) Trio had failed a challenge and their forfeit was to make a record with Nicole. I’d love to have heard that.

  24. 24
    lonepilgrim on 18 Mar 2009 #

    On the German theme, I recall seeing Can performing ‘I want more’ on TOTP back in 1976 and was struck by how alien they appeared compared to the other acts. IIRC they were dressed like a bunch of professors moonlighting as second-hand car salesmen (or vice versa).
    re#22 it never fails to surprise me how different tastes in pop music are in Europe. There seems to be far less focus on the image of the artist and more on melody and lyrics – although that is probably a gross generalisation. I remember travelling in Germany in 1983 and having to listen to Mike Oldfield’s ‘Moonlight shadow’ as what seemed like every second record played on the local radio.

  25. 25
    rosie on 18 Mar 2009 #

    lonepilgrim @ 24: There seems to be far less focus on the image of the artist and more on melody and lyrics – although that is probably a gross generalisation

    That seems like the right way round to me. Perhaps I’m a German changeling.

  26. 26
    Conrad on 18 Mar 2009 #

    “And its nice to hear an actual song win for a change”.

    TV on the Top 40 countdown. What??????

    Re 14, Roger Kitter = The Brat, the man behind “Chalk Dust”, The Umpire Strikes Back from later in the summer.

    And congrats Tom on Number 500.

  27. 27
    Billy Smart on 18 Mar 2009 #

    Re #24: Can performed ‘I Want More’ on the Top of the Pops transmitted on August the 26th, 1976. Also in the studio that week were; Manfred Mann’s Earth Band, Robin Sarstedt, Acker Bilk, Cliff Richrd and Gallagher & Lyle, plus no less than three appearances by Ruby Flipper, interpreting ‘You Should Be Dancing’, ‘Morning Glory’ and ‘Don’t Go Breaking My Heart’. Noel Edmonds was the host, presenting Can with the immortal words “This band are a wow in their native Germany!”

  28. 28
    Conrad on 18 Mar 2009 #

    I don’t recall watching Eurovision in 1982 but I have read that Bardo were gripped by nerves and didn’t perform anywhere near their best. I think the backing was also not as slick or exciting as the recorded version, so as Erithian says (surprised he noticed;)) it is maybe not so surprising that they didn’t win.

    It was in Harrogate wasn’t it?

  29. 29
    wichita lineman on 18 Mar 2009 #

    Re 28: Eurovision should all be mimed. Enough of this rockist ‘chops’ nonsense. And then we can retrospectively award the ’82 trophy to Bardo.

    Nicole was a sweetie, this is no better or worse than All Kinds Of Everything, and I’d give it an extra point for “leedle”. Maybe that’s how the supermarket chain’s name should be pronounced.

    Well done Tom, this is a mighty achievement.

  30. 30
    SteveM on 18 Mar 2009 #

    Miming would certainly have helped Gemini, but also Seb Tellier and the Germans last year.

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