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Jun 09

PAUL YOUNG – “Wherever I Lay My Hat (That’s My Home)”

FT + Popular53 comments • 7,072 views

#524, 23rd July 1983, video

In the mid-90s I worked in the Music And Video Exchange chain in Notting Hill Gate. Paul Young’s No Parlez holds a special place in my affections from those years – not because we ever knowingly played it, but because it was the undisputed number one landfill vinyl “penny each for these, mate” champ. Browsing the 20p albums down in that malodorous Pembridge Road basement, it seemed like every fourth flick would bring you face to face with Paul’s teased-up hair, quizzical expression and sweaty leather suit.

The collective rush to jettison a record tells you something about that record: not that it’s bad, necessarily, but that it’s served its purpose. Whatever need Paul Young fulfilled in 1983-4 was, ten years later, a need no longer: the Young-shaped hole in his audience’s lives had closed up. Why and how? The easy analysis is to say that Young’s music had only ever been furniture, a “lifestyle accessory” in the sneer of the day.

And “Wherever I Lay My Hat” doesn’t do much to duck this charge: Pino Palladino’s notorious fretless bass playing – accompanied by the gentlest brushing of percussive pops – creates so much space in the track that it doesn’t feel so much arranged as designed. The bass here isn’t music: it’s lighting, meant to put Young’s throaty burr in as attractive a setting as possible.

What’s remarkable, though, is how effective it is, even now we know all the tricks and see all the joins. Palladino’s playing may not sound classy these days, but it does sound really odd: a viscous ambient sludge which leaves Young’s self-justifying growl naked, more vulnerable and raw than it deserves to be. The flushes of keyboard colour play a similar illusionary role – sketching the outline of a stronger tune than this recording of “Hat” actually contains. And this ends up a track rescued from contempt, a lot stronger than I’d ever imagined it was.

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Comments

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  1. 1
    Tom Lawrence on 29 Jun 2009 #

    Don’t recall hearing this before. This is still nearly three years before I was born, though, so perhaps not a surprise.

    That bass is really /weird/.

  2. 2
    rosie on 29 Jun 2009 #

    The sound of the real Marvin Gaye! Spandau Ballet sailed way over my head as a reference but I always knew a Marvin song when I heard one.

    More importantly, this is the sound of, well, my resurgence. My return to the human race, as it were. I can understand why it might be one of the most forgotten number ones of the period, but it has special resonances for me. I was still in Hitchin and I’d fallen into the hands of Jenny and her extended family of misfits, where I seemed to fit in very well. Paul Young was known to some of the lads in the house – he was a local lad himself being from the nearby hamlet of Gosmore (and not from Luton, as was popularly thought). And the title made it ripe for being attached to me as my particular anthem. It seemed to sum up my life so far. But that was all about to change.

    In my search for gainful employment that summer, I had business cards printed and apart from legitimate job searching I did a lot of posing as an entrepreneur in the new and about-to-explode desktop computer market who was capable of bringing significant employment opportunities to a business park near you, if you treated me right. The best coup was being lavishly lunched by Corby Development Corporation while they tried to sell me office space in that off-the-beaten-track sort of town.

    Tom, mate, we seem to have passed like ships in the night! I used to mooch around the Music & Video Exchange in the early 90s but forsook Pembridge Crescent for the funkier climes of Chesterton Road in 92.

  3. 3
    Tom on 29 Jun 2009 #

    I actually worked in the Book and Comic Exchange, 95-98. But I was a regular shopper across the whole chain well before then.

  4. 4
    Billy Smart on 29 Jun 2009 #

    That’s a highly generous reading, Tom. To me, Paul Young’s voice always sounds like that hoarse timbre that you get when you’re standing in the path of dry ice. The bass sound is certainly distinctive and memorable, but also rather horrible to these ears – the sort of sound that a bored child might find that they could get out of a fence.

    And I didn’t like it when I was ten either – ‘grown up’ sophistication that made being an adult seem an unenticing prospect.

  5. 5
    Billy Smart on 29 Jun 2009 #

    #2 Watch – 3 weeks of Freeez’ dramatic ‘IOU’. Hurray!

  6. 6
    Billy Smart on 29 Jun 2009 #

    TOTPWatch: Paul Young performed ‘Wherever I Lay My Hat’ thrice on Top Of The Pops;

    30 June 1983. Also in the studio that week were; Shalamar, Nick Heyward, Tom Robinson and Bucks Fizz. Richard Skinner and Tommy Vance were the hosts.

    14 July 1983. Also in the studio that week were; Elvis Costello & The Attractions, Heaven 17, Echo & The Bunnymen and Bananarama. Andy Peebles and Peter Powell were the hosts.

    21 July 1983. Also in the studio that week were; Jimmy The Hoover, Shakin’ Stevens, Roman Holiday, The Police, Freeez and The Cure, plus Zoo’s interpretation of ‘The Crown’. Pat Sharp & Jimmy saville were the hosts.

  7. 7
    pink champale on 29 Jun 2009 #

    not sure i’d stretch to a six, but this is alright isn’t it? it’s got a a nice arrangement (which, now you come to mention it, is a bit odd) and paul young is a pretty good singer – he’s got quite a nice voice and exhibits a fair bit of taste in restraining himself from the Soulful Mannerism.

    i think there’s something a bit irksome about the premise of the song – ladies, come feel my pain: i just can’t help treating you bad and it tears me up inside – and i’d like to hear it done as a straightforward boast, like ‘the wanderer’ (which i love beyond reason). mind you, i’ve never heard the original of wilmh (marvin gaye isn’t it?) and for all i know it’s exactly that.

    given all the talk on other threads, what did the nme soulboy contingent think about this and all the other stuff we’ll be getting like it over the next few years? on the face of it you’d assume that – with the narcissism of small difference – deepest reserves of loathing were mined for this sort of thing – but i’d be interested to know if that’s right. maybe more likely there was (at least some) initial hailing of paul young, or mick hucknell or whatever (like there was in my day for jay k!) followed shortly by a series of lonely retreats.

  8. 8
    Tom on 29 Jun 2009 #

    I remember getting the 1985 NME archive out of the Bodleian library and being a bit shocked at how much positive Paul Young commentary there was.

    As for Hucknall, as late as 89 he could get the headline NME review (the one which got the cartoon) and a serious, if not wholly sympathetic, treatment for “A New Flame”

  9. 9
    Billy Smart on 29 Jun 2009 #

    #7 You’re exactly right on both counts. ‘No Parlez’ was one of the NME’s albums of 1983, and Simply Red even got on the NME cover in the early days – while Melody Maker had unappologetically enthusiastic Paul Young championing, with several cover features. I think that part of the reason for the Melody Maker coverage of Paul Young was that he was popular with the readers in his heyday.

  10. 10
    lonepilgrim on 29 Jun 2009 #

    I remember this being promoted on the Tube – possibly before the single hit number one (perhaps Billy can confirm) – as the acme of cool, so it came as something of a surprise to discover later that PY was a bit of a geezer with a novelty hit past. I still like it – although it does seem all of a part of the embalming process of good taste applied to ‘soul’ music by the Face, Spandau and the Style Council at this time.
    The clever/cynical move was getting PY to cover ‘Love will tear us apart’ on No Parlez as a sign of his credibilty and integrity.

  11. 11
    Billy Smart on 29 Jun 2009 #

    Several of Paul Young’s performances are yours to keep forever on the six-hour Network DVD of highlights from the first seies of The Tube (‘Wherever I Lay My Hat’ not amongst them)

    As you might expect, Paul Young has proven himself a fixture on British television. Selected appearances include;

    THE (NOEL EDMONDS) LATE LATE BREAKFAST SHOW: with Mike Smith (Reporter), Paul Young (1984)

    BARRYMORE: with Paul Young, Engelbert Humperdinck, Louise Dorsey, Uri Geller, The Madin Family (1997)

    CANNON AND BALL: with Richard Clayderman, Paul Young (1984)

    CANNON AND BALL’S CASINO: with Paul Young, Fuzzbox, Rob Newman (1990)

    DES O’CONNOR TONIGHT: with Frankie Howerd, Kiri Te Kanawa, Carl Davis, Paul Young (1991)

    HARTY: with James Garner, Peter Cook, Paul Young (1983)

    THE LITTLE AND LARGE SHOW: with Zucchero, Paul Young, Maddi Cryer, Billy Pearce (1991)

    LOUDON AND CO: with Paul Young, Roachford, Carlene Carter, John Martyn (1994)

    THE MONTREUX ROCK FESTIVAL: with Philip Bailey, Culture Club, Dead Or Alive, Elton John & Millie Jackson, Howard Jones, Kenny Loggins, Shakatak, Talk Talk, Paul Young (1985)

    NEVER MIND THE BUZZCOCKS: with Simon Amstell, Bill Bailey (Team Captain), Phill Jupitus (Team Captain), Vanessa Feltz, Will Smith, Matt Willis, Paul Young, Tina Cousins, Terry Dene (2006)

    NOEL’S HOUSE PARTY: \Gotcha – Paul Young (1997)

    ORS 85: with Paul Young, Strawberry Switchblade, Billy Ocean (1985)

    POP QUIZ: with Midge Ure, Tracie, Paul Young, Bob Geldof, John Moss, Tom Bailey (1983)

    POP QUIZ: with Paul Young, Toyah Willcox, Drummie Zeb, Gary Glitter, Annabel Lamb, Green (1984)

    ROCK STEADY: with Paul Young (1990)

    THIS IS YOUR LIFE: Paul Young (2001)

    THE TUBE: with Jools Holland, Leslie Ash, Dawn French, Jennifer Saunders, Gary Crowley, Paul Young, John Peel, Mickey Finn, The Fall, The Europeans (1983)

    THE TUBE: with Jools Holland, Paula Yates (Host, Except Number 11), Fun Boy Three, Jill Firmanski, Mike Ball, Mark Miwurdz, Myra Lewis, Paul Young, The Belle Stars, Muriel Gray (1983)

    THE TUBE: with Jools Holland, Paula Yates (Host, Except Number 11), Mark Miwurdz, Mari Wilson, Paul Young, Bono, Yvonne French, Graham Fletcher, U2, The Undertones (1983)

    THE TUBE: with Jools Holland, Paula Yates (Host, Except Number 11), Stephen Bradley, Paul Loasby, Paul Young, Aztec Camera, Yarborough & Peoples, Gap Band, Gary James (1983)

    THE TUBE: with Jools Holland, Paula Yates, Paul Young, Lords Of The New Church, Muriel Gray, David Jensen, Mick Karn, Pete Murphy, Peter Jones, Paul Malpass (1984)

    WHISTLE TEST: with Paul Young and the Royal Family (1983)

    WOGAN: with Bruce Grobbelaar, Paul Hogan, Matthew Kelly, Marius May, Paul Theroux, Paul Young (1985)

    WOGAN: with James Herbert, David Lewis, Redmond O’Hanlon, Paul Young (1985)

    WOGAN: with Michael Brandon, John Francombe, Phillipinede Rothschild, Paul Young (1985)

    WOGAN: with Anthony Hopkins, Barry O’Halloran, Paul Young (1986)

    WOGAN: with Charles Althorp, Geraldine James, Tony Reilly and the ST, M-I-T-F Chamber Ensemble, Paul Young (1986)

    WOGAN: with Paul Young, Clannad (1991)

  12. 12
    Billy Smart on 29 Jun 2009 #

    Paul Young performed a controversial set at the Royal Holloway Freshers’ ball of 1994, when he treated the occasion as an opportunity to perform an experimental show of Jim Reeves cover versions, rather than his greatest hits!

    Even as somebody for whom it might have been in my interest to attend the big social occasion of the month – which all of my peers would attend – the prospect of paying twelve pounds to see Paul Young was an unenticing one, so I didn’t go. Its not one of the great regrets of my life.

  13. 13
    lonepilgrim on 29 Jun 2009 #

    I’ll be interested to see when Channel 4 put all their past content up on the interweb, as promised, if they’ll include The Tube or whether there’ll be an issue with performing rights.
    I’d love to see some of those old programmes again.

  14. 14
    pink champale on 29 Jun 2009 #

    #8 ha ha, its amazing how dilligent one’s extra curricula research can be when there’s some real work looming. i’d always convince myself that i’d be able to work it into that essay on restoration comedy…

  15. 15
    WBS on 29 Jun 2009 #

    Yeah, this slightly rubbish thing welcomed me into the world. Had “IOU” managed to overhaul it, goodness knows how my life would have been irrevocably altered…

  16. 16
    Tim on 29 Jun 2009 #

    Lonepilgrim@#10: Inbetween the Streetband (the fact that Paul had a hit with “Toast” might be the Big Fact about him,sadly) and the solo career there was PY’s stint in the Q-Tips who were a kind of hard-gigging good-time soul band (maybe a quick reaction to Dexys’ early sound? I don’t know).

    I’m inclined to think of Paul Young as a classic kind of pop journeyman, always with an eye for the main chance (pub pop-> parpy pop-Northern -> smoother sophistisoul is one thread you could trace through the pop music of the late 70s and early 80s). With that in mind, maybe he’d cannily worked out that he could sell the idea of Man of Taste but to make it sell he’d need to do the inky credibility-building covers (Joy Div on this LP, Tom Waits on the next).

  17. 17
    Tim on 29 Jun 2009 #

    I thought I’d go and fact-check the above (after the fact, but what can you do) and this weirdly defensive wikipedia entry was obviously written by someone who really hated Dexys:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Q-Tips_(band)

    (you’ll need to click on Q-Tips (band) at the top of that page).

  18. 18
    WBS on 29 Jun 2009 #

    I’m inclined to think of Paul Young as a classic kind of pop journeyman

    Would this be the time to bring up “Senza Una Donna”? Yes, yes it would:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZiUn8RwpcfY

  19. 19
    Conrad on 29 Jun 2009 #

    Pino Palladino’s flatulent bass depresses me beyond belief. Why does he have to stretch out the notes in that manner? Why does he have to take all the attention away from the song. It reeks of ‘craft’ and ‘session musician’ (although to be fair to session musicians, most are too professional to do anything other than discreetly play their part in supporting the song).

    It achieves the remarkable double whammy of pompous and insincere. It just doesn’t sound like he means it.

    I don’t mind Young’s voice and it’s a decent enough tune. But the fact that you are conscious there are session musicians playing is so against the spirit of early 80s pop that I can’t forgive it for shattering the air of fragile DIY experimentation that underscored so much of 1982’s best pop. The magic’s been taken away.

  20. 20
    Tom on 29 Jun 2009 #

    Surely you could say exactly the same (“why does he have to take all the attention away from the song?”) for any Trevor Horn production though, or Timbaland one? Palladino’s bass is so distinctive odd-sounding that it makes him practically a co-producer – it seems futile to single it out as not knowing its place when it is such a memorable part of the record?

  21. 21
    LondonLee on 29 Jun 2009 #

    I sold a lot of records at the Notting Hill Record and Tape Exchange (or whatever it’s called now) in the 1990s, not ‘No Parlez’ though — never owned it — and I kept my copy of this single because I thought it was great and still do. Can I be the first person to say I think it’s better than Marvin Gaye’s version? At least, so different that it’s pointless to compare the two.

    This is how you do a cover properly, completely re-imagine the song and turn it into something else. Yes, the bass is a bit too bubbly in retrospect but Young manages to avoid the usual white soul pitfalls of over emoting and handles it with low-key care. An 8 from me.

  22. 22
    Stuart P on 29 Jun 2009 #

    anyone fancy some Toast?

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WJmKStqugMc

  23. 23
    Brian on 29 Jun 2009 #

    I’m with Lee ( # 21 ) on this.

    Pino’s bass , far from being ‘flatulent” , I find it floating. It conjours up Jack Bruce’s post-Cream ” Songs for a Tailor ” , some of Rick Danko’s great work , or anything by the late Jaco Pastorious. I also like Pino’s more current bass work on the John Mayer Trio LP.

    I get the feeling that PY was a bit of a joke in the UK and I can’t understand why. Good voice, great covers of many interesting songs. And ( sorry if I’m bunny fecking ) ” Everytime You Go Away” is one of my fave tunes of all time.

    I can’t find it but there is also a fascinating back story about Paul Young’s marriage to super-model that fell apart but thorouh some really persistent belief, on Paul’s part , he was able to reunite ( and re-marry ? ) with her.

    Soppy, eh ?

  24. 24
    Tom on 29 Jun 2009 #

    BTW Alan is the voting system working? Doesn’t seem to be for me…

  25. 25
    wichitalineman on 30 Jun 2009 #

    I’m in agreement with Lee – this is entirely different to Marvin Gaye’s original, which sounds like The Wanderer on 78. It was re-issued later in the year on the b-side of a What’s Goin’ On 12″ and, hearing it for the first time post Paul Young, was a grave disappointment. It’s a great shame that Spands’ buddy “Marvin” didn’t have the opportunity to rework his own song as a ballad in a similar way.

    It is a strange concept, isn’t it, the roaming ladies man coming over all melancholy? But there’s a small tradition – Ricky Nelson’s low key Travellin’ Man (double-A flip of Hello Mary Lou) came just before The Wanderer, while Run Run Roadrunner by Gene Pitney* is the acme, with a full NYC Righteous Brothers-style WW3 backing, entirely tortured, even though the lyric doesn’t give any kind of clue as to why. Self loathing, sexual confusion, fuck the pain away, etcet, possibly.

    Re 20: It does sound like showing off to me, as pretty much all fretless bass-work does, and so doesn’t exactly complement such a minimal record: ‘lighting’ is exactly what it needs rather than scene stealing (vocal aside, of course). Pino crosses the line because Phil S, Timbaland and Trevor H are making great records rather than creating settings for great songs. This is a good song AND a good record.

    **who wrote Hello Mary Lou, an odd twist that may well only make me and Paul Gambaccini smile.

  26. 26
    Rory on 30 Jun 2009 #

    I remember Ian “Molly” Meldrum, the compere of Australia’s TOTP-equivalent Countdown, being unusually enthusiastic about this, but I’m not sure if that was relative to his usual level of enthusiasm for new releases (which always hovered around 9.8 out of 10) or to my own surprise that anyone could be enthusiastic about such a limp record. The bass was just too lugubrious, and I never really saw the appeal of Young’s vocal. All hat and no cattle, as them Texans say.

    Worse, no matter how bouffant his hair, Young seemed like just some bloke, and being everyman didn’t work in his favour; pop stars should surely be larger than life. How did we get from Adam Ant to this so quickly? The same couldn’t have been said of many acts of the preceding few years, not even Sting, but Young headed a veritable parade of Blokes of Pop (*cough*RickAstley). Okay, maybe Phil Collins got there first, but at least he’d been in a Proper Band.

    This was and is pretty much the definition of average for me. 5.

  27. 27
    wichitalineman on 30 Jun 2009 #

    Spare a thought for Sad Cafe singer Paul Young, whose post-Cafe solo career was scuppered once this hit.

  28. 28
    Martin Skidmore on 30 Jun 2009 #

    I wouldn’t want to give this a lot of praise, but I always quite admired the fact that it changes the mood greatly from the original – Marvin is bragging about this and sounding as if he is enjoying himself, helped by very jaunty horns, even by Motown standards. Paul puts in loads more melancholy and underplays the bragging aspects. Good for him, but the end result is still a dull record.

  29. 29
    LondonLee on 30 Jun 2009 #

    I always thought Marvin’s version (I can call him “Marvin” can’t I?) sounded like Motown doing a ska record.

  30. 30
    Erithian on 30 Jun 2009 #

    I’ll post another vote in favour of the bass, and of the record generally – one of the best of the year, and a fine voice giving the song a distinguished treatment. I remember thinking Streetband sounded a bit like Ian Dury, and it was a pleasant surprise when Young stepped out from making cars or whatever he was doing to use a warm white-soul voice to highly profitable effect. There’s room for everyblokes and larger-than-life stars at the same time, and Paul was good to have around (a special shout for “Love of the Common People” which worked beautifully in the reworking he gave it).

    As for Pino, in the words of Cozy Powell, “the bass man he don’t cop for no glamour”, so it’s good for them to step forward now and again. Summer ’83 was not far behind ’76 weather-wise, and that bass line was one of the signature sounds of the summer – lazing on the grass listening to that and the riff on “Long Hot Summer”… and, er, “Wings of a Dove”. My, some great records out as the sun shone. Mind you, sorry all you soulboys but I thought “IOU” was shallow, repetitive shite.

    Rory, wasn’t “Molly” Meldrum the bloke who had a severe case of starstruck tongue-tie when he was supposed to be interviewing Prince Charles one time in the early 70s? It gets shown on blooper shows now and again. Poor bloke – a bit rough for that to be the only thing you’re known for half the world away, but still…

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