8
Mar 10

STARSHIP – “Nothing’s Gonna Stop Us Now”

FT + Popular109 comments • 5,753 views

#590, 9th May 1987, video

Listening to this song you realise that at some point the idea that a rock record should sound like a bunch of people in the same place playing the same music at the same time was completely abandoned by record producers. Not in the name of experimentation, or expanding a record’s sound, but I guess just because that kind of verisimilitude didn’t seem relevant any more. In its way this even seems a more radical shift than genres like dub reggae or techno which were clearly studio constructs from the off.

This is a long way of saying that there’s something quite off about a song like “Nothing’s Gonna Stop Us Now”: built for a movie, it has the same oddly flat, perspective-warping quality as a studio set, like it only really exists in the context of the action, when it’s soundtracking something. That eerie dead space is created pretty much entirely by the echo on the percussion: I guess it could also be filled by crowds of people singing along, which is why arena rockers took to this kind of song.

Listened to alone there’s a discrepancy between the size and effort of the sound (colossal) and the emotional take-out from it (pea-sized) that tips me into laughter when Starship try and go up a gear leading into the guitar solo. Maybe if I’d put more hours in with Grace Slick’s earlier work I’d find it in me to despise Starship but for all its vacuous, leaden bigitude, deep in its tiny heart this is affable enough to be harmless.

4

Comments

1 2 3 4 All
  1. 91

    The first big massive public canonwork I recall looking at in bookshops was a late 70s book called the HUNDRED [something something] ROCK ALBUMS: Gambaccini was involved, and it was scorned by the kind of writer I was then impressed by because Nick Kent and John Peel declined to take part. (Will hunt around and see if I can find it…)

  2. 92

    I assume this is the list in question, from 1978…

  3. 93

    I think the book in question was called “Rock Critics’ Choice: the Top 100 Albums” — later editions expanding this to 200? Be interesting to see who was on the list of critics. Xgau features his own 1978 list for the project on his own website, and discusses his choices.

  4. 94

    And here’s a blogpost (by Steven Rubio) which discusses the book, names some of its contributors (inc.Forever Changes fan Mark P, cited by me above!), and makes me wonder if Astral Weeks’s appearance at No.4 in this list wasn’t a bit of a surprise result at the time — not that it wasn’t liked, just that stoners er i mean voters didn’t expect their pref.would coalesce to put AW so high…

  5. 95
    thefatgit on 11 Mar 2010 #

    #89 Rosie, far be it from me to sway you regarding Radiohead, but they are a fascinating band for me. My way in to them came around the time “Fake Plastic Trees” was released as a single. I then went about buying up their albums each time a new one came along. I’m not surprised they are regarded as canonical now, and if I was asked what their appeal was, I guess it’s watching how they have progressed as a band from humble grungey rock beginnings (Creep) to sonic experimentalists today (These Are My Twisted Words), underpinned by a social conscience that is more restrained than that of Bono or Springsteen.

  6. 96
    swanstep on 11 Mar 2010 #

    Wow, this thread has blasted off (!) hasn’t it?

    Canon formation is interesting and tricky. Consdier the recent fortunes of country/alt-country/bluegrass. Soome of my favorite records of the last ten years have been from this area, esp. Loretta Lynn’s Van lear Rose and Jenny Lewis’s Rabbit Fur Coat. I fricking loved and still love those records…. and I *thought* everyone else did too (they got *record of the year*-type reviews when they were first released), and I thought they were well on the way to being canon. I was very surprised then when end-of-decade lists came out late last year to see them hardly mentioned.

    What’s happened? I conjecture that over the same period, as part of the same increased general interest in country/bluegrass, the Carter family and Johnny Cash are now much more canonical for general/rock/pop music fans than they used to be. Everyone listens to and likes and really *gets* that stuff now whereas even in the ’90s only a much narrower group really listened to or knew about any of it. This new deep enthusiasm and canonization may have, somewhat perversely, drained away much of the original enthusiasm that attended Jenny Lewis, et al..

    I *think* something similar may have happened with Prince in the ’80s etc.: stuff that seemed evidently canonical at the time ended up undermining its own status over the next ten years or so because it inspired lots of people to dig deeper into james brown and p-funk etc., and then,for a lot of people ‘who needs prince?’ became a very good question. My strong sense is that Pet Sounds, Forever Changes, and Odyssey and Oracle has similar trajectories: for a decade or two after their initial semi-successes they were relatively obscure records that musicians freely strip-mined, then they got great cd releases in the 90s at which point they became truly canonical and all the strip-miners (everyone from lloyd cole to kravitz to weezer) suffered a serious downgrade. Or something.

    @89 Rosie. (i) I think a *lot* of people prefer Rubber Soul to Sgt Pepper (I do). I fact, I think it’s pretty hard not to end up rating Rubber Soul over revolver. RS is pure joy, and if one rejects SP for its pretension etc. then almost inevitably R starts to get tarred with the same brush. RS, however, is complete paydirt and is at the bottom of the slippery slope away from SP’s alleged pompousness and calculation. (ii) I played the first 5 songs or so from Tapestry at a party recently and it almost drove people completely mad! Everyone knew the songs, but had no idea who it was, and indeed couldn’t remember why the songs sounded so familiar…. So, I gather Tapestry isn’t at all on the radar of anyone born after, say, the mid ’70s. The Bacharach and Carpenters waves of appreciation of the last decade or so haven’t helped that record at all apparently. Maybe Glee will resurrect it.

  7. 97
    LondonLee on 11 Mar 2010 #

    a hobby which has led me to buy Yes Please by Happy Mondays (thumbs down) and Wings’ Red Rose Speedway (thumbs aloft)?

    I do this with writers, I read all of Orwell’s other novels before I got to 1984. I think this goes with the music fans dread of wanting to seem obvious – like picking Sgt. Pepper for greatest album ever made (Rosie, for years it pretty much topped every single list I ever saw – it was the Citizen Kane of albums. It was the aftermath of punk that knocked it off it’s perched as people’s perspective on intricate concept albums changed and they switched to the more pure-pop pleasures of ‘Revolver’)

    Double thumbs up for ‘Rabbit Fur Coat’ from me too. I bought it on red vinyl the other week (already had the CD too)

  8. 98
    Tom on 11 Mar 2010 #

    I’d say Rubber Soul’s “pretensions” (soul musicians! comedians! French people!) are as glaring as Pepper’s, probably carried off less well, but I like both records a great deal. Revolver’s my favourite I’d guess.

    Prince’s canonicity mostly not helped by, er, Prince. But he’s still very much in there I’d say.

    I have that 200 albums book, it’s in France though.

  9. 99
    lonepilgrim on 11 Mar 2010 #

    I’d recommend Marcello’s reappraisal of ‘Sergeant Pepper’ over at his blog; it made me warm to an album I thought I’d never want to hear again.
    I haven’t listened to ‘Rubber Soul’ for a while but ‘What goes on’ and ‘Run for your life’ are a bit weak in comparison to the rest of the tracks (against stiff competition).
    It may reflect the effect of iTunes shuffle that the Beatles albums I enjoy most these days are the more varied ones such as the White Album, ‘Past Masters 2’ and ‘Magical Mystery Tour’.
    I used to be totally obsessed with Van Morrison and ‘Astral Weeks’ back in the 80s but now don’t have a single track by him on iTunes. That may be because I’d rather listen to a complete album by him (as I would choose to listen to Dark Side of the Moon or, er, Space Ritual) rather than isolated tracks mixed in with other stuff.
    I’ve never understood why Ziggy Stardust gets SO much love for the music (although I appreciate its significance for other reasons). ‘Blonde on Blonde’ and ‘Sign of the Times’ aren’t my favourite albums by those artists – although I rate them highly.
    Is one of the problems with a canon of popular music is that each album is a unique artefact whereas connoisseurs of orchestral music and jazz can split hairs over different interpretations of the same work?
    Having said that the appetite for alternate takes and remastered versions may appeal to a similar impulse.

    I think another reason for my aversion to ‘classic albums’ is that if I buy ‘Kind of Blue’ and say I like it, the response will be ‘Well, Duh!’ I want to think my tastes are more discerning and individual than they really are.

    Oh, and I loved ‘Rabbit Fur Coat’ as well

  10. 100
    Tom on 11 Mar 2010 #

    Ziggy S is great but it’s something like my (counts fingers) 7th? 8th? favourite Bowie album.

  11. 101
    LondonLee on 11 Mar 2010 #

    I’ve always thought that Hunky Dory>>>Ziggy Stardust and Highway 61>>> Blonde on Blonde.

    Sign O’The Times is still tops though.

  12. 102
    Tom on 12 Mar 2010 #

    A post to allow further comment posse canon talk:

    http://freakytrigger.co.uk/ft/2010/03/the-friday-fun-canon-discussion-and-monster-poll/

  13. 103
    Rory on 12 Mar 2010 #

    @85 It wasn’t my way in (that was “Creep”, way back when it came out), but probably my favourite Radiohead moment was hearing “The Pyramid Song” over the radio for the first time, just as I got home; I sat in my parked car to hear it all the way through, and thought it sounded impossibly beautiful. Maybe it would to a newcomer, too. My other favourite moment was listening to Kid A while driving into Melbourne after dark, watching the rear headlights of the car in front nudging left and right in time to it as the city lights gradually built around us.

    @97 I remembered the Sgt Peppers turning point being 1987, coincidentally enough, when all the 20th anniversary CD release hype (with accompanying TV documentaries) sent a whole new generation scurrying to hear it and left many thinking sure, it’s good, but it’s not BEST ALBUM EVER good. It had “A Day in the Life”, but even Magical Mystery Tour had an “I am the Walrus”. That was around the time Revolver became my firm favourite, after initial infatuations with Abbey Road and the White Album – possibly because it felt like the fulcrum on which early Beatles and late Beatles turned, bringing together the best of both.

    Hunky Dory>>>Ziggy Stardust, for sure.

  14. 104
    Jimmy the Swede on 12 Mar 2010 #

    “#49: Please avoid casual misogyny, Jimmy.”

    Sorry, MC, I can’t let this one go. “Misogyny” indicates a “hatred or contempt of women or girls”. My comments at 49 (“old gal”) comes nowhere near this. Ageist, perhaps. But Grace’s gender, I assure you, was not my target. I am equally as scathing at “old lags” doing likewise.

  15. 105
    punctum on 12 Mar 2010 #

    Ageism is also not on, young Jim.

  16. 106
    Jimmy the Swede on 12 Mar 2010 #

    The Swede on the cusp of 50 can accept this.

  17. 107
    punctum on 12 Mar 2010 #

    #85 – After Bathing At Baxter’s reminds me of Spandau Ballet.

    What am I on about? The notion that the group are trying so damn hard to go out there; they don’t quite achieve what I assume they were aiming for but somehow arrive at something or somewhere else. More endearing than envelope-pushing a record, I think – “How Suite It Is,” indeed – but “rejoyce” is better than John Huston’s The Dead and it’s a very entertaining mess of a listen. Having just done Dylan’s Self Portrait for TPL I’m quite warmly inclined towards ambitious albums that don’t quite hold together or reach their target.

    #89 – Joanna Newsom induces a moderate, dull ache in my left shoulder.

  18. 108
    wichita lineman on 12 Mar 2010 #

    Good Spandau call. Likewise, Happy Mondays were apparently trying to sound like the Rolling Stones, which is almost impossible for me to hear; only the slide guitar on songs like The Egg hints that they were aiming at a Beggars Banquet/Let It Bleed sound and gloriously missing the mark.

    Number one in the canon of bad albums*, Self Portrait was one of the first albums I listened to on Spotify – always intrigued but never enough to splash out a tenner or more – and I was shocked by its forays into what is unashamedly sweet, straight pop: strings, femme backing vocals, Dylan’s vocals lost entirely for the opening titles beauty All The Tired Horses. Again, not a lost classic, but an intriguing left turn, and 3 or 4 songs are strong enough to suggest Dylan’s later suggestion that he only released it to piss off all the Clinton Heylins is (for once) him bowing to (blinkered) critical opinion. Now, I’ll see what Punctum made of it…

    *surely it should be The Beat Goes On by Vanilla Fudge. Or Neither Fish Nor Flesh.

  19. 109
    hectorthebat on 2 Feb 2015 #

    Critic watch:

    Bruce Pollock (USA) – The 7,500 Most Important Songs of 1944-2000 (2005)
    NME (UK) – The 100 Best Songs of the 1980s (2012) 94
    Giannis Petridis (Greece) – 2004 of the Best Songs of the Century (2003)

1 2 3 4 All

Add your comment

(Register to guarantee your comments don't get marked as spam.)


If this was number 1 when you were born paste [stork-boy] or [stork-girl] into the start of your comment :)

Required

Required (Your email address will not be published)

Top of page