Oct 07

TERRY JACKS – “Seasons In The Sun”

FT + Popular68 comments • 7,251 views

#347, 6th April 1974

“Seasons In The Sun” is one of those records that was never not going to be enormous. The weird dolour of its intro chords, Terry Jacks’ tear-choked vocals, Brel’s terrace-ready chorus and the sheer oddness of the song….even if you think it’s awful or kitsch you can’t be surprised at its success. Sometimes I do think those things, but the elements mockers tend to point to are also keys to “Seasons”‘ effectiveness. Those final chord shifts, for example – outrageous manipulation yes, but also the desperate last grabs at life by the dying singer.

I’ve not heard Brel’s “Le Moribund” though I know that a hefty subtext went missing in the transition from Jacques to Jacks – the dying man may be a suicide, driven to it by his wife’s infidelity. It seems to me though that removing that story, that explanation, must improve the song, or at least make it much stranger. “Seasons” is now about the awful blank randomness of death, rather than the bitter punchline to life as a bad joke.



  1. 1
    CarsmileSteve on 19 Oct 2007 #

    i hatehatehate this song so very much, it just totally sets my teeth on edge…

  2. 2
    Doctor Casino on 19 Oct 2007 #

    I love this one! One of several songs we’ll encounter that I know primarily thanks to “Sounds of the 70s” ads that used to run during Robotech reruns in the early 90s. Only in the last few months have I bothered to track down the whole song, and it really threw a curveball – from the hook you think we’re going to get some sort of “All Summer Long” type thing, a wistful but positive look back at the good old days. But when you hit “Goodbye Michelle, it’s hard to die”…I mean, what do you do with that? I agree with Tom about the weirdness of the thing – but it’s a weirdness that works, fusing the suicide ballad type of “Alone Again, Naturally” with the thick gauziness of “Crimson and Clover.” Above-average track.

  3. 3
    Marcello Carlin on 19 Oct 2007 #

    The original “Le Moribond” certainly had those factors in mind – Brel says goodbye to the other man as well as his wife and proclaims inter alia that death is preferable to boredom and that he wants everyone to dance with joy “when you put me in the hole” because let’s face it you’re going to anyway – so it’s a not-too-distant prequel or equivalent to his “Funeral Tango.” Additionally, Brel’s original recording is about four times the speed of “Seasons In The Sun” – a rapid tempo, brass-dominant march as though adding another “damn you” to the song’s fabric.

    But I will leave it to other Canadian regulars to evaluate fully the success of Can-Con’s greatest commercial triumph (at least for now). I don’t think I’ve ever heard the Pearls Before Swine version but I’d like to.

  4. 4
    Mark G on 19 Oct 2007 #

    One time, I’ll post here before Marc gets to. Unlikely, I know…

  5. 5
    jeff w on 19 Oct 2007 #

    I’ve never understood why this song has so many h8ers. (I nearly wrote ‘can’t understand why anybody would hate it’, but OK I can see why it’s not for everyone). Come on though, it’s a sublime interpretation of the song. Just the way Jacks sings “ev’ry-wHere”, emphasising the ‘h’, is a pure pop moment all its own! And don’t get me started on the arrangement…

  6. 6
    Pete on 19 Oct 2007 #

    The melody is so simple and well known that it must have been used as a terrace chant, but I can’t for the life of me think of any.

    This song always makes me think of poor seventies quality video and a man throwing a frisbee to a shaggy retriever-like dog. I have no idea why.

  7. 7
    Kat on 19 Oct 2007 #

    Listened to this for the first time on Youtube just now (though was fully aware that a song with this title existed). CHRIST what a dirge! Actually I dimly remember seeing this in Mum’s ’100 Easy Guitar Tunes’ songbook. His voice is like a guitar teacher actually, patiently explaining that you should be hitting the chord change in time *here* for the seventeenth time.

  8. 8
    Tom on 19 Oct 2007 #

    Pete – I’m sure I’ve seen one quoted as “We had joy we had fun we had xxxxxx on the run” – can’t remember how the rest of it goes though, it’s a hooligan song as much as a terrace one I guess.

  9. 9
    Tom on 19 Oct 2007 #

    As for the frisbee-throwing, I think this one was caned on the Golden Oldie Picture Show.

  10. 10
    Tez Burke on 19 Oct 2007 #

    A pretty awful Brel cover all round, though much more of the discredit needs to be attached to Rod McKuen’s mawkish mistranslation than to Jacks’ harmlessly anodyne voice. Once upon a time, many people considered McKuen’s own Patience Strong-esque pronunciamentos to be “poetry”, believe it or not.

    Wasn’t it Charlton Athletic who had joy, and had fun, and had Millwall on the run?

  11. 11
    Lena on 19 Oct 2007 #

    It’s one of those days; one of those rare days when we are told we can play quietly in class and yes even bring music – there is school today, but not school as usual. The girls bring girly things, dolls and coloring books, the boys bring hockey cards. A big boxy record player sits by the teacher. A single is put on: “Seasons in the Sun” by Terry Jacks (not that I knew his name at the time). Even if the sun wasn’t shining, the song brings the sun and summer to life. We don’t get the main lines to do with death, though the singer sure has a sad voice, in a pretty way. We are all seven years old, after all.

    As was Kurt Cobain, across the continent, who loved it and somehow went out and got it. (More at Slate, but also – spoiler alert after the Nirvana section.)

    Terry Jacks’ biggest hit milked the sadness in his voice, but his voice could be creepy too – “Where Evil Grows” makes me uneasy whenever I hear it on the oldies show, as does the song about how a beautiful lady has to run and hide, on the last night of her life (I don’t know the song title). “Where Evil Grows” was covered by Canadian punk legends D.O.A. (also from Vancouver) and intended as an environmental anthem, and the other song could be a melodramatic elegy to poor Mother Earth herself. (Caring about the environment in a rather overdramatic soppy way = early 70s)

    I think as seven-year-olds “Seasons in the Sun” was all “oh it’s fall now and any minute winter’s going to arrive” – BUT we had joy, we had fun, even if it was for, what, two months? And now summer is dying into autumn and it’s gone too soon. But the song doesn’t seem to mind. This is how life is, and summer will come back again. Maybe not for the singer, but it will come back. In a country where the summers are so short (in general), a song like this makes total sense to kids, though I imagine kids everywhere loved it.

    If you dislike the song, then consider it Canada’s revenge on a world that wouldn’t recognize its music – I don’t know if Anne Murray, Gordon Lightfoot, Neil Young, The Band, Leonard Cohen, Joni Mitchell etc. had singles out in the UK, but they never got to #1. This did…

  12. 12
    mike on 19 Oct 2007 #

    As far as I was concerned at the time, this song was The Enemy Of Pop, and part of a wave of soppy dirges (Everyday, Remember Me This Way, Emma, The Air That I Breathe, You Are Everything… and hell, even Barry Blue had forsaken me with the drippy School Love) that made me instantly nostalgic for the good old days of glam. My first ever “The Charts Aren’t What They Used To Be” moment, no less.

    Round about the same time, a well-meaning friend of the family bought me a paperback collection of Rod McKuen’s poetry back from the States. Eww, so not me. Rightly or wrongly, I still associate his work with that whole ghastly wave of pseudo-deep gift-shop blank verse, invariably all in lower case, that you could pick up in pamphlet form, somewhere between the Snoopy key fobs and the pot-pourri. (Leonard Nimoy was a particular star in this field, by the way.)

    Best of all, you could actually send off for customised pamphlets of this stuff, into which various personalised details could be inserted. (“oh DAVE / your BROWN eyes are deep like the ocean / i knew you were for me / when our souls first entwined / that sparkling starlit night / at TOP RANK HEMEL HEMPSTEAD / etc etc”)

    Maybe I was a little harsh?

  13. 13
    Tom on 19 Oct 2007 #

    I don’t think these lyrics are particularly good btw, though I’ve not been lucky enough to read any of Rod McKuen’s other work.

    Meanwhile – look who it is on the title bar! Thanks Steve.

  14. 14
    mike on 19 Oct 2007 #

    Oh, happy dawn! :-)

  15. 15
    Steve on 19 Oct 2007 #

    So massive they’re on John McCain’s iPod AND obscuring the caption text.

  16. 16
    Marcello Carlin on 19 Oct 2007 #

    Bit of a SPOILER that banner, chaps!

    Mike must surely have heard McKuen’s recording of “Eros.” Also I liked the way he conned Sinatra into making an album of gay songs (A Man Alone).

  17. 17
    Tom on 19 Oct 2007 #

    We’re not remotely suggesting that the band on the title bar are about to make an appearance Marcello – merely that they seem to sum up the pop of the mid 70s quite well. And let that be the final word on the matter for today :)

  18. 18
    Lena on 19 Oct 2007 #

    There’s a great version of “Seasons in the Sun” on The Squirrels’ homepage. Total greatness.

  19. 19
    Marcello Carlin on 19 Oct 2007 #

    I’ll check that one out later!

    BTW, Number Two Watch: ’twas the aforementioned Adam Ant/Rachel Stevens-inspiring “The Cat Crept In” by Mud.

  20. 20
    Mark G on 19 Oct 2007 #

    Hooligans recall:

    We had joy we had fun
    we had arsenal on the run
    but the fun did not last
    cuz the bastards ran too fast.

  21. 21
    Mark G on 19 Oct 2007 #

    Rod McKuen?

    “I’m a mummy” as covered by The Fall.

  22. 22
    mike on 19 Oct 2007 #

    Oh God, Rod McKuen’s “Eros”, how could I forget that one? (It’s on the Jon Savage Queer Noises comp.) It’s all a bit “mine is a twilight world”, but undeniably effective, and clearly penned from personal experience. Cast in a certain light, and given McKuen’s bisexuality, “Seasons” could almost be read as an eerie premonition of… but then again, let’s not.

  23. 23
    Rosie on 19 Oct 2007 #

    Aaaaaarrrrrrrggghhhh! I hoped to get in first on this one (and at least before Marcello) and I missed the cue!

    It’s not entirely clear what the protagonist of Jacques Brel’s Le Moribond is dying of. (It might have something to do with Antoine, whom he didn’t much care for.) What is clear is that Brel’s protagonist is not going gentle into that good night, that he’s lived life to the full, got on with most people (except Antoine, but including the priest even if they didn’t tread the same path), and that the terrace-ready chorus exhorts his friends to celebrate his life and not mourn his death:

    Je veux qu’on rit
    Je veux qu’on danse
    Je veux qu’on s’amuse comme des fous

    (I find it unutterably depressing that all English people learn Frech at school and so few can be arsed to speak it afterwards. All the same, this is, roughly, “I want you all to laugh, I want you all to dance, I want you all to act the fool [when it’s time to put me in the hole]”)

    Brel’s chanson is upbeat, affirming, and not in the least sentimental. After all, death is the one thing that is certain in life, and the real point is to make the most of one’s time. On the other hand, Jacks’s/McKuen’s version (it’s not possible to call it a translation) is full of the kind of nauseating sentimentality that the anglo-saxon world seems to be so adept at.

    Jacques Brel has a station on the Brussels Metro named after him. I can’t imagine anywhere having a station called Terry Jacks, or Rod McKuen, can you?

    In the past I’ve mentioned that one reason for me giving a 10 is where an already good song is given something extra special in the performance. Following much the same reasoning, my 1 would be a perfectly good song transformed into an appallingly bad one. I love Le Moribond as I love most Brel, and I hate this record with a vengeance. I’m only sorry that Tom’s scoring system doesn’t allow for a 0. Quite the worst so far, for me.

    Oh, and Lena, my collection is stuffed with Leonard Cohen, Joni Mitchell, The Band and Neil Young (if not the others you name). So what did I do to deserve Terry bloody Jacks?

  24. 24
    Matthew H on 19 Oct 2007 #

    I wouldn’t want to lower the tone, but… ah well:

    We had joy we had fun,
    Flicking bogies at the sun;
    When the sun got too hot…

    You can probably guess the rest. Just a North London playground thing, maybe.

  25. 25
    Erithian on 19 Oct 2007 #

    It’s possibly best if you don’t spend too much time comparing this to Brel – it’s taken the tune and the theme, yes, but turned the lyric around so much that it’s almost a different song entirely. And it has to be said that it’s a gorgeous pop production, and a suitably massive hit. Wasn’t there a particularly weird dance involved with this, a kind of forerunner of the “Oops Upside Your Head” rowing thing?

    Lena and others discussing Canadian bands – we weren’t too far away, later that same year, from having a number one from the poptastic Bachman Turner Overdrive… mate!

    Mike – oddly enough I had a “The Charts Aren’t What They Used To Be” moment around that time with the equally dirge-like “Rock’n’Roll Suicide”. I guess you had to hear it in context.

  26. 26
    My name is Kenny on 19 Oct 2007 #

    Unjustifiable. The worst song ever recorded. Tom’s entry reads like complete gibberish to me; I literally disagree with every line in this review. Tom lives in an alternate universe; I have nothing in common with him.

  27. 27
    Rosie on 19 Oct 2007 #

    By the way, I did say in the previous thread that we were about to discuss a good death song, if only obliquely. The good one is Jacques Brel’s; this one lousy, and I’m sorry Erithian, it would be lousy anyway but it’s impossible for me not to compare it with Le Moribond and in comparison it’s not only lousy but a desecration.

  28. 28
    intothefireuk on 19 Oct 2007 #

    Not being privvy, at the time, to the Brel original (in fact I only heard Le Moribund a couple of years ago) I had to judge Jacks song only on its own merit. I wasn’t particularly fond of the sing-songy chorus which was easily adapted for nefarious uses such as :-
    ‘we had joy, we had fun, we stuck fingers up our ****’ (thanks West London massive). I didnt like the mawkish nature of the verses. But, I did like Jacks voice, the production, the twangy guitar and that indefinable quality that you can’t quite put your finger on. So I developed a soft spot for the record which was further softened by the fact that I discovered Bowie, who I was mad on at the time, had also released a Brel song, ‘Amsterdam’ as the flip of Sorrow. He’d also played ‘My Death’ live. So Brel became a familiar name to me. Further enhanced by finding Scott Walkers recordings. Which, of course, leads us to Jacks next hit. Again, he used another Brel song, ‘If You Go Away’ and tinkered with it. Severely edited and knocked into a more straightforward pop format it triggered a similar reaction in me to Seasons.

    Listening to Seasons now, post Le Moribund, I actually like it a little more. Brel’s songs do lend themselves to interpretation, and this was Mr Jacks own (even with McKuens dodgy lyrics). Listen to The Poppy Family and you’ll see where he’s coming from – or just call it ‘slightly sad pop’.

  29. 29
    Marcello Carlin on 20 Oct 2007 #

    I think you’ll find that “You Ain’t Seen Nothin’ Yet” only made number two here.

  30. 30
    Caledonianne on 20 Oct 2007 #

    I don’t know whether, before I joined your happy band, you discussed a perfect loo book from a couple of years ago – “I hate myself and want to die: the 52 most depressing songs you’ve ever heard”? Naturally about half of them are on my Ipod, but that’s just me.

    “Seasons” is the lead entry in the “Perfect Storm” category – ” the absolute most depressing….. when songwriters, attempting to create an emotionally affecting song, swing for the catharsis fence, but end up fouling into the grandstand, wiping out 1,000 nuns and orphans. There’s a complete cluelessness to perfect storms, with the perpetrator completely unaware of the catastrophe that’s being unleashed” (Actually that’s nonsense, one of his Perfect Storms is Harry Chapin’s “The Shortest Story”, and Chapin knew EXACTLY what he was doing).

    If anyone’s interested I could post the entry in full.

  31. 31
    o sobek! on 21 Oct 2007 #

    like casino i know this almost entirely due to k-tel/time-life sounds of the seventies tv ads – like ‘billy don’t be a hero’, ‘the night chicago died’, and many other am radio monsters that ppl who lived thru the 70s perhaps shudder at but ppl who came afterward look at and go ‘seems harmless enough to me’ it’s a genre that seems to have stayed in the 70s with no revival and little exposure afterwards – unlike philly soul, glam, socal rock, disco, punk, wimprock, singer songwriters, prog, funk, crossover country, southern rock, yacht rock, or any other ‘sound of the seventies’ i NEVER hear these songs played except in the context of ‘hey – remember the seventies?’, only serving to remind me that i will NEVER be able to get a grasp on the seventies.

    6 seems fair.

  32. 32
    Waldo on 22 Oct 2007 #

    Morbid, dying Hoser, Jacks, caterwaulers his way back to the pavilion in a dour soliloquy of self-pity. He has just enough petrol left in the tank to say tatty-bye to a few of the folks and donate a few choice guitar chords to posterity before hitting the snooze button. Do we care? Er…no.

    But cards on the table, peeps. I bloody loved this back in the day. It was completely miserable, negative and self-centred and so was I at that time. I played it over and over, also the B-side, which told the story of Terry’s mutt getting run over, and only stopped playing it when my brother, older by three and a half years, suggested that if I really wanted to feel sorry for myself, I was welcome to his Neil Young and Leonard Cohen albums. I snapped this offer up in a microsecond. What is it about Canadian soloists? Young, I discovered, is a wonderful artist, as to a certain extent is Cohen. But it certainly would not be wise putting any of their records on the jukebox in the Beachy Head Tavern, one of my own occasional watering holes.

    I now regard “Seasons in the Sun” as a comedy record and this allows me to pay it an unexpected compliment, in as much as suggesting that Jacques Brel could have written it and Lord Scott Walker could have sung it, as has already been discussed by all you clever dickies. It certainly is an oddity and that ticks the main Brel/Walker box before we get out of the starting blocks. Terry Jacks himself, meanwhile, had earlier featured in a hippy-type mob alarmingly called The Poppy Family, who charted here with a ridiculous offering called “Which Way You Going, Billy?”, the song’s subject most certainly not the same Billy who got relieved of all his earthly burdens in the last episode here.

  33. 33
    Waldo on 22 Oct 2007 #

    Well, yes, I suppose technically speaking, Brel did indeed write it…

  34. 34
    Marcello Carlin on 22 Oct 2007 #

    “Which Way You Goin’ Billy?” was a GREAT record by a GREAT group with a HIDDEN SUBTEXT THINK ABOUT IT

    Cohen’s one of the funniest writers in all of “rock.” If you want black comedy you can’t beat “Dress Rehearsal Rag” (and if you want unintentional comedy you can’t beat Noel Harrison’s version of “Dress Rehearsal Rag”).

    1974 Neil Young would have been On The Beach – not a bundle of laughs for sure but then it’s not suicidal either (the irony of those two IMac reviews a lifetime apart).

    Is there actually a Beachy Head Tavern then? I bet it’s been turned into one of those themed Irish pubs with non-stop Corrs and Westlife on the jukebox. Now THAT would be enough to drive me off the cliff.

  35. 35
    Erithian on 22 Oct 2007 #

    Oh yes, I was going to mention Bowie’s marvellous version of “Amsterdam” – a far better Brel cover with all the atmospheric qualities of the original. Pity it was tucked away on the B-side of “Sorrow”, but lines like “He’ll drink to the health of the whores of Amsterdam” and “He pisses like I cry on the unfaithful love” would have sat uncomfortably alongside the Wombling Song.

    Marcello (#29) – when I said we weren’t too far away from having a number one from BTO, I did mean one chart place away!

  36. 36
    Waldo on 22 Oct 2007 #

    Marcello (#34) – Yep, The Beachy Head Tavern, although it’s now just called The Beachy Head. I was in there yesterday afternoon, in fact, with Mrs Waldo and there were plenty of blokes in England rugger shirts milling around with a very worried-looking Beachy Head Chaplain weaving his way around them. The pub is an excellent eatery and is certainly not “themed”, which is just as well. Outside on the cliffs there are a series of plaques quoting the scriptures, basically telling folk not to jump. Of course, one poor guy was once famously racing to the edge in order to turn himself over but was checked by being upended by one of these monuments stating “NO PROBLEM IS TOO GREAT FOR GOD”. I’m sure that’s true but it cost this poor fucker a broken ankle. Even more bizarrely, a wonderful local man, who has saved several lives up on the Head, was recently cautioned as to his activities by none other than the Coastguard for breaching Health and Safety regulations, that is to say he was putting himself at risk. This guy has now ceased his work. Honest to God, you couldn’t make it up.

  37. 37
    Lena on 22 Oct 2007 #

    Sounds like it has a theme to me – don’t jump off the cliff!

    Terry Jacks’ best friend had died just before he recorded this song, plus his wife Susan (who sings “Which Way You Goin’ Billy?”) was divorcing him. He had a right to sing the blues…

  38. 38
    Waldo on 22 Oct 2007 #

    Lena – “Sounds like it has a theme to me – don’t jump off the cliff!”
    Good one, I have to say…

  39. 39
    Lena on 22 Oct 2007 #


  40. 40
    Snif on 23 Oct 2007 #

    “”don’t jump off the cliff!

    Never did Sue Barker any harm

  41. 41
    doofuus2003 on 23 Oct 2007 #

    I always put this one together with Honey by Bobby Goldsboro, surprised it hasn’t been mentioned yet

  42. 42
    Marcello Carlin on 23 Oct 2007 #

    That came back in ’75, a number two hit for the second time thanks to Noel Edmonds and his sodding Saddest Song Ever poll. It was bad enough the first time around!

    For no reason whatsoever Tommy Cooper’s 1960 hit single and Junior Choice perennial “Don’t Jump Off The Roof Dad (You’ll Make A Hole In The Yard)” has just sprung to mind.

  43. 43
    LondonLee on 23 Oct 2007 #

    “The melody is so simple and well known that it must have been used as a terrace chant, but I can’t for the life of me think of any.”

    We had joy, we had fun
    We had Tottenham on the run

    That’s the one I remember

  44. 44
    Erithian on 24 Oct 2007 #

    Stuart Maconie played another great Brel cover last night – “Next” (“Au suivant”) by the Sensational Alex Harvey Band. A fine band, though slightly deranged and you might not necessarily want them next to you in the bus queue. I see MC has referred to Alex Harvey in the “Streak” thread – maybe he can verify the legend of his jeans being held together with sellotape? Oddly enough I don’t remember “Next” from the time, but did get “The Faith Healer” single, which shoulda been a monster.

  45. 45
    Marcello Carlin on 24 Oct 2007 #

    It was a monster in Scotland (another knockout Phil Wainman production) but the rest of the nation took a longer while to catch on to the greatness that was SAHB. I still think their Christmas show at the Glasgow Apollo in ’75 – which both my dad and I attended – is the greatest gig I have ever witnessed.

    The jeans/sellotape interface was indeed true; he admitted it on Tiger Tim Stevens’ show on Radio Clyde.

  46. 46
    Waldo on 24 Oct 2007 #

    I have an old tape of “Whistle Test” showing Harvey doing “Next” and, yes, it’s magnificent. Whispering Bob pronounced it “great”. So no stereotyping there, then. Also featured was Tim Buckley, only months away from edging one to the keeper, the poor sod. He performed “Dolphins”. Brilliant also.

  47. 47
    crag on 24 Oct 2007 #

    longtime listener first time caller
    Having just listened to Seasons again for the first time in a few years I was reminded of something I was told about it a while back- the fab swampy guitar riffs at the intro and after each chorus (IMO the records main appealing factor) were played by none other Link Wray, creator of “Rumble” famous as the only instrumental disc banned on US radio for fears it would incite teenage riots. Can amyone confirm this or was I dreaming?

  48. 48
    Erithian on 25 Oct 2007 #

    Welcome along Cragster, the more the merrier.

    “Edging one to the keeper” – great phrase!

  49. 49
    Marcello Carlin on 25 Oct 2007 #

    Wikipedia says that the riffs were inspired by “Rumble” rather than Link Wray playing them as such (at the time LW was putting out some rather fine records on the then nascent Virgin label).

  50. 50
    crag on 26 Oct 2007 #

    thanks for the welcome (not sure about “cragster”, mind).
    You might be right about the Link thing Marcello though i personally cant hear any similarity between the two riffs and, besides surely even before the recent events of Hazelhurstgate we all knew to take much of whats on Wiki with at least a pinch of salt?
    Either way I think i’m going to continue to keep believing it if only cos its such a bizarre idea.

  51. 51
    doofuus2003 on 26 Oct 2007 #

    For sure Next was a big part of the SAHB live show; saw them several times at the big outdoor kind of event, always 4th or 5th on the bill, but with a theatrical style suited to the big crowd in the days when there were no huge screen close ups.

  52. 52
    Caledonianne on 2 Nov 2007 #


    Aaaah! Tiger Tim Stevens. I remember bopping at his Sunday afternoon gig in Shuffles in Sauchiehall Street…

  53. 53
    wichita lineman on 19 Jun 2008 #

    Re 37. Terry got his revenge on swingin’ Susan by ensuring he owned the rights to her solo records and the Poppy Family, which explains why they so rarely crop up on cd. Unlike this dilly of a death disc.

    Got to agree with Marcello, the Poppy Family were a FABULOUS group – Susan Jacks’ voice is one of the purest and saddest in all of pop. Which Way You Goin’ Billy is ok, but their 2 lps feature far better stuff. Check out Free From The City on one of Finders Keepers’ semi-legit compilations (possibly Folk Is Not A Four Letter Word).

  54. 54
    Billy Smart on 13 Feb 2009 #

    NMEWatch: 9 March 1974. A thumbs-up from guest reviewer Kenny Everett;

    “Very nice production, very clean, very jolly, very bouncy. Lots of tune – should be played on the radio. Sounds like he hasn’t had a shit in years.”

    No Single of the week. Also released;

    Portsmouth Sinfonia – William Tell Overture
    Diana Ross & Marvin Gaye – You Are Everything
    Doobie Brothers – Listen To The Music
    Bubblerock – Get Off My Cloud

  55. 55
    Ken Shinn on 31 Jul 2012 #

    “Rod McKuen’s out right now
    Oh wouldn’t you just know it?
    Because I am an artistic man
    In fact a bit of a poet.

    I’m a man of Nature too
    The land, the sea, and the sky.
    So why don’t you just hang up now
    And have another try.”

    (c) Pretentious Productions Inc

  56. 56
    Shayne on 14 Sep 2012 #

    I loved as much as you will receive carried out right here.

    The sketch is attractive, your authored subject matter stylish.
    nonetheless, you command get got an edginess over that you wish be delivering the following.
    unwell unquestionably come more formerly again since exactly
    the same nearly a lot often inside case you shield this increase.

  57. 57
    wichita lineman on 14 Sep 2012 #

    The intro is gorgeously dark and liquid, the best bit of the song. I don’t really hear Link Wray who played WAY more aggressively.

    As for Tom’s view that it was an obvious no.1, I dunno. The Fortunes had recorded it a few years earlier (’69 or ’70) and flopped, and the T Jacks production is weirdly chirpy given the subject matter.

    As a kid it scared the hell out of me though – my mum told it was about someone injecting themselves (wha?) with “drugs” and dying (HUH?). Why would they do that? “I don’t know,” she said. “I just don’t know.”

  58. 58
    swanstep on 15 Sep 2012 #

    Aside from the chorus, this one is new to me. I find SITS’s overall effect quite disagreeable but, like others here, I enjoy both the grunty guitar bits (which I think both Nirvana and Hole nicked on occasion) and the angelic backing vox in the verses (which Blur may have nicked for To The End, but more likely there’s an in common Euro-source).

    I wonder about the claim that this was an ‘obvious number one’ too. I’m actually surprised that it could be any sort of hit in 1974 since it sounds so 1969/1970 to my ears, back with Peter Sarstedt’s hit (which I like more than most do) perhaps. Mike Atkinson says above that he grouped SITS with, e.g., The Air That I Breathe and You Are Everything at the time, but both of those feel a lot more modern (and of course just pleasurable) than SITS to me.

    SITS spent 3 weeks at #1 in NZ (following the Hollies’ six week run at the top with Air that I Breathe).

  59. 59
    Mark G on 15 Sep 2012 #

    Nice spot re: Blur, there.

  60. 60
    mapman132 on 17 Mar 2014 #

    Count me among those who wonders why this song is despised by so many. I mean it’s not for everyone, but it’s not THAT bad. 6/10 is probably what I’d give it too. Also #1 for three weeks in the US. 1974’s batch of US number ones seems to have a special place for derision by music fans, and there was certainly far worse that year than this.

    PS: Didn’t realize this was a translation of a French song, which I’m listening to as I write. It’s interesting have very different the versions sound, and not just because of the language change. The French version somehow sounds more upbeat, but also angrier – they barely sound like the same song.

  61. 61
    hectorthebat on 29 Jun 2014 #

    Critic watch:

    1001 Songs You Must Hear Before You Die, and 10,001 You Must Download (2010)
    Bob Merserau (Canada) – The Top 100 Canadian Singles of All Time (2010) 50
    Chartattack (Canada) – The 100 Best Canadian Singles of All Time (1996) 36
    The Guardian (UK) – 1000 Songs Everyone Must Hear (2009)
    Panorama (Norway) – The 30 Best Singles of the Year 1970-98 (1999) 15
    Giannis Petridis (Greece) – 2004 of the Best Songs of the Century (2003)

  62. 62
    Erithian on 30 Jan 2015 #

    So farewell then Rod McKuen. Mixed reception on this thread mind you.

  63. 63
    Mark M on 9 Jul 2015 #

    Phil’s been talking about this on the Never Had A Dream… thread, but I’m going to try to move it back here. Having listened to Le Moribond properly for the first time yesterday, I’d say there’s only a hint, the barest skeleton, of the chorus melody deployed in Seasons In The Sun to be found in Brel’s barking. It’s not just lyrically that its very loose cover – I don’t like Seasons In The Sun, but I guess I’m saying that the English language version has evolved into a substantially different song – the very interesting link being (as I think has been mentioned above) the Kingston Trio’s take, in which you can hear back to Brel and forward to Jacks. (The wife has still cheated on him in this and, for that matter, The Beach Boys’ version).

  64. 64
    Phil on 9 Jul 2015 #

    Rosie @37 seems to have eerily anticipated everything I had to say about the relationship between this & its original. As it goes, I’m old enough to remember this & vaguely hated it at the time – syrupy, sentimental, obviously aimed at GURLS hem hem. Hate it even more now, clearly, although the arrangement isn’t entirely stupid – those ominous chords are a good touch. Thanks, Mark M – fascinating to learn that the lyrical vandalism was Terry Jacks’s own as well as (on top of) McKuen’s, and to hear that those guitar chords were already there on the Beach Boys’ version (produced & perhaps arranged by Jacks).

  65. 65
    BT on 10 Jul 2015 #

    Was Brel’s Le Moribund the inspiration for The Last Will and Testament of Jake Thackray? If so, it’s a far finer tribute than SITS.

  66. 66
    Phil on 10 Jul 2015 #

    #65 – it’s a nice idea, but the answer’s almost certainly No. Jake Thackray was a huge fan of Georges Brassens, whose (few) admirers over here tended to think he’d got a bit of a raw deal by comparison with Brel. JT translated/adapted some of Brassens’ songs and borrowed from others. In this case Brassens’ “Le Testament” looks like it was the inspiration – and the source for a couple of lines, although much more of the song is in Thackray’s own voice.

  67. 67
    lonepilgrim on 21 Oct 2019 #

    I seem to remember that whenever this was played on TOTP they simply featured a photo of TJ looking suitably constipated – I guess Pans People struggled to come up with a suitable routine. Its a bit whiny, a bit Holden Caulfield and somehow despite its faults strangely compelling

  68. 68
    Mark M on 9 May 2020 #

    Ah, Belgianness – forever ignored. On Dusty At The BBC, repeated last night, Ms Springfield does a long, stereotype-laden introduction to a song in which she mentions Paris, the Eiffel Tower, garlic, the French attitude towards love… and then launches into If You Go Away/Ne Me Quitte Pas (4/5ths another McKuen sort-of translation. 1/5th Brel’s words).

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 (Your email address will not be published)

Top of page