Apr 10

T’PAU – “China In Your Hand”

Popular66 comments • 4,590 views

#600, 14th November 1987, video

When I was small we had one of those boxy Minis with a wood-framed chassis. It was a fine car I’m sure – my Aunt took it from us in the late 70s and gave it a good run before it finally died. But there was always something ungainly about it, and looking back it’s odd to remember these machines which mixed metal and timber in a way that seems now quite un-car-like.

And “China In Your Hand” gives me the same feeling. This is a power ballad which hasn’t come out sleek and thunderous, it’s come out lumpy and awkward and lashed together with incongruous bits of wood. There’s a wrecking-ball chorus, Carol Decker’s billowing voice, enjoyably scrambled lyrics – but there’s also that sax solo where you’re expecting a guitar one, and those precise scene-setting pizzicatos which make the intro so tempting and the rest of the tune so draggy. The mix of sounds should make the song more interesting, expand on the sturdy, denim-clad virtues at its core, but it just seems messy. Especially if you play it next to a full-on hormone exocet like Heart’s “Alone” – a fairly obvious marker for what this version of “China” was aiming for and missing.



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  1. 51
    swanstep on 19 Apr 2010 #

    @anto, 46. In the light of your remarks I checked out Q’s on-line cover archive….and, for what it’s worth the Gaga and Florence covers seem to me to be in the same ballpark as covers with Eminem, Justin T., Pink, Chili Peppers etc. from 5+ years ago. When you look at the last 20 years of covers in fact only 2003 is truly skin-obsessed (half of the covers – including Robbie Williams – basically naked), and beyond that the Lilly Allen and Cheryl Cole covers you mention from 2009 really jump out. They don’t feel like music magazine covers at all, and presumably they were designed to cause consternation/controversy, as well as to draw in a lads mag audience. I guess it’ll be interesting to see whether Q heads in this direction, but I wouldn’t bet on it. They might get a quick circ. boost from a naughty cover, but I don’t think they want to become just another lads mag.

  2. 52
    Erithian on 19 Apr 2010 #

    anto #46 – if it’s the one I’m thinking of, it was a cover featuring PJ Harvey, Bjork and Tori Amos under the headline “Hips, Lips, Tits, Power” (May ’94 – thanks for the tipoff swanstep) and as I recall the feature was a pretty serious and respectful interview with the three of them about women’s involvement in music.

    The abovementioned references to T’Pau, Sleeper and Transvision Vamp were of a piece with their occasional targeting of a band to be Aunt Sallies (Toploader took that role for a while) but female-fronted bands were used relatively often. (And Q are detemined to use that photo of BEP’s Fergie wetting herself at every opportunity!)

    Re women having to compromise to be on the cover – in the cases of Lily, Cheryl and Gaga at least they seem perfectly willing to wear fairly revealing clothing in their videos: is that compromise on their part as well or are they happy with it as part of their image, I wonder?

  3. 53
    Erithian on 19 Apr 2010 #

    Oh, and James at #33 – good to see you on these pages.

  4. 54
    thefatgit on 19 Apr 2010 #

    Adrian Deevoy, (for it is he) wrote that article on PJ Harvey, Bjork and Tori Amos. I notice his CV includes Penthouse AND Cosmopolitan. Go figure!

  5. 55
    anto on 19 Apr 2010 #

    Re 52: No it was a different one. More recent with P.J Harvey on her own.
    I think with Q it’s more a kind of lazy, pandering sexism of the sort we sometimes find in Richard Bransons Virgin ads. It’s the way they think there is actually something wrong with looking like a Barmaid.
    Not as aggressive as the whole Nuts/Zoo thing. It’s a kind of thoughtlessness as much as anything.
    It’s not the only reason I find Q disagreeable. I think Conrad@50 put it best. It’s a rather small-minded publication which probably thinks of itself as sophisticated. It’s brother mag Empire has similar tendencies.

  6. 56
    swanstep on 20 Apr 2010 #

    @anto, 55. Is this the PJ Harvey cover you mean? She’s got her guitar out, looks pretty in control and ferocious with her ‘lick my legs’ t-shirt on, and in the context of her glorious Stories from the City cd of the time, she looks every inch the Patti Smith of the ’00s. Gaga’s ‘dildo down her trousers’ cover and florence’s ‘attack of the 50 ft woman’ cover seem to me to be somewhat similarly funky ‘rock goddess’ images. Only the Lily A. and Cheryl C. covers seem to me to overtly head off into true lad mag territory. But, as you suggest, Q’s real problems are almost certainly its general shallowness, spitefulness, etc..

  7. 57
    swanstep on 20 Apr 2010 #

    Unrelatedly, the ‘year of mixtapes’ blog which I’ve recommended to Popular a few times before has a Giorgio Moroder mixtape this week. I haven’t listened to it yet, but it looks fab, and very much the sort of thing that Popular regulars might want to check out.

  8. 58
    MikeMCSG on 20 Apr 2010 #

    #56 Much as I like her Northern ballsiness, Cheryl doesn’t belong on the cover of a “serious” music magazine at all. I’ve been pondering a switch to Mojo for a while ; I think it’s the thought that I’d be making a surrender to middle age that’s stopping me.

  9. 59
    lonepilgrim on 20 Apr 2010 #

    #58 I have followed a trajectory from Disco45 >> NME >> the Face >> Q >> Mojo/Uncut/The Wire.

    The latter is the best of the three by a long way – it introduces me to music I would otherwise be unaware of – even if, in many cases, after listening I would prefer to be unaware of it. The other two I buy out of force of habit but there are only so many Beatles/Stones/Dylan articles a person can read.

    I’ve bought The Word on occasions but find it disappointingly shallow when it purports to be more perceptive and wide ranging.

  10. 60
    swanstep on 30 Apr 2010 #

    Seriously, what an election you lot are having! Are you ready to welcome your new Spandau Ballet overlords? (not sure from a distance what clegg and brown equate to – pretty please enlighten me!). Is the whole thing, in combination with short campaigns in a Westminster system, now just X Factor/Idol for politics as a few people have written/said? Anyhow, someone should write a Popular rant on the topic that can then be the election comments thread….

  11. 61
    punctum on 30 Apr 2010 #

    Reminds me of when Steven Wells interviewed Carol Decker in the NME round about that time and she said: “I voted Alliance in the election! Sorry! I know it’s very boring and not rock ‘n’ roll!” They got on pretty well.

  12. 62
    Billy Smart on 30 Apr 2010 #

    IIRC that interview was T’Pau’s sole stint as NME cover stars, with the great strapline “T’BIFF! T’BANG! T’PAU!”

  13. 63
    punctum on 8 Jan 2015 #

    Then Play Long returns from its Christmas holiday to examine the parent album.

  14. 64
    Lazarus on 17 Apr 2015 #

    Carol Decker is one of the interviewees on tonight’s ‘How to make a Number One Record’ on BBC4, along with the always-available Noddy Holder and some bloke called Bob Stanley – clashes with HIGNFY so could be one for the iPlayer, but sounds like it might be worth a look. Also features Chris Difford, who surely can only talk of the frustration of being stalled at number two, as Squeeze were twice in 1979.

  15. 65
    Steve Mannion on 24 Nov 2015 #

    “I was in a coma. They played me China in Your Hand and that’s what brought me out of it.”


  16. 66
    wllilly on 28 Apr 2017 #

    …For ” Heart And Soul ” I will recall that living in Green Bay , Wisconsin at the time (IIRC) ” HAS ” came across in my head , as someone who knew of the Eurovision contest but of course never heard it – I thought to myself that HAS sounded like my idea of what a Eurovision song might be !

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