9
Jun 10

FAIRGROUND ATTRACTION – “Perfect”

Popular122 comments • 5,799 views

#608, 14th May 1988, video

This record really enrages me without my being easily able to work out why. It’s not the tune – when I’m not listening to it “Perfect” bops around my head quite pleasantly, or at least the “beey-ee-ee-ee-ee-ee-ee” hook does. Of course, that in-head version lacks Eddi Reader’s stridency, which really surprised me when I listened to the track again: I had this memory of it as a very breezy, light, record, a sort of skiffle Bobbie Gentry deal, and it might have been but her blaring voice buckles the song, and she makes her romantic idealism sound a little smug.

Not to mention that she sounds like she’s yelling in your ear, and here’s where I think I’ve worked out what really bugs me about “Perfect”: the production. It’s intimate, but impeccably intimate, crispness and echo deployed too neatly, like somebody has spent a great deal of money on trying to sound like they hadn’t. This is probably intensely unfair – the song was apparently self-produced and I’ve no doubt the band’s rootsiness was genuine: maybe 80s recording studios were just set up in such a way that it was hard to trespass off more clinical paths.

3

Comments

1 2 3 4 All
  1. 91
    Rory on 11 Jun 2010 #

    Matthew K @84, no offence taken on my part, just a momentary tinge of “hey, what?”, now passed. It’s one of the joys of this place that we can get so spirited about any particular number one, when so many people would be wondering what all the fuss is about.

    @89: Ersatz, exactly. But that was the late 1980s to a T. “Perfect” was perfectly of its time.

  2. 92
    thefatgit on 11 Jun 2010 #

    Back in the early ’80s there was a fashion piece in The Face about a micromovement called The Young Fogeys. Basically it meant dressing like your Grandad, but it was a means to an end as the magazine was able to focus on traditional tailoring and grooming. I’m not really sure who opted in to this movement except maybe Mick Hucknall, but it seemed to represent a backlash against the Soccer Casual and his expensive foreign designer sportswear labels. The point being that when the shock of the new is too much, we sometimes over-react and return to traditions of the past as some sort of safety blanket. Not always, mind, but sometimes.

    So “Perfect” also can be seen as such a reaction. Not executed with great aplomb as most will agree, but I can see why a certain group of people would adopt “Perfect” when faced with Acid House, if they were unwilling or uable to embrace that.
    Maybe a similar demographic might be attracted to the music of The Baseballs today as opposed to I dunno, Lady Gaga maybe…although I suspect it’s perhaps more to do with faux-nostalgia?

  3. 93
    punctum on 11 Jun 2010 #

    We had The Baseballs in the eighties; they were called Big Daddy.

  4. 94
    Mike Atkinson on 11 Jun 2010 #

    Maybe the song sums itself up a bit too neatly? It doesn’t leave anything open to question, so it doesn’t particularly let you in.

    It’s also more heavy-handed than the version in my memory. Great twangy guitar break, though. That’s the best bit.

  5. 95
    rosie on 11 Jun 2010 #

    Assuming for a moment that “ersatz” is a fair comment on Perfect (I’m not saying it isn’t a fair comment, just that it’s not a comment I would make), then hasn’t ersatzness been a feature of the whole pop process? We’ve seen things like it before in Popular – The Temperance Seven come to mind from the early sixties, and Manhattan Transfer from the seventies. Both of those were obviously retro to me (Manny Tranny’s offering, as I said at the time, is not the best example of their work to my mind) and I found them immensely likeable. Similarly there was an outfit in the sixties called Harpers Bizarre who put Cole Porter into the charts.

    Perhaps I miss something here because I can see that for some contributors who were in their teens in 1988 this might sound like ‘parent’ music. To me its the workaday pop of my own youth and it’s not inconceivable to imagine, say, the Honeycombs doing it. Would it annoy in 1964?

    Ironically, having been sceptical about Marcello’s claim of an intrinsic visual element of pop, my attitude to Perfect has been significantly altered by seeing the video. I warmed to Eddi Reader, whom I now understand to have been born and raised in the Anderston area of Glasgow and is therefore hardly a smug middle-class boho. As well as having a beltingly good voice she’s also the total antithesis of the clone hot pop chick, somebody who is never going to be glamorous in any age and who doesn’t give a toss. I can admire that!

  6. 96
    Mark G on 11 Jun 2010 #

    Surprised by all the antipathy. Maybe in another era, it’d be more appreciated.

  7. 97
    Gavin Wright on 11 Jun 2010 #

    There are two vivid memories attached to this song for me – one is the Asda advert already mentioned, the other is of a boy in my class at school announcing he was listening to the Fairground Attraction album on what might well have been the first real-life Walkman I ever saw (this was when I was seven years old).

    I couldn’t give ‘Perfect’ any more than a 4/10 although that’s mainly because I find the chorus hook incredibly annoying – I’ve never given it any more thought than that so the negative comments here regarding other aspects of the record make an interesting read. I can certainly see it suffering from the same problem as most other sophistipop-type music of the time which is that it comes across as rather lifelessly professional. I think the word I’d go for is ‘businesslike’.

  8. 98
    thefatgit on 11 Jun 2010 #

    I’m not opposed to “ersatz” if there is some merit or value in it’s usage (irony, comedy etc). But “ersatz” as a cheap gimmick or temporary method just seems to undermine the product’s own integrity, hence the negativity surrounding this.

  9. 99
    punctum on 11 Jun 2010 #

    Depends what you mean by “integrity.”

  10. 100
    thefatgit on 11 Jun 2010 #

    I suppose it’s a case of did Eddi and co. say “I know, let’s do a rock ‘n’ roll number!” or did they say “I think this arrangement suits this lyric”?

  11. 101
    Caledonianne on 11 Jun 2010 #

    Gosh, you’re a moaning lot, apart from Tim, Sandy and Rosie.

    For me (notoriously unimpressed by 80s music) this is easily the best chart-topper since West End Girls.

    I don’t get this Thatcher’s Child stuff about it at all. The first time I heard this I was driving between Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, and it knocked my socks off. When I listen I hear a woman of my own age (I am four weeks older than ER) stating categorically that she won’t settle for second best – and I don’t think that has anything to do with acquisitiveness. At that stage in my life I watched several of my friends (lawyers to a woman)as they inched towards 30 marrying men who were never going to quicken anyone’s pulse, because they were kind, decent, solvent, reliable plodders and would make good fathers for their (future)children. This wasn’t what I wanted (I have only recently realised that theirs was not necessarily an ignoble ambition) and I cheered when Eddi banged the drum for the no compromises set – I wanted a man who was roguish, handsome, brilliant, witty etc etc. Not bothered about money. I found one who ticked all those boxes and – yup – just about then it was perfect. Right now going through the “in sickness and in health thing” and finding that base note of perfect from 20+ years ago very sustaining.

    I was working in London from 1987 onwards, and I didn’t see Fairground Attraction as part of that metropolitan smugness sect at all (and I loathe Peter’s Friends and the Em ‘n’Ken thing with a passion). I heard a girl with Glasgow consonants saying she wanted someone to make her heart sing, and I agreed.

    Eddi Reader’s voice gives me goosebumps and “Sings the Songs of Robert Burns” is one of my top five albums ever (so Rory should investigate it). As for her ‘royalty’ status. Even the Queen had to applaud the ancient then modern renditions of Auld Lang Syne at the opening of the Scottish Parliament. Just watched it on Youtube, and found myself in tears.

    Sorry vinylscot.

  12. 102
    thefatgit on 11 Jun 2010 #

    Ah…so that’s where I went wrong with my ex-missus. I was the kind-hearted plodder-type, but she really wanted the rogueish, witty type. What she actually ended up with was the younger, slimmer plodder type. Oh well!

  13. 103
    Rory on 11 Jun 2010 #

    “Sings the Songs of Robert Burns”… I’ll keep an eye out. After I’m done with the half dozen Kylie albums I picked up last month to plug that particular blind spot.

    On “ersatz” (which I would still agree with, although I don’t think inferior to the originals implies bad in this case): DietMondrian, your example of the “Keep calm and carry on” posters isn’t the best analogy, because they’re not fakes, they’re reproductions. About as fake as a CD release of “Songs for Swingin’ Lovers”.

  14. 104
    lonepilgrim on 11 Jun 2010 #

    I heard ‘Dance the night away’ by The Mavericks today and it’s twangy guitar and ‘ersatz’ qualities reminded me of ‘Perfect’. Somehow, `i don’t imagine that DTNA would get the same level of dismissal as P.

  15. 105
    swanstep on 12 Jun 2010 #

    Interesting watching this thread develop… Is it perhaps finally a question of whether Reader’s voice (maybe together with fine points of production) does it for you? Near nursery rhymes from Feist and from Lily Allen in recent years have been huge hits because enough people have found their voices and personalities engaging, but those same voices and personalities drove significant minorities of folks up the wall! Reader’s voice doesn’t grab me (it reads to me as kind of a blank) but if it did I’d probably be happy to go along with the ultra-naive backing at that point. I confess to adoring Feist counting to 4 on Sesame St, and I can imagine Reader similarly saluting 3 along with Elmo and Grover ‘got to be-ee-ee-three-ee-ee…. perfect’. It wouldn’t be my thing because I wasn’t charmed by R’s voice in the first place, but if you were, then it would probably be fab.

  16. 106
    Caledonianne on 12 Jun 2010 #

    #102 Och, you’re *clearly* not a git at all! When I was 45 I belatedly realised that plodders are heroes. But I’m not really sorry I didn’t realise that in my twenties.

    A neutral observer would say my mates who made the compromises probably got the better deal. I wasn’t selfless enough for that; to go somewhere else entirely I wanted
    “my sun-drenched, wind-swept Ingrid Bergman kiss
    Not in the next life
    I want it in this”

    I guess I just think everyone deserves to experience love at first sight. At least once.

    Good call at #1 referencing Patience of Angels and Kirsty McColl’s Dear John (especially the latter) on the Eddi Reader album. Perhaps it’s where you end up if you keep demanding the ‘Perfect’?

    “My eyes have seen the glory
    There’s more to life than my life story
    And I’ll probably never find him
    But I have to keep on looking
    And I’m very, very sorry dear John.”

  17. 107
    thefatgit on 12 Jun 2010 #

    I fell in love with 2 women in my life. The first was a little younger than me. She had blue-grey eyes I could drown in. It was a passionate, thunder and lighning kind of love. We were in some ways on the same level, but in many other ways we were completely incompatible, which led to many rows. Sometimes she would drive me to utter distraction, but I loved her. It got to the point where I had no choice, so I ended it. I had to for the sake of my sanity and hers. It took me a long time to recover from that relationship.

    The second was the woman I was to marry. Again, striking blue eyes (I’ve always been attracted to beautiful eyes) but we just fitted together nicely. It was a different kind of love to the first. The kind where you feel that together, you can get through anything, no matter what life has in store for you. We could talk about utter nonsense and make each other laugh. We spent so long together, I thought it would be for life.
    But cracks began to show and eventually the things that had kept us together were driving us apart. To cut a long story short, seperation and divorce followed.
    So I guess the real problem I have with this song, is through bitter experience, I have not found perfection and perhaps never will. I’m not convinced it exists. We’re only here once, so if I fall in love again, I’ll do my best to hold on to it, accept the imperfections and get on with life. Isn’t that the best anyone can do?

  18. 108
    rosie on 12 Jun 2010 #

    swanstep @ 65: A belated afterthought apropos Annie Lennox:

    I know her main contribution to music is just her voice

    That’s Aloysia Weber, Joan Sutherland and Cathy Berberian put into perspective then!

    a

  19. 109
    swanstep on 12 Jun 2010 #

    @rosie, 108. Yikes, my remark reads poorly doesn’t it? I was honestly just trying to find some way to concede something to a Lennox skeptic for the sake of the argument – I in fact officially want to give Lennox a lot of credit as a writer (she wrote almost all of the songs on Diva I believe) and for much of her image/visual performance stuff. And, as you rightly suggest, even if someone *is* just a voice, that can easily be more than enough for greatness (to your list I’d add Ella Fitzgerald). I was trying to get my interlocuter to agree with that last point and apply it to Lennox, but my own phrasing perhaps obscured that that was my goal.

  20. 110
    TomLane on 13 Jun 2010 #

    Somewhat catchy, but oh so slight. Which means forgettable. I’m surprised this peaked at #80 here in the U.S.

  21. 111
    Alan Connor on 14 Jun 2010 #

    “I heard ‘Dance the night away’ by The Mavericks today and it’s twangy guitar and ‘ersatz’ qualities reminded me of ‘Perfect’”

    –for even an closer match, try FA’s follow-up Top-10 Mexi-smash Find My Love.

    nb I suggested to Mark E Nevin that his was a song that wouldn’t be much different if it had been written with sync licensing in mind. He didn’t mind.

    (edit oops me not code html so good)

  22. 112
    DietMondrian on 14 Jun 2010 #

    @ 103 – thanks Rory, I didn’t realise that. Maybe a better example would have been something like this:

    http://artfiles.art.com/5/p/LRG/12/1286/V1BO000Z/beer.jpg

  23. 113
    rosie on 15 Jun 2010 #

    Blimey – just been doing a little research and it seems that Simon Edwards – the chap playing the guitarón – is the same Simon Edwards who played squeezebox with Bristol cajun/folk-rockers K-Passa when I lived there in the 1990s. A K-Passa gig would sell out a venue within hours of the first whispers getting out and they were always memorable occasions. At least for us wrinklies!

  24. 114
    Matthew H on 15 Jun 2010 #

    Really disliked this at the time, then inexplicably won the follow-up Find My Love in a Record Mirror competition. Inexplicably in so far as “why did I enter?” – winning was more explicable; I was probably the only entrant.

    In 1993, as a student, and for whatever reason, I bought the LP for tuppence in a secondhand shop and spent a happy evening sitting on my bedroom floor listening to it. My housemates thought I was nuts.

  25. 115
    Rory on 30 Sep 2010 #

    DietMondrian, if you’re still out there: saw this just now and thought of this thread: the IT support version of ‘Keep Calm’.

  26. 116
    Lifes a Riot with Sully vs. Sully on 16 Dec 2012 #

    So, what y’all saying is, this lot were the 80s Mumford and Sons?

  27. 117
    Zacco on 7 Nov 2014 #

    Have known about this site for a few weeks and am now commenting for the first time!

    This is a song I’d always thought of as one of those that most consider a classic so I was surprised to see very few people liked it a lot. I actually love it. That hook is just amazing and I also really like the production and the vocals. I never noticed any ’50s similarities myself, but then my knowledge of that era is pretty much non-existent haha. I guess the fact that I’m familiar with it but haven’t been subject to overexposure/overplay has helped with me enjoying it. I give this a 9, such a delightful listen for me.

  28. 118
    hectorthebat on 20 Feb 2015 #

    Critic watch:

    1,001 Songs You Must Hear Before You Die, and 10,001 You Must Download (2010) 1002
    Theater van het Sentiment, Radio 2 (NL) – Top 40 Songs by Year 1969-2000 (2013) 29
    New Musical Express (UK) – Singles of the Year 43
    Rock de Lux (Spain) – Songs of the Year 33

  29. 119
    Patrick Mexico on 19 Dec 2016 #

    Found in Clitheroe Library three years ago, the artwork nicked from/which The First of a Million Kisses nicked! :D

    http://imageshack.com/a/img924/9099/xCPnnP.jpg

  30. 120
    Adam Puke on 21 Dec 2016 #

    #119. Interesting, never really considered this picture in any depth before. For some reason I’d just assumed it was by Oscar Marzaroli, whose work seemed to be adopted en masse by soulcialists and sophisti-poppers north of the border for sleeve art after his death in 1988 (despite being a more romanticised image than the bulk of his work).

    Turns out it’s actually by Elliott Erwitt, taken in 1955 and clearly depicting a coastal north American setting. All these years I’ve been labouring under the delusion it was taken outside Nardini’s in Largs staring out to Arran or something!

  31. 121
    Lee Saunders on 10 Oct 2018 #

    Surprised no one ever mentioned the Proclaimers* in this thread, given the timely and national links. In one way Perfect reminds me of them (particularly the early, acoustic duo stuff i.e. Threw the R Away, Make My Heart Fly), though my memory linking them might have more to do with me, a little boy in 2003 keenly watching both The Best of the Proclaimers DVD in the conservatory and The Hits Video 8 in the living room, among other music VHS/DVDs.

    I will always firstly associate Perfect with those memories of The Hits Video 8, where it followed Prefab Sprout’s King of Rock and Roll (dancing hot dogs! a frog in a tuxedo! = very appealing to little me at the time). I always assumed the vid to Perfect was filmed in Devizes (even though its obviously not) for the simple reason that I only knew a few (all local) canal locations and it just looked like there to me for some reason.

    Gotta say I disagree with the consensus here. More than pleasant. 8. Perhaps the avoidance of early 90s Asda adverts** has made me safe from over-exposure, but even I remember it from other ads and things. Guess I like it too much.

    *who I’m prepared to defend when we get there
    **sorry, new employers of mine!

  32. 122
    Rory on 11 Oct 2018 #

    Lee @121, you’ll find no end of Proclaimers discussion (pro and con) in the Belfast Child thread.

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