Jul 10

ROBIN BECK – “First Time”

Popular71 comments • 5,251 views

#619, 19th November 1988, video

Minor Popular milestone alert! This is the very latest song that I had no recollection of whatsoever before starting this project. Never saw the advert, never heard the record. So I’d have been really happy if this had been an unexpected delight, or even a minor pleasure. As it is the only unexpected thing about “The First Time” is its attempted fake-out: you think it’s going to be one kind of bad song (vaguely motivational ballad) and instead it’s another (vaguely agonised power ballad).

The latter doesn’t have to be bad, mind you – but “First Time” doesn’t go beyond its one selling point, the breathless surge at the end of the chorus. It’s a schlocky moment but as the climax to a 30-second TV spot it’s effective – though you’d hope hearing “I Love You” for the very first time would merit more than a can of pop. Repeat it several times over a single and it just seems a bit profligate, each peak a little smaller than the one before until the record fizzles out completely.



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  1. 31
    Billy Smart on 23 Jul 2010 #

    Re 15. I am one of the very few people to have heard Scottish superstar songstress KT Tunstall perform the Bodyform theme in concert, as part of a totally unfunny feminist sketch troupe in 1996. Bloody drama students…

  2. 32
    anto on 23 Jul 2010 #

    Is this the least enduring number one of the eighties?
    It doesn’t surpise me if Tom or others can’t remember it because it’s one of the most tedious pop records I’ve ever come across.
    Oddly enough I remember Robin Beck on TOTP precisely because The First Time was so anti-climatic. Robin tended to dress a bit like Stevie Nicks and as Billy Smart noted her backing band were a group of session players who looked just as bored as the rest of us.

  3. 33
    Rory on 23 Jul 2010 #

    MikeMCSG, punctum japery alert. (Hey, I chuckled. “The New Pollution” for the next Coke anthem!)

  4. 34
    flahr on 24 Jul 2010 #

    “Repeat it several times over a single and it just seems a bit profligate, each peak a little smaller than the one before until the record fizzles out completely.”

    Might want to save this somewhere for use with another advert single a few years down the line…

    Two places in this record where my face falls: at the turning point a few seconds in where the drums come in and it becomes painfully obvious how the rest of the song is going to go; and at the very end, when we have a sequence of ascending piano notes that are pretty much taking the mickey. Grim. 3, 4,… 3.

  5. 35
    Mark G on 24 Jul 2010 #

    #29, it’s a funneh: Google it…

  6. 36
    swanstep on 24 Jul 2010 #

    How about this, One Moment in Time, Nothing’s gonna change my love for you, and, I dunno, maybe a few bars of Every Loser Wins for the ultimate masochists’ mash-up challenge?

  7. 37
    MikeMCSG on 24 Jul 2010 #

    #33/35 Cheers guys that one caught me unawares.

  8. 38
    Jimmy the Swede on 24 Jul 2010 #

    I have absoultely no recollection of this whatsoever. And therein lies a tale. Whilst exchanging texts with Erithian recently, it was mentioned that this record was coming up on the thread. I told him that not only had I never heard of Robin Beck but had zero memory of “his record” either. Says everything really, doesn’t it?

    Mind you, it’s good to see that I’m not the only one of our cheesy little band to suffer “Baby Jump-itus” over this one!

  9. 39
    Andrew F on 24 Jul 2010 #

    As crimes in the name of scansion go, “It’s an uncharted sea, it’s a non-open door” must be pretty hard to beat.

    Mind you, she does point out that a few seconds later that it’s something “that words can’t define” – and what words indeed could define a non-open door?

  10. 40

    –> An unopened door?

    Liking punctum’s punning “uncharted”/”unchartered”. For explication re the oppressive distortions of wageslave capitalism (not yet thus named) see Wm Blake’s poem ‘London’, which begins “I wander thro’ each charter’d street,/Near where the charter’d Thames does flow/And mark in every face I meet/Marks of weakness, marks of woe”

    Also cf Pynchon’s “Mason and Dixon”, for heartbreaking voyage into the dialectic of exploration-as-escape-and-discovery vs exploration-as-chartered-mapping-with-a-view-to-purchase-(hence-disenchantment)…

    blake and pynchon also relevant to Enya and in a different sense — re time more than space — to U2…

  11. 41

    by which i mean “It’s an uncharted sea, it’s an unopen’d door” scans almost exactly the same and means the same (doors can by definition be open or shut, i think)

  12. 42
    flahr on 24 Jul 2010 #

    Slightly different in terms of implication, I’d say – an “unopen’d door” is a door that is waiting to be opened, full of the sort of potential as the uncharted sea (lying there impatient to be charted), whereas a “non-open door” is something of a dead end. It’s not open, and that’s the end of it. (Thus replacing “non-open” with “unopen’d” in the lyric would in fact make it better. Such inefficiency from the Coca-Cola company!)

    This song is somewhere around fifteenth in the list if you search Spotify for “first time”; first in the list is “Do You Remember The First Time?”. (Apparently not.)

  13. 43

    Yes, i actually meant “means the same as what the lyric actually means (not what it says)” (but didn’t in fact say this) :(

  14. 44
    LondonLee on 24 Jul 2010 #

    Christ, even with the songs I’ve “forgotten” there’s some buried trace of them in my brain that hearing a few bars will bring back, but this? Nothing. Even watching the video I’m still at a loss. Come on Tom, joke’s over, what was the real Number One that week?

    It’s terrible, of course.

  15. 45
    swanstep on 24 Jul 2010 #

    One thing that’s a little odd about this #1 is that the ultra-sentimental, US advertizing tradition it emerges out of doesn’t really have much of place in the UK. When I moved to the US at the end of 1988 I was *very* struck by all the ads on tv that were explicitly designed to make you very emotional or even tear up all in about 30 seconds flat – distilled essence of capra, spielberg and zemeckis perhaps. AT&T’s ads were consistently like this, often plaintively imploring you to ‘reach out and touch somebody’ or whatever, e.g., here’s a 1988 example, and here’s the 1993 ‘you will’ series that perfected the form (which is worth watching in any case – I predict at least one in the series will still get ya).

    First Time definitely suffers from being the musical end of one of these 30 second manipulative/inspirational fragments, and (as Tom emphasized) the structure they’ve devised to pad it out to 3+ minutes just doesn’t work.

    In answer to LondonLee’s question: ‘C’mon, what was the real #1?’ Sweet Child of Mine seems easily the best of the US #1’s from around this time (Axl in his short-lived snaky pomp), and so gets my vote.

  16. 46
    swanstep on 25 Jul 2010 #

    According to wiki, AT&T’s ‘You Will’ ads were directed by David Fincher. Figures. Good mash-up possibilities with the ends of Se7en and Fight Club perhaps?

  17. 47
    swanstep on 25 Jul 2010 #

    Sorry for hijacking this thread (last post I promise!): this blog post confirms that Fincher had nothing to do with the audio and music for the ads. The zing of the ads comes from having Fincher’s Blade Runner-ish images be lightened by the bubbling up music.

  18. 48
    Paytes on 2 Aug 2010 #

    As others have said Need You Tonight really should have made it to the top rather than this bilge …

  19. 49
    thefatgit on 2 Aug 2010 #

    Swanstep, I’m guessing Coca Cola and AT&T are similar in wanting to retain a loyal customer base in a competitive market. What better way to achieve this retention, than by encouraging an emotional response to reinforce that loyalty. Not so much winning over the undecided or new customers, but keeping those that you already have. AT&T vs Bell and Coke vs Pepsi are perhaps the best known examples. In the UK, the only set of ads that came close to this kind of rivalry were the Lawnmower Wars between Qualcast and Flymo. Neither of these brands relied on an emotive campaign, but a series of one-upmanship ads that almost forced you to take sides (that is if you were in the market for a new lawnmower in the first place).

    I’m wondering just how effective this song actually was in relation to how many more units of Coca Cola were shifted during the period of this campaign?

  20. 50
    wichita lineman on 2 Aug 2010 #

    Flymo versus Qualcast

  21. 51
    punctum on 22 Nov 2010 #

    Chart also featured on Saturday’s POTP; then, as now, bore little if any relation to November ’88 as I knew and experienced it musically but overall not a bad chart. Four of the top five were by female artists, which is something to be noted. “Can You Party” and “We Call It Acieed” not played, but we are talking Radio 2. I fell asleep to Chris de Burgh’s “Missing You,” though. From a number one album oh bugger.

  22. 52
    Mark G on 22 Nov 2010 #

    You’ve been very even-handed about every Number one album so far, but I have wondered what’s going to happen when you get to those “o buggr” albums, the likes of which I could list but won’t…

    (so far there haven’t been any, have there?)

  23. 53
    punctum on 22 Nov 2010 #

    My policy on TPL is to be as fair and open-minded as possible about every album I have to listen to, even unto three George Mitchell Minstrels discs. Some of the stuff coming up in the seventies is going to present a challenge – predominantly the TV-advertised chart-toppers – but if I can make it through three soundalike covers albums then I’m ready for anything. After all, the “Lady In Red”/”Patricia The Stripper” man did have that Nick Drake in his school band once. There’s always a way.

  24. 54
    punctum on 22 Nov 2010 #

    (two albums by the Script, though; Jesus H Corbett…)

  25. 55
    Billy Smart on 22 Nov 2010 #

    I must say that I’m particularly looking forward to the TV toppers, especially at the end of a few years of Deep Purple and The Moody Blues. I know all of these albums well, and each one has a few neglected fantastic songs, however flimsy the package they came in.

  26. 56
    wichita lineman on 22 Nov 2010 #

    It seems like those TV albums, far from being comparable to the TOTP cash-ins, were a gateway drug for quite a lot of people on Popular. Me aged 14: “who is this Laurie Styvers with her fantastic non-hit Beat The Reaper? I must dig deeper and find out. I must.” K-Tel, Ronco, Arcade. Very important to me.

  27. 57
    punctum on 23 Nov 2010 #

    Oh no, I didn’t mean the K-Tel etc. ORIGINAL RECORDINGS BY ORIGINAL ARTISTS sets – I’m very much looking forward to tackling these, especially 20 Dynamic Hits, which allows me to sneak in discussion on a Hugely Important Album Of The Era (whose lead single is featured) – I meant more the old school entertainers who get to dominate the lists round about ’75-’77 time at the expense of likelier contenders. I have plans, though; for instance, I can guarantee that my piece on Slim Whitman’s Red River Valley will be, um, unique.

  28. 58
    Jimmy the Swede on 23 Nov 2010 #

    I had that James Last in the back of my cab the other day. James Last – the man with only one facial expression.

  29. 59
    punctum on 23 Nov 2010 #

    Happily, or unhappily, James Last will not be troubling Then Play Long.

  30. 60
    Jimmy the Swede on 23 Nov 2010 #

    Oh? I was under the impression that Lasty had number one albums by the score. Perhaps he was uncharted on a technicality (ie outselling everyone else but his albums costing only half a crown). I’m probably wrong but you never had to look too far in the Woolies record section to find the c**t.

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