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Sep 10

JASON DONOVAN – “Sealed With A Kiss”

Popular42 comments • 2,702 views

#629, 10th June 1989

Digging into the earlier versions of “Sealed With A Kiss”, I discovered two things. First that I really liked the song, second that it’s stretchy enough for nobody to have quite nailed a definitive take on it. It works just as well insincere as sincere, for a start – in the Four Voices’ 1960 recording (the first) the doo-woppers sound bereft and spectral, like parting for Summer is some kind of malign destiny and they’ll be holidaying in the Underworld this year. But by the time Bobby Vinton’s singing it in 1972, he’s got the full early-70s luxury pop treatment: bongos, flutes, wah-wah, strings and reeds in a gluttonous, glorious mix, and it makes him sound utterly insincere, like he’s phoning his abandoned lady while being rubbed down by hula girls.

How does Jason approach it? He sounds tolerably sad: he’s keeping things simple, with a light, open arrangement, and the song works for him. I’ve been harsh about his voice in past entries and he’s no world-beater on “Sealed” but he does the mournful job the track requires and doesn’t try anything stupid: as a postcard of fantasy devotion it works fine. What lets it down is the backing. Stock Aitken and Waterman had no great feeling for ballads; slow jams need to tempt, not thrill, and they never seemed to have the patience, or at least not while the big Donovan eyes did that job for them. The only moments with any musical life here are the swelling intro and the guitar solo (did Jason play it, I wonder?) Otherwise SAW hobble their singer with a limp preset lilt, which fails to provide any of the atmosphere or urgency this song could thrive on.

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Comments

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  1. 26
    Jimmy the Swede on 20 Sep 2010 #

    Careful, Mutley. Bunny’s in the safety car!

  2. 27
    Erithian on 20 Sep 2010 #

    Agree he doesn’t do too bad a job with it, and the video of course gives the people what they want. But the Brian Hyland arrangement knocks it into a cocked hat, the wistful harmonica and everything.

    There’s a nice version of this song by Agnetha Faltskog on the youtube page too, albeit featuring a rather inappropriate guitar break and a bloke looking like he could be her stalker.

    Just searched out the Four Voices version, and wow – sorry, but I reckon faced with that mournful delivery, the girl would be saying goodbye for good to the miserable git, not just until September.

  3. 28
    lonepilgrim on 20 Sep 2010 #

    the Jason video is compelling for it’s lack of affect. The man was supposed to be an actor even if he wasn’t that hot as an singer, and he just sits there like some animatronic dummy.
    I can imagine the song being reused at some later date for a movie- as Lynch did with ‘Blue Velvet’. Just as that suited the supersaturated surrealism of the movie this would suit some retelling of the fag end of the coked-up 80s.

    For some reason – perhaps the rhythm of the title falling on the last line of the chorus – the Brian Hyland version reminds me a little of The Beatles ‘From me to you’.

  4. 29
    ace inhibitor on 20 Sep 2010 #

    I too associate Bryan Hyland’s version pretty vividly with 1975 – despite it apparently peaking at no.7 in June, I connect it with late August and the end of the school holidays, which came about a month after my mother’s death. Consequently, I suppose, I’ve been carrying the line in my head for 30-odd years as ‘Its gonna be a cold lonely winter’ and am slightly startled now to realise the trick memory has played on me. Rosie’s comment – ‘more than the usual song of loss’ – maybe explains why the specifics of the lyrics passed me by at the time. (As did Jason’s version in its entirety, to be honest.)

  5. 30
    Snif on 21 Sep 2010 #

    Do you remember Rick Astley?
    He had a big fat hit, it was ghastly…

    sang Nick Lowe on “All Men Are Liars”

  6. 31
    Rory on 21 Sep 2010 #

    As lonepilgrim has mentioned Agnetha’s cover from 2004’s My Colouring Book, I have nothing to add apart from a video of Brian Hyland actually performing the song in 1962. Check those dancers in the background, and the girl on the floor at 1:30.

    As for Jase, what got me about his video was the Kylie-lookalike who walks past with her back to the camera at 0:50. A bit painful given that he was still recovering from Michael Hutchence’s seduction of Kyles the previous year.

  7. 32
    Dominic on 21 Sep 2010 #

    I remember the whole “jif lemon hair”/Face thing with Jase, to which at the time I wrote something which went like this (from memory)

    “Gonna go surfin’ with my jif lemon hair
    Cos hard men go surfin
    yeah yeah yeah yeah
    Gonna go out be a macho man in the sun
    With a doll on my shoulder
    and a barbie at one
    Cos I’m hard
    Cos I’m tough
    I like a nice bit of stuff (or if you prefer to use a word beginning with “m”…)
    You know what I mean?”

    Which still kind of serves to sum up his ridiculousness quite well I think…

  8. 33
    "Rick Astley" on 21 Sep 2010 #

    Do you remember Nick Lowe?
    He was a minor pop star, don’t you know?

    He sang a song about breaking glass.
    Which I personally thought was a load of old arse.

    He also said it’s cruel to be kind,
    So I can call him a c**t ’cause I know he won”t mind!

  9. 34
    anto on 21 Sep 2010 #

    The nicest thing I can say about this is that its (marginally) better than his cover of Rhytham of the Rain which he really made a hash of.

  10. 35
    thefatgit on 23 Sep 2010 #

    Late to this…all I can add is that Mr Donovan is really quite poor here and does not deserve it’s straight to the top status. Nice song, poorly exeuted, which sums up SAW’s output around this time.

  11. 36
    Chelovek na lune on 23 Sep 2010 #

    Truthfully I think you’re all being a little unkind. This is really not all THAT bad. The song is good enough, and the tune strong enough to endure a less than first-rate vocalist (and that awful key-change), and some elements of the production give at least as good an imitation of a almost vaguely haunting camp-fire sense) as on the campfire mix of Debbie Gibson’s “We Could Be Together” round about the same time. Indeed, at times I think some of the sound effects almost affect, maybe not so much a nod perhaps, but then perhaps a subtle wink, in the direction, even, of Joe Meek. Seriously.

    At any rate, while this is to damn with faint praise, I think this still stands in the better 25%, at least, of all of Jason’s singles. What is really clear (not least from this run of number ones, as well as some yet to come) how SAW had stultified, becoming smugly commercial by this time. And that in retrospect, pre-Kylie 1987 was more or less their musical peak. Mel and Kim and all that! By 1989 sll of thier creative energies seemed to be directed – understandably, perhaps, given the immeasurably greater abilities and stature of the performer – towards that Donna Summer album, which still sounds fine today. What a pity that “Love’s About to Change My Heart” did not trouble the charts more.

    For me then I think is round about a five. But my recollections of this summer, aged 14, are, lots of sunshine, and lots and lots of good, sultry pop music – Donna Allen’s cover of “Joy and Pain” (with the original by Maze out again too), Joyce Sims “Looking for a Love”, with some great house classics bubbbling through as the summer ended – “Tears”, “Sueno Latino”, and so on. And for all the marketing that got a completely forgettable Cliff song-in-a-gold-cover to number 2, (and, erm, a bit later in the year, no comment on the topic of bunnies of any kind whatsoever), I think we were at least two and a half-years away before the charts really sped up so that they were more than usually all about marketing ploys.

  12. 37
    hardtogethits on 23 Sep 2010 #

    #1; a beautiful third paragraph. When this made number one, it sure did “signal the beginning of the decline and devaluation of the singles chart.” As well as being “an instantly forgettable routine ballad”, it was the first single to enter at number on having been lifted from a pre-existing album. The album did not sell poorly, it was the year’s number 1 and had, by the time of the single’s release, already topped the chart. When people raced out to get this, it was to keep up with Jason Donovan’s release schedule – not because it was any good.

    Groundbreaking.

  13. 38
    MikeMCSG on 24 Sep 2010 #

    # 36 I agree with you that things got worse in the 90s but it was already happening in 89. The average stay in the charts was much shorter than earlier in the decade; even a well-regarded record like “Fool’s Gold” only climbed for two weeks.

  14. 39
    will on 24 Sep 2010 #

    I think for me the penny dropped around the late summer of ’91 when even singles by fairly mainstream acts like REM and Dire Straits were falling the week after their initial entry. Two years previously this sort of thing was only happening to ‘cult’ artists (Morrissey singles, for example).

  15. 40
    Erithian on 24 Sep 2010 #

    Yes, I was fascinated by Marcello’s theory at #1 that the decline set in here, and hardtogethits’ point at #37 about the pre-existing album adds to a pretty convincing argument – a couple of very honourable exceptions aside, the rest of ’89 contains some absolute dogs. But like will above I’d have put the turning point in late 1991 when there were suddenly four new-entry number ones in the space of six weeks. But of course more about that when we get there. Back to the here and now…

    (and in between writing that last sentence as a reminder/nudge and posting this comment, the next entry has turned up on the front page! Yippee!)

  16. 41
    Deannix on 10 Jan 2012 #

    Stock Aitken Waterman were too lazy to dig his vocal. This is an example, his duet with Kim Wilde http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wmUd-i8ygV8. He could do more than cheesy songs.
    I think Polydor found that he could do better, eventhough his fans were too shocked to see the changes. Oxygen (written by Nik Kershaw) was better than his old version of Sealed with The Kiss (he re record Sealed with a kiss on Let it be me album). All Around The World was better than Too Many Broken Hearts.
    I agree that SAW had no idea what to do with him, they just had some ideas about how to make more money out of him. And Polydor thought making money out of him was a good idea by attaching his old songs that annoyed him.

  17. 42
    Deannix on 22 Mar 2012 #

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z_HUmzzdRTk&feature=channel. Another version, warmer and more animated.

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