21
Oct 11

CHARLES AND EDDIE – “Would I Lie To You?”

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#683, 21st November 1992

Classicist pop often sacrifices quality for vibe. Shakin’ Stevens might have had the moves down but if “Oh Julie” had fallen back through time to the 50s it would have simply got lost in a flood of better rock’n’roll. The secret shame of the traditionalist is that they’re parasites on the present: they need time to have changed, or they wouldn’t stand out.

But every now and then something turns up which shrugs this problem away. “Would I Lie To You?” is classicist alright – when I first heard it I knew nothing of soul history, nothing of Philly, doo-wop, 60s pop-soul or anything else it might be nodding to, but I recognised it as something reaching backwards. And it didn’t matter: “Would I Lie To You?” would have been a hit in 1974 too.

No secret why: this is an irresistibly sweet record. Charles and Eddie have no edge whatsoever, they come over as total nice guys, and they don’t even have the “secretly a prick” vibe most “nice guys” end up with. It’s dreaminess all the way down: if anyone’s going to end up hurt it’ll be them, but that’s an unimaginable outcome as long as the record’s playing.

So how do they stop it becoming saccharine? I think the key is that the chorus is such a massive sugar hit that on the verses they can relax, play around, enjoy each other’s company – flirt a little, basically. When they’re trading harmonies, finishing each other’s lines, swooping and sighing at one another the “girl” becomes simply a fictional convenience. It’s all platonic, for sure, but it’s no surprise their origin story (carrying the same record on the subway) was like something out of a music nerd rom-com: few other records demonstrate the joy of mutually loving and making music so prettily.

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  1. 1
    lonepilgrim on 21 Oct 2011 #

    I have a very happy memory of playing this in the background during an art lesson I was teaching – and one by one the whole class began to join in so that we were all crooning the chorus by the end.

  2. 2
    JonnyB on 21 Oct 2011 #

    I always assumed the origin story was a PR cookup? It would be nice if this were not the case.

    Lovely record, yes – a well-deserved 8.

  3. 3
    punctum on 21 Oct 2011 #

    A number one straight out of Popular ‘70, but for once none the worse for it; “Would I Lie To You?” was a piece of unashamedly retro blue-eyed soul-pop, and it was that “unashamedly” which made it work; unlike some names which come to mind, Charles Pettigrew and Eddie Chacon, from Philadelphia and Oakland respectively, black and white, sounded as though they were singing the music they loved because they genuinely wanted to, as opposed to being cynically slotted into a preprogrammed machine of “ironic” samples and references.

    The record’s architecture is admirable, from its opening boxed drums, pub piano and shakers suddenly punctuated by some Aaron Neville abstract, floating vowels as though rehearsing in their attic, which opens out onto a plain of serene old school strings, enthusiastic but not overpowering backing vocalists and a genuine feel of spontaneous give and take in the music as the two men take turns to pledge and reinforce their fealty to their doubtfully jealous loved ones. Their voices are pleasingly high-register – the tenderer Mick Hucknall meeting the glorious near-androgynous tones of an Al Green – and gently persuasive rather than grittily hectoring; feel the truthfulness flowing out of the point where the music momentarily stops – after the arrangement has progressively narrowed to pure rhythm, as though the lover is approaching the eye of the lover’s never-lying camera – and we hear a never more heartfelt “That’s not the kind of game I play.” The intermittent whoops do not sound rehearsed, and the cumulative experience is one of pure, admiring joy.

    The duo continued to record and have hits, but never came anywhere near recapturing the success of “Would I Lie To You?”; as with the more recent parallel example of *spoiler bunny edit*, this was recognisably their moment – but how sublime a moment it was, and for me, as I suspect for them, it documented a period of absolute, unspoilable happiness. The fact that Charles Pettigrew died of cancer, aged 37, in 2001, brings another parallel to mind (don’t bother looking it up; you can’t)…but for now, everything was happy and all was nobly good.

  4. 4
    Tom on 21 Oct 2011 #

    Yes I assume it’s bollocks too – emphasis on “story” here. :) What I did not know but have just found out from Wiki is that one of C or E was in a band age 12 with guys from Faith No More and Metallica!

  5. 5
    Matt DC on 21 Oct 2011 #

    This is one of those songs that no one ever seems to mention but when it comes up everyone seems to like it. Jamie Woon covered it at Glastonbury this year on a sunny Sunday afternoon and most of the field responded and started singing. It was certainly better than most of his own material.

  6. 6
    Billy Smart on 21 Oct 2011 #

    TOTPWatch. Charles & Eddie thrice performed ‘Would I Lie To You’ on Top of the Pops;

    12 November 1992. Also in the studio that week were; En Vogue, Michael Bolton, Vanessa Paradis, Undercover, Jason Donovan and Neil Diamond. Mark Franklin was the host. This was the 1500th edition.

    26 November 1992. A live performance by satellite from Toronto. In the studio that week were; EMF, Undercover, Carter The Unstoppable Sex Machine, Kylie Minogue and Jason Donovan, plus a live performance by satellite from Rod Stewart in Los Angeles. Mark Franklin was the host.

    25 December 1992. A live performance by satellite from Toronto. In the studio that Christmas were; Wet Wet Wet, Right Said Fred, Shut Up & Dance (!), KWS, Jimmy Nail , Undercover and Tamsin Archer, plus two further live performances by satellite from Philadelphia; Shanice and Boyz II Men. Mark Franklin & Tony Dortie

  7. 7
    Billy Smart on 21 Oct 2011 #

    Light Entertainment Watch: Charles and Eddie visited a few UK TV studios in the wake of ‘Would I Lie To You?’;

    LATER WITH JOOLS HOLLAND: with Charles and Eddie, Belly, Maldita, The Auteurs (1993)

    LATER WITH JOOLS HOLLAND: with Suede, Fishbone, Charles and Eddie (1993)

    THE O ZONE: with Charles and Eddie, Midge Ure, Take That (1993)

  8. 8
    Erithian on 21 Oct 2011 #

    Mind you Tom, that origin story sounds strikingly like Mick and Keef meeting on the platform at Dartford station 50 years ago last Monday, when Keef spotted his primary school passing acquaintance Mick carrying an armful of blues records. Their story would make an interesting rom-com!

  9. 9
    LondonLee on 21 Oct 2011 #

    Who? What?

    scurries off to YouTube

    Oh that! Yes, this was lovely. If I hadn’t just moved to the States I would have bought it. An 8 for sure, reminds me a lot of the great blue-eyed souler David Lasley whose ‘Raindance’ album should have been massive in the early 80s.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GPz8GwYMdbY

  10. 10
    fivelongdays on 21 Oct 2011 #

    With Popular, a lot of the time I hear a song, and I appreciate it and, because it isn’t really my ‘thing’ the most I’d give it is 7 or 8.

    “Would I Lie To You”, with it’s sweet soul-pop stylings, most certainly isn’t my thing.

    And yet, and yet…

    I can’t find anything wrong with it. I really can’t. This song will brighten up my day, any time. The tune, the way the comparatively high-pitched vocals work, the sense of fun, the sense of enjoyment, the sincere-yet-lighthearted way it’s delivered…brilliant, fantastic, superb.

    I cannot find anything that detracts from this wonderful song.

    It isn’t my thing, but that’s not a problem at all.

    10.

  11. 11
    Mark G on 21 Oct 2011 #

    Subject matter time:

    The comedian Mark Thomas, at the time, discussed this and said “anyone who says “Would I lie to you” IS LYING THROUGH HIS TEETH!”..

    A little while later someone interviewed C&E, and asked them directly. At which point both collapsed in giggles and basically nodded a lot.

  12. 12
    hardtogethits on 21 Oct 2011 #

    This completes a hat-trick of number ones from acts making their UK singles chart debut, where the record started half way down [Range 34-50] the chart and worked its way up to the top.

  13. 13
    Cumbrian on 21 Oct 2011 #

    I find myself, suprisingly often, assessing the quality of records on little moments. The small things that make me smile or raise the hairs up on the back of my neck. Often, just one will make me rate a song much more highly than others will do. Two in the same song will probably make it a favourite. I would say this has at least two and if I keep listening I’m probably going to find more. The one that really grabs me though is the build up into the second chorus where there is a “woooo” belted out, missing on the first run into the chorus, which makes it abundantly clear just how much fun these two are having. It never fails to make me smile. The way the instruments drop out just before “it’s not the kind of game I play” is another winner (indeed, the whole song is constructed really well).

    All in all, very, very good. i’d push to 9, possibly 10 if you catch me in the right mood.

  14. 14
    23 Daves on 21 Oct 2011 #

    A song which brings back fond memories for me. I was in an unashamedly retro band myself at the time (albeit the kind of band which rehearses and procrastinates a thousand times more often than it actually gigs or writes new material) and this was something of a van stereo favourite. Up and down the London trunk road we went, dual carriageway lights whizzing past in the dark Autumn afternoons, as Charles and Eddie trilled this tune and somebody sang along.

    I don’t think I’ve ever met anyone in my life who hates this single. OK, I know it seldom drops easily into conversations these days, but unlike most number ones it didn’t have a bunch of naysayers mocking it who were all tired of its over-exposure. It wasn’t parodied by comedians or mocked by music journalists.

    The video with its peculiar head-and-legs montage shots, however, was a bit naff, and on the blog “Out on Blue Six” the writer Tim Worthington was moved to suggest changing the chorus’s lyrics to “Take a look at my head/ it’s much bigger than my legs/ would I lie to you?” which is what I tend to hear every time it’s played now. But that’s not their fault…

    Weren’t they once accused of releasing a woefully inadequate follow-up single in the shape of “NYC”, which chronicled how they (supposedly) met? I’m sure I’ve heard that one described as a career-killer before now, but I can’t remember terribly much about it.

  15. 15
    wichita lineman on 21 Oct 2011 #

    Shortly after this hit, Earl Brutus claimed in a press release to have met when all six of them boarded the same tube carriage with a copy of Emerson Lake and Palmer’s Tarkus under their arms.

    This is a complete delight. The unexpected melancholy of the chords on the chorus, especially after the ecstatic whoop on the bridge, are what makes it for me.

    Oh, and I DID meet someone today who doesn’t like it. I was pretty shocked.

  16. 16
    thefatgit on 21 Oct 2011 #

    It might be one of those songs, if you didn’t know it that well, that could have been a R&B classic. Easily, mistakenly attributed to Sam & Dave’s give and go vocal stylings in the 60’s, or even Sam & Mark in the 00’s. WILTY is not of a particular time. It is fun, innocent, charming and you can feel the joy coming from the speakers.

    The subway story is kinda twee isn’t it? Which record did they have in common? A soul classic? Or something more obscure? You could romanticise any famous Rock&Roll meeting eg: Thurston Moore and Kim Gordon (fresh in the mind after they announced their separation this week) meet in the record store queue, both clutching Lou Reed’s “Metal Machine Music”, go off and form Sonic Youth together. It’s a PR wet dream! The story writes itself.

    The formula that worked so well on WILTY is repeated on “24-7-365” off the Chocolate Milk LP…did they get stuck in a rut? I’ve not heard that whole album to properly tell.

  17. 17
    lonepilgrim on 21 Oct 2011 #

    The song has its fans:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yzZCoe38_hM

    IIRC the tale they told was that the record over which they bonded was Marvin Gaye’s soundtrack to Trouble Man.

  18. 18
    JonnyB on 21 Oct 2011 #

    I can’t remember the specific artist, but even to my less cynical younger self I remember thinking ‘ah – a way to tell the public that these artists x are a bit like that classic artist y’.

    The X Factor rendition the other day did demonstrate that the song has genuine legs – it’s not just in the performance. I had no idea that Charles had died that young. Horrible.

  19. 19
    wichita lineman on 21 Oct 2011 #

    I thought the record was What’s Going On, but I could be wrong.

  20. 20
    Andrew F on 21 Oct 2011 #

    Hah, it might well have been Mark Thomas that I caught it from, but I remember consensus at the time being a) this was a good record but more importantly b) obviously they are lying. Starting with the line “look into my eyes, don’t you see they’re open wide”, is a Darren Brown-esque level of drawing attention to what is supposed to be an involuntary tell.

  21. 21
    a tanned rested and unlogged lørd sükråt wötsît on 21 Oct 2011 #

    “Emerson Lake and Palmer’s Tarkus”

    It is the people’s Tarkus. ELP were merely its midwives.

  22. 22
    swanstep on 22 Oct 2011 #

    I listened to this (on youtube) for the first time about a week ago, as it were, in prep. for this entry, and it made no impact whatsoever. In the light of Tom’s 8 and all the peanut gallery love I’ve listened carefully to a pretty good mp3 of it though headphones twice just now, and still… nothing. I don’t hate it, but I certainly don’t like it.
    The vocals are fairly thin and characterless by soul standards I would have thought, the blues chords in the second verse, and the overall lame-o piano kind of combine to kill off any momentum the song would otherwise have, and the less said about the laboring history/mystery lyrics the better. The whole thing in my view, just lies there, like a big yawn. A definite 4 or 5 at best I’d say, but maybe I’m missing something.
    (Hah – the next thing on my itunes, playing as I type this, was the Charles Lloyd Quartet’s Dream Weaver. So awesome by comparison. That was followed by the even more monumental Charles Mingus’s Duke Ellington’s Sound of Love. What torture it would be to waste a single second listening to Charles and Eddie again rather than either of these. I won’t do it. Memo to popsters: stay out of the ‘Charles’s.)

  23. 23
    MBI on 22 Oct 2011 #

    Gotta agree with swanstep… just, like, what are you hearing in this boring song? You guys are making me feel tone-deaf ’cause this isn’t working for me at all.

  24. 24
    Conrad on 22 Oct 2011 #

    Great chorus. Really insistent. The slightly tinny piano and boxy drums slightly let it down; the verse marks time, but overall a deserved 8

  25. 25
    weej on 22 Oct 2011 #

    I’m going to stick boringly in the middle here – it’s a decent enough retro soul track, but it’s still not quite up to the standard of the material it draws from. A 7, in other words, and a lower 7 than the more original Sleeping Satellite.
    No idea Charles had died, by the way – I was watching the pair of them interviewed on Channel 4’s ‘Top Ten One-Hit Wonders’ just a few months ago – the programme must have gone out in 2000 or earlier. They made a big deal out of the “controversy” of the public finding out that their soulboy subway meet-cute was a record company intention, but I don’t remember any fuss being made at the time.

  26. 26
    lex on 22 Oct 2011 #

    Not really sure what to say here, my sentiments echo Tom’s in the review pretty exactly. Really nice memories of it. Remember becoming aware that it was “proper” music, contra the Eurodance that was simultaneously taking my fancy, but not in a negative or boring way. 8 or 9.

  27. 27
    Dan Quigley on 23 Oct 2011 #

    As a nine-year-old at the time, with a prepubescent’s fixed ideas of gender roles, I was slightly affronted by what I perceived to be Charles and Eddie’s relaxed androgyny. As such, what must be one of the safest records imaginable had an element of edge for me, not least because in spite of my reservations, I adored it.

    Listening to it now, while I’m not quite as crazy about it as some here, it is charming, isn’t it; like a pleasingly un-macho Sam and Dave. Love the gawky, do-woppy lyrics (‘You can read my diary; you’re on every line’) and there’s something hugely admirable about any record, let alone one in the soul tradition, that has the confidence to climax on an acapella whimper.

    Hello all, by the way!

  28. 28
    will on 24 Oct 2011 #

    Hmm…I’m a bit baffled at the amount of love this record is getting. I remember it as being a fairly nondescript piece of retro fluff. It’s harmless enough, but as 60s soul pastiches go isn’t fit to lace the boots of McAlmont and Butler’s Yes or even Gabrielle’s Give Me A Little More Time.

    And that ridiculous story of them meeting on the subway put me off too. Whether it was true or not hardly mattered, it sounded just like a poor PR concoction.

  29. 29
    hardtogethits on 24 Oct 2011 #

    #28 Will – thoroughly in agreement, and what wonderful examples you choose to illustrate how magnificently this kind of thing can work.

  30. 30
    Steve Mannion on 24 Oct 2011 #

    More illustration needed! I probably do prefer ‘Give Me A Little More Time’ (and ‘One Goodbye In Ten’) but tho they both sound more faithfully authentic (WILTY has a subtle hip-hop influence in the backing) I can’t think of anything that would really elevate those that much above this.

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