17
Feb 13

WET WET WET – “Love Is All Around”

Popular83 comments • 5,947 views

#709, 4th June 1994

I have as you might have noticed a kind of default setting for cover versions, amounting to “you can’t keep a good tune down”. Certain approaches are almost guaranteed to ruin tracks – think “advert pianos” – but in general pop songs are resilient little bastards, able to withstand much greed and deformation. So hearing The Troggs’ “Love Is All Around” for the first time, after years of weathering this other version, was a bit of a shock. Here was a song – a very lovely, surprisingly artless song – that it seemed really had been ruined by the pawings of commerce. Not that Reg Presley saw it that way, and why should he? If memory serves he objected loudly and publically to the eventual decision to withdraw this “Love Is All Around” lest it be number one for ever.

As it was, fifteen weeks seemed quite ever enough. So with the knowledge of the original to make Wet Wet Wet even worse, what exactly goes wrong here? I think the clues are all in the first few seconds. Instead of the heartbeat rhythm of the Troggs, you get a fanfare for string beds and guitar. It’s actually an uncanny glimpse at the gross future of British rock, late 90s edition, with its lazy, gluttonous guitars and its grievous addiction to string arrangements. But what makes it so unpleasant on “Love Is All Around” is that it sets a tone which the record never strays from: one of triumph.

Here’s a vast generalisation: most good love songs aren’t triumphant. They’re doubting, hoping, fearing, bittersweet somehow – even the most unabashed and delighted have a kind of humility to them, and actually the original “Love Is All Around” is a great example of that. There’s nothing of this in Wet Wet Wet’s reading – Pellow acts the lover as winner, all his ad libs and showy additions meant to point us to the fact that he’s got his girl, his happy ending, his full stop. Curtain up, show’s over.

Obviously this is something a soundtrack single can get away with to some extent. Its emotions don’t have to be earned – they can be outsourced, and a recording as bumptious as “Love Is All Around” can work because it’s a payoff for the film’s narrative. But soundtrack singles should also stand on their own – and stripped of context Wet Wet Wet’s “Love Is All Around” feels overblown and empty. When Presley sings that love is all around, he sounds humbled by his sincere discovery of one of the universe’s great principles. When Pellow sings it, he sounds like he means it more tangibly – love is something he’s being showered in, like applause or champagne or confetti or maybe just money.

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Comments

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  1. 51
    tm on 19 Feb 2013 #

    …and then it went into a jaunty bluegrass number about Frankie’s adventures with some friendly bears. That would be genuinely avant garde!

  2. 52
    Mark G on 19 Feb 2013 #

    “.. We’re all Frankie.. We’re all going down to the woods today!….”

  3. 53
    tm on 19 Feb 2013 #

    ..and then he got bummed by a bear: that was the big suprise. It was a sad song after all: fooled you Hahahahahahahah…

    Actually, that’s more Whitehouse than Suicide.

  4. 54
    punctum on 19 Feb 2013 #

    #49: up to him if that’s how he wants things in his life, but he has no basis to make it into an ideal or commandment by which everyone ought to live.

    The trouble with Hornby is I suspect that he’s not very good at watching people, or listening to them, or making sense out of them.

  5. 55
    Mark G on 19 Feb 2013 #

    The one ‘failing’ I had with NHo, was that his conversation(s) with his partner seemed wayyyyy too long and huge. In the book, nobody interrupts or concludes too early. If there are any misunderstandings, it comes where the subtext(s) are taken too literally or to their logical conclusions. (This was mainly Fever Pitch)

  6. 56
    23 Daves on 19 Feb 2013 #

    #44 – Hmmm – I haven’t read “High Fidelity” in years, but far from preventing Rob from indulging his passions, isn’t Laura trying to give his life some kind of structure? She goes to the trouble of setting up a night for him to DJ at, which is hardly denying him his hobbies, she’s just trying to make him happy again and get him to poke his head out of the record store door now and then. It’s an amazing gesture, and one he’s not really worthy of.

  7. 57
    punctum on 19 Feb 2013 #

    In return for which he cheats on her, borrows money off her and causes her to have an abortion. Nice guy for sure.

  8. 58
    Lazarus on 19 Feb 2013 #

    Hmmm … when you come across a two-day old thread with 57 posts it can be hard to think of anything worthwhile to add, however -

    #13 All-4-One may have been disappointed with their seven weeks at Number Two, one more even than Right Said Fred I believe, but they had the considerable consolation of an 11 week run on top of the US Hot 100, which at the time had been exceeded only by Whitney (IWALY) and Boyz II Men, both from 1992. Marathon runners were to feature in the Billboard chart throughout the next 20 years though, with another chart behemoth, Mariah Carey following suit.

    #7 Actually I once knew someone who was a big Wets fan. He didn’t seem to be into music generally though, which was maybe telling, but he’d seen them several times. I worked with this individual for 2 or 3 years and throughout that time he was going through what was clearly an acrimonious divorce; indeed it seemed his divorce must have lasted longer than the marriage. I don’t recall hearing his view on ‘Four Weddings.’

    #10 I wasn’t that familiar with the Troggs version either; although I knew they’d done the original there must have been many buyers of this who didn’t know it, and maybe didn’t even know it was an old song. At least not until we started getting those news reports on old Reg and his new-found riches. I don’t mind this, I prefer it to some of the 90s covers that were just note-for-note copies of the originals. I could stretch to a 5 I think.

  9. 59
    Another Pete on 19 Feb 2013 #

    #44 I only knew this as it was mentioned in recently deceased Reg Presley’s obituary. Yet it ties in quite nicely with 1994 when the X-Files was at its height.

  10. 60
    Men on 20 Feb 2013 #

    Off topic but Your Arsenal, if I really had to choose, is probably my favourite album ever… Vauxhall and I is too sombre in places and has a couple of duds. Still a good listen mind.

    I read High Fidelity way into my youth at school. I think even before my “Franz Ferdinand-fuelled awakening” to tonnes of music past and present (yes you mock I am young…). I do remember enjoying HF then, must read it again soon….

    P.s Wet Wet Wet are pish.

  11. 61
    Elmtree on 22 Feb 2013 #

    I actually rather like the opening-it’s obviously nothing to do with the rest of the song, but it makes a very good fanfare. That sudden point where it drops out really made me jump when I heard it for the first time-it drew my attention to the song’s build afterwards perfectly. If only what followed didn’t sound so smug.

    But yes, this is a song that’s never quite been done right. This is extremely plastic pop-soul and it’s dated badly. The Troggs’ version has a lot of charm, and I like the naive feel of it, but there’s something a bit too clunky about it, it never quite soars. I wonder what someone like Florence Welch would do with it.

  12. 62
    Steve Mannion on 22 Feb 2013 #

    #61 I can’t imaging Florence improving any song (even this one) but I agree about the intro – like Stiltskin it’s another for the ‘chart-toppers where the first few seconds are the best bit’ pile.

    I had a kind of LIAA parallel in The Prodigy’s ‘No Good (Start The Dance)’ – #1 in my head/world/charts pretty much all Summer. Their second album going straight in at #1 was an exciting surprise. A message on Twitter a few months ago said “RT if you ever biked miles just to buy a tape”. I did that for ‘…Jilted Generation’ (assuming a journey of between 1 and 2 miles still counts). When I think of the Summer of ’94 that’s the heart of its soundtrack (however dark and dystopian it could feel).

    I don’t suppose it was the case but I almost like the idea of Pellow and pals being the first British band to have their own online presence (‘World Wide Wets’).

  13. 63
    Billy Hicks on 22 Feb 2013 #

    ‘No Good’ is a song I first knowingly heard ten years later, on Radio 1 in late 2004, and it sounded head and shoulders above all the other dance hits of the then-present. Finding out it was made a decade earlier was unbelievable.

    Nothing really to add about Wet Wet Wet that hasn’t already been said, and as a five year old my favourite song of Summer ’94 was, erm, ‘Let’s Get Ready to Rhumble’ by PJ & Duncan. What I can do is link to my own blog where, in a post I made last year, I review every track on ‘Now That’s What I Call Music 28′ including this one. Be warned, if you’re not a fan of mid-90s Eurodance it might be a hard read:

    http://billyhicks.livejournal.com/307775.html

  14. 64
    James BC on 22 Feb 2013 #

    #63 – Glad you recognise the greatness of Carry Me Home!

  15. 65
    Mark G on 22 Feb 2013 #

    Yeah, I remember saying ‘now there’s a voice that’s gonna have loads of hits’ Gloworm… Hmmm

  16. 66
    Ed on 23 Feb 2013 #

    The real significance of this record goes back to Tom’s previous post. As he put it there, 1994 was a year for introducing new characters to our national soap opera, and Wet Wet Wet did not fit that bill. They were not new faces, and they did not go on to dominate the coming decade. But they did play a role unlike any other band in bridging the gap between the eighties and the noughties.

    In the 1980s, they were card-carrying soul-cialists, weren’t they? I can’t remember if they ever did Red Wedge tours, but they definitely played benefit gigs and were identified as Labour voters. They were part of that movement that tried to join the dots between Al Green and Nye Bevan; a cosier manifestation of it than some, maybe, but fellow travellers nonetheless. Their name comes from Scritti Politti, and although the other Green is not exactly in that crowd, he is similarly politically engaged.

    And when Wet Wet Wet enjoyed landslide success with this song, it was a portent of Tony Blair’s triumph less than three years later.

    Like Blair, they were criticised for making too many compromises in the interests of mass appeal, and you can make your own minds up about that. Blair even suffers the same attacks as Marti Pellow: “smarmy’, “smirking” and so on. But the fact that they managed to dominate the mainstream of British culture so comprehensively is still pretty impressive, I think.

    Richard Curtis, meanwhile, did go on to be one of the central figures of the coming decade, in part because of his connections to the Murdoch-Labour nexus through his partner Emma Freud, who is the sister of Matthew Freud, who is the husband of Elisabeth Murdoch, who is the daughter of you-know-who.

  17. 67
    Ed on 23 Feb 2013 #

    Punctum @9 and others, if you were tempted to harbour any remaining ill-will towards poor old Hornby, think about how he was feeling on Tuesday night.

  18. 68
    Auntie Beryl on 23 Feb 2013 #

    JLucas at 13 refers to this: I can’t get away from comparing this 15 week monster to Bryan Adams in 91. Here’s why.

    June 1991: aged 17, I had just finished my A Levels. Everything I Do (I Do It For You) climbed to the top of the charts. No big deal thought I, it’s from a fly-by-night movie, it’ll be gone in a couple of weeks.

    As is the way with groups of soon-to-be-thrown-to-the-winds social groups of Home Countries boys, we spent that July interrailing. Of course we did. Halfway through I turned 18. I returned to four pristine copies of the NME, the news that Metallica had a hit single, and Everything I Do (I Do It For You) was number one.

    I collected my A Level results. I had squeezed into a northern university with no grade wiggle room. Everything I Do (I Do It For You) was number one.

    I spent the rest of the summer working in the local supermarket. Eight weeks. When I finished, Everything I Do (I Do It For You) was number one.

    I left home; headed north. The biggest step of my life up to that point. Confronted by my own social ineptitude, I forced myself to socialise. Learned to drink. The soundtrack? I remember a lot of KLF at those Freshers events. Through our all, Everything I Do (I Do It For You) was number one.

    I joined the university radio station, became a DJ. A dream fulfilled! Access to a decent record library. I hosted two weekly shows: one of all sorts of discoveries from the back catalogue, thrown together without care; one essaying the weekly chart. At the end of each of these shows, Everything I Do (I Do It For You) was number one.

    Then U2 popped up, and all were grateful.

    Spin forward three years. The drinking and DJing had overcome any coursework obligations. I completed my years at Lancaster, but there was to be no qualification at the end of them. I showed up at various leaver’s events, my heart not in it but the quest for alcohol driving me forward. I was a wreck. The soundtrack? I remember a lot of Prodigy. Love Is All Around was number one.

    Returning home, chastened, I returned to that job at the supermarket, full time now. I’d pissed my prospects up the wall. Spent three years on such silly things as drinking cider and sorting out the record library. Head Of Music at a university radio station, what good is that on a CV? You’ve got no degree! Love Is All Around was number one.

    Summer turned to autumn, and like three years prior, the top slot was unchanging. Who was buying this? A bland sliver of shite from a drippy movie! What was going on?

    The week Wet Wet Wet were deposed, I saw a sign in the window of my local indie record shop, the shop where I’d spent my paper round money at 15, my supermarket money at 17, my grant money at 19. There was a job going. I applied.

    The interview went well. Being record librarian at a university radio station counted for something after all. I got the job and stayed for the rest of my twenties. Even now, I’m still in that same industry, shrinking and beaten as it is. Love Is All Around was no longer number one.

    I can’t think back to those formative years, the summers of 91 and 94, without reference to Bryan Adams and Wet Wet Wet.The records meant nothing to me, but there they are, unbending, bookends to a three year period when everything changed. Going from 18 to 21 is quite a journey. The fifteen weeks Love All Around spent at the top coincided with some very dark days I shouldn’t and can’t go into here. But it ended well.

    3.

  19. 69
    xyzzzz__ on 23 Feb 2013 #

    “but Britpop, despite its doubtful genesis, beyond question cleared
    the path for at least two years of creative and invigorating new music to be heard.”

    I don’t agree with this one. How are the good bits of the reminescence such as jungle, tri-hop, click n’cuts n’ Aphex have their paths cleared in any way by Britpop bands who were incredibly derivative?! This was the bit of the universe absolutely NOT an alternative to anything, never mind Wet Wet Wet and their ilk, and really you’d think Hornby is far more w/the Britpop lot, in the end they are all perfectly working alongside one another for nobody else’s good but their own.

    I think there are deeper reasons why the band dynamic seems exhausted now but Britpop, you’d argue, didn’t help matters by what the music produced was being derivative of.

  20. 70
    Weej on 24 Feb 2013 #

    We’ll have plenty of time to talk about britpop (fairly) soon, but I hope we don’t get bogged down in the “it’s as derivative as anything else” argument. There were some very original, innovative acts, and even some of the big names made some very left-field music, even if it was hidden away as album tracks or b-sides.

  21. 71
    xyzzzz__ on 24 Feb 2013 #

    No there wasn’t.

    In some ways Elastica were the best of them all because they just copied straight.

  22. 72
    Fivelongdays on 24 Feb 2013 #

    I suppose this is where I come in. A 12 year old, getting into music – I thought massive reigns at number one was the norm.

    3

  23. 73
    tm on 8 Mar 2013 #

    This is a shameful self-plug, but since we were on the subject (50 or so posts back) of blokes who are too old to be in bands: check MY BAND ON STEVE LAMACQ!!!!!!!!!! http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b01r2nbh – my teenage dreams come true at 31! (easily pass for 25 if any AnR are reading this….)

  24. 74
    Cumbrian on 25 Mar 2013 #

    Suppose it’s worth getting this in if/when it becomes spoiler bunnied but this kept PJ and Duncan AKA’s “Let’s Get Ready To Rhumble” behind it – at number 9 – back in 1994.

    I didn’t see this medley on Saturday night, with which Ant and Dec seem to have re-energised the nation – I was catching up on Series 2 of Game of Thrones in preparation for Series 3 starting on April Fools’ Day – but it seems to have blown up my Facebook news feed and persuaded me to look in on Youtube. Any comments from the FT gallery? Personally, I thought it interesting to see how some of these people have changed (or not) in their time out of the spotlight and, as an extension of that, how at least 2 of Blue look like they should probably be playing Prop Forward for Huddersfield Giants.

  25. 75
    thefatgit on 25 Mar 2013 #

    This on the same week that Damon and Noel bury the Britpop hatchet for The Teenage Cancer Trust.

  26. 76
    Auntie Beryl on 25 Mar 2013 #

    I’ve been enjoying The Big Reunion, the ITV2 show that prompted the 90sathon on Ant & Dec last Saturday. It’s nowhere near as sneering as I feared: before the start of the series I dreaded a Geordie Shore/The Only Way Is Essex treatment, with Kerry Katona in every frame as she has been a tabloid fixture for the last ten years – but it’s all rather gentle.

    PJ & Duncan’s sales over the weekend and today seem to be to be the closest yet we’ve come to a 90s Pop revival: flash in the pan or otherwise, it’s going to have produced a top 3 hit by Easter Sunday.

    However, it’s interesting to note that, Five aside, there hasn’t been a large upswing in sales of the featured groups.

  27. 77
    Cumbrian on 28 Mar 2013 #

    Rhumble watch. Top of the mid-week charts, this is looking like a done deal, especially given the odds being slashed on them being #1 on Sunday by various bookmakers. The hutch door is open…

  28. 78
    Mark G on 28 Mar 2013 #

    Also, A&D are out/about ‘promoting’ it as a news story, with the proceeds going to ‘charity’

    (commas, because I know not which charity)

    also: “Five ASide” is either a sneaky football reference, or a really good ‘new’ name for them, seeing as how one of the old five is not involved)

  29. 79
    punctum on 28 Mar 2013 #

    11K ahead of Pink last I looked.

    I said back in 2005 (probably in Club Poptimism rather than online) that the record would get to number one “tomorrow” if reissued. Serves me right.

  30. 80
    Mark G on 28 Mar 2013 #

    Add it to the club of “People thought it had got to number one, and ‘now’ it has” records, “Mysterious Girl” Peter Andre being the other one. um, I can smell carrot..

  31. 81
    Cumbrian on 2 Apr 2013 #

    “Here be Rabbits” now adorning this area of the Popular Map.

  32. 82
    Erithian on 2 Jun 2013 #

    Very well produced, this one, with keen awareness of what would play well with their target audience, and perhaps rather more professionalism than feeling. I can’t generate any strong feelings either way about this – not unpleasant but of course a bit tedious after 15 weeks (weird that a third cinema-backed song in four years had chalked up double figures at number one).

    Someone mentioned wedding bands upthread – this was actually my wedding-day number one on 13 August 1994. We didn’t choose it as our first dance or anything, but in what thankfully was the nearest thing to a wedding-day hitch on an otherwsie stellar day, we forgot to take along the handful of CDs we’d earmarked to the reception, and the DJ didn’t have the song we had wanted – “Fields of Gold” by Sting (no apologies, we both loved it). Instead we had to settle for “I Swear”, which was too bog-standard nu-RnB for my tastes.

    So my main memory associated with this song is a very different one, and another very pleasant one, of the best gig I ever got at work. As secretary to the Red Ensign Group of British shipping registers, I had to attend a conference in the Cayman Islands in April ’94, and while taking the opportunity to watch CNN in the hotel one morning I saw a clip of “Four Weddings” – the “in the words of David Cassidy before he left the Partridge Family” line which turns out to have been much the best moment of the film.

    The other CNN moment that stays with me from that week was the morning we left. The previous evening we’d had a farewell reception, with the beautiful, friendly young Caymanian women who’d organised the conference steadily topping up our enormous wine glasses. So that morning I had the hangover from hell, throwing up in my squeaky-clean bathroom and looking at a 12-hour journey back to Gatwick which was about to begin. CNN was reporting that Richard Nixon was dead, and for a moment I was thinking “lucky bastard, I wish I was”.

  33. 83
    Patrick Mexico on 26 Jun 2013 #

    Re #65: Gloworm. Aw yeah. This genuinely warmed the cockles of my heart. More than LIAA could ever do, anyway..

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

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