23
Jun 13

LIVIN’ JOY – “Dreamer”

Popular142 comments • 7,842 views

#721, 13th May 1995

A dance music confession: I never, quite, intuitively grasped what counted as House and what fell under Garage. The bumping, cut-up rhythms and vocals that begin the remixed “Dreamer” feel like garage, for example, but as Janice Robinson takes the song into its urgently blissful chorus I want to call it house – or even go more specific and say handbag house, that showy, uplifting offshoot that strutted across superclub dancefloors in the mid-90s.

These sort of divisions are the meat and drink of dance music – social markers as much as genre markers, guides to who might dance to what – and, in the case of handbag, what might be safely dismissed. Otherwise knowledgeable and thorough histories of dance music wave mid-90s house away as mere disco (as if disco was ever mere), a crowd-pleasing sideshow away from the main action. In terms of ‘progression’, perhaps that’s right. In terms of pop, it’s way off.

After all, most of what you really need to know about Livin’ Joy is in the band’s name. “Dreamer” is indeed the year’s most joyful, delightful, vivacious number one so far. But it’s not just about joy – the song’s chorus is a concentrated blurt of fierce hope, a fantasy of togetherness so intense but so impossible that Robinson takes it in double-time, like she’s trying to grab a moment – or a dream – before it vanishes. The song slinks and builds up to that point, its loping bass and keyboard figures giving Robinson space to stretch out a bit and approach lines like “Love, life and laughter is all I believe” with the lived-in relish they deserve.

It’s an old pop trick, as old as “I Feel Love” at least – the European producers adding a bit of class to their work with a jobbing American soul singer. But the men behind “Dreamer” – on a roll at the time, with Alex Party’s infectious “Don’t Give Me Your Life” to their credit – got lucky here: while never stepping outside genre boundaries, “Dreamer” is one of the great house diva vocals. It captures the thing house, and handbag house, do better than almost anything: condense all the hopes, fears, desperation, and fantasies that a dancefloor magics into being, leaving an intense hit of pop that stays in your mind long after the night ends.

9

Comments

  1. 1
    AMZ1981 on 23 Jun 2013 #

    In a wider context I’ve always seen this record as marking the start of the `devaluation` of the number one position. It entered (or more accurately re-entered) the chart at number one; as did its two predecessors but they were both by established acts. Two number ones later we’ll have the last record ever to make a conventional climb to number one and within two years we’ll have forgettable records crashing in at number one and holding the slot for a week. It will be interesting to see how this blog responds.

  2. 2
    punctum on 23 Jun 2013 #

    Just because it had been six years since Italian House music had been fashionable didn’t mean that Italian musicians stopped making it or that people stopped dancing to it or buying it. Nevertheless “Dreamer” is the last great record in the line which began with “Ride On Time” and owes perhaps half of its greatness to its happy pitching accident. The musicians/producers behind Livin’ Joy were Italian, but singer and lyricist Janice Robinson – not, I’m fairly confident in thinking, the same Janice Robinson who played trombone in the Jazz Composer’s Orchestra and Gil Evans’ band in the seventies – was American. She supplies a lyric and performance which swings between supple restraint and unleashed euphoria, from the brooding of “My Saviour is pure now/Because my lonely heart would bleed” over pondering bass synth notes to the 300 mph adrenaline rush of her choruses, in which her excitement does well to keep up with the song’s tempo as the ascending staccato organ underlines the essential spirituality at work here, making it indivisible from carnality (“Your eyes move my soul, it’s unbelievin’,” “Please don’t dumb it down and never leave me”), though fantasy might not yet be extricated from reality, achievement from hope (“Am I a dreamer?” Robinson asks semi-rhetorically).

    Whether there was a mismatch of sliders at the mixing desk is debatable, but the fact remains that the vocal track is half a tone out of key with the music, or vice versa; and of course, that’s what makes “Dreamer” a special record; the headlong ecstasy rush is so cathartically joyous that it runs ahead of itself, and the slight dissonance works in its emotional favour since it suggests the yearning which may still separate the singer’s thought from her eventual expression. The imperfection kisses it closer to true perfection as Robinson eventually disappears into her own echoing whirlpool of “Am I dreamer/Am I, am I dreamer?” When Eurodance gets the punctum right – even by getting it wrong – it works like everyone’s dream.

  3. 3
    Tom on 23 Jun 2013 #

    #1 I am on record – and if I’m not I am now – as saying the “conventional climb to No.1” doesn’t interest me at all really: I never look chart histories, though I know some people here love to trace the arcs of records – and that’s great! But not for me. There’s obviously a bunch of reasons why the fast turnover of hits started to happen, the main ones as far as I can tell being far earlier releases to radio; marketing departments getting good at timing release dates now that mattered; and the overall decline of singles sales meaning the other two factors counted for more. In a sense, the main shift is that any slow rise in awareness happened on radio, before the song came out, and the sign of a ‘genuine’ hit became its longevity post-release, not its climb pre-release.

    So I suspect this blog will treat the era of the instant #1 as business as usual, criticism wise. Except I do have something a bit special planned for 2000, the year of the great deluge of #1s, but that’s a way off yet.

  4. 4
    xyzzzz__ on 23 Jun 2013 #

    I like revolving doors, oh yes! A most interesting response to #1 by FreakyTrigger there…

    Did the genre confusion mean a point off for this then?

  5. 5
    lonepilgrim on 23 Jun 2013 #

    I have no recollection of this – I probably wasn’t listening to the right radio station or reading the appropriate music press – but I like it a lot. I always like the type of bubbly synth line that ties this to House and the singers vocal is compelling and commanding without becoming boring.

  6. 6
    Patrick Mexico on 23 Jun 2013 #

    Spot on Tom. Perhaps the most exciting number 1 of the nineties. It hit me like a rock when I was 9, it hit me like a rock when I was 19 and right.. naaaw, it hits me like an express train, careering off the side of the Grand Canyon, backwards, full of husky dogs pepped up on a cocktail of cocaine-laced Buckfast.

    I’ll leave the discussion to the more seasoned ravers/clubbers though, for now!

  7. 7
    Unlogged Mog on 23 Jun 2013 #

    Without any sense of irony, this may be what I think is the best song ever written. Which very much comes down to particular factors in my personal taste but whichever way you look at it: it’s very good indeed.

    There’s an almost impossible propulsion to the vocal, all the more deceptive because it appears to start slow (it’s still pretty rapid if you try singing it) and then that headlong bit is like a rollercoaster cresting and diving.

    The lyrics are so desperate and melancholy and you know, about this human thing you call love. Or at least, this human thing you call really wanting someone to get close to you on a dancefloor. Her voice has this subtly ragged edge to it, which you almost have to listen for to notice but it colours the delivery with this sense of reaching, of this plea for contact that’s almost knife-like in its sharpness.

    I am too about-to-fall-asleep to write a proper comment now but err, I’ll be back.

    (I swear blind I have seen a comic about this song and I thought it was Phonogram but I just went through our copies and it doesn’t seem to be. I seem to remember a lot of strobe silhouettes? Maybe I have made this up?)

  8. 8
    flahr on 23 Jun 2013 #

    The first 9 Tom’s awarded since 1990!

    It’s probably only a four or five for me, but that’s perhaps unsurprising given how I don’t really go clubbing or raving or that.

  9. 9
    Billy Hicks on 24 Jun 2013 #

    I’m going to be the annoying “Yeah, but…” one this time.

    As a huge fan of 1987-2003 dance music and basically giving 10s out to every dance #1 since, ooh, ‘Jack Your Body’, this, bizarrely, is one of the few that leaves me a little cold. Maybe because of all the songs better than this that have deserved the position more, maybe because it doesn’t ever quite have that melodic hook I crave for – the chorus’s 300mph spiel is pretty cool, but where’s the tune?

    It’s *ok* and had charted at #5 or something perhaps I’d have appreciated it more, indeed on first release in 1994 it just sneaked in the top 20. But #1? I don’t get what elevates it up there while something like ‘Set You Free’ or ‘U Sure Do’ just misses out. See also 2000, where tracks like Darude’s ‘Sandstorm’ and Delerium’s ‘Silence’ were beaten by the likes of the inferior S*****e and M***o, but that’s for another time.

    There also seems to be two distinct versions of this song and I’ve never quite worked out which was the 1995 #1 and which was the earlier, 1994 #18. The main difference is the middle (about 1:45-1:50 in) where one drops the backbeat for a bit and the other lets it carry on through… http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=19HT0w1uW4A is Version 1, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2VuyQuRAsHI is Version 2. Anyone know?

  10. 10
    swanstep on 24 Jun 2013 #

    This one’s new to me (so evidently this isn’t a track like Set You Free or Wrap Me Up that’s stuck around much), and on first (two) listens now it’s nothing at all. I don’t know what the hell you guys are on about. Too much hi hat and too much trebly reverb on the vocal, bottom of the barrel M-1 House piano yet again – what a mess of a record. Harrumph. It doesn’t seem to have done much outside the UK, for good reason on this evidence. Maybe it’ll grow on me, but I’d currently be inclined to scrape it off if so:
    4

  11. 11
    MBI on 24 Jun 2013 #

    Never heard of it. It’s pretty bad. 4

  12. 12
    Tom on 24 Jun 2013 #

    #10 is it still house piano if they’re using an organ preset? ;) And I almost singled out the hi-hat overload for praise except I forgot to fit it in – ramps up the urgency very nicely, I particularly like those four big hi-hat hits just before the chorus.

    #9 Sorry you don’t like it Billy! “U Sure Do” is fantastic, yes, its only rival this year for rushy dancefloor pop. I put “U Sure Do” on ThisIsMyJam a couple of months ago and got very few takers :(

    #8 I am not a big clubber or raver either – actually the only time I heard this in its natural milieu was on a visit to my girlfriend in Leeds, being dragged out against my introverted will to a huge club at which Graham Gold was DJing. He did not play Livin’ Joy (far too jejune I’m sure) but one of his warm up dudes did and it lit up the night. But basically dance music is a kind of pop I listen to like every other kind of pop – mostly on headphones, mostly sitting down. I suspect if the ‘trackier’ kind of dance music (can’t remember whose distinction ‘tracky’ vs ‘songy’ is – S.Reynolds?) ever got to #1 I’d be a bit more flummoxed by it.

  13. 13
    Chelovek na lune on 24 Jun 2013 #

    A little surprised at the euphoria generated by this track, but mostly pleasantly so, I think. Yeah, it’s pretty good, pretty enjoyable, and the off-kilter aspect is a major contributory factor to that. But the chorus seems to end half-way through. Which could be a pro or a con (certaintly adds to the sense of urgency/desire being sung about).

    Probs a 7 or 8 from me.

    (I rate “U Sure Do”, too, but it’s a bit more straightforward than this)

  14. 14
    enitharmon on 24 Jun 2013 #

    It’s not my music. Like flahr at #8 I’m untutored in the ways of 1990s clubbing. In other circumstances I’m sure it would bring back happy memories of wild euphoric nights, but in the bright light of a sunny Cumbrian morning (what’s this whingeing about cloud and rain in London? We’re enjoying something like a real summer here) it sounds, well, pretty much the same as all other tracks of the genre. The overplayed, overly uniform thud of synthesised percussion doubtlessly carefully calculated in its frequency and intensity to maximise the production of adrenalin on a sweaty dancefloor, overlaid with an ethereal voice so stripped of emotion and eroticism that it might well be synthesised too. No suggestion here of the vertical expression of a horizontal desire. Sex not so much out of fashion as just something you do when you’re not clubbing (but I don’t really know what was going on – was there bumping and grinding and everything short of penetration on these dancefloors?)

    As Popular extends into my 40s I feel like I’m turning into an old fogey but I don’t think that’s it. The affective nature of all popular music dictates that it goes with a context, and it loses much of its power outside that context. I’m sure that many younger than me are as baffled by the pop of the 60s as I am by this.

  15. 15
    James BC on 24 Jun 2013 #

    These were the same guys as Alex Party? Dance music is so hard to keep track of.

  16. 16
    punctum on 24 Jun 2013 #

    The context is 4,000 drunk people going uniformly apeshit at three in the morning in what I will generically call The Club. Not my thing even at the time but then I was thirty-one.

  17. 17
    punctum on 24 Jun 2013 #

    #3 – people like a story, the story of a humble record slowly rising upwards and the associated suspense involved – can it get past its rivals and go all the way to the top?

    As Tom says, the real test of a proper hit now is how it does after it has come in at a relatively high position. The problem was basically that from about 1986 onwards the charts became a measure of relative marketing strategy success rather than genuine popularity. Hence the frontloading of singles in their first week of release, 99p at Our Price, then up to £1.99 or £2.99 in the second week. Add this to the increasing savvy of fans on the still (in 1995) nascent internet and the result is an awful lot of disposable singles which go in high, fall abruptly, have not survived into oldies radio and may not even be remembered by the fans who put it there.

    This problem has continued into the download era; looking back as recently as the charts of 2011, I was astounded how a “real” hit like “Moves Like Jagger” was obliged to play second fiddle to instantly forgettable blobs of garbage going straight in at the top and falling to 4 or 5 the following week. Let’s face it, we’re talking about the fleeting fancies of a few thousand people rather than the foundation of future classics (boy bands are particular offenders here).

    For those who wonder why shows like POTP don’t venture into recent years more often, it’s because so many of the charts over the last 20 years or so are virtually unusable, filled with transient club bangers (most of which have not even survived into Dave Pearce’s Dance Years) or fourth singles off albums.

    So if the arc of chart progress resembles a bungee jump rather than the curves of a traditional story it’s not surprising that people feel disenfranchised by what has effectively become a marketing exercise. But then maybe that’s what the charts already were.

  18. 18
    fivelongdays on 24 Jun 2013 #

    As someone who was 13 when it came out, I concur with #14.

    Sorry, but from my recollection half the top 40 at the time was made up of dull, soulless, unexciting, dance bilge with a female vocalist warbling dull platitudes over the top. This music was designed for cool people, for the ‘well ‘ards’, not for me. And it still doesn’t feel like it could ever be for someone like me.

    I realise that is my problem, rather than the records, but this is a club record, all shined up, all product-in-hair, all stupid bloody dress code (because wearing shoes rather than trainers is going to stop fights/drugs/whatever how exactly?), all music for people who don’t actually like music.

    This is dance. Chop off my legs.

    2.

  19. 19
    enitharmon on 24 Jun 2013 #

    Marcello @16 – it’s probably almost exactly this time when the group I was out with for the evening ended up at the Lakota (or perhaps it was the Blue Mountain) in Bristol (I was licking my wounds from a painfully narrow defeat in the city council elections and people were going out of their way to be nice to me (this would change drastically over the next 104 weeks in politics). It was a trial. I’d heard that there were different rooms in these places with different styles of music in each, including a chill-out area. I didn’t notice much difference in the rooms myself, but I did find some respite out on the roof. I expect I heard this track that night, but it doesn’t stand out in my memory.

    However, I was this side of 40 by this time …

  20. 20
    punctum on 24 Jun 2013 #

    Good Lord, eighteen more votes and you would have got through. Meanwhile, back in Chelsea, we still had the late, egregious Sir Nicholas Scott as sitting (or flat-on-face-in-street-only-had-two-white-wines-honest) MP.

  21. 21
    enitharmon on 24 Jun 2013 #

    I messed up the link to the election and now I can’t edit it. It’s here http://www.bristol.gov.uk/LocalElectionViewer/index.html?XSL=main&ShowElectionWard=true&ElectionId=44&WardId=26

    [sorted — a passing FT editor]

  22. 22
    Tom on 24 Jun 2013 #

    #17 – All fair points. The #1 has always been an imperfect barometer of what matters even in the charts, let alone wider music, and I think you’re right that it’ll get less so – though to some extent this is dilution, rather than a year with 20 number ones, 15 of which are ‘memorable’ for good or bad, we’ll have years with 30-40, but roughly the same amount of interesting ones. So yes, I withdraw last night’s bullishness a bit – I suspect we will see a few more very brief Popular entries, particularly for hits which follow the “fourth single of album” pattern. Possibly more combined entries too, a la the two Singin The Blues.

  23. 23
    JLucas on 24 Jun 2013 #

    Yeah I’m a big fan of the 90s dance sound, but I’ve never *quite* understood the veneration this record receives in certain quarters. Billy is dead on, it sounds like a likeable but swiftly forgotten #5 hit to me, not a genre hallmark #1. Honestly, I find the chorus a little limp.

    Give me U Sure Do, Set You Free or Free From Desire any day of the week.

  24. 24
    Chelovek na lune on 24 Jun 2013 #

    #3 (etc) I hope/presume part of the year 2000 “celebrations” involve setting alight a (perhaps life-size) effigy of a certain Irish boy band. (And perhaps a quantity of their CDs too). Their unworthy number ones, apart from coming in extraordinary quantity, were often even more egregious chartoppers, anomymous and forgettable than the stereotypical first week-loaded club bangers that to my mind did indeed reflect the triumph of marketing over art. (Well, that is to simplify grossly, as this went way back, and anyway from day 1 the charts were about marketing, and anyway a lot of this stuff really only very tenuously might be described as art anyway. So. In a sense it doesn’t really mark that much of a shift. But still)

    Thankfully that is some way off yet…

  25. 25
    punctum on 24 Jun 2013 #

    Never got “U Sure Do”; it just made me want to go back and listen to the Stephanie Mills record it sampled (“The Medicine Song”?). “Set You Free” and “Freed From Desire” are top-drawer classics, though.

    This one only got as high as #24 and it is still one of my all-time top ten singles, would be on my Desert Island Discs and can still fill my eyes with tears for reasons which are nobody else’s business (tip – ignore the visuals and listen to the music, it is like Elgar):

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8_yUkBXVY30

    And for what it’s worth, in 2013 I think pop has made it through the rain and it’s another great era. The last six number ones are worthy of standing shoulder to shoulder with their predecessors (or ancestors).

  26. 26
    Mark G on 24 Jun 2013 #

    So far, of all the songs mentioned as ‘better’ than this one, I’d agree..

    I didn’t like this much at the time, like it better nowadays, still would only give it 7 as opposed to the others that’d get 9 from me.

    This is one of those titles you might have to play the vid to remind youself which “dream” this one is.. “Dreamer, life gets in your way” nope not that one, “AM I DREAMERRRRR-ERR-ERRR???” ah yes.

    Ah, “Freed from desire”, totally on-the-spot that one: The number of girls that had boyfriends that had definite political ideals that prevented him from working from “The Man”, yeah? Whatever happened to that couple? She found someone less dogmatic, right?

  27. 27
    lex on 24 Jun 2013 #

    This song encapsulates everything great about ’90s dance to me – every hook and flourish is in excatly the right place, from the synth organ to the way she belts just when the song demands it and reduces herself to stuttering by the end.

    In 1995 I’d actually grown slightly away from the Eurotechno I’d loved as a nine-year-old – this isn’t the same ballpark as 2 Unlimited etc but by this point I was 12/13 and getting into Portishead and Tricky and Tori Amos. But even at the time I RECOGNISED its undeniable greatness.

    All the ’90s dance hits referenced in this thread are brilliant, obviously, but listening back to this I could easily imagine it being dropped into a 2013 garage/pop-house set and going down a storm – in a similar role to the one I’ve heard Robin S’s “Show Me Love” play par excellence.

  28. 28
    JLucas on 24 Jun 2013 #

    U Sure Do sampled Serious by Donna Allen

    http://youtu.be/HRpTmBAnkp0

  29. 29
    Chelovek na lune on 24 Jun 2013 #

    I concur that “Freed From Desire” was fantastic. Without going back to check, wasn’t there something off-key in the singing there, too?

  30. 30
    punctum on 24 Jun 2013 #

    #28 – oh thanks, I knew it was one of those mid-eighties soul diva type euphoric things.

    #29 – Yep. Adds to its charm.

  31. 31
    Mark G on 24 Jun 2013 #

    Also, the fade-out’s “am I a dreamer, am I a dreamer…” holds this message:

    “and for those listening to the 7″ version, we’ve run right out of time, but the tune continues on the 12″ version if you wish to switch over now..”

    (blimey, thread is busy!)

  32. 32
    punctum on 24 Jun 2013 #

    The thing with Livin’ Joy is – is she dreamer or is she dancer?

  33. 33
    Mark G on 24 Jun 2013 #

    My hands are tied, my eyes be crossed..

  34. 34
    JLucas on 24 Jun 2013 #

    I loved the followup to Freed From Desire too, which sounded much the same but with even more inscrutable lyrics

    “And they say silver, I choose gold
    I’m not afraid to be alone
    Someone will judge, these gentle souls
    Let a boy cry, and he will know”

    http://youtu.be/LGj5XgdqUlA

  35. 35
    Rory on 24 Jun 2013 #

    #17 – re savvy fans on the internet, there are a couple of significant dates coming up soon in Popular time: “The filename extension .mp3 was chosen by the Fraunhofer team on 14 July 1995. … With the first real-time software MP3 player WinPlay3 (released 9 September 1995) many people were able to encode and play back MP3 files on their PCs.”

  36. 36
    mintness on 24 Jun 2013 #

    #9, #23 – There might be something in that, actually. I’m almost tempted to draw a parallel with the likes of “Bring Your Daughter… To The Slaughter” – a song that was by no means the best example of its genre, but that was in the right place at the right time to benefit from an “all hands on deck” push. It could have been any other Maiden song of the era, it could have been any other #5-worthy dance track from ’94-’95 – and yet here we are.

    I do like “Dreamer”, though. Euphoria meets brains. I’d give it a 7.

  37. 37
    Rory on 24 Jun 2013 #

    I’m another who had never heard this before ten minutes ago, and it does sound a bit you-had-to-be-there on first impression. I was waiting for an ecstatic big finish… and then it stopped. Oh. It seems fine as house tracks go, but nothing I’d rush back to. A 5, then.

    Now then, what the hell can I add to the monster Oasis discussion…

  38. 38
    omni-mog on 24 Jun 2013 #

    Ok I am back.

    I was definitely not ‘in the clubs’ when this came out, by dint of being eight years old at the time. It’s still my favourite.

    There’s a particular sort of frantic, sexy, crush desperation to it. When you’ve been driven completely mad by how much you want to touch someone, to the point of trying some kind of summoning ritual (which is what the lyrics and their delivery are) to bring them to you.

    A lot of it is ‘it’s 2am and I put my best dress on and I had so badly convinced myself that you were coming home with me and don’t let this be me making an idiot of myself‘ in the middle of a darkened dancefloor, those bloopy organ presets in time with twisting lights and that’s a thing. In fact I am kind of uncomfortable about how down on that people are being; it’s neither the case that the mid-90s had a monopoly on this nor that it’s solely dance music that does it. There’s an element of this that is, like… Pulp’s ‘Babies,’ maybe. When you’ve really gone disgustingly bonkers over someone.

    (It’s possibly -and ack, I hate drawing this kind of genderised comparison but whatever- it’s possibly a very female, err, euphoric shoegaze thing? Because girls get taught to crush on things and this is absolutely a fantasy song, a Totty Of The Week and daydreams-invading-reality song. It’s conjuring this person you want so incredibly badly and I think the male equivalent would probably be more inclined towards indie invocations of girls, certainly at the time? I was, as I said, eight so can’t actually verify this from any kind of personal perspective)

    The thing Tom draws on, about where garage and house meet is really interesting. I’d never thought of this song as being part of that but it’s easy to see the path between ‘Dreamer’ and, in particular, bassline/4×4; T2’s Heartbroken and H2O’s What’s It Gonna Be are very much in this vein of propulsive desperation.

    (This song always appeared to me as Dave Pearce’s Dance Anthems so I’ve always viewed it as euphoric house but I’m totally into the idea that we could draw a new time-hopping microgenre out of it; I don’t think it’s a continuum because otherwise you’d have to go back to 60s, maybe even 40s girl groups to get to some of the root of it but I like the idea of ‘euphoric dancefloor breakdown crushcore’ or something)

    (I’m a dick)

  39. 39
    Mark G on 24 Jun 2013 #

    The one ‘join’ I can make for this is the “My Saviour is pure now” to the “My brother is in me” line in Ultra Nate’s “Free”

  40. 40
    Izzy on 24 Jun 2013 #

    Gorgeous record – a 9 for me too, and would’ve gone higher if we hadn’t recently had Baby D.

    Slightly perplexed by the lineage being traced out in this thread though. Set You Free, Gala, even right up to Heartbroken – these are *precisely* the records I’d’ve named myself. I guess handbag house, as a genre, isn’t going to have a vast unexplored hinterland, but there must be some other favourites that’re new to me?

  41. 41
    omni-mog on 24 Jun 2013 #

    Really? To me it fits into a long history of conjured lovers, like uh… the 60s girl groups did a lot of this, this invoked heartthrob who’s too attractive to be believed (I’m sort of being cautious about calling it an ‘invoked boy’ because I always thought Dreamer was a very sapphic song, although actually have 0 evidence for this besides probably my own mad projection) and they’re in an enormous number of ballads. What Dreamer does is transplant that to the moment when the bar or club or whatever is closing and you have maybe one last ditch and you know it isn’t going to work but god help you, you can’t stop yourself.

    Dreamer is a ballad that’s been placed into a dance context, which is where it fits into the whole bassline thing; with ‘Free’ that was always a dancefloor stormer from its roots. (to me, anyway; obviously opinions vary)

    (it goes without saying that all ballads are improved by being transplanted to a dancefloor)

  42. 42
    Cumbrian on 24 Jun 2013 #

    Like Tom at #12, I have never been a big clubber, so I’m listening to this with no real knowledge of the club context and am mostly getting it through headphones and whilst sat my backside. This still sounds pretty glorious to me though – the big voice, the headlong rush in the chorus – they just give me a sense of the possible ecstasy to be found in a club. That it doesn’t quite connect with me (and thus I have it at 8 rather than 9 or 10), is my fault, not that of the song; but then, I don’t feel like I have much to connect me to the imagery of Koyaanisqatsi either but it still looks great. I guess I am appreciating in the abstract.

  43. 43
    omni-mog on 24 Jun 2013 #

    For a less usual comparator I’d say Miley Cyrus’ See You Again is a good shot.

  44. 44
    Matt DC on 24 Jun 2013 #

    Its natural home at the time was in people’s front rooms, at house parties, and it still sounds great in that context. Given the Duke Dumont tune at #1 earlier this year, I wouldn’t be surprised if this was due a mini revival at some point soon.

    It’s still a monster by the way.

  45. 45
    thefatgit on 24 Jun 2013 #

    I was hoping this would get a positive response. I think “Dreamer” is right up there with the best “songy” dance tracks of the 90’s. “U Sure Do” and “Set You Free” stand out for me also. “Freed From Desire” I never ever heard in a club environment, only on the radio. The flat vocal? On first hearing it seemed somewhat jarring, but then turned out to be much more fun to listen to on repeat plays. “Charming” is the perfect description for it.

    The urgency of the verses on “Dreamer”…I’m always tripping up on the nuanced parts of what she’s saying, so many thanks to those who quoted lyrics. They’re a lot smarter than I imagined them to be. I wonder if Barlow was taking notice?

  46. 46
    mapman132 on 24 Jun 2013 #

    Wow, this is a surprisingly polarizing record! Count me in the “meh” camp. Despite never being a clubber, I normally like a good dance record, but this just seems a dull 5 for me. FWIW, it reached #72 in the US – I remember it getting airplay but not a lot.

    The side conversation about records climbing vs. debuting at number one is a bit more interesting to me. I remember this being about the time I started to lose a bit of interest in the UK chart. I still followed it (usually) but my personally held myth that the UK chart was somehow superior to my own Billboard Hot 100 was clearly being challenged by this time. Of course, the Hot 100 was also going through a strange time too – ridiculously long stays at #1 were common, but conversely its first ever #1 debut was only a couple months away….

  47. 47
    Kat but logged out innit on 24 Jun 2013 #

    I am super-glad this record exists as it is a BANKER when the dancefloor is empty and I’m scrabbling around in the bag for something to play. I do love it of course, but like Lex and others have said upthread, Strike and 2 Unlimited and Cappella and N-Trance were my favourites. ‘Dreamer’ never gave me the same kind of rush, EXCEPT the bit where she goes really out of tune on the big note and the chords go wonky just before the whispered bit. That bit hit my buttons in the same way that Bobby Brown’s (biggest UK hit!) 2 Can Play That Game did. “Surely pop songs aren’t MEANT to have chords like that”.

  48. 48
    James BC on 24 Jun 2013 #

    This moment of mid-90s magic is made all the more mythic by its makers’ failed attempts to follow it up (often the way with dance music). ‘Follow the Rules’ in particular seemed very limp by comparison.

  49. 49
    swanstep on 24 Jun 2013 #

    Blimey, so Lena’s project for 1995 gets to listen to Common People, Wonderwall, No More ‘I love You’s, Alex Party, N-trance twice, and The Beatles. No fair!

    That said, even though I’m skeptical about Dreamer, this has been a tasty run of Popular entries. Thanks to Tom for getting them out. The joint’s jumping.

  50. 50
    punctum on 24 Jun 2013 #

    #49: NUMBER TWO BUNNY KLAXON

    That’s part of MSBWT’s purpose: to demonstrate that, a lot of the time, the number twos are better than the number ones. And, boy oh boy, have we got some great number ones coming, especially the next one.

  51. 51
    will on 24 Jun 2013 #

    Hmm, personally I think it’s vastly overrated. By mid 95 I was starting to tire of this sort of diva-led house pop anyway but for my money it doesn’t have the depth of say, De’Lacy’s Hideaway or Brothers In Rhythm’s Forever And A Day. I just got fed up with the way she screams ‘I’M A DREAMER!!’ in a way that’s well, very un-dreamy.

  52. 52
    Tom on 24 Jun 2013 #

    #49 Thanks – I’m not promising anything re.frequency, but I’ve been trying a new working method which seems to be paying off. Hopefully saying it isn’t jinxing it…

    (I see the posting rate for the first 6 months of 2013 is currently triple that of the last 6 months of 2012, so it’s not quite just gut feel that makes me think we’re past the worst entry slumps. Even if we’ve a way to go to get to full speed.)

  53. 53
    omni-mog on 24 Jun 2013 #

    re: #51 -being a dreamer and being dreamy are totally different things, being a dreamer can mean having those dreams crushed and destroyed in front of you or watching them teeter on a knife edge. Howling is a totally A+ emotional response to being consumed by dreams.

    /FT’s feels correspondent

  54. 54
    infvr on 24 Jun 2013 #

    re: the tip over into Garage/House and the similarity to later Bassline; so the place that comes across for me is in the instrumentation, and notably That Damn Organ.

    That Damn Organ feels like it’s from the same workstation-y land as the Ubiquitous M1 Piano, but it’s also not far off the sound of the FM instruments – primarily, the Yamaha DX7 and successors – that (as well as being ubiquitous through the late eighties’ chart) in the 90s drove the bottom end of New Jack Swing, slipped into a lot of RNB, and were picked up later dirt cheap (having fallen out of fashion) by (UK) garage producers for those basslines and organs. The bass parts of bassline are often richer, and feel wider, than I’ve really ever felt FM provides for, but so many of the stabs and synth parts are those FM parts from Garage and RNB before it.

    At least, that’s how I’ve always read it. I really should get around to writing more about tracing individual sounds and instruments through pop, which I’ve been promising to do forever.

    (And: +1 to the utility of Dreamer as a dance floor tool. I’ve always loved it, and can’t quite tell you entirely why, but That Damn Organ is part of the reason why).

  55. 55
    Kinitawowi on 24 Jun 2013 #

    14 years old, and living sixteen miles from the nearest club (a place in Kings Lynn called “Top Of The World” – or, as its location would have it renamed, “Top Of The Argos”) and a scene that had approximately zero interest for me; this wasn’t music to be listened to, it was music to dance to, and on listening merit alone this doesn’t even get above a 3 for me.

    While not the start of the crapflood of straight-in-at-number-ones, this was the point when I knew it was a crapflood.

  56. 56
    thefatgit on 24 Jun 2013 #

    #55 For me, I think a lot of House, or in this case a good quality House/Garage hybrid, can exist happily outside the club environment. As Piratemoggy claims on her blog (http://piratemoggy.tumblr.com/), those instances where songs like this cropped up on Dave Pearce’s Dance Anthems, whether it’s revising in your bedroom as she cites, or driving back home from a day out, or when the sun is shining, sitting in the back garden with chilled Chenin Blanc, there’s something about these euphoric songs that just make the moment I’m in feel better.

    It helps of course, if you can invoke a club memory, but “Dreamer” especially doesn’t necessarily require the intimate knowledge of your nearest city centre night club to gain something positive from it. In fact, “Dreamer” has transcended genre definition, although it helps for the purposes of Popular to place it within “Handbag” for context. And there are others which will not stay neatly packed in their boxes, or in their display cases like so many pinned down butterflies, some of which we’ll be discussing here. This is a great feel-good tune or chooon, if you prefer. I’m not feeling it as powerfully as Piratemoggy is, but it does put a huge smile on my face. Sometimes that’s all you need.

  57. 57
    flahr on 24 Jun 2013 #

    “A lot of it is ‘it’s 2am and I put my best dress on and I had so badly convinced myself that you were coming home with me and don’t let this be me making an idiot of myself‘ in the middle of a darkened dancefloor, those bloopy organ presets in time with twisting lights and that’s a thing. In fact I am kind of uncomfortable about how down on that people are being”

    I’m just saying that I have never been on the middle of a darkened dancefloor at 2am (wearing a dress or not), so songs ‘about’ that will, naturally, not connect very well with me. It doesn’t surprise or confuse me that people who do that sort of thing will enjoy songs ‘about’ it.

  58. 58
    Billy Hicks on 24 Jun 2013 #

    Punctum @ 25: Hold That Sucker Down is glorious. Massive underrated gem and involved Rollo of Faithless (a band who criminally we won’t be seeing on Popular). #24 is a criminal chart position. Great to see lots of love for Freed from Desire too, definitely one of my fave tracks of ’97.

    I’ve been getting into Crescendo’s ‘Are You Out There?’ recently, a pretty epic classical/prog house fusion that went top 20 over Christmas 1995. The build-up in the middle (starting 1:18) is slightly heavenly: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lrOHKz5xqIY . For me it’ll be 1996 when the real dance classics arrive in absolutely bucketloads, but that’s for next year…

  59. 59
    Mark M on 24 Jun 2013 #

    As very much a non-expert in this area, my feeling was that although there are obviously common handbag elements, as one of those term-of-abuse/reclamation genres, tracks tended to slip out and in depending on where they were in their existence – ie, when they were white labels, played in smaller clubs, or first mentioned in iD or The Face, they weren’t handbag – when they hit Dave Pearce, the burbs, the charts, they became handbag.

  60. 60
    Auntie Beryl yet unlogged on 24 Jun 2013 #

    #58 Crescendo! Yes! A fantastic record. The CD single has the full mix, which is eighteen plus minutes but doesn’t drag in any way.

    There’s an element of “it’s dance music so I don’t like it” in quite a few comments here. Unusually kneejerk for Popular. I wonder why that is.

  61. 61
    Unlogged Mog on 24 Jun 2013 #

    I am just going to leave a permalink to my Tumblr ramblings here because it’ll get buried by my blog otherwise and also I just fixed a load of the bad grammar, clumsy sentences, etc:
    http://piratemoggy.tumblr.com/post/53763742282/so-i-have-a-lot-of-feelings-about-livin-joys-1995-hit

    #57 -it wasn’t your comment that was aimed at, it was the people saying ‘obviously this was liked by awful people in awful places’ (or a variant on that) -although I personally think it’s got a lot of out-of-the-club joy to be had, that ultimately comes down to personal taste. Play on, is what I mean.

    #60- I am genuinely surprised by the number of people expressing a kind of disgust at the sort of people/club this might have been played in. I guess I was not around at the time and I probably would have been a cock about it if I was, since I was a massive rockist during my formative nightdancing years. But if anyone’s been to Poptimism recently and met me, you’ll know I look more handbag house than anything else and y’know. Still got, like. Opinions and shit. Yeah.

    We have not mentioned Baby D’s Let Me Be Your Fantasy yet but I feel like there is a key link between the two.

  62. 62
    Steve Mannion on 25 Jun 2013 #

    I do like how divisive this is even now. I really Hated It At First (TM) (as with ‘Set You Free’ the combo of drippy sentiment and warbley key-drifting vocal were the initial obstacle to me*) although by the time it dragged itself back to the charts and this time to the top my aforementioned new love of much Handbaggage first cooled my ire then warmed me to it.

    It’s also re-assuring that of the plethora of similar hits mentioned each one gets to be someone’s personal fave (and I already mentioned the De’Lacy and Nightcrawlers on the ‘ENERGY!Wigglewigglewiggle’ entry). But with ‘Dreamer’ lucking out and actually going all the way I like to think its (and/or Livin Joy’s) contemporaries were cheering on from the sides (or the dumper indeed) even if I wasn’t at that point.

    *I’d say the ‘awful people/places’ thing probably did figure a little at firsttoo but for me was more to do with scapegoating over the standard frustration with ‘suburbia/highstreet/shelfstacking/girls/lads/relatives/me/you/everything/ohjustleavemelaone/pleaseinsertdisk2/andnowdropthedeaddonkey…’ in my case) as someone who was starting to be able to go to and really enjoy getting drunk and dancing at whatever local discos were available and let you in (usually neither clubs nor pubs but sports/social club birthday bashes). Ruislip Records was run by a guy who looked like Tom Bailey-meets-Dave Beasant and would often play at these things but was naturally more of a purist (eagerly dropping Gat Decor – either the original or the ‘Actual First Mash-Up Hit Apart From The Other Ones Before It’ with Degrees Of Motion – and other earlier jams all being re-released with new mixes at this time, playing the likes of ‘Dreamer’ with a little less enthusiasm before turning his nose up at me for requesting anything with an actual break beat the SWINE).

    As with Baby D most people who actually heard this in proper clubs copped it upon its original release but the comparison is also worthwhile for the differing measures of emotion in each. ‘Dreamer’ has more urgency and perhaps desperation (Dot Fearon’s voice did quaver slightly when she insists she’s ‘got what it takes to make you mine’ but not much vulnerability on display really) plus the ascending organ (which Rollo & Sister Bliss naturally ramped up a bit more on their mix) while LMBYF’s piano hook can only descend almost in resignation (‘Dreamer’s Garagey cut-up coda is also maybe being overlooked here). Hard to say for me which effect is greater now, but I still prefer Dot’s voice. Maybe she should’ve got together with Janice and Kelly Llorena to do ‘Love Can Build A Bridge’, or even ‘Some Might Say’, rough justice…

    #58 Technically we do get a member of Faithless at #1…a lil puzzle for you there, but ‘criminal’ is a pretty good clue. Maybe a greater crime was that Rollo’s mate Ben Langmaid also beat him to it many many years later depending on how you feel about that particular venture. Not that Faithless weren’t at #1 across half of Europe at some point in 1995.

  63. 63
    swanstep on 25 Jun 2013 #

    @62, Steve Mannion. I much prefer LMBYF to Dreamer (notwithstanding its dreadful lyrics: ‘highest heights’, ‘Let’s be as one in soul and mind’,‘tri-ip to wonderland’, ‘put a smile upon your face’, and so on).

    @60, Auntieberyl. But surely the dominant perspective here is to treat otherwise relatively unheralded, dance stuff very positively: Tom rates Dreamer as highly as he does breakthroughs/landmarks like I Feel Love! And while there may be some rockist, anti-dance music philistinism around, one of the joys of dance music I find is that micro-scenes come and go – some bass sounds or drum sounds or synth packages or particular mixtures of space and sonic density just won’t work for you, but that’s OK; the next season things will be different (I love stuff from 1998 and 2003/2009 that’s not a million miles removed from that Crescendo track you mention, but that doesn’t stop me being unmoved by Cresecendo, Dreamer, etc.).

  64. 64
    Tom on 25 Jun 2013 #

    #60 the higher the mark, the louder the disagreements – if I’d given this 7 I doubt the comments would have been so pointed. (I vacillated between 8 and 9, as it happens – it’s better than recent 8s but worse than recent 9s – and let my good mood sway me in the end).

    BUT there’s definitely – as there was at the time – a strain of thought re. dance music that it can only really be enjoyed in context, i.e. people say, well, I don’t go clubbing therefore I don’t like this. And to be fair other people who do go clubbing ALSO say of some music, if you don’t you just won’t get this. I’ve never really agreed with these perspectives.

    #63 It’s probably truer to say that I rate “I Feel Love” as highly as I do “Dreamer” (well, if this were pitchfork IFL would be a 9.8 and Dreamer a 9.1 or something silly like that, but it’s not) – hearing IFL as a landmark is exactly what drags it down a little, takes you out of hearing it in the moment.

  65. 65
    glue_factory on 25 Jun 2013 #

    The idea that dance music only makes sense in a clubbing-context is an interesting one. There are definitely records that would have left me cold, had I not heard them out. Picking one at random, when I first heard the Chemical (then Dust) Brothers remix of the Prodigy’s Voodoo People, it did nothing for me. But once I’d heard it in a sweaty basement, seen people leaping around and reacting to it, I could hear peaks and troughs in it that previously escaped me. It wasn’t that the record now reminded me of good times, but that I now heard it differently. I don’t pretend to understand why :-)

    But the vast majority of club records I have loved, I’ve not heard in a club! I’m one of the introspective, club-wary dance music fans that the Pet Shop Boys released the first Disco for.

  66. 66

    As well as the affective element to the sonic context, there’s a relevant acoustic variation: play the same item into a hot large room with bodies and into headphones, and different elements will likely register even if you can set aside the “people jumping about” factor. One of the tougher subtexts of music history to study comrehensively is the degree to which a particular song is made for — or ends up working in — a quite specific context: wax cylinder, shellac 45, vinyl microgroove 33, small tinny hand-held radio, fancy bang & olufson quad system, CDs, disco PA in a large heaving space, digital television with external speakers, cheap mp3 player and so on. Caruso became the huge million-selling star he did because the timbre of his voice perfectly suited early recording technology: not only cut through the crackle, but sounded rich and deep on it. This dimension is hard to explore exhaustively without becoming a hifi bore, but it is never negligeable (and of course sometimes records break through into the “wrong” acoustic territory without planning to, which triply complicates things).

  67. 67
    Tom on 25 Jun 2013 #

    Yes, I’m not saying context doesn’t make a difference to reception – it makes all the difference – I think I’m caviling at the implicit idea that modern (er mid-80s onwards) dance music is somehow exceptional in its being built for particular contexts: like you say, all music has contexts (temporal and social as much as technological).

  68. 68
    Rory on 25 Jun 2013 #

    Speaking only for myself, when I said this sounded you-had-to-be-there I didn’t mean “there” as in a club so much as “there” as in the UK in 1995. The past in a foreign country is a foreign country squared… Hearing it once over computer speakers hasn’t lent it the same impact as hearing it all around you for weeks on TV, radio and as background music. No doubt if I lived with it for a bit it would grow on me. Whereas I’ve lived with “I Feel Love” as part of my own musical landscape, one way or another, since 1977. (“Dreamer” didn’t do anything on the Australian charts, although I see that Livin’ Joy reached number 6 in Oz in 1996 with “Don’t Stop Moving”. “I Feel Love”, meanwhile, was a number one for us.)

  69. 69
    Chelovek na lune on 25 Jun 2013 #

    #68 Indeed. I was out of the UK (first in Romania, then in Russia, then in Ukraine) from July ’95 to June ’96, which meant that some of the upcoming no 1s (not to mention some fab records that didn’t make no 1 but came relatively close – above all Bjork’s “It’s Oh So Quiet”) passed me by completely at the time. As for the Euro-dance that did make its presence felt in the East: well the discussion of it definitely belonged on the WiggleWiggle thread (or its forthcoming sibling), not on a piece of quality music like this.

  70. 70
    wichita lineman on 25 Jun 2013 #

    Late to the party, apologies if that repeats anything already said.

    It starts up very much like Alex Party’s Don’t Give Me Your Life, doesn’t it? The big difference is that, when it hits the chorus, Dreamer doesn’t do what it ought to musically. It hangs on the same chord, slightly disorientating the listener, dragging your heart and your ears into an unexpected place (oddly, Wonderwall would do the same thing later in the year, which I reckon is one reason it’s such a standout in Oasis’s catalogue).

    The lyric then simultaneously switches from generic joyous diva-isms into the heart-quickening girl group reverie Mog mentioned back at 41 (like Dream Lover by the Paris Sisters, Am I Dreaming by Tiffany, I Never Dreamed by the Cookies), and that easily lifts it above handbag foot fodder like the Lisa Marie Experience’s Keep On Jumping. This switch reminds me (go on, kick me) of the bridge-to-chorus on Dusty Springfield’s I Close My Eyes And Count To Ten. So, yes, it works for me.

    Great call by Kat on Bobby Brown’s Two Can Play That Game having similarly flat vocals, but still working. I’d guess (in both cases?) this is because the original vocal was recorded over a different chord sequence, leading to some unnatural but very effectively wavering pitching.

  71. 71
    Nixon on 25 Jun 2013 #

    Interesting that the very first reply on this post talks about this record being the standard bearer for the changing nature of the charts; and Tom’s response at #3 makes a good point, much of the radio life of a big hit single now taking place before it was physically available.

    I say “interesting” because that’s exactly how I felt about this record – when I first heard it, I hated it. Absolutely loathed it. On the first few radio plays, I found it incredibly annoying. By the time it actually came out, I bought it.

    I’ve long since figured out how to tell the difference between genuine revulsion and simply being shaken out of one’s safety zone, and that I always like it when people are doing something (anything, really) other than being dull, but back then I couldn’t really calibrate those feelings, and I was suffering from a lot of category errors stopping me enjoying things. If it didn’t sound perjorative, I’d say this is one of the records that taught me it was okay to love spur-of-the-moment pop trash. Or maybe I should quote Noel Coward on cheap music. Impossible to say that without coming across like a snob, or (worse) a snob congratulating himself on slumming it down here at the fun end of the charts, but that’s not what I mean at all – this is great, without anyone (even Janice) sounding like they’re trying all that hard to make something “great”.

    To this day, I can’t hear it without a big smile; even as a child of Britpop, my abiding memory of the summer of 1995 is being on holiday in Cornwall with some school friends, driving around Truro bellowing the hyper-speed chorus out of the car window and seeing how much we could manage before we had to take a breath. But I liked it before those memories had a chance to kick in: it was my CD we were playing in that car. This is what singles are for.

  72. 72
    Ed on 25 Jun 2013 #

    Count me as one of the people who wasn’t going to clubs in this era, so I may be wrong, but isn’t this record a historic marker for the death of Rave?

    The 1994 Criminal Justice and Public Order Act received royal assent in November, so was just starting to kick in for its first holiday season. And the anti-ecstasy campaign – with the enthusiastic backing of the big brewing groups – was in full cry.

    As Mark said, different listening environments suit different types of music, and this – for reasons I can’t quite put my finger on – sounds more like a club track, where Baby D, for exanple, is a rave track. It may be something to do with it being so clearly in a tradition, as Tom identifies. It’s almost as much of a back-to-the-seventies move as Get Lucky. (Although, paradoxically, it also sounds utterly modern in the way it sets a template for a lot of 21st century pop.)

    The pharmacology of British youth culture – the shift away from drugs and towards booze – also seems important for understanding Oasis. Although I didn’t go to clubs much, I did go to a few gigs, and the change in the vibe was perceptible, from the wildness of Happy Mondays at Wembley Arena in 1990, to the beery stolidity of audiences a few years later.

  73. 73
    Ed on 25 Jun 2013 #

    Sign of my ignorance: I didn’t even remember this one.

    I had hoped it would be a Scooter-style Supertramp cover.

  74. 74
    Tom on 25 Jun 2013 #

    Very interesting point. I don’t remember the anti-Ecstasy campaign (or this phase of it, anyhow) really kicking off until Leah Betts died, which was, Google tells me, November 95. But the CJA definitely set the seal on the move from raving to clubbing – another reason why rave-oriented histories like Energy Flash tend to give the music played in those clubs pretty short shrift, I guess.

  75. 75
    weej on 25 Jun 2013 #

    Re #18, #55 & others – It’s interesting that both this thread and the previous one have touched upon this concept of the music of the bullies vs the music of the bullied. Certainly at my school it did feel like dance music was fitted to an environment where the popular kids would flourish and the awkward ones would want to run and hide. On the surface this seems like a mid-90s phenomenon – a divergance from the days of acid house / “there’s always been a dance element to our music,” etc. But then I think of my dad, a reasonable man who loves music but who still holds a grudge against northern soul for basically the same reason.

    It’s an odd thing, a conflict with no blame. On one side there’s good music produced with love and skill not getting a fair hearing, then on the other there’s this honest, emotional connection people have with music – in this case a negative one, but all the same, that’s a good chunk of what makes music important, surely?

  76. 76
    fivelongdays on 25 Jun 2013 #

    OK, having listened to it again, I think I’m willing to raise the mark to four – I was unfairly harsh on it (though the two is what 13-year-old me would have given it at the time), and there are some interesting ideas in it – the organ sound is very distinctive, and for a song with such a fast chorus, it’s pretty catchy.

    That’s not to say I like it (and – please – can the nonsensical, meaningless, mealy-mouthed, snobbish and smug concept of ‘Rockism’* go back to the eighties?), but I don’t dislike it as much as I thought I did!

  77. 77
    wichita lineman on 25 Jun 2013 #

    Keep the red rag flying high, 5LD! If nothing else ‘rockism’ is anti-snob, surely?

  78. 78
    thefatgit on 25 Jun 2013 #

    #70 “wavering pitching” calls to mind “Isn’t Anything” era MBV, funnily enough.

  79. 79
    fivelongdays on 25 Jun 2013 #

    The purveyors of ‘Rockism’ (if purveyors they be) are usually the sort of people who don’t like music that ACTUALLY rocks, ironically.

    Of course, I might be misunderstanding the term. It generally gets used as a lazy synonym for ‘person who likes rock’, which is what gets my goat.

  80. 80
    anto on 25 Jun 2013 #

    re80: It’s a phrase that seems confusing in relation to both user and target. I’ve never fully grasped it. I certainly don’t understand how preferring rock is automatically seen as conservative.

  81. 81

    This is all v boring ancient history now but the term was NOT invented to describe people who like rock: it was invented to describe people who refused to consider that the definition of rock might have very sharply expanded in the late 70s and early 80s (to include everything from Abba to Rip Rig and Panic, Kashif to Youssou N’Dour). So that Chuck Eddy — a critic who has never stopped asking “yes, but does it rock?” — is the quintessential antirockist, not just because Teena Marie was in the top nine of Stairway to Hell, but because Stairway to Hell featured no less than 500 records, and the last mattered as much as the first.

    Hence it is misleading enough — in its primary formation — and as a consequence misused enough (by important and famous name-critics) that there is indeed an excellent case for its retirement. Except (a) we who fought the relevant wars are scarred and dysfunctional and (b) no one has come up with a better word for the phenom in question. As we who know what it actually means define “the phenom in question”.

  82. 82
    fivelongdays on 25 Jun 2013 #

    Thank you – I think that clears things up for me (I think!).

    What we need is a ‘list of artists ‘R*****ts’ like – would make for an interesting discussion.

    (NB I suspect that the whole concept of R*****m could be discussed better in later Oasis threads – ie once Noel saw how big he was, who his influences were, and panicked)

  83. 83
    enitharmon on 25 Jun 2013 #

    Mark @ 81 I suppose it makes me a “rockist” too – I’ve been called far worse, to be honest. I have a fairly good idea what I consider to be “rock” and I like quite a lot of it but it remains rather limited. Rock is white and sweaty and often raunchy. The Stones are firmly in the Rock box. I might allow for a limited range of Hyphen-Rocks but in my mind Rock remains a subset. If somebody changed the definition I’m sure nobody asked me. Lots of the best music defies being put neatly into a box. Abba isn’t rock to me. Abba is Abba; Youssou N’dour is Youssou N’dour. I don’t know WTF Rag Tag and Bobtail, sorry, Rip Rig and Panic are because I’ve never heard of them before, nor had I heard of Kashif although from the Wikipedia description I wouldn’t call what he does Rock and I won’t be in a hurry to find out for myself,

    The boxing-up of popular music is something that always happened to a degree but it became much more prevalent after my pop days were in decline. If I hear something original and exciting I take it for what it is, I don’t need to put a label on it.

  84. 84
    fivelongdays on 25 Jun 2013 #

    Making up labels for bands is awesome (so is putting bands in genres which you know will annoy certain critics*), and all part of the fun.

    Rock is white? Hendrix?

    Of course, just because something isn’t rock, doesn’t mean it isn’t good.

    *If you tolerate my argument about why a certain act are fundamentally Glam Metal, The Bunny will be next.

  85. 85
    enitharmon on 25 Jun 2013 #

    @84 Did I mention Hendrix as squarely in the Rock box? I’d say Hendrix is a classic example of a performer who is sui generis. Nearer to raw blues than rock, as I see it.

  86. 86

    “Rock is whatever the rock magazines write about” <-- this, in the end, was what was at issue: who gets covered and who doesn't? who do writers want to write about? who do readers want to read about? It's always a battle, and "rockism" as a demoralising epiphet was an ad hoc solution at a particular moment, allowing a particular (younger) faction to discuss what they were keen on, and not feel pressured to go on writing about stuff they'd got bored with. If we'd stopped calling it the "music press" and called it the "good music press" then the whole problem would have vanished. OBVIOUSLY WE DON'T COVER BAD MUSIC, IT'S THE "GOOD MUSIC PRESS". It's always a battle.

  87. 87
    Ed on 26 Jun 2013 #

    #74 Good point about Leah Betts. I had forgotten when she died.

    Interesting background on the alcohol vs E battle for market share here, including the role of the “Parliamentary beer group”: http://ecstasy.org/info/jim.html

  88. 88
    Patrick Mexico on 27 Jun 2013 #

    Last year’s best football chant: The Gers have got no money, they’re in Division Three…

    @34: That’ll be Let A Boy Cry – like this, a strong contender for the best single of the entire decade. It’s like riot-grrrl does Abba on crack. To a lesser extent Come into My Life and Freed from Desire have that offbeat, Pretend We’re Dead meets Italo-disco (!) feel, loved the latter’s lyrics, thought they were about Catholic guilt.

    As far as “mainstream” dance music (whatever that is) goes, this is an absolutely terrific record. I think it’s the way it vertical-drops into that frantic, out-of-step chorus. If they could have just thought up some even more euphoric lyrics for a second verse, this would be an undisputed 10. I know some saw this unsubtle, diva-ish aggression as a shift towards ugly “chav” or “rugby jock” or “pretty boy” denigrations of UK dance culture, but this was 1995, in which “Broken Britain” meant John Major stepping down as Conservative leader interrupting Escape From Jupiter on CBBC. After the last two number 1s of respectively, classicist dignity and kitchen-sink grit, the run needed to be maintained by something a bit stratospheric.

    Should I say, fantasy never hurt nobody..

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i9d5YW0W9Tc

    Still (only one more crowbarred Twin Peaks reference, but the last one’s just long-off aesthetic debris), the equivalent of riding the best rollercoaster ever, sharing the best dessert ever, with Audrey Horne in real life, during that summer’s record-breaking, month-long heatwave, made even better by the news it made Yorkshire run out of tap water. DAMN FINE. 9. 9.9.

    We just need Pulp to complete the glorious 7-8-9-10.. they got there, didn’t they? Surely nothing could stand in their path.

  89. 89
    punctum on 27 Jun 2013 #

    Except the grannies in Arbroath.

  90. 90
    Patrick Mexico on 27 Jun 2013 #

    Tenuous Links No. 45,873: It was a good era for Scottish grannies, especially transvestite Hollywood ones.. can’t wait for the (second) Popular reign of terror of someone with almost the same name as that actor. Ahem.

  91. 91
    23 Daves on 27 Jun 2013 #

    It seems to me that there were a lot of great (and very popular) tracks released in 1995 which I failed to adequately appreciate, probably because I was looking in the other direction, distracted by the runaway success of some of my favourite bands. This would be one – I was aware of it at the time, obviously, but never seemed to quite ‘get’ it.

    Then a couple of years back I heard this when I was out somewhere and was instantly blown away. It sounded immense. I heard it once again while shopping in HMV just before Christmas and actually had to fight the urge to start dancing in the aisles, which is saying something for somebody who normally has to have at least three drinks before I can be coaxed on to the floor.

    As for why it has an impact on me now and didn’t in 1995, who knows? But the same is true of a lot of popular Dance music of that period. It feels like a tonic now whereas at the time I was probably turning a blind eye to it because it didn’t seem as if it was supposed to be for me. The boy who loved “Ride On Time” in 1989 was ignoring this in 1995 because it didn’t fit my demographic. It was for ‘the others’, the people who were popular, played sport and went to the kind of clubs who played mainstream dance music. Shame on me, I’d say. I’m wondering how many other instances of this we’re going to uncover as we go along.

  92. 92
    pootle on 27 Jun 2013 #

    I like this genre, but I never gave this song much consideration. After such a – wait for it – rave review, I’ll have to listen more carefully. I find the difference between a dance song you love and one you’re indifferent to is often quite bewilderingly random.

  93. 93
    xyzzzz__ on 28 Jun 2013 #

    Yes @ the Let me Be Your Fantasy ‘link’.

    Maybe I should take up smoking if I want to listen jazz, or go to rock festivals before listening to rock.

    Or become a nasty Tory to go to ballet.

  94. 94
    Sam C on 30 Jun 2013 #

    A record that is an aural representation of the group’s name. I want it played at my funeral. Hearing it makes me smile, jump, dance and sing/shriek along as if nothing else exists. A nearly perfect 10 and possibly my favourite record that doesn’t seem to do anything new or extraordinary, but simply does what it does staggeringly well.

    In light of some of the comments I’ll point out that I’ve never been much into clubbing and I don’t think I’ve ever heard this at a club. I like quite a lot of dance music because I love hearing beauty emerging from functionality.

    Oh, and I didn’t actually realise it got to number one till I read this, as I’d pretty much stopped paying attention to the charts by then. I’m very pleased that it did.

  95. 95
    koganbot on 30 Jun 2013 #

    Contra mark s @81 and @86, I think the term “rockism” should’ve been strangled five minutes after birth. I’ve never been able to find the Pete Wylie interview where he made the pun, “the race against rockism,” though I gather that his basic complaint was that rock had become routine – which is to say that he, a rock musician, was using rock values (rock having once meant electric excitement, the pouring in of the beautifully ugly and the unexpected) to criticize the rock of his day (late ’80/early ’81 was the interview, I believe), presumably worrying that rock had left its adventure behind, that rock wasn’t rock anymore.

    I feel real sympathetic to his argument, naturally enough, since I haven’t actually read it and I’m making it up in my own image. But anyway, Meltzer, Bangs, and Marsh were already wringing those issues massively through their fingers in the late ’60s (think Meltzer puts the death of rock in late ’67), and these guys weren’t called “antirockists” for it, they were called “punks,” which is a much more potent term.

    Chuck Eddy was coming from that line of criticism, and from my variant on it, and also from Xgau’s own attempts to encompass everything. Stairway To Hell was a Christgau Consumer Guide run even more amok than in the Xgau version. I doubt that antirockism was on Chuck’s mind, though you can ask him. I don’t think you get to graft Chuck onto British antirockism any more than you get to graft me onto it. I don’t see how you can justify using the term “rockism” much after ’82. It’s a straw man, easy target, pseudointellectual buzzword. I don’t know what you mean when you say “the last mattered as much as the first.” If you mean that the Zep album at #1 needs a whole world of way way way more than 500 other albums if it’s to continue to live and breathe rather than die on its pedestal, then of course you’re right but at this point that’s just a vacuous platitude. Chuck puts his albums in order for a reason; he makes distinctions; he likes this more than that, and he gives reasons. And that we need a whole lot of Death Angels et al. to keep the Zeppelin afloat doesn’t mean that Death Angel is just as important as Zeppelin. Take away Death Angel and the world’s no different. You can go find another band. Take away the Zep, and we’re in a different universe.

    For anyone who’s interested, I think I made the argument well in a couple of LVW columns in ’08, basically why I believe antirockism is for teacher’s pets. There’s way worse things than being a teacher’s pet, of course, and my argument isn’t simple. But I fundamentally don’t respect antirockism. It’s an attempt to win easy victories over imaginary foes; it’s not an attempt to understand the world. “The definition of rock might have very sharply expanded in the late 70s and early 80s (to include everything from Abba to Rip Rig and Panic, Kashif to Youssou N’Dour)” might sound good in ’82. Now it’s just a received piety. Of course, better this piety than some previous ones, but (sorry, cryptic comment for mark’s benefit), I think my PBS arguments in ’87 and ’88 are way better than anything I’ve heard from an antirockist (my “PBS” epithet not being the same as “rockism”; PBS (the argument and the phenomenon) being far more interesting, which is why you should talk about my ideas instead of talking about rockism). I don’t want you to duck my PBS point, which is that worthy projects like the inclusion of Abba et al. in ’82 and like Popular now, and the rehabilitation of handbag etc., actually, inevitably, put Abba and handbag at risk. It’s still PBS, it still renders what we like lame in the context of our worthiness, even if we have no choice but to be worthy. (Again, my apologies to the rest of you for the crypticism, for referring to ideas rather than stating them.)

    Here is why I’m not an antirockist:

    The Rules Of The Game No. 31: Rockism And Antirockism Rise From The Dead

    The Rules Of The Game No. 32: Where The Real Wild Things Are

    (If you’re interested but don’t think you have time to read both of these, please at least read the last four paragraphs of “Where The Real Wild Things Are.” Key statement: “Antirockism is rockism with a few of the words changed.”)

  96. 96
    Ben on 30 Jun 2013 #

    Billy – FYI the version where the backbeat drops out is the original ’94 version.

  97. 97
    spammer on 6 Jul 2013 #

    [spam removed but left to preserve number order]

  98. 98
    Mark G on 6 Jul 2013 #

    Never doubted it, Ninja

  99. 99
    Patrick Mexico on 7 Jul 2013 #

    Ninja, I’ve always been a big fan of your Kitchens of Distinction. Plus those blenders always come in handy at the Neutral Milk Hotel.

  100. 100
    enitharmon on 7 Jul 2013 #

    Belatedly coming back to the Unlogged Mog’s comments @7 about this being the best song ever, which seems to me to be a rather silly claim anyway (it’s a claim that’s been made about the not-totally-dissimilar-to-my-aged-ears) Unfinished Sympathy too, I believe).

    As it happens I just had Julie London’s version of Cry Me A River come up in my random mix and started thinking something very similar myself ­about that (which is nothing much like either Dreamer or Unfinished Sympathy). And then thinking about whether credit is due to Arthur Henderson (for the song) or to Julie London (for her performance of it, which is surely one of the sexiest renditions of anything, ever). Julie’s version of the one song beats Ella Fitzgerald’s but overall Julie London can’t come close to Ella. Both Julie’s and Ella’s versions wipe the floor with Joe Cocker’s execrable version however, so maybe it isn’t that great a song after all. A really good song should be almost indestructible, don’t you think?

    I wonder what Julie London would have made of Dreamer.

  101. 101
    enitharmon on 7 Jul 2013 #

    [FX: raises bat to acknowledge bringing up the century for this thread]

  102. 102
    punctum on 8 Jul 2013 #

    #100: A “really” good song should be highly destructible, I think. How else would one reassemble it?

    “the best song ever” is 100% subjective, and therefore pop-valid. Much rather have that than Derek Dull-style “objectivity” (and actually DD was anything but).

  103. 103
    enitharmon on 8 Jul 2013 #

    Oh Marcello @102, contrarian as ever, spoiling for a fight when we’re saying the same thing!

    “Indestructible” = take it apart, reassemble it however you want, and it’s still a good song.

    Let me nominate another of my (100% subjective, because I still maintain it’s silly) candidates for BSE: Jerome Kern’s The Way You Look Tonight, seeing as my collection contains five examples. In evidence I bring you:

    Exhibit A: Tony Martin, playing it straight.

    Exhibit B: Billie Holiday, filling it with exquisite pain.

    Exhibit C: Frank Sinatra, swinging it.

    Exhibit D: Peter Skellern, camping it up.

    Exhibit E: Sonny Rollins, tearing it up, throwing the pieces in the air and putting them together in such a way that it’s almost unrecognisable.

    Each and every one of these exhibits a little miracle. Could you do that with Dreamer?

    I rest my case, m’lud.

  104. 104
    punctum on 8 Jul 2013 #

    Everywhere else it might be about what you think and what you say. In my little part of the garden, however, it’s about self-awareness – “why” rather than “what.”

    My comments were a conclusion, not an assumption (“it seems to me,” “don’t you think?”).

  105. 105
    Mark M on 8 Jul 2013 #

    Re 95: On this months British GQ, there is a coverline that reads:

    ‘In Defence of Taylor Swift
    (Yes, really)’

    Whether you call it rockism or something else, there’s still a battle to be fought.

  106. 106
    punctum on 8 Jul 2013 #

    I call it misogyny, mixed with a bit of residual class snobbery, myself – it’s an extension of Inverdale’s “comment” on Bartoli and probably the still rather muted response of Henman Hill types to Murray’s win.

  107. 107
    swanstep on 9 Jul 2013 #

    @Rosie, 103. I have two thoughts about ‘The Way You Look Tonight’. First, I think it’s one of the few songs that Sinatra really butchered. The underlying song’s harmonically amazing with a really sweet melody weaving through a huge number of complex chords, but Sinatra loses all the sweetness, changing the melody line and the odd word so that the song feels arrogant and swaggering, and not especially pleasant to listen to. I’m convinced that there’s no way the song becomes a standard if Sinatra’s version had been the original. Second, to me TWYLT is one of the less lyrically inspired of the songbook standards. Notwithstanding Dreamer’s various clangers and slovenly repetition of verses, I still think I might give it the lyrical edge. A half-speed, piano accompanied version of Dreamer that allowed all the rushed chorus lyrics a chance to stretch out and be actively interpreted would be worth constructing I think.

  108. 108
    Tom on 9 Jul 2013 #

    I used to have a tumblr tag “best song ever” or some such, for something that gave me that best-song-ever rush in the moment I was playing it. I definitely recognise the rush, that feeling that listening to music really can’t get any better than this. I would get it about once a month or so. My idea was that I would write down the records which I experienced this to, then once I reached a nice big number I’d write about them on here. Anyhow I never got around to it and can’t now remember what they were, except I think one of them was by Propaganda.

  109. 109
    Tom on 9 Jul 2013 #

    This Pitchfork column from a few years ago touches on it.

    http://pitchfork.com/features/poptimist/6857-poptimist-15/

  110. 110
    enitharmon on 9 Jul 2013 #

    swanstep @107: agreed that Sinatra’s version of TWYLT is much my least favourite of the five versions here. And it’s the contribution of Jerome Kern (genius) rather than Dorothy Fields (some way short of genius) that makes it for me.

    Tom @108 – I know that feeling, it’s the one I get every time I hear Peter Skellern’s version of TWYLT. But then he did it with the Grimethorpe Colliery Band and I’m a sucker for a proper brass band. When I’m invited to appear on Desert Island Discs it with be the One that I will be clutching on my way to exile, because it represents not one but three of my enduring favourite things: Kern, Skellern, and a brass band.

  111. 111
    Mark G on 9 Jul 2013 #

    TWYLT reminds me of ‘Peter’s Friends’ nowadays

  112. 112
    swanstep on 10 Jul 2013 #

    @111, Mark G. One problem with the songbook standards is that, for many of us, we first encounter them through versions that range from characterless to genuinely awful. For example, I’m pretty sure that I first heard an unctuous Elton John version of ‘But Not For Me’, and shrugged. Sarah Vaughan’s 1958 version then came as a revelation. And once you really get into whole genre then favorite periods and specific recordings even among acknowledged masters quickly emerge (Ella F’s 1950 ‘I’ve Got a Crush on You’ makes one melt – late ’50s and ’60s Ella F versions – normally so very very good – are for this especially coquettish song just OK in my view). My own experience is therefore somewhat orthogonal to Rosie’s idea (with which I nominally agree!) that these songs are on one level indestructible, endlessly coverable and reinterpretable. In practice, that is, I tend to find that all of the attention paid to these songs by generations of great talents has just allowed me to become fussier and fussier. At least when it comes to listening to recordings at home, I only want to hear one of the very few (by my lights) absolutely optimal, transcendant versions. Anything else starts to feel like a defilement or needless destruction. I want my BSE rush and nothing else will do. Having to listen to even a 90% great version (a frustrating BSE-rush-near-miss) of ‘Strange Fruit’ or ‘Prelude to a Kiss’ or ‘Happy Days (Are Here Again)’, etc. is a kind of spoilt person torture!

  113. 113
    Dan Quigley on 10 Jul 2013 #

    A Great American Songbook discussion amid a Living Joy entry is one of the innumerable things that make Popular comments so wonderful.

    While I wouldn’t use Fields’ lyric for ‘The Way You Look Tonight’ to try to convince someone sceptical about pre-rock pop, I think her relatively artless words beautifully ground Kern’s modulations in and out of the B section. And she could do sharper stuff when the occasion called for it, as ‘A Fine Romance’, from the same Rogers/Astaire film attests.

    P.S. ‘Dreamer’ and ‘The Way You Look Tonight’ (and their respective ilks) are non-overlapping magisteria in my book. Eight for the former, and a very high 10 for the latter (if we need to pick a recording I’ll go for the Fred Astaire original, although re:112, I find that the definitive version of a standard is almost always a mash-up in my mind of bits from fix or six different versions.)

  114. 114
    swanstep on 10 Jul 2013 #

    @113, Dan Q. I’d go for Astaire’s original of TWYLT too (and the original scene with Rogers overhearing, shampoo-in-hair is a doozie, and Swing Time is a helluva good film overall). I subscribe to the rough theory that it took 15-20 years for people to figure out how to best sing and arrange most of these great songs, but the delicacy of TWYLT seems to make it an exception – lightness and slight formality, the original ’30s’ metier really suits it.

  115. 115
    Dan Quigley on 10 Jul 2013 #

    @114, swanstep, I am perhaps a little more indulgent of ’20s and ’30s pop’s trappings than you (and would say that as vocalists Louis Armstrong and Connie Boswell already had a pretty good idea what they were doing with the emerging canon by 1930), but I know what you mean – it can be startling to hear how manic and/or stiff many of these songs sound in their original arrangements, especially pre-1930.

    By the ways, the two tracks you link to in @112 are glorious, and well support your contention. I like Ella’s songbooks, especially the Berlin and Rodgers and Hart sets, but I think that Decca Gershwin mini-LP trumps them all.

  116. 116
    ciaran on 11 Jul 2013 #

    Never was fully convinced by this.Inescapable too for the most part of that year.Would have preferred to be discussing ‘dont give me your life’ but even that seemed ultra-camp for some reason.

    Took them a year to release ‘Dont stop movin’ by which time the momentum had gone.Id prefer that to dreamer but not by much.

    This would get a 6 from me.9 is a very high mark for a track that is largely forgotten.Certainly not a justified 9 that chaka khans i feel for you would have been over a decade earlier insofar as dealing with a club favourite.

    Certainly wouldnt have moved me on to the dancefloor back in the day.

  117. 117
    punctum on 12 Jul 2013 #

    Is that a qualitative judgement, or an age thing?

  118. 118
    ciaran on 16 Jul 2013 #

    More qualitative (for me of course!).Not that I dislike it anywhere as much of 95’s other number 1’s LCBAB,DS (WW),BBB,YANA for example

    I was just 12 when this was released which would normally push a memory with a certain fondness up to at least a 7 but I got tired of hearing this quickly with its high profile.

    Just on the dancefloor thing – There was just a little more pleasing to me going on elsewhere. wake up boo,these sounds fall into my mind,keep warm, alright,guaglione,in the summertime to name but a few.Maybe not all ‘7’ records to some but ones I would prefer to this.

    As tom once said before in La Bamba though ‘maybe he can now understand just how bad his tastes were back in his teenage years.

  119. 119
    Erithian on 15 Sep 2013 #

    Speaking as a non-clubber who was probably too old for this the first time round (and no doubt a bit of a rockist too) I think this is an excellent diva vocal, better song than LMBYF, a very fine record but, bloody hell, I’d always take a point or two off for that generic house keyboard sound that infects a lot of stuff from that era. Same with the tedious “rapper guest spot” which I’m going to be fairly controversial about a few years down the line.

    Incidentally, isn’t it the rule that whatever era a song belongs to, there’ll always be someone commenting on YouTube that it’s so much better than what’s out today? In the comments to the “original edit” clip someone says “this shits on modern robotic monkey music!”

  120. 120
    Lazarus on 15 Sep 2013 #

    Generally compared unfavourably to Justin Bieber, in particular.

  121. 121
    weej on 16 Sep 2013 #

    #119 – The “the best music came out when I was 15, everything since then has been a letdown” thing is a massive cliche but still pervades most music-related internet comments I come across, with very little in the way of awareness that since everyone else of whatever age is saying the same thing it much be entirely subjective. Having said that, take a look at “Rave video comments will restore your faith in humanity” if you haven’t already.

  122. 122
    Patrick Mexico on 3 Nov 2013 #

    Another bizarre post: structurally this sounds like “Faster” by a certain intense Welsh band who we’ll get to shortly. Yes, perhaps in respectively their most pedestrian and generic singles. But hey! They talked about the Spanish Civil War at the height of “Er ner, Tony Blur’s in powerr, cheese for cheese’s sake!”

    Better that than the Everton FA Cup squad single, or also released in May 1995, Mark Oh – Tears Don’t Lie – the kind of happy hardcore trolling that handed dance music to the kind of people who laugh in court about beating up pensioners.

    Both Faster and Dreamer try to write the ultimate single by shoehorning too many lyrics into a classic primal genre structure, and it’s a beautiful kind of tension. I’m not sure if Janice Robinson ever thought she “had a gun to her head, forced to condense everything she believed in into one final four-minute edict” (in Simon Price’s delicious prose.) Yet F&D have the kind of freewheeling desire deported from the charts in recent years not so much by Autotune and X-Factor, but the stage school “tasteful” acoustic mafia, unaware of the damage they do through fetishising empty self-examination and apologism over pop’s need to actually want something. (So did the New Acoustic Movement at the end of the nineties, but that’s what false relief about getting a “good egg*” with strange cheekbones into office after years of stifling conservatism does to some. Americans, be smart.. you have been warned.)

    Better to be Faster or a Dreamer than being “freed from desire” (nothing wrong with that song, another excellent Italo-house hit two years from “now”; it’s just the phrase is an unfortunate metaphor for the outcome of the Blair years and rather confused sequence of number ones we’ll see towards the end of the decade. But as I’ve said before, it’ll encourage the spiciest debate. Tom.. what you waiting for?)

    * Before they bomb anyone, obviously.

  123. 123
    @Patrick_Mexico on 3 Nov 2013 #

    I compared Manic Street Preachers’ Faster to Livin Joy’s Dreamer and lived to tell the tale.. http://t.co/pZ0hYqUGl5

  124. 124
    weej on 1 Apr 2014 #

    I keep seeing this floating round the internet this week, and thought people might “enjoy” it based on the conversation above – http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2014/03/18/music-criticism-has-degenerated-into-lifestyle-reporting.html – tldr; lifestyle journalism has killed my precious rockism, we need to save music journalism from the 21st century by droning on about the petatonic scale and modulating keys.

  125. 125

    I had that piece a little in mind when I was writing this: and Owen Pallett has been doing sterling work in the days since it broke writing pieces about high-end chartpop that deploys music analysis in an interesting, entertaining and informative way.

    (Pre-this, Gioia was an OK-ish jazz historian and critic…)

  126. 126
    Tom on 1 Apr 2014 #

    Technical knowledge applied in an interesting way is about as hott as non-fiction gets, for me. But WHY OH WHY OH WHY do all these pieces assume that technical knowledge about pop music begins and ends as musicology. I don’t just want musicology nerds up in my pop writing, I want sociologists, choreographers, economists, marketers, historians, dressmakers, shop owners, hairdressers, programmers, graphic designers, and a hundred others TOO. And the moon on a stick for pudding.

  127. 127
    Tom on 1 Apr 2014 #

    (So to back myself up the bulk of the entry I’m writing now is a potted history of ideas about branding. Sorry everyone.)

  128. 128
    weej on 1 Apr 2014 #

    Sure, I agree – nothing wrong with knowing your musicology, but music (especially pop music) isn’t the reserve of an elite group of musicologists, it’s everyone’s – and it’s telling that he compares it to business studies and football commentary as if *that’s* the desired standard.

  129. 129
    Cumbrian on 1 Apr 2014 #

    Sports commentary is a particularly odd one, to be honest. The best, most insightful analysis on sport is not being done by sports commentators (even though Gary Neville has moved things on somewhat). I know my rugby union and the guys on the TV talking about tactics and so on are talking about rugby union tactics, it is true, but not at a standard that should be held up as something to emulate. The best work is being done on blogs and by some journalists, as far as I can tell – and isn’t that the case with music too? I don’t really see a difference.

    Also agree with Tom that there’s room for all kinds of stuff in this analysis, both in music and in sport (the whole sabermetric movement in Baseball is entirely about getting economists/mathematicians into analysis of the sport). The internet is so vast, I guess I just look at complaints like those in the linked article at 124 and think: why can’t we have both? And more besides?

  130. 130
    iconoclast on 1 Apr 2014 #

    #124: An interesting read, although I do side more with Tom here: IMHO the only meaningful test of a piece of music is what happens on the way out – its effect on its listeners – rather than what happens on the way in. Otherwise you get music to look at (evaluate by reading the score, or the “score” if you’re being deconstructionist), not to listen to.

    However, I do think the author makes a valid point in there somewhere about the decline in the quality of music criticism. I think he may be mistaking cause for effect somewhere along the line, though, and it’s a symptom of a fundamental change in the part music plays in daily life now compared to 20 years ago.

  131. 131
    Keith on 1 Nov 2014 #

    Without question one of the best Italo-house records ever made – but what takes this record somewhere else is the 12” Big Mix that Rollo did. It was this mix that makes it a classic IMO – and everytime I hear it I just what to stick my hands in the air ….

  132. 132
    Mark M on 18 Nov 2014 #

    Re95 etc: I’ve been looking for somewhere to say this, and slightly randomly chosen this of the many places the concept of ‘rockism’ has been discussed on FreakyTrigger, and annoyed or confused folk. Anyway, so I’m reading Tracey Thorn’s Bedsit Disco Queen: How I Grew Up And Tried To Be A Popstar, and it puts the idea back into its original post-punk context, with due reference to Subway Sect’s A Different Story (‘We oppose all rock ‘n’ roll’), and the intensity people felt and how determined they were to reinvent the rules of popular music. But also the dogmatism and slightly bewildering positions people got themselves into (‘Rule Number One: no snare drum, which was too rockist. Only rimshot was allowed […] Rule Number Three: No acoustic guitars as they meant folk music […] There was some Hammond organ, which we saw as being very 1960s, and therefore cool, but – Rule Number Four: no piano, which meant ghastly 1970s rock ballads.’

  133. 133
    wichitalineman on 19 Nov 2014 #

    Excellent!

    I might just be the right age but it never seemed a difficult concept to understand.

    It’s odd that guitar solos were allowed – even by the Pop Group, possibly the most self-negating act in history. Nothing ever seemed more trad rock* to me.

    *I think the title of the Membranes’ Death To Trad Rock struck a deeper chord with me than most people. I’ve never heard the actual record.

  134. 134
    Mark M on 19 Nov 2014 #

    The internet, in its randomness, seems to lack the lyrics to Subway Sect’s A Different Story (aka Rock & Roll Even). So, here’s some of it:

    ‘The lines that hit me again and again/Afraid to take a stroll/Of the course of twenty years/And out of Rock & Roll/Out of Rock & Roll!

    We use no belief in the pre-existing school/And since we’ve got this test/We’ve just been waiting for it to fall/We oppose all Rock & Roll/It’s held for too long/You can’t refuse it’s too much to lose

    The life’s a suit well-worn/And it just won’t fit me at all/It tells a different story/And we just can’t believe that story/We’ve just been waiting for it to fall/Oh won’t you come on fall’

  135. 135
    sukrat sect on 19 Nov 2014 #

    “Of the course of twenty years” s/b “Off the course of twenty years” (by my ears anyway)

  136. 136
    Mark M on 19 Nov 2014 #

    Re 135: You’re right, of course. Makes much more sense and is indeed what VG sings. I was copying it off the insert to the CD version of the retrospective – and failed to spot their mistake (bad sub).

    (The CD is ’1976-1980′ and credited to Subway Sect. The vinyl version is 1977-81 and credited to Vic Godard & The Subway Sect. They, however, contain exactly the same songs in – I think – the same versions. Slightly different running order, but the same first and last songs).

  137. 137
    Mark M on 19 Nov 2014 #

    Re132/133: The Tracey Thorn book is absolutely terrific (e.g. this on Primal Scream in ’86: ‘… Bobby Gillespie’s utterly wet and weedy singing. It’s fabulous in its self-delusion: you can almost will yourself into believing, as Bobby apparently does, that he sings like all three of The Shangri-Las, when in fact he just sounds, and looks, like they’d eat him for breakfast.’*)

    She’s very good on the charity-shop-fashion and Nicaragua-benefit-solidarity 1980s, which is (of course) just one of the versions of the decade written out of the official pop-cultural history. (I would like to read a pop memoir that didn’t have the ‘Spinal Tap – it’s all true!’ bit, but that’s a tiny quibble).

    *Mostly, there were four Shangri-Las, but they were a trio for a bit, so she’s not wrong, strictly speaking.

  138. 138
    hectorthebat on 18 Apr 2015 #

    Critic watch:

    1,001 Songs You Must Hear Before You Die, and 10,001 You Must Download (2010) 1002
    Gary Mulholland (UK) – This Is Uncool: The 500 Best Singles Since Punk Rock (2002)
    Melody Maker (UK) – Singles of the Year 29

  139. 139
    Abzolute on 9 Jan 2017 #

    I know it’s been a while since anyone posted on this thread, but I stumbled across this site due to this post and wanted to add my two pennies worth!

    The comments have been interesting and its surprising to see how polarised the response to ‘Dreamer’ is.

    Myself, I’d turned 15 a month before this hit number 1 so I remember it well. At the time I would’ve given it a 7 or an 8 because I really did like it. It was catchy, euphoric and uplifting although it furiously chugged its way through the 3minutes and 44 seconds making it seem like it only played for 2 minutes.
    I wasn’t really about lyrics back then as I much preferred a good baseline, or a good synth/hook, and this track was packed with them.

    Over the years I have visited various clubs all over the UK, and when this track drops, EVERYONE seems to go mental! Bodies flock to the dancefloor (if they’re not already on it) arms are up in the air and people are mouthing the lyrics. It seems to have become quite a cult classic and is still revered and played in clubs (compared to the likes of Let Me Be Your Fantasy, or Set You Free) so it’s stood the test of time. And rightly so.

    It remains one of (if not my number 1) all time favourite dance records. Gat Decors “Passion” is up there also (with a few that have been forgotten by the sands of time) including Nush’s “U Girls (look so sexy)”, Cappella’s “U Got 2 Let The Music”, Rapination ftr alum Mazelle “Love Me The Right Way”, Urban Cookie Collective “The Key The Secret”, Incognito “Always There”, Robin S “Show Me Love”, N-Trance “Set You Free” and Inner City “Good Life”).

  140. 140
    wichitalineman on 13 Jan 2017 #

    No.1 on a technicality! According to James Masterton, “Some Might Say debuted at Number One only to slide to Number 2 the following week following the release of the 12-inch version leaving Livin’ Joy’s ‘Dreamer’ to become the first ever Number One record not to be the best selling track of the week.”

    Thank you, Oasis.

  141. 141
    Mostro on 15 Jan 2017 #

    Couldn’t even have told you what this sounded like (#), checked it out on YouTube and… yeah. Vaguely remember it, but no more- I probably didn’t even care enough to register its name at the time.

    This is your utterly run-of-the-mill early to mid 90s diva-led club/house track. The production sound is horribly flat and generic- particularly those “organ” stabs in the chorus (##)- and even more grating in their boring datedness today.

    (Can’t believe this general sound is now being resurrected as part of the 90s revival).

    I’ll admit that I was never a fan of this sort of thing, but… ugh. I honestly don’t remember this being at the top of the charts. It’s the sort of track that sounds like it would have gone top 10 at the time- maybe even reached number 4- but you just can’t imagine it making sense at number 1, its mid-chart blandness sure to sound anticlimactic and out of place as the finale of the Radio 1 Top 40 on Sunday evening.

    #139 Abzolute; Just saw your comment about the “polarised” responses. I intentionally didn’t read too many comments to avoid colouring my own, but I *was* very surprised that Tom gave this 9, since I honestly can’t see anything special about it at all- quite the opposite! Polarising indeed.

    Maybe this makes more sense if you were a clubber at the time- and I never was- but I’ve heard dance tracks that still sound great outwith that context. To me, this is incredibly boring, generic and- despite the “double time” vocals Tom mentions and I’ll credit them with- has almost exactly the opposite of the life-affirming feel it’s obviously going for.

    (#) Was getting it mixed up with “Dream on Dreamer” by the Brand New Heavies, but realised it probably wasn’t that…

    (##) Can we blame the ubiquitous Korg M1 for this? A bit of searching suggests this might be the case.

  142. 142
    Mostro on 16 Jan 2017 #

    (I meant what I said about not having read many of the comments- except for the last few which had mostly moved away from the original topic anyway- before I posted.

    Now that I have, I’m genuinely surprised that virtually all the observations and opinions I came to independently had already been expressed by others in very similar form. Not sure if this is a good or a bad thing…!)

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