20
Oct 14

BOYZONE – “You Needed Me”

Popular60 comments • 2,903 views

#824, 22nd May 1999

bzneeded There’s no “Goodbye” or “Never Forget” for Boyzone, no bravura statement of a legacy: that legacy, after all, was happily preparing its second single. Ronan and the lads’ final release missed the top, but as a valediction, this will do. It’s a cover of a string-soaked number by Anne Murray, a country-esque hit (Grammy-awarded, no less) from the 70s heyday of Tammy or Dolly. In either incarnation, it’s something of a slog – a pretty, wistful melody laden down by a glutinous arrangement and a lyric that peters out. Under Boyzone’s care it’s basically a Ronan spotlight number – so whether intentionally or not it feels like priming the audience for the imminent solo career.

But Ronan takes “You Needed Me” to different places from Murray, which makes this an unusual Boyzone single and a better goodbye than they deserve – for once a cover version they’ve put their own, perhaps stronger, mark on. Where Murray’s cool, unwavering vocal takes her lover’s devotion as a source of surprise and quiet strength, Keating sings the song in a wounded growl, making you notice what Murray doesn’t stress – the title is in the past tense. Someone needed Boyzone once, and they do no longer. The fans? That’s an obvious answer – “You Needed Me” as Boyzone’s version of The Smiths’ “Rubber Ring”: don’t forget the songs that made you cry, and the songs that saved your life…

There’s something else happening, though. If you mixed Anne Murray’s sweetly patient singing and Ronan’s bereft take on “You Needed Me”, you might get somewhere near another 1999 ballad, Sarah McLachlan’s Toy Story 2 soundtrack hit, “When She Loved Me”. “You Needed Me” isn’t nearly as brutal as that, of course, but it frames Boyzone’s song in a different way, as sung not to the fans but to Louis: the lament of discarded toys, sinking to the bottom of the box, remembering happier times before they were replaced.

3

Comments

  1. 1
    JLucas on 20 Oct 2014 #

    I love that Toy Story analogy. Sadly I doubt anywhere near so much imagination was actually expended on this record, which was a fittingly half-hearted end to the Boyzone story. Actual farewell single Every Day I Love You wasn’t any more inspiring, although at least they bothered to finish on an original song.

    The real story for me here is the record this blocked from the top – Look At Me by Geri Halliwell. BZ almost certainly benefited from being available on 2 CD singles to Geri’s one, and whatever you may think of Halliwell and her questionable decision to insert a Bassey-apeing middle eight into the first record to rely solely on her own vocals, Look At Me would definitely have been a more memorable chart topper than this monument to beige.

    2

  2. 2
    mapman132 on 20 Oct 2014 #

    Wow, quick turnaround, is Tom trying to get to the end of 1999 by the end of 2014? :)

    “You Needed Me” by Anne Murray was a pretty good late 70’s era ballad that hit #1 in the US in 1978.

    “You Needed Me” by Boyzone was a pretty weak late 90’s era remake that I doubt was even released in the US in 1999. 3/10 sounds about right.

    Has there been a full discussion here yet about the propensity of British and Irish boy bands to record cover versions rather than original songs? American boy bands seem to rarely do cover versions. An interesting difference I think….

  3. 3
    JLucas on 20 Oct 2014 #

    #2 I think it speaks to the way boybands were marketed here. In the USA Backstreet Boys and N*Sync were trying to portray a certain edginess – albeit quite a tongue-in-cheek and U-rated version. They seemed to be aimed purely at teen and pre-teen girls, with little regard for an older audience.

    Boyzone and Westlife – as discussed – were casting a broader net. Walsh and Cowell quickly understood that while the teenage girls scream the loudest, their mums held the purse strings. Cover versions have the allure of the familiar. Boyzone’s oft-repeated trick (which carried over into the Ronan Keating solo career) was to mine US country hits, most of which never crossed over here in their original incarnations, and required very little tweaking to be re-purposed into radio 2 friendly MOR ballads. Consequently, the songs had a familiar sound, but didn’t suffer so much from comparisons to too-famous originals. It was a lazy technique but distressingly effective – for Boyzone, Ronan and Westlife.

    Take That weren’t averse to a cover version either of course, and it’s interesting that in their early, brazenly pink pound-courting days they were covering classic disco hits (Could It Be Magic, Relight My Fire, It Only Takes A Minute) but once they entered their imperial phase it all got a bit serious, hence them ending their initial run on a far less fun run-through of How Deep Is Your Love that Boyzone could just as easily got their hooks into with little discernible difference to the end result.

  4. 4
    JLucas on 20 Oct 2014 #

    It wasn’t just the Boybands of course. Steps were mastering the tricky “for the kids/for the gays” balancing act with chirpy covers of Kylie, Diana Ross and the Bee Gees. Martine McCutcheon continued to market herself as a self-consciously classy all-rounder with dignified but unexciting readings of Crystal Gayle and Yvonne Elliman hits, and lower down pops rungs Louise scored with a revamp of Average White Band’s ‘Let’s Go Round Again’ and Lolly introduced Toni Basil’s ‘Hey Mickey!’ to a new generation.

    I guess it all speaks to the historically close relationship between chart pop and light entertainment TV in the UK. I don’t get the sense that the lines are quite as blurred in the USA – where radio is much more genre-divided and the leading pop figures are more concerned with marketing themselves as global superstars than trilling out a nice retro tune that the whole family can passively enjoy over their evening meal.

  5. 5
    chelovek na lune on 20 Oct 2014 #

    Painfully wet. And wetly painful. No fun at all. 2

  6. 6
    Tom on 20 Oct 2014 #

    #2 Yes, that’s the plan!

  7. 7
    James BC on 20 Oct 2014 #

    If you’re a country fan, it must be a bit annoying to see that your music can be converted into obviously awful, insipid pop ballads without really making any changes whatsoever. Then again I never really understood what qualified (to take two not awful but very well known examples) “How Do I Live” or “You’re Still The One” as country in the first place. In some cases it might simply be that the singer comes from that background – but Shania’s from Canada so she doesn’t even have that connection.

  8. 8
    Tom on 20 Oct 2014 #

    Canada has prairies and stuff! And cows! I think!

  9. 9
    sukrat yadda yadda on 20 Oct 2014 #

    anthony easton to thread :)

  10. 10
    Andrew Farrell on 20 Oct 2014 #

    Presumably a lot of “We do covers you haven’t heard” / “Now see what serious songs have been germinating inside us!” can be laid at the door of the Beatles?

  11. 11
    mapman132 on 20 Oct 2014 #

    #7-8 Don’t forget: Anne Murray is also Canadian. And not from the prairies either: she’s from Nova Scotia.

    I think “country” is almost a state of mind. It makes sense for the examples you name, although what made Taylor Swift’s last album “country” escapes me (apparently the pretense has been dropped entirely for her latest).

  12. 12
    mapman132 on 20 Oct 2014 #

    Conversely the only thing that makes Mumford & Sons not country is their place of origin.

  13. 13
    James BC on 20 Oct 2014 #

    #12 Or the Verve (Urban Hymns singles at least) .

  14. 14
    JLucas on 20 Oct 2014 #

    When Shania Twain released her ‘Up!’ album in 2002, she actually put it out as a 2-disc set, one comprising the songs recorded in a country style, and the other featuring the exact same songs recorded with a Euro-friendly pop sheen. The country versions were serviced to country radio in America, while the pop versions were promoted in Europe.

    For anyone interested in how producers at the time were negotiating the pop/country identity crisis, here’s the record’s biggest hit ‘Forever & For Always’ in both versions. The changes are mostly very subtle.

    Pop version: http://youtu.be/IpT-FW_G8-A

    Country version: http://youtu.be/JL9WKdYGnIM

    There was even a third ‘World music’ disc which in places sounded like she’d recorded the songs over the Bhangra setting on a Bontempi Organ.

    ‘World’ version: http://youtu.be/Sex4h73VWwo

  15. 15
    Rory on 20 Oct 2014 #

    My folks liked Anne Murray – her Greatest Hits was one of the handful of tapes they always played in the 4WD whenever we went camping – so I still have a soft spot for “You Needed Me”, even though it’s undeniably sappy. Without Murray’s nostalgia-laden tones, though, I can’t find much to enjoy here. Turns out I never needed Boyzone. 2.

  16. 16
    Rory on 20 Oct 2014 #

    #7-8: Oh, they have prairies, all right, and cows. I have in-laws in Alberta, including two cattle farmers. You’ve never seen a sadder cow than a cow standing in a -25°C blizzard.

  17. 17
    wichitalineman on 20 Oct 2014 #

    “I asked for water, she gave me gasoline.”

    Was that Boyzone or Howlin’ Wolf? I always get them mixed up.

    The Anne Murray original always seemed like a trudge, very repetitive, and slightly religious. Odd use of the word “pedestal” is in its favour. But, in the Murray catalogue, Snowbird remains the main event.

    Boyzone’s version of YNM isn’t as bad as it could have been. I really don’t like title being sung at the front – it’s like a sticker saying “ask for YOU NEEDED ME in your local Asda.” It has a lot more movement than the original, though, and a decent mood switch between verse one and verse three.

    Still, unlike Anne, no member of Boyzone is ever likely to be seen in company as exalted as this:

    http://majorterata.com/wordpress/wp-content/uploads/2014/06/John-Lennon-Anne-Murray-Alice-Cooper-and-Mickey-Dolenz-at-the-Troubour.jpg

  18. 18
    thefatgit on 20 Oct 2014 #

    I must have been aware of Anne Murray in 1978(?) with YNM’s radio-friendly trudge through empty-nested/widowed loss… not that I cared about such things back then. It didn’t take long to forget YNM at any rate. Much the same for Boyzone’s version, but a slight difference with Ronan’s reading; beginning with fragile vibrato and switching to a Pellow-like growl midway through the song, turning loss into something like grateful acknowledgement. It does feel slightly more positive and uplifting, but let’s not get carried away. This is still a meagre effort and like Anne Murray’s version equally forgettable . (3)

  19. 19
    mark g on 20 Oct 2014 #

    One of Tony Hawks books is about having another hit, it’s not particularly good but there’s an interesting bit where he sits in on a party where songwriters do songs on the spot, but one cheats and does a long discussion about his most successful song before doing you needed me…

    Sorry, new phone don’t know where the punctuation be.

  20. 20
    JLucas on 20 Oct 2014 #

    A rather more unlikely pillaging of an Anne Murray hit occurred in 1988, when Hazell Dean took a SAW-produced cover of her ‘Who’s Leaving Who?’ into the top 5.

    Murray: http://youtu.be/frf2H8qV0uw
    Dean: http://youtu.be/a5xTAZhNKqc

  21. 21
    Tom on 20 Oct 2014 #

    OMG I had no idea! Anne Murray’s “Who’s Leaving Who” has that terrific Flashdance sound. A world made of steel, made of stone!

  22. 22
    MikeMCSG on 20 Oct 2014 #

    # 19 I was going to mention that ! It’s in “One Hit Wonderland”. Tony realises he’s out of his depth at that point. Sounds like I enjoyed it a bit more than you though it’s not up to “Moldovans” or “Fridge”. My favourite bit was when he goes to see a pre-TV Simon Cowell and gets the expected kick in the goolies .

  23. 23
    Paulito on 20 Oct 2014 #

    @ Wichita – great pic! (even though Lennon looks like he’s been photoshopped into it). The one unnamed member of that stellar quintet is of course Harry Nilsson.

    Anne looks very hot – no wonder the fellas are giving her all that attention.

  24. 24
    Alan on 20 Oct 2014 #

    +1 for the Anne Murray video link

  25. 25
    Mark G on 20 Oct 2014 #

    #22 yes. I did enjoy the book but it sort of gets lost when they dig out poor ol Norman Wisdom to do a ‘single’ in Albania, and I almost mentioned the pre-fame Cowell as well.

  26. 26
    Kinitawowi on 20 Oct 2014 #

    zzzz

    2.

  27. 27
    Rory on 20 Oct 2014 #

    #22, #25, agreed, the formula was wearing a bit thin. Still had its moments, though. Moldovans was his best, I thought. Did you know he later made a movie version, starring himself? Interesting if you’ve read the book, but not as effective. It did make me wonder if his next book would be about making the film of his earlier book.

  28. 28
    JoeWiz on 20 Oct 2014 #

    A pretty unmemorable end to a remarkably unexciting career. Until of course the post Gately reunion album ‘Brother’, which contained some decent post 2006 Take Thatisms but didn’t produce any notable hit singles. They’ve got a Motown album coming out for Christmas.
    This song droops and shuffles like a latecomer at a wedding, the very definition of ‘phoned in’. I’d struggle it to a 3.

  29. 29
    lonepilgrim on 20 Oct 2014 #

    I didn’t need this. Ronan sounds constipated.
    As far as what constitutes “Country” music, IIRC Greil Marcus argues in ‘Mystery Train’ (something to the effect) that it is characterised by a stoic acceptance of the trials and tribulations of life (and death) – (cf Jimmie Rogers singing the ‘TB Blues’, Hank Wiliams’ ‘I’m so lonesome I could cry’). For Marcus this is what made the early Elvis so revolutionary – a refusal to accept his lot and to demand more.
    I’m not sure that what counts as ‘Country’ now necessarily fits GMs definition although it can still have a grittiness that is missing from more mainstream pop.
    The blandly ‘inspirational’ lyrics to YNM read more like ‘Contemporary Christian’ than ‘Country’ to me

  30. 30
    AMZ1981 on 21 Oct 2014 #

    I remember thinking that this was as dull as ditchwater at the time and it hasn’t improved with age. It did do one very useful thing at the time which was to block Geri Halliwell’s vile solo statement from the top spot and – it seemed – nip her solo career in the bud. The song that entered at three the same week and wound up the biggest selling non chart topper of the year summed up both records nicely – That Don’t Impress Me Much!

    Obviously this is the end of Boyzone as far as this blog is concerned, a bunnied solo career aside. As I noted when we discussed their previous chart topper a split was not evident at the time and they were still very much an extant band when Stephen Gately `came out` in the summer of that year. I mention this because Boyzone, albeit not through choice, broke the mould here more than they did with their anodyne music. It’s a hard point to qualify (and one that’s clouded by a cruel twist of fate ten years down the line) but I think it’s worth mentioning.

  31. 31
    swanstep on 21 Oct 2014 #

    Pretty feeble track. Good write-up considering (although I’d recommend adding a footnote or a parenthesis identifying ‘Louis’ for non-UK folk). Never mind, Shania’s gonna Rock This Country.

  32. 32
    mapman132 on 21 Oct 2014 #

    #30 I remember seeing “Look At Me” played exactly once on VH-1. At the time my reaction was, is she trying to be a self-parody? Suffice it to say, that was the last we heard of Ms. Halliwell in the US. Whether or not that was good thing will be determined by bunnies as yet unheard by me….

  33. 33
    swanstep on 21 Oct 2014 #

    High times for Anne Murray in 1999 then since she’s also pinged in South Park’s Blame Canada.

  34. 34
    iconoclast on 21 Oct 2014 #

    I went to school with Anne Murray!

    OK, it wasn’t *that* Anne Murray, but someone else with the same name. This fact is more interesting than the record, which is a dull plod which just can’t be bothered and is simultaneously too long. THREE.

  35. 35
    flahr on 21 Oct 2014 #

    Frankly it borders on the offensive that this and Geri conspired to keep ROCK CLASSIC “That Don’t Impress Me Much” at a paltry #3 – sparky, funny, exquisitely timed and with a great drop. And strictly evaluated this and Geri were the wrong way around as well, given that this is utterly dire. I think its complete lack of imagination/verve/life/dignity is meant to be comforting, although it vaguely makes me want to throw up. [2]

  36. 36
    Tom on 21 Oct 2014 #

    I heard “That Don’t Impress Me Much” and “Man! I Feel Like A Woman” for the first time in years the other day and while, yes, rather either than this, they sounded a lot more flatfooted and slow than I remembered.

  37. 37
    wichitalineman on 21 Oct 2014 #

    That Don’t Impress Me Much dumps on this and Look At Me (the title of that one, surely, had to be a little self-parodic). It seemed to get a lot more airplay, too. I suspect a little music industry foul play – it certainly felt like a major catastrophe for Geri that she stalled at no.2.

    Shania, meanwhile, had to deliver a rather curious line that killed her song’s narrative momentum: “Okay, so you’re a rocket scientist” (really quite impressive); “Okay, so you’re Brad Pitt” (also rather impressive, certainly in 1999); “Okay, so you’ve got a car”. A car? Well, that wouldn’t impress me too much either.

    Re 37: Really? That’s a shame. I always imagine the title of Man! I Feel Like A Woman as a Rainer Wolfcastle line in The Simpsons, though I don’t think it is.

    You’re Still The One is, for me, one of the best constructed pop songs of the 90s, or any era. Every line a killer hook.

  38. 38
    flahr on 21 Oct 2014 #

    #36 – that’s why it’s a ROCK CLASSIC rather than a UK HARD HOUSE CLASSIC ;)

  39. 39
    Kinitawowi on 21 Oct 2014 #

    #35 et al – I will never, ever forgive the Come On Over album for denying James’ Millionaires the album top spot. Almost as gross an injustice as Chesney Fucking Hawkes…

  40. 40
    Chelovek na lune on 21 Oct 2014 #

    #36 etc The single versions of both those tracks were a bit of a let-down compared with the original album version, if my memory serves me right – the mix tried to make them poppy, but just sucked a bit of the life out of em. I really enjoyed “Come On Over” as an album – lots of tracks, and a fair proportion were fine, gutsy things. But Trisha Yearwood was surely the queen of 90s country. What a pity she will not even come close to troubling us here.

  41. 41
    Duro on 21 Oct 2014 #

    My wife heard the line in the Shania song as “I can’t believe you kiss your c**k at night”, rather than “…car goodnight”.

    Impressive defence (comparatively speaking) of this terrible song, the second of four 1s I’ll bestow upon 1999.

  42. 42
    Erithian on 21 Oct 2014 #

    Two notable things about the Shania song: (i) the great misheard lyric “I can’t believe you kiss your cock at night”; and (ii) the album was number one when I became a dad.

  43. 43
    Erithian on 21 Oct 2014 #

    Duro, we posted the same thing simultaneously there…

  44. 44
    flahr on 21 Oct 2014 #

    Gotta love the staggeringly high exclamation mark density on the tracklisting for Come On Over. Anyway, time to stop stepping on Punctum’s territory and talk about Boyzone.

    Er…

  45. 45
    swanstep on 22 Oct 2014 #

    @41,42. That mishearing’s hilarious. Peak album watch: Come On Over ~ 40 million sold, Backstreet Boys’ Millennium ~ 30 million, Britney’s debut ~ 30 million. Ker-razy numbers from a contemporary perspective.

  46. 46
    Mark G on 22 Oct 2014 #

    #37 it was missing the last verse

    “Ok, so you’re Mutt Lange.. What.. *The* Mutt Lange?”

  47. 47
    JLucas on 22 Oct 2014 #

    Shania reached peak exclamation mark with the ‘Up!’ album tracklisting:

    1. Up!
    2. I’m Gonna Getcha Good!
    3. She’s Not Just a Pretty Face
    4. Juanita
    5. Forever & For Always
    6. Ain’t No Particular Way
    7. It Only Hurts When I’m Breathing
    8. Nah!
    9. (Wanna Get To Know You) That Good!
    10. C’est la vie
    11. I’m Jealous
    12. Ka-Ching!
    13. Thank You Baby! (For Making Someday Come So Soon)
    14. Waiter! Bring Me Water!
    15. What a Way to Wanna Be!
    16. I Ain’t Goin’ Down
    17. I’m Not In The Mood (To Say No)!
    18. In My Car (I’ll Be The Driver)
    19. When You Kiss Me

    God love her.

  48. 48
    wichitalineman on 22 Oct 2014 #

    Re 41/42: hence her reaction “you must be joking, right?”

    I dunno Tom, I just gave TDIMM a listen and it still sounds pretty watertight, built for airplay, and (something I didn’t really notice at the time) streets ahead of the 1999 UK productions we’ve encountered so far.

  49. 49
    katstevens on 22 Oct 2014 #

    I quite like ‘Look At Me’ and its Propellerheads-y daytime TV makeover show aesthetic. Possibly because it falls in the the ‘achievable goals’ category for karaoke. [Listens back] OH GOD the hammed-up middle 8 where she’s at her own funeral.. D:

  50. 50
    Tommy Mack on 22 Oct 2014 #

    But how would anyone know if you were singing it badly or just authentically ;-)

  51. 51
    Duro on 22 Oct 2014 #

    #42- had no idea it was a ‘thing’. Now worried my wife has been passing off other hilarious mishearings as her own. Will monitor.

  52. 52
    Shiny Dave on 22 Oct 2014 #

    This 3 means that Boyzone’s six number ones have finally combined for a higher number of marks than Kate Bush’s one.

    I’m looking forward to seeing if their Irish successors will “top” their combined average of precisely 2. Starting with a 4 was not a good start in that regard – they’ll need three 1s to have a chance at it, but I’m pretty sure they can pull that one off in thirteen attempts.

    And the above was more interesting than the song.

  53. 53
    iconoclast on 23 Oct 2014 #

    @32: Plagiarism, much? :-)

    Would that one could combine ten songs which score 1 and get a perfect ten. Alas, popular music does not work that way.

  54. 54
    mapman132 on 23 Oct 2014 #

    @54: Huh?

  55. 55
    Lazarus on 23 Oct 2014 #

    I think Iconoclast meant 52, not 32, the totting-up of Boyzone’s scores having been done earlier. Not that it really matters, eh?

    Other songs that were around in the Top 10 and getting plenty of airplay: ‘Kiss Me’ by Sixpence None the Richer, ‘Turn Around’ by Phats & Small, ‘Every Morning’ by Sugar Ray, ‘No Scrubs’ by TLC, ‘You Get What You Give’ by New Radicals. The last of whom will be connected to Boyzone at a later date, of course. Some of those are still daytime staples now.

  56. 56
    mapman132 on 23 Oct 2014 #

    I see now. Looks like I created a self-referential loop at #54 anyway.

    Maybe we’re all in need of some chocolate….

  57. 57
    mrdiscopop on 23 Oct 2014 #

    Tellingly, I recognised the opening frame (no pun intended) of the video instantly but failed to remember the song at all.

    Oh, and Tom’s gambit about Ronan’s interpretation of the lyrics is somewhat undermined by the total lack of interest he displays throughout that clip.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hblHmyb-83M

  58. 58
    Tommy Mack on 25 Nov 2014 #

    I made it nearly halfway…

  59. 59
    ciaran on 1 Dec 2014 #

    The dullest of all Boyzone singles Number 1 or otherwise. 2.

    All of Boyzone’s six chart toppers arecurrently in the bottom 100 which is some achievement. A bit harsh on 2 (ADB, NMW) being there. No complaints about the other 4 though.YNM rightfully at the bottom of the pile.

  60. 60
    MUSICALITY on 24 Apr 2017 #

    Forgettable, dull and boring.

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