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Apr 15

SPILLER – “Groovejet (If This Ain’t Love)”

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#871, 26th August 2000

spiller groovejet The revival of disco within pop put a spotlight on something that had gone missing over the 90s: a sense of music not just for dancing, but for dancing with someone. Disco was a music of mutual attraction: cruising, flirtation, negotiation. Its dancefloor is a space for immediate pleasure, but also for promises kept and otherwise. It’s a place where things start, but their resolution, let alone their meaning, is never clear. All of 2000’s great disco number ones explore how to play this hand. Madison Avenue look to impose their will upon it, to set terms and roles. Spiller is less rigid. “Groovejet” accepts the night’s changeability, happily sells out certainty for an amused smile and a few great one-liners. “Just for one lifetime I can be your pastime”, “In it together till I know you better.” Sophie Ellis-Bextor’s original chorus precisely caught the song’s resigned swoon: “And so it goes… how does it feel so good?”.

“Groovejet” – helped along by a whipped-up chart battle with Posh Spice – felt like the hit of the summer. Victoria Beckham’s song, “Out Of Your Mind”, was nowhere near as bad as some claimed – a surprisingly hard-headed, up to date, UK garage record, drenched in vocal effects. It was as modern and forthright as “Groovejet” was nostalgic and enigmatic. But its different parts grated where Spiller’s meshed. There’s a beautiful tension in “Groovejet”, an apt flirtation between Bextor’s languid, cut-glass vocals and the delightful indulgence of Spiller’s music. It’s not just any disco he’s reviving, after all. No Chic for Spiller, none of that poise or aspirational elegance. The sounds “Groovejet” loots are the syn-drums and ray-gun synths of disco’s overripe peak and decline, when it was corny, wonderful, mass-market pop music: you can hear hints of Kelly Marie or Amii Stewart in the song, before that sweetness falls back into the dreamy groove. “Groovejet” is a fond tour of disco when it ruled the world, and proof that it still could.

The music can be playful because the sophistication all comes from Ellis-Bextor. Her vocals were so appealing on this track she could ditch her indie-band baggage and spin them into a brief, well-loved career as a top ten presence, mixing instant hooks with finishing school froideur just as templated here. She offsets the track’s bubbly repetition, adds a bittersweet note without ever sounding like she’s above it. In fact she sounds carried along by it: Ellis-Bextor’s – and the song’s – most powerful moment is the breakdown – “Will you remember me, boy? Remember me – “ and her voice suddenly spirals up into the backing, the thought lost in the music. It’s blissful. And so it goes… but Rob Davis, who changed the chorus, made the right call, getting to an essence not just of the song, but of disco itself. Never mind absolutes, never mind reality, never mind the world outside the song and your body. Trust to pleasure, you’ll be alright. “If this ain’t love, why does it feel so good?”

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Comments

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  1. 76
    Mark G on 24 Apr 2015 #

    Good call, but I would also add “It’s got what it takes, so tell me why can’t this be love?” Van Halen …

  2. 77
    Ed on 24 Apr 2015 #

    Or maybe:

    “If a picture paints a thousand words,
    Then why can’t I paint you?”

  3. 78
    Ed on 24 Apr 2015 #

    Possibly getting ahead of things here, but am I right in thinking that Davis and Cathy Dennis were asked to write “something like Groovejet”, and came up with Can’t Get You Out Of My Bunny?

    It’s one of those factoids I was sure I knew, but I can’t find any source for it now.

    I like G(ITAL), but I love OOYM. I was one of the few who bought the True Steppers album, which is also recommended. Much more like the sound of the year 2000 than Spiller or S E-B

  4. 79
    Andrew on 24 Apr 2015 #

    #65 Neil Tennant isn’t often thought of as posh, but maybe he should be!

    e.g. ‘The Theatre’ – when he says “years” it sounds quite like “yarrrs”. (I love PSB but this is occasionally jarring)

  5. 80
    Andrew on 24 Apr 2015 #

    #73 is it the Doobie Brothers’ ‘Long Train Runnin”?

    “without love…where would you be right now?”

  6. 81
    StringBeanJohn82 on 24 Apr 2015 #

    I often wonder why you don’t hear this much anymore, when similar disco-y hit from a year earlier Sing it Back by Moloko seems to be more played now on radio and in bars etc than ever. I honestly think I’ve heard that song more than any other song while out and about than anything else in the last 5 years. Which probably says something about my age and the places I hang out.

  7. 82
    StringBeanJohn82 on 24 Apr 2015 #

    Speaking of British teenage indie-pop stars collaborating with dance acts, can I recommend Mint Royale and Lauren Laverne’s ‘Don’t Falter’? from earlier in 2000? You need a bit of a sweet tooth to love it, but lord knows I do. I made a mix tape featuring that song for a girlfriend entitled ‘When you’re with me it’s always summer’. Needless to say the relationship didn’t last!

  8. 83
    Rory on 24 Apr 2015 #

    #82 You certainly can! My favourite single of 2000. Made me a firm fan of Mint Royale; a shame they fizzled out after their bunnied hit (reasonably recent EP notwithstanding). But more about that in due course, I expect.

  9. 84
    Steve Mannion on 24 Apr 2015 #

    I bought the SEB album for my Mum because it is MumPop what Mums like.

  10. 85
    Tommy Mack on 24 Apr 2015 #

    Is Syd Barret’s singing voice posh? He’s fairly RP and I think public school?

  11. 86
    Paulito on 24 Apr 2015 #

    Maybe everyone knows this already but, seeing as no-one has mentioned it, I think it’s worth noting that this is the second #1 this year to have been co-written by Rob Davis – who of course had topped the chart several times in the 70s as a member of Mud.

    And it’s a corker – exquisitely put together and crowned by SEB’s wonderfully haughty vocal. The instrumental section with the excessively cut-up beats is the only bit that hasn’t worn well.

  12. 87
    Mark M on 24 Apr 2015 #

    Re85: No, grammar school. Father pathologist. Often described as (indeed) ‘upper middle class’.

    Was his singing voice RP? I feel not – it’s a very ’60s kind of hyper-English that feels intended to evoke frolicking in medieval fields. Proper RP is clipped – you don’t draw out words (‘go’ is stretched out, lifts at the end with a slight ‘wuh’ ending). He did, and his voice was fairly droney. Related to the accent that social shapeshifter Mick Jagger uses on the Stones’ ultra-English excursions circa ’66. I’m sure someone has done some more serious thinking about all this.

  13. 88
    lockedintheattic on 24 Apr 2015 #

    OOYM was a bit unlucky to be up against something as good as this -in most weeks it would have hit number one (it outsold 5 of the solo Spice no.1s we’ve already visited here). A friend of mine worked for for Posh’s label and accompanied her on much of that famous signing tour was on; he came away incredibly impressed with her focus, vision and work ethic, and great fun to hang around as well (the opposite was true for Dane Bowers). I love the record too, probably and 8 from me.

    ITAL is better still; and probably the only time I actually liked SEB, her detached vocal style irritated me enormously on everything still to come. A solid 9.

  14. 89
    swanstep on 24 Apr 2015 #

    @80, Andrew. Thanks so much! That’s evidently what I was thinking of. The Salsoul sample’s interlocking guitar and clavinet figures is somewhat reminiscent of the Doobies’ interlocking guitar figures, but it’s only Spiller’s looping of the bars question and the chosen vocal rhythm that allows us to make that connection and that finally creates a track with somewhat similar overall feel (‘Love is You’ itself sounds and feels nothing like ‘Long Train Running’). Interesting.

    Thanks again.

    And while I’m in the business of thanking people, a round of applause for the behind-the-scenes IT folks at Freaky Trigger: I’m finding on the one hand that my login is being remembered properly these days, and on the other hand I’m not getting any of those ‘You are posting too soon’ errors anymore either. Well done you.

  15. 90
    Paulito on 24 Apr 2015 #

    @87: Certainly all of Floyd spoke and sang with refined, upper middle class accents. But the only example that comes to mind of a Floyd vocal that could truly be described as RP is that of Roger Waters on ‘Set the Controls for the Heart of the Sun’.

    Nick Drake is an excellent example of someone from the rock era whose singing accent is very much RP. Another factor in his ‘outsider’ status, I suppose.

  16. 91
    Fivelongdays on 24 Apr 2015 #

    @82/83. Was going to mention ‘Don’t Falter’ myself. Really, really, really should have come out in the summer, deserved to have been the soundtrack to Summer 2000.

    I wonder what the heck the record company were doing releasing it in January, FFS.

    As for this – it’s good, but it’s no ‘Don’t Falter’. I’m going to be the only person in the world who compares it to ‘Roots Bloody Roots’ by Sepultura – a really good two minute song dragged out to four minutes, thus making what was enjoyable about it exasperating. It’d be on the 5/6 boundary, while ‘Don’t Falter’ would easily score a 9. Where’s the justice?

  17. 92
    Tom on 24 Apr 2015 #

    “Don’t Falter” is one of those tracks I’m glad never got to number one, because I detested it and am pleased I don’t have to justify my inchoate and mean dislike. :)

  18. 93
    Phil on 24 Apr 2015 #

    Now Nick Drake’s voice was posh. Exhibit A. Also, Neil Tennant is pure RP – I get the impression that he got his foot on the social ladder at a time when losing your accent & going RP instead was still de rigueur. Or I may be getting Smash Hits mixed up with the Cliveden set, I’m not sure.

    Thinking about it some more, I’m retreating a bit from my “SEB not posh in the slightest” position – I guess that combination of precise consonants & drawled vowels is a bit of a class marker, even if the actual vowel sounds are pure suburban (the diphthongs are where you can really hear this – the ‘ow’ of ‘tomorrow’/’borrow’, the ‘ay’ of ‘say’ (or, even more clearly, the ‘ay’ of ‘DJ’ in MOTDF)). Elegant slumming, I guess you’d call it.

    The Barrett sound is an interesting one. I remember when I was quite small suddenly deciding that talking proper was boring, and I’d rather be a cheery cockernee. It must have been excruciating; apart from anything else I had a lousy ear for accents at that age (one of my ‘cockney’ role models was John Noakes). I wonder if something like that was going on with Barrett, and indeed Jagger – an artistic decision to sing in the role of the artless CHILD that does frolick hapily in the MEDDOW poo gosh I say Tarquin mind wot you are frolicking IN hem hem… sorry, where was I? Taking on a kind of vagabond brat persona, the better to rebel against the Man, and finding an accent to match it… sort of. See also Robert Wyatt & Richard Sinclair on one (much less extreme & theatrical) hand, and the young Bowie’s dream of being “a rock Anthony Newley” on the other.

  19. 94
    lonepilgrim on 24 Apr 2015 #

    Alison Goldfrapp sings with a southern accent although her bio suggests she’s a posh girl who went off the rails/earned street cred. As I said earlier SEBs vocals with theaudience remind me of Kirsty McColl.

  20. 95
    Rory on 24 Apr 2015 #

    #92: Ah, but that was then, Tom. You’ve already suggested that G(ITAL) was nothing like a 9 for you in 2000; maybe “Don’t Falter” deserves revisiting too? (I just did, and still love it, but then I played that single and album to death…)

  21. 96
    Ed on 24 Apr 2015 #

    Britain is surely the only country in the world where we could be having this debate! I am never sure whether it is worse to be as class-conscious as we are, or to be like the Americans who deny they have a class system, even though it is probably every bit as rigid as ours.

    Anyway, all of these examples so far are eclipsed for me by the greatest posh* accent in pop: Martina Topley-Bird on Tricky’s fantastic version of Black Steel in the Hour of Chaos, where her voice is deployed with intent to destabilise our ideas of culture and gender.

    (*Is she really posh? Her voice sounds like that private school estuary / RP blend that seems to be the lingua franca of middle and upper-class young people these days. It’s very, very English, anyway, and southern English, too. Her stepfather is Drayton Bird, a very successful marketing consultant – I learn from Wikipedia – so I think that makes her at least as posh as Ellis-Bextor.)

    @93 “I may be getting Smash Hits mixed up with the Cliveden set, I’m not sure.” Haha I have exactly the same problem, derived I think mainly from the Being Boring video.

    That plus the reference to the cricket pavilion in Can You Forgive Her, is what persuaded me that Tennant was at the very least posh-ish.

  22. 97
    Phil on 24 Apr 2015 #

    I keep misremembering that Neil Tennant was related to Stephen Tennant, then misremembering that actually he changed his name to Tennant, and then remembering (correctly this time) that he was born Tennant, & it was David Tennant who borrowed the name (from him). So no, not posh; his father was a sales rep. He did go to a boys’ Catholic grammar school, though, which may explain some of the references.

    Extraordinary to think that he was 31 when West End Girls was released over here; the thought was quite consoling when I was an unrich and unfamous 27-year-old. No consolation at all when you’re past 50, sadly.

    Hadn’t heard Black Steel before. That was extraordinary – ta! I can’t hear MTB as posh, though – too many glo’al stops. At least, her voice doesn’t sound uc or umc, except in the sense that it’s pretty much how young umc people talk these days (this is where it gets confusing!). Her voice sounds South London West Indian to me, albeit a very RPised version of same.

    Did Tony Blackburn ever say “and she really is a topley bird!”, or am I just remembering the collective resonance of everybody wishing he would?

  23. 98
    Billy Hicks on 25 Apr 2015 #

    …nah. Didn’t hit me age 11. Didn’t hit me as a teenager. Doesn’t hit me now. There’s another supposed dance “anthem” hitting #1 on Popular extremely soon which I have exactly the same feelings for, another looped-disco bore which is slightly more fun for the occasional listen but way, way too overhyped and overplayed to give it any more than a 5. Groovejet I’d go for one place lower.

    2000 continues to prove frustrating time after time in that the best dance records *aren’t* the ones getting to the top, sometimes falling painfully short (Sandstorm, Silence, Airwave) and generally nowhere near a good a representive list of everything as 1999 was.

  24. 99
    Shiny Dave on 25 Apr 2015 #

    Favourite memory of this song – being promoted on a TV advert that played part of the song and then had the curt voiceover “no hype, just a great record.”

    This chart battle might well have been at least halfway in spirit to the (also intra-label) RATM/McElderry one…

  25. 100
    lockedintheattic on 25 Apr 2015 #

    Surely the best posh accent in pop is the wonderful Deborah Evans-Stickland, of Flying Lizards’ Money fame? (and more recently on Richard X’s Lemon/Lime)

  26. 101
    BT on 27 Apr 2015 #

    Surely RP is how the Queen spoke in the 50s or 60s (e.g. pronouncing “get off” as “git awf”); I don’t think anyone really speaks it now. Brian Sewell, perhaps? Certainly not Neil Tennant.

  27. 102
    Phil on 27 Apr 2015 #

    Maybe, but if so we want another name for the standardised pronunciation that’s no longer enforced across the BBC – the way that (say) Richard Baker, Michael Aspel and Angela Rippon all spoke. Come to think of it, it’s still pretty common on broadcast media, for all the attention that the odd audibly Scottish or West Indian broadcaster gets – listen to Natasha Kaplinsky, say, and I think you’re basically hearing contemporary RP. It’s a sort of toned-down version of a ‘posh’ accent.

  28. 103

    I think it’s a mistake to assume RP is the Queen’s accent: BBC English (as formerly insisted on) is where I’d start also; Royal Speech is an outlier. Possibly sounds silly now, but I can still remember how exciting it was when Channel 4 began, that it (deliberately) picked out ppl with regional accents as presenters and links-persons. (There was a guy with a gorgeous West Indian accent who used to talk over the loooong gaps that they didn’t yet have advertising to fill, just a stretchy animation of the C4 logo and the full version of its brand-theme on loop.)

    My dad — who had an excellent ear for accent variation — used to talk about what he called the “second Great Vowel Shift”*, citing the distance that upper and middle class accents had travelled since his youth in 1930s Cambridge and 1940s London. (The first shift, an officially recognised fact of the history of pronunciation that I guess he’d read about somewhere, had taken place, as that link says, across 350 years, 1350-1770: Dad was talking about maybe 30-40 years). He would say, “Listen to a recording of Bertrand Russell: no one talks like this any more!” And it’s true that this accent — Russell (born 1872) was of course from the actual real aristocracy — would be very hard to find indeed now, outside a Harry Enfield sketch.

    At a more ephemeral level (unless it’s actually the driver of the phenom Dad had in mind), there was a shift in fashions in the accents you heard on UK films and TV and theatre from around the mid-50s, when sexy and exciting actor stars from (in particular) “the North” were encouraged not to disguise the dialects they grew up with, but sometimes even to amplify them. And not long after this trend — which coincided with the ‘Angry Young Man’ movement in the arts — UK pop added its own energy. The protocols of code-shifting had switched polarities for a season or three: now it helped middle class kids with certain kinds of aspiration on stage or screen to sound as if they came from more deprived backgrounds than less.

    (John Peel used to say that his own curious placeless rumble had begun in the US in the mid-60s, when everyone was hot hot hot for a Scouser, and he — from Liverpool but hardly the back-to-backs — tried to supply what he remembered of one from memory, far away: since hardly anyone had heard one on a regular basis, a handful of televised Moptop press conferences aside, he entirely got away with this. Listen to the very twee (yet toneless) fairytale he tells on Unicorn, one of the earliest Tyrannosaurus Rex LPs; recorded around 1968 I think. He’s halfway to Bertrand Russell! Well, OK, he’s not, but he’s not how he sounded two decades later.)

    *I notice googling it that this phrase is also used — albeit somewhat tentatively — by scholars looking at trends in present-day accents, so whether or not Dad came up with the idea himself (I have no clue) he isn’t the only person ever to think it.

  29. 104

    Actually come to think of it, Ali G’s comedy was jokes about code-shifting — the weirdness of the up and the down of it, and how those less attuned respond — even tho (based on not listening that much to AG and, as I said on the Madonna thread, anyway disliking ambush comedy) I’m not sure it’s smart or insightful enough to count as satire. He basically thinks it’s ridiculous: that he’s the only one with an ear. But I have black Londoner friends whose games with the various ways of speaking they know — and sometime need to flit between — are endlessly artful and hilarious.

  30. 105
    flahr on 27 Apr 2015 #

    Games like “Cockney Translation”, I suppose!

  31. 106

    yes but also involving different class layers (and in once case, different islands in the caribbean)

  32. 107
    Inanimate Carbon God on 3 Jun 2015 #

    This deserves the praise it’s getting – great timing, great rhythm and Sophie’s voice is the cherry on top of the cake. I do worry about how she’d be perceived if she started out as an artist today, though… I’d fear social media users going all “j’accuse” on her apparent ‘priviliged’ background whilst somewhat contradicting their good right on beliefs by indulging in casual misogyny they’d deride the below use of Groovejet for..
    (YMMV on whether it’s harmless saucy British humour or dodgy sexist laddism but it’s ever so slightly NSFW) :-/

    https://youtu.be/lGJoxOcvayQ

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