A question I’m honestly unsure of the answer to: if Michael Jackson had been found guilty of child molestation, what would have happened to his songs? Would “Billie Jean” or “Beat It” have emptied party dancefloors? Would “Wanna Be Startin’ Something” or “Human Nature” suddenly have become harder to like? And if Pete Townshend’s ‘research purposes’ hadn’t kept him out of legal trouble, would The Who’s old tracks have fallen from grace? more »
22 August 2007
20 August 2007
Suppose one wanted to give “Welcome Home” a low mark – what actual grounds would one have for saying it’s a bad record? It’s a catchy, memorable, uptempo song, delivered in a friendly and honest way. It’s sentimental, but a level of sentimentality is almost inevitable when you’re trying to communicate big emotions in a small song. Certainly its sense of calm and relief doesn’t transmit as phoney.
But I don’t want to listen to it again, either – I can make myself empathise with it but that doesn’t come naturally. It’s not an exciting record. It doesn’t want to be, so this is another unfair criticism, but one which gets closer to the contentedly huge gap between what “Welcome Home” offers and what I want. Pop music needs to agitate me somehow, contain questions or conflicts, provoke reactions (physical ones are fine!), build imaginative worlds - but “Welcome Home” is all resolution, a happy ending without a story to lead me to it. In the end I can’t respond to it, not because it’s bad, or poorly crafted, but because it feels too complete. Maybe later.
15 August 2007
“Cleverness” wasn’t usually something Slade aimed for – though you wouldn’t necessarily call them stupid – but on “Skweeze Me Pleeze Me” even they dip a toe into metatext: “Can’t you learn to spell?” Mostly, though, this is Slade’s warm, sentimental side given rein. The glorious intro promises a full-on monster anthem but this is mostly Noddy’s show, with the band happy to jog along behind while he belts out the chorus and sells you on the reflective (in Slade terms) verses. It’s only towards the end that they wake up, remember they’re a rock band, and turn “Skweeze Me” into the rave-up it wants to be.
13 August 2007
Like “See My Baby Jive”, “Rubber Bullets” is a really dense bit of popcraft – a restless concentrate of hooks and ideas. 1973 seems to have been a moment in pop when this overload strategy was commercially viable: intelligent, detail-rich, sometimes exhausting pop music has been made ever since but it’s usually been marginal, often self-consciously so. In ’73 10cc, ELO, and Roy Wood were regulars at the business end of the charts: what was going on? more »
3 August 2007
I’m pretty sure that the ‘ideal’ time for a pop songle has been revised up in my lifetime, the “three minute single” granted an unwieldy extra 30 seconds, which would make “Can The Can” a shot at perfection – except it stops, breathless, at two minutes five and has nowhere much to go from there. Quatro uses the breakdown to show her range, climbing from kittenish to kick-ass, and just proves what the first two peerless minutes suggested: nobody needs to hear her do soft and quiet. I’m simply not buying her mewing “can the can, honey” after hearing “SCRATCH OUT HER EYES!”. That moment is the song’s peak – it’s awesomely exciting, partly because the overdubbed Quatro-voices are so sharp and shrill and partly because of the way it barges into the song and just kicks aside the whole eagle/tiger/cat metaphor to show the violence in the glam dance.
31 July 2007
At work today I was doing a bit of research on sweets, and found a site which boasted a “Bush Tucker Prize” jar – an enormous plastic thing designed to cash in on the I’m A Celebrity reality show. The jar was filled with jelly and candy insects, worms, and animals of all kinds. The nominal weight, explained the site, was two kilograms – but they cram it as full as they possibly can so it actually weighs much more. The photo proved their claim – no possibility of telling individual shapes or sweets apart, everything rammed and mashed in until it squashed against the sides and distorted. more »
20 July 2007
Tony Orlando, banged up for unspecified badness, whiles away his time inside by fooling about with his organ (Bontempi if I’m not mistaken) and dreaming of the yellow ribbon his lady-love will hang out to show she’s waited for him. But when the day comes he finds – sorry to spoil the punchline – a hundred ribbons tied on! The sly old dog. It must be the moustache. more »
10 July 2007
A ‘first’ of sorts here – “Get Down” is, I think, the first record on the lists to feature on one of Sean Rowley’s Guilty Pleasures compilations, which are recontextualising 70s pop and making a pretty penny out of it for lots of people. The Guilty Pleasures concept has become a kind of shorthand for badness among some of my friends, and it deserves quick consideration. more »
7 July 2007
This is a lot better than “Puppy Love” - in fact it’s rather sweet, very much the kind of well-scrubbed record you wouldn’t (really) mind your young daughter caning on the family Dansette. Does it make the jump from “innocuous” to “good”? Not exactly, though the closing clouds of snuggly harmonies are a winner, and the opening is a pleasant reminder of “Wichita Lineman”. Donny doesn’t sing it with any great urgency, and it doesn’t stretch anyone involved, but it never feels insincere to me either.
6 July 2007
Something came up on the Sweet comments thread that tied in with a point I’ve been looking for a space to talk about, viz. what the “glam” in “glam rock” can possibly mean. Glamour? Well, of a sort – Bolan was glamorous, Bowie beautiful and overtly freaky, Eno an androgyne peacock, and so on. This is the version of “glam” that’s more easily exportable, the one that the film Velvet Goldmine picks up on, the one with all the sexual and cultural mystique. But then what about Slade, or the Sweet, or Gary Glitter or Roy Wood? What about their “brickies in dresses” version of glam, the louder, less poised one that seemed to take everything in the past and present pop atmosphere – skins and suedes, longhairs, pantomime drag acts, wrestlers, art school androgynes – and slap it all together with the contrast turned on full? more »