Friday, 20 February 2009

News, Views and Music Issue 22 (Top Five): AAA Love Songs For Valentine's Day

♫ And now, as promised, here’s the reminder of all the things you should have done on valentine’s night – our handy pocket sized (if you have big enough pockets for a laptop) guide to AAA artist romantic odes you might not know:

5) ‘Something So Right’ (Paul Simon/ There Goes Rhymin’ Simon, 1973): Paul’s love-lorn narrator skirts around every subject he can think of in this ode to his fiancé, quietly hinting at his growing feelings of love for his partner in lines simply thrown away in parts of this song. The lines tell us about his reticence to open up and his old belief that he would never be in love – and yet, just as in 10cc’s more famous classic ‘I’m Not In Love’ – we know from these clever little lines that the narrator is besotted. Half romantic ode, half apology, this song tells us that ‘when something goes wrong I’m the first to admit it, but the last one to know – but when something goes right it’s likely to lose me, its out to confuse me because its such an unusual sight and I can’t help it with something so right’. Lovely.

4) ‘Coming Back To Me’ (Jefferson Airplane/ Surrealistic Pillow, 1967): This is the song that nobody knows from the album that everybody knows, or something like that anyway. Sandwiched between the two hit singles of ‘Somebody To love’ and ‘White rabbit’ and the histrionics of the change-the-world-and-make-it-quick rockers that made tha band’s name was this gorgeous Marty Balin ode to a lost love. Accompanied throughout by just his own acoustic guitar and Grace Slick’s eerie recorder, Marty’s narrator lets us listen in to his daydream which finds him peeking through the curtains longingly because he thinks he just saw an old girlfriend’s silhouette coming up the drive to see him just as in days of old. ‘The summer hadn’t hailed and held its breath too long, sleepy music and suddenly you’re gone, and through the window where no curtain hung I saw you, yes I saw you coming back to me…’ Hmm, delicious. Marty’s ‘Today’ from the same album is shorter but just as gorgeous and both songs are well worth seeking out.

3) ‘Cuddle Up’ (Beach Boys/ Carl and the Passions-So Tough, 1972): Dennis Wilson at his romantic best, accompanied by nothing more than a Mantovani-like orchestra and one of the most amazing Beach Boys choirs on record. Like an early prototype for his solo records, this is Dennis at his most bare and honest, passing up his more usual rough and ready rocker image with a yearning melody that wouldn’t have been out of place in the canon of his brother Brian. ‘Your love for me is so warm and good for me, growing every day, honey, honey, I’M IN LOVE!!!!! Ooooh’, err sorry, got a bit carried away along with Dennis there. The demo for the song with alternate lyrics (‘Barbara’, released on the Beach Boys rarities set ‘Endless harmony’ in 1998) is even more moving when stripped bare of its passion-filled accompanied and stapled instead to a simple piano rhythm (and if that last sentence doesn’t get me into Private Eye’s ‘pseud’s corner’, nothing will!)  

2) ‘Love Is the Thing’ (The Hollies/ Write On, 1976): A latter-day Hollies classic – possibly the last Hollies classic depending on what fan you are speaking to – filled with a tremulous Allan Clarke at his ‘Air That I Breathe’ best, a subtle synthesiser melody and a choral section that seems to burst into full flower out of nowhere. The first time those classic Hollies harmonies kicks in full of yearning and wonder at the narrator’s memories of his first love still takes me by surprise now and it shouldn’t – I’ve heard the thing hundreds of times. ‘They say you can’t forget your first taste of love, memories…’ Interesting how many of these songs are about people’s first loves by the way – my first love was The Hollies or have I already told you that? (Err, maybe this musical obsession might explain why my first love was a group – its not too late! Honest! You wait till next valentine’s day! (err didn’t I say that last year?))

1) ‘For My Lady’ (Moody Blues/ Seventh Sojourn, 1972): Hidden away quietly on the last ‘proper’ Moodies album is this fantastic Ray Thomas ode to love and all that it has done for him. Never mawkish, never obvious, this simple song with its carnival funfair-riff is a delightful tribute to love in its many guises and its ability to right wrongs and provide stability and comfort, no matter how many obstacles you have to travel over to get there first. ‘Sail on shifting seas, battle oceans filled with tears, at last my port’s in view, now that I’ve discovered you’. Ahh. There are many lovely romantic ballads in the Moodies’ large and varied canon, but this one wins by a furlong.

More for you next week (or 10 days or whatever it is) – see you then!   


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