Friday, 11 September 2009

News, Views and Music Issue 44 (Top Five): AAA Songs In Foreign Languages

  Bonjour, meuisseurs et madams. Avec en moderne ‘top cinq’ – le studie aven ‘foreign language songs as recorded by AAA artists’. Mercy beuacoup pour les attention (les translation = dumpkofs!)

5) Beach Boys (one song in German): ‘In My Room’ (available on the CD re-issue of ‘Surfer Girl/Shut Down Vol 2’). Back in the early 60s pop was still a fairly modern phenomena and songs written and sung in ‘English’ and ‘American-English’ didn’t always appeal to European listeners. Desperate to cash-in on growing fame in other areas and acknowledging a small but local group of fan support in many countries, many of the AAA group’s respective record companies decided to get their latest hitters to re-record their hits in a foreign language. Many of them could have been singing swahaili for all they cared – but until the Beatles put their foot down re-recording songs in different languages was the norm. Perhaps surprisingly, the Beach Boys only recorded one song in another language – German – and it’s better than most items on this list I have to say. The Boys plumped for one of their best loved album tracks rather than a best-selling single and perhaps because of the simpleness of the lyrics or perhaps Brian Wilson’s keen ear it seems to be a better translation than most. In fact, the slightly harsher German-sounding words really suit this gorgeous rumination on isolation and safety. 

4) Monkees (one song in Italian): ‘(Theme From) The Monkees’ (available on ‘Missing Links Volume Three’ ,1997) Altogether now – ‘Temai dai Monkees...’ The latest recording on our list dates from 1966 when the Monkees TV series was growing into a phenomenon all on its own and was lined up for schedules on all sorts of weird and wonderful networks around the globe, including Italy. This is the short, minute-long version of the theme tune as used on the opening credits of the series’ first season and features Micky Dolenz desperately trying to remember the pronunciation he’s just been taught during his lunch break...Interestingly, though, given how pushed for time the band were in late 1966, the backing track is a re-recording too and is noticeably ‘looser’ than the English version. 

3) Beatles (two songs in German): ‘She Liebt Dich’ and ‘Komm Gib Mer Diene Hand’ (bet you can guess which songs these are! Available on ‘Past Masters Volume One’). It’s been generally forgotten – at least until next week when ‘Past masters Volume One’ gets the upgraded treatment – that the Beatles also succumbed to the foreign-language treatment in late 1963. For some bizarre reason best known to touring logistics the Beatles recorded these German songs in, err, France and were probably due to record some French-language versions too at some point before the band put their foot down and said ‘no!’ Despite their time in Hamburg, the Beatles knew only a smattering of German and sentences like ‘It’s you she’s thinking of and she told me what to say’ and ‘I can’t hide, I can’t hide, I can’t hide’ probably didn’t crop up very often (there’s an extra clue if you can’t guess the titles). Unable to add anything new to the original four-track masters the Beatles, unbelievably, re-recorded the songs from scratch and as a result the sound even looser than the sister versions of these songs on ‘Live At The BBC’. Most German fans prefer the original English version – which, apparently, sounds closer to German than the curious pidgin translation the Beatles were given – but you have to admit that hearing those familiar tonsils wrap themselves around ‘yah, yah, yah!’ still has a certain thrill.

2) Hollies (one song French, one song Italian): ‘Regardez Pars De Fenetres’ (i.e. ‘Look Through Any Window’) and ‘Non Prego Per Me’ (both available on ‘Rarities’ 1988 and the latter track additionally available on ‘The Long Road Home’ box set 2003). The only reason I passed my French GCSE was thanks to copious amounts of listening to this song (it won’t surprise AAA readers to learn that my chosen topic for my aural exam was ‘my hobby of record collecting’), although given the negative feedback I’ve seen for this translation by fans and band that’s perhaps surprising in retrospect. It’s still sheer singalong fun, though, when you learn it phonetically. As for ‘Non Prego Per Me’, for some oddball reason the band decided they’d like to enter the San Remo Song Festival (a bit like Eurovision but all sung in Italian) and came...last. The result must have been because of another botched translation because even in another language this song was surely the class of the field – the tightly fused tension, the sudden burst of energy for the chorus, Allan Clarke showing off the three-octave range of his vocal talents, shimmering harmonies all add to a magical performance even if the band couldn’t understand a word. 

1) Il Longtemps. Sorry, The Searchers (three songs in German, two songs in French): ‘Suβ Ist Sie’ (‘Sugar And Spice’, available on the CD re-issue of ‘Sugar And Spice’), ‘Wenn Ich Dich Seh’ (‘When You Walk In The Room’, available on the CD re-issue of ‘Sounds Like Searchers’) and ‘Verzeih, My Love’ (‘Goodbye My Love’, available on the CD re-issue of ‘Take Me For What It’s Worth’) plus ‘C’est De Notre Age’ (‘Sugar and Spice’ again) and ‘Ils La Chantalent Il Y A Longtemps’ (‘The Saints and The Searchers’, both available on the CD re-issue of ‘Sugar And Spice’). The Searchers were by far the most prolific foreign-language group of our AAA bunch – five alternate versions is impressive going for a band who were also delivering three albums and four singles a year at the time. I’m not sure how successful the translations were – the response seems to have been mixed – but as most of these alternate takes include quite different backing tracks they’re a must for fans and collectors. Best of the bunch is a terrific version of ‘The Saints And The Searchers’ which is much tighter than the ‘English’ version and features Chris Curtis solo having a whale of a time with the grunts and half-moans of the song as well as getting his teeth round the unfamiliar words.  

Well that’s it for another week. Whatever language you’re reading this in, all that remains is for us to wish you a safe journey home to your usual life and to look forward to seeing you again the next time you fly Alan’s Album Archives’. See you in a fortnight or so. Goodnight!

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