Significant Songs (20)

Maid In Heaven

I have mentioned this short song elsewhere on this blog before, but I consider it worthy of individual attention in this series. I first became aware of the band, Be-Bop Deluxe in 1976, when they released the single, ‘Ships In The Night’. This unusual song seemed to fuse together so many styles, with influences of Rock, Reggae, and mainstream pop. I thought that all the vocals were excellent, and I enjoyed the obviously talented instrumentation too. When I saw the band play on TV (Old Grey Whistle Test), they appeared to be somewhat mis-matched, but the charismatic lead guitarist and vocalist, Bill Nelson, held my attention, with his sharp suits, modern look, and brilliant guitar playing. I bought the vinyl album, ‘Sunburst Finish’ but was not so impressed, as it seemed to have too many different styles. At the time, I was a lot younger, less patient, and perhaps more demanding from my groups of choice.

Many years later, and I had made a good friend at work in the Ambulance Service. He was himself an accomplished guitarist, and had played in bands, before returning to a more conventional lifestyle. We would have lots of discussions about different bands, and those we both liked, or some I didn’t like, but he did. Long evenings spent trawling through his massive music catalogue, sometimes accompanied by him playing solos and riffs on one of his guitars, introduced me to lots of new music, and many artists I had previously hardly heard of. During one such evening, in 1990, he recommended that I try Be-Bop Deluxe again, and played me an assortment of tracks. One of these was ‘Maid In Heaven’. Less than two and a half minutes long, it is almost a perfect feelgood pop/rock song, with an amazing guitar work, and powerful vocals. More importantly, at least to me, it has an unusual crescendo ending, that ‘got me’ immediately. I went out the next day, and bought the greatest hits CD, ‘Raiding The Divine Archive’.

Later that week, I was doing some cleaning in the small house I lived in, in London’s reclaimed Docklands. I put this CD on, and when it got to track three, I started to leap around, wearing only a pair of boxer shorts. As the song reached its climactic finale, I leapt on to the sofa, performing manic air guitar with a tin of spray polish and a duster. As the track finished, I looked out the window to my right, and saw a group of women with prams and toddlers, all staring, slack-jawed at the sight of this unattractive 38 year old, performing in his underwear.

I should have been mortified, but I wasn’t. Some music is just that good.

Here is the band performing live on the BBC. I have also added the track as it is heard on the album, so that you can emulate my performance in my living room that day… I hope that you enjoy them both.

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