Significant Songs (61)

Handbags and Gladrags

Some songs don’t just seem to have been around for almost all of my life, they actually have been. First recorded in 1967 by Manfred Mann, (it was written by Mike D’Abo, their vocalist) the first hit version of this song was released later that year, by the English solo artist, Chris Farlowe, and also produced by D’Abo. The structure of this song is seductive, from the tinkling piano intro, to the vocals building into a crescendo, then finishing quietly. The message it contains still has relevance too. Don’t concern yourself with the fripperies of life, as they will have no importance later on.

Farlowe’s powerful vocal did the song justice, but the Londoner had neither the good looks, nor the performing flair, to achieve longevity as a recording star. Along came Rod Stewart, adding it as an album track in 1969, then achieving great success with the song as a single release, in 1972. The song became so associated with him, the origins were all but forgotten. It drifted along as one of Stewart’s repertoire until being ‘discovered’ by a new generation, in 2001. Welsh band The Stereophonics, with their excellent lead vocalist Kelly Jones, made a version true to the original. Not only was this released as a single, it was also adopted as the signature tune for the hugely popular TV series ‘The Office’, with Ricky Gervais. This gave the song a whole new purpose, and brought it a massive new audience too.

Many of those buying the new version had probably never heard of Manfred Mann, Mike D’Abo, or Chris Farlowe. Most might have regarded Rod Stewart only as an aging rocker, but with the contemporary appeal of The Stereophonics, it took off once again. For me, it brought back happy memories, of a song that I had been listening to, on and off, since I was fifteen. Here is the newer version. It is really very good, and might even be the best yet.

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6 thoughts on “Significant Songs (61)

  1. In a 2003 interview with Britain’s The Sunday Express, D’Abo, who also co-wrote The Foundations’ classic “Build Me Up Buttercup,” explained that “Handbags and Gladrags” was meant to suggest that fashion and style weren’t everything, a message that certainly bucked the trend in youth culture at the time. “I knew it was a social comment,” he said. “The moral of the song is saying to a teenage girl that the way to happiness is not being trendy. There are deeper values.” (http://www.americansongwriter.com/2014/01/rod-stewart-handbags-gladrags/)

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