Sometimes, a song doesn’t have to be meaningful and important. It doesn’t have to be the product of a tortured soul, a wonderful lyricist, or a person who makes poetry into music. Very often, the simplest ditty can make your spirits rise every time you hear it, and give a lift to your day.
That time comes to eschew the musical snobbery, forget that lifetime of serious musical appreciation, and search inside that list of guilty pleasures, and just admit you enjoy something popular. To be honest, my own list of what might be considered to be ‘unworthy songs’ is very short. I have taken the whole thing very seriously, I assure you, at least most of the time.
So when a song just gets into my head, and I find myself humming random parts of it when I least expect it, my usual reaction is to go into denial. I would happily assert that the reason the song is so catchy is one of the main reasons it is also a bad song. Not something I would buy of course, nor readily associate myself with it. But I am older now, and less easily embarrassed by such things. I am more positive, and perhaps have an honesty once denied by a careful youth.
With that in mind, I offer this as perhaps the perfect example of a mindless pop song, but one that I am now happy to broadcast as being on my mind, more often that I care to admit. Hard to believe it is seventeen years ago.
Go for it, Kylie!
Stairway To Heaven
In 1971, I was working in the retail side of the music business, in central London record shops. Led Zeppelin were already well known, and hugely successful, and their long anticipated fourth album was due to be released. Customers were coming in and placing advance orders, paying in full to be sure of reserving their copy. Rarely had there been such a buzz about a record, not since Pink Floyd’s ‘Atom Heart Mother’ had I seen such a buying frenzy.
Back then, Led Zeppelin wasn’t my kind of thing at all. I was steeped in Soul music, the emerging Funk bands, and some of the west coast American groups. I found Led Zeppelin to be too ‘heavy’ for my taste, though the talent of the band members was undeniable. When the untitled album arrived, known to all as ‘Led Zepp 4’ at the time, we played it constantly, with a speaker blasting out the new tracks into the street outside.
One of the tracks really got into my mind. Eight minutes long, and with a more complex construction, ‘Stairway To Heaven’ remained playing in my head, long after I had finished work and arrived home. Over the decades since, it has often been a choice I have requested, when at the home of friends who owned that album. (I never did buy it) And for some reason, I woke up with it on my mind this morning.
On a dull winter’s day in Beetley, I was transported back to the autumn of 1971, and listening to something amazing, from a band I didn’t even like.
This You Tube post has already had well over 1,000,000 hits, but I have only discovered it today. I was thinking about featuring the American group Talking Heads on my Significant Songs series, when I came across this cleverly-constructed video.
I have no axe to grind about Mr Trump. As far as I am concerned most US politicians are as bad as each other, and I never expect anything of any of them. But this is really well-done, and combines the best of both worlds. The clever lyrics of the genius who is David Byrne, and a funny satire on a very self-important man.
See what you think.
Sometimes, the popular image of a young singer can make you forget just how good they are. In my case, this applied to Christina Aguilera. I didn’t take a lot of notice of her early hits. A pleasant pop song, a pretty American girl, that was about it. At least as far as I was concerned. She had been a child star, and like some others of her generation, her looks assured she got enough attention to keep her career going into her teens.
Then in 2002, still aged just 22, she released a new album, ‘Stripped’. As the singles were released from this, and I began to hear them played constantly on the radio, I had to completely reassess my opinion of her. The vocals were quite literally amazing. There was such power coming out, it was hard to marry the voice to that tiny frame. This was something special indeed, and with professional promotional videos taking the songs to a cinematic level too.
She continued her very successful career to this day. On the way, she managed (along with others) to do something rare. The cover of ‘Lady Marmalade’ with Pink. Li’l Kim, and Maya, took on a classic track, and equalled it. For some, it was better than the original, and the sexy, sassy video certainly made for great viewing. Here it is, as a bonus. Well done, Christina.
This is a strange one. In April 2000, I was 48 years old. It goes without saying that I was a long way off the target market for a pop single in the ‘UK Garage’ genre. But I heard this song on my car radio, and couldn’t get it out of my head.
The two girls performing the song were called Sweet Female Attitude, and I had never heard of them before, though I later discovered they had been around since 1996. I saw the video promoting the song on TV, and also the duo performing live, on a TV music show. I was suitably impressed by their enthusiasm, and I also liked the fact that they looked just like two ‘normal’ girls you could see on any street.
This was destined to be a one-hit wonder though, reaching number two in the charts, and receiving countless plays. Their follow-up single disappeared without trace, and so it seemed did the two girls.
Whenever I hear this song now, it always makes me feel happy. And despite the seventeen years that have passed, it feels as up to date as ever.
When I was just 15, I heard a new song from Scott Walker. He had recently split from The Walker Brothers, and this was a single released from his first solo album. It was a strange song, very theatrical in feel, as if from a show. It had unusual lyrics, and you certainly couldn’t dance to it. However, Walker’s powerful vocals and the infectious chorus guaranteed that this song became stuck in my mind, so I bought the single soon after.
Much later, I discovered that it was a cover version, an English translation of the original French song, written and performed by the Belgian singer/songwriter, Jacques Brel. I sought out Brel’s version, and got it on an album of equally unusual songs, most of which appealed to me for their very different construction to the popular songs of the day.
Then in 1991, former Soft Cell vocalist Marc Almond also recorded his version of ‘Jacky’, and I bought the album that came from. In almost a quarter of a century, the appeal of this song had never died for me, and I ended up owning three versions, including that original. I still love to hear them now.
Which one do you prefer?
Craig David is a British Soul and R&B singer. He is not only a very good singer/songwriter, but also a very nice guy, who comes across so well in interviews. I first encountered his talent when he was a guest vocalist with the band ‘Artful Dodger’ in 1999, and they featured his vocals on ‘Rewind’, from their amazing debut album, ‘It’s All About The Stragglers’. A year later, he went solo, releasing his own album ‘Born To Do It’.
The Southampton-based singer has since released many albums, and collaborated with artists like Sting, and Rita Ora. He continues to perform to this day, now aged just 36. This song is the second single release from his debut album, and hit the charts in 2000. So I have loved it for over seventeen years.