The Power Of Love
Holly Johnson became famous as the front man and lead singer of the controversial group ‘Frankie Goes To Hollywood’. Although I was not a real fan of their music, Johnson’s powerful voice was an indication of real vocal talent. Released as a single from the top-selling album, ‘Welcome To The Pleasuredome’ in 1984, this track was very different to the commercial beats associated with them at the time. Written in part by Holly himself, and produced by the experienced Trevor Horn, this record enjoyed considerable success.
It was also used in the government campaign to promote the use of condoms, during the scare surrounding the increase in cases of A.I.D.S. He later recorded a solo version in 1999, after his split from the original group. This is a big ballad, from a man who can really sing. Now 57, Holly is still writing songs, and performing as a solo artist.
Here’s the original version. Best played loud.
Say Hello, Wave Goodbye
I have featured the British duo Soft Cell before on this blog. The vocal talents of Marc Almond have long haunted me, and this song in particular, as it conjures up images of smoky nightclubs, and old films. It is quite unusual to get torch songs sung by a man, but Almond has an old soul, and the spirit of Jaques Brel shines though this recording.
This track comes from the album ‘Non-Stop Erotic Cabaret’ released in 1981, with the single issued a year later. I bought it immediately, and couldn’t get it out of my head. Despite the synthesizer sound, it remains as a timeless ballad, beautifully rendered in Almond’s clear diction. Thirty-six years after it was recorded, I love it as much as I did then.
Marc Almond is now 60 years old, and continues to perform as a solo artist. He also occasionally collaborates with his Soft Cell partner, David Ball, though the band officially split in 1984.
Sometimes, a song comes along that is a real one-off. Something different, and hard to categorise. I am not a fan of Rap, and most Hip-Hop leaves me cold. To top it all, English voices should never rap, it just doesn’t sound right. Rapping is an American ‘thing’, and only works with that accent, in my opinion.
Ben Drew is an English actor, singer/songwriter, rapper, and producer. I firmly believe that the words ‘English’ and ‘rapper’ do not belong in the same sentence, as I have just implied. However, I like to give credit for talent, and I am always honest whenever a new song grabs my attention, and won’t leave my head, no matter how hard I try to expel it.
In 2010, Drew’s group, Plan B, released the second single from their second album. It was called ‘She Said’, and I immediately noticed it, as well as it becoming a major chart hit. The sharp-suited Drew looked the part in the promotional video, and the unusual mix of contemporary pop, retro beats, and smart lyrics made this the standout song of that year. Seven years later, I still never tire of hearing it.
Enjoy something really different, and very English.
One again, Sally has been kind enough to feature one of my posts on her delightful blog. It is a good few years old, so anyone not around back then might like to read it. If you do, please comment there, on Sally’s blog.
Here’s a link. https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/2017/10/17/posts-from-your-archives-a-good-education-by-pete-johnson/comment-page-1/#comment-108751
Thanks in advance, and best wishes to everyone. Pete.
Remember The Days Of The Old School Yard
Not many people remember Linda Lewis these days, which is a great shame. She started life at a stage school, and had some minor film roles, including the classic British film ‘A Taste of Honey'(1961), when she was aged just 11. She also loved to sing, and was soon appearing with groups as early as 1964, before changing her name, and signing a record contract with Polydor. She appeared at the first-ever Glastonbury Festival in 1970, then switched record labels to Warner Brothers. That led to her singing backing vocals with the likes of David Bowie and Cat Stevens, among others.
In 1973, she made the UK charts with the single ‘Rock A Doodle Do’, and I noticed her immediately. I bought the record, and the album it came from. In 1975, she changed labels again, to Arista records. What followed was the album ‘I’m Not A Little Girl Anymore, working with the talented Alan Toussaint. Her vocal range is amazing, and the distinctive high notes never sound strained. On that album, she featured this track, a cover of the Cat Stevens original that to my mind, is a great improvement. She released a further nine albums, and is still around today. This was her finest hour.
I have written a lot about the British musician Paul Weller on this blog. From his early days with The Jam, through to the jazzier, soulful feel of The Style Council, he continued to change styles, appearing to have a real finger on the pulse of musical trends. From a British perspective, his importance in the music scene here cannot be overstated. Not since David Bowie had one man managed to adapt and improve in this way, constantly challenging both himself, and his fans.
After the break up of the Style Council, he released his first solo album, in 1992. I bought it, and liked some of the tracks, but struggled with the direction of the music. He seemed to have lost his way, and the different themes expressed on that album failed to grab me in the same way as his previous work.
The following year, another solo album was released, called ‘Wild Wood’. I decided to give this a try, and discovered a real treat of a CD, with tracks that had a personal message, as well as some poetic lyrics. The album had a real sense to it, and managed to combine a mix of musical genres into a cohesive whole. The title track ‘Wild Wood’ has survived the years since, and remains as a testament to the ongoing talent of Weller, and his ‘London’ sound.
My love for the American band Steely Dan knows no bounds, I confess. In my recent A-Z challenge, their music featured as my top choice in more letters than I can recall. They have also been mentioned in these Significant Song posts previously, but I make no apology for showcasing another of their songs.
The band consisted of the talented duo, Donald Fagen and Walter Becker. They wrote and produced the music, calling on session musicians when they were needed. From just one word of Fagen’s distinctive vocal, their original and unique style was always instantly recognisable, and they never had any real competition.
From 1972 until 2003, they released many amazing records, both as a band, and with solo projects too.
Sadly, Walter Becker died this month, and that got me thinking once again about their huge catalogue of great songs, and the collaboration that was almost the soundtrack to my adult life.
So, this one is for Walter. Rest in peace.
“Where the Cuban gentlemen sleep all day”.