Thursday, February 14, 2019


OK, so I'm going to run with this idea of a named couple a little further, given the groundswell (ha!) of acclaim to my previous post, mainly due to this also being a terrific track, long loved by me.

I am uncertain who the named Johnny and Mary might be, I can find nothing about them, but I'll wager it took a fair bit of relationship counselling, should they have ever stayed together, the lyric outlining classic partner dysfunction. It probably wasn't the John(ny) and Mary in the Dustin Hoffman/Mia Farrow film but the song could be a nice projection of their possible fate. I doubt also it was the inspiration for the 10,000 Maniacs spin-off duo of John and Mary, Lombardo and Ramsey respectively, but that at least allows a link. I always feel the song owes some little debt to the classic standard, 'Frankie and Johnny', tho' it was clearly after the failure of aforesaid counselling for that lyric to play out. I always associate them, anyway, but with upward of 256 versions of that staple, and several films, I won't pursue that one. Or not too hard, anyway.

Robert Palmer always stuck out a little from the company he kept, never quite embracing the tribalisms of any of his bands, or the image of the day. I feel he was always happier in the slick suits of his solo days than the hair and flares of earlier band Vinegar Joe. He seemed always a soul man, whether in a rock band or even in the song featured here, an early example of synth-pop. Even in, arguably, his most famous period, the MTV years of 'Addicted to Love', producing unashamedly rock anthems, as memorable to men of a certain age for the band in the video, he managed to maintain a sharp sense of funky. Indeed, his keenest work was inspired, arranged and backed by Lowell George, from deep south mavericks, Little Feat, fusing soul, jazz and country to a broad based rock and roll shuffle, together with the Meters, metronomes of the New Orleans melting pot of influences. He was also an early adopter of reggae, after moving, mid 70s, to a house nearby the famed Compass Point studios in the Bahamas. Not bad for a boy from Scarborough, on the north Yorkshire coast. It is strange to think he was considered almost an elder statesman when, in 1985, he hooked up with members of Duran Duran and from Chic, to form The Power Station, his vocals bridging the diversity of influences into a malleable fusion. All the more so when you remember he died, tragically young, at only 54, in 2003, some 15 odd years later.

Back to the song, living on after the author's death, passing through quite a few hands from Status Quo to Ellen Foley. But it is this version that lingers longest, sung by another englishman, from even further up in the north of England, another rough hewn lad happier in ties and tux, one Bryan Ferry, here fronting a rearrangement by Todd Terje, a norwegian electronic artist.

Enjoy more!

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