Friday, August 26, 2022


Actually, as the avid trainspotters will already have conjectured, and loudly, it is the other way around, it is Chant No.1 (We Don't Need This Pressure On), but how other the heck do I squeeze this stonking tune into the category? How can it be that this energetically funky slice of dance hall joy could come from the soon to be so very anodyne Spandau Ballet? And as for New Romanticism, whatever that was or might be, this owes more, musically, to the early posturing of Wham, themselves later capable also of saccharine drenched dreck.

I remember that time period well, as both myself and the media were scrabbling around to find the next big thing, although I dare say our parameters were somewhat different. I just needed something with a bit more wallop than the increasingly post punk power pop and new wave, each becoming overly formulaic and meh. I was still reading the inkies, Melody Maker and New Musical Express, so was open to all the hype available. I was watching the somewhat ludicrous appearance of the bright young things, hogging the limelight in and around that London town, a million miles away from the always less demonstrative Birmingham. (Altho' there were stirrings.....) The fashion didn't grab me, but, and they seemed the market leaders, that Spandau Ballet seemed to have an interesting take on combining styles and genres into an appealing musical mix.

The above, their first single, came out on Halloween's day, 1980. I liked. I can't remember whether I admitted that, but it didn't seem long before Chant came along, and it became OK to like the band. Heck, a lot of people were making that choice. I bought the debut album, not realising Chant wasn't on it. And, the singles apart, it was a tad underwhelming. Wiki now tells me that was on the second album, but that passed me by. I guess, as a newly married junior Dr, my earlier vice-like grip on the charts was losing some. So it was Gold and True that next alerted me to this band. Where had it all gone so wrong? Vapid, ainsipid ballads of the lowest common denominator, I couldn't distance myself quick enough. Of course, they sold zillions and they were everywhere. Snippets of later material came to my ears, but, the spell broken, they meant nothing to me.

Apart from being always in the playlist of any and every Gold, Platinum and whatever FM, easy listening halls of drain for children of the 70s and 80s, forever broadcasting in malls and waiting rooms, Spandau Ballet ceased to hold any consequence for me. I knew they had all sued each other, but more fool they. Until something strange occurred. In 2018, Pink Floyd drummer Nick Mason decided to get his hand back in, his day job seeming unlikely to be a thing again. He was eager to revive and revitalise the earlier late 60s and cusp of the 70s catalogue of his old band, and looked for an appropriate organ. His band, Saucerful of Secrets, named after the album, was that organ, but it was the line-up that surprised, featuring, as it did, in pole position, that of Gary Kemp. That Gary Kemp, the Spandau keyboards guy, and the writer of most their songs, the good, the bad and the indifferent. Here he would be employed on guitar and vocals. Interviews revealed him to be a true fan and, similarly, to be quite the scholar around that period of English music history. I went to see the band. They were great. HE was great, and my opinion jumped small buildings, further cemented by hearing his good natured podcasts, alongside Guy Pratt, another Secret Saucerman. Hell, his favourite record was/is Liege and Lief, the Fairport Convention record that effectively invented folk-rock. Suddenly he was again a good guy!

I still can't listen to much Spandau. But the early stuff, following my years of after the event prejudice, suddenly I can face their music and dance. That must be good, mustn't it?


Thursday, August 25, 2022

Don't: Don't You Want Me


purchase [ Dare ]

There was an article in The Guardian the other day about the influence of the C64 (that would be the mid 1980s Commodore 64 computer). The author was primarily focused on the (relative, for the times) quality of the games, but also mentioned the computer’s sound features. It is probably worth mentioning that we are talking 8-bit computing, but the C64 (and my choice back then - the ZX Spectrum) were tools that allowed some of us to compose/synthesize music on the cheap (and it sounded pretty cheap until I got my Amiga 500 with a copy of Deluxe Music.)

For those of us of that age, the Moog synthesizer was probably the best known by the public since it was more or less the first and had been around and established a name/market for “electronic music” since the 1960s.  By the 1980s (when people like myself were toying around with their home computers), professional musicians had some pretty cool electronic noise makers in their hands.

Although my 1960s childhood included listening to my parents’ Switched on Bach and an awareness of Turkish electronic composer Mimaroglu, I’m going to guess that it was the keyboards on Who’s Next that “enlightened” me. Sources suggest that this was one of the first uses of a synthesizer for more than backing sounds (says Wikipedia: “integral” as opposed to “gloss”). The year is 1971. Sure, Ray Manzarak was clearly using a synthesizer, as were the Stones and the Beatles, but the Who’s use was seminal for me.

By the time Human League was voted Best British Breakthrough in 1982, most rock/jazz  keyboards were outputting synthesized sound anyway. (it appears that there is a line dividing synthesizer from “synthesized keyboard” in that the former allows you to create your own sounds; yet, my limited research convinces me that a decent modern  “stage piano” is a “performance synthesizer”.

All this to provide background for the sound behind The Human League’s singular most famous song <Don’t You Want Me>. The group is categorized as a synthpop band - a musical form where the synthesizer is the main instrument. And while I am pretty sure that my mid-1970s self would have grossly panned the song (my go-to sound back then was Keith Jarrett style), I will admit getting a certain aural pleasure from hearing the song again and comfort from knowing I am not alone (Graham Parker and Rolling Stone magazines’ praises)

Don’t you agree that it is catchy? (160 million viewers of this clip would probably agree.)

Wednesday, August 24, 2022

Don't: Beatles songs with Don't

purchase [ White Album ]

When it appears at the start of a sentence, don’t is a command - as opposed to its use mid-sentence, where it is more of a negation of a condition. Compare: <Don't love me> as opposed to <You don't love me> or <Don't do that> vs. <You don't do that>.

Of the <don't> songs in the Beatles' repertoire, it was "Why Don't We Do It in the Road" that got me started.

The “White Album” is quirky in a number of ways. actually lists 50 things you need to know about it. Let me count a few. The minimalist cover was in itself a statement, particularly since it came on the heels of the rather gaudy cover to the Sgt Peppers album. Many of the songs were not recorded with all members of the band playing. Check out the link to loudersound for 48 more trivia about the album (I don’t want to appropriate their work, so click here)

Why Don’t We Do It in the Road (now there’s a title to test your knowledge of the rules of English capitalization!) seems to me to be quite representative of their mindset, again, in a number of ways. It is basically Paul and Ringo. The idea came to Paul in India, as did a number of the inspirations for the album. The “theme” (if said term is appropriate to a single line of lyrics) is as flippant as anything else on the album: Bungalow Bill, Rocky Raccoon, Warm Gun … It is also one of 2 songs on the album that have Don’t in the title. The song is an impressive example of how to expand something simple into something more: there is an argument to make about whether “it” could be more than what Paul saw that gave him the idea; there is the amusement that someone can “get away with” singing about “it”; there is the vocal expression that kinda culminates in the “from-the-soul” screaming line; there is the creative, abrupt ending 

Don’t Pass Me By, the other <don’t> song from the White Album is another McCartney/Starr recording without the other two, but with “crazy” violin from Jack Fallon (a one-off? is apparently a song Ringo wrote back in the early 60s.

Other Beatles’ don’ts include 

Don't let me down

Honey Don’t (Carl Perkins)

Don’t Bother Me (Them Beatles)

I Don’t Want to Spoil the Party (Acoustic Beatles Band)