Sunday, February 16, 2014
She Loves You
Back on 27th August 1990 a new BBC radio station hit the airwaves, it was called BBC Radio 5. The station was a mixture of news, plays, childrens programmes, phone-ins and a long forgotten radio soap set in South London. On Monday 28th March 1994 the station was re branded and relaunched as BBC Radio Five Live, the BBC's response to a 'demand' for rolling news, it provoked much anger among the existing listeners who felt that this was a betrayal of trust on the part of the BBC and even to this day the BBC still fails to even recognise the need for a place on the network for mothers and children.
Anyway back to that soap, it was called The Mall and featured a cameo performance by a young singer called Sarah Cracknell. Cracknell was, and is, one third of the London band Saint Etienne and her role in the show was simply, or so it seemed, to shamelessly plug the bands second album So Tough. The plug worked for me at least and So Tough began a twenty year (and counting) love affair with the band, the musical nous of Pete Wiggs and Bob Stanley and in Miss Cracknell the closest we have in the U.K to a French Ye! Ye! girl voice.
Bob Stanley published his second solo book towards the end of last year: Yeah, Yeah, Yeah - The Story of Modern Pop. At 776 pages long it could come in useful as a barrier against rising floods in the weeks to come but primarily it is a work lovingly put together by somebody who not only cares about pop music but who also appreciates its place in the social history of those countries where it has set down its roots. It begins at the end of World War Two and ends, or rather peters out, around 2003 when digital downloads had begun to take over physical purchases of singles.
It is a book that needs to be read at least twice, once to appreciate the sheer breadth of the subject and again to allow the reader to place various bookmarks on the pages where there are references to tracks that have either been forgotten with the passing of time or simply not known about because of the availability of so much music, particularly in the post 'pirates' era of British radio broadcasting.
Although they probably didn't realise it at the time, the opening up of the airwaves to a variety of radio stations over the last fifty years may well have destroyed forever the communal experience of hearing a certain track for the first time but it democratised the listening habits of each successive generations, no longer were we subjects to be played to by a few men on ships off the Essex coast but the financial clout and technical knowledge of those employed by the BBC enabled audiences to listen to a whole smorgasbord of music. Well that's my take on it for what its worth.
Bob Stanley is first and foremost a music fan, no make that a pop music fan. He's one of us, it's all in the melody, the hook, those jangly guitars or those beautiful backing vocals, that phrasing or, in the case of the Small Faces Itchycoo Park, that phasing. We have all begun our musical history and pleasures in the cradle of pop music, those three minutes of pure distilled exhilaration. For me it was, so family legend has it, a tennis racket on the back step of my Grandmothers house in East London singing my head off to, inevitably, 'She Loves You'. The Beatles changed music forever, it's no exaggeration to say that and as Stanley demonstrates that the most famous phrase in popular music, from which the book takes it title, ended the pop careers of many acts from The Shadows, via Elvis Presley to Billy Fury and the famous Brill building writers in New York.
There are so many stories, facts, nuggets across the vast acreage of popular music that it isn't possible to select one chapter at the expense of another except to say that those chapters that deal with 'Glam' and 'Punk' certainly demonstrate perfectly that Britain and America really are two countries (for the purpose of this argument) divided by a common (musical) language.
I can see that this is a book which will be kept alongside my keyboard for months, possibly years as I delve in and out locating various obscure tracks that are now available, in many cases for the first time in decades, thank to the digital age. As one of the cover notes suggests, this book is "an extraordinary piece of work. scholarly, witty and painstakingly researched".
Posted by Paul at 2:29 PM