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Posts Tagged ‘squeeze’

In early 1979 Squeeze were climbing the charts with their breakthrough hit “Cool for Cats”. A somewhat ridiculous lyric, it featured cowboys and indians, the Sweeney and failed “posing down the pub”. My 10-year-old mates and I loved it.

A few months later they produced another 190 seconds of pop perfection with the fabulous “Up the Junction”. It felt like this was in the charts for ages, as it too reached 2, kept off the top spot by Tubeway Army’s seminal ‘Are Friends Electric?’.

I love Up the Junction. I Reckon it’s got one of the best introductions of any pop song, tells an amazing story with a beginning, middle and end, goes from Love’s Young Dream to Growing Up to Losing it All in barely 3 minutes, and has a blinding middle 8, and for the geeky among you, the middle 8 is almost exactly to the second in the middle of the song! It’s true some of the rhymes are a bit tenuous, but Chris Difford has said he harboured ambitions of being the David Bowie of Deptford, and not of all Bowie’s lyrics made complete sense…

 

Up the Junction is one of my all-time favourite songs. I love the kitchen-sink storytelling (he started me on Monday, so I had a bath on Sunday), the loss (the devil came and took me from bar to street to bookie) and the ultimate lack of remorse (I’d beg for some forgiveness but begging’s not my business).  And apparently the video was filmed in John Lennon’s kitchen…

 

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There’s a lot of guff (and good stuff too) written about what makes the perfect pop song: the hook, the riff, the beat, the rhythm, the vocals, all of the above. Seemingly at random, a discussion started today at work about the best introduction to a song. And forgive the mashed up pun, but they really shouldn’t have got me started. It only took a few of us at work and via Facebook, and suggestions were flying in from all directions.

For that reason alone, this will be an imperfect selection, but these are some of the ideas that resonated with me and, for me at least, several themes or categories emerged pretty quickly. I’d love to hear about the glaring omissions I’ve made…

The Rockin’ Riff

This is full of examples, possibly starting with The Kinks  and others, going through Heavy Rock Classics like Led Zeppelin and AC/DC, to include David Bowie, Oasis and many more. It’s a powerful statement about what’s to follow, smacking the listener in the head, a declaration of intent.

The L-o-n-g scene setter

U2 often make a habit of these, building up an atmosphere before launching into the song. The long introduction generates anticipation, often not hinting until the last seconds how the song will be constructed, so that when the themes emerge and the vocals start, we are eager to immerse ourselves in the song, like in this piece of brilliance by The Rolling Stones. Other examples come from funk and disco, like The Temptations ‘Papa was a rolling stone’, and my Guilty Pleasure…

The Very Brief, but Very Brilliant

Sometimes less is very definitely more. The two beats of Maggie May are simply brilliant. Fleetwood Mac’s Go Your Own Way similarly doesn’t bother with an introduction, simply a few muted strums before hurling us straight into the bitterness of the lyrics: Loving you wasn’t the right thing to do… The Beatles don’t even give us that with Help!. These are all seemingly sad, slightly bittersweet songs, and my chosen favourite certainly continues the theme. It’s the longest of these at nearly 9 seconds, but it’s definitely inspired by Maggie May…

The Soulful & Funky…

Stevie Wonder features strongly here, as does Michael Jackson. Curtis Mayfield’s blinding Move On Up is pretty much unmissable, and I’ve always loved loved loved this one. I’m probably committing all kinds of sins for not looking up James Brown, but a personal favourite introduction followed by just about a perfect song, comes from The Reverend Al Green…

The Big Piano Intro

These came back to me so thick and fast that they came to require their own category. For a starter…, and then apparently inspired by that killer introduction, this. As a Queen fan I shouldn’t ignore Freddie Mercury, but I am going to. On a similarly epic scale, The Boomtown Rats topped the UK charts for what seemed like months with this cheery piece of timeless pop about a classroom massacre…

As I admitted right at the start, I’ve omitted things like The Stone Roses, The Smiths, Madonna’s Ray of Light and countless others. I’d love to be held to account for my omissions. Please let me know your favourites, dear readers. But let me leave you with perhaps (at least for today) my true and actual favourite.

Nina Simone sings a capella, with a voice so rich and soulful it could melt ice at 100 yards. It’s absolutely perfect, every breath, every pause. It seems ever-so-slightly mournful, such that when she announces “…and I’m feelin’ good” we can scarcely believe her. We’ve barely an instant to reflect when in comes the band. The brass and bass belting out that descending motif, interspersed with rippling high-hat cymbals and shimmering repeated piano chords. It’s powerful yet fragile, and her voice is sublime.

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