Monday, November 28, 2011

"I'm In Love With a German Film Star"

I make no apologies for repeating some of the songs that were first featured, oh, a lifetime ago. When I started out doing SongsWithoutWhich, I was more interested in creating lists, in just getting through my collection of songs as fast as possible, adding only the briefest of comments. In the intervening seven years (sevenfuckingyears? holycow) as you might observe, the style has loosened up a little, and the content wanders all over the place, which is, of course, just fine. But many of the first hundred or so songs I blogged are deserving of more... consideration. Or at least a longer ramble.

Since this blog started we've had Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, the Blogger vs Wordpress debate, several wars, a few hundred natural disasters and two (or is it three?) recessions. Since this blog started, we've had some good music created. And some really, really bad music. I suppose it's customary for every generation to discuss the Infinite Monkeys Theory and try to establish whether we have, in fact, experienced all the good tunes. Of course, that's a preposterous suggestion. I mean, there are notes out there that nobody (with the possible exception of Hendrix) has even tried to play yet. So we're good for another fifty-odd years, right?

Most of the songs I've put up here are in my list because they're great tunes, wonderful lyrical confections, or because they just make me Feel Something. They're outside time, if you like. But others are here, in part, because they are intimately connected with a particular place, a particular time. I can't listen to "Electricity" by Orchestral Manoeuvres In The Dark without being transported back to a dark, chrome-and-plastic emporium near Leicester Square where, with a couple of friends from school, I would spend hours Trying To Be Cool. Failed dismally, of course, but that song seems to chronicle the depths of adolescent insecurity for me.

*This* song is another such. The moment the opening chords gently loom out of the speakers, I'm taken to a damp apartment in Paris, where I spent a year studying and pretending to be a writer. I remember this song being in heavy rotation on a local station (95.2 FM, it was) and I liked it so much I recorded it off the radio onto a flaky mix tape. I seem to remember this track segued into "Rock & Roll Girls" by John Fogerty. Hey, that's just the way it fell.

There are a whole slew of songs that I still enjoy from that year, most of them French: "Dans la Rue" by Polnareff, "Tombe Pour La France" by Etienne Daho, and in particular, "No Sell Out" by Malcolm X and Keith LeBlanc, and the French version which had old clips of Charles de Gaulle speeches over some fairly anonymous techno stuff. Les Patriotes, I think the group was.

But they all fade into relative obscurity next to this song. This is so studied, so rehearsed, so....artificial. And for all that it's perfect. The idea of feckless teenagers, or even disaffected 20-somethings, copping poses and attitudes is not new, but it's never been better expressed in a musical medium than this. The vocal is just this side of bored (check), the lyric admires a suitably exotic and foreign artist (check), the song is spare and laid-back (check), with plenty of moody echo (check). If you ever wanted a song that encompassed the whole concept of the teenage search for identity and peer group acceptance, then this is it.

The best part for me is that this song first came out in 1981, while I heard it repeatedly in Paris four years later. Which suggests that the French were not really all *that* when it comes to catching on to something good. Nor was I, for that matter.

1 comment:

Uncle E said...

Funny you should mention OMD. No other band can transport me back to my early teens better than that band. It is Messages that really7 does it for me.