96. The Funniest Thing by Tom Verlaine

 

 

In the late 1980s the Television guitarist and frontman Tom Verlaine made a couple of albums for Fontana, Flash Light (1987) and The Wonder (released 1990 but allegedly made a couple of years earlier). Neither is considered by fans to be among Verlaine’s best solo work, but they have always meant a lot to me, Flash Light especially, because they were the first Verlaine albums I heard – I’m pretty sure I heard them before even Marquee Moon, which is ludicrous, like hearing Red Rose Speedway before Sergeant Pepper, but there you go.

I came to Verlaine as a Lloyd Cole fan seeking the well of Cole’s inspiration. The scale of Cole’s apparent borrowing from Verlaine shocked me at the time, but my sense now is that Verlaine was aware of Cole, who was on an affiliated label (Polydor) and would end up on Fontana himself a few years later, and that this awareness drove him to amplify mannerisms he noticed Cole emulating. Cole discussed his admiration for (and soul-bruising encounter with) Verlaine in a 2009 post on his website. Asked diplomatically whether there had been ‘controversy about their voices’, ie their similarity, Cole responded:

There wasn’t really any controversy with Tom. He was a huge hero of mine and when we were recording Rattlesnakes (1984) he was working with the same photographer we were, Peter Anderson. I asked Peter to see if Tom might want to visit us in the studio. Well, I won’t do that again. [Verlaine] was an embittered figure when we met him and this experience provided me with the negative role model of the man I hoped never to become. Shortly thereafter our version of Tom’s Glory [from the second Television album, Adventure] was released on the B-side of Forest Fire and for some reason or other, at this time, Tom wasn’t able to benefit financially from this. This misfortune became our fault, apparently. 

Then a year or so later, when Tom was releasing his latest solo album (one of the good ones, I might add – the first one he made for David Bates [head of A&R at Fontana. The album LC means is Flash Light]), some journalist made the hideous error of comparing Tom’s singing to mine. He wasn’t amused. Word got around that Tom thought I had ripped off his style… Well, I let it be known that I’d love to play guitar like Tom, but if I thought I sang like him then I might think of getting another job. Listening to the Television records today, I stand by that – everything is as good as it could possibly be, except for the singing. There you have it.

This is fascinating, if slightly unfair about Verlaine’s voice which, while not as rich or robust as Cole’s, is still distinctive and serves the material well. Would Cole say the same thing about Bob Dylan’s voice? Of course not.

(If you want another story about Verlaine turning up at a studio in a weird mood and freaking people out, read this from Chris O’Leary’s incredible Bowie blog Pushing Ahead of the Dame.)

Verlaine’s 1984 album Cover, his last for Virgin, doesn’t sound anything like Lloyd Cole. It’s post-punk angular; like Talking Heads but with fewer hummable tunes and Verlaine’s guitar set throughout to ‘buzz-saw’. (Lots of people think it’s his best solo record. I’m not sure. But then I don’t think Speaking In Tongues is Talking Heads’ best record. If that makes any sense.) Move on a couple of years, though, and it’s hard to hear a song like Flash Light’s The Funniest Thing without thinking of Cole’s delivery on Rattlesnakes’ Down On Mission Street or even Minor Character from the mostly soporific Easy Pieces (1985).

The Funniest Thing’s spring-loaded verse gives way to a jaunty, swaggering chorus that always reminds me of Julie Burchill’s deadly slap-down of Rattlesnakes: ‘I have no need of a Country & Western Velvet Underground.’

Watching you mix up the paint

Brush away the questions now

Ask another favour of whoever

You say it’s failure not contempt

That makes an honest fool of you

I think I’ll use a lighter blue

There’s a reason for that

But I don’t want to talk much about it

Isn’t that the funniest thing

The song seems, fittingly, to be about the tension between pure artistic instinct and commercial compromise. Two artists are painting together, analysing their respective approaches and insecurities. One prefers to explain motivation, the other to keep silent on the grounds that what matters, what needs above all to be captured, is the inarticulate speech of the heart. The lyric then morphs opaquely into a relationship lyric, a Blood On The Tracks-type lyric. (I’d concur absolutely with Matt Cibula’s admission in a piece he wrote on Verlaine for Pop Matters that ‘there are plenty of things on Flash Light that are hard for me to listen to because they are so nakedly emotional and strange’.) It works beautifully, and the clear, chiming guitar solo is like the purest mountain air; yet also keening and unconsoled.

Patti Smith: ‘Tom plays guitar like a thousand bluebirds screaming.’

 

IMG_2400

The way Verlaine tells it, he was actually behind Phonogram’s late-1980s reactivation of Fontana. In a 2006 interview with Pop Culture Press magazine he is quite rude about David Bates, so I’m quoting selectively here for fear of repeating a libel:

I was on Virgin and this guy from Phonogram kept calling me and so I had dinner with him and I made a deal to get off of Virgin and get onto Phonogram, and I said ‘Don’t you own the Fontana name?’ and he said ‘I think we do’ and I said ‘Well, why don’t we start Fontana over because it’s such a cool logo and it’s a neat thing, and [it had] people like Scott Walker and Miles Davis had that soundtrack album on it…’

But predictably, it didn’t work out.

[Fontana] just had crazy ideas about commerciality, which is basically just mixing and mixing and mixing, and this is the horror of the whole modern record business – getting the guy who mixed the latest hits from blah-blah to mix your record and thus ensure it will be played on the radio when the mix will have nothing to do with what you actually want or are doing. Plus, all of these people overcharge like crazy.

One’s instinct is to sympathise with Verlaine. But just to be fair: Fontana had a bracingly eclectic roster in the late 1980s/early 1990s on which The Lilac Time, Cocteau Twins, Pere Ubu, Tom Tom Club and Julian Cope sat alongside James, Robert Plant, Oleta Adams and Tears For Fears. Verlaine was in good, sympathetic company – potentially, at least. From what I can gather, the tipping point in terms of tension was Tears For Fears being reassigned to Fontana from Mercury for Sowing The Seeds Of Love (1989), a bloated mastodon which sucked up all available marketing oxygen and now stands proud as a symbol of the decadence of the recorded music industry in its short-lived imperial phase (approx 1985-1998). Though spare a thought for Tears For Fears themselves, who didn’t enjoy their stint as Biggest Band In The World and were engagingly honest about this whole period when interviewed for Lori Majewski and Jonathan Bernstein’s entertaining new book Mad World: An Oral History of New Wave Artists and Songs That Defined the 1980s. Roland Orzabal: ‘I had absolutely no sense – no commercial sense and no business sense – and no-one was really arguing with me.’

But we shall come to Tears For Fears presently.

So how did Fontana’s ‘crazy ideas about commerciality’ impact negatively on Flash Light and The Wonder? In the case of Flash Light, it’s hard to say. The band are familiar faces: Jimmy Ripp on guitar (allegedly – Verlaine has since denied it), Allen Schwartzberg on drums, Fred Smith on bass. The album is nominally produced by Verlaine and Smith. The exception is The Scientist Writes A Letter, which has Andy Newmark on drums and was recorded in London at Sarm West with Tears For Fears’ engineer Dave Bascombe co-producing. It’s an understated but moving song in the form of a scientist’s farewell letter to the lover he has found he cannot share with his work (‘Unless chance finds us face to face again/This is the last you’ll hear from me…’), not dissimilar in tone to My October Symphony from Pet Shop Boys’ Behaviour (1990). The tidal washes of cheap-sounding synth spoil it for me (and I have a high tolerance for cheap-sounding synths), but apart from that, and allowing for the late-1980s weakness for thumping, compressed drums, nothing about the mix for Flash Light by Paul O’Duffy screams ‘offensive’ to me from this distance.

IMG_2399

Verlaine hated it, though; hated it even more than the mix for The Wonder, which to my ears is much more dated and clunky: ‘In terms of a sound thing, maybe half of The Wonder isn’t as bad in terms of a mix as Flash Light is. I still like those songs and he [O’Duffy] couldn’t screw it up too much because what’s on tape is what’s on tape, but certainly putting in all of these drum samples doesn’t help it.’

(O’Duffy has had considerable success as a producer, overseeing albums like Curiosity Killed The Cat’s Keep Your Distance (1987) and Swing Out Sister’s It’s Better To Travel (1987), neither of which I’m guessing Verlaine has on his iPod. More recently, he worked with Amy Winehouse, co-writing Wake Up Alone on Back To Black (2006). It’s probably fair to say that Flash Light wasn’t the kind of album he woke in the middle of the night with a raging desperation to mix.)

Here, for comparison, is August from The Wonder – lugubrious arthouse funk in the style of Duran Duran’s Notorious (1986) which sounded hideously dated in 1990, though a kind of flattening effect pertains with shifts in pop vernacular whereby you notice them a little less with each passing year. Anyway, Fontana packed The Wonder off to Julian Mendelsohn for mixing. You can guess how that must have gone down.

Verlaine: I did the record in the States, turned it in, heard nothing from the label and I figured that they’d thrown me off and I called somebody in England who said ‘You’d better call your label’ and I called the label and they said ‘Oh, your record’s coming out in two weeks. Didn’t someone talk to you about coming over here?’ I said ‘No-one ever told me that the record’s coming out.’ I asked who mixed it and she said, ‘You don’t know anything about it…?’ 

Here, to conclude, is Verlaine playing two songs from Flash Light on The Tube in 1987, backed by another David Bates act, Love And Money. In 1992 Television reformed – an event I will deal with in a later post.

 

 

 

Standard

97. You Better You Bet by The Who

In 1985, Keith Richards stoked one of the disgruntlements which had led to The Who splitting up two years earlier when he told a journalist that ‘in actual fact, Pete [Townshend] made better Who records than The Who’: ‘He used to go [to the studio] with the album already finished and the rest would simply come up with some dubs, but his was ten times better than the finished product. It was a matter of them imitating what Peter had already laid out, kinda Hitchcockish.’

From the mid-1980s onwards, Pete Townshend released his famed, often home-recorded demos, on which he played all the instruments, as the Scoop series of albums. Inventive and intricate, they seemed to support Richards’ theory, as well as Who’s Next producer Glyn Johns’ assertion that by 1978 and Who Are You – the album on which Johns was replaced with Jon Astley after Roger Daltrey punched him for adding strings to Had Enough – Townshend’s demos had moved beyond the point where they were readily reproducible by the band. (The reason The Music Must Change has footsteps as percussion is that Keith Moon couldn’t master the 6/8 time signature.)

My single of You Better You Bet, bought from WH Smith in Newbury in 1981. Look closely and you can see where, when I was ten, I scratched 'EMI' next to the Polydor logo because I liked the idea of The Who being on EMI like The Beatles. Weird child.

My single of You Better You Bet, bought from WH Smith in Newbury in 1981. Look closely and you can see where, when I was ten, I scratched ‘EMI’ next to the Polydor logo because I liked the idea of The Who being on EMI like The Beatles. Weird child.

 

Townshend’s demo of The Who’s last Top Ten single You Better You Bet is a case in point. All the key elements are present: the falsetto backing vocals, sharp against a gauzy backdrop of fingerpicked Rickenbacker; the boogie-woogie piano; the beautifully structured middle section with its jazzy Andy Summers chords; the basic, metronomic drumming… Townshend sings in a strained yelp – probably, as one YouTube commenter has suggested, to show Daltrey where to place emphasis. Or he might just have been drunk.

Bassist John Entwistle’s response to Richards’ slur was blistering; horribly revealing, too, about the level of mistrust within the band. He accused Townshend of encouraging the impression that he and Moon had contributed little by going back and doctoring his demos so that they resembled the finished recordings:

[He] made them even better, so it sounded like we’d copied what he’d done. You have to realise that Keith and me, as individuals, were each at the top of his instrument, so there’s no way we’d have just copied the demo. That’s what used to irritate me about [Richards’ accusation]. Complete bullshit. Roger changed bits of melody line and stuff. Songs would end up co-written but the Townshend, he wouldn’t split it between us. Maybe if The Who had taken an equal cut of the publishing, the group might still be together. But hey, some people don’t have to work and some people do.

Actually, Entwistle’s contribution to You Better You Bet is significant. I can’t find any footage of him that isolates the bass enough to convey the detail in his playing, but the guy in this clip copies him very faithfully, though without the tapping power that inspired Entwistle’s nickname, Thunderfingers…

You Better You Bet is barely a Who song at all, more a gesture in the direction of New Wave; closer in sound and spirit to Townshend’s first solo album Empty Glass, which Keith Moon’s replacement Kenney Jones had played on, and the more synth-driven conceits on its follow-up All The Best Cowboys Have Chinese Eyes than to anything The Who had recorded before.

Its function was to repurpose The Who for the 1980s as a radio-friendly pop band and make the best of such hole-in-one downers as Moon’s death in 1978 from an overdose of the anti-alcoholism drug Heminevrin; the Cincinnati stadium stampede that killed 11 Who fans in December 1979; Townshend’s addictions to alcohol, cocaine and heroin; and his and Entwistle’s collapsing marriages.

But could The Who be repurposed? In their mid-thirties but looking older (though not as paunchy and haggard as 32-year-old Moon had looked in the months before his death), they were, in pre-Live Aid ’80s-rock terms, middle-aged, and struggling to reconcile the competing demands of old fans who wanted Who’s Next Part Two and the latter-day mods who had discovered them via The Jam and Franc Roddam’s film of Quadrophenia.

Photos from this period (1980-83) show Townshend trying out a variety of post-punk looks – Stray Cat, Blitz Kid, neckerchief’d rock gypsy. This sartorial uncertainty became a running theme in songs like Daily Records, Slit Skirts and Uniforms (Corp d’Esprit). In his memoir, Who I Am, Townshend talks about his obsession with The Clash, who he would join on stage at Brighton Centre in January 1980 and who supported The Who on their ‘final’ US tour in 1982:

I thought The Clash were spectacular… I took to wearing baggy suits and brothel-creepers, piling my thinning hair on top of my head like a rocker. Always a pretty good dancer, I stopped idiot-dancing and danced like Mick Jones and Paul Simenon… At 34 I was still just about young enough to pull it off.

If Townshend was seduced by the idea of The Clash as a happy gang, he certainly had no interest in replicating their scrappy sound. He had, after all, put up with enough scrappy playing during the making of Who Are You, when Moon’s drumming was ‘so uneven that recording was almost impossible’. In Kenney Jones he had found the anti-Moon, a ‘fundamental backbone drummer’ whose ability to keep time was more important than his inability to do flashy rolls. (Literary critic James Wood’s smirking devaluation of Jones’ playing is all very well, but his ‘little eunuch toms’ served a purpose.)

You Better You Bet comes on like a would-be New Wave anthem – Elvis Costello must have been an influence: John ‘Rabbit’ Bundrick’s flamboyant piano lines certainly give Steve Nieve a run for his money – but without the stompy, speedy belligerence that makes so much of Stiff’s output sound so dated and boring and sonically half-baked. Its author obviously wanted it (and its host album Face Dances) to sound tidy and polished – to have something of the glacial beauty of Steely Dan’s Gaucho, which had come out the year before and set a new standard for obsessive studio perfectionism. In this way The Who became for Townshend a ‘new opportunity, one I could never have taken had Keith lived on’.

The producer Townshend approached to work on Face Dances reflected this New Professionalism. Bill Szymczyk was a one-time sonar operator in the US Navy whose work with The Eagles had helped to define the clean, dry sound of 1970s West Coast rock.

Like Glyn Johns, Szymczyk had started out as an engineer. Johns had helped the squabbling Beatles assemble the album that became Let It Be. Szymczyk was house engineer at the Hit Factory on Seventh Avenue, working with producer Jerry Ragavoy on records by Dusty Springfield and Dionne Warwick. His connection to The Eagles was via Joe Walsh, who he had produced since Walsh was in The James Gang and who shared a manager with The Eagles (Irving Azoff). He joined the team for On The Border, replacing Glyn Johns, and stayed for the duration.

Different producers have different ways of recording drums. The Glyn Johns Method – it’s actually known as this – involved using four microphones: two overhead mics, one kick mic and one snare mic. This results in a fat, balanced sound with a fair amount of room ambience – Johns used it to record both Moon and John Bonham. The Bill Szymczyk Method uses a whopping eight microphones, which Don Henley preferred because it catches more detail while cutting room ambience to a minimum.

Szymczyk was also a big fan of what’s known as ‘comping’ – recording multiple versions of a performance, then editing together the best bits. As Szymczyk pointed out to Sound On Sound:

Remember, this was before the days of build-a-record, where you start with a click track and then do things piece by piece. We may have gone back and replaced a guitar or keyboard part, but my way of doing things was to record numerous takes, select the five or six best ones and use the very best parts from all that. So I did a lot of two-inch tape editing, and I know for sure that on Hotel California there were 33 edits on the two-inch master… At this stage in their career, The Eagles were pursuing perfection… This might refer to replacing one drum fill with another fill that was a little better… the stuff people now do in Pro Tools every day.

With The Eagles, Szymczyk would do five takes of a lead vocal, then go through them picking out lines, phrases and even single words. Background and harmony vocals were recorded ensemble around a single microphone on to two or three tracks, then subtly panned in the mix to give depth. Sometimes he would have them sing the same phrase for three hours to get it right.

Bill Szymczyk with Kenney Jones during the recording of Face Dances

Bill Szymczyk with Kenney Jones during the recording of Face Dances

Did these methods work for The Who? Up to a point. Face Dances has a dry, bright feel quite unlike any other Who record, and personally I love the sound he got from Entwistle. But it doesn’t rock. The guitar is polite, restrained, often mixed way back. The drums are too clean. And a lot of the time Daltrey doesn’t sound like himself, possibly because of the way Szymczyk has recorded his voice, possibly because he’s finding the songs’ subject matter hard to buy into. (More on this later.)

Bill Szymczyk: ‘Face Dances was the first album that I had made outside the US. Everything [about The Who] was new [ie new drummer, new label in the US] so they wanted a new producer, and Pete and I had hinted to each other over the years that we would like to make a record together. One of his favourite albums is Hotel California, and really, that’s what got me the job with them, that album. Your reputation goes before you, and it’s like, “You hear the way that sounds? Do that to me.” But I felt like I’d crawled into the forest and couldn’t see the trees.’

John Entwistle: ‘We’d do the backing tracks in groups of three. We’d do three and then take a break and then do three more of the same thing. I think that the backing tracks took us ages for that album. Then he’d take a group of three of the best ones and cut them to little pieces and stick them back together again. I mean, the tape would go round and it would be stripped, editing bits out. It was kind of a strange way of doing it for The Who… We were doing stuff like, “I prefer that bit because of the bass and there’s a good drum break there. I want that bit.” It just seemed an incomplete way of recording.’

Roger Daltrey: ‘Listen to the drums on that album and you tell me if they’re any fucking good.’

Kenney Jones: ‘The chemistry of the band and producer wasn’t right. The sound was too laid-back, like rubber.’

Townshend seems to have been in a terrible state around this time. Dramatic stories about his drug use abound. In September 1981, six months after Face Dances came out, he collapsed in Club For Heroes from a heroin overdose while drinking with Paul Weller and Steve Strange: ‘When they carried me into the hospital, I was dark blue. The nurse actually had to rip off my shirt outside the hospital and beat me back to life.’

Fed up, his wife Karen had kicked him out of the family home. He was living in hotels and private members’ clubs and having affairs, some of which he chronicled in songs. You Better You Bet is about his relationship with a woman called Jackie Vickers: ‘I lay on the bed with you/We could make some book of records/Your dog keeps licking my nose/And chewing up all those letters…’ (Athena, the flop lead single from 1982’s It’s Hard, is about his deranged-sounding obsession with the actress Theresa Russell. The demo is actually called Theresa.)

It must have been tough for his family, hearing these songs. The most heartbreaking bit in Who I Am is when Townshend prints a card that his daughter Minta sent him: ‘I miss you very much and I wish you would come home… I heard You Better You Bet on the radio and I like it. It’s not fair! Everybody else has got a dad who comes home at night.’

It must have been weird, too, for Roger Daltrey, being the mouthpiece for songs so personal they often seem to be written in a private code, or at least to refer to specific incidents that the songs fail to universalise. (‘I showed up late one night with a neon light for a visa…’ Eh?)

The Who work best when Daltrey is able to channel Townshend’s lyrics successfully, making them his own as he does on Who’s Next, Tommy and Quadrophenia. The wheels started to come off around 1975’s The Who By Numbers. On Face Dances, Daltrey sounds thoroughly confused as he works his way through songs about identifying with flashers (How Can You Do It Alone), being so drunk that you wake up hungover in a zoo (Cache Cache), being so drunk that someone steals all your money (Did You Steal My Money) and the terrible impact of touring on his marriage (Daily Records): ‘And they say it’s just a stage in life/But I know by now the problem is a stage…’

On You Better You Bet, though, it all comes briefly together. Tight and fluent, but with enough jagged edges to keep it interesting, it’s by far the best track on Face Dances, arguably better than anything on the undeservedly loathed It’s Hard, and on March 7 1981 it entered the UK Top 40 where it would peak at Number 9.

Standard

98. Shanghai’d In Shanghai by Nazareth

When I was a child in the late 1970s – slowly becoming pop-aware but not yet at the stage of watching Top Of The Pops or listening in a focused way to the radio – I had a mono HMV box record player, three albums (The Seekers’ greatest hits, Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture and the Barry Gray Orchestra playing themes from Gerry Anderson shows) and a clutch of singles either inherited from my much older half-brother when he left home or bought for me from junk shops. The first single bought for me – my sister and I were never given pocket money; we always had to ask for things and the answer was usually ‘no’ – when it was actually in the charts was The Who’s You Better You Bet, of which much more later. But before that, my collection consisted of:

Something’s Happening by Herman’s Hermits

Soppy, marimba-heavy chugalong with single entendre lyrics (it’s about getting an erection) from pop’s most unlikely hotel-wreckers, arranged by Led Zep’s John Paul Jones and produced by Mickie Most. A reworking of an Italian song called Luglio by Riccardo Del Turco, it reached number 6 in December 1968.

Mary Had A Little Lamb by Wings

For ages this 1972 single was thought to be a sarcastic response to the BBC’s banning of the ‘political’ Give Ireland Back To The Irish earlier in the year. But in 1980 McCartney insisted that wasn’t so – he’d just wanted to write a rock song for children. Actually, with its charmingly clumpy piano, mandolin and Heather and Mary baa-ing away on backing vocals, it’s by no means the worst thing he’s done. It is, for example, better than every song on Press To Play – I state this with confidence, having listened to Press To Play all the way through this afternoon just so I could make the point.

Little White Bull by Tommy Steele

From the soundtrack of Tommy The Toreador, a 1959 film about a British sailor who tries to become a bullfighter after his ship docks in Spain. Steele starred alongside Sid James, Bernard Cribbins, Kenneth Williams and Eric Sykes. The seeds of my all-consuming Bowie Love were sown here.

Side Saddle by Russ Conway

The massively popular ’50s honky-tonk pianist – a big influence on the playing style of Elton John, who sent a wreath to his funeral – was almost entirely self-taught. At 16 he joined the Merchant Navy where he lost the tip of the third finger of his right hand in a bread slicer. Side Saddle, originally written as a stately gavotte for a TV adaptation of Beauty And The Beast. was Number One for four weeks in March 1959 after Conway had honky’d it up a bit.

Ticket To Ride by The Beatles

My favourite Beatles song, probably. Later, later, later, LATER! Pay attention to Ringo’s drumsticks in this clip because he isn’t.

Give A Little Love by Bay City Rollers

The Rollers’ second and last UK Number One. It’s a pleasant enough doo-wop-inflected ballad, but destined to be remembered less for its musical virtues than for the fact that Derek Longmuir and his drum kit levitated above the rest of the band as they performed it on Top Of The Pops. Actually, they did it several times, the effect having (presumably) been so onerous to create that it seemed a waste only to do it once. Give A Little Love was co-written by John Goodison and Phil Wainman. Wainman was a big 1970s writer-producer whose best known work as a producer is probably The Boomtown Rats’ I Don’t Like Mondays, though he also worked with Sweet, Mud, Dollar and XTC. The version on most Rollers’ greatest hits albums has Tony Visconti-esque strings which overegg an already eggy pudding. These were added to the version on the UK release of the song’s host album Wouldn’t You Like It. I don’t remember any strings on the single I had and as you can hear the TOTP backing tape doesn’t have them either.

Shanghai’d In Shanghai by Nazareth

But the record which, now I stop to think about it, made the biggest impression on me, apart from Ticket To Ride, was Scottish rockers Nazareth’s 1974 single Shanghai’d In Shanghai. I don’t know where it came from. It was a promo, so must have belonged to my brother who had done a bit of music writing for his school magazine and obviously managed to get himself on to a few mailing lists. Before I’d even put the record on the turntable I’d fallen in love with its label. Sometimes I used to put it on just to watch the Mooncrest logo spinning round and round. Simple pleasures.

R-1470005-1359048457-1674

Shanghai’d In Shanghai is pounding blues rock based around a ZZ Top-style barrelhouse riff, with sub-Faces been-around-the-world lyrics about shady LA ladies and Siberian saltmines. (I wonder if it was inspired by the line in Every Picture Tells A Story about Shanghai Lil who never used the pill?) Lead singer Dan McCafferty’s screechy hollering anticipates AC/DC and Guns N’ Roses, who were big fans and covered Nazareth’s Hair Of The Dog on 1993’s The Spaghetti Incident? as a no-hard-feelings gesture after Nazareth declined an invitation to play at Axl Rose’s wedding. But there are unexpected touches of glam in the production by Deep Purple’s Roger Glover. And listen out for the cheeky interpolation of Satisfaction after the line about being ‘second billing to the Rolling Stones’.

Weirdly, given that it followed on the heels of the band’s hit cover of Joni Mitchell’s This Flight Tonight, Shanghai’d In Shanghai was a flop, stalling outside the Top 40 and ending the fruitful relationship with Glover which had given them a big album in 1973’s Razamanaz.

Shanghai’d In Shanghai’s B-side, the dreamy, Moog-drenched ballad Love, Now You’re Gone, was produced by Roy Thomas Baker of Queen fame.

Standard

99. Take On Me by a-Ha

After a-Ha moved from Oslo to London in early 1983, one of the first songs they demo’d at John Ratcliff’s Rendezvous Studio in Sydenham was called Lesson One – a distinct improvement on its previous titles The Juicy Fruit Song and (Mags Furuholmen told Rolling Stone in 2010, though I can’t find any other evidence for it so he may have been joking, as he does) All’s Well That Ends Well And Moves With The Sun. Structurally it would change over time, but the intro motif, as famous as the spiralling chorus, exists in the earliest demos and is a tribute to a-Ha’s improbable (on the face of it) love of Ray Manzarek’s sinuous keyboard lines.*

Furuholmen: ‘Manzarek’s almost mathematical but very melodic, structured way of playing the keyboard was a huge influence in how I approached my instrument.’ (Manzarek himself cited Bach and Miles Davis as influences, which figures.)

The next time you listen to Take On Me, listen to Light My Fire immediately afterwards. It’s quite freaky – the ghost of an echo of a ghost.

a-Ha had ended up at Rendezvous almost by accident, allegedly booking it because it had a Space Invaders machine. But Ratcliff proved a generous patron when the band were at a low ebb, paying for them to make additional demos of the songs he thought were strongest and renting them a flat at 221 Dartmouth Road, about 200 metres from the studio. Furuholmen and his bandmates Pal Waaktaar and Morten Harket would make the daily journey from flat to ‘work’ by jumping across the roofs of the neighbouring houses and entering Rendezvous through a rear window.

rendezvous_studio

Ratcliff played the demos to Terry Slater, then head of A&R at EMI. Slater was impressed but asked them to work up three additional songs while he was away in the US. By the time he returned a-Ha had, with Ratcliff’s help, completed detailed demos of Lesson One (now rechristened Take On Me), Train Of Thought and Living A Boy’s Adventure Tale. You can hear the Ratcliff-produced demo for Take On Me here:

In the end, Slater left his EMI job to manage a-Ha jointly with Ratcliff. Their first task, having signed with Andy Wickham at Warner Brothers, was to help the band choose a producer for their debut album. They briefly considered Colin Thurston (Duran Duran, Kajagoogoo), but it was self-evidently wise to put some sonic distance between themselves and their seeming rivals. Slater asked his friend Alan Tarney, but Tarney declined on the grounds that he didn’t like working with bands: he had just had an unhappy experience producing The Lotus Eaters’ flop follow-up to The First Picture Of You, You Don’t Need Someone New.

Warner Brothers had a left-field but intriguing suggestion: Tony Mansfield, whose band New Musik had split the previous year and who had gone on to produce Captain Sensible’s two big hits, Happy Talk and Glad It’s All Over.

Strongly influenced by Kraftwerk and Yellow Magic Orchestra, New Musik were a sort of electro Buggles who had had a Top 20 hit with the XTC-like Straight Lines before adopting the more experimental approach that would lead to Mansfield being hailed as a godfather of techno/post-rock. Their hypnotic final single, Warp, has held up pretty well:

Like Trevor Horn, who would pick up the New Musik baton with his own Art of Noise, Mansfield was a tech boffin; one of the few producers of the era who felt really at home with those expensive new studio toys the Fairlight CMI and the Synclavier and knew how to combine analogue and digital sounds to create music that was otherworldly and self-consciously synthetic but also warm; although his short-cut to warmth was sometimes a rather forced wackiness – hence the fit with Captain Sensible. (Warp, as you’ll have heard, self-destructs at the end in a manner designed to make listeners think their stereos were malfunctioning.)

Asked merely to polish a-Ha’s demos, which everyone agreed were great, Mansfield couldn’t resist a thorough overhaul, shunting Harket’s vocals back in the mix, larding the instrumental break with Fairlight effects and replacing the Roland Juno 60-derived sound that Waaktaar and Furuholmen had come up with for the intro with a plinky-plonk Fairlight ‘teardrop’ noise.

Waaktaar: ‘Mansfield didn’t want to hear the demos at all. He only wanted to programme [the Fairlight]. We thought that we had to be open to new ideas, something we regretted once we heard the results. We were very much involved in the album too, but the recordings were based on his principle that everything had to go through his Fairlight… The first version of Take On Me was terrible. It sounded like a robot was playing.’

The Mansfield sessions took place at Pete Townshend’s Eel Pie Studios, a former boathouse next to Twickenham Bridge. Townshend’s publishing company was on the floor above, and Waaktaar remembers the Who guitarist ‘[coming] down each day to tell us how boring it was cutting a record, and how much he hated it’.

‘We worked unbelievably hard. We were at it twenty hours a day. Once, Morten was so tired he fell asleep during the middle of laying down his vocals. He slept in the middle of his own song and fell off his chair.’

With money running out, Mansfield left the project and producer-engineer Neill King was brought in to help Waaktaar bring Take On Me, at least, up to what Slater, Ratcliff and a-Ha felt was a releasable standard.

The pair overdubbed guitars, backing vocals and more synths. But many of Mansfield’s synth parts remained on the first single issue of Take On Me (October 1984 – it reached number 137 in the UK charts), including the mixture of synthesized and live-sampled drum parts sequenced from the Synclavier. Listen to it here and marvel at how little this thin, trebly version of the song resembles the subsequent ‘definitive’ one.

(Mansfield retained the main producer credit on the Hunting High And Low album – apart from Take On Me and The Sun Always Shines On TV – even if underneath was the telltale legend ‘remixed by John Ratcliff with a-Ha’. It’s fun to speculate about how much of Mansfield’s work remains on the finished record. I always think I can hear him quite strongly on the belligerent electro clatter of Dream Myself Alive.)

What happened next is that Warner Brothers in America simply refused to allow Take On Me to fail. They agreed to fund a total revamping of the single with Alan Tarney at the helm and, later, Steve Barron’s award-winning rotoscoped video depicting a-Ha as characters in a comic. Busy producing David Cassidy’s Romance album at his favourite studio, RG Jones in Wimbledon, Tarney was talked round by Slater and persuaded to take a day off to work on Take On Me.

Tarney’s intuition, once he’d heard the demos, was that a-Ha’s sound was essentially analogue and, to coin a phrase, human after all – a function not just of their preferred synths like the Roland Juno-60 and the PPG Wave but of their habit of playing them live rather than always relying on sequencers.

To my mind, the original version of Take On Me that the boys themselves had recorded in Sydenham with John Ratcliff was the hit version,’ Tarney told Sound on Sound in 2011, ‘and they appeared to have gone around the houses a bit with Tony Mansfield and Neill King. The Tony Mansfield version employed a Fairlight and it just didn’t sound like a-Ha at all. So all I did was recreate the original demo… That was the one that had all the charm.’

Alan Tarney producing Take On Me

Alan Tarney producing Take On Me

Tarney was particularly impressed by Waaktaar’s Linn Drum programming and the way he and Furuholmen would ‘duel’ on their keyboards: ‘A lot of the stuff I needed to control came through the Juno-60 and a Yamaha DX7, but then they played the Waves together and that’s where the magic seemed to come from. It was a very atmospheric, live recording.’

The drums on the new Take On Me were a combination of sampled snare and a standard Linn snare heavily compressed to give what Tarney’s engineer Gerry Kitchingham calls a ‘slappy’ feel. The Linn’s cymbal sounds weren’t very good, so Waaktaar overdubbed real cymbals and hi-hat.

Harket’s vocals were recorded using a valve Neumann U47 mic to bring out the purity and clarity of his voice – ‘an exceptional voice,’ Tarney called it, ‘with a quite amazing range… We didn’t have to compile from many takes, but [Harket] was capable of doing so many different things that I did have to decide which was the right vocal to use. For the backing vocals, I sang with all three guys into the same mic, and all in all we spent maybe a day recording the song and then another day mixing it. Thanks to the David Cassidy project, we couldn’t afford to give it any more time.’

Warner Brothers loved the new Take On Me so much that they asked Tarney to hang around and do another single, The Sun Always Shines On TV, the fear being that as it stood the Hunting High And Low album was a bit on the short side. The relationship between Tarney and a-Ha would endure for another two albums, though by all accounts it had soured by the time they came to make 1988’s lacklustre Stay On These Roads.

One of the main differences between the Tarney version of Take On Me and the earlier ones is its intro – four bars of pitter-pattering drums, followed by a dramatic splayed chord, B minor ninth (B, D, F#, A, C#). It isn’t a pop chord – it’s a soundtrack chord: the chord that might play as a child opens the door of an innocuous-looking wardrobe she’s found in an attic; a chord full of wonder and possibility. 

Waaktaar described the lyrics of Take On Me as a ‘prayer for attention’; the wonder and possibility of the song is that the emotional chaos of a transatlantic courtship – when he wrote it, Waaktaar had just started seeing Lauren Savoy, the American woman who would become his wife – will resolve into something solid and durable despite the frequency of the couple’s separations.

(The subject is explored in more depth in The Swing Of Things on Scoundrel Days: ‘Oh, but how can I sleep with your voice in my head/And an ocean between us/And room in my bed/Have I come to the point where I’m losing the grip/Or is there still time to get into the swing of things…’)

Counting down the Top 40 on a 1985 edition of Whistle Test, Andy Kershaw observed that the title Take On Me was ‘grammatically puzzling’. But as Waaktaar has explained, the effect was intentional:

When I write lyrics in English, I feel it’s an advantage to be Norwegian, because I don’t see the language as a dull, grey mass, but rather as something exciting and full of possibilities. I can pick out ordinary words or phrases and make them sound new and interesting. For example, I can write songs like Hunting High and Low or Train Of Thought, and English people will comment on their interesting or unusual titles, even though these are phrases that they themselves use all the time. Look at Take On Me. Most people have to think twice about the title before they get to like it.To me, to ‘take on’ somebody means to notice them and take time to find out what they’re really like. Take On Me almost becomes “Look! Here I am!”

The chorus spirals up to that climactic ‘I’ll be gone in a day’ – but instead of release, which we might expect, we get a sublime sadness.

This contradictory, bipolar mood is what makes a-Ha songs so captivating – and Take On Me is one of their happiest songs, ecstatically upbeat compared to the bleakness of, say, I’ve Been Losing You, The Swing of Things**, Scoundrel Days and the brilliant 2000 comeback single Summer Moved On. It’s also what makes Abba songs captivating, hence the temptation to generalise about ‘Scandinavian melancholy’, as if Norway and Sweden were culturally identical. But you know, it’s an interesting area. The Turkish novelist Orham Pamuk talks about a special kind of Turkish melancholy, hüzün – the spiritual anguish Sufis feel at not being close enough to God, but also, for him, the passive, resigned sorrow that binds Istanbul’s inhabitants together. He contrasts this collective melancholy with western European melancholy, which he sees as more individualistic.

The primacy of the individual has always been central to Scandinavian art and philosophy – think of Knut Hamsun’s Hunger, Munch’s The Scream, Ibsen’s An Enemy of the People (whose hero is advised to ‘acquiesce in subordinating himself to the community’ rather than reveal that the water in a new public baths has been contaminated by a local tannery) or Kierkegaard, whose philosophy gave us the concepts of ‘angst’ and the ‘leap of faith’.

The romantic-existentialist quality of a-Ha’s early lyrics is a reflection not just of Waaktaar’s adolescent reading – Camus, Hamsun, Dostoevsky – but of his essentially Scandinavian curiosity about the way individuals relate to the surrounding world. The phrase ‘you are the one’ – the title of a 1988 a-Ha single – comes from a section of Kierkegaard’s Either/Or in which he discusses the prophet Nathan’s attempt to get King David to understand that a parable he had told him related to him personally as well as the generalised mass of mankind.

Meanwhile, ‘love is reason’ – a song on Hunting High And Low – comes from the Prussian philosopher Friedrich Schleiermacher’s Lectures on Philosophical Ethics: ‘Love is reason which wants to be soul…’

Sorry, I keep distracting myself. This is supposed to be about Take On Me. As you might have gathered, there are a-Ha songs I like more than Take On Me, and I’ll be dealing with them in due course, though probably not at such length. I think we’ve established for now that Pal Waaktaar is a clever chap who likes books about philosophy. 

A final observation – Take On Me is very fast. Most available indexes put it at around 170 bpm. Bear in mind that mid-1980s Hi-NRG typically had a tempo threshold of 130-140 bpm… Take On Me is part of a subset of early-’80s songs whose speed pushes them close to being Hi-NRG even though they don’t demonstrate any other hallmarks of the genre, eg octave basslines. Another example would be Kajagoogoo’s fantastic, tantalisingly cryptic White Feathers. 

My tenuous thesis on ‘gay subtexts in the songs of a-Ha’ will have to wait for another day. 

* Duran Duran liked The Doors too. Simon Le Bon told Record Mirror in 1983 that Love Her Madly was his favourite song. You can hear the influence quite distinctly in several Duran songs, especially the rather good B-side of the 1988 single All She Wants Is, I Believe/All I Need To Know, and the chorus of the otherwise narcoleptic Someone Else Not Me from 2000’s awful Pop Trash album.

** The Swing Of Things has a strong whiff of Gentlemen Take Polaroids-period Japan about it. And of course that album does contain a song called Swing. I wonder if a-Ha knew it at all and if so whether it was a deliberate nod in Japan’s direction?

Standard

100. Orchard Road by Leo Sayer

Leo Sayer’s Orchard Road and the best known (ie hit) version of a-Ha’s Take On Me are both classic examples of the work of writer-producer Alan Tarney, hence my decision to yoke them together (Take On Me will be at 99); yet they showcase his skills in different ways. We’ll encounter Tarney many more times as we count down to my Number One favourite record of all time. But this is probably the best place for some potted biog, Tarney being less well-known than he deserves.

Briefly: Tarney began his career in a band called Quartet alongside Trevor Spencer and Terry Britten, friends he’d made in Adelaide after he moved there from Cumberland in the late 1960s. Quartet signed to Decca in the UK and put out a couple of singles, but their album was never released. After the band split in 1970, they farmed themselves out as a rhythm unit and songwriters-for-hire, most notably to Olivia Newton-John and Cliff Richard. Tarney and Spencer also worked as a duo from 1975 onwards as the Tarney-Spencer Band, enjoying mild success in the UK with the 1976 single I’m Your Man Rock ’n’ Roll, an attempt (seemingly) to work out what the Bo Diddley strut of The Who’s Magic Bus would sound like if you welded on a disco middle section. Pleasingly, it earned them a Top Of The Pops appearance. 

In America, on the other hand, they hit biggish in 1979 with the Boston-influenced drivetime favourite No Time To Lose and its host album Run For Your Life, produced by David Kerschenbaum, the man who not only signed Joe Jackson to A&M but remixed Duran Duran’s Rio album for the American market, giving us in the process the celebrated (by me, at least) Carnival EP.

Right from the start, Tarney’s preference was to work alone and do as much as possible himself. ‘While I started off as a session musician, I also had a publishing contract with ATV Music,’ he explained to Sound On Sound in 2011, ‘and in those days the publisher would give you £150 to go and record the demo. That budget was supposed to pay for the musicians, but I found a studio that would give me a whole day for £150 and, being self-taught, I played all the instruments myself. I did that every day and I eventually became very adept at making records. As a result, on the records that I subsequently produced I played all the instruments. You don’t have to be great, you just have to know the right things to do.’

Britten’s songwriting breakthrough came in 1976 when he wrote Devil Woman for Richard’s comeback album I’m Nearly Famous – ‘comeback’ in the sense that it restored him to mainstream respectability after a string of flops. Tarney would have to wait until 1979 for his big moment: We Don’t Talk Anymore, Richard’s first UK Number One since Congratulations.

Shadow Bruce Welch had produced much of Richard’s ’70s output. Tarney had joined The Shadows on bass between 1973 and 1977 and contributed songs to Welch’s albums with Richard. His first actual production job – with Welch – was Charlie Dore’s awesome 1979 single Pilot Of The Airwaves: the pair were drafted in by Island boss Chris Blackwell after he decided Joe Boyd’s mix of the album he had sent Dore to, er, Nashville to record was ‘too country’.

Tarney assumed sole production duties for the 1980 Richard album I’m No Hero and contributed the Top Ten hit Dreamin’, a co-write with… Leo Sayer.

Interviewed in 2008, Richard remembered the sessions for Dreamin’ as ‘an unusual way of recording because the song was too high for me. But Alan Tarney, who co-wrote it, told me it was fantastic and asked me to try to sing it in this key. It’s got a fantastic intro that lasts about 45 seconds. Leo Sayer helped write the lyrics. I got the first verse done. He wrote the second verse. I recorded it a verse at a time, which I’ve never done before or since.’

Leo Sayer’s first taste of success had been as a songwriter – he and his songwriting partner Dave Courtney wrote Roger Daltrey’s one big solo success, the 1973 single Giving It All Away. (Aside: why was this pleasant but unremarkable song such a big hit when The Who were struggling to break the Top 20 with singles as strong as Relay and 5:15?) But although Sayer had gone on to become a massive star – appearing-on-The-Muppet-Show massive – his own contributions to his biggest albums were swamped by the forced involvement of a mass of hired-in help.

Sayer’s 1976 move to LA and alignment with the American über-producer Richard Perry (Harry Nilsson, Barbra Streisand, Art Garfunkel, Diana Ross) would give him two US Number Ones – You Make Me Feel Like Dancing and When I Need You – and a huge album in Endless Flight. But Perry, regarded as a ‘singer’s producer’, was more interested in stretching Sayer’s voice by getting him to record standards than in encouraging him as a writer.

‘When I first started working with Leo, he came with a cassette of 12 new songs, none of which got recorded,’ Perry admitted to Rolling Stone‘That’s a pretty heavy blow for an artist to be told that none of these songs are of any interest to me.’ Sayer’s four co-writes on Endless Flight (out of ten tracks) are all with tried and tested professional songwriters like Barry Mann, Vini Poncia, Frank Furrell, Tom Snow, Albert Hammond and Carole Bayer Sager. Compare that with Sayer’s first three albums (Silverbird, Just A Boy and Another Boy) where he’s credited as full or co-writer on every track.

Any suspicion that Sayer felt cut out of the process is rebutted by Tom Snow on his blog: ‘Writing with Leo was always a blast. He was always so quick, bursting with ideas and wonderfully funny. If we had as many hits together as we had laughs…. Anyway, I came up with the piano riff that starts [It’s Over, from Sayer’s 1977 album Thunder In My Heart] while we were looking for ideas one sunny afternoon at his rented house in Laurel Canyon. Or maybe I had the riff in my pocket and started playing it to see what Leo would do. Whatever. Leo went into creative overdrive and I went along for the ride. It remains one of my favourites of the five co-writes he and I did for the album.’

Still, you can’t really (or couldn’t in those days – it happens routinely now) call yourself a ‘singer-songwriter’ if you’ve only been involved in writing a third of the material on your albums – the situation Sayer had been in since 1976. And for all their virtues, Sayer’s Perry albums have an overpowering, late-70s air of excessive complexity.

1978’s softer, more countrified Leo Sayer, Sayer’s final album with Perry, has some lovely stuff on it. But it also has a Bryan Ferry-esque, what-the-hell-were-they-all-doing-making-the-tea? 32 musicians credited on the sleeve: regulars like Ray Parker, Jr (whose co-write with Sayer, the Chic-like Frankie Lee, is a highlight) but also Lindsey Buckingham, Jackson Browne, Andy Fairweather-Low and the band who would shortly become Toto (and who would, coincidentally, back Charlie Dore on her second album Listen). Connections, connections.

So, yes. To cut a long story short: by 1979 Sayer was back in the UK and looking for a new sound. He hired Alan Tarney to devise it.

For the most part it was the sound of Pilot Of The Airwaves – warm, plangent AOR with tight harmonies and soft, damp drums; synths used to augment ‘real’ instruments by creating a halo around them, pulling them into focus but also teasing the ear with barely perceptible flourishes, curlicues half-concealed on the edge of the mix. The best example of this is Sayer/Tarney’s take on More Than I Can Say, a minor hit for its writers Sonny Curtis and Jerry Allison of The Crickets in 1960; a moderate one for Bobby Vee the following year; but a massive one for Sayer in 1980.

(Lengthy aside: Tarney’s occasional habit of recycling songs across different artists is revealing about what makes a song ‘work’. Once In A While is one of the high points of Cliff Richard’s Wired For Sound (1981). But the ‘original’ version on the album Tarney produced for Sayer the year before, Living In A Fantasy, is markedly inferior – less propulsive, less suited to Sayer’s voice than Richard’s and lacking the mattress of lush backing vocals onto which the chorus collapses in Richard’s version. Still, it’s better than David Cassidy’s dirge of a comeback single The Last Kiss – the same tune as Young Love from Wired For Sound but slowed down to hiking-through-treacle ballad pace.)

On, then, to Orchard Road. Finally! But you know, context is all.

Orchard Road turned up on the album Have You Ever Been In Love (1983) and represents the antithesis of the Richard Perry approach. It’s stark but warm, uncluttered but ample in a way that stops an essentially sentimental song from being cloying. Tarney played a Fairlight and programmed the Linn drum machine. And that’s it. The vocal is rough around the edges (cf ‘I think I can see it now…’) because it was a guide vocal kept on account of its feel.

Tarney wrote the music, up to a point: Orchard Road uses as scaffolding Pachelbel’s Canon – see also The Farm’s Altogether Now, Rain And Tears by Aphrodite’s Child, et al. Its moments of Tarney genius are the lurch up to G sharp major for ‘It’s twelve o’clock and the curtains are drawn…’, which you don’t expect at all, and the rumbling zap of an A sharp (or is it B flat? – I’m not sure what the key is and it’s to do with that, isn’t it? To do with whether it’s functioning as a diatonic note for that key?) he holds in the background as Sayer finishes ‘painting his picture’ and belts out ‘And I wish I could be…’ in a voice both plaintive and possessed; an A sharp (or B flat) that sounds to me more like a Yamaha CS-80 (as used by, say, Vangelis) than a Fairlight, but I don’t know, maybe the Fairlight had a preset that sounded like a CS-80. My synth knowledge is basic.

Anyway. It’s yet another reminder of the extraordinary power of early synths to produce warm, rich, beautiful, human-scale sounds. Even the Fairlight’s digital sounds went beyond mere emulation when used in the right way. Would John Farnham’s You’re The Voice be as affecting if it had proper strings on it rather than fake Fairlight ones? (If you don’t think John Farnham’s You’re The Voice is affecting, you’re reading the wrong blog.)

The lyrical thrust of Orchard Road is that Sayer has been kicked out of the marital home (Churchfield Road in Acton, apparently) and is begging to be be allowed to return. He knows he’s guilty of whatever it is he’s done (‘Will I have the nerve to say…?’) but then starts complaining about how he’s been ‘struck by such bad luck’, which frankly, if I was Leo’s wife, wouldn’t wash with me, the ‘bad luck’ infidelity defence being at best implausible and at worst sociopathic.

The memorable bit occurs after Leo has finished telling Mrs Leo about his improved employment prospects (‘I think I’ve got a job, they’re gonna call me next week’), hinting that whatever the job is it’s going to take him ‘out of town’.

It has a dramatic effect. Suddenly, Mrs Leo capitulates! He can pop round after all! Leo can hardly believe his ears. ‘What’s that? Tomorrow at two? You’re kidding me, no. Is it all right with you?’

(The only other mundane-phone-conversation-as-lyric that I can think of off the top of my head is Lady Gaga’s Telephone. But there must be others.)

The last verse – ‘It’s eight o’clock and the dawn’s arrived/ Orchard Road it’s breakfast time/ I climb in my car and I turn the key and I’m gone/ I am coming home to Orchard Road’ – raises an interesting question. Mrs Leo doesn’t want to see him until 2pm. So if it’s 8am now, he’s got six hours to wait. Now, that’s not a problem if he’s six hours’ drive away from Acton – Minehead, say, if the traffic is bad on the A303. But I don’t think he’s that far away. I think he’s on the other side of London, maybe Brixton or even Crystal Palace. So what I’m saying is, Leo mustn’t make the mistake of getting to Orchard Road too early. Because Mrs Leo might not be ready for him. I’ll say no more.

Orchard Road got to number 16 in April 1983.

 

Standard