The Five Americans – “Western Union” (1967)
Is it possible to like and dislike a song at the same time? Because that’s the feeling I had when listening to this. That “Da da-da da-da” sure does stick in your mind. I can’t really add much more about this song, apart from noting that it sounds very much of its time (1967). But overall, I like it – and I don’t like it. Oh, and the title of the song reminds me of another song that will be Song of the day the day after this batch of songs goes on the blog. (Note to self: That’ll be tomorrow, Peter. Don’t forget.)
The Jags – “Back Of My Hand” (1980)
You won’t believe this coincidence (I’m having trouble believing it myself), but I was actually reading about The Jags just before playing this song. Earlier in the morning I had responded on the blog to commenter Jon about his love for the All Music Guide, and mentioned that I thought it was great, too, but hadn’t pestered it recently. This prompted me to pay it another visit, and while I was there I spotted AMG’s section on Power Pop. I duly clicked on the link, started reading the article, skipped to the end (there was a lot to read, and I wanted to get to the more recent stuff) where it talked about the newer generation of power pop bands. One of the bands mentioned was The Jags. I’d never heard of them before, so I clicked on their AMG profile, read about their debut album, Evening Standards (1980), and clicked on the review to read more. “Hmm, that sounds interesting,” I thought to myself. “I think I’ll have a listen.” I found the album, and while it was hurtling its way down the wires I decided to read your email and start listening to your suggestions. I saved them to the hard drive, listened to The Five Americans track first, then saw the next track, “Back Of My Hand”. It was by The Jags.
Anyway, back to “Back of My Mind”…
I pressed “play” and stopped it after only two seconds. I was amazed at the intro’s similarity to an extremely well-known song. As I was thinking “What a blatant rip-off of ‘Friday On My Mind‘!”, I pondered the possibility of a future Musical coincidence. However, there followed an internal monologue:
“Hang on, Peter – the rest of the song might not be a complete rip-off. Just play the rest of it.”
“OK, but you weren’t terribly impressed with the first two seconds. Are you sure you want to play the rest of it?”
“Alright, then, let’s play it.”
I played the rest of it, and was relieved that the whole thing didn’t sound like “Friday On My Mind”. But I did discover why the AMG reviewer mentioned how The Jags were dismissed at the time for sounding like Elvis Costello: the singer sounds like he’s impersonating Elvis Costello. If I remove thoughts of Elvis Costello, then what I hear is a competent three-chord skinny-tie song – just like piles of other skinny-tie songs.
Joe Jeffrey Group – “My Pledge Of Love” (1969)
To me, this was one big musical coincidence involving two other songs. The verses in “My Pledge Of Love” (e.g., 0:16-0:38) remind me a lot of the verse in The Platters‘ “Twilight Time“, and the middle eight reminds me of the Four Tops‘ “Baby I Need Your Loving” – especially when the Joe Jeffrey Group’s singer is singing “Baby I need your loving / Got to have all of your loving…” (from 1:36 to 1:41). It’s all a bit too much of a remind-y song for me. The singing’s OK, the playing’s OK, but it doesn’t leap out at me and make me want to shout “Soul! Yeah!”.
The Monroes – “What Do All The People Know” (1982)
I don’t say this very often when listening to a song, but I said it as soon as this song started: “Yuck”. Then the singing started. Extra yuck. And the hand claps! And then that synthesizer! Yuck, yuck, yuck. Something I found disconcerting was the harmony singing (one singer in the left channel, one in the right). To me, the two singers didn’t harmonise at all, they just sounded like two separate singers. Weird. And then there was that horrid middle eight with those ghastly synthesizer riffs, followed by an odd little ska-inflected rhythm (at 2:11) that’s unrelated to the rest of the song. However, I have to admit that by the end of the song I thought that the melody of the line “All the people tell me so / But what do all the people know” was catchy. There’s a guitar part in the song (it occurs a few times, such as 1:54-1:57, and a really prominent one is at 3:37) that reminds me strongly of something, but I can’t figure out what it is. It’s frustrating, because it’s such a strong likeness to that other tune but I can’t for the life of me remember it. Grrr. Despite all of the aforementioned comments, this is probably the catchiest song in this week’s bunch of suggestions. (But I don’t want to catch it.)
Sugar – “If I Can’t Change Your Mind” (1992)
Prefer Hüsker Dü.
Alternative (and hopefully more helpful) comment:
Sugar – “If I Can’t Change Your Mind” (1992)
This, to me, is the sound of Bob Mould chasing commercial success. That’s entirely reasonable, considering his previous band’s lack of monetary gain and fame*, but it tends to dilute the music and lends it a certain anonymity. Is the word “generic” too strong here? The song was listenable while it was playing, but at soon as it finished I’d forgotten how it went.
Keep those songs a-comin’, Frank.
(*The standard formula for cult bands: amount-of-influence is directly proportional to lack-of-commercial-success. See: The Velvet Underground; The Replacements; Hüsker Dü; Pixies et al.)