Educating Peter # 21

November 11, 2012

This week Michael has suggest something from the very dawn of the 1980s.

It’s “Hey Sue”, by a band called The Late Show. It was released in 1980.

As with almost every other song Michael has suggested in the past, this one’s a newie to me.

A Slight Complaint Before We Get To The Song

When I went a-looking for any information I could find about the song or the band, I discovered that “Hey Sue” is available for download over at Bandcamp. Because I’m posting this song, I thought it only right that I buy “Hey Sue” before I get stuck into writing about it. So I did.

But here’s where the slight complaint comes in…

When I listen to music, I like to listen to it in the best audio quality possible. That means that I’ll rip my CDs onto the computer’s hard drive in the space-saving-but-with-no-loss-of-audio-quality FLAC format. And when I purchase music digitally from places like Bandcamp, I’ll do the same: i.e., download the songs as FLAC files, not MP3s.

Although I was pleased to see that The Late Show has made “Hey Sue” (and the album it appears on, Portable Pop) available at Bandcamp in FLAC format, once I’d downloaded “Hey Sue” I was surprised by what I think is poor sound quality. It sounds like the track was ripped from a well-used vinyl record instead of the master tape. It sounds like it was transferred from a vinyl source because it contains distortion in the mid to upper frequencies. It’s especially noticeable in the vocals.

I know this probably looks like pointlessly unfair criticism, considering I’m talking about a track that’s over 30 years old, and one that only cost me a dollar. But I love good sound quality, and just wish that whoever made The Late Show’s music available had at their disposal the original master tapes so that potential audiences could hear the band in the best possible light.

Here we go…

The Late Show – “Hey Sue (1980)

0:00-0:02 – Nice drum pattern for the introduction.

0:02-0:05 – I like the “Na na-na na-na”.

0:05-0:07 – Those two insistent “Hey!”s help make this introduction very upbeat.

0:09-0:12 – And a little jangly instrumental to round off the introduction. Nice.

If the first 12 seconds are any indication, I have a feeling I’m going to enjoy this song.

0:13-0:42 – The verse has begun, and this sounds exactly like a prototypical mid-tempo, not-too-heavy, mildly pleasant piece of power pop.

The chord progression for the verse is a textbook example of what to play in a power pop song:

And then it’s…

And now for the chorus…

0:42-1:04 – Oh dear. That’s a very ordinary chord progression. (It’s basically “Baba O’Riley“, but without the power – or Pete Townshend, or John Entwistle, or Keith Moon, or even Roger Daltry) But at least the vocal melody is enjoyable – except for the note the singer chose at the end of the fourth bar. (At 0:47 the band plays a G chord, but he sings an A note. Unfortunately for me, the two don’t go well together here. It can go spectacularly well in other songs, but I’m afraid it doesn’t for me at all in this song.)

I like how the band adds some extra vocal catchiness at the end of the chorus with “Hey! Hey! Sue!” (0:57-1:01).

And one more minor complaint about the chorus: one of the things the singer says to the girl he’s interested in (I’m guessing her name is Sue) is: “You’re really all I wanna do”. I think that particular phrase is – how shall I put it – a touch inelegant.

1:04-1:34 – This verse is virtually identical to the first one. One small exception I can hear is that the guitar in the right channel plays a little lick twice (1:14 and 1:18). I don’t think that guitar lick suits the overall sweetness of the verse, but it is cute.

1:04-1:59 – This second chorus is virtually identical to the first chorus – so feel free to place whatever I said earlier here as well. There is one big difference, however: The band adds the “Na na-na na-na” singalong that it used in the introduction. Catchy. That leads us into the middle eight…

1:59-2:29 – Well, this middle eight sure is interesting. It’s a mélange of styles. I like the variety. And it all builds quite nicely to the double chorus that ends the song.

2:29-3:17 – The double chorus that ends the song. Although the band did the “Na na-na na-na” thing at the first part of the double chorus, I was a little disappointed that at the end of the second part (just before the very end of the song) they play a fairly limp drum pattern instead of pounding the listener with more “Na na-na na-na”s. I think that would have left the listener with a whole heap o’ catchiness, and hopefully an incentive to listen to it again. I thought the not-especially-inspired drumming was a bit of a let-down for the end of the song.

***

As for the song taken as a whole (instead of just chopping it up into little sections as I tend to do when writing this kind of post)…

I enjoyed “Hey Sue” – except for the distressingly ordinary chorus. But I did like the verses and the middle eight.

So thanks, young Michael, for suggesting a pleasant piece of early-’80s power pop.

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