Educating Peter # 1

June 24, 2012

Educating Peter is a new series. It was instigated by blog reader Michael (Hi, Michael!), and it came about after Michael read that I’ve mentioned quite a few times in my posts that the 1980’s is my least favourite musical decade of any decade that ever produced music.

In his response to my curmudgeonly attitude to the music of the 80’s, Michael decided to set himself the challenge of trying to persuade me that the 80’s were better than I thought they were by way of some musical examples. Michael then decided to call it Educating Peter. (As a fan of puns, that name gets two big thumbs up from me.)

In one of our email exchanges Michael said:

“I’ve done thorough research on the 80s songs you’ve posted and have discovered that

(a) There’s a large number of OZ/NZ singles
(b) There’s heaps of Musical Coincidence references
(c) You’re an instrument type of guy rather than deep-and-meaningful lyrics
(d) There’s none / not very many big hair bands with power ballads (well done)
(e) No new wave (Dran Dran etc); Madness stuff
(f) There’s a lack of singers with mullets / flannelette shirts

To all of that I say: “Correct.”

(And I like Michael’s nickname for Duran Duran.)

Before we go on, I want to mention that I misinterpreted point (d) when I first read it. I think Michael meant that I haven’t played any power ballads that were done well, but I interpreted it differently. I thought Michael was complimenting me, as in: “No power ballads. Well done!”

But back to Michael. He then went on:

“Armed with this information, I’m gonna hit you with a mix of relatively well known (to me), obscure and ‘different’ tunes that will hopefully, over time, help you realize that the 80s was not a musical wasteland.”

We’ll see.

The Song

To inaugurate this series, Michael sent me “Your Love” by UK band The Outfield. I’m fairly sure I hadn’t heard it before (the band and song title aren’t familiar to me at all), so this will hopefully be a learning experience.

Here’s the song and my responses:

The Outfield – “Your Love (1985)

Link

0:00-0:23 : That high note from the singer sounds painful. I thought he was at the top of his range and couldn’t go any higher, until he did (at 0:10). Wow, he can sing high.

0:23-0:27 : Those massed harmony vocals sound very American to me. Where did you say this band came from? The UK? OK. Fair enough.

0:27 : I thought it was funny when the singer and the background vocals both sang “tonight” but when the background vocals had finished singing the syllable “…night” the singer kept singing it. (In other words, the singer sang “tonight” longer than everyone else. Or, as the singer at the recording session may have put it: “I win!”)

0:29 onwards : That is one horrible snare drum sound.

0:29-0:45 : Now that the song has settled into itself (i.e., left the introduction behind and is now a regular pop/rock song) it’s starting to sound a little familiar. I may have actually heard this before. Maybe. (I’m not entirely sure.) Anyway, I’m guessing this is the verse (it sure sounds like one). It’s a mild, mid-tempo kind of thing that ambles along quite pleasantly.

0:45-0:59 : [Slight Disappointment Alert] This is, as far as I can tell, the song’s chorus. I was hoping it was going to be a lot more melodic than it was. For me it just ambled along like the verse.

0:59-1:29 : Key change! This bit – which I’ll call the middle eight, even though it lasts for sixteen bars – went on far too long for me. I thought they could have ditched the first eight bars easily (it only contained the band playing F major and G major repeatedly, and with no singing). Now, if I was producing the track (Oh-oh, here goes Peter into Amateur Producer Mode) I would have gotten rid of the first eight bars and started it from when they introduced the vocals. The middle eight would then have been eight bars long.

1:29-1:56 : Ah, the old “Surprise ‘Em With A Different Drum Beat When You Return To The Verse After The Middle Eight” trick. At least with the drummer doing a flam on the snare (i.e., hitting the snare twice in incredibly quick succession so that it sounds like one big hit), I think it sounds much better than it did earlier in the song. The singer’s high notes still sound painful to me.

1:56-1:58 : Considering how laid-back the drummer has been so far in this song, that’s a pretty frisky drum fill.

1:59-2:24 : I love the drum beat here. It’s a steady eighth-note beat with a ride cymbal. (I’m a sucker for drum beats with the ride cymbal.) I don’t know why I’m focusing on the drumming in this song. Oh, I’ve just noticed the chorus effect on the guitars. I’m a fan of the chorus effect, but I think the sound they’ve gone for here is just a little ordinary. [Amateur Producer Alert] I would have preferred a chorused guitar with a greater stereo spread, or even more preferrably two separate chorussed guitars, one in each channel.

2:24-2:28 : After the previous frisky drum fill (see above), I thought this one was terribly unimaginative. I know the drum fill here was kept simple (boom-boom-boom-boom-boom-boom-boom-boom ad infinitum) in order to build the music up to the big repeat of the chorus, but it left me deflated and wondering if the drummer was told to keep it simple. (“Don’t try anything fancy, smart guy. This is the big finish, and we don’t want a drummer to ruin it.”)

2:28 onwards : The big chorus and then the fade-out. I liked the guitar melody over the top of the chorused guitars.

2:34 onwards : Why change the sound of the bass so late in the song? I thought that was pointless.

[Back to] 2:28 onwards : The cruise to the finish. I must admit that the longer the chorus was repeated here, the shorter I wanted it to be. (In other words, I thought the last part of the song was way too long.)

All in all, I thought “Your Love” was alright. And not much more.

Thanks, Michael, for presenting me with a song I probably hadn’t heard before. (It’s hard to tell, because it sounded vaguely familiar.)

Next song please.

The Graphic For This Series

I tried finding a suitable graphic for this series (see useless graphic at the top of this post), but almost everything I found representing the 1980’s was quite ghastly (e.g. fluorescent clothing, lots of hair, shoulder pads, more hair, movies I didn’t watch, toys I was never interested in, catchphrases I paid no attention to etc.).

My thoughts turned to music (as they usually do), and then I had a brainwave: why not this?

That’s the tape I used for most of the 80’s when recording the band I was in and, er, other things.

But then I thought, “No! I’ve got a better idea – I’ll use a photo of the radio cassette player I had throughout the 80’s.”

Here it is:

And it sounded great.

Then I thought, “Maybe not. It’s not terribly imaginative.”

So I’m currently at an impasse. I can’t think of a decent graphic to use.

If you can come up with something, by all means let me know. Please! Email me any suggestions you may have.

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