Thursday, 27 August 2015

EURYTHMICS: We Too Are One



(#395:  23 September 1989, 1 week)

Track listing:  We Two Are One/The King And Queen Of America/(My My) Baby's Gonna Cry/Don't Ask Me Why/Angel/Revival/You Hurt Me (And I Hate You)/Sylvia/How Long?/When The Day Goes Down



"The door closed and I just waved good-bye, and when I began descending, I was shaking a bit - but the backseat drifter was gone.  I was released from the obsession, and before I'd reached the lobby I couldn't believe what a brain-dead glutton I'd been - for sex, for humiliation, for pseudodrama...And I planned right there never to repeat this sort of experience ever again.  The only way you can deal with the Tobiases of this world is not to let them into your lives at all. Blind yourself to their wares.  God, I felt relieved; not the least bit angry." Douglas Coupland, Generation X


There comes a time in any band's life when it should (or has to) come to an end; some bands have that end dictated to them, others just wear themselves out or go on a "hiatus" which turns out to be permanent.  Eurythmics, though, had to record this album before they split up for their own good - Dave and Annie weren't getting along anymore, and this disunion, if I can put it that way, is the subject of the album; Eurythmics being, if anything, a band that is definitely in control of itself.

That control was especially evident in their previous album, Savage, which makes a very handy guide/prequel to We Too Are OneSavage was the Eurythmics cutting loose after making the please-the-record-label Revenge,  and it includes the delirious, mocking "Beethoven (I Love To Listen To)," "Shame" (wherein Lennox looks at her generation and its gullibility towards the media and glamour), "You Have Placed A Chill In My Heart" (love as a commodity as opposed to love as something warm and free).  It's core, though, is "I Need You", where Lennox sings alongside Dave's acoustic guitar to a room full of happy cocktail hour people who aren't understanding anything she is saying.  It is one of those unexpected New Pop moments that takes the band and the audience and shows just what a gap there is, a kind of silence; or even makes it seem as if no one is listening at all and that she is singing to herself, more or less...

...and then there's "I Need A Man," where Lennox does a better Mick Jagger than Jagger himself, and her "Huh!" at the end shows her contempt for the whole rock rigmarole. 

How appropriate, then, that We Too Are One beat Steel Wheels to the top of the UK album chart, as Lennox and Stewart's dead-eyed stare at the camera was virtually saying, well here we are one more time, separate yet apart, not sarcastic or sharp like last time, but calm, with that cleansing sense that things are over, they are done, with nothing else needed to happen.

It starts with a steady, heavy backbeat and some wahh-woohs that sound half-human, half-mechanical - I thought it was going to be a first-song freakout, going back to Lennox's Redbrass days, but instead it is the first of many heavily ironic songs that says exactly what it doesn't mean.  "We Two Are One"?  Hmm, maybe.  It is, in fact, "Uncle" Charlie Wilson making noises as if he was playing a harmonica - yes, Wilson from The Gap Band!  The song is a vow of love, of fidelity - "We're gonna live forever."  In this upbeat song (which has Wilson also singing in the background), nothing is bad, though the fact that they can't be separate is because they are too "messed up" to live otherwise.  This is an album that may sound confident and big on the surface, but look underneath....

...and here are "The King And Queen Of America" who don't exist, who can't exist, but have such self-belief that they think they do.  "We're the all-time winners in the all-time loser's game" - another big brassy song steams along.  "The king of nothing and the queen of rage" is what they really are, on their "glittering stage" - is this the Eurythmics themselves?  Or just any couple who aim big but get little, really, in return?  What it boils down to is a near parody of David Bowie's Let's Dance, showing up that shiny emptiness for what it is, and of course the king and queen here end up going into outer space, the normal Earth having nothing good enough for them....

"(My My) Baby's Gonna Cry" is the first key song here - an anti-"I Got You Babe" that trundles along with David and Annie singing to each other, with Jimmy Iovine as the ref (he was brought in to settle any and all disputes, and I'm guessing there were a lot). Yes, we hear them both, flat and done, with no relish, because this is real.  The guitar break has fake audience applause in it, as if to say - yes, you the audience, you too are involved in this, applauding our misery up here, go ahead, we're beyond irony now.  The line between a song being a song and a song being something happening right in front of you, as you listen, is very narrow here, though the punctum has yet to fully appear...

"Don't Ask Me Why" is in the traditional Eurythmics style, with plucked strings and a delicate, but harsh line from Lennox.  "I don't love you anymore, I don't think I ever did" is a  painful thing to admit.  A lot of pretenses are being dropped, and the efforts of a whole decade are coming up as empty, with nothing good in the distance.  The 80s have been, from this perspective, a letdown, and a lot of soul-searching is the answer, but in the hubbub, the rush to the end, is self-knowledge even possible?

"Angel" is ostensibly about the death of Lennox's aunt, but hearing this at the time - those "57 winters" jumped out at me  - my own father dying at 58, in the winter.  Did I think of my father as an angel flying over me?  No, most certainly not.  The first verse is longing and plaintive and lovely, but then come these lines - "She took her life in her hands...no one can tell her what to do now."  Did she die naturally, or not?  I don't know, and don't want to presume, but this song too has a way of sounding utterly normal Magic-104.5-friendly and yet barbed, as if this angel is faulty, protective but fragile, too.  I don't doubt Lennox's sincerity here, and it would inevitably be the song Lennox would re-record for the 1997 tribute album to the late Princess Diana...this is a long way off "There Must Be An Angel (Playing With My Heart)."

"Revival" is a song that sounds as if it could be a way forward, telling others (themselves?) to get up, get out, get on with it - and Wilson is again here in the background.  It sounds more than a bit like "She Drives Me Crazy" but that's not a bad thing, right now.  "Living in a bad dream" is a phrase which jumps out, and the woman in the next verse - Mona Lisa to his Superman - is twisted, bitter, beaten-up.  To revive is to come back to life; and Lennox wants to do this, but there's wanting to do something and then doing it.  This song, as well-meaning as it sounds, doesn't have enough oomph to truly do the job; it's too pat, too easy.  Even Lennox doing her best to invoke James Brown at the end only makes me want to hear the actual James Brown - a man who needed some reviving himself at this time, if I'm right...

"You Hurt Me (And I Hate You)" starts with Lennox greeting the new day (as she did at the end of Savage) with the sun entering her room, the light spreading across her, as she slept "like a baby."  The song picks up, with Lennox at her fiercest, claiming "I'm not an angel, I'm not that quaint" (thus damning the previous angel?) and saying she doesn't need a preacher (bringing back her "Missionary Man" to diss again).  She has been the broken nail to his hammer, and her hate seems to be invading everything, her sureness in her being in the right and his being in the wrong is absolute.  "You put me down" she sings in the background, as she vows to make her scorn inescapable for him.  This is a bright and sprightly song, but again feels a little...cursory?  Everything here is still a bit guarded - this is like a therapy session of an album, inviting you in to hear things being said, but there is no resolution in sight.  Catharsis, cleansing - those are the aims, but instead a kind of terrible truce is being acted out here, before Lennox storms out, done and exhausted....  

"Sylvia" is a song I took to be about Plath at the time, and its eerie harmonies and pauses are near psychedelic - we are looking at a young woman, a woman who longs to be nothing - "the queen has lost her crown today."  "Passing through the underground" is something I knew, could feel.  Only in sleep can she "forget herself" but there she is in London, painted and ready to be adored, only to meet with "cold caresses" - this is Lennox herself, running to London from Aberdeen, and now alone, her partnerships over, missing, truly gone.  The anger of the previous song has turned into wanting to be gone, be forgotten, to be absent.  It is a stunning song, compassionate, sweet even, in its own way....

....and now, can there be a way out of the 80s?  Because it is going, and the Eurythmics with it...

"How Long?" looks out the window - it's 5 in the afternoon, the radio is on, the wind is casually shaking up the dust on the street...it is in the details that change, positive change (hello Soul II Soul) appear.  And the band sounds a little different here - more bass-heavy, with a kind of space that is narrow, but you know is going to widen.  A little curtain on the 90s appears...life in the "fancy town" is dull, boring as frozen food, bare, immoral.  "How long will your love hold on, stay strong enough?" is the question, against the rising winds and growing dusk.  We are in the very roots of Curve here - the doctor's dotted line, the pavement's cracks, the sense of something wrong having to be endured over, prevailed....

....and then...

The last song, "When The Day Goes Down."  It starts gently, with Lennox directly addressing her audience - telling them not to cry, telling them that "you're as good as all them, of this you can be sure."  But who are being addressed especially?  I don't think its herself, or Stewart, but the people who are to come.  "Don't think that you're the only one who's ever broke right down and cried" she says, giving those people her shoulder, her hand...

..."this is for the broken dreamers...the hopeless losers, the helpless fools...the burned-out and the useless...the lost and the degraded....the too dumb to speak."  These are not her peers she is talking to, not the yuppies, not even the strong-minded young women who have paid attention to the Eurythmics from the start.  No, this is the next generation, who have been on the wrong end of everything since they were born - who have witnessed terrible things, had terrible things done to them, and who have (as of yet) no real cultural voice of their own, no nickname even.  The day goes down on them too much; she is here to let them know that they are not alone (as so many of them feel and think) and that while she understands their misery, they cannot give up.  This is Generation X, the ones who don't fit in, just as Lennox says of herself - "I don't fit into any slot.  I am not really a rock and roller and I never really was a punk or a hippy..."  She is here as a misfit herself to acknowledge the others, to, at the very end, bring punctum.  Her hopeless obsessing over a dead relationship is gone, and her actual compassion and love are evident, and the long drum roll at the end brings even a kind of nobility. 

We too are one; the unity mocked at the start suddenly becomes real.  The night is coming, but it can be endured, because of this unity.  Thus ends the 80s from the Eurythmics' point of view - internally fractured, but not too self-obsessed to extend their empathy outwards, to encourage that positive change....

Up next:  two courageous generations.      

Monday, 17 August 2015

Gloria ESTEFAN: Cuts Both Ways






(#393: 5 August 1989, 6 weeks)

Track listing:  Ay, Ay, I/Here We Are/Say/Think About You Now/Nothin' New/Oye Mi Canto (Hear My Voice)/Don't Wanna Lose You/Get On Your Feet/Your Love Is Bad For Me/Cuts Both Ways


As a woman writing about music, I tend to think - I like to think - that I am writing not just for my own self but my own sensibility.  And what is that?  More than a bit aimless; ready to listen to anything if it is good; appreciative that there are times when I don't want to listen to something that the (still overwhelmingly male) music-writing massive would call "important" or (ahem) "seminal."

Which is to say, Cuts Both Ways did not make the critical end-of-year lists in the NME, Melody Maker nor the Village Voice.  (As for Robert Christgau's review of this album...well...) It is at these times that I think the whole rock consensus as to who is good and who isn't really truly needs to be thrown out, as it doesn't value an album like this nearly enough.  (I may as well say the rock hegemony has a problem with women all together if they make pop/r&b - the "oh, that's nice" syndrome meets the "there can only be one at a time" problem and it's the same today as it ever was, alas.  At the same time, could there have been a Jennifer Lopez without a Gloria Estefan?)

It is their loss, of course, and those who kept this at #1 in the UK for over a month were likely those who don't pay much attention to the music press in the first place*.  This is Estefan's first solo album, and she sounds more upbeat here than on Anything For You; it is as if her apprenticeship as one of Miami Sound Machine (woman-machine) is over and now here she is, a woman in her own right (though MSM are still there, more or less).

Is this album worthy of one of those sit-down-don't-fidget Classic Album listening experiences?  Yes, it is - the album builds up, as all good ones do, with...

"Ay, Ay, I" begins the album with the main theme - "I can't do without you" - and all the troubles that come from this irrefutable feeling.  (This album is about feelings, and some boys - not men - have problems with feelings.) Musically it jumps along like Janet Jackson, and she sounds as determined to win back her Other, who she knows loves her, even though he sets her up, knocks her down.

Things slow down for "Here We Are" - is it wrong for me to think of a cool evening after a hot day, and it's the world of love and hurt that lingers, light as a perfume and just as sad, in a way.  She wants her Other, but for some reason (never stated) they cannot be together.  Is one of them...both of them...with someone else?  The focus is on the narrator and her crushing love for her Other, one that she calls "sublime" and one so intense it makes her cry.  Estefan wrote it (as she wrote most of the songs here) and sings it with a kind of elegance that comes out of an actual experience, remembered.  (I have no idea how autobiographical these songs are, by the way; but she sings them as if she knows what she's talking about - from the heart.)

"Say" is about wanting to hear from the Other - oh, I've had this too Gloria - where you get all excited by the Other but when are you going to hear that declaration back?  This is no mope, but an upbeat song (by the then-up-and-coming Jon Secada) that is like a cheerleader jumping around more than someone saying "please, please say something."  That said, waiting for someone to say "I love you" is tough - "don't wanna worry, but is our love alive?" asks Estefan, then recovers from her doubt, as her - yes - feelings about her Other are so strong, in the end.

"Think About You Now" begins with "Is it worth the time/To bring back a forgotten rhyme" - as if Estefan is now lamenting the loss of a poet, or of language itself.  The affair is over, but the thinking goes on, and of course there is no one else who "could have the same effect on me" - love is indeed the drug, and her Other has left her in half hope, half existential despair.  "It won't be long before I'll be with you somehow" she sings, sounding sure that something will be worked out, maybe once she can rouse herself out of the languorous longing of the song itself.  (And yes, that's Jon Secada in the background, sounding a bit eerie, a bit Michael McDonald.)

"Nothin' New" sounds like go-go, a little Frankie in the chorus (hoo-HAH-hoo-hoo-HAH) and is a weird song about how difficult love is and there is nothing new under the sun and whatcha gonna do about it, kid.  It is a "we" song - "life goes on no matter what you do" is the main thrust, and we are practically in Nein territory here.  There is nothing to do but love, and it's not new and so what.  You have to trust and do the best you can.

"Oye Mi Canto" is about being who you are, standing up for what you believe in, but also - how unrock! - "Find common ground/Go in between/Things aren't always what they seem" - and how feminine is a song that says "Why always take/The upper hand/It's better to understand."  All this to a salsa where she laments - about what? - "Hate is so common it's almost tradition."  I am guessing this has something to do with politics, and who could be happier about the US and Cuba having better relations than Havana-born Estefan herself? Hear my voice, the song says, and suddenly it's not just about the Other but about all Others - and the one voice becomes all voices as the others join in at the end.  Once the political is introduced, it of course goes on to shadow the other songs...

"Don't Wanna Lose You" is a ballad about hope, self-confidence and real love - love that gives of itself, that admits truths, and is willing be courageous and say the awkward, real thing.  Her Other may not want her, but she's sticking around, as she knows they are "gonna get through somehow."  The song is one of real devotion and is grounded, in the best way.  (Estefan's realism in love reminds me strongly of George Benson.)  Estefan's good faith is cheering, and continues with "Get On Your Feet" - a song to someone who is down - "so scared that life's gonna pass you by/Your spirit dying" - oh existential horror!  But Estefan & Co. are like a big hug and smile here, willing the listener to get up and dance and get going, that action is better than being a dull slugabed.  That's not very rock either, now that I think about it...

"Your Love Is Bad For Me" brings us back to the torture of "Here We Are."  The longing here is more explicit, and the badness is just part of her pleasure, in the end.  "I'd love you till you could not take it any more" is followed by "Then you'd walk out the door."  Estefan - or the narrator - is not messing around here.  "You don't belong to me" is the thorn here, the moment when all this sleepless insanity and melodrama has its reveal, and it's done lightly, as if the badness - he's cheating! with her! - is the cause of her love, as much as the Other.  (I can imagine whole Oprah programs about this, with guest psychologists and everything - I'm The Other Woman And I Feel Conflicted.)  What on earth could Emilio, her husband, make of all this?

The album ends with the title song, one that implies violence.  It is quiet and reflective, at first, as Estefan admits that she and the Other are "heading for a broken heart" - and then picks up when she admits that she loves her Other too much, they both want too much..."Don't be a fool/Haven't we already broken every rule?" she asks, as if the awful end is already in sight.  There is no way out; it's too dangerous, too dangerous to continue, and too dangerous, apparently, to ever really end.  If love is the drug then this is the comedown, the time when the actual situation has to be reckoned with, and Estefan's voice is tough, vulnerable.  Their love is like a knife; neither is strong enough, willing to sacrifice, to end it.  This is not the rock joy of extremes (or of overcoming extremes) but the blunt fact of how love is powerful and painful and is much, much stronger than any individual who thinks that with a bit of pep and realism for sure things can work out.  Well, says Estefan, maybe, but also maybe not - this is the ground of Cuts Both Ways, a place where the heart can be open and rebel and revel in its badness, only to be caught up short by that badness turning into something more complex, the lover realizing that they actually do have feelings that pierce and the knife may as well be an arrow...

It is because she is so willing to get into the guts of these emotions - many of them painful, if self-inflicted - that Cuts Both Ways works so well.  While it was at the top other albums appeared - Adeva's Adeva!, Shakespear's Sister's Sacred Heart, The Blow Monkeys' Choices, Fuzzbox's Big Bang! - which also had their realities and tough voices (and like this album mostly bought by women - including me). That Estefan was badly injured while on tour supporting this album - and came back, determined and grounded as ever - attests, as she might say, as to how strong an album this is, how its floods of emotion and cool intelligence balance each other out, how striving for the middle ground can actually be far more difficult and rewarding than giving up or taking the easy way out.  Neither of those are ideas Estefan could endorse, and the pleasures and agonies of the songs go well with a time when no one quite knew what was happening, when the decade was coming to a close and feelings and emotions were coming to the fore...a time for complexities to be faced and worked out, however painful, for the sake of the Other, or Others...not very rock, but then this is the ocean of sound, this is that cool night after the heat of the day, the long letting-go, emotions and waters that only look placid...

Next up:  look what Bunny wrote!             



* Not all of them, though.  I'm sure the Pet Shop Boys bought this and loved it. 

Tuesday, 11 August 2015

TRANSVISION VAMP: Velveteen



(#391:  8 July 1989, 1 week)


Track listing:  Baby I Don't Care/The Only One/Landslide Of Love/Falling For A Goldmine/Down On You/Song To The Stars/Kiss Their Sons/Born To Be Sold/Pay The Ghosts/Bad Valentine/Velveteen

 Lately I have been studying the art of display - how to arrange things so they can all be seen to their best advantage.  It is a tricky thing, though I enjoy doing it, and while learning I have once again come across the idea of "pulling focus."  There should always be something to catch the eye, to give some (but not too much) glamor, so that the whole display can work around the focal point and not clash with it, or make it seem ridiculous or out of place by comparison.  I am studying and arranging books this way, but album covers have to have their own internal logic as well, and just as with books you can actually learn a lot from an album cover...

...and are Transvision Vamp reflected badly by their cover?  Well, yes and no.  Is the focus of the group lead singer Wendy James?  Oh yes.  Are the other three in the background, looking a bit bored or distracted, as La James looks at the camera in her best sultry manner?  Yep.  Are they in a dressing room which happens to have a lot of signifiers around, like Marilyn Monroe, Bob Dylan, The Velvet Underground and, uh, Mudhoney?  OH yeah.  (There is even a book called Sex In Movies there, just in case you forgot they are trying to be sexy.)  While this isn't as blatant as Rattle & Hum in its yearnings and idealizations of US culture, it does give me pause.  As an American I am always a little disconcerted by the idolization of these people, as if Transvision Vamp would have no real purpose or inner substance of their own, beyond making music that somehow reflects all this love for these people.

Except it doesn't.  I don't know if it's the fault of producers Duncan Bridgman or Zeus B. Held, but this is a very safe album.  (Remember how generally conservative the album charts are, compared to the singles one.)  The band are competent and put their songs (all written by Nick Sayer, more or less) through their paces, and James acts (more on this in a minute) the best she can.  But you can't put such revolutionary figures as Dylan and the Velvets on the cover and just make regular pop/rock music, can you?  Is just signifying enough to show that you are different from the other Chris Roberts Blondes* like Tracy Tracy from The Primitives or Andrea from The Darling Buds?

"Baby I Don't Care" is a declaration of pop love and the joys of things being "best left never said" and gets the full zoomy treatment, with James trying her best to get across her own insouciance, but the production from here on in is too timid, not willing to be rough or sexy enough, leaving James to carry, at almost all times, these qualities herself.  But there is only so much even she can do, only so much focus she can pull, before the songs become "songs" and her voice is just a "voice."  James had no hand in writing or playing any of these songs, and so it is her acting out the songs that distracts after a while; a lot of rock 'n' roll cliche is on hand here, and in her growl/whisper she tries to bring them to life.  But how can you bring pastiches of ye olde rock love songs like "The Only One" or the seemingly endless title track** to life when there's no Other actually being addressed?

Other songs fare a bit better - the endless list of stars who were "Born To Be Sold" is an acceptance of the whole we're-only-in-it-for-the-money/fame vibe that so many bands would deny - Transvision Vamp marched right into a corporate label office and demanded a deal, man.  There was no way they would go to an indie label, and this is them hooking their hopeful claim up to others who were also ambitious, as if mentioning "Little Richard and Lady Day" their successes would rub off on them.  (She sounds, believe it or not, a bit like Lawrence from Denim, years before Back To Denim - the music is suitably retro, as you'd expect.)  "Song To The Stars" is before this, where an ambitious man leaves his Other behind, with the requisite sadness in James' voice.  "Kiss Their Sons" is a bit rougher, a bit better, with real disgust in James' voice - this is where Mudhoney come in, I think.  (They are absent from the rest of the songs.)  It's still a bit too neat, but at least they are trying....

"Falling For A Goldmine" is interesting - "there's flowers growing on the Berlin Wall" - but this song about Marlene Dietrich (at least that is who I think it's about) is all starry-eyed wonder, but it's a bit too one-dimensional, not pop enough to be kitsch (a beautiful word), not spaced-out enough to live up to the words.  And what does the title mean?  "Marlene On The Wall" by Suzanne Vega is a lot better using Dietrich as a presence, giving her a character and voice.  With Transvision Vamp, she's an icon, and the song could just as well be set in Paris and refer to Edith Piaf...

"Down On You" is James growling away, but the music is slick, slicker than a water slide, when it should be very rough.  (It has this awful squelchy synth in it, and of course a guitar solo.  Sigh.)  Compared to fellow Blonde Band The Primitives' "Sick Of It" this just sounds like a snobby Sloane Ranger dumping on her ex-boyfriend, and not a real purge.  In the face of what is already happening and what is to come, Velveteen is dated, and I wonder how dated it even sounded at the time.  In such a fast-moving and unpredictable time as this period of fractals and Tiananmen Square, making only a partial effort to be different (and not changing your producer) hardly counts.

"Pay The Ghosts" is yet another song where James is expected to bring the roughness as the song goes along sounding like...library music rock.  Yes, that's what Transvision Vamp are doing here - making rock that sounds remarkably like the real thing, only...not.  So James sings "Pay me what you owe me" while Rihanna is still in diapers, but again there's a snag - pay the ghosts?  Who are the ghosts?  Yep, James screams at the end, but there's comic books that have better plot than this.  And so it goes, "rocking out" to the inevitable fade.

"Bad Valentine" is quiet, and sounds a bit like a try at Tom Waits/Bruce Springsteen, but even James can't really sell this one; she says she bad, sure, but do bad girls ever proclaim their badness?  No, they don't.  And I bet bad girls didn't buy Velveteen - Tiffany, Debbie Gibson, Paula Abdul even - that's what the bad girls like, pure pop without a hint of self-knowing or irony.  They don't want near-ten-minute failed epics like "Velveteen" (it's got a string section and everything)!

So then, does the cover show what the contents reveal?  It wants to be all pink and purple and velvety and so on, but that US glamor is forever just outside their reach, and their nodding towards Seattle to make up for this isn't quite enough.  There's zero politics here, unless you count the awkward mention of the Berlin Wall, and James' acting is fine, but isn't enough to make up for everything else.  She never seems to be singing to the listener but to the producer; I get no feelings jumping out at me, no shuddering drama, no trashy overacting, nothing.  As much as they admire Americans, Transvision Vamp are British, and that reserve they have is doing nothing for them here. 

Perhaps all these songs came off better live; I don't know.  What I do know is that after their next album they broke up, James did a fine album of songs written for her by Elvis Costello and Cait O'Riordan called Now's Not The Time For Your Tears in '93, then went off to learn how to play guitar and write songs, first in London and then in NYC.  I am pretty sure that she is much happier doing her own thing now than she was before - when all she wanted was to be famous, pure and simple.  Velveteen marks the apex of the Blondes - the bands kept going, but sadly neither the more indie-identified The Darling Buds nor The Primitives got their own number one album.

Transvision Vamp meant well here, wanted to make a rough, bubblegum-girl group-garage classic, but the production diluted anything that was interesting, for the most part; and Wendy James got to see what fame was like, and enjoyed it while she could.  But there are greater things than being a pop star...   

Next:  meanwhile, in north London...       


*Chris Roberts had a whole obsession with Blondes in Melody Maker that was always over-the-top and yet also accurate in appreciating these three young women, all from bands that were pop and rock and indie and mainstream.  I think he felt they were part of the apocalyptic feeling of the end of the 80s - these girls were good/bad but not evil, they had a kind of insouciance about things and were more "sincere" in a way than your actual U2s or Dire Straits.  (I am sure one Courtney Love read all this and understood it immediately; in some ways she was the real Blonde of this time.)  I don't know if Roberts had a crush on all these young women, though a lot of guys did, James in particular.

**I realize now that it's a Velvets/teenager thing, but at nearly 10 minutes it has no real climax and dissolution, no real sense of drama.  (It thinks it does, like so much of this album, but it doesn't, and I remember at the time feeling let down by this.)