[32] Kylie Minogue, ‘Can’t Get You Out Of My Head’

Can't Get You Out Of My Head

Seems lazy to give props to this track with a mere blog post, when Paul Morley managed to devote an entire BOOK to it, but obviously everything about it sitting in a room with Alvin Lucier while – in its techno dreams – it sweeps down an autobahn with Kraftwerk has, erm, already been said. For some reason.

In its real-life context, ‘Can’t Get You Out Of My Head’ was the sleek, pulsating sonic seduction that made it actually matter that Kylie had come back. The slight ‘Spinning Around’ made us say, “Isn’t it nice to have Kylie back in pop?”, but this one prompted a “Thank God.”

Junior says: Nothing, but a broad grin spreads across her face. “Do you know who this is?” I ask. “Kylie!” She’s come through her pop education.

Best bit: Where it breaks down and the synths go a bit ‘Love Action’.

[10] Kraftwerk, ‘The Model’


There comes a time in every little girl’s life when she has to be introduced to Kraftwerk. Best to leave it late as possible, obviously – they’re a bit scary – but she needs to get familiar with those electro building blocks pretty near the get-go. Junior first heard the teutonic tinkerers nearly two years ago, as ‘Tour De France’ twinkled around the Technics. Only now, though, did I introduce her to the full visuals.

“Why are they wearing lipstick?” Junior cuts to the heart of The Man Machine. Er, because they’re trying to be robots? Will that wash? It appears it might. We get right into the sinister synths and the lads’ hopeless chat-up lines and marvel at the fact this song was already three years old by this point and still had another six months before it would hit No.1. They were so far ahead of their time they even lagged behind themselves.

That’s understood:

[5] Gary Numan, ‘Cars’

Look, everyone – techno! Kraftwerk had laid meaty foundations, of course, but Gary Numan really made them rock. This is synth as instrument of dance, not evocation of stark futuristic landscape and death of tangible human emotion. Ok, a bit of that too.

Numan had dispensed with his Tubeway Army and was ready to step into the limelight as glamorous, pouting, ladies-love solo star. Granted, he may have missed that mark, but he was a beguiling artist in a cold, otherworldly kind of way – an object of fascination who gave little away, and perhaps there was little to give. ‘Cars’ was the sound of tomorrow, hi-tech and dispassionate, and may still be. From the comfortable safety of his human-shunning machine, Numan croaks a few cyborg lines before buggering off barely halfway through the song, allowing the less-credited Army to unleash a vast, layered synthscape that should by rights extend forever. Monumental.

No-nonsense Junior cut to the chase: “Why’s he singing about his car? He’s silly, isn’t he?”

[9] Tubeway Army, ‘Are ‘Friends’ Electric?’

Hear that? Those are new gods marching over the pop scene to Prokofievian synth chords, punkbots on rollerblades gliding to a lipsticked new world order. You get the drift. Gary Numan may well have been a figure of fun – a slightly freakish, unsettling one, yeah – but what the hell did that matter to him when he was splicing Kraftwerk and Bowie templates to take his android aria to the top of the charts?

This sounds like the future, and it’s a lonely, terrifying one. In Numan’s high concept, “friends” are automatons, here to leaven the solitude and provide for, well, other needs. “Mine broke down,” he croaks and the flimsy tissue of solace rips apart around it. But the synth cycle transcends its forbidding tones and raises the song to epic status, delivering Queen-like rock in pure electronica. It’s stunning and still dominant even as Adina Howard, Richard X and Sugababes hijack it for their own saucy needs.

Back here in 2008, Junior performed all sorts of unlikely twists and turns to the music. It would’ve put my back out, but then, I’m not three. As we left the house 10 minutes later, she said “It’s cold outside.” Whoa.

[3] Soft Cell, ‘Say Hello, Wave Goodbye’

Me And The Stars – an occasional series: I saw Marc Almond in the Virgin Megastore on Oxford Street when I was about 14. He had peroxide blond hair, which would place him in the classic Duetting with Bronski Beat period. One of my friends, in rather infra dig fashion, chased him as he left the shop, yelling apocryphal stuff about pumping stomachs free of eight pints of something or other. I imagine Marc remembers it fondly too. I was at a dinner party once with Richard Norris, who formed the Grid with Soft Cell’s other half, Dave Ball. My memoirs will be a blast, eh?

‘Say Hello, Wave Goodbye’ drips with sleaze and pathos. No mean feat, but then Almond was always good at that. You could say he belonged in a different age, of torch singers and decadent Hollywood grandeur, but there he was, fitting in effortlessly with the brave new synth age, bringing some Cabaret to the London gloom. Hit after hit, and this would be the best if not for good old ‘Tainted Love’, a cover but an astonishing arrangement.

Electronic music was still a novelty in the mainstream. This and the next song would have surprised many, showing talented artists wringing emotion out of the cold machines. English pop heads taking Kraftwerk and adding drama. Melodrama, even, as Junior screamed throughout. Not crying, just testing the old chords. She even waved goodbye.

[14] Pointer Sisters, ‘Automatic’

I’d seen enough of Boy George and Marilyn by 1984 to recognise a man in drag. Imagine my surprise when this lot turned out to be genuine sisters, albeit with fierce looks and a vocal range to embarrass Rula Lenska.

The song has dated but it’s still a stirring mix of Chic, electro and Jam & Lewis, as if it passes the baton from disco to modern r’n’b. The delivery is robotic, the lyrics listing the mechanics of lust; if they’d kept the fourth member, they could’ve been the Barbies to Kraftwerk’s Kens.

There’d been a Valentine’s Day airing of Will Young’s ‘All Time Love’, but this was the first record today that had Junior beating the sides of the inflatable. She likes a faster tempo, and she can empathise with pushing “a stream of absurdities” from one’s lips. She’s definitely saying “Dada”, though.

Coldplay, ‘Talk’/Julie Andrews and children, ‘Do-Re-Mi’

So here we have an actual new single, Coldplay’s tilt at the Christmas No.12. More serious commentators than me have seriously pointed out that it’s a limp song hanging from Kraftwerk’s ‘Computer Love’ riff, and there’s a great big anvil of truth in that. In homage, Junior spends its five minutes 10 seconds trying to roll over and ends up looking like Ralf Hutter hunched over his handlebars, negotiating a Tour de France Alpine hairpin bend with cold German precision (there is no other form of precision, really). There’s barely a nod to Chris Martin’s influence, unless you count the puzzling fact that I had “Mojo” written in biro on the back of my hand.

Now, ‘Do-Re-Mi’ has always made her smile, perhaps incredulous at my note-perfect rendition. We tried the crackly old LP today, part of a job lot I nabbed off my mum when she and my dad embraced the CD age. Lorraine Kelly of television fame tells us that The Sound of Music is enjoying a mini revival, and I’m not one to snub a bandwagon.

Junior looked impressed that Julie Andrews didn’t get the “ti” and “so” lines mixed up like some people, but found the children annoying. Especially that Friedrich.

To recap then, a number twelve hit for ‘Talk’ and a timely festive repackage for The Sound of Music.