Glee Cast, ‘Don’t Stop Believin”

Rachel off of Glee

The greatest trick the devil ever pulled was convincing callow record buyers that those Top of The Pops compilations were the real deal. I was duped once – but only once – when I sifted the sales racks in WHSmith and found an LP of glittering pop hits by (and the memory might be fuzzy here) the likes of “The Jam”, “Soft Cell” and “XTC”, for just two quid! A bargain even before you factor in the laughing lady with the Farrah Fawcett hairdo, pulling a t-shirt down over a bare bottom half. I already had a sharp ear back then and it took me one intro to realise there was something fishy about this album. A bit of further investigation, and I never played it again.

I’m sure a relisten now would reveal ample competence on the part of the session players, but no bite, no star quality. Like I say, you fall for it once.

Or we all fall for it all over again. At least Glee’s brazen about it, but still their covers – despite extraordinary production values and belting performances – lack the edge of the originals; after all, they’re not trying to reinvent the wheel. The thing about ‘Don’t Stop Believin” though, is, for once, it sounds like a different song from Journey’s teasing anthem. The a cappella ‘pianos’, the girl/boy exchange, even the relative brevity make a successful pure pop transformation.

Why talk about it now? Junior requested it: “This is my favourite.” “I like it too,” piped three-year-old sister, and they do both have an alarming handle on the lyrics. And a routine. Sometimes I question the wisdom of working full-time and leaving my daughters at the mercy of a mum who’s determined to indoctrinate them in all manner of apple pie pop culture. Then I realise it’s ace.

But again, why talk about it now? The Music Diary Project revealed that I don’t share music enough. A good 90% of my listening is through earphones on a commute, and while that’s great for wallowing in my favourites and discovering new stuff without distracting input, half the fun of music is communal experience – talking about it, listening together, arguing, preaching and, yeah, dancing like loons. That’s why I started Jukebox Junior. I need to find more time.

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[4] Soft Cell, ‘Tainted Love’

Soft Cell

It’s not wildly different from Gloria Jones’s original, apart from the supreme hit-making aggression of the bam-bam, parp-parp, argh-argh, doof-doof, beep-beep, bang-bang, bink-bink, bonk-bonk, bump-bump, eeee-eeee, unng-unng, ughh-ughh. That, and Marc Almond favouring seedy sleaze over Jones’s impassioned roar. And Dave Ball’s distinctive spooky synths. Yes, it’s quite a different beast altogether.

Junior went berserk.

Bong-bong:

[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.