[6] The Carpenters, ‘Goodbye To Love’

The Carpenters

The Guilty Pleasures movement is a flawed model; it requires you to be ashamed to like pop music, to sneer at any artist who favours melody over image or ludicrous image over workaday melody, to disparage anything that doesn’t satisfy the consensus of stifled peers. It’s no pleasure, it’s the tiniest loosening of your credibility belt. To take only furtive enjoyment from the music of ELO, Toto, Hot Chocolate, Wham!, Dolly Parton, Chicago, New Radicals, 10cc, even Take That – purveyors of open, carefree pop or heart-on-sleeve romantic rock patronised by GP playlists and compilations – is to find no joy at all. It only belittles. Hate all that stuff by all means, turn your nose up at Girls Aloud, but for pity’s sake don’t slope off home and play it behind closed doors. Love what you love, abhor what you abhor. Send an SAE for more sermons.

The Carpenters are the perfect candidate for backhanded veneration, with their hook-laden songs, smooth arrangements, celebrations of love, that old brother-sister closeness and cutesy presentation. That’s why I mentioned it. Take them as a novelty and you’re ignoring the power of glorious tunes like ‘Goodbye To Love’ which sounds like the 70s in miniature. Well, there’s no punk here, granted, but the soaring fuzz guitar solo against massed voices certainly points rock in one direction – to Glee, probably; to the elevation of the power ballad to pop-rock’s purest art form. Who’s arguing?

Junior? No, not arguing, even though she thinks that fuzzy solo sounds like a trumpet. She adds her “ahhh” to the heavenly chorus and is intrigued by the possibility of a family band, asking two-year-old sister, “Would you like us to make records together?” “No.”

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[2] Take That, ‘Back For Good’

Well I never. There are two types of people: those who understand that this is a pop classic and those who reckon that Robbie Williams’ wrongheaded, legacy-pissing, smug “punk” cover is somehow better. That kind of thing narks me right off. They’re the same earnest Mojo readers who dislike ‘.. Baby One More Time’ and ‘Independent Women’ but fawn over Travis’ and Elbow’s respective versions. Bands who do this believe that they’re legitimising the song by stripping the pop nous and adding dreary rock chords. They’re not. It’s an in-joke that reveals their fear of what the boys might think.

You can possibly tell which side of the fence I occupy. I never had a problem with Take That, a blessed relief after New Kids On The Block. The songs were ordinary, inoffensive, with the odd one or two rising above the parapet. Then I saw them perform this on the Brits and was bowled over by the hooks and its near perfect form. The middle eight is weak, but nothing else is, and it doesn’t outstay its welcome. Hindsight shows it was a one-off for Gary Barlow, the awkward, rotund George Michael that never was.

Junior and I didn’t have time to discuss the record. She sat in the ring and chewed her foam pig while I puzzled over why the mixer was making everything sound fuzzy. I should dust more often. A flawed performance then, an ill-fitting tribute to this soppy dazzler.

Wham!, ‘Last Christmas’

“Why get to work at 9.30 when you can get there at 10.30?” Dumbfounding myself with this unshakeable logic, I realised it was time for another Christmas tune.

So, I’ve spent 20-odd years thinking it’s “hiding from you and you’re so revised” and now it turns out be “your soul of ice”. Ok, I haven’t spent the entire 20 years thinking it – that would be frivolous – but I have wondered how she/he could be “so revised”. It’s still worth considering, because it’s a better lyric than “soul of ice”.

George knew how to write a tune, though. Well, Barry Manilow did, in this case. Junior loves it. She’s smiling to the point of laughter, and her arms and legs are swinging all over the place, in the manner of Pepsi and Shirlie trying to ski* in the video. Her mum had her office Christmas party last night, so she’s less than festive, but she seems keen to indoctrinate Junior into the ways of the Wham!, making it a hit all round.

*They may have just sat by the fire for the whole song, but I’m projecting. I know that the edit that goes to MTV is just a snapshot of the artist’s life at that point. I’m still wondering how Take That are managing to reform after being pushed off that cliff.