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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[19] Japan, ‘Quiet Life’

Japan

Quiet Life was the first LP I bought. Sure, there were a couple of cassette albums before that – both by Duran Duran, naturally – but this was my first 12” vinyl breakout, along with Dexys Midnight Runners’ Searching For The Young Soul Rebels in the WH Smith bargain racks. It was March 1983, four years after its release, nicely in keeping with Japan’s own idiosyncratic chronology. You see, I bought it on the strength of their superb cover of The Velvet Underground’s ‘All Tomorrow’s Parties’, which has just come out as a single – also four years after the event. And then there’s this, into the singles chart with a bullet, two years after its first appearance. They can’t have known if they were coming or going. In 1983 they were going.

Straddling Japan’s lurch from glam to Orient-obsessed electro-artpop, ‘Quiet Life’ veers in to the sound of helicopter blades – at least it sounds that way to me, and Junior agrees – and David Sylvian moans about – what? The break-up of the band, years before it happened? The changing state of the nation? His transitional football team? He was to take the quiet life to extremes afterwards, pootling around in the margins, crafting barely penetrable avant-pop, but still he carries on. So Junior identifies the blades, spots the handclaps, and sways to the slides, clips and ticks in the back of the car.

[8] Tears For Fears, ‘Shout’

More mid-’80s pop heavyweights. These two perhaps even outdid their contemporaries for bad hair, what with Curt’s rat’s tail and Roland’s wind-tunnel accident, though this didn’t stop them releasing huge single after huge single. This was one of the biggest, a mantra to fit in with their primal scream philosophy.

They were lucky I bought this. Previous single ‘Mother’s Talk’ had me skipping back to WH Smith twice, when my record player refused to pay the limited edition green vinyl. I had to settle for standard black. I couldn’t even get a picture sleeve for ‘Shout’, so was lowering my sights all round.

It’s a song about facing your demons, so Junior looked suitably fearful for the first few bars. Eventually, she was flinging herself over the edge of the inflatable and laughing. No one took Tears For Fears seriously in the long run.

[19] Kool & The Gang, ‘(When You Say You Love Somebody) In The Heart’

An unremarkable record from a band some way past its peak, hurtling headlong towards the nadir of ‘Cherish’. It has a nice, sunny intro, and I remember admiring its 7” vinyl goodness in the lane on the way home from WH Smith. Also in the paper bag were singles from Scritti Politti and OMD. It was the Easter holiday. I don’t have much to say about this.

Junior ate banana porridge, which will probably linger longer in her memory.

The Ronettes, ‘Frosty The Snowman’

Listening to yesterday’s Christmas song, I was reminded of a truly insignificant record-buying moment in my youth. 20 years ago, when the death knell for vinyl first rang out, WH Smith still displayed the entire Top 40 singles in four rows of 10 7” singles. It was a wonder. I used to pop in before school on a Monday morning to pick up a latest release or two from the racks below and to perhaps choose a favourite I’d heard on the chart rundown the night before. 

This time, I was after Art of Noise’s ‘Close (To The Edit)’ in its shiny white sleeve. I spotted it, must have turned away, turned back again and grabbed it from the shelf, paid and went on my way to assembly. At break I pulled it out of the bag to admire it. There, in a shiny white sleeve, was Kirsty MacColl’s ‘A New England’. My classmate thought she looked “fit”, but I wasn’t happy and exchanged it at lunch. These days, I’m not sure which record I like more. 

When Junior’s downloading mp3s to the chip in her right earlobe, these errors will be a thing of the past. Nah, computers stuff up everything. Anyway, I digress.

The Wall of Sound, replete with jingle bells and sparkle, brings the hugest grin to Junior’s face. It’s a song which has all the magic of Christmas with its enchanted snowmen and gambolling in the white streets and gardens, but it also expresses the melancholy when it’s all over. The snow will melt and we’ll go back to school – never fear, though, because Frosty will be back next year. 

It’ll be a few more winters before Junior gets excited about this sort of thing. Being a big kid, I’ll just have to do it for her.