Thursday, October 29, 2009

sacrilege

The phenomenon of the one-hit wonder is often talked of in terms that imply they had only a single moment of talent, as if commercial success is somehow a measure of creative worth. Sometimes that's true but often it's not.

Poor old Jeff Beck. He spends years being one of the foremost guitarists of his generation, fusing white backbeat pop-rock with real searing blues, yet what's the only track of his that everyone knows? Hi Ho Silver Lining.

Other one-hit wonders leave you amazed that anyone wanted to listen to anything they ever did in the first place. In the 1980s there was a swathe of blokey guys with guitars, the sort of sub-Bryan Adamsers who were clearly surrounded by an entourage of coked-up yesmen telling them they were some kind of Springsteen.

One of these was Rick Springfield. If you're 40ish in the UK, you may vaguely remember his only half-hit here, Jessie's Girl.

For those of you who don't, and indeed those of you who do but could do with a reminder about why you have no clear memory, here's the video. It's a great piece of unintentional comedy, just look at how this negligible tosser takes himself soooo seriously.



And if that was where we could leave him, well, what's the harm? I'll tell you the fucking harm. To explain the damage and my personal grudge, let's go on another one almost-hit wonder detour.

The Church are one of my favourite bands ever. For thirty years they've been making music of great beauty, mystery and intelligence, generating luscious opiate warmth yet with a tremendously potent sense of undefined unease and longing. Rich, soulful, beautiful.

In the late 1980s they had their fifteen minutes with a single called Under The Milky Way. Mercifully for them, their albatross-song isn't a Silver Liningesque anomalous novelty, it's actually pretty representative of their work.

If you're American you probably know it, but in Europe nobody has really heard of it unless they were into what we then called Alternative Music. I get genuinely surprised when I mention The Church to anyone and there's any kind of recognition at all. In the last couple of years there's been some sharper folks that at least know the song thanks to its use in Donnie Darko.

But anyway, Rick fucking Springfield. He just won't let it lie, he still makes albums, and guess what he's applied his one dimensional croak to?



And that's not actually the bad news. The song's had a sort of pincer movement performed on it.

We live in an age where any decent song is rapidly reduced to being just a corporate shill. Advertising, the most evil concept ever, debases anything you love in order to make you buy things you don't need from people you don't like.

The Cure's Pictures of You sells computer printers ('these pictures of you, I almost believe that they're real' - geddit? See what they did there?).

Stuart Maconie said of Frank Wilson's supreme northern soul belter Do I Love You (Indeed I Do)

If you want to know what the magic of Northern Soul is, get yourself a copy... and allow yourself to be swept away by its life-affirming, luminous, lump-in-the-throat beauty and effervescence.

As far as I'm concerned, there is no ailment or depression so profound and weighty that two and a half minutes in the company of this fabulous tune won't lift and banish.

These days it's the soundtrack for fried chicken adverts.

And of course, everything you ever cared about, from The Jam's harsh description of urban deprivation Town Called Malice, to Nick Drake's magical gossamer Pink Moon to Led Zeppelin's frenzied Rock n Roll, sells fucking cars.

Here's the new ad for the Lincoln MKT.



I'm off to put my head in the oven.

18 comments:

Anonymous said...

You sound like a very sad, bitter man.

walliegirl said...

I'm sorry you are not able to appreciate a talented artist like Rick Springfield. He is not a one hit wonder, as he has 17 top 40 hits credited to his name. You should check out one of his latest albums called Shock, Denial, Anger, Acceptance. I think you will be pleasantly surprised.

Anonymous said...

I hate anyone who ruins a Church song. Springfield is a dull musician. He may once have been a nice bloke, but i'll always hate him now for shitting on this song. The commenters above need to read some of the other stuff on this blog about music and they may have some perspective. Chris de Burgh anyone? RA

Sabrina Messenger said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

I am a little confused about what you are really angry about. Mr. Springfield's career( which you are really not informed about because you dont care too much for him)or you just dont like they way music influnces others. In this case, how it sells cars... The truth is music is an art and people are inspired by differenly from it. Your jealousy or bitterness of Mr. Springfield (and others) who have not have true reconition for their accomlishments; who has the drive to do want he wants in his life should be honored. I hope there is something more than this blog in your life...

Sabrina Messenger said...

I don't understand why people get so angry about musicians singing cover songs. If artists didn't cover the work of other artists, then many of those songs would fade from public consciousness. So instead of criticizing Rick Springfield, you should be glad that a veteran performer like Rick thinks highly enough of The Church and other bands to want to record their works.

Anonymous said...

Looks like word's got out. Another Rick basher. Get him ladies...

Anonymous said...

Is Rick Springfield a christian?

Anonymous said...

didn't Springfield do a track with David Sylvian? Maybe a cover of Kirby Workers Dream Fades by The Teardrop Explodes? I'll have to look it up...

Anonymous said...

Springfield is so much better than you assume. Have you really listened to some of his early work? The lyrical techniques and the musicianship are breathtaking. One track, "Beneath the silken wings of angels" has a bassoon arrangement that never fails to moisten the corners of tired old eyes.

Anonymous said...

yo Merrick, liking your work- keep it up;)
here's a phat n funky mix by soundhog i think you'll enjoy..
http://www.soundhog.co.uk/zfilesz/swineflu/soundhog%20-%2021%20minutes%20of%20swine%20flu%20-%20live%20mix%20april%202009.mp3

Mal

Kate Dennis said...

Yet another sad, bitter self-made critic taking on a subject he knows nothing about.

Anonymous said...

"Those who are envious can find no beauty in the works of others"

"Imitation is the purest form of flattery"

"Clothes may disguise a fool until he opens his mouth.."

You, sir, haven't got a clue as to what you are talking about. But opinions are like assholes I suppose... everyone's got one. I hadn't heard of "The Church" until Rick Springfield did his cover of "Under The Milky Way" I had heard that song before, but had never heard of "The Church". I'm sure they probably got a nice cut from royalties. LOL THEY obviously didn't have a problem with Springfield's wanting to cover the song.

"He's got a brilliant way of saying nothing at all.... and I know where you find you, swinging from your branches, with your super careful phrases....Never taking chances..."

Anonymous said...

The problem here is the difference between throw away pop shite and true art.

Springfield, by any stretch of the imagination is closely related to the former.

I've been off and listened to several Springfield tracks.As i type i have "Written in Rock" playing on Spotify. They are sub-middle-of-the-road shiny crap.

The Church is high art by comparison. Try Invisible from After Everything Now This. See here:-

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iRvuxoRGPCE

It's a shame that only a fraction of their music is on Spotify

I must question the intellectual capacity of anyone who can defend the artistic credentials of music so banal and insipid as that produced by Springfield.

Peace and love

Michael Bentine.

Anonymous said...

Has anyone heard Sprinkfield's cover of "'ve got a brand new combined harvester" by the mighty Wurzels? Sublime.

Yours in Christ,

Christine Hamilton

Anonymous said...

As a proud Christian and long-time fan of Rick I'm saddened to see that he's sullied his good reputation by involving himself with a band who cheapen the holy institutin of the Church by using the self-same name for their band!

I really don't understand where these kids get off on mocking the Lord. It's such a shame.

Rick has lost a fan, I'm afraid.

Muriel V. S. Cleese
Wisconsin

Anonymous said...

Rick comes from a highly talented musical family. His mum, Dusty, and his dad, Buffalo, are legends in the biz. You need to open your mind and listen to his cover of Strawberry Switchblade's song, "Since Yesterday" then you'll see the light.

merrick said...

Egads! A man goes away for a quiet five day drugs bender and comes back to find a flurry of Rickophilia!

Well, at least there was no equivalent bollocks from fans of Lincoln cars. Small mercies and all that.

*deep breath* here goes...

walliegirl, Rick may well have 17 hits where you are, but not here he doesn't. I'm in the UK, as you can tell by the way I said 'If you're 40ish in the UK, you may vaguely remember his only half-hit here'. Sorry for confusing things with clear language.

You should check out one of his latest albums called Shock, Denial, Anger, Acceptance.

Kinnell, why did I take you at your word? I laboured through seven whole tracks.

There is a grippingness in parts of God Gave You To Everyone, a genuine edginess in parts (then again I'm the guy who found redeeming features one time when I was subjected to repeat plays of Would I Lie To You by Charles and Eddie), but fuck me it wasn't worth half an hour of that turgid cliched truckstop muzak.

RA, I thankyou for noting the other music content on the blog, but its not the Chris De Burgh thing that's most resonant to this discussion. It's the comments in the Simple Minds post.

Anonyperson,

I am a little confused about what you are really angry about.

I'm sorry that plain English so readily defeats you. Maybe you should refrain from using it as a medium for discussion.

I hope there is something more than this blog in your life

I'm touched by your concern. Rest assured, there is more to my life than this blog. As anyone capable of comprehending this blog can deduce. Hope you'll develop such capabilities one day soon.

Sabrina Messenger,

instead of criticizing Rick Springfield, you should be glad that a veteran performer like Rick thinks highly enough of The Church and other bands to want to record their works.

You know those Idol-show twats who line up to massacre Hallelujah, and how that changes what the song is for everyone? That's what Springfield's done.

Kate Dennis,

Yet another sad, bitter self-made critic taking on a subject he knows nothing about.

Ouch, I'm soooo stung. Absolutely, I know nothing about music or advertising. Talking of which...

Anonyperson,

THEY obviously didn't have a problem with Springfield's wanting to cover the song.

You don't have to ask permission to cover someone's song. Indeed, there are numerous anecdotes of artists despising certain covers. Elvis Costello reportedly once told Linda Ronstadt to her face to 'leave me and my songs alone'.

"Those who are envious can find no beauty in the works of others"

Oh you guys are so sly! I get it now! What wit!

All these references to no life outside this blog, jealousy and bitterness, they're good and all, but I love this one. An unattributed quote that claims by implication that I can find no beauty in the works of others.

How true that is of someone whose entire and stated motivation for writing this post was because 'The Church are one of my favourite bands ever. For thirty years they've been making music of great beauty, mystery and intelligence, generating luscious opiate warmth yet with a tremendously potent sense of undefined unease and longing. Rich, soulful, beautiful.'

See that word at the end there?

I find no beauty in the works of Rick Springfield for the same reason that I find no beauty in a vomit splattered toilet cubicle.

"Imitation is the purest form of flattery"

It is also the plainest expression of unoriginality.

He's got a brilliant way of saying nothing at all.... Never taking chances...

Are you drafting Springfield's entry in the Rock Encyclopaedia?