Starting this blog I quickly developed a single rule: don’t bother slagging off anything. Why bother? We can all agree that Coldplay are pants. Can’t we? Do we really need to read why?
Listening to the radio recently I heard the following announcement – “Lars has texted us with a request. He wants to hear Pride In The Name Of Love. But not by U2… here’s Michael Bolton”. There, my friends, is a sentence with so many complex layers of crapness that I wouldn’t know where to begin. To be fair to the boy Bolton he gave it a fair crack, but faced with such source material he was always on a hiding to nothing. But still, what made it bearable was the thought of legions of U2 fans up in arms at the Bolton mullet blaspheming the Hewson mullet. In much the same way that I was unable to suppress a cackle of glee when Rolf Harris attempted a wobbleboard-heavy cover of hitherto untouchable prog behemoth Stairway To Heaven. The greeks had a name for it: schadenfreude. Joy in the discomfort of others. Try it, it’s hilarious. Until it happens to you.
And thus it is so that I now need to break my self-imposed golden rule of bloging. I’m being public-service minded you understand. I wouldn’t want any of you to make the mistake of listening to the poisonous abomination I’m about to describe.
Some weeks after the audio experience described above, I was brewing the first coffee of the day when the same radio station announced, possible at the request of the same Lars who so much appreciated the creator of How Am I Supposed To Live Without You and Can I Touch You There, “Here’s Dusty Springfield’s classic Going Back”.
A wave of anticipation broke over me. Here is a song that struck me as the standout track on the Phillips Nice Price cheapo compilation that first introduced me to Dusty in the early 80’s. That stood by me during my mid 90’s realisation that I was growing from “young” to “adult”. That nudged me towards a rare aquaintance with the dancefloor during early noughties visits to The Actionettes swinging 60’s shows in London. And that has since proved to be a mutual obsession with She I took for better or for worse via Dusty’s outstanding Complete A And B Sides 63-70. I understand that many of you reading this will be sniffy at the idea of CD reissues when there remains vinyl still to be purchased, but I stand by this as one of my top10 favourite albums. Quite apart from the obvious enjoyment to be had listening to one of the world’s greatest vocalists, there is also a fascination to be had in the order of the songs. Were you to be presented with Dusty’s 21 singles from the decade with no prior knowledge of release dates, it would be difficult, nay impossible, to arrange them in a more satisfying sequence that the purely chronological. It offers a perfectly paced journey through the 60’s, illustrating not only changes in arrangements and recording technology but also social mores. From the innocent girlish confession of I Only Want To Be With You to the empowered woman of How I Can I Be Sure, confidently belting her way through to the brave new world of the space age 70’s.
And right in the centre, Going Back. Nostalgic for the past. Unapologetic for mistakes. Optimistic for the future. Just perfect.
Imagine then my revulsion as the DJ continued his introduction with the eight most feared words in the english language: “…in a new guise, courtesy of Phil Collins”. Still I failed to spot the yawning chasm gaping in front of me. I’ve long since come to terms my fear of both Collins’ anaemic interpretations of classic rock and of emulating his receding hairline. Fair play to the bloke. He’s found an audience. He has on the face of it decent taste. He’s overcome his unconventional attractiveness to find success. Who would begrudge him the opportunity to earn a few bob?
And then bit by bit over the course of a 276 second purgatory this 67 year old son of Chiswick procedes to piss all over my past, his crazed mephistophelean features illuminated by the hellish fires of Dante playing with a box of Swan Vestas. He lures you in by playing it straight. The intro, lilting like a childhood piano exercise is as you expect. “Relax” he whispers in the soothing tones learned at the Barbara Speake Stage School, “I understand how you feel. I’m going to treat the song with respect”, before grinding your trust beneath his Zildjian hi-hat pedal. An unecessary synth fanfare here, a self-conciously smug pause between words there, like Frank Sinatra bowdlerising Blowin’ In The Wind. “The answer. My. Friend. Is. Blowininthe… wind”. Before his most heinous crime kicks in. The centrepiece of the song, where Dusty simply wails over a triumphal brass section, walzing drunkenly through a stratospheric soundscape, is delivered with the enthusiasm of a man for whom one too many nights on the diazepam will never be enough. Like you, I’ve heard plenty of songs I dislike, some that I’ve hated and a thankful few that make me feel wretched. This though is the first time that I’ve felt truly affronted. The balls of the man, to suppose that we’re going to tolerate this meekly and with no word of protest. There are no insults strong enough and I can only invoke the succinct words of The Sex Pistols Steve Jones when he unleashed filth and fury on the people of post-war Britain – “What a fucking rotter”.
- This then is why I will tolerate no Collins on my watch. The summer vacation chez Slender will be soundtracked as always by John Franz’s note perfect arrangement of the Goffin/King philosophical masterpiece. For as Ph**, unlike Dusty, will never understand “a little bit of courage is all we lack. So catch me if you can; I’m Going Back”.