Rachel Johnson’s Golden Oldies

The Oldie - - CONTENTS -

‘Ex­tra­or­di­nary how po­tent cheap mu­sic is,’ says Amanda in Pri­vate Lives, but it’s very hard to de­fine cheap mu­sic. I have a se­cret weak­ness for nov­elty songs, such as Macarena or Mambo No 5 or Itsy Bitsy Tee­nie Wee­nie Yel­low Polka Dot Bikini or Shaggy’s It Wasn’t Me. I know all the words to You’re a Pink Tooth­brush (doesn’t ev­ery­one?), but I’m not sure that this is what Noël Coward was think­ing of when he put those dreamy words in Amanda’s mouth.

Rather than ‘cheap mu­sic’ we in­stead speak of ‘guilty plea­sures’ as if some artistes some­how ex­ist on a lower or higher plane than oth­ers. It’s be­come vogueish to ad­mit that you love, say, Cliff Richard or Val Doon­i­can or Burt Bacharach, as if only you are con­fi­dent to judge them on their mu­si­cal mer­its rather than on their fash­ion­able ap­peal, which is a bit like Nicky Haslam in­sist­ing that those shaggy white flokati rugs are the height of chic.

Which brings us to the con­cept of ‘naff’ mu­sic. I don’t like the word ‘naff’ but there are some mu­si­cians who are a teensy bit naff, and all the bet­ter for it, and two of them – Rod and Macca – have new re­leases out, both of which I en­joyed, without down­load­ing any of them to my Spo­tify ac­count or adding them to my Desert Is­land Discs list (in the un­likely event I ever catch the se­lec­tor’s eye).

First, Rod Ste­wart, whom I first lis­tened to on my mother’s knee (she was such a fan that she had a para­keet’s bar­net just like him for most of the Seven­ties). For my money, he has the best cracked voice in the busi­ness, and if he ever asked me, ‘Da ya think I’m sexy?’ I’d an­swer, ‘Mag­gie May but I, Rod, def­i­nitely will.’

His new sin­gle, Look In Her Eyes, from the Blood Red Roses al­bum, is a real toe-tap­per from the gal­lop­ing breath­less ‘C’mon’ at the start: Roses is more disco than any­thing on Paul Mccart­ney’s new al­bum, Egypt Sta­tion, which I lis­tened to, in re­spect to the for­mer Bea­tle, in the or­der that the great­est liv­ing Scouser in­tended. The finest song is Happy With You, a trib­ute to the deep, deep peace of the dou­ble bed af­ter the hurly-burly not of the chaise longue but groupies, drugs, three­somes, and hook­ers – which does sound ter­ri­bly tir­ing – so who can blame him.

I would con­clude by say­ing that both the re­leases from Ste­wart and Mccart­ney are not nearly naff enough, which is a shame – but al­most ev­ery track of their new al­bums are still 100 times bet­ter than hits writ­ten by most artists a third of their age.

‘He was about this tall, my weight and colour’

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