Rachel Johnson’s Golden Oldies
‘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’