Friday, December 22, 2006

a hiccup in time

I was going to introduce the following exerpt from Laura Barton's Guardian article today with some glib remark about how one day I will marry her and won't look for her articles with the same attention I do now, but then I thought that was really creepy, so perhaps I shouldn't say anything. Course, I have now, so sorry, Laura, if you're reading. Your article about 'Never Ever' by the All Saints was, however, typically brilliant. Here's a bit of it for the rest of you.

"We arrive at Smile too early, when they're still Blu-Tacking posters to the wall: Jules et Jim, A Bout de Souffle, Blow Up, Penelope Tree, Tretchikoff's Chinese Girl. And so we find a dark corner, stash our coats on the window ledge and watch the hepcats trickle in. This night is the hippest thing I have ever encountered in my young life. People wear neckerchiefs and chelsea boots. They play northern soul, Belle & Sebastian, a bit of Motown, 60s girl groups, plenty of Smiths. They dance with impassive faces and downcast eyes. They drink whisky. And then, shortly after midnight, amid all this heady coolness, the DJ plays Never Ever by All Saints.

Now, I never liked All Saints, I never bought their toggled-up combat panting. I loathed Pure Shores, hated Bootie Call, despised their sexless rendition of Lady Marmalade. But for those of you who do not recall, Never Ever was a quite magnificent confection that curtseyed to the Shangri-Las and the Dixie Cups, and began with the spoken lines: "A few questions that I need to know/ How you could ever hurt me so/ I need to know what I've done wrong/ And how long it's been going on ..." It was one of those songs that surprised you the first time you heard it and weathered repeated playing. But however great a song it was, it did not belong here, tonight. It was a chart song, and amid all the Martha Reeves and the Pastels and the Jimmy Radcliffe, it sat like a midwich cuckoo. I thought there'd be a revolt, I thought they'd hang the DJ, but instead there was a hiccup in time; a beautiful moment in which the whole room seemed to hold its breath. And then everyone cheered.

I don't really know why Never Ever worked that particular night. Maybe it was something to do with a certain seasonal bonhomie, with those festive weeks when we all wear our emotions like an endoskeleton, vulnerable to cheap TV and soft-centred ballads. But I suspect really it had to do with the power of a single song to take a sedimented familiarity and shake it up.

They are misfits, these songs, they ride in from the wrong side of town like the leader of the pack and sweep us into their arms. We fall for them not through some smirking irony but because, standing there in the candy store, they simply turn around and smile at us. And that's impossible to resist."

Here's the link to the rest of the article. Merry Christmas, by the way!

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