27 May 2009

"I've got news for you, I hope it don't hit you too hard..."

I'm Gonna Tear Your Playhouse Down by Paul Young. This cover of a fine Ann Peebles song was his comeback single of 1984 at a peculiar old time for him, having been forcibly in retreat all year due to severe voice problems.

It was a good way to come back, though many reckoned that after relying on cover versions thus far in his career (Marvin Gaye and Nicky Thomas songs had previously got him into the Top 10, while his take on Joy Division's major contribution to music remains as remarkable now as it was then), he should have been brave enough to commission some original material for his second album. Not so. Aside from this, the seminal (and divine) Everytime You Go Away were included on his second album and once his A-list status died, he plodded on gently with covers of Congregation, the Chi-Lites and Crowded House, among others.

Playhouse... (I'm way too lazy to keep typing out the full title) amuses me greatly. It features the vocal interruptions of Young's blue collar backing duo The Fabulous Wealthy Tarts, suggesting it was recorded a while before release as they had parted company with one another after Love Of The Common People as they fancied a go at forging their own career (which never happened). For the new album, Young recruited that Londonbeat-esque soul trio to do vocal interjection duties but clearly there was no time (or no right) to re-do the backing.

It meant that Young mimed the song on Top Of The Pops without any backing vocalists present at all, despite the "push push" girliness being more than audible as he bridged his way to each chorus. On this video, however, intelligences everywhere are insulted by making it a mega jump-cutted concert performance and claiming that the new boys behind the microphones were in fact providing the girly vocals. If it weren't so tragic...

Young promoted the single by talking about his vocal troubles, which had been caused by overstretching his range on an exhaustive tour of the USA, where he was still attempting to make his name. I remember an interview he gave where he said that even though without his voice he couldn't do his job, it was still easier to be a singer with vocal damage than it would have been in his previous job working for Vauxhall. I didn't understand it then and I don't now.

Still, it was a good, sturdy comeback and reached No.9 in the UK charts and, as his only release of 1984, was probably the song which reminded Bob Geldof of his existence when it came to recruiting pop's great and good for Band Aid. Young's understated performance of the opening lines, however, is overshadowed by the plain white T-shirt and his garbled miming at the crescendo which led to his sharing a joke with Rick Parfitt.

He was rather boring. As a predominantly covers act, he could never be critiqued with any great gusto for his musicality, while even in the alleged taste-free world of the 1980s fashion scene, his jumpers and leather ties were mercilessly ridiculed. His boyish good looks maintained female interest when the music wasn't always doing its job, while he did, of course, possess a superb voice. The only time he seemed to go beyond the pale at all in terms of interest was when he, according to the tabloids, "won" a "battle" for the affections of Stacey Smith against stunt rider Eddie Kidd, who seemed to be, at face value at least, a far more exciting prospect for most women.

Young is still performing, doing the country and western scene with his band and sporting a grey beard. When you hear the sublime duet he did with Zucchero, Senza Una Donna (Without A Woman) ("blatant liars, both of them" - Jakki Brambles), you'd forgive him almost anything...


Valentine Suicide said...

I couldn't agree more Matthew. A very fine song from an underrated genius*

...and Senza Una Donna. I've always been especially keen on the line "even doing my own cooking", the poor lamb.

Well done on avoiding the perilous Championship. I can't help thinking justice has been done.

Matthew Rudd said...

Yes ... pity I can't tell for certain where the sarcasm ends, VS. I know where it begins though...!

Valentine Suicide said...

It definitely ended at the word lamb.
If your lads had gone down after this season's farce on the Tyne it would have been a travesty.

Andy said...

For my sins, I experienced an 80s fest last summer. Whilst Kershaw & Fry and Ure performed manfully, Paul Young barked like a pissed old seal. A shame.

If you go to 80s fests, you know what you are getting - potentially - but the Young decline saddened me.