Friday, January 21, 2011

What Can He Do?: Joe Brown: "A Picture of You"

One of the many reasons I am writing this here blog - in case any of you were perhaps wondering - is to educate myself in the history of UK rock and pop, in some cases to find out that music does indeed run in families. (This makes me think that there must be a gene that gives music a boost, at the very least.) Back when I started to really buy music all the time (c. 1988), an album called Stop! came out by one Sam Brown; I bought it, just like I bought a lot of music that year in an attempt to understand and comprehend the world better after my father's death. Her acute pain was mine, just as the anger and energy of other albums gratified and encouraged me. Not that Stop! is all pain, but the title single is played to this day on 'easy-listening' radio stations, despite being anything but an 'easy-listening' song. I knew her father made music, but never had heard of him, until now...

...and again I can't help but think of how close families are in expressing themselves; how Joe's singing must have influenced Sam's, as well as (at least evidenced by this song) a kind of romantic helplessness. Once again there's just a nameless woman, seen and seen but never known, "all of the evening and most of the day" (such precision is a foreshadowing of the Bee Gees) and he is preoccupied by his heart and a photograph he took of her, after which she simply disappears. (The song this most reminds me of is "Photograph" by Def Leppard, oddly enough.) I am beginning to think that boys in 1962 simply & merely looked at at girls and dreamt about them, maybe approached them and maybe...didn't, as the picture began to take over the reality of the situation. He seems sanguine enough about it in the song, helpless like I said, but not upset or angry - how can he be? At least he has the picture, unlike, oh, in this song. (Again, I think of Roland Barthes and the image being more important than the actuality; maybe this picture Brown has of this woman is punctum enough for him.)

In any case, I want to honor both Browns here for making music that is powerful enough to be successful and just odd enough to make that success more than merely 'being in the chart'.

1 comment:

david said...

It's interesting, the whole thing about how a parent influences singing style. For instance, Nick Drake's very English, unique style seemed to come from nowhere when I first heard it in 1974. Then the 'Family Tree' album quite recently featured a short bit of his mum singing, and most of his mannerisms were there....