Tuesday, July 26, 2011

We Two Are One: Peter and Gordon: "True Love Ways"

Another facet of the British Invasion - quite apart from the groups only pirate radio could fully embrace, such as Them or The Kinks - were nice earnest young men with longish hair who made dreamy music with sometimes extreme lyrics. (The lyrics to "A World Without Love" are sung sweetly, but there is menace in them, too.) Peter* and Gordon met at Westminster School** and found they sounded pretty good together; there was more luck in that Peter's sister Jane was going out with...Paul McCartney, who in turn gave the duo a few songs that he felt would suit them. Whether McCartney suggested they record this Buddy Holly song I don't know; it could be they were Holly fans already, and so needed no urging.

The original was a song Holly wrote for his wife as a wedding gift; their relationship was a brief but intense one (he asked her to marry him on their first date). It was recorded two months later, just months again before he died. The figure of Holly hangs heavy over music in the Sixties, sparkling and twangling in a pure way that marks it out as something to strive for, and a modest hand always works best in this endeavor. Peter and Gordon don't have a saxophone or harp on hand - the extra decorative touches of the Fifties are discarded - it's the more standard piano and drums, with some strings to keep the sweetness of the original. It is a poignant song - even without knowing Holly's fate - and a reminder as to how important and popular Holly was, years after his death. The possible mush of the song is undercut by Peter and Gordon's voices, Gordon's slight Scots accent coming through to give gravity to what could have been, in other hands, something bland or dull. I can imagine this being a last dance song, the sort of song that gets dedicated to others on the radio - a fine antidote to the new-barriers-being-broken-every-day hustle of Sixties pop.

This is the part of the British Invasion that tends to be forgotten - the side that didn't hit people upside the head, but rather ruled the heart and made people want to make music in the first place - for the beauty of the thing. Next there is another duo who no doubt inspired Peter and Gordon to begin with, as '65 goes ever-so-slightly backwards.

*Once Peter and Gordon ended Peter Asher went on to produce Linda Ronstadt and James Taylor; Linda had a hit with "You're No Good" which was written by the same man who wrote "Game of Love." It is a small world.

**You might be surprised at the number of musicians who went there; everyone from Thomas Dolby to Mika, Shane McGowan to Dido.

1 comment:

Robin Carmody said...

At least some of Clean Bandit were also at Westminster.

I'd say that it produced more pop/rock musicians (and earlier) than other British elite schools because its location pretty much *ensured* it would nurture a more cosmopolitan culture - less cut off in the Lord Carrington or Peter Simple sense - than, say, Winchester or Sherborne. It's not geographically in the Tory idea of "real England", so that probably worked against the desires that some of its staff must have had to make it so. I knew someone who went there on a scholarship, I think, having lived in a less cosmopolitan environment, the opposite of a Londoner or Mancunian getting a scholarship to a school in the 'Forty Years On' type of setting (said someone was also a tedious middlebrow petty-racist bore, but that's always an occupational hazard).