Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Guys and Dolls: The New Seekers: "Beg, Steal or Borrow"

And now we are back into The Void; but something else is afoot as well.  When I think of the 70s in a word-association kind of way, I think of one word – glamour.  But I think of another too:  equality*.  Balance.  A sense of things evening out; of the scales finally coming to some sort of rest. 

On the one side there are the glam hordes, and on the other, there’s bands like this – The New Seekers – who are solid family fare, an aural equivalent of a whole wheat sandwich and an apple for your lunch.  They are, indefatigably, good in that healthy way which no doubt helped them at Eurovision, where this song, as it does here, came second.  (I get to the winner in a short while, don’t worry.)  Their coordinated outfits and similar hairstyles (and lengths!) all add to a kind of glamorous uniformity, like so many dolls on display, gleaming and bright and sparkly and happy, buoyantly happy in that way that a band who’ve just had a huge hit earworm single could only be.  Their joy negates any actual desperation in the song, as if they would never have to beg or borrow for anything else in their lives – why should they? – with their floor-length gowns and velvet suits.  I am guessing that against this wall of happiness most other Eurovision contestants didn’t have a chance, and I’m also guessing there was a certain group in Sweden taking close notes on their harmonies – they too had two female and two male singers, and wanted to win Eurovision themselves. 

But back to the idea of balance – there was the glam rockers on one side, the wholesome (and overwhelmingly girl-friendly) families of Partridge and Osmond on the other, with T.Rex there in the middle, appealing to everyone.  I don’t want to make this into some kind of battle between good and evil; between the awesome forces of rock fighting the cheery battalions of pop.  By now anyone truly interested in such battles has stopped buying singles and is buying prog albums instead.  The balance here is one of gender:  nothing more, nothing less.  I know that boys liked the two women in The New Seekers (Lyn Paul and Eve Graham) but I’m talking about other gut-level instincts here; ones that are attracted to the silly otherworldly and loud glam side, or the someone-help-me-pleas of the boys, along with odes to love like this one.  Right now there is something for everyone, the scales balance, and T. Rex keep both sides more than happy.  That this song is in The Void is probably due to its near-win at Eurovision; it’s a nice song, the kind of song (written by Tony Cole, Steve Wolfe and Graeme Hall) that serves its purpose but doesn’t stick like the Coke-ad-rework “I’d Like To Teach The World To Sing,” (the hit that was in part why they had such confidence at Eurovision) for instance**.  The UK was unafraid to send current hitmakers to Eurovision at the time; it sent Cliff Richard yet again the next year with the oompah-dumb (in a likable way, but still) “Power To All Our Friends” which resides even further down The Void than this song does… 

Pop was ever thus; but somehow in balancing things, extremes had to be reached, limits tested; the safe middle was exactly where a lot of eager-to-be-thrilled boys didn’t want to be.  I’m going to explore that idea in a while, but first there are a few more songs including two which are also odes in their own way; a celebration of the now and a pause to ponder the past, present and future.

Next up:  the man of the moment.

*The struggle for equality from my American perspective is in the feminist movement; that movement still exists, but crucially as a girl in the 70s it was important that I simply knew that it was there in the first place.  In the UK, as far as I can tell, things were different; I will be getting back to this in a future post.

**North American readers will know that they recorded the main theme to the 70s kid-liberation classic Free To BeYou And Me - a work which sadly remains unheard of in the UK to this day, as far as I can tell. 

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