Monday, November 9, 2009

Friendly Forebear #1: Marty Wilde: "A Teenager In Love"

We are now in the summer of '59; the last summer of the 50s and a time when the charts were very slow...and also the time when the UK started to have its own idols battling for the hearts (and pocketbooks) of those new creatures, teenagers. They were powerful (so many of them!) and yet powerless; brave enough to fall in love, to cry, to sigh...and understandably myopic enough to have a song boldly empathize with their sometimes sorry plight. Being in love is hard work, Pomus and Shuman remind us, but the narrator in question is loyal and true, long-suffering and ultimately philosophical.

Why must he be in love? Is it to fight and make up, only to fight again? To learn to be more forgiving, perhaps? Love here is one big starry-eyed existentialist ordeal, and while Dion and the Belmonts* do a more than fine version of this song, Wilde's version is about as close to New Pop as the song could possibly get; his is the right proper way of saying all at once "this is a fine life alright, being a teenager, SIGH" and "you know this song is sort of meta, right?" His performance of this practically gives this away, his minimalism as striking as anything coming out of Swedish furniture design at the time. He makes Cliff look like the earnest worker bee that he was (and is). It should be no surprise, then, that Wilde is a literal father to New Pop (via his son Ricky and daughter Kim) as well as a friendly forebear of it here, looking like a cross between Edwyn Collins and Martin Fry, just barely moving and yet saying it all, just as teenagers always want to do.

*If anyone was wondering if I was able to fully appreciate the work of Phil Spector, well, I do! And not just for his work with girl groups, either. In 1975 he produced Dion's tremendously awesomesauce Born to Be With You, which deserves more praise and attention (such as it gets here).

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