Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Tension In Any Language: Los Bravos: "Black Is Black"

It's the summer and everyone's feeling good. That goodness is in the air, a positivity that spread out and flared up into a kind of manic glee. Men wear tight suits, women have miniskirts, asymmetrical haircuts and everyone says "wow" and "far out" a lot. Though it's not a 60s term, this song is a club banger of the old school, loud and in-your-face and defying normal conversation.

Such songs either work or they don't, either making the club-goer dance or remain in his/her seat; what happens is based on a hundred things, the words usually being pretty low on that list. I once assumed (wrongly) that Spain's own Los Bravos wrote this color-based song, but they didn't; Michelle Grainger, Tony Hayes and Steve Wadey did. (Did they ever write anything else? Not sure.) The song's simplicity - it's like a nursery rhyme, really - meant that it could and indeed was translated easily into Italian, French, Finnish, Croatian...the main thing is the beat, the club/garage crossover that is just this side of out-and-out cheesy, pounding away as the the singer (who sounds remarkably like Gene Pitney though he isn't - and like he's from Spain even though he's German) blares out like a living siren about his helpless state. It is an anxious song, never resting, pacing up and down like someone who has lost something and, even though he knows it's gone, cannot stop himself from looking anyway. There is only tension, but thee is joy in that tension, in expressing it; thus the dancer has to dance and the singer smiles. It is a happy kind of sadness, or a sad kind of happiness that resolves into a good feeling, for a moment.

What is needed is a song of another kind that does more than compel a release of tension; but in the club the songs pound on, the dancers rejoice in England winning the World Cup - (itself a tense game that found release at last) - all seems right in the world, London is swinging and the party goes on, fuelled by drink and drugs, the search for the right 'bird'...

...meanwhile, back in Los Angeles, something quite different is going on. How different? So different that it will, in effect, change everything.

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