Thursday, April 5, 2012

Olympian Yelp: Andy Williams: "Can't Help Falling In Love"

And now we shift from the still grieving Beatles fans to a different segment of fans altogether - those who watched tv, and bought singles by those who had their own tv shows. As the 70s go on the power of television - both shows and commercials - grows stronger, and as you would expect, helps to mould what gets in the charts.

If you have your very own tv show of course you don't need commercials, you just have to perform the song and it will sell, depending on how your audience reacts to it; the whole thing is a neat circle, and since kids watch tv as much as adults do, anything that appeals to both generations - as this song surely did - will really work. Commercially, at least; but is this a good version of the Hugo & Luigi song?

Williams' best work - as noted here - is not where he has to shout to be heard, but where he can be more varied in his responses, from joyous to near-godlike. I say godlike as in absolute; Williams is not a man for holding back if it's not necessary, and his Olympian voice in this song strains the delicacy the melody and seductiveness of the lyrics. It is a hard song to sing with much emphasis or whooping joy, because it is at root a chanson, dozy and suggestive, slightly sinister and retrospectively overwhelming.

"Take my whole life too" is a big statement and Williams here is virtually throwing himself at his Other, with what sounds like the Love Affair in the background doing a variation on "Everlasting Love." He is going up and up when the whole song is about that river gently flowing into the sea, about inevitability, about fate itself. Perhaps Williams is taking his cue from the "fools rush in" part, but he doesn't sound as if his whole life is in someone else's hands, which is really the point of the song. He cannot help himself, he is vulnerable, but made strong by his love - strong enough to sing, at least. However, Williams seems to be proclaiming this helplessness as so the whole town can hear, shouting it from the rooftop - it's all at cross purposes, and feels like someone using a blowtorch to light a birthday candle.

This is what happens, though, when a song (an NME #2 by the way) is done in a style that will appeal to 'the kids' as well as the adults; the subtleties are lost in a new glossy finish that sounds 'hip' while still appealing to his main fans (Williams' show was at its peak in popularity at this time). It worked, clearly, but I can't say it's a good version of the song, just one that fits in with the general confusion of 1970, where the old and the new are beginning to get mixed up, and all kinds of strange things, as you dear readers will see, start to pop up, songs that come from all angles and places, some already laid-back, others (like this one) definitely not.

Next up: Back to Eurovision.


David Belbin said...

Not sure that the TV point always holds true - light entertainment hits didn't necessarily make for hit singles. I was watching the Lulu documentary last night and she's a case in point. Yes, her first TV series and Eurovision win took Boom Bang A Bang (which she loathed) to number two, but the TV show saw the complete collapse of her hit recording career. No hits for five years, and then it took Bowie writing and producing at the height of his fame...

Lena said...

Television has a way of magnifying the good and the bad in a lot of things, and Williams' longevity compared to Lulu's may have made her a tougher sell; there she was, a relative newcomer, and like most UK female singers she wasn't given the best songs to sing, which didn't help.