Thursday, September 6, 2012

Cheer From The Past: Middle of the Road: "Soley Soley"

I have spent the time away from you, dear readers, pondering the differences between the US and UK with special attention given to musical nostalgia; specifically the cd compilations easily available at supermarkets and why they exist and who those who put them together think (or perhaps hope) might buy them.  Such compilations don't, so far as I know, exist to such an extent in the US or Canada; there the music of the past is left to those who remember it firsthand.  Here, the past - and that's any decade before the 90s at present* - has its time being hashed and rehashed, in ever-more baffling compilations that pick carefully through the past for what I guess they want as the "Oh! I remember that song" effect.  This isn't to say that those in North America don't hanker for the past; but the view is that the music of now is what is vital. (I am more than aware that in the 70s there was a full-on craze for the 50s, but thankfully it didn't last all that long.)   

In the case of "Soley Soley" - a song I've never heard before, until now - it appears on a recent compilation of bubblegum-era pop called Honey Honey, and I am trying and failing to think of an equivalent compilation in US terms.  Nostalgia for the early 70s is, shall we say, not that common.  A nation still at war, a nation just about to hear about this place called the Watergate hotel, is not going to want to look back, having effectively gone through a lot of soul-searching and further crises in the meantime.  I can't say the UK was in such a great state either, as anyone who remembers it knows very well.  Maybe these compilations exist to prove that the past wasn't so bad, but I still think there is something a bit weird about them, even though they do serve a function, and that is to be unofficial bits of history for those who don't remember, or who do but don't have the time to track down the music.  In juxtaposition to the new releases, they seem to say to the browser that you can have the past or present, and isn't the past a more cozy place, even if you didn't enjoy the time itself very much?  That is a dangerous place to be, and it no doubt has some people pacing, Number Six-like, back and forth wondering how they can escape the music.**

But back to Middle of the Road - this was their last big hit, written by Fernando Arbex and lead singer Sally Carr, Arbex being a Spanish songwriter (thus, if it sounds Spanish, that's why); produced by Italian Giacomo Tosti, like their other hits, it got to #2 in the NME and it is as warm and Abbaesque as anyone could wish, the sort of Eurohit that sounds good whether you can understand the lyrics or not; a cup of good cheer that is of its time but deserves better than to be in the Void, remembered only by a compilation.  Middle of the Road didn't like to think of themselves as bubblegum - they were reluctant to record "Chirpy Chirpy Cheep Cheep"***- but their Mediterranean via Scotland vibe was bubblegum-ready anyway.  Bubblegum as a force was ebbing away slowly at this time, with the warring families - Partridges vs. Osmonds - about to take over what was left of the territory, while a whole new beast, heralded by T.Rex and Slade, is putting on its makeup and costumes.  The good cheer of "Soley Soley" is about to be amplified and speeded up and blasted, ironically, into the future.  That is for later this year; now it is January, and this brings some warmth to what is going to be a frazzling and fractious year, a year when rock fights nostalgia.

Next up:  the original Aw Wee Choirboy.    

* My guess is that the 90s won't become part of this whole cycle until the 20s, at least.

**Number Six eventually puts the speaker in the fridge, an option not open to most people. 

***They apparently were a little tipsy when they recorded it, which is indeed why it sounds like that.  The band continued to be popular in Europe but had no more big hits, as their label apparently took against them being produced outside of the UK; and so while they appeared on Top of the Pops after this, their real business was elsewhere, from Europe to Brazil and beyond.

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