Is that really what it’s about? Status Quo’s “Ice in the Sun”

I missed the Sixties musically – well, except for the last ten days of it – but I heard nearly as much of it as I thought was possible to hear by listening to Radio One throughout the Seventies. You can’t get that kind of experience nowadays.

This past decade plus, my Saturday morning routine, as without fail as I can make it, has included Radio Two’s Sounds of the Sixties from 8.00 – 10.00 am, presented by the (hopefully) immortal Brian Johnson. What I used to love most about the programme was the virtually fifty/fifty split between the classics, the famous and familiar on the one hand, and the obscurities, the unknowns and overlooked. I say ‘used to love’ because under former producer Roger “The Vocalist” Bowman, the obscurities were bright, sharp and sometimes quite brilliant two to three minute bursts of melody, drive and inspiration. Current producer, Phil “The Collector” Swern (in charge since 2007) has nothing like the ear Bowman had for these quite unbelievably good unknowns. (He also has a bias towards the first half of the decade, and especially the pre-Beatles period, that’s getting increasingly frequent, but that’s another story).

Sadly, nowadays, if the programme does broadcast an unknown gem these days, it’s likely to be something I downloaded from YouTube over a year ago, and have long since burned to one of a series of personal compilation CDs.

All of which is by way of a preamble to an occasional series of reflections on well-known, very successful Sixties songs whose innocence of aspect and seeming-naievete of lyric conceals a slightly different – and definitely not innocent – aspect to the story.

For instance, today’s programme included Status Quo’s Ice in the Sun, a 1968 Top Ten hit that was the band’s second success. The was the pre-boogie Quo, the five piece band, from the time that Francis Rossi was still using the name Mike because, well, you know, I mean, Francis: that’s a bit… girly, isn’t it? The band had had its first hit the previous year with the slightly stilted but phasing-drenched Pictures of Matchstick Men, but an identikit follow-up had flopped. So for Ice in the Sun, the band went for something zippier, lighter, a straight piece of slightly bubblegum pop, mostly phasing-free, with a catchy chorus.

But what, exactly, were they singing about?

Let’s have a gander at those lyrics. ‘I’m not a little boy, I’ve lived alone and never loved so more’ it starts, ‘but when she touches me I’m on the way, I’m underneath the floor’, and then it’s straight into the chorus for the first time:

Like ice in the sun I melt away
Whenever she comes I melt away
Like in in the sun I melt away

The second verse doesn’t really make all that much sense: ‘I sit down in a chair and read a book as if I couldn’t care/But she is in the room and I must look I see her everywhere’ but it doesn’t really matter, what counts is that chorus.

Like ice in the sun I melt away
Whenever she comes I melt away
Like in in the sun I melt away

Then there’s a brief middle eight that does a bit to emphasise how completely he’s taken with this magical girl, how completely this first girl to actually go out with him so dominates his waking hours, despite all he tries to do to act otherwise:

‘She opens up her eyes as if to speak
She looks at me and I am weak
Her eyes they seem much bigger than before
I cannot think anymore’

And then, guess what, it’s nothing but the chorus until the fade-out. Like ice in the sun, he melts away, but people, let us focus ourselves upon what, specifically, is causing this melting – the presence of this gorgeous, late-Sixties, long-blonde-haired, mini-skirted vision of a carefree girl, and he keeps melting away whenever she comes. Let us direct ourselves towards what actually keeps melting away, and it’s pretty clear that this sweet, bright, bouncy, innocent pop hit is actually about the delicate subject of… premature ejaculation.

And the BBC thought it was all about ice cream.

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