The Infinite Jukebox: The Records’ ‘Starry Eyes’


Some songs are paired up in The Infinite Jukebox. The Searchers’ ‘Hearts in her Eyes’ and The Records’ ‘Starry Eyes’ are back-to-backs, one demanding the other. The connection is obvious: both songs were written by John Wicks and Will Birch, one covered by the veteran Merseybeat outfit when the original only existed as a demo, the other the first release from Wicks and Birch’s own band.
Whilst ‘Hearts in her Eyes’ was introduced to me inaudibly over the Droylsden FC tannoy, ‘Starry Eyes’ was merely a recommendation from the same source. I acquired it in the same way, however, at the Victoria Centre Indoor Market record stall, and once again my instincts were good.
‘Starry Eyes’ is another dream of a single, a pure pop sensation, with the classic components of jangly guitar, a solid beat and three part harmony chorus. It’s the archetype powerpop record, and or one I don’t mean that pejoratively: powerpop was mainly an attempt to borrow the energy and simplicity of punk without having to have any of it’s edge, it’s rawness, it’s confrontation. It was conceived as Punk-So-Lite-It-Was-Hollow, but Wicks and Birch were like Nick Lowe, a songwriting team with the knack of clean, crisp melodies, Pure Pop for Now People, as the Jesus of Cool put it.
And yet ‘Starry Eyes’ began in the lost uncommercial of manner, with a long build-up, a careful assemblage of guitar notes gathering pace, like a plane taxiing onto the runway, before strapping in and blazing into cruising speed. Those Radio 1 DJs who played it, and there were few, got their money’s worth of intro to talk over, just as they had relished The Motors’ ‘Airport’ in the summer, but once the band cut into the verses, here was a different song entirely.
“Get me out of your Starry Eyes and be on your way”. It sounds like it should be a love song, but it wasn’t. While you were lost in France, it led off, we were stranded in the British Isles. While you were at the pool we were speaking with the boys upstairs. Someone was playing silly beggars, taking their unjustified ease a country away and leaving the boys to carry out the business. Wicks and Birch formed The Records out of the wreckage of The Kursaal Flyers, and whilst I’ve no idea just what brought that band to grief, it’s tempting to see this as a pointed comment about an old bandmate.
Certainly, the musics got a momentum of its own, a streamlined drive that’s a forerunner of Peter Buck in the early R.E.M., which the music pushed on by a permanent solo, a pile-up of exasperation and accusation coming back always to the most gorgeously harmonised washing of disgusted hands: I don’t wanna argue, I ain’t gonna budge, they make it plain, demanding that their absent cohort takes this number down before he calls out the judge. I ain’t gonna argue, there’s nothing to say. Just get me out of your Starry Eyes and be on your way.
No, no love song.
And those guitars rip into the music, and the solo lights up the fade, and it disappears from hearing, a ghost trailing the echo of resentment and anger that nevertheless spills over with life and light and the precision of the music.
This is the single version. The track was unnecessarily re-recorded for the band’s debut album, Shades in Bed, a collection of brilliant pop songs ruined by an unforgivably thin and weak production that made me long to hear The Searchers cover the lot. Sometimes I think I’d have loved to hear The Searchers cover this, because if this song has a flaw it’s in the lack of distinction in the voices, but given the concern of the song, only The Records had the right to sing this.
It’s the companion to ‘Hearts in her Eyes’, in time and space and quality and lack of success. No more than The Searchers were The Records what the music business wanted at the time, for the same old reason: they were too damned interesting in the aftermath of Punk, and too soon for post-Punk. This was powerpop the way it should be, not the way the Radio wanted it to be. Too real, too good. It was a sign, though, that 1979 was going to be a good year…

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The Infinite Jukebox – The Searchers’ ‘Hearts in her Eyes’


Some songs on the Infinite Jukebox evoke more than the impact of the music. Such a one is “Hearts in Her Eyes”, a slice of pure jangle-pop with a rock solid backbone that came and went without ever being seen or heard except by those who chose to hunt for it. “Hearts in Her Eyes” commercial fate is a perfect paradigm of the state of Radio 1 as it used to be.
If you’re not familiar with “Hearts in Her Eyes” in The Searchers’ oeuvre, don’t blame yourself. It was released as a single and an album track in 1979, long after the band’s heyday as a Merseybeat group. That long after their commercial peak, most similar Sixties bands had settled for the nostalgia circuit, playing to audiences who only wanted to hear what they’d heard before, and nothing new. And in many cases, the bands who had outlived their chart history only had that history to fall back on. Cut off from the professional songwriters of their time, beyond the context in which their ‘sound’ flourished, briefly, their new work would never begin to threaten their old.
Not so The Searchers. For a moment, a brief, shining moment, they rejected the past. It began with “Hearts in her Eyes”, written by the team of John Wicks and Will Birch (ex- of The Kursaal Flyers – “Little Does She Know” – and then of The Records). The Searchers took this song to their distinctive sound, those jangling guitars, the 12-string sound, the tight professionalism, those seemingly effortless full-throated harmonies still carrying that Liverpool twang, and they beefed up the sound, taking it into 1979. The result was something that came close to the perfect single, much like The Flamin’ Groovies’ “Shake Some Action” (insert link).
And you don’t know about this song because you never heard it. Radio 1 didn’t play it. I’ll come back to that.
My own introduction to the song was third hand. I was living in Nottingham at this time, but when I was back for a periodic weekend, I would drop into Droylsden if they were at home. My mate Damien – who I remember buying “Are ‘Friends’ Electric?” on picture disc before it charted – had similar tastes to me. He also had a mate who’d wangled the job of pre-match entertainment at the Butchers Arms. They both raved about “Hearts in Her Eyes” and he got his mate to play it for me. But on a 1979 non-League club tannoy, I couldn’t make out a note of it.
Back in Nottingham, on a Saturday afternoon visit to the record stall in the Victoria Centre covered Market, I found the single, in a picture sleeve, dirt cheap, 25p or something like that. Cheap enough to chance it. And I loved it from the first moment. The twin-guitar attack in the intro, the bright, confident voice, the swing into that killer chorus, it had everything. It might have been plotted with everything I loved about music, for me alone.
And the song itself was a cheerful, loving, happy portrait of the singer’s girl, who stood out from the rest, the girls who had a whole lot of trouble finding one boy, the girls in a hurry who just want a fun boy. No, this girl is smart, she’s never gonna give her heart, and she’s fly. She’s got hearts in her eyes, we learn, so much so that we’re told this again, and then that killer couplet, like a kid in a toyshop, she can’t stop. She wants all the boys.
Now there are ways you can take that. But the music, the confidence, the exuberance and the plain affection of the singing make it plain that she’s no slapper, and that this is no slut-shaming song. It’s in that bright, glowing, life-affirming jangle that we hear what we want to hear. This girl is tough, she gets going when the going gets rough, and she flies. She’s got hearts in her eyes.
Oh, the band are tight. These are working musicians with twenty years playing behind them. They know what they’re doing, down to that very Sixties moment of letting the sound break into a second’s silence before crashing back with a deliberately stuttered line, and letting the song bring itself to a perfect close. There’s too much life here, too much unadulterated fun, to fade away. Listen for yourself.
But I said this song relates itself to more than just the music, didn’t I? The music lived for a while: the track opened up the1979 album “The Searchers”, and carried over to 1981’s “Play for Today”, both chock-full of new, exciting, modern songs played with that ringing gusto, and then it was done. The next album didn’t so much flirt with synthesizers as enter into marriage with them: the songs were strong but the sound atrocious.
The point was, as I said, Radio 1 didn’t play this song. Ok, they’re under no obligation to play any given song, least of all from an oldies band, even one so completely revived and up-to-date. But this was the Radio 1 that had gone overboard on the reformation of The Shadows, Hank Marvin and Bruce Welch giving up their unsuccessful but worthy period as Marvin, Welch and Farrar in order to reconstruct the essential Shadows style, except that instead of going for the kind of brisk uptempo material that had adorned their early-Sixties period, they preferred slow, seemingly serious tracks that only emphasised how weedy and amateurish the bits that weren’t Hank Marvin were. Prostitute your sound and score big, enhance and magnify it and get ignored.
Then a short while after we had The Q-Tips (with Paul Young on the vocals) doing imitations of classic soul that Radio 1 wet its knickers over, and early Dexy’s Midnight Runners using the classic soul sound on modern songs and unable to get airplay. Whilst The Police made their first breakthrough in 1979 with songs like “Roxanne” and “Can’t Stand Losing You” blasted out incessantly, which was very interesting to hear because these were identical, note for note, to the same two singles released by The Police in 1978 and given the bum’s rush by the station. What made them suddenly so acceptable for airplay? They’d been hits in America? No, surely the station wasn’t so shallow?
But it was always like that, and it probably still is. But frustration at such wayward musical decisions, and especially the different treatments accorded The Searchers and The Shadows is bound up with listening to “Hearts in Her Eyes”, and weaved into the music that forms three minutes of perfection that was never given the chance to infect the minds of those who would have loved it. I should have heard it on the radio, should have been able to bounce up and turn up the volume half a dozen times a day. That was stolen from me. But I have the single still.

The Infinite Jukebox: Elbow’s ‘One Day Like This’


As I’ve mentioned before, there’s not much modern, as in Twenty-First Century music on The Infinite Jukebox but Elbow’s classic “One Day Like This” is unignorable.
Nowadays, as far as I can see, the word Anthem tends only to be appended to dance music: Club Anthems, none of which I can distinguish from the others, nor from those presumably lesser tracks that don’t qualify for the title. If you can make the explanation sufficiently interesting (and intelligible), I invite you to elucidate for me.
But Anthem in the case of “One Day Like This” should be heard in an entirely different connection, for the category this song – the one that will lodge Elbow in musical history – belongs to that bestraddled by The Beatles and “Hey Jude”, which was an influence on Guy Garvey in composing and arranging this track.
Like Let Loose, I have no idea when or in what circumstances I first heard this. The single had had some minor chart success in 2009, reaching no. 19 at some point in the pattern some of Elbow’s earlier releases had established, though it would more than beat that mark a few years, re-entering the chart at no. 4 when the band were invited to perform it for the Closing Ceremony of the 2012 London Olympic Games.
My earliest memory of it comes from very late that year, that brief period I was homeless and living in a short-term high-rise flat in Brinnington, Stockport. My time was my own and there was too much of it, so when I was going to do the meagre food shopping I could afford, I would walk down into Stockport to Tesco’s, killing a half hour that way and a half hour back. I associate the song with listening to it on one of my older mp3 players, marching across the bridge over the M60 in Stockport, one of only two roads into or out of Brinnington (most of the rest of Stockport wishes there were two fewer than that).
Just like everyone else, I’m seduced by that endless, “Hey Jude”-esque coda. The sing itself is slow, almost to the point of being ponderous, the band itself operating on half power at best whilst the burden of the minimal melody is taken up between high strings and Garvey’s mournful, deep brown towns, in which you can hear the Lancashire accent as surely as you hear Liverpool in anything sung by The Beatles.
It’s a song in the aftermath. A night has been spent, and Garvey is now awakening, slowly, in bits and stages. The aftermath of what? Sex, clearly, a night of passion, romance and deeply satisfying horizontal gymnastics. But this is clearly not all the night has been. It’s not just been a quickie, nor a one night stand, nor yet still the friendly and regular encounter of partners whose lives are spent together.
No, this is more. This is love, and sex, that is transcendent, not recreation nor gratification but Love-making. Love-making with Her, in which both of you are taken to a place that exists on no maps but which can only be reached together, hand in hand, so to speak. For she is the one who transforms by being, even amongst the most mundane of matters.
And maybe it’s because it comes only occasionally, with long intervals between, or maybe it’s because, no matter how often it is, it’s that merging of two people into one. But the song moves slowly, feeling its way back into being one person alone, yet with all the shared looks and memories and anticipations, the teases and the games that come out of so much an intimacy. Garvey is blissful, sated, and so is the music, full and warm.
Leading to that moment when Garvey leads the rest of the band into that anthem: Throw those curtains wide (let the day and the light in, for the night is done). One day like this a year will see me right.
One day like this a year. Is it really so long between meetings of this pair of lovers? Do they live, work, in different countries. Is she, or he, married, able only to sneak away from spouses or partners every now and then?
We don’t know, and frankly, with glory such as this, should we care? Hell, no. One day like this a year is enough, is good enough, is more than enough so that more would bean infinite blessing.
Or is it really the novelty? Would more frequent liaisons take the bloom from off the rose? Would contradict Shakespeare by making age wither her and custom stale her infinite variety? I listen to Garvey’s voice and I think not that.
So what? What is here in this moment is beyond all asking. Guy Garvey knows and Elbow celebrate. Throw those curtains wide. One day like this a year will see me right. Repeat until the Universe ceases to exist.
And it’ll still look like a beautiful day.

A Musical Oddity


When I was first listening to music, in that far-distant land called 1970, there was an Australian band, a duo rather, going by the name of Tin-tin (whose cartoon adventures in stilted five minute bursts I absolutely loved), whose single “Toast and Marmalade for Tea” was a turntable hit, a record played heavily by Radio 1 that nevertheless didn’t chart. The following year, they came back with a follow-up, “Is That The Way?”, using the same distorted piano sounds that made their first single so distinctive. The story was the same: heavy airplay, no sales. Not even a Top of the Pops appearance, on which the signature sound could not be reproduced with even a fraction of fidelity, did the trick. End of story.

But years and years later, I found a rare Tin-tin LP, including “Toast and Marmalade for Tea”, downloadable as an mp3 from YouTube, which I planned to break down into individual tracks and burn to a CD-R for my preferred kind of listening. Tonight, feelingly massively tired, I let it play, and now I shalln’t bother recording it.

It’s too light, too wimpy, too featherweight in melody and instrumentation, too unoriginal except in that signature track, which stands out. And yet, in a weird way, it’s a near-perfect album. Because almost without exception it is an album of perfect intros.

Each songs begins with a tight, individual sound, a strong melody, the perfect cue-in that draw your ears… and then fails to live up to it in any way.

I’ve never heard that before. An album of songs whose intro makes you crave to hear what springs from it… and then disappoints unfailingly when you do.

 

The Infinite Jukebox: The Beach Boys’ ‘California Girls’


In those long ago, sunlit years of my youth, otherwise known as 1977, I was out of work and broke, broker than I have been since.
It was a year in which I only bought four new albums, and that counts the presents I got for birthday and Xmas, which didn’t involve my money.
Into that economic wasteland came the news that The Beach Boys – The Beach Boys! – had signed up to play a concert in Manchester, and not just a concert, an open-air stadium concert, albeit that it was at the Bitters’ old home, Maine Road.
I wanted to go. I wanted to be able to go but it was out of the question. I just couldn’t afford it, whatever the price, it would not be possible on Supplementary Benefit and walking two miles there and two miles back every Monday morning, at Matthews Lane in Levenshulme because that not only saved two busfares but it took up the entire morning so I had that much less of the week to find something to do.
So I didn’t have the cash (it says a lot about my relationship with my mother that I never even thought of asking her to lend me the money), but there was also the complications of getting there, with no direct bus and, much more pertinently, getting back afterwards, in the dark, from Moss Side, which even then had a reputation. It wasn’t on.
But every time I thought about it I had the same thought, almost a vision. The Beach Boys – the real Beach Boys when their voices would have been the voices of all those great Sixties tracks – at the front of the stage as the sun goes down above the stands, the last light beaming into our eyes like Star Trek lasers. And the piano picks out those notes with a bell-like clarity, the horns pick out their notes and then the song jogs into that organ-based rhythm, and they come together in those harmonies and the sound of ‘California Girls’ echoes around the ground. It would be incredible. Imagine, listening to the Beach Boys singing ‘California Girls’ live and for real.
It wasn’t incredible for me that year, nor anyone else because for some reason they had to cancel. And too many of those voices are gone and those that remain aren’t those voices any more, so I’ll never get to hear ‘California Girls’ with the sky draining of light and the voices filling the air.
Funny isn’t it, but with ‘God Only Knows’ coming as near to perfection as music will ever get, and ‘Good Vibrations’ still astonishing in what it does with a song, it’s ‘California Girls’ that comes first to mind when I think of the Beach Boys singing live. It’s simple, unadorned, musically naïve by the standards of what was to follow, and Lord knows you just couldn’t write something that sexist now, with its treatment of women as just faces and bodies, celebrating only those most superficial of characteristics. Even by the standards of Sixties pop, with its near universal negation of the woman’s viewpoint, this is going beyond every Pale there may be.
But they called the Beach Boys the sound of Summer, and this is the archetypal Beach Boys and it’s the sound of Summer, with its uninhibited, joyous and practically naïve celebration of women, or girls. You’ll notice that the singer hasn’t got a bad word to say for any of them. No matter where they’re from, be it a section of the United States or from far beyond its borders, they’re great and the guy loves them all, but the girls from where he comes from, from nearest to his home and his heart, they’re the best, they’re the ones. There’s no girls like them.
And yes, you know that it’s all about sex in the end, that’s all he’s responding to, the prettiest faces, the sexiest bodies, that indefinable sum of everything that makes you look at a woman and go ‘Wow!’ inside, only he’s saying it out loud, and proud, with such naïve enthusiasm that you can let yourself go with it, and obliviate that urge to remove their clothing and get up close and jiggy with it, and just glory in the fact that this world has such wonderful beings in it.
Yes, it’s sung by Mike Love, and yes, he’s a dick and always was and it’s so visible in those old TV clips that survive on YouTube, you wonder why it took so long for everyone to realise it, but in his voice he’s not being a dick, just a guy in awe of the fact that his home state produces the cutest girls in the world. And you too, no matter where you come from, no matter where your heart lies, you wish they could all be California Girls.
And somewhere, in the Infinite Jukebox, the Beach Boys – Brian, Carl, Dennis, Al and Mike – are out on stage as the sun dips towards an Ocean we cannot see and they’re singing ‘California Girls’ and I am lost in the music that reaches into forever.

The Infinite Jukebox – Love Affair’s ‘A Day Without Love’


I crack on that all I know of Sixties music I learned from listening to Radio 1 in the Seventies. There was a generous ration of ‘Golden Oldies’ in practically everyone’s programme, not to mention the frequent reissues that made the charts; Fleetwood Mac’s ‘Albatross’ was a Number 1 early in 1969, and four years later it came within a place of repeating that feat.
But of course it’s not entirely true that I spent the whole decade unaware of the music going on around me. Only a card-carrying hermit could have been oblivious to The Beatles, and to some extent The Rolling Stones. At Brigham Street, Mam would have the Light Programme on all day as she did her housework, and I have fleeting memories of songs that penetrated even to things like ‘Housewives Choice’. I remember Chas McDevitt and Nancy Whiskey’s ‘Freight Train’, more than once, and ‘All My Loving’ many times. Sat in the car one not Saturday afternoon, whilst Dad and Uncle Arthur pored under the bonnet, there was ‘Sorry Suzanne’ by The Hollies. And I vividly remember Mam and Dad’s disgust at switching over from ITV one Thursday night and catching Arthur Brown with his flaming headdress, the week ‘Fire’ was Number 1.
And I started listening to Radio 1 in 1967, or thereabouts, after Dad built that old radio set into the bottom half of my bedside cabinet. I would have been twelve or thereabouts, and I tuned in on Saturday and Sunday mornings, to listen to Ed ‘Stewpot’ Stewart present ‘Junior Choice’. I was listening for the kid’s records, the Charlie Drakes, Bernard Cribbins, Terry Scott’s ‘My Bruvver’ and ‘We’re all going to the Zoo tomorrow’ (whatever happened to Julie Felix?)
I was there for the childish stuff, but these were mixed in with pop, practically none of which has left any impression on my memory.
But as well as the cabinet radio, Dad had bought me a tape recorder, a simple, cheapish reel-to-reel. Later, I’d progress to a series of four-track recorders, offering only mono reproduction, where a track would use only half of the available tape track (on the same principle as cassettes – which Dad scorned for their flimsiness and narrower, quality restricting tape – which play side one from left-to-right, so to speak, on the top half, and side two right-to-left on the bottom half). This doubled the amount of time available on a two hour reel.
And having provided this tape recorder, he also, by some means I can’t recall, hooked me up to record directly from the radio. I remember only recording four songs on that tape, which I had for a very very long time. Two were the sort of thing I’d expect myself to record at that age, not that I’ve any idea what these were. The other two were pop songs. Pop songs that sounded trebly when I played them back because of some flaw in the recorder that meant that playback sped up fractionally (50rpm instead of 45rpm?) but noticeably when compared against the original. One was The Move’s ‘Fire Brigade’. The other was Love Affair’s ‘A Day Without Love’.
Why I taped that, I have no idea. Sixties music was such a blank to me in the Sixties, with my parents’ distaste for it and their practical control over pretty much every avenue by which I could have heard it. Nor did I learn about it at school: I had no mates with which I could discuss it and I was acutely aware of my many and varied ignorances about things around me and not eager to open up any new channels for humiliation.
So what was it about ‘A Day Without Love’ that spoke to such a musical ignoramus? Looked at objectively, it’s a classy, big-sound, highly orchestrated upper mid-tempo pop song typical of that brief, post-Engelbert fad for semi-cabaret sounds. It’s a clear attempt to recapture the effect of Love Affair’s debut hit, the Number 1 ‘Everlasting Love’. ‘A Day Without Love’ was the second follow-up, after ‘Rainbow Valley’ had barely scraped the Top Thirty.
That this was such a heavily-orchestrated sound would have made Love Affair something of a bridge from the music my mother, listened to and to which I had been exposed for more than half my life to date. I would have been completely unaware of just how calculated a song this was, repeating exactly the formula of ‘Everlasting Love’. The big, sweeping, spacious sound, the female backing singers, the band reduced to a generic rhythm, only the drums of any real importance behind Steve Ellis’s white soulboy voice. And it worked as far as a Number 9, and so did its follow-up, also written by Philip Goodhand-Tait, to the same formula. Even down to the regret.
That’s the only area in which ‘A Day Without Love’ differs from its template. The words in themselves aren’t exceptional. Ellis’s girl has gone away, given no reason, given nobody any explanation as to why, where and when – or if – she will be back. No-one knows anything. And we find ourselves questioning, as Ellis must, try as hard as he might to ignore the voice in the back of his head, did this girl ever love him as he did and still does her? Concerns of no relevance to a boy crowding twelve in 1968.
But a day without love is a year in emptiness, Ellis sings, banging into that chorus with an ocean of yearning and despair. The band hustle, Sue and Sunny, legendary session singers, echo and respond to Ellis’s plaints, drop magnificent ‘ooh-oohs’ in all the right places, strings soar across the melody, horns add their sad phrases and that big chorus comes round again, and yes, this is a commercial product and was built with nothing more than sales in mind, but it has vigour, it has energy, it has a heartache in the centre of its brash and bold sound, and it’s yet one more reminder that, in the Sixties, even the plastic could be brilliant.
Whatever my very much younger self heard in this still resonates with me now, throughout the years of growing to understand what lies within songs such as this. Why did you have to go? Ellis asks. He’ll never know, and neither will I. I greatly prefer this to ‘Everlasting Love’, ‘original’ though that was because, as that killing chorus line makes plain, this bright, light, vigorous confection is about loss and aching.
And every time I hear this, I am transported back to that boy in the bedroom he still had to share with his little sister, overlooking that back garden, in a house where there were still four of us and the shadow hadn’t started to encroach. I go back to that old taping, a song that was an oasis in an ocean of ignorance. It wasn’t a beacon, because it would be another eighteen months or so yet, and the Sixties dying on the vine, before I switched the cabinet radio on on a Monday morning, and I found the music and never let it go, but ‘A Day Without Love’ was a moment that foresaw the world before me, in more ways than one.

The Infinite Jukebox: Let Loose’s ‘Best in Me’


I know nothing about Let Loose, have no memories about them and about when they were around. If it were not for Wikipedia, I would assume them to be another boyband in the popular mode kicked off by Take That, but they weren’t, not really. I don’t even remember hearing ‘Best in Me’ when it had its hour of glory, taking the band to a number 8 slot in 1995. I don’t even remember where or when I did hear it first. I just know that for a long time now it seems to have been there, and that every time I listen to it, it delivers a kick to the back of the emotional knee.
I can’t gauge how ‘serious’ Let Loose were as a band, whether they were into it for the music or whether they wanted to catch their share of the teen market. The video for ‘Best in Me’ is frankly risible: an Ultravox-esque piece of pretention, divided into quarters showing the same image multiplied, slick and portentous, the band dressed in high-collared Russian greatcoat-length coloured coats, with military buttons, giving the impression of being shoegazers. They look dodgy as hell.
Which makes the song even more amazing. It’s a sweet, upmarket pop ballad, a hazily strummed acoustic, a tinkling piano and masses of strings built around a husky, near-hoarse vocal that bleeds into a power ballad chorus with the band executing note perfect harmonies with an angel’s choir falsetto. What is there to like about this? It’s the template for any boyband, Westlife with less drippiness. What is it doing here?
Because underneath all this calculated wrapping, singer and songwriter Richie Wermerling surpassed the commercial crap this might so easily have been. I think I read once that this song was to be taken seriously, one of those songs that bands write when they want to be thought of as musicians, though apparently he was supposed to have recorded it in his bedroom when he was fifteen, a dozen years before its commercial release. But if that was all hooey, it didn’t change the effect, for ‘Best in Me’ proves that long after the Sixties died on us, it is possible for something created solely for commerce to be true art.
There is a simplicity to the music, and a sincerity in the words that very well might be the work of an earnest fifteen year old. But there is a truth to them that I recognise instantly. Wermerling sings that he doesn’t care if he’s some kind of foolish and some kind of weak, he’s not ashamed to say that he’s fallen head over heels, because, and this is where the song goes through the superficiality it might otherwise display, because you bring out the best in me. And how Wermerling sings it makes it not a line, not a thing to say to a girl, but it’s the truth and it’s the whole of him.
I know what that feels like. It’s happened twice for me, twice I met women I loved deeply, who loved me, and these times were not just the best of my life, they were the best in and of me. I was transfixed and transformed. I became everything I could be, I was more than I’d been. I learned more about what I could be and do, and what strengths I had. The best in me was indeed brought out, and I can hear in Wermerling’s voice that he has been there too, and it doesn’t matter how concocted the song is, it’s chorus soars and I am filled with memory and regret.
Like the best of songs, during the moments that this plays, I am taken out of the world in which I live, and like such things I don’t want to return to where I am. Such, whatever the attention, is Art and high beauty. There are many things with more serious intent than this track that I would not care to listen to even once.
And a quick listen on YouTube confirms it was indeed a fluke.