Crap Journalism 4


Once again, there’s a piece in the Guardian that I wish to highlight. This one isn’t the same kind of overt idiocy I’ve railed against before, rather it’s an opinion piece that, whilst disagreeing fundamentally with the opinion, I would normally just ignore.

But Trevor Mitchell is not merely pushing the jaundiced idea that Cliff Richard’s ‘Mistletoe and Wine’ is the only Xmas record that counts, he’s using his piece to mount a cynical and wrong-headed attack on ‘A Fairytale of New York’, which around here is fightin’ talk!

My own personal choice as the only Xmas record that counts is already back on its way towards the top twenty, having re-entered the chart at 66 last Friday. It’s starting a long way back from Mariah Carey, who hit the top 100 the week before and is already standing at no 29. Much is being made of the fact that this is now the tenth consecutive year the song’s been a hit: I expect that rather less will be made of the fact that this year will mark the Pogues and Kirsty’s eleventh successive season.

It’s not as if Mr Mitchell is actually promoting the idea of the Cliff Richard song having any intrinsic merit. If that were so, it would again be a mere difference of opinion, and I don’t rail at those any more. No, his piece is, throughout, a snide snipe at Xmas records that sarcastically cloaks itself in a supposedly contrarian promotion of something most sensible people wouldn’t touch with a double-length bargepole held by someone else.

It’s an inherently nasty little piece, written out of self-assumed intellectual superiority, of the kind that has always stemmed from someone thinking he’s better than the unwashed masses.

But it’s in its attacks on ‘A Fairytale of New York’ that the piece veers into territory on which it must be beaten to the ground, bloody and broken. Once again, this is not just about opinion. We are now at the point where the working day is backdropped to an endless run of MTV Xmas shows, thankfully silent, and I work with enough people who don’t like the record. We just disagree, that’s all.

But Mr Mitchell has other things in mind. He minces no words (nor pies):

“The song that consistently tops the annual polls of the UK’s 50 favourite Christmas songs is, of course, Fairytale of New York, the festive cheese it’s been deemed OK to like. The problem is that the acceptable face of Christmas novelty songs is as cynical as any other: manipulative, over-produced and as cloyingly sentimental as Bing Crosby. It also has the bonus of glamorising poverty, alcoholism and domestic violence. It’s selling a fantasy while trying to convince us it’s authentic, inviting the listener to experience the vicarious thrill of NYC drunk tanks, and giving us a “can’t live with him/can’t live without her” cliched shtick.”

Oh my! Someone slept in the nasty tree last night, didn’t they? There’s a repeat whack near the end with a line about ‘cynical attempt at authenticity’ but this is the core of Mr Mitchell’s bitchiness. ‘A Fairytale of New York’ fails against ‘Mistletoe and Wine’ for not invoking the essential dreariness of Xmas day with the family, which is something it never set out to do, but to admit that would destroy Mr Mitchell’s case, which is built on serious strawmanitis.

The biggest charge against ‘Fairytale of New York’ is that it’s cynical.  That it’s calculated, manipulative, inauthentic and as phoney as any X-Factor Xmas single. I suspect Mr Mitchell is not of an age to have experienced the song when it first appeared, nor be familiar with the music of its time, and I suspect he doesn’t know much about the Pogues either. That long, slow, deliberately maudlin opening, Shane McGowan’s half song, bleeding into Jem Finer’s rollicking tune far later than any commercial producer would ever have allowed. The aggressive charge of the second verse, where Shane and Kirsty turn on one another with anger at themselves as much as each other. The chorus that presents us with cliches that nevertheless reach into the innocence we keep hidden deep within. Manipulative? Bollocks. Sentimental? Of course, and bang it on until we drown in it. It’s a story of one night, that’s all.

At the end of the day, it’s the song that refutes such charges. All Mitchell is doing is saying that I don’t like what loads of people like and that, because there are more of you than there are of me, I’m right and you’re being fooled.

Which makes for Crap Journalism in my book.

Imaginary Albums: Lost 70s Volume 10


Lost 70s Volume 10 consists of 22 tracks again. As I said last time, these later volumes were compiled from whatever I’d collected since the last one, then sorted into whatever order felt best. There’s a couple of mini-themes but the unusual aspect of Volume 10 is that it has no less than three bands represented by two tracks. The point of this kind of compilation is that each track should be by a different artist, a convention to be broken occasionally if a band has two tracks that slot together. But here I had a couple of duplicated artists and it had been a very long time since I’d added to the series, so here we are. This and the relatively rapidly following Volume are both inspired by the rediscovery of tons of music on my MiniDisc collection.

This is not the original version of the compilation. After getting very sloppy in curation and including a number of tracks several times on different volumes, not to mention including too many tracks by the same artist that would be better grouped, I re-burnt the entire series, filling in spaces with tracks that had not been available when the original compilation was created.

Serenade – The Steve Miller Band

The Steve Miller Band were always bigger at home than in the UK. Johnnie Walker massively championed ‘The Joker’ when it first appeared, but had to wait nearly twenty years to see the fruits of his patronage, when the song unexpectedly went to number 1. ‘The Joker’ excepted, the Band were still fairly bland, meat and potatoes rockers, with the occasional flash of something better. One of those was ‘Rock’n’Me’, which saw them into the top 20 in 1976. ‘Serenade’ was among its follow-ups, a slower, quieter, less distinctive song, but one with a quiet, undervalued quality of its own. It has a mournfulness that I still respond to all these years later, and a suggestion of depth that the band’s ordinary material can’t come near.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QkrLmeeCrhY

Gerdundula – Status Quo

Ger-what? This spindly, twiddly, thin-sounding song represents a crossing-point for the band formerly known as The Spectres. It’s a bridge between the Quo’s early, feedback-drenched, poppy material and the boogie they were wedded to in their hearts. There’s a hint of the Irish jig in there, but this is the start of the band’s true career. All that was needed was for the production to be beefed up about, oh, a thousand percent, and this would be the Quo we knew for the rest of time immemorial.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OjlJwSoomDo

Love’s Made A Fool Of You –     Cochise

I know nothing whatsoever about Cochise, but I remember this rocked-up version of Buddy Holly’s song from a few plays on the radio in early 1971. It took over thirty years to get hold of it and refresh those memories because it didn’t appear on YouTube until relatively recently. As I’ve had occasion to observe, 1971 was a very prolific year for obscurities that caught my ear in the most fleeting of passes.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XVbN21f3EuU

I Guess the Lord must be in New York City – Nilsson

Until I checked for the purpose of these ‘sleeve-notes’, I was convinced this (and another song on this compilation) was from the 1970s. I mean, I kept hearing it on the radio, and I wasn’t listening to that before December 21 1969. But this and the other Nilsson track on this compilation are both from the same Summer album, and this track was also from the Midnight Cowboy soundtrack, and until ‘Everybody’s Talkin”, it was going to be the title song for the film, and it would have been as good a choice as Fred Neil’s song, with the same superficial lightness and sweetness conveyed by Nilsson’s voice, and the same melancholy, hinting at deeper, darker issues, caught within the song.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qQRHUp5_tyE

Soldier Blue – Buffy Sainte-Marie

I hated this song in 1971, absolutely loathed it. It was a straining, quavering, drawn-out wail, with minimal tune, and I was too young by far to understand what it was about, and far from understanding how personal and meaningful the song was to Buffy Sainte-Marie, a pureblood Native American (not that we called them by such terms then, no, she was still a Red Indian). And there was no way, at 15, that I was going to be let out to see the major Hollywood film of which this was the title song. So it took me another forty years, during which I became far more familiar with the history of America than I had been in the summer of 1971, to see that what Sainte-Marie sings is of the bond between the Native Americans and their land, the rapine of the white soldiers, the commitment to the country and the ways in which it sustains its children, and the plea for the White-Eyes to see as the Amerinds saw and still see. Yes, this is my country, and it is wide, rolling and beautiful. Soldier Blue, can’t you see that there’s another way to love her? But no, they couldn’t, and I have taken over half my life to understand some part of that myself, and to be moved almost to tears by the passion of this song.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LlrOaJFf6tg

Sugar Me – Lynsey de Paul

And in complete contrast… Lynsey de Paul appeared on the scene in 1972 as a tiny long-haired, big-eyed blonde with a sexy twinkle in her eye. ‘Sugar Me’ was a simple, piano-pounded pop song, with a bouncy, commercial melody, and it was a top 10 hit. Based on her gift for commercial pop, and her looks, de Paul was obviously going to be a major hit artist for years to come. But she wasn’t. In later years, she was heavily into female self-defence. And heavily Conservative views. Still a fun pop song, and she looked hot all the rest of her life. One for the memories.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=htBfNPyKKoI

It’s Natural – Medicine Head

When I look back, the early Seventies sometimes seems unbelievable. You look at the bands who scored actual hits, listen to the songs and, more than in any other era, there’s an underlying sense of WTF? I mean, how the hell did something like this sell so much that it reached number x in the chart? You could call this a testament to a time when the country’s ears were wider open to possibilities than they’ve ever been, before or since, or you could decide that we collectively went mad. I lived through it and even I’m not sure. Medicine Head were one of the more improbable hit-makers. You could understand a fluke visit into the top 30, as they did in 1971, when they were a two-piece mustering between them a guitar, a bass drum and a jew’s harp, but it still beggars belief that their simple, almost droney music could go seriously top 5. ‘It’s Natural’ was their last release, was a complete flop and the duo split shortly afterwards. There is no realistic way to differentiate between this and the ones that sold.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aEcoGQ96f2I

I’ve Been Hurt – Guy Darrell

First of a couple of Northern Soul charters, re-released and hitting the airwaves at a time when even I had become aware of Northern Soul. Guy Darrell had originally released this single in 1966, which had been an American success for the Tams, and reached the top 10 in South Africa. Its crashing beat and its twanging guitar supported a straining, pleading vocal, but it was the tempo that made it popular at Wigan Casino, and which made it sell, and I remember it now more vividly than when it was around, when it used to annoy me intensely.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6SR0m2RUZAU

Goodbye, Nothing to Say – The Javells, ftg. Nosmo King

Some of us were old enough, even at the age of eighteen, to know that the name Nosmo King (run it together) had been ripped off a successful Music Hall act from long ago (thank you Peter Tinniswood). The guy’s real name was Stephen Jameson, and he recorded under his own name and the Nosmo one. The song was originally a b-side to a 1966 single, which was then sped up, given a Northern Soul friendly beat and reissued with Nosmo singing over it. Hellooooo Wigan!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=delIK9hz8_Q

How Long – Ace

And the first in a little triptych of songs whose air and sound have always been linked in my mind, though they were (minor) hits across three successive years. Ace were an early example of pub rock and were very highly rated. ‘How Long’ got brilliant reviews and tons of airplay, but then spoilt the expected outcome by freezing at no 20, and the band disappeared without trace. It’s still a brilliant, slow-moving rocker, built upon a slow, almost plodding bassline and some cool guitar, it’s still recognised and played nowadays, which is more than you can say for a lot of much bigger hits, then and since.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Vo_GMMLULXw

Why Did You Do It? – Stretch

If you didn’t know the background to this single, you would probably hear it as an embittered love song, a guy hurt by what his lady has done to shaft him, sung in a gravelly voice to a walking blues-rock background. But that’s not what this is about. The context is that, in 1974, Fleetwood Mac were in a fallow period, neither recording nor touring. Former manager Clifford Davies decided to cash in by claiming he owned the rights to the name and putting together a touring band – no Fleetwoods, no Macs, in fact no-one ever previously connected with the band – to play under the name. The real band promptly went to law to stop him, thus demonstrating that, in addition to the complete lack of moral rights, Davies had no legal rights either. So he renamed his band Stretch, and wrote this epic whiney complaint about it being he – the would-be thief – who was the one who had been shafted and why had they treated him this way, and who put them up to it. Given that background, it’s a minor miracle that the song is even worth listening to at all.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I7SloVbbzZc

Couldn’t Get It Right – The Climax Blues Band

Throughout the early Seventies, the Climax Chicago Blues Band, a pretty intense British blues-rock band who had named themselves after a particularly avant-garde form of Chicago jazz, proudly went about their business in experimental form. According to Wikipedia, they shortened their name in 1972 under pressure from Chicago, who didn’t want any confusion going on, through my own memory from 1976 was of hearing that they’d shortened the name because they’d come up with a gloriously commercial piece of straightforward music, which took them to no 11. It completes the triptych begun with Ace on this CD because of the musical similarity between these three tracks, with their low-key, blues-oriented stylings and three in a row classic choruses. Everybody’s got a great song in them, whether they like it or not.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iwnC_8_ZeYE

Howzat – Sherbet

I first became aware of this single when it penetrated the top 50. As a cricket-lover, the name caught my eye, but it suggested a horrible, twee and twinky novelty single. Instead, when I heard it, it was a piece of smooth-rolling white soul-funk, delivered by an Australian group with superb harmonies, and whilst the lyrics were a touch on the dodgy side, you could have said the same for Pete Wingfield’s classic ‘Eighteen with a Bullet’. The song itself was straight, it’s appeal immediate. But the band went back to Australia after their moment in the English sun, never to return, unlike the Test team.  That’s why such a big hit counts as a lost song.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bvtyc8CIqKQ

Who? – Allan Clarke

Allan Clarke left the Hollies in 1972 to start a solo career that reached an early peak, musically-speaking, with this 1973 single. ‘Who?’ is an ethereal ballad, lifted by Clarke’s distinctive strained singing, as he appeals to his girl to stay with him, because he needs her and because who is it who has treated her so well? It’s a definite Sixties throwback, lyrically, the girl isn’t allowed to have a mind and feelings of her own, not if the guy treats her right. The main reason it didn’t succeed is that the sound is too ethereal to make an impression on the radio, and at the end of the day there’s too little tune for it to ever have been a successful single, but I remember it lightly and drift with it in a pleasant haze.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xdaD-H-xIDM

For Your Love – Fleetwood Mac

Fleetwood Mac meet the Yardbirds via a pleasant but relatively indistinctive version of the Graham Gouldman classic song. This was one of the songs that got rotational airplay the first two weeks when Piccadilly Radio, Manchester’s first commercial station, went on the air in April 1974. It doesn’t really represent the (somewhat feeble) best of the Mac in that shadow period between Peter Green and Lyndsey Buckingham/Stevie Nicks, but the guitar solo is a decided pleasure.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZIsbjmveDSo

The Puppy Song – Nilsson

Another Nilsson, another misremembered 1969 track. I thought this too twee and silly for consideration when I was younger, though Nilsson’s original took on gravity and depth when David Cassidy covered this as the back half of a double A-side no. 1. I still prefer cats by a long chalk.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MBbT40H74sc

Dawn – Flintlock

These days, Flintlock would have been a boy band. Five pretty faces, one of whom was already a teen heartthrob from his starring role in a popular, and reputable kids adventure series, and it would have been forget that shit about playing your own instruments and writing your own songs, get waxing. But Flintlock could sing, and thanks to drummer/singer Mike Holoway being one of the stars of the incredibly popular ‘The Tomorrow People’ (which I used to watch), not to mention the number of times he appeared in teenage girl’s magazines (and wet dreams), they got loads of TV appearances in kids programmes and their own series. They were the kind of band that, in those Bay City Rollers days, I instinctively knew to loathe, but their third single, ‘Dawn’, which reached no 30, showcased stylish harmonies, a strong, rocking chorus and a sax break from lead vocalist Derek Pascoe that you had to love.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RZBYbYlEPiA

Jesus is just alright – The Doobie Brothers

In an age when religion was still held in more esteem, enforced though it might have been, this Doobie Brothers track didn’t get heard over here, though it was top 40 in America. Given the band’s early popularity among bikers and Hell’s Angels, not to mention that their name was a pretty overt reference to recreational drug taking, Radio 1 was not going to start promoting a song with our Lord and Saviour’s name in the title. Even though it was an authentic gospel song, written in earnest and the band’s version was heavily based on an earlier cover by the Byrds. None of the Doobies were particularly religious so their interest in the song lay in its fast, rock style and their characteristic rough harmonies, forcing the song along. It’s not here for the sake of my immortal soul either.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JEvy8mROAj0

O Caroline – Matching Mole

Matching Mole were Robert Wyatt’s band after Soft Machine,and at the time he fell from a bedroom window and broke his back. A shorter version of this song was a single, and is the only other thing by Matching Mole that I’ve ever heard. It’s a slow-moving, piano-led, pragmatic love ballad, written for journalist Caroline Coon, with whom Wyatt had just broken up. The lyrics are ordinary and practical beginning with a reference to the band playing, trying to make the music work, except that Wyatt can’t get his focus right because Caroline’s no longer there with him. The song stays down to earth, realistic about love and making Caroline happy for the best part of her life. Wyatt deliberately avoids romanticism (at one point he half-expects his words to be called ‘sentimental crap’) yet it’s the very lack of lyricism that confirms this as one of the simplest and most heartfelt love songs ever, allowing Wyatt to reclaim true meaning for the hackneyed chorus he sings: I love you still, Caroline.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BUFolB3LUpA

Mystery Song – Status Quo

Frankly, I’m one of those for whom a very little Status Quo boogie goes a very long way: as far as Jupiter if I were lucky. Nor have I ever been impressed by Rossi and Parfitt’s schtick about, “well, we were there but we don’t remember anything about it cos we was out of it.” I do have an amused memory of going to a ‘heavy disco’ at Salford University when the word was whispered that ‘Caroline’ was about to be played and, the moment that buzz-saw riff began, a ring of denim-clad, long-haired blokes burst in as if choreographed, placed their hands on their hips and proceeded to wag their hair from side to side like some forerunner of an ‘Iron John’ ritual. Why, in all this horror of dully repetitive boogie I should so like ”The Mystery Song’ is, naturally enough, a mystery, but it is sung by Rick Parfitt, rather than Francis Rossi for once, and it’s more of a song, a fast-paced rock song, than the perennial boogie. Let me repeat: everybody’s capable of something good, even if only by accident.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m8cdGQiEtws

Sea of Flames – Flintlock

I said above that Flintlock had their own, 5.15pm, ITV series. It was called ‘Fanfare’ and the band performed on it, as well as presenting other musical guests and talking to them about their music. I only remember watching it once, when their guests included a young but well-established male opera singer whose name I can’t recall, and the superb-voiced June Tabor, a folk singer of a capella music (her version of ‘And the band played Waltzing Matilda’ is an absolute classic). Opera and a capella traditional folk were not obvious choices for teenagers in 1976, but the format of the show seemed to be about Flintlock learning about different styles of music, and I vividly remember the lead singer reading a piece of opera music then throwing himself into a spirited and fairly decent attempt at singing it, to the evident surprise, and respect, of the opera singer. ‘Sea of Flames’, the follow-up to ‘Dawn’, was Flintlock’s current single, a lost-love ballad with some rich harmonies. The single was marred by thin and weak production, rendering the sound paper-thin, but in the studio they sang a version much richer in sound and harmony that made the song memorable enough to remain for life.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zl2tJFkqkSo

Carrie – Cliff Richard

It’s by Cliff Richard. It was written by B. A. Robertson. And it’s sung by Cliff Richard. And I’ve still included it here. It’s not here just because of indelible memories of a long ago party that are none of your business. It’s here because it was a song about fear, and death, and horror never to be explained. Carrie doesn’t live here any more. She left no forwarding address. You will never know what happened to her, but you won’t stop imagining it until the day you die. Cliff Richard. B. A. Robertson. The Devil works in mysterious ways.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PfvVzgOYwRc

Is that what it’s really about? Cliff Richard’s Don’t Talk to Him


This is an occasional series in which, inspired by their being played on Sounds of the Sixties, I pick apart the lyrics of a big Sixties hit record for the real meaning concealed behind the seemingly innocent lyrics.

I’ve already ragged on Cliff once in this series, for the contrast between his public, Christian persona and the who-gives-a-shit-about-you reality of his hit single, ‘In the Country’. On this occasion, though I’m ripping on him again, it’s less for the individual depths of this one song, than as a whole class, and even generality of Sixties love lyrics.

‘Don’t Talk to Him’ was composed when Cliff and the Shads were abroad, filming ‘When in Rome’. Bruce Welch wrote the melody, Cliff the words, and the song is shaped around that initial setting. ‘If some guy tells you, I don’t care/ And tells you lies while I’m not there/ Don’t talk to him’

For Cliff, or his singing persona is away from his usual habitat, for reasons which we shall assume are perfectly legitimate and unimpeachable, but he’s got the worries on because some bloke is trying to pull his bird whilst he (Cliff) isn’t there. Cliff knows what this chancer is going to say – he’s suspiciously familiar with the patter, and almost defensive about the fact that this birddog is going to accuse him of shagging Sue and Jean. Ok, so what Cliff actually says is that he’ll be accused of walking round with this pair of shameless hussies, who are no doubt well-known for ‘walking around’, but we know what he means, and so does his girl back home.

Cliff’s on the look-out for his girl’s precious emotions, because if she listens to what this love rat has to say, he’ll break her heart, and it’s none of it true, not at all. And once she is hurt by these false accusations against her true and loving boyfriend (Cliff? Cliff Richard? Notoriously celibate Christian?), of course her knickers will immediately fall to the floor, after which they will only be fit for ritual burning.

But there’s a simple way around this impossible situation, and Cliff has already sung it, up front and in the title. Don’t talk to him, he suggests, and everything will be well, and we’ll have none of this trouble, and you’ll be safe and sound back at home, and I can stop fretting and get on with ignoring your existence whilst I’m off wherever I am and not have to fret that you might not be waiting for me, all fresh and virginal and untouched, when I get home.

Don’t talk to him. Because after all, you’re such a fluffy-minded airhead that you’ll fall for any old line someone tries to feed you if I’m not around to keep you straight.

Because that’s what lies behind the funning around and the exaggerations. Cliff comes over all protective and concerned, but what he’s really saying is that he can’t trust this girl he (presumably) loves for a moment. She’s so unreliable in her head and her heart that out of sight is more or less out of mind, and anyone can steal her away. So she’s not got to talk to this guy – and by  extension she’s not allowed to talk to any guy whilst her lord and master is away – because God knows what they’ll talk her into. Get thee to a nunnery!

It’s condescending, patronising, horrifically possessive and untrusting, and it assumes a right to order his girlfriend’s movements and conversations from afar that belongs top medieval times and not the cusp of the Swinging Sixties.

This is ‘Don’t Talk to Him’ that I’m taking to task, but the truth is this is but one among many. The music of the Sixties is even now fantastic to listen, music from an age of optimism, of innovation, an age of believing in things getting better,and the sounds, the energy and the freshness rings through the pop of the time, in all its myriad forms. Even the machine-tooled songs of the era are still touched with the spirit of the era’s genius.

But it wasn’t a very enlightened time when it came to love and romance, and too many rip-roaring melodies have to be sung with a heck of a wince at their actual words. Song lyrics – the vast majority of them written by men – cannot see into the female perspective. Love and sex belong to men, and so do their women. Cliff Richard, in writing this song, is unable to comprehend that his girlfriend might have a mind of her own, that she might be happily and contentedly in love with him (only, why?), and that she has no intention of being a nun whilst he’s away, but that doesn’t mean that any two-bit snake-charmer can get away with anything around her.

Poor kid. You can only hope that, when she heard this song, she threw the ring back in his face and told him where to go.

Is that what it’s really about? Cliff Richard’s In the Country


This is an occasional series in which, inspired by their being played on Sounds of the Sixties, I pick apart the lyrics of a big Sixties hit record for the real meaning concealed behind the seemingly innocent lyrics.
Incredibly, it was a double-header on today’s programme. I’ve been waiting for this particular bit of faux-innocence to come up as I spotted it’s darker sub-content a long time ago…
I have a confession to make: I don’t like Cliff Richard. Not his music, not his Christianity, not his films. And, after their Seventies revival, I’m not all that fond of the Shadows either: Hank Marvin’s guitar sound may be superb, but the rest of the band are pretty naff.
Yet despite our homegrown Elvis’s impeccably clean-cut surface, there are times when the mask slips, and the former Mr Harry Webb unveils a darker underbelly than the one we are used to seeing. One such instance is his 1966 hit single, In the Country.
On the surface, this is one of Cliff’s more palatable songs, a bright, uptempo, happy song, extolling the wonders of a day in the country, ‘where the air is good/and the day is fine’, ‘where the silver stream is a poor man’s wine’. Sound’s good, doesn’t it?
But our Cliff has a darker side, a decidedly unChristian one if you start listening to this song properly.
In the Country addresses a person in pain, in psychic torment, lost in a world of despair, confusion and depersonalisation. “When the world in which you live in/Gets a bit too much to bear/
And you need someone to lean on/When you look, there’s no one there.”
Ah, we’ve been there, mate. And “When you’re walking in the city/And you’re feeling rather small/ And the people on the pavement/Seem to form a solid wall.”
Yeah, isolation can be a killer, forcing you ever deeper into depression. It’s that time when, more than anything else, you need a friend, a hand reaching out, a kindly word, the recognition of what you are going through. So, what does the Christian Cliff have to say to you?
“You’re gonna find me out in the country.”
Come again, Cliff?
“Yeah, you’re gonna find me way out in the country.”
Hang about man, show some sympathy here, don’t rub the poor sod’s nose in it that you’ve got it going better for you then him.
“Where the air is good, and the day is fine/And the pretty girl has a hand in mine/And the silver stream is a poor man’s wine.”
Ah,you bastard! Here’s this guy suffering and you, all you can do is go on about how you’re living it up in the countryside, no bloody petrol fumes there, you’re romping with this bird (it’s not Olivia, is it?), and you’ve got natural water, not the horrible stuff that comes out of taps. You absolute shit, can’t you think of someone else I bet he’d give everything to get out and see some clouds and fields, even without a dolly bird to shag in the long grass.
I’m all right, is it Cliff? And they all think you’re so nice.