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Sunday, 29 May 2011

'What Debsey Did Next': Birdie And The Art Of The Perfect Pop Song!

I cannot claim to be any kind of musicologist as I never properly studied music nor learned to play any instrument(although I did provide drums and percussion for various bands over the years), but one thing that I do pride myself on is an ability to spot a perfect Pop song on first listen.
Now, I realise that my idea of a perfect Pop song may differ greatly from many others including my two ~Streetlamp~ cohorts, but I guess what I mean is that I can immediately recognise songs that will inevitably become part of me and my life on first play. In an earlier Blog about the band The Church, I explained that there are some songs that, to me, are quintessentially 'ME', and yes I do know that comments like that usually end up in Private Eye's 'Pseuds Corner' but I really don't care....there are just some songs that, by their very existence, simply become a part of me.

Obvious examples of these, besides 'Under The Milky Way' by The Church are the rather obvious 'Dog Eat Dog' and 'This Charming Man'(if you don't know who these songs are by then please go and read someone else's Blog!). Both of these songs leapt out at me the first time I heard them and, almost 30 years later on both counts, still never sound stale or over familiar to me. I still get a thrill every time I hear them. You could say the same for 'XOYO' by The Passage, 'Nowhere Girl' by B-Movie, 'Michiko' by The Sultans Of Ping, 'Uptown Top Ranking' by Althea & Donna, and(whisper it) 'Save A Prayer'(cue Griff seething furiously as Duran Duran are mentioned in a ~Streetlamp~ Blog!!).
And the same could definitely be said for 'Let Her Go' by Birdie!

So....what is so good about 'Let Her Go' that elevates it into such hallowed company(and Duran Duran)? It just seems to comply with everything that is vital about the music I love. It has a haunting melody comprised mainly of minor chords which, like the best songs of The Beatles and The Smiths descends as it progresses....always a good thing. It's about painful unrequited love....again, always a crucial ingredient in the best Pop music. It's from a female point of view and delivered in such a honeyed tone that it melts your heart almost immediately. It features a muted trumpet which gives any song a touch of class! And it has little flaws and imperfections which accentuate it's charms manyfold....the electric piano being a little too high in the mix for one, but this just adds to the songs beauty.
Have a listen....

I can't remember where or when exactly I first heard 'Let Her Go' which is both annoying and unusual for me. I know it must have been about 1999 but I don't think I heard it on John Peel or even Radio 1. I have some vague recollection that maybe some Radio 2 DJ had pounced upon and made it his or her Record Of The Week; maybe Mark Radcliffe sitting in for Steve Wright, or maybe on one of Stuart Maconie's night-time shows. I just cannot recall exactly. All I do know is that I was immediately smitten and rushed out to buy it the next day. The single wasn't available anymore but the band's album 'Some Dusty' was, and a fine addition to my collection it became.
12 years on I still love playing this particular track(it's still on my MP3 player as I write) and I still like digging the album out now and again for a spin. But, like so many other records I've written about in these Blogs, for some reason I never investigated any further. 'Some Dusty' is still the only record of theirs that I own. Why? Same old story I guess, either laziness or a fear of destroying the happy memory I have of a particularly special song.

So, Who Were Birdie Exactly?
Well Birdie actually evolved from two of my favourite bands, Dolly Mixture and St Etienne! Vocalist Debsey Wykes had of course been lead singer in the charming Dolly Mixture(think The Slits poppier little sisters!) who had released some fine early 80s Punk-Pop and ended up providing backing on Captain Sensible's solo ventures. After the demise of Dolly Mixture, Debsey was involved in the band Coming Up Roses before joining the St Etienne's live band where she met Paul Kelly with whom she would form Birdie.
~Dolly Mixture~
Anyone who has followed our Blogs should already know that both Dolly Mixture and St Etienne are essential listening, so hopefully you will now add Birdie to that list.

Like I said, I may not know about perfect Pop Songs but I know what I like!


'Some Dusty' can be downloaded here
(This download is not ours so if it does not work it is not our fault. Likewise, should anyone connected with Birdie object to us making it available, please contact us and we will gladly remove it.)

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