Monday, 2 March 2009

Retro Pop - Different Genres Being Used

Well, the retro pop phenomenon that I have been observing for over a year now seems to be marching at a pace. I suppose Duffy getting three Brit awards helped. It does seem to be encouraging a revival of original 1960s material too. Today Sandie Shaw turned 62 so I suppose that it was no surprise I heard 'There's Always Something There To Remind Me' (1964) which I think first encountered used on a sad I think TDK (anyway for audio cassettes) advertisement on television in the 1980s. However, having heard 'Pretty Flamingo' (1966) by Manfred Mann twice today suggests something is up. Given I have developed a 'Life on Mars' phobia whenever I now hear anything recorded between about 1964-74, life is getting difficult!

Anyway, the two latest examples of currently generated retro pop are very interesting. DJ Shasmin's remix of 'Be My Baby' first recorded by The Ronettes in 1963 and covered by loads of people, ones I have heard of including Travis, Maroon 5 and Glasvegas (even Jason Donovan!). I imagine this is part of a memorial for Estelle Bennett (1941-2009) of The Ronettes. I once played an original copy of the single on a radio show I did briefly which featured a lot of 1960s stuff. I have only heard the remix once; it will be interesting to see if it is successful. Hearing it I assumed it was a cover version by The Sugar Babes, which may be intentional. Former Sugar Babe, Mutya Buena along with Queen of Retro, Amy Winehouse, recorded a track that was inspired by 'Be My Baby' and sampled the chorus, called 'B Baby Boy' (2007).

The most surprising retro single at present however is 'Up All Night' by recently reunited Take That. When I heard it first I was convinced that it was a newly uncovered (Paul) Simon & (Art) Garfunkel track. With all that percussion and the acoustic guitar it sounds as if it has come out of something aimed at New England university students circa 1967. There is a repeated instrumental break in it, but rather than sounding like something from the 2000s it goes into, well, what I originally felt was sort of semi-Kinks/semi-Small Faces, but after today, know is very Manfred Mann.

We are now ranging through quite a few revived genres. I accept that Amy Winehouse and Duffy were soul even blues in their approach. The Ronettes are not a thousand miles from that, but the Phil Spector 'wall of sound' does mark it out and it probably sits in the mowtown camp if not strictly there by recording label. Tom Jones has just gone back to being himself of forty years ago. However, Simon & Garfunkel is a different style to these entirely, but maybe Take That's refound popularity can carry it.

What is interesting is that despite the musical connections back there are no historical or social or cultural connections being made. Perhaps it is because with the recession in full flow people feel no link to a time that seemed quite prosperous and when protest was not about securing jobs or greedy bankers, but about anti-war and changing the establishment. The only thing that came close was Sandi Thom's wistful, 'I Wish I Was a Punk Rocker (With Flowers in My Hair)' (2006), which I find very stirring, but in fact its lyrics rightly show that we are nowhere close to the challenges to the status quo that was seen in 'In seventy-seven and sixty-nine revolution was in the air/ I was born too late into a world that doesn't care', etc. despite the fact that thousands of us are losing our jobs and houses simply because some bankers already earning millions want to squeeze out every last iota of profit and take no responsibility for it. However, the UK police are predicting a Summer of rioting in this country, so maybe this 1960s retro pop will dry up and instead we will have the styles of the early 1980s and see covers of material by The Clash and things like The Jam's 'A Town Called Malice' and The Specials' 'Ghost Town'.

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