My Pop Life #120 : I Love It : Icona Pop ft. Charli XCX

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I Love It   :   Icona Pop featuring Charli XCX

I threw your shit into a bag and shoved it down the stairs

I crashed my car into the bridge – I don’t care !

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Trashy electro bubblegum pop of the very finest kind.  And I’ll tell you why.  It was April 2012 and my sister was turning 40.  One of those moments when you realise that a large number of years have passed by and that young baby who was born in the 1970s was now a grown woman with three kids – which meant I was officially middle-aged.  Age ain’t nothing but a number they say – and they’re right – the inside of my head feels largely the same as when I was 25, but boy some things make you stop short and gulp.

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Rebecca and Alan

Rebecca’s dad-in-love (if not in blood or law) the rather wonderful Alan Sully had booked my band The Brighton Beach Boys to perform at this event, in The Fishermen’s Club in Eastbourne – eastern Eastbourne, somewhere beachside.  I’ll save the band moment for a later post – but just to say that it all went down very well, and remains the only time that my Mum ever saw the Brighton Beach Boys play live.  But for another day.  The band packed up their instruments and gear and drove back to Brighton, leaving Jenny and I to celebrate with the family and friends.  Mum had come with Darren her oldest and dearest friend, both pushing 80, the youngest people there weren’t even 10.  Alan was there with his bowling club mates, Becky’s friends were social workers and teachers.  Mollie, Becky’s oldest daughter was 15, Ellie was 13 and William was 9.  I think.  There were sausages on sticks, cheese sandwiches, a huge cake and lots of drink.  Lots of drink.  We would eventually get the train back to Brighton so no designated driver.

Rebecca was born in Hailsham East Sussex on 29 April 1972 almost exactly two months after her dad John Daignault was kicked out by Mum.  She wouldn’t get to meet him until she was in her 30s.  Born in the midst of a dysfunctional family storm that lasted for at least the first decade of her life, she grew up largely with Mum.  I left home in 1975 at 18 years old, but had spent much of the previous two years in Kingston nr Lewes with the Ryle family.  Paul left home, or was kicked out by Mum, the same year.  Andrew stayed until he too was 18 four years later, then left for college.  So Becky’s prime relationship was always with her Mum.  They bicker, they fight, but they are close – perhaps too close at times.  When Mum met Alan and married him in 1987 her and Rebecca moved into Alan’s house in Polegate by the railway station and Becky called Alan ‘dad’ from then on, and he treated her as his daughter.  Although that marriage also didn’t last a lifetime Alan always kept true to his word and looked after Becky, and this birthday was one of his finest hours.  He proudly paid for everything, and didn’t impose his will on anyone – as far as I know!  I am 15 years older than Bex and have always felt protective of her, although she never appeared to need protection to be honest.  She has ploughed her own furrow through life and is a strong, versatile, funny and warm woman, a great mother and a totally supportive and loving sister.  I love her to bits.  We don’t see that much of each other, but I don’t think we’ve ever really had a seriously cross word.  there’s the shared history of dealing with Mum of course which we all have, but Andrew and I occasionally fight, and Paul and I have had some legendary fights.  Becky and I – never.  Always aligned somehow.

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Proud Mum and her daughters :  Mollie, Rebecca, Ellie

So we drank and ate, admired the cake and drank some more.  The kids were dancing but the adults mooched around the edges.  And then this song dropped.  A churning plumb drop of electronic bass and a thumping 4×4 drumbeat with fierce young ladies chanting in punk pop rant above it.  “I don’t CARE : I LOVE IT”.  The room became instantly transformed into a bouncing melee of mental dancing – young, old, friends, foes, people who didn’t dance and people who absolutely DID.  It was a moment.  Mollie and Ellie were drunk ravers by now and raised the bar on the dance floor.  What was really great was the Everyone loved this song.  Half an hour later Rebecca was in her absolute element and took the party and the dancefloor by the throat.  I have never ever seen her so drunk as that night.  It was glorious – like performance art, she strutted, twirled, span around and around, made shapes and poses, flung her head back, pointed at the sky and ruled.  We howled.  She loved it and so did we.  A memorable event of a night, and yes there are pictures, but to protect the sister who needs no protection I will only post the one below.  There are others…

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can I kick it

I suspect this song has been responsible for quite a few moments, at weddings, birthdays, clubs and raves.  It’s quite simply a stonker.  In a perfect story, my two teenage nieces would have shouted the line

you’re from the seventies but I’m a nineties bitch

at me, their aged uncle Ralph who is indeed from the seventies, but given their ages they scarcely merit the 90s bitch claim.  Ah well they probably sang it at me and their Mum anyway !

*

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Charlie XCX

Written by Charlotte Aitchison when she was a relatively experienced songwriter at the age of 19 (having started public performance aged 14 encouraged by her parents), she didn’t think I Love It would suit her style at the time (2011).  It was picked up by Swedish producer Patrick Berger who’d previously worked with Robyn on her influential dance record Body Talk Pt 1 and in particular Dancing On My Own.  Swedish producers currently rule the world of pop on both sides of the Atlantic – notably Max Martin (Britney Spears, Taylor Swift, Katy Perry) and Tove Lo who also worked with the Swedish band Icona Pop.  Icona Pop were formed in 2009 by Stockholm teens Caroline Hjelt and Aino Jawo, they hit the jackpot with Charlie XCX‘s “I Love It” on which Charlie was a featured artist. Although the song was released in the US in 2012 it didn’t reach the UK charts until 2013.

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It is cheesy trashy irresistible fist-pumping pop of the finest lowest-common-denominator kind, a call to arms to unburden yourself of any conformist instincts for the duration of its 2 minutes and 37 seconds and thus takes its place in the great canon of perfect pop.  It’s a destroyer of the generation gap.  It’s a fucking classic.   Make sure the DJ plays it at your party.

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My Pop Life #49 : This Guy’s In Love With You – Herb Alpert

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This Guy’s In Love With You   –   Herb Alpert

…who looks at you the way I do?  

When you smile

I can tell 

we know each other very well…

It certainly helps that the first thing you hear is a soft-tone electric keyboard before the brushes on the snare and the vocal arrive for this is a lounge groove par excellence, from deep in my memory.   Herb Alpert had been running Tijuana Brass since 1962 with huge success, the extremely popular albums outselling even The Beatles in 1966.   Tijuana Brass were a faux-Latin brass pop outfit which Alpert described as “Four lasagnas, two bagels, and an American cheese”.  Alpert himself is Ukrainian Jewish from Boyle Heights and went to Fairfax High in Los Angeles.   He is also the “A” in “A&M Records” which he formed with Jerry Moss in 1962 and was home to The Carpenters, Sergio Mendes and Burt Bacharach who wrote and arranged “This Guy…“.   It wasn’t all easy-listening central, The Flying Burrito Brothers, Cat Stevens, Joe Cocker and Procul Harum (My Pop Life #37) all signed with A&M in the late 60s and by 1972 they were the largest independent record label in the world.  Herb Alpert has many Grammys, millions of sales and the distinction of being the only artist to top the charts as a singer (This Guy…1968) and an instrumentalist (Rise, 1989).

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He’s not the greatest singer as he would himself admit – Herb first sang this to his wife on a TV special (see below) but the phone lines went ballistic and within two days it was released on his own label.  Somehow it is one of the most romantic records ever recorded.  Perhaps the guys listening to it feel they can join in given that the lead vocal is so ordinary, perhaps the languid backbeat just makes them wanna slow dance with their wives…either way it is a potent and irresistible slice of conceptual conception music for adults.   Cheesy you say?  Only in the best possible way.

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It reminds me strongly of my grandfather’s funeral in Portsmouth.  My mum’s dad.  I remember Horace as a kind man, balding with remaining hair greased flat onto his head, slight air-lip, dark suit, sleeveless maroon pullover and a navy tie over a white patterned shirt.   We used to play jacks together – he taught me how to play it with five dice : 9, 10, Jack, Queen, King.  Kept in a nice red leather pouch in the sideboard.  He had a mysterious genesis as we believe his mother returned from Shanghai pregnant and gave birth in Portsmouth.   My brother Paul lives in Shanghai.   There is a Laming mentioned as a government official in China but not much more information, and it could be unrelated of course, but anyway murky family histories sometimes have to be pieced together with the clues available from reticent relatives.  He met Ruby my nan in Portsmouth and they married and had two daughters, Heather, my mum, and her sister Valerie.  I do know that Horace, my grandad, was a policeman during World War Two and had to climb onto the roof of the Guildhall in air-raids to defuse unexploded bombs, which is impressive to say the least.  He then became a shoe shop manager/owner (vagueness again) and a Mason.  The funeral I was attending, along with the other males in the family but none of the females, was Masonic.

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Portsmouth 1968

It was a pretty weird day.  I don’t even remember if my Dad was there, but I think he was.  I was eleven. Paul was nine, Andrew just turned five.   Aunty Valerie was married to Uncle Keith by now and he had a daughter Annette who was about my age. Uncle Keith was a dark-voiced stern-looking smooth operator.  Over-familiar yet unfriendly.  The ‘men” all trooped off to some impersonal chapel of rest where other masons sat in silence and a vicar read a funeral service, inserting the word “Horace” where a blank was left for a name.  There was no personality to it.  No eulogy detailing what he had done, who he was, and I was tremendously disappointed.  The priest seemed not to have known Horace at all.   It made me wonder whether there had been another Masonic funeral service to which Uncle Keith, Dad, Paul and myself would not have been invited.   The glum little ceremony done, we were driven back to 6 Moneyfields Avenue in Copnor where Nan and Mum and Valerie, Annette and cousin Wendy were gathered.  Triangular sandwiches appeared.  Tea.  Paul was there aged nine, and Andrew was five.   Perhaps he’d stayed behind with Mum.  Some music went on the gramaphone, Uncle Keith no doubt.  For some unspoken reason the men congregated at the back of the room, and the women near the bay window.

Then this song came on.  Me being a veteran of the radio and TOTP I knew it, but Uncle Keith wanted to instruct us in the ways of righteousness.  Our conversations were suddenly interrupted as he announced “Listen to this – suddenly there’s a complete silence”.

“Say you’re in love, in love with this guy.  If not I’ll just die….”

We dutifully listened to the silence.

And the mournful trumpets returned, Bacharach-style, and that laid-back groove from heaven resumed, and Uncle Keith made a hand gesture as if to say “See – what did I tell you?”.   We all nodded in solemn appreciation of this moment and then after a respectful pause carried on chatting, ignoring the actual song itself, it was the silence we had come to see.  Uncle Keith had slip-on shoes and he wasn’t to be trifled with.

About two years earlier he and Aunty Valerie had been looking after Andrew and offered to adopt him if Mum “couldn’t cope” after her first major breakdown.  They were childless, and Andrew had spent a lot of time down there.  But he’d stayed with Mum in the end.   He’d be back in Portsmouth a a couple of years time when we lost the house in Selmeston, but for now we were all together.   Later on, Aunty Valerie would divorce Uncle Keith and he would disappear from our lives.   Aunty Val would go on to live with the true love of her life in Norfolk, a woman whom I never met, also called Wendy.

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This Guy’s In Love With You was written by Burt Bacharach & Hal David at some point in the 1960s when Herb Alpert asked Burt if he had any old songs lying around.  It has been covered numerous times by other artists such as The Supremes, Donny Osmond, Booker T and Bacharach himself.  It reminds us that while the Beatles broke the charts, and the Stones brought the blues to suburban England, there was always a strain of seriously laid-back music with its adherents and practitioners happy to croon away on Sunday evening radio, any evening radio, Andy Williams, Percy Faith, Barbra Streisand, Val Doonican and even Elvis himself supported the cause, the chunky sweater, the easy warm smile, the undemanding seductive tune, your gran liking it, your Uncle Keith liking it;  secretly, you’re loving it too;  you know you are.

From “The Beat Of The Brass” TV Special 1968