He loved her, she didn’t love him and now he’s dead. And best of all, he’s now watching her from heaven, somehow able to communicate his predicament to the rest of us but not to her. Tragic – and rather creepy – stuff.
But no, best of all is the sound of this song: that great lead vocal, the awkward lyrics and phrasing, the superb (presumably angelic) backing vocals, the denseness of the production and, especially for me, the fumbling, crashing drums that sound as though they were played by an eight-year-old.
Written as a poem for her boyfriend when she was fourteen years old – and recorded a year later – Rosie Hamlin’s Angel Baby is an utterly seductive piece of artless naivety. While the lyrics alone perfectly convey teenage wide-eyedness, the music and (particularly) the singing give it an emotional and other-wordly quality: Rosie sings it like she means it (especially with those “oohs”). As a fifteen-year-old girl would.
The music rolls and shuffles unsteadily (the perfect accompaniment for Rosie’s own unsteadiness), sometimes losing the tempo and featuring a sax solo that even I could play. And because it goes on for three minutes and forty seconds (very long by early rock ‘n’ roll/doo wop standards) we get even more of the sense of this young girl’s lovelorn anguish.
You’d maybe think from the title that this song would offer some sort of instruction to men to be a bit more thoughtful and considerate: you know, that woman of yours is worth your indulgence and care. Because she’s special and she deserves it.
But no. It’s actually about making sure you get to know her because… well, because you know how devious and duplicitous women can be. They’ll stamp all over you if you give them a chance.
The set up here – as with a lot of these types of songs – is that Percy is a sweet, good-hearted boy who falls so hard in love with a girl that he doesn’t see that she’s just a whole world of trouble. Even though it’s really obvious. So obvious, in fact, that his mother spots it as soon as she meets her (of course he’s a mummy’s boy). As does the preacher. Who both take him aside to warn him off this black hearted woman. Does he listen? Does he fuck. And naturally, he pays the price. Poor Percy.
With all that said, it’s played and sung with such sweetness and conviction that you ignore the implicit misogyny and take Percy’s side completely. How could she treat him like that?
I heard this playing in H&M the other week and was so taken with it that I considered asking one of the shop assistant girls what it was. But I didn’t want to come across as an old weirdo creep.
I heard it again in H&M yesterday and this time I recorded it. I also asked the two girls behind the counter what it was. “Fuck off you old weirdo creep,” they said.
Actually, they were very nice. But they didn’t know what it was. Shazam told me later.
So it’s by Woolfy who is a British ex pat called Simon James who lives and works in California. Good for him.
A laid-back indie shuffle, its slow drums and camp fire acoustic guitar are enveloped with a marimba/xylophone thing that makes it sound like it was recorded underwater. Very chilled out and vibey.
The double-tracked vocals, though sonically distant, have an intimacy that comes from the streetwise delivery (by virtue of his English accent) and the lyrics which seem to be a love letter to the city. Or maybe a love letter to a lover. The joyously poetic “we live to love you” refrain gives the whole thing a quietly anthemic quality.
Dreamy, summery and rather captivating.
It’s possible that I’m losing it. If I ever had it, that is. Because despite Clapton being one of the dreariest figures in music (apart from the racism, which was at least interesting) and this song being cut from the same sort of cloth as Chris De Burgh’s wretched Lady in Red (that kind of blokey ‘my beautiful lady wife’ business), I do like it. But why?
The tune, that’s why. Even the irritating, treacly guitar that starts the song and runs throughout can’t mask the fact that it’s playing a lovely melody. The melody of the vocal line, too.
As for the lyrics. Well, they’re okay. A bit sickly. You get the whole song in the first verse and the rest is just padding out the theme. I imagine your Jeremy Clarkson types are supremely moved by them.
So yes, it’s the overall tune that gets me. It’s odd because although I’ve heard the song many, many times over the years it seems to have cropped up all over the place in the past few weeks. The final straw came when I heard a busking clarinetist performing it in Cromer on Sunday: I finally gave up and accepted that I really love the tune.
Now if only someone decent would have a go at it.
The ominous rolling, rumbling piano at the start of this song sets the listener up for something of substance. But what we get instead is a bored narrator asking his wife/girlfriend to tickle him – just to fill the time.
Something of a throwaway in the Newman canon (it was for years only available in this unplugged version from his wonderful 1971 Live LP), it’s as good an example of everything that makes him so great: the wit and economy of the words, the effortless melody, the superb piano playing, the elevation of the mundane (and the capture of what it is to be human) and the sardonic tenderness of his voice. In all, it’s a funny and very sweet portrait of the joys of being in a relationship.
Nothing in pop music moves me more than a grown man carrying on like a lovesick 12-year-old. You don’t hear so much of it these days – because we’re all so sophisticated and knowing – but the simple set up of singing to, and about, a girl still seems to me to be what pop music should be all about. Of course, it needs to be done well. It’s not something any idiot can do, despite what pop music’s detractors would like us to believe.
Here, Eric Donaldson absolutely nails it. Although released in 1971, Cherry Oh Baby harks back to 1950s rock ‘n’ roll and Doo Wop. The lyrics are fairly straightforward “I love you” stuff but with a pleasing oddness found, for instance, in the use of the word “thee” and the grammatically incorrect “Can’t you see I’m in love with you/if you don’t believe I do”. But where the song really hits is in the the melody and, especially, the singing. And especially in the chorus where Donaldson dispenses with mere words and tops off his pleading “whoah-oh-ohs” with an almost euphoric “yeah-ay-ay-ay-ay”. What girl could resist that? Especially when this declaration of adoration comes wrapped up in a gentle but powerful rhythm that could make even the stoniest heart pulse.