I like my English music to sound … errr, English.
Accepting, as any reasonable person must, that rock music is an essentially organic American medium, to then, transplant that music to England means I will need those bands to try a little harder.
Aping American acts won't cut it.
Sure I have time for the musicality and sheer audaciousness of The Rolling Stones, Led Zeppelin, The Animals and others who are trying to beat the Americans at their own game. Their lyrics are full of bayous and Mississippi deltas and their rock swaggers and struts with the gin and juke joints of the south and industrial north but I can accept their artifice because they never for once pretended to have invented anything and they give credit where credit is due.
There is the lineage of English bands (Mumford and Sons being the most recent) which pretend to be English but really just play American native music dressed up and repackaged in English clothes. They have style consultants to make the music "hip" and old English snobbery to give them credibility. Their repackage is sold successfully to the world, even to the Americans who lap it up. American insecurity whether it be in literature, film or music still exists amongst a percentage of Americans … "We must turn our heads to England for credibility in the arts …. ". Yes, but it's like the emperor's new clothes after the emperor has stepped on a dog turd.
There are other bands that wave the English flag but really only recycle American riffs for the local English domestic market. Most of the so called "Britpop" bands fall into that category. Most of the English market laps them up because they are domestic and can be seen live, and probably live around the corner from you. They rarely hit the big time outside of England. And, they are largely dull unless you are member of the English diaspora or a unreconstructed Anglophile.
There are still others who are in it for a buck and who don't have a obvious or even subconscious philosophy. Whatever works that's what they produce and sell.
Then there are the English bands I like most. Those that use rock music as a way of exploring their Englishness. They have no trouble adopting American music and usually acknowledge the same. But, their music explores English themes and attitudes from within a American pop cultural world.
The 20th century, like it or not, was the American century.
Many good bands / acts fill the gaps between those categories but the ones I like the most are these obstinately English ones who draw from all types of music without stealing … ones that are English without a chip on the shoulder, who don't give a fuck, and who have an acute understanding of pop cultural history.
The Kinks, Robyn Hitchcock, David Essex, David Bowie come to mind.
Alan Price fits into that group also.
Price hinted as much talking about blues from the United States, "We had a missionary zeal for this music, I think we identified with it, because it (Tyneside) is a strong area politically, you know, working class. There was a strong trade union ethic up there, and we felt that blues music, the poor black music, represented the same things as the whites had. And we didn't really have contact with our own folk music, whereas the American black music was born of people in the cotton fields, but then heavy industry as well, when you moved up north to Chicago, and we identified with both the sound and the primitive side of it."
See my other Alan Price entry for biographical detail but by way of shorthand lets say: Alan Price was born in the north of England, in 1942, played organ in The Animals, left and formed the Alan Price Set, and then put out a series of solo albums, that are variously autobiographical, adventurous, commercial, or weird, but always very English.
On top of that he is very smart.
Price could be left of centre but this album is quite commercial (at least by Price standrads). Price has tackled most of the popular styles of the day and a few styles from "yesterday". It is obvious he likes his older music but knows he needs to sell records as well. Not every song is a winner but Price's smarts makes the songs a lot better than they would be in other hands.
His strengths are, usually, in his inventiveness and in his autobiographical writing and that applies to this album. The best songs are the very personal or those drawn from the narrative of his own life. When he's just trying to write a generic pop song, thinking about melody, pop hooks and instrumentation, he doesn't succeed as well … though there are some individual charming retro type pop songs.
Another problem is the slick production and reliance on synths … it hasn't dated well.
All tracks are by Price unless noted. Price produced the album, though the sound production is by Bones Howe (was it recorded in America?).
The album was released in England in 1978 with a different track order and sleeve and under the non-international commercial title of "England My England".
Despite the song of the same name the album has influences from all corners of the globe.
Tracks (best in italics)
- This Is Your Lucky Day (The Girl Won't Get Under) – (Billy Day / Mike Lesley) – wtf? I know Price had a commercial poppy side to him but this is white disco!
- Groovy Times – This is pure soft rock with a gentle, escape from the rat race and live on a beach vibe going for it. It is malarkey but it works (especially with a pina colada). It is vaguely reminiscent in feel and mood to Michael Nesmith's "Rio" from 1977
- Baby Of Mine – Price is walking into Paul McCartney territory. Very pleasant with a slight faux gospel feel.
- Those Tender Lips – doo wop!
- Mama Don't Go Home – a slight calypso steel band feel. If Harry Belafonte had discovered synths he may have released a track like this. It doesn't work here and it wouldn't work for Harry.
- I Love You Too – big pop which sounds like it's from an early 70s soundtrack (minus the production) which was trying to copy Brill building 60s pop. I like this, it's quite catchy.
- Citizens Of The World Unite – a interesting (and still relevant) lyric that comes off as Ray Davies meet the eccentricity of Mick Ronson. Ed Keupper seems to have lifted part of this melody for his song "Also Sprach The King Of Euro Disco" (1986) I think.
- Help From You – more McCartney-isms … and it goes on too long.
- Pity The Poor Boy – a song that sounds like soundtrack filler.
- England My England – for a song about England the song starts out with a French feel, or perhaps a Russian feel if they were doing a chanson song. It is snippets of England as known by Price .I'm not sure what it's about but it's great.
Not great but there are a handful of great tunes and Price, still remains a undervalued talent…. I'm keeping it.
1979 Baby of Mine #32
This Is Your Lucky Day (The Girl Won't Get Under)
Baby Of Mine
Those Tender Lips
Mama Don't Go Home
I Love You Too
Citizens Of The World Unite
Help From You
Pity The Poor Boy
England My England
- "One of Price's early American heroes was Jerry Lee Lewis, and, to his joy, he was lucky enough to meet and work with him on a show: "We did a Granada TV special with him, and I remember we were in a side rehearsal room, myself and group that I was with at the time. I was playing piano and showing them what I could do, when Jerry Lee Lewis walked in, with a big cigar. He sort of pushed me off the piano stool, sat down, and played the most marvellous boogie-woogie. He had never been given the credit for his piano playing, his left hand was absolutely stupendous – fantastic independence, could do great boogie, and could actually make the piano talk. He put his cigar on the end, you could feel it almost burning the grand piano, then he played a few and turned to me and said 'that's how you do it'." http://www.saga.co.uk/lifestyle/people/celebrities/alan-price.aspx