Some of the most beautiful pieces of song-writing have been incredibly simple. It’s often forgotten in the modern day, where pop music sounds a bit like it was written by robots, that sometimes less is more. Take the insanely brilliant work of The Beach Boys or the early days of The Beatles and put it out today and I genuinely wonder if people wouldn’t just write them off as twee, pointless, little pop songs, perhaps I’m wrong.
This weeks OYIFATS (again one for the catchy acronym fans) is certainly in the vain of a classic pop song and unsurprisingly it’s about a girl, isn’t every pop-song men have ever written?
EDWYN COLLINS – A GIRL LIKE YOU
For a long time I laboured under the misconception that Edwyn Collins must have been a one hit wonder, I put him alongside The LAs, Babylon Zoo and Cotton Eye Joe as people who wrote a song that was briefly famous when I was a kid then disappeared. Why did it take so long for someone to put me right?
Edwyn Collins is no one hit wonder! He was the genius behind, arguably one of the 80s most influential bands, Orange Juice, he wrote “Rip It Up” a song that summed up the tedium of 80s Britain as well as Morrissey ever did, he produced records from artists as varied as The Proclaimers & The Cribs and released nine solo albums as well as the four Orange Juice released before they parted ways.
Now for the truly remarkable bit! In 2005 Edwyn suffered two devastating brain haemorrhages. The fact he survived is verging on miraculous and the fact he’s been able to not only learn to read, speak and sing again but release two stunning solo albums as well as getting back behind the controls to produce numerous new bands such as Frankie & The Heartstrings and Charlie Boyer & The Voyeurs is one of the most inspiring stories in musical history. The battle’s summed up much better than I could ever hope to in the book “Falling & Laughing” by his wife Grace Maxwell, or if you haven’t got time for that just give the album Losing Sleep a listen, it’s a truly magical and moving thing.
But what of the song that I knew him for in the first place, what of “A Girl Like You”? In the most simplistic of terms it’s just a brilliant pop song! Like all great pop songs it is about everyday events, it’s about something anyone anywhere in the world could relate to. In this case it’s about being smacked round the face by the brilliance of a girl. In my head it’s teenage Edwyn sat in the local disco as the new girl in town struts up to the bar and time stands still, but maybe I’ve watched too many rubbish teen movies?
It starts with what sounds like a tape deck being turned on, before the pounding drum beat that under-pins the whole track comes in joined by some Doorsesque stage-piano and Edywn comes in with the incredibly to the point opening line “I’ve never known a girl like you before”.
The song really comes alive when the guitar solo kicks in, beautifully distorted and full of energy any punk band would be delighted with, it’s also the closest the song gets to a chorus!
Throughout the song Edwyn confronts his feelings for the girl head on. We find him crawling on the floor and acknowledging devils, we should have known she was trouble from the way she came in! There’s a telling verse where Edwyn worries about getting his point across, and in the line “I hope to god i’m talking metaphorically” we see him with a classic teenage feeling of not being able to express himself without giving the whole game away. Indeed the whole song seems to hint at someone who’s new to the whole seduction thing?
The outro sees the vocals reduced to a cooed back and forth of “it’s alright / yeah” as the electric guitar becomes increasingly frantic and scuzzy, it’s a fitting end to song full of tension and an unmistakable wiff of leather jackets.
So here’s to the wonderful career of Edwyn Collins! As inspirational and brilliant a songwriter as Scotland has ever produced and if he never tops the success of “A Girl Like You” he still wrote one of the greatest pop-songs ever and more than that he’s still going strong.