Suicide? Rape? War? Insanity? Yes please!
Could this be the 6 o’clock news I’m talking about? No?
What about pop music?
Well, if we’re talking Kim Wilde, the answer is most definitely yes!
I’ve always had a love of drama in pop music. Songs that tell a story – quite often a depressing story – in 3 1/2 minutes. The amazing Cher did it in 2 1/2 minutes in the early 70s – Dark Lady, Gypsies Tramps & Thieves, Half Breed, Carousel Man, I Saw A Man And He Danced With His Wife…in fact Cher’s original Greatest Hits is wall to wall high-drama!
But in the early 80s there was another artist who excelled in this regard. Kim Wilde. Kim’s early 80s career, with hits written by her brother and father, was awash with 3 1/2 minute pop dramas. And I bought all these classic singles back then. Couldn’t get enough of them!
My good friend John McKechnie always refers to “View From A Bridge” as “View From A Pig” because that’s what he really thought the song was called back then. Talk about misheard lyrics!
Wikipedia succinctly talks about this song thusly: “The song told the story of a girl committing suicide by jumping off a bridge”
Hardly Top 10 pop fodder you’d think. And yet, like all of Kim’s early classics, the pop sensibilities of the song were beyond reproach. Stunning music, confronting lyrics and Kim’s unique vocal styles all wrapped up in 3 /12 minutes of pop perfection.
“Child Come Away” was hardly a “I love you love me” typical pop lyric…..
“I read the story ’bout a week ago
They found her on the beach that night.
They said the light had gone out of her eyes
And no-one thinks she’ll ever be right.”
I could only conclude way back then that the girl had been raped and bashed by an ex-boyfriend. No sunshine, lollypops and rainbows in this little ditty! The video for the song only seems to emphasize the drama…police, witnesses, curious onlookers…it’s all there!
These songs were just perfect for gay boys with a flair for the dramatic. You didn’t so much LISTEN to Kim Wilde’s hits as IMMERSE yourself in them – they fired the imagination. You made up the visuals in your head and cast yourself as the lead in the story!
Of “Cambodia”, Wikipedia tells us “The lyrics, telling the story of the wife of a Thailand-based RAF, whose husband mysteriously disappears after flying out to Cambodia and never returns, are inspired by some of the tragedies that occurred in South Vietnam. In writing the lyrics, Marty Wilde imagined an American pilot flying in a F-4 Phantom II and getting shot down by a surface-to-air missile.”
Um, okay. So we’re not doing “I love you love me” this time either? No, apparently not!
He used to cry some nights as though he lived a dream.
And as she held him close he used to search her face
As though she knew the truth – lost inside Cambodia.
But then a call came through
they said he’d soon be home.
She had to pack a case and they would make a rendezvous.
But now a year has passed and not a single word
And all the love she knew
Has disappeared out in the haze.
Again, the video for the song adds to the drama….jungles, screaming soldiers, writhing snakes…
So um, yeah, you can see why I might have trouble with today’s mega chart hits that have lyrics like…
When I walk on by, girls be looking like damn he fly
I pimp to the beat, walking on the street in my new lafreak, yeah
This is how I roll, animal print, pants outta control,
It’s Red-Fu with the big ass fro
And like Bruce Leroy I got the glow”
Today, we’re all living in a dumbed-down world with dumbed-down music for dumbed-down people: everyone knows the cost of an iPhone but the value of nothing.
So, when the emptiness gets a bit too much, go back and rediscover the exquisite drama of Kim Wilde in the early 80s…