Sunday, 1 March 2009

1982 Bucks Fizz: The Land Of Make Believe

The second number one from the Eurovision winners, 'The Land Of Make Believe' is a surprising departure from the snappy, poppy fayre they'd served up previously. 'Making Your Mind Up' it's not.

Rather, the use of the child's voice and the random and rather surreal lyrics have always reminded me of Traffic's 'Hole In My Shoe'. But whereas Jim Capaldi was describing a leaky boot that was anchoring him to reality through a rather bad acid trip, it's unlikely that any of The Fizz had been breaking out the LSD to record this. So what's it all about?

The verses flow by with a purpose, with the oddly staccato vocals seemingly skipping and building to some great conclusion only to have it fall disappointingly flat at the chorus which doesn't quite make it; 'The land of make believeeeeeeee' just trails off awkwardly, missing a note or a beat or something to resolve it and it feels a bit like a perfect triple back flip marred by a shonky landing.

The lyrics to this were written by Peter Sinfield who had previously provided the words for King Crimson and Emerson, Lake and Palmer (he wrote "I Believe in Father Christmas" for example) so the man has some pedigree. But his claims that 'The Land Of Make Believe' was an attack on Margaret Thatcher's right wing social policies has to be taken with a cellarfull of salt:


Nasty in your garden's,

Waiting patiently,
'Till it can have your heart"

Maybe. If you look hard enough. And it is a big departure from 'You gotta speed it up, you gotta slow it down", but when the meaning of something is buried so obscurely then it ceases to have any meaning at all, and anybody can see any face in any wallpaper if they look hard enough and want to see it. Far better I think to treat it as a harmless piece of nonsense that borrows quite heavily in tone from Chuck Mangione's own 'Land Of Make Believe' from 1973:

"How I love when my thoughts run to the land of make believe
Where everything is fun forever.
Children always gather around Mother Goose and all her rhyme

They fill the air with sounds of laughter.

Jack and Jill are hard at work helping children dream awhile,
And Snoopy's making smiles for grown-ups"

Yes, quite.

Anyway, part of the problem comes from over analysing I think, in much the way 'Baa Baa Black Sheep loses it's fun and innocence when it's examined for racism. Neither Sinfield nor any of the band were Bob Dylan and to try and impute some great meaning where none exists detracts from the fact that this is a good pop song that, while not built to last, would have aged far better had it not been drenched in some truly awful Linn drum programming. But there are worse crimes to commit in the world of popular music, and in this decade at least. Bucks Fizz are by no means the only band to stand accused of this.

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