Monday, 1 June 2009

1985 Dead Or Alive: You Spin Me Round (Like A Record)

In our modern age of downloads, Pop Idols, MP3s MySpaces and the like, the very title 'You Spin My Round (Like A Record)' stands out as a stark anachronism, a throwback from olde dayes gone by when people actually went to the shops for their music and it came delivered in a tangible form.

It couldn't be more out of time if it were called 'You Spin My Round (Like An Edison Wax Cylinder) or (Like The Wheel On My Penny Farthing'), but if you were to judge the song on modern sensibilities, then the names of 'Pete Burns' and producers 'Stock, Aitken and Waterman' would also raise more of a knowing smirk than any noises of credibility.

Not so in 1985 though; Burns still 'only' looked and acted like a Boy George wannabe and the 'SAW' team had yet to find the electrogum formula that led to equal measures of hailing and hatred throughout the remainder of the decade. But even if the infrastructure looks shonky at first blush, the end product stood apart from virtually everything else surrounding it in the charts at the time, and now some twenty five years on it stubbornly transcends its 1985 roots.

First thing that hits when the song starts up is its density. A Hi NRG rhythm hammers out a beat over a musique concrete backing of neo Kraftwerk electronic percussion and the heady swirl of a mutant musical box that's opened at random to let the sound out. There barely seems space for a vocal track, but Burns barges his way through the noise and the opening:

"Yeah I, I got to know your name"

is an arresting statement of intent that grabs you by the collar and immediately tames the ferocious backing music into playing second fiddle to what he has to say. And it's not much in terms of content, being just a breathless chat up of an individual of undisclosed sex. Yet Burns keeps the words coming in an excited torrent that belies their basic content and are a precursor to the subliminal dissection of a night on the piss that was Underworld's 'Born Slippy', making the song an ideal soundtrack for a Saturday night down in Clubland and one that almost supplies it's own neon signage.

Hindsight has revealed that 'You Spin My Round (Like A Record)' was a one off in the careers of all parties involved in its creation. Dead Or Alive never recorded anything as remotely interesting again, and SAW soon settled into churning out a production line of identikit hits for interchangeable 'pop stars' that showed not one tenth of the imagination and risk taking of this, their first number one.

Almost to a song, the rest of their output has dated about as well as the Penny Farthing and now only tends to be revived in the name of irony, nostalgia or just pure kitsch. 'You Spin My Round (Like A Record)', on the other hand, still gives off sparks and with just a few tweaks here and there it could easily be passed off as being recorded yesterday. Which makes it all the more frustrating that the open door and clearly marked path to the future were never followed and everyone concerned subsequently took a step backwards.

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