Saturday, November 27, 2010

Mid-September, there was a Green Telephone

This great song by Madness was a little B-side on their single 'Uncle Sam.' It was called 'Please Don't Go.'

No, don't assume I'm writing this in the wake of an emotional blow. I just want to write about a song I like, a song I've liked for awhile.

I don't understand why it was just a B-side. It's way better, in my opinion, then 'Uncle Sam,' a tune that was apparently about the U.K.'s view of the American's view of the U.K. (confused yet?)

It sounds more real and less polished than 'Uncle Sam,' and just more fun. It's a simple song about a singer pleading with his girlfriend or partner not the leave him.

Yeah, we've all heard those, but this one's good.

It's largely an upbeat guitar-driven song. It uses the popular D-C-G opening, a bass line used in countless other songs (notably 'Sweet Home Alabama' by Lynyrd Skynyrd). It's much more fun or bright than their other B-side 'Memories,' which is simply about the same thing, but told from a much more sad point of view.

The lyrics are more specifically the singer explaining that he admits his faults, but he wants the girl to know that he loves her. 'It used to mean so very much.' Him walking her home, then walking back alone, are very prominent memories in that song.

I'd say it's a great accomplishment for the band without Mike Barson. This was recorded in the days of their final album, under a different label, after Barson left and they resorted to drum machines (disappointing Woody) and using different keyboardists. Now I can't say the band wasn't half as good without Barson - they were still a working, competent six piece - but I mean that Barson was the big musical director, and was probably the most advanced musician aside from Bedders (bass) and Woody (drums). They really did well with this song, and I'm sorry it's only a B-side - but then, there's another great example that other than their singles and album songs, their B-sides were just as good, if not even sometimes better than the promoted single. I'm not the only one who thinks 'Please Don't Go' is probably better or more interesting - I've read a few reviews and articles on the album that suggest that the B-side is better than 'Uncle Sam.'

The demo of the song is also kind of interesting, although over-produced. It has different lyrics. Wondering about my title of this post? The proper song begins like this:

'I used to walk you home, then walk back alone
as I remember - I just can't remember.'

The demo starts off like this:

'You had said you'd leave in mid-September
as I recall - I just can't remember

You showed yourself the door, and left me alone
with Lee Parry,* and a green telephone.'

I don't know why, but I often love it when days or months are mentioned in music or song. I tend to feel good for some reason. 'Mid-September' was a good thing for me to hear for some reason (prior to my actual good mid-September, so this is not derived from that). But then I hear 'green telephone,' and it just gets either wacky or fun and I end up smiling or chuckling at it. It sounds like a random, odd thing to throw into the lyric. I've only ever seen one green telephone before, and it was in my former friend's basement. It was a very old military telephone (and it worked).

Synesthetically, I get a lot of yellow from the guitar in the song, as well as the bass during the chorus. I often think of hayfields. As well as late afternoon, and certain material things. One of my paternal uncles appear at the beginning of the second verse. The pool at the Nepean Sportsplex appears at the beginning of one of the later choruses. My ex-girlfriend, and this began before she was such, I tend to evoke out of how the word 'really' during the beginning of the last chorus is sung - with a lot of emphasis that sounds like either passion or he really means it.

The song maintains its excitement and sounds good. It's a good thing they switched from the purely synthesized demo to the real guitar sound. 

Proper version:

Unfortunately 'Sweetest Girl' is included on it, sort of like extra baggage. And I've already talked about 'Sweetest Girl,' and how weird it is, on here.

The drums are also fun too - I like the rhythm and pattern, it's fun to play.

Music: B+
Lyrics: B+

I must also mention Suggs's singing: If you slow it down and actually listen to his vocal inflections as he sings 'please don't go 'cause I really know...' you really get the sense of proficiency and awesomeness of how it sounds. 'Please don't go-ho 'cause I reeeaally know-how....'

Other great B-sides of Madness that happen to be about the same kind of thing:
'Memories' (much more sad-sounding and reflective, sung by Chas Smash)
'Shadow on the House' (this is more about how someone feels after his girl left after finding out he cheated on her)
'Crying Shame' (same kind of vein, but the girl in this tale left the singer because the girl is more of a tease type)

Quite a bit of Madness's great B-sides seem to be about break ups. Very ironically, 'Shadow on the House' is the B-side to 'It Must be Love' (and sounds like a slow western country song, unusual of Madness). I can't think of a single they did where the A-side was break-up themed. In the case just mentioned, quite the opposite.

To my chagrin, I also discovered that they covered that song 'For Once in my Life,' which to me is apparently about finding true love or something similar. I have never heard their version nor knew they'd done a cover...everyone's apparently done a cover of that if Madness has!

Anyway, 'Please Don't Go' is fun, fast, and well-done. I listen to it all the time, regardless of my circumstances.
(Update: There is actually another green telephone - on Gmail, there's a 'call phone' which is a free service that Google has to let people call others on their phones via the Internet. The icon is a green phone handset).

*Lee Parry is something I figured out via the Madness website under Chris' Cupboard; I'd asked him what that lyric was, and while Foreman  ignored that part of the question to answer another aspect of it (it was a long question) another fan supplied me with the Lee Parry name in a comment.

Justin C.

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