In the reading I’m doing for the workshop on Saturday I mentioned a couple of pieces of background music that set the mood in a tastefully refurbished pub (‘marinated in a knowing, post-modern irony). These happened to be playing on shuffle on my computer as I was writing it. One is ‘Amoreuse’ by Kiki Dee, which is aÂ song that few people probably know by name but most people will recognise. It’s actually a FrenchÂ songÂ to which Gary Osborne put English lyricsÂ (who wrote ‘Get theÂ Abbey Habit’ and the lyrics to Elton John’sÂ ‘Blue Eyes’ if I rememberÂ correctly).Â Â
The other was one of my very favourites (and not just because of its drinking related title) — ‘Love Hangover’. I like the Associates version but the original Diana Ross recording is both incredibly seductive (in the opening) and then has the most incredibly charged erotic energy — the hi-hatÂ making it pound along. I think I remember some Paul Gambaccini programme on Radio 2 describing how that Diana Ross wasÂ reluctant to record such a blatantly sexual song atÂ first and the producer had to seduce her into itÂ with the lightsÂ turned downÂ very low.Â (There’s something similar about it on this website.)Â It’s unusual as it’s written by two women — Pam Sawyer and Marilyn MaLeod.
I came back to try and find it on the laptop and did a filter for everything tagged with the word ‘love’. IÂ don’tÂ consider myself to have a collection with loads of soppy songs and it probably removed about 80% of the tracks. However, I was stunnedÂ by how many ofÂ those that were left wereÂ tracks thatÂ I really like. Having ‘love’ in the title almost seems to be a predictor of quality. Of those that are on the playlist are gems like ‘Big Love’ by FleetwoodMac, ‘I’m in Love with A German Film Star’ by the Passions, ‘Sowing the Seeds of Love’ by Tears for Fears, ‘Love at First Sight’ by Kylie, ‘Tainted Love’ by Soft Cell, ‘Friday I’m in Love’ by the Cure, ‘I’m Not in Love’ by 10cc, ‘Justify My Love’ by Madonna, ‘Love Shack’ by the B52s, ‘Love is the Drug’ by Roxy Music, ‘Whole Lotta Love’ by Led Zeppellin, ‘Funeral for a Friend (Love Lies Bleeding’ by Elton John, Â ‘Damn I Wish I Was Your Lover’ by Sophie B Hawkins, ‘Saving All My Love for You’ by Whitney Houston, ‘Love is a Battlefield’ by Pat Benatar (I Love That) and, of course, ‘Silly Love Songs’ by Wings…though I wasn’t so enthused by ‘Boys (Summertime Love’) by Sabrina.
I’m not arguing the self-evident point that lots of pop songs have ‘love’ in their title but that I’m far less likely to skip to the next track when I’ve filtered for the word. This makes me think that. perhaps, that for a lot of artists that they are more confident of titling a song with aÂ potentially ‘cheesy’ like ‘love’ when it’s a strong, good quality track (i.e. because it’s good they don’t need to be defensive about it). Paul McCartney’s lyric to ‘Silly Love Songs’Â sums up this critical tendency. This is less true of the likes of Diana Ross but very true of the more macho male groups and singers. I think that may be a lesson for writing as well — if you’re dealing with emotions then it will work if you do it directly and confidently then that will be the best remembered of your work.