Taking reader-generated content to a new, absurd level, I left tonight’s blog post subject matter up to Twitter. And alongside requests for glockenspiels, and Twisted Sister’s most underrated b-sides (the latter being something I genuinely wish would have won), the first suggestion out of the bag: Shirley Bassey. Which serves me right, I guess, for being so lax on the inspiration front. Lax isn’t the right word of course; it’s more a fuzzy-headedness. So many tracks running wild through the cerebral cortex, it’s akin to being haunted by sonic radiation. An inner monologue, corrupted by vital memories of so many songs – some days I’m surprised I can tie my own shoelaces. Hmm…
When I was quite the young gentleman about town, I was an opinionated wee shite, taking pride from my polarised polemic on any given subject. And as I’ve grown older, that black and white perception has very much faded to grey – I have become my own Visage tribute act. And that’s how I feel about the Ms Bassey aesthetic. Ambivalent, yes – but mildly so; not something I can whip myself into a lather over, for the simple reason that her music resides in a completely different galaxy to the one I gallivant about in. My parents probably appreciate Shirley Bassey records – and whilst I love my folks to bits, their taste in music suggests that I’m adopted. Weird childhood memories of car journeys made all the more tortuous by Dr Hook tapes dribbling out of the Ford Escort’s tiny, tinny speakers. Bread’s Greatest Hits. Barbara Streisand’s Love Songs. No Bassey that I can recall, but that’s more to do with a record collection that struggled to get into double figures than anything else.
So: Shirley Bassey. Fake, rigid emotion smeared across every single track. Bond themes in which the understated, cinematic grace of each John Barry score is bludgeoned into submission – compare Nancy Sinatra’s sublime ‘You Only Live Twice’ with a ‘Diamonds Are Forever’ or a ‘Goldfinger’, and you’ll see what I mean.
And whilst I don’t keep tabs on the hit parade – for fairly obvious reasons – I do recall the record she did with Propellerheads, back when big beat was big business and any old Charlie with a sequencer and associated boxes of tricks were drafting in big names from the past to decorate that attempt upon the chart summit. This was released in 1997, and sounds not only strangely dated, but awkward with it – the vocal track feeling disassociated from the backing track, like karaoke spliced across differing timezones. Something mailed-in, perhaps – I can’t help but think what a better record this would have been if Mark E Smith was on front-man duty.
Propellerheads featuring Shirley Bassey / History Repeating