Monday, 17 July 2017

Never You Done That and Other Songs by Dave Wakling

Dave Wakling was the man behind many of the best songs of The Beat and General Public. He is, in my not-so-humble-opinion, one of the finest songwriters this Isle of Fine Songwriters has produced. Why he has not been inducted into Rock ’n Roll Halls of Fame is something that cries out for explanation.

I was listening to The Beat’s second album, Special Beat Service, recently, and as always was surprised and enchanted by this track:

The lyrics are wonderfully ambiguous. "She said to leave it till the end of the party / Do it now, you know there's never a next time / How come the feeling that it's only just started / Pull back your cover, I could love you for all time / But do it now, you know there's never a next time". Which exactly gets the ambiguity of what I and many others felt, back then in the Naughty Eighties, when meeting someone at a party for the first time and experiencing that immediate attraction. No-one else gets this the way he does.

He is the author of the best single lyric I know: “Each time we kiss you’re the perfect stranger”. You either know exactly what that means, or you won’t understand the explanation. Here’s the song.

This is about the perfect love. “Well who would have guessed, well I guess I should / The second night would be as good”. There are a zillion writers who tell us that sex gets better with intimacy and familiarity, and I have to say that was never my experience. The first night was always the best. Other nights may have many good and different moments, but a good first time is a moment unto itself. And Dave Wakling was the only songwriter (I’ve heard) who has spoken about this.

But maybe, as a commentator at a lyric site suggested, the song was about booze. (Drugs are never as good the second time, I am reliably informed. Booze can be. Each time I sipped a glass of Jack Daniels, it was the perfect stranger.) There’s nothing in Wakling’s biography to suggest he had a drinking problem. But even if he wrote it as a love-song to a woman, maybe my inner drunk heard it as a song about drinking?

In the end, do I care? These and others are wonderful songs, like no other written by anyone else. If you haven’t heard his stuff, go listen.

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