Glimpses not forgotten. Crushes from afar. Wanting to be more than friends. Unhealthy obsession. Long lasting devotion. Pure lust. Oh, it’s a lot of fun. But my word, the line between hopeless longing and something more sinister is sometimes hard to draw.
So let’s start off with something cheerful and uncomplicated. The Chiffons like this guy and they want to go out with him. They just haven’t made the move yet. They want to sing about it first. No problem. Fine, in fact. It won’t be a secret for long. And a “do lang” to you too.
“He’s so fine. I wish he were mine. That handsome boy over there. The one with the wavy hair. I don’t know how I’m gonna do it but I’m gonna make him mine”
The Temptations’ song is gorgeous of course. The tune, the voices, the arrangement. It’s about as close to perfection as popular music could get. But what’s that?
“Each day through my window I watch her as she passes by. I say to myself: ‘You're such a lucky guy’ .But in reality, she doesn't even know me.”
The Mekons, long before they went country, produced an extraordinary EP of lo-fi songs about riots, the cost of living measured in work-hours and whatever the hell “Heart and Soul” was about. And then this. This howl of anguish set to clanging guitar, rumbling bass and thumping drums. And the brief lyric. Simultaneously longing and aggrieved. Has he really spoken to her? Do they even know each other?
“When I was waiting in the bar where were you? When I was buying you a drink where were you? When I was trying to hide in bed where were you?”
Cecilia’s husband can’t say how he feels so he creates an imaginary lover for his wife. Real men of course don’t send flowers or write love letters. So even when he sees her happiness at receiving them, he still doesn’t let on who they are from. It is all too sad.
“Who wrote the verses? Tell me who was it who sent her flowers for spring? Who every ninth of November, as always without a card, sent her a bunch of violets?”
The Gaylads cheerfully admit that they have been watching her grow up and now she is a beautiful woman. There is a disturbingly large number of popular songs with this theme. Possibly somebody has written a thesis on it. Anyway, the young lady now has a boyfriend but the singer reckons there’s still a chance.
“Just as long as he is nice to you in every kind of way, I don’t have a word to say. But I really love you, baby, baby with all my heart and soul. I’ve got to tell you before I grow old.”
Patti Labelle has quite a voice, doesn’t she? Has this been mentioned before? In this song she is, at least, is trying to tell the guy how she feels. Frankly I can’t imagine a negative response. The words came out just fine.
“I must have rehearsed my lines a thousand times, until I had them memorised. But when I get up the nerve to tell you, the words just never seem to come out right.”
A very early Roxy Music song. The best sort, in my book. Frantically inventive and utterly manic. There’s this lady you see. Bryan only caught a glimpse of her but somehow managed to memorise the number plate of her car. To prove this they make it the chorus line. Utterly bonkers. And everyone gets a little solo at the end. Very democratic, Bryan.
“I tried, but I could not find a way. Looking back, all I did was look away. Next time, is the best time we all know, but if there is no next time, where to go? She’s the sweetest queen I’ve ever seen. CPL593H”
Now. Tammi Terrell and Todd Rundgren haven’t told their loved ones yet, but they have resolved to. These are a lot closer to your conventional love song than some of the others featured here. Uplifting and joyous, musically lush and the real chance of a happy ending.
“Maybe just suppose I could happen to cross your mind and by some chance a girl like me you really been trying to find. Well let me tell you boy, think how it exciting it would be if you should discover you feel like me. If you should discover this dream is for two. Well, I am gonna tell you.”
“I want to talk with you and make it loud and clear though you don't care to hear. But couldn't I just tell you the way I feel? I can't keep it bottled up inside. And could we pretend that it's no big deal and there's really nothing left to hide?”
By contrast. Noel Coward wrote a song about being besotted with a young film actor and, initially, gave the words over to women’s voices. It was quite a hit at the time. This recording by Noel himself is more poignant than any of the others versions I have heard.
“I'm so ashamed of it but must admit the sleepless nights I've had about the boy. Oh, on the silver screen he melts my foolish heart in every single scene. I'm feeling quite insane and young again and all because I'm mad about the boy.”
Skin of Skunk Anansie wants love and lust. Certainly not just friendship. Not even friendship with benefits from the sound of it. And what a voice. Another singer who could sing pretty much anything and make it sound like a matter of life and death.
“I've been biding my time, been so subtly kind. I've got to think so selfishly 'cos you're the face inside of me. I've been biding my days, you see evidently it pays. I've been a friend with unbiased views. Then secretly lust after you.”
The Divine Comedy’s Neil Hannon has told everyone except the girl who needs to know. The song is quite irresistible and judging by some of the comments under the YT video, so is the singer. Not many songs manage to be both this funny and this romantic. And it’s an earworm. In a good way.
“I told all of my friends again and again and again. I drove them round the bend, so now you're my only friend. I told the passers-by. I made a small boy cry. Yeah, and I'll get through to you if it's the last thing that I do.”
It’s time for an epic, don’t you think? And no one does “epic” like Van Der Graaf Generator. I only saw them live once. At The Marquee Club in Wardour Street, Soho. It couldn’t contain them. What a sound. And lyrics that twist and turn with hardly a chorus in sight. Here Peter Hammill admits to hiding behind clever words but eventually says what’s on his mind.
“I've been hiding behind words fearing a deeper flame exists. Faintly aware of the passage of opportunities I have missed. But the nearness and the smell of you …”
And finally. Alison Krauss has a guy already. You think she’s happy with him and that you’re just a good friend but – you just don’t know. This is a cover of a (zedded) song originally by Ray Charles but Alison makes it her own. Oh does she ever …
“No you don't know the one who dreams of you at night and longs to kiss your lips and longs to hold you tight. To you I'm just a friend. That's all I've ever been, but you don't know me.”
The Amorous But Unseen A-List Playlist:
The Chiffons – He’s So Fine
The Temptations – Just My Imagination
The Mekons – Where Were You?
Cecilia – Un Ramito de Violetas
The Gaylads – Secret Admirer
Patti Labelle – If Only You Knew
Roxy Music – Remake Remodel
Tammi Terrell – All I Do Is Think About You
Todd Rundgren – Couldn’t I Just tell You?
Noel Coward – Mad About the Boy
Skunk Anansie – Secretly
The Divine Comedy – Everybody Knows (Except You)
Van Der Graaf Generator – La Rossa
Alison Krauss – You Don’t Know Me
Behind-The-Scenes Be Mine B–List Playlist:
Paul Robeson – Passing By
The Beatles – I want to Tell You
The Lurkers – One Day
Elvis Presley – The Girl of My best Friend
Brenda Holloway – Lonely Boy
The Platters – You’ll Never Know
Warren Zevon – A Certain Girl
The Box Ticked – Daydreaming
Doris Day – Secret Love
The Mystery Jets – Two Doors Down
Cocoa Tea – Secret Admirer
Londonbeat – I’ve Been Thinking About You
Taylor Swift – You Belong With Me
God Help The Girl – Funny Little Frog
The Sundays – My Finest Hour
Jorge Ben Jor – Oba la Vem Ela
Kat Edmonson – Nobody Knows That
Love Unlimited – High Steppin’ Hip Dressin’ Fella
Van Morrison – Cyprus Avenue
Freddy King – Have You Ever Loved a Woman?
Guru’s Wildcard Pick:
Katzenjammer – Shepherd’s Song
(Well, I can if I want)
These playlists were inspired by readers' song nominations from last week's topic: Valentine's Day? Reveal your songs about secret admirers. The next topic will launch on Thursday at 1pm UK time.
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