Tuesday, 28 April 2015

What is a lost song, exactly?

Good question.  The defining two words I guess would be "commercial failure".  And when you think about it, that accounts for a pretty broad range of artists.

First you have what must be the largest group - those who played, gigged perhaps, made demos (uploaded to Soundcloud if its in the last decade), but never really released anything officially.  They have to number in the millions across the world. But then there's the high-achievers too - those who got further up the ladder by getting a record deal.  Shook Up! in the previous post were high achievers, as were the Thrashing Doves:

Two record deals and a support tour with Duran Duran, major success nevertheless always eluded them.  To me they share crucial DNA with our first group, in that they wrote songs that never fully found their audience.

I guess Thrashing Doves represent the upper echelons of success.  Plenty of bands sign up for record deals and never even got as far as a single record.  In my own past, our entire debut album stock went up in flames one night in a warehouse fire - in the resultant uninsured chaos we and the other new artists were all dropped from the small label and that, as they say, was that.

As the years have past, failure continues to fascinate and enchant me.  For every lost song lies a human story of struggle and often despair that no amount of "just believe in yourself" platitudes could ever really assuage.  Whenever Famous Singer is asked for advice to struggling artists, she will probably say to keep believing in yourself and not to give up, because in the end blah blah blah yeah yeah yeah.  I've never really bought it.

But then there's the T word.  Come on - isn't it all just down to talent?  Well of course a lousy song is a lousy song.  But I have my own cherished lost songs - not my own - from bands that just got passed over.  Talking Drums were a Glasgow synth band who released Reassembly in 1985, and I've played it ever since.  Even Radio 1 playlisted the album's first track Pretend A Stranger, but it inexplicably sunk without trace.  World, you were wrong - shoulda been a no1.

Talking Drums were high achievers.  Not so - as far as I know - with another band we played support to once in London (when I was in a different band to the warehouse fire one), Martin Amsell (Ansell?) and Absolutely Everything I believe they were called.  They had a song called "Looking for the Girl in the Red T Shirt" that I only ever heard that one night, and to me is a joyous classic - I can still just about remember it, still fun and infectious.  I can't even find him on Google now.  How many others are out there?

The loss of a good song is obviously a greater tragedy to the wider world than the loss of a bad one.  But frankly I even mourn the loss of the bad ones a little bit.  A crushed dream is a crushed dream....

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