Sunday, 30 July 2017

Ten SAW B-Sides I'd Have Made The A-Side! [Part 2]

So -- after an unplanned hiatus! -- here is the second part of my list of the 10 SAW B-sides which I would have made the A-side!

In case you missed part one, the criteria for the list is:

• Written (and/or co-written) by SAW
• Standalone tracks not belonging to an original artist album
• A full song with lyrics

So, without further ado, here's my Top 5!

5) Closer – Kylie Minogue
[B-side to Finer Feelings]

As Kylie Minogue approached the end of her tenure with PWL Records, she clearly had a growing influence on her material. Certainly, the whole Let’s Get To It album demonstrated this, even if the singles chosen to promote the album did not necessarily reflect this change in style. This new direction was probably more keenly felt in the B-sides of those singles; Say The Word – I’ll Be There (previously covered in part one of this article), the house-techno pastiche I Guess I Like It Like That, the storming Do You Dare?, and this track, the B-side to adult ballad Finer Feelings. Kicking off with a hypnotic metallic synth and heavy breathing, Closer sets out its stall from the outset – a spooky and sensual deep house track that takes Kylie and Stock & Waterman into new territory. The robust house beat and the vocal locs show a more mature, less tricksy approach to Stock’s arrangement than previously demonstrated, with an amazing squelching synth workout in the middle. Minogue’s vocals appear to have a filter applied in places, which adds to the trippy sense to proceedings.  But Stock (with Waterman and Minogue on co-writing duties) also takes an alternative approach with the song’s construction; it only has two verses (as opposed to the usual three), with the chorus tacked on to the end of each – with quite a gap between both of those verses. There is also no bridge as such (a key part of many SAW tracks). The lyrics have a pleasingly elliptical style to them, hinting towards the pleasure of sexual union (which actually complements the lyrics of the A-side), and these are of course reinforced by the heavy breathing which punctuates the track. Overall, it’s a refreshingly adult track in term of theme and sound; whilst there would be a year and two further PWL single releases before Minogue released the post-PWL Confide In Me, Closer actually indicates the mature stylised direction Minogue would take with her initial DeConstruction material. As much as I love and admire Finer Feelings, Closer was actually an utterly contemporary track that would have set a new course for both Minogue and Stock & Waterman – and arguably, the producers would have benefited more from such a re-evaluation at that time.

4) Never Knew Love Like This Before – Nancy Davis
[B-side to Higher And Higher]

Pizza-waitress turned karaoke-contest-winner turned pop-star Nancy Davis was a real missed opportunity for Stock & Waterman and PWL; her strong soulful voice and striking looks made her a real candidate for a new star for the 90s, and her debut track If You Belonged To Me was a strong classy house/pop crossover. However, when this track missed the top 40, her follow-up (and sadly, final release) took safer ground with a cover of Jackie Wilson’s Higher and Higher; whilst a joyful take on that classic, it took Davis away from the credible house/soul path and towards pure pop. The B-side was more interesting; again, more pop than house, but Never Knew Love Like This Before at least went some way into creating a new style that could be Davis’ own. The arrangement is a strange brew of both the 80s and 90s S(A)W sound; the house piano and brass base the track in 1992, whilst the vocal locs and incidental chime sounds hark back to the producer’s golden period. The elasticity of Stock’s melody allows Davis’ voice to shine, with her tackling the almost conversational lyrics, which present Davis telling the world how happy her new relationship has made her. One striking element of this track is that Mike Stock is on solo backing vocals here, and you can hear his isolated vocals just after the instrumental break. As with Say The Word – I’ll Be There, Stock cites this as another favourite B side, classing it as a bit of an experiment. And I guess that’s a good description. It sounds like Stock trying to forge a new pop sound for the 90s; if anything, he was a bit early – whilst this sound would have played better later in the decade, it didn’t really fit with the chart fare of 1992. As such, I’m not sure Never Knew Love Like This Before would have been a hit at that time, but, as per the challenge I set myself with this article, I’d have chosen this as the A-side over Higher And Higher.

3) Made In Heaven – Kylie Minogue
[B-side to Je Ne Sais Pas Pourquoi]

You might say this is a slight cheat, as Made In Heaven was originally intended as a double A-side single with Je Ne Sais Pas Pourquoi. This French-styled classic track was the fourth single from the massive Kylie album, so there many have been concerns over its chart performance given that so many people already owned it on the album and that is why new track Made In Heaven was appended to the release. As it was, Je Ne Sais Pas Pourquoi was another smash hit, peaking at #2 in the UK Singles Chart – and as a result, the single was never “flipped” to make Made In Heaven the A-side. A great pity, cos this one’s a little gem that deserves to be better known. Heavy on plucked strings and luscious synth pads, this tale of a girl building up to a first kiss is brought alive by an irresistible melody. The verses and bridge are exquisite enough, but that chorus just knocks it out of the park. It just shows the confidence and the winning streak of SAW at that point that such a belter of a pop track could be consigned to the flipside of another bona fide hit. Most SAW fans will know this one, but well worth checking out if you don’t.

2) You Changed My Life – Mel & Kim
[B-side of That’s The Way It Is]

Back in 1988, there was a lot of anticipation regarding a second Mel & Kim album. Whilst there was talk of recording taking place with other producers (notably Prince alumni David Z), further recording with SAW was anticipated. Alas, Mel Appleby tragically lost her fight against cancer and the full potential of Mel & Kim was never realised. The only tantalising glimpses of that second album were the hit single, the bold, classy That’s The Way It Is, and its B-side, You Changed My Life. A co-write between SAW and the Appleby sisters, You Changed My Life is a full-on pop frenzy, yet still possessing the cool dance edge of previous material. The chorus is solid gold A-side material, whilst the verses are perhaps even better, with an intoxicating melody, moody synths and winning vocals. Lots of lovely incidental synth sounds make this a proposition that’s hard to turn down. It appears there are two mixes of this track; the sparse, funky version that was actually the B-side, and a warmer, poppier version that features on the 2010 Cherry Red Deluxe Edition of the FLM album.

And in pole position is…

1) She’s In Love With You – Jason Donovan
[B-side to Happy Together]

In many ways, this track was the last hurrah for Donovan’s work with the original SAW team; it featured on the B-side of the Stock & Waterman-produced Happy Together, which was Donovan’s final single release on PWL Records.  As good as the A-side was (a lovingly created take on The Turtles classic), few knew of the absolute belter that lay hidden on its B-side. You could almost class She’s In Love With You as the definitive Jason SAW track; it kicks off with a cracking electric guitar riff (a la Too Many Broken Hearts); it features soaring strings which evoke the emotion of Jason’s tale of thwarted love (“No matter what I planned / She never let me hold her hand”), and it has The Chorus To End All Choruses. Seriously, this chorus is WASTED on a B-side but then it’s so amazing that had the track been an A-side, it would have punched a hole through the universe. I can’t really find the words to describe how catchy the chorus is, but of particular note are the three last lines – “There’s nothing more to say / I’m gonna walk away / And live to love another day” – which are delivered in a breathless rhyming triplet and is yet further proof if any were needed) of Mike and Matt’s songwriting skills. It is a crime that this track was not an A-side; okay, I get that it was a nod back to Jason’s 1989 sound and may not have been deemed as truly contemporary in 1991, but this is a solid gold 24 carat pop smash that never got the chance to prove it.


Again, I stress this is my personal list and that, crucially, it is not necessarily a list of the best or my favourite B-sides -- this is a list of B-sides that I would have swapped with the A-side track for single release.

I'll be exploring the other SAW B-sides in a future article, as there are some fascinating tracks included in that canon.

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