Sunday, May 06, 2012

Pure Pop For Then People

I've been sent the latest compilation in the Late Night Tales series. It's put together by Tom Findlay from Groove Armada. "Music For Pleasure" is sub-titled "a late night classic 70s collection of:
Blue Eyed Soul
Funk Rock
Disco Rock
and Yacht Rock".

The sleeve note says it aims to "evoke the ghosts of Laurel Canyon for one last rallying cry". Actually most of the selections - Robert Palmer's "Every Kind Of People", Steve Miller's "Fly Like An Eagle", Boz Scaggs "Lowdown", ELO's "Showdown", Todd Rundgren's "Be Nice To Me" and 10cc's "I'm Not In Love" etc - had very little to do with Laurel Canyon, due to their being northern Californian, not Californian at all or not even American.

But the past is whatever the present wants it to be, particularly when it comes to music. What's slightly more puzzling is the genre menu at the top. All of these terms were invented after the event. They were designed to describe the horse once the horse had bolted. At the time these were all great pop records. They were all recorded as things were starting to get a little electronic at the edges and records wanted to sound above all modern. That's why they still sound faintly ethereal and share a sun-blasted vibe. These acts - Michael McDonald, AWB, Hall & Oates and Bread - gloried in modernity every bit as much as Kraftwerk did. It's just they didn't talk about it in interviews. They just wanted hits. In fact Music For Pleasure is a title that doesn't need much qualification.


  1. If it looks like soft rock and sounds like soft rock, chances are it's soft rock.

  2. I think the problem has been that it's quite hard to categorise this sound. What once seemed to be so ubiquitous it didn't require categorization now needs a category.

    A few years ago we had to make do with Guilty Pleasures as a make shift category for this kind of thing. I'd consider this a step forward.

  3. Music For Pleasure was also the name of a 1970s cheapo compilation record label so they're probably being a little kitschy and knowingly referential there.

    Funny how ELO and that lot have gone from being a symbol of everything that was wrong with rock music pre-punk, to being enjoyed ironically, to actually being cited as positive influences.

  4. Music for Pleasure? Now there's a novel idea. To think I'd always thought it was about being cool and sneering at others' tastes.