Classic Song Alert! “The Look Of Love (part 1)”

An bit taken from the ongoing discussion over at Popdose as they discuss all of the individual tracks in the 7 disc ’80’s box set entitled The 80’s Pop Culture Box. One of my favorite songs off one of my favorite albums of that decade is discussed and dissected.  Click here for the rest after you read the below.

Holmes – And then there’s this. Catchy enough I suppose, but synthesized to within an inch of its life. I know that’s the whole point of this particular flavor of New Wave, but this is really just disco with updated technology. The vocals are also way overwrought. I wouldn’t turn this off if it came up on an ’80s station on internet radio, but I wouldn’t really seek it out.

Smith – Never could get into this. Martin Fry sounds like a whinier Bryan Ferry to me.

Michael Parr – An ABC slam combined with a Brian Ferry slight? Are you purposely baiting Medsker?

Smith – You talkin’ to me? I care very deeply for Bryan Ferry (and his hair. Well, mostly his hair), so I meant no slight. ABC, though? I never thought much of them then, and I don’t think much of ‘em in retrospect.

Besides which, I ain’t scared of Medsker. Unless he yells at me.The Look of Love

Cummings – Was Martin Fry the most histrionic vocalist of the ’80s? I was enough of an Anglophile in the early ’80s that I chose to like this song when it was out, but I can’t bear to listen all the way through now. Same with “Poison Arrow.” Honestly, how can we sit here 30 years later and justify sending a song into the top 20 that featured this guy caterwauling, “Hip, hip hooray / Yippie-ki, yippie-ki-yay-yay”? The mind boggles.

Lifton – The over-dramatized vocals (especially the call-and-response in the second verse) sounded silly and gimmicky even then, and 30 years haven’t done them any favors.

Feerick – Reviewing the rundown this week, I really wish I’d been hip to Roxy Music way back in the day. It certainly would have helped me to contextualize this stuff at the time. Duran Duran’s debt to Roxy is the more obvious — there are moments on Rio that sound like outtakes from Flesh and Blood — but ABC was taking a page or two from the playbook, too; not just Fry’s voice, but the emphasis on the elegance of the visual presentation.

On the one hand “The Look of Love” is a silly dance-pop song, and nothing else; but the English have never believed, as Americans seem to, that dance music should be intrinsically dumb. I can hear a level of intelligence and musical ambition in the production and arrangement — especially considering that parenthetical “(Part 1),” and the track’s place in the album as a whole. Because The Lexicon of Love was definitely, if not a concept album, then a meditation on and tribute to a certain ornate, theatrical strain of disco with antecedents in American records like Peter Brown’s “Do You Wanna Get Funky With Me?” or Machine’s “There But For the Grace of God” — a style that made itself influential overseas, but that was largely underground in the US precisely because it was too brainy.

Wiencek – Ever hear Elvis Costello talk about that game he and his friends play, where they try to figure out what songs Elvis Presley would have recorded if he’d lived? Well, look no further: this one has an overdramatic melody and a world-weary spoken interlude. Yes, somewhere in an alternate universe, the King is onstage at the Tropicana, heaving and karate-punching his way through this number, while across the hall the Colonel blows another 300 large on the wheels.

Moral: be glad you only have to listen to ABC doing it.

Dunphy – I like this song much more than “Be Near Me” which had a thoroughly annoying video, but I prefer “When Smokey Sings” of all of ABC’s work. And as Dave Lifton pointed out in our recent Chart Attack! podcast, white Brits were so much more capable of sounding like Motown than Motown was around then. That’s just wrong.

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