'Would I Lie To You?' is the fruit of a beautiful friendship [November 22, 1992]
Plus: Deacon Blue, Kylie, Manics, and Denim
Greetings, Time Travellers! 👋
It’s November 22, 1992 again!
📰 The Queen delivers a speech in which she gives 1992 its official name: the Annus horribilis. 📽️ Your choices at the cinema include Sister Act and Single White Female. 📺 On TV, Sky One airs the Star Trek: The Next Generation episode banned by BBC because of a line about Ireland.
🎶 And there’s no change at the top of the singles chart…
This week’s Number One: ‘Would I Lie To You?’ — Charles & Eddie
The internet loves a good quote. That’s why Facebook is now overwhelmed with aphorisms like, “Be the change you want to see in the world”, usually misattributed to a Minion.
C.S. Lewis—author of The Chronicles of Narnia and B.F.F. of J.R.R. Tolkien —has become something of a star in this Inspirational Quote Meme space in recent years. Lewis wrote some wonderful non-fiction books on themes of love, grief and faith, many of which are very quotable and look good on a Minions meme. Many of these quotes come from his book The Four Loves, a study of our most complex emotion.
I’ve hidden my heart behind the bedroom door
In The Four Loves, Lewis writes that there are four types of love:
Eros: Romantic love, not to be confused with sexual desire (which he called “Venus”)
Storge: The emotion you feel for people who are a vital part of your life, especially your family
Agape: Universal love, including devotion to religion or principles
Philia: Strong friendship between two people who aren’t family or lovers
Philia, according to Lewis, is the most neglected of the four loves. We value family, we value romance, we even value religious faith. But we do not sufficiently value our homies.
For some people—especially straight men of a certain age—friendship can seem somewhat frivolous, almost embarrassing. Lewis has some thoughts about why:
“The first and most obvious answer is that few value it because few experience it. And the possibility of going through life without the experience is rooted in that fact which separates Friendship so sharply from both the other loves. Friendship is—in a sense not at all derogatory to it—the least natural of loves; the least instinctive, organic, biological, gregarious and necessary. It has least commerce with our nerves; there is nothing throaty about it nothing that quickens the pulse or turns you red and pale. It is essentially between individuals; the moment two men are friends they have in some degree drawn apart together from the herd.”
—C.S. Lewis, The Four Loves
And when friends become close, they unlock something in each other, something that’s normally hidden. Reflecting on how his circle was affected by the death of poet Charles Williams, Lewis wrote:
“In each of my friends there is something that only some other friend can fully bring out. By myself I am not large enough to call the whole man into activity; I want other lights than my own to show all his facets. Now that Charles is dead, I shall never again see Ronald’s [Tolkien’s] reaction to a specifically Charles joke. Far from having more of Ronald, having him ‘to myself’ now that Charles is away, I have less of Ronald.”
—C.S. Lewis, The Four Loves
People sometimes say “I can be myself around my friends.” What they mean is, “I can be more than myself.”
Everybody's got their history
Cool fact about Eddie Chacon of Charles & Eddie:
As a teenager in California, Eddie formed a garage band with some neighbourhood kids, one of whom was Mike Bordin from Faith No More.
The other kid in the band: Cliff Burton of Metallica.
Mike, Cliff and Eddie all wanted to play rock music, but Eddie’s dad thought he had potential as a soul singer. He personally coached him for years, helping Eddie develop his distinctive voice.
Eddie pursued a singing career, getting signed and quietly dropped again. He connected with The Dust Brothers, but unfortunately, it was during their “let’s smoke weed and not make music” era. Desperate for his break, Eddie moved to New York.
Charles Pettigrew took a serious approach to music when he was growing up in Philadelphia. He studied jazz singing at a prestigious Boston school, then joined a pop band called Down Avenue.
Down Avenue are bang average, but something does jump out when you listen to their songs. It’s that voice, so honeyed and mellow and perfectly controlled:
After Down Avenue fizzled out, Charles moved to New York, where he was taken under the wing of an A&R man at Capitol Records called Josh Deutsch, who was very enthusiastic about Charles’s talent, but a solo deal remained elusive.
And then, one day, Charles was stepping off the C-train in Manhattan with a copy of Marvin Gaye’s Trouble Man tucked under his arm.
Up walks this Latino guy with flowing black hair, and he says, “I love that record, you have great taste.” He introduces himself as Eddie Chacon.
Charles and Eddie instantly click, so they decide to get a drink and talk about the challenges of the music industry. At one point, Eddie says, “I have this A&R guy who’s very supportive, but I can’t get a break.”
Charles says, “who’s your A&R guy?”
Eddie says, “Josh Deutsch at Capitol Records.”
The next day, Charles and Eddie go to Josh’s office and announce that they’re a duo.
I'm here to stay
Charles & Eddie wrote lots of songs together, but they didn’t write ‘Would I Lie To You?’
That songwriting credit belongs to another duo, Mick Leeson and Peter Vale. Lesson & Vale have written hundreds of well-known songs, including Sheena Easton’s Bond theme, ‘Take Me Home Tonight’ by Eddie Money, and ‘My One Temptation’ by Mica Paris.
I do not have a meet-cute story for Lesson & Vale, sorry. They keep a low profile, although I think they might have been schoolteachers before becoming songwriters.
(In the absence of an authoritative biography, let’s make one up. Let’s imagine them in the teacher’s lounge one afternoon. Mick starts humming a tune and Peter says, “what’s that song?” Mick says, “oh, just some nonsense. I made up.” Next day, Peter comes in and says, “this might be weird, but you know that tune you were humming? I wrote some lyrics to go with it…”)
‘Would I Lie To You?’ peaked at 13 in the Billboard Hot 100, and went bananas in the rest of the world, topping the charts in the UK, Germany, Belgium, Austria, New Zealand and Zimbabwe, and scooping the Ivor Novello award for Best Original Song.
Like ‘Be My Baby’ a couple of weeks ago, ‘Would I Lie To You?’ correctly guessed that there was an appetite for old-fashioned soul music. And ‘Would I Lie To You?’ is a very good, old-fashioned soul song.
It was a hit, however, because of the chemistry between Charles and Eddie. They unlock something in this song.
Can’t you see they’re open wide
Sadly, the duo peaked with ‘Would I Lie To You?’ and are generally classed as one-hit wonders.
Charles joined The Tom Tom Club, who were having their own revival thanks to Mariah’s constant championing of ‘Genius Of Love’. Eddie made another fruitless attempt at a solo career. As the end of the 90s approached, the two reconnected and talked about relaunching Charles & Eddie, going so far as to cut some demos.
Charles didn’t mention that he had cancer, or that it was terminal. Eddie had no idea, pretty much until the moment Charles died in 2001.
Perhaps this was unfair of Charles, to raise his friend’s hopes when he knew that his time was limited. Or maybe he just wanted to spend some of his final days with his pal, being Charles & Eddie again for just a little while longer.
…bummer ending, huh? Look, every relationship story ends in tragedy if you wait long enough. And that final sour note can make you wonder… was it worth the effort? Why did I get invested at all?
Our homie C.S. Lewis has an answer. In The Four Loves, Lewis refers to St Augustine, who was once so devastated by the loss of a friend that he wrote, “This is what comes of giving one's heart to anything but God. All human beings pass away. Do not let your happiness depend on something you may lose.”
Lewis’s response is one of the most memed passages in all of his writing:
To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything, and your heart will certainly be wrung and possibly be broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact, you must give your heart to no one, not even to an animal…lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket—safe, dark, motionless, airless—it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable.
—C.S. Lewis, The Four Loves
That passage is usually quoted in the context of romantic love, but it’s actually about friendship.
People can be stupid and annoying and toxic. They often let you down, and sometimes they die. But people can also open you up, and show you a part of yourself that you never knew about. Which means that people will always be worth the risk.
Please drop a comment if you have any thoughts, especially if you were ever in a garage band with some legendary rock stars.
And if you enjoyed it, tell your friends! Or forward it to a friend that you haven’t seen in a while and say, “hey, this made me thing of you”
Elsewhere in the charts
Number 14 (New Entry): ‘Your Town’ — Deacon Blue
The 90s had this whole subgenre of artists that I’m going to call Adult Contemporary Indie because I’m not aware of a better name. You know the kind: Aztec Camera, Beautiful South, Lightning Seeds, Prefab Sprout, and definitely Deacon Blue.
All these acts were kind of stranded outside of genre. Too edgy to be mainstream pop; too soft to be rock; too normie to be truly indie. They weren’t on the cover of Smash Hits, or NME, or Mojo. Yet they all had hugely loyal fans and were regular chart fixtures.
Is there a better name for this kind of artist? Or am I just overthinking? Let me know in the comments.
Anyway, ‘Your Town’ is one of Deacon Blue’s best singles.
Number 20 (New Entry): ‘Celebration’ — Kylie Minogue
And so, a pop era comes to an end, not with a bang or a whimper, but a Kool & The Gang cover. ‘Celebration’ marks the official end of Kylie’s involvement with Stock, Aitken and Waterman, five years after the four of them hit the jackpot with ‘I Should Be So Lucky’.
We talked more about the Kylie/SAW split in a previous newsletter, which you can revisit here:
Number 27 (New Entry): ‘If We Hold On Together’ — Diana Ross
From the soundtrack of The Land Before Time, a film I never saw because I was too old and I didn’t have younger siblings. I hear it’s good, though. Hey, let’s do another poll:
Number 29 (New Entry): ‘Little Baby Nothing’ — Manic Street Preachers
Kylie should be in the charts twice this week. The Manics wanted Minogue for this duet—which was actually mixed at The Hit Factory—but her management said no. Instead, they got former adult star Traci Lords, who was relaunching herself as a singer/actress.
Manic Street Preachers finally got to work with Kylie in 1997, when they were at their peak and Minogue was looking for a reboot. The result was ‘Some Kind Of Bliss’, which wasn’t a hit but is very good.
Number 38 (New Entry): ‘Who Can Make Me Feel Good’ — Bassheads
Bassheads return, and this time they remembered to clear the samples. Their last hit, ‘Is There Anybody Out There?’, was created with a hilarious disregard for copyright laws, although it wasn’t so funny when the lawyers got involved.
Album of the Week
Back in Denim — Denim
An ongoing theme in this newsletter has been the cultural war between the 70s and 80s. People in the 80s love to talk about how tacky and terrible everything was in the 70s, and that opinion still held at the start of the 90s.
The debut Denim album takes a firm stance in this culture war. On that album’s closing track ‘I’m Against The 80s’, Lawrence sings:
Well I'm for the '70s
Oh and for the '90s too
Yeah I'm against the '80s
Cos girl look what they've done to you
Not that he needed to tell you that he preferred the 70s. Back In Denim’s eponymous opener begins with a drum beat so glam rock that it will instantly turn your trousers to flares:
Lawrence, by the way, is the ex-frontman of 80s indie darlings Felt. After the band broke up, Lawrence (no surname, just Lawrence) started Denim with a bunch of session musicians. To all intents and purposes, Lawrence is Denim.
Folks often refer to Back In Denim as the first Britpop album, and they’re not wrong. Britpop was a revivalism movement that drew heavily from the past, and Lawrence borrows with pride from Marc Bolan, David Bowie and Mick Ronson, The Sweet, Steve Harley, and Squeeze. All of this is served up with multi-layered irony, pithy lyrics, and a keen sense of self-awareness. So, yeah. It’s Britpop.
But maybe one difference is that Lawrence is aware of what he’s doing and knows its a retrograde step. ‘I’m Against The 80s’, for example, namechecks a C.J Bolland record, and Lawrence ignored offers from majors in favour of a deal with dance label Boy’s Own Recordings.
His ode to the 70s, ‘The Osmonds’, contains lots of “who remembers Spangles?” nostalgic imagery, but also a quite harrowing section about the devastation of terrorist bombings in that era. Also, it has the slightly weary refrain:
And in the '70s there were Osmonds
There were lots of Osmonds
There were lots of little Osmonds
Britpop at its worst was pure nostalgia, mere cosplaying as more talented people from the 60s. The best Britpop records were collages, borrowing elements of the past to help say something about the present.
So yes, in that sense this is definitely a Britpop album, and one of the better ones. And a stunning culture war victory for the 70s.
Is Denim Britpop? Tell me all you Britpop-related thoughts in the comments.
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