A Little Tale About Carly Simon, Dean Martin & Songs That Burrow Uninvited into Your Brain

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I was just a kid in 1977, but I had a cousin, Lee, six years older than me who ensured I got a full run down on what was happening; Eddie & the Hot Rods (to this day, Do Anything You Wanna Do remains Lee’s favourite song of all time), The Stranglers, Pistols (obviously), Buzzcocks, Magazine, Ramones (though I’ve never quite got them), Television, Costello, The Clash. It was an exciting time to be sure and I lapped it up, just as I did when he’d championed the likes of Ferry, Bolan, Bowie, Sparks and 10cc.

Then, one day, with punk rock at its height, he announced that there was a new sound in town. He had just ditched the flares, his hair cut short and dyed orange in a Barrie Masters style. He hadn’t quite gone down the path of ripped jeans and razor blade earrings, but the look was still radical for August 1977. He had travelled around every record shop in the Southampton area looking for a particular record. This may have been 8, 9 or a dozen shops; really good secondhand record stores and proper old-school junk shops. And eventually he found it; the record that had somehow burrowed it’s way into his skull and he couldn’t get a moment’s peace until he had tracked it down. If I gave you a million guesses you wouldn’t get it.

Lee drove a Ford Mustang, left-hand drive, and had spent two whole days and perhaps as much as £4 on two tanks of petrol to track down Gentle on my Mind by Dean Martin.

I’ve just had the 21st century equivalent. You know when you get a song in your head and you never even knew you liked it, but it’s there burning away and you’ve just got to hear it? These days you sit at your PC and within fifteen seconds you’re listening to it. But I cannot find it on Youtube, the song that has just made a nest in my brain ~ The Right Thing to do by Carly Simon.

Don’t ask me how it got there. I was trying to think of great love songs for Thursday’s blog, and I could hear a woman’s voice singing “Loving you’s the right thing to do, Lovin’ you’s the right thing…” plus a few other words that I couldn’t quite decipher. In my head it sounded like Carly, even though I have never owned a record by her, nor have my parents, nor any of my girlfriends. I looked it up, The Right Thing by Carly Simon, her second UK hit, got to number 17 in March 1973. I must have heard it six or seven times on the radio back then, maybe twice since on an oldies wavelength, perhaps once or twice on a jukebox.
But that’s the magic of music and song. They’re in the ether, they’re alive, and that’s why all of us love pop music so much. It’s real and it can creep up on you and surprise you just when you’re least expecting it.

Of course, this could be a deeply unpleasant experience. It could be Agadoo, The Crazy Frog, Eye of the Tiger, Dire Strait’s Microwave Ovens’ song or anything by Travis. But, in this instance, it’s a gem.

However, you may take a listen, shrug and say “what’s he going on about?” It’s not that special, I can think of a thousand songs better than this without even trying, but that’s not the point. The point is I’m celebrating the magic, the surprise, the joy and wonder of music. Of music you never knew that you liked, and yes, it may be an age thing, though I’ve yet to succumb to country (and hope it remains that way). You will have your own examples of songs that have lain dormant like cicadas, hidden underground for seventeen years, and then emerge into the daylight. By this time next week I’ll have forgotten Carly and will be listening to something else ~ The Fall, Portishead, Sinatra, The Seeds, Gene Clark, Betty and the Werewolves perhaps, but today it’s Carly.

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