Peter Sarstedt – so much more than that tune buskers love

780full-peter-sarstedtPeter Sarstedt was for several decades of my life a bit of a hate figure.  I lumped him in with the likes of Engelbert, Tom J and Vince Hill – crooners who muddied the charts at the tail end of the decade that should have otherwise been to devoted to the psychedelic silliness of Traffic, Floyd and others. And don’t get me started on that song either.

But I had a bit of a revelation about fifteen years ago when I heard Frozen Orange Juice for the first time. The follow up to the busker-friendly record that I can’t bring myself to mention, is a sublime pop song, a Kinksian strumalong with soaring strings and brass. It was a huge hit in some odd parts of the world, but barely troubled British chart compilers, and is IMO about a billion times more fun than its predecessor. I played it at my wedding and even snuck it on at the end of my daughter’s christening. It still makes me beam in way that few other tunes can.

And then I discovered Many Coloured Semi Precious Plastic Easter Egg, a bonkers Dylan at his most acerbic (had he come from Guildford) type thing that followed not long after.

Pretty soon I had Sarstedt’s first album on repeat play, digging his wonderfully chirpy melodies and rather inappropriate (though probably fine for the time) lyrics. Take Blagged a heavily phased psych pop gem which told a tale of a one night stand and hinted that renaissance man he might be yet Sarstedt wasn’t on nodding terms with The Female Eunuch.

Or even more is bizarre Mary Jane, which kicks off like the theme tune of a Bond movie, but then descends into a homage into S&M complete with whips and knowing aural winks. It is spankingly brilliant.

Then there’s No More Lollipops, which starts in Scott Walker territory before racing into bizarre toytown psych and a speeded up, almost unlistenable finale that for obvious reasons has never been repeated. It sounds like nothing else.

And there’s loads more from the Ray Davies-esque opener I Am A Cathedral, with its clever and subtle mariachi runs, to the classic singer songwriter folk pop of Time Love Hope Life.

After all the high jinks of the debut, the second album If Life Was A Movie, was a lot more traditional in its song structures and seemed a little tame by comparison. But Sarstedt still wrote many great tunes like A Way Leading Out from his lost album a Honeybus-esque tune that was surely made for the Fading Yellow compilation series.

Very sad that he has gone. To be honest I didn’t have too much of an emotional connection to many of the rock and roll greats that died last year as I spent most of the 80s living the 60s. But I loved, and still love the music of Peter Sarstedt. Thanks to Neil Hannon’s rather outrageous steal on the track A Woman Of A Certain Age, I even revisited Sarstedt’s big hit too, and well, all things considered it has the edge on The Last Waltz…

Now I am sad.


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