03 November 2007

The Higsons - Music To Watch Girls By

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The Higsons - Music to Watch Girls By cover

The Higsons were an early 80s British band doing punchy angular white funk, kind of like Talking Heads but without any hint of genius.

For such a short, low volume career they pack a huge quantity of weirdness. For some reason, despite not being a ska band, they got signed to 2 Tone and released two singles in the label's twilight days, Tear the Whole Thing Down and Run Me Down.

Then there was this, an inexplicable cover of the 1967 Andy Williams track. Whilst too much of a Val Doonican to ever be a Rat Packer, Williams certainly belonged to that anti-rock n roll element of American popular music.

I fuckin hate all that Rat Pack revisionism that admires the slimy, arrogant, suit and tie singers who'd sing about sweet love then go home and drunkenly beat their wives. Anyone who tries to pretend that Dean Martin was cool is someone who can't deal with music expressing things that are real. Schmaltzy soulless and smug, Memories Are Made Of This was everything that Elvis came to save us from.

Despite it having Rat Packesque overtones, dubious gender politics and originally being a vehicle for a be-jumpered crooner, it's a hard heart that doesn't like Music To Watch Girls By.

'Watch that sound each time you hear a loud electric sigh' is an endlessly fabulous and thrilling line, and the dark descending melody underneath propels you with a relentless swirl that's glamourous yet sinister, poppy yet uneasy.

The Higsons version was produced by Warne Livesey, who within a year or two would be doing astonishing work on The The's epic and classic Infected album.

In a final twist of oddity, lead singer Charlie Higson went on to be the bloke in the Fast Show, the one who did Bob Fleming and Swiss Toni.

Making a record is a lot like making love to a beautiful woman; it's all very well having your solid seven inches but you've got to keep moving at the right speed to make sweet music.

Is it me, or does the Scott Walkerish bloke on the cover look like Louis Balfour presenting Jazz Club?

[MP3 deleted to make way for new ones. Sorry!]

7 comments:

Short-Stacked Shamus said...

Have been enjoying the site for a while. Good stuff.

Never heardthe Higsons previously, though I was familiar with that Robyn Hitchcock & the Egyptians song, "Listening to the Higsons."

merrick said...

Never heard the Hitchcock original, but I know it from bootlegs of REM's secret gigs at the Borderline in London 1991. They got numerous guests on stage including hitchcock, covered Tom's Diner (with Billy Bragg beatboxing), and closed the set with an ensemble rendition of Listening To The Higsons.

Tony said...

Bought a couple of Higsons singles at the time (including this) and couldn't really hum you a bar or name any of them (except this).

I remember hearing Higson on that Saturday magazine programme that Richard Skinner used to do on Radio 1 when this came out. He went on at great length about them being pleased to have got to work with legendary chanteur Jacques Hughes. It's only now you've posted this that it's struck me this is more than likely an elaborate wheeze.

merrick said...

Tony, I think you're probably right. Has anyone ever heard of Jacques Hughes? A cursory google brings up no records or songs at all.

Tony said...

Jacques Hughes = J'accuse?

iain said...

Welcome back! good to have you blogging again :) I've joined the fray as well, and have linked you on my site....
This is such a great tune, and it's odd to think that Warne went on to fame via The The.....

merrick said...

thanks Iain, it's been a mad summer that's taken a couple of offline months to get over. I'll be posting more frequently from now on.

Had a shufty @ Down With Tractors, like your taste. I've linked to you from the sidebar here.