15 February 2014

The Attack - Hi Ho Silver Lining

Original Label: Decca
Original Year of Release: 1967

People don't really listen to the lyrics. Haven't you found this, viewers? They just don't. That's why wedding ceremonies up and down the land apparently feature Baby Bird's "You're Gorgeous" as a slow dance, and might even explain why David Cameron regularly taps his feet to the music of The Jam and The Smiths without once feeling an aggravated twinge as his right-wing sensibilities are challenged (though listening to what anyone has to say doesn't seem to be among his more obvious skills).

"Hi-Ho Silver Lining" is but one more example of this peculiar phenomenon. A popular feature at many wedding discos I've been to and even the soundtrack to a jaunty television advert, there is actually nothing remotely positive about its lyrics. Depending upon your interpretation, it's either referring to a woman whose life is clearly headed towards to a dark and dingy valley but is in denial or having as much fun as she can while she goes, or it's an altogether more savage attack on the drippy positivity within the decadent hippy culture of the day. "Saying everything is groovy/ when your tyres are flat" hardly seems to be the best sentiment for a wedding day, least of all "Lies are gonna get you some day/ Just wait and see".

Jeff Beck's version of this song was the hit we all know and (possibly) love, and his banner waving performance may have falsely sown the idea that it's a cheerful ditty in some people's minds. A mere few days before his version was issued, though, mod band The Attack got their teeth into it and clung on like Staffordshire Bull Terriers to each and every word. You can hear spit and venom in this version, and after coming out of the other side you can surely be left under no illusion that the woman on the receiving end of their message is regarded as a pretty drippy bint. For me, it sounds like the correct reading, mean spirited but appropriately so - the lyrics surely leave the group no other option. It's a dirty kick against someone who is clearly in denial about their declining position in life, or perhaps if you want to take a broader reading, the entire hippy culture en masse.

Consisting of singer Richard Shirman, drummer Alan Whitehead, guitarist Davy O'List (before he joined The Nice and - for a brief but odd period - Roxy Music), and John Du Cann, The Attack are widely regarded as one of the premier UK freakbeat bands. It's not hard to find swathes of their material on commercially available compilations, and indeed the flip to this record "Any More Than I Do" is almost overplayed these days.  However, this version of "Hi-Ho" has now almost totally been eclipsed by the better known one and has been largely ignored since its release. Consider that wrong righted.

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