26 March 2009

The Look - Real Live Heaven (b/w "Knock Knock Knock")


Label: MCA
Year of Release: 1981

I was only eight years old when I turned on Top of The Pops one day, and suddenly became transfixed by dubious looking Kevin Keegan-esque men with mullets stomping out an organ driven groove.

"Girls are dancing all around/ and just for me..."

As one hit wonders go, "I Am The Beat" is probably one of the finest. It's so simplistic it sounds as if it should have been written a during the earliest days of the beat boom, but it arrived out of nowhere and soared up the charts in 1981 as if it owned them, and managed to sound simultaneously new and knowingly referential. Besides coming from men who clearly had a love of classic rock, there was something angular and "noo wave" about the band, which caused Smash Hits to comment "one Squeeze of The Look and I'm in XTC". The simplicity of their music belied a huge stock of influences.

Unfortunately, the band's rise to fame seemed at odds with the record company's attitude towards them. They were signed for a one-single deal initially to see how "I am the Beat" fared, and even when Radio One playlisted it MCA could barely be bothered to promote the disc, leading Radio One DJ Simon Bates to plead on air for the label to "pull their fingers out". One has to wonder how valuable these one-off single deals were by the eighties, and if many acts were genuinely broken by them - they seemed to be a mark of A&R indifference rather than faith.

After it climbed to number six the label offered them more recording time, and an album was apparently rushed out as a result, with "rushed" being the operative word. The band were apparently deeply unhappy with its over-polished sound which they felt was hopelessly at odds with their live show - in a recent interview they claimed to have "burned all their copies".

It's from this LP that "Real Live Heaven" stems, and I'll be frank, if it's representative of the long player at all, I'd argue they're being overly modest. The ingredients which made "I am the Beat" so compelling are still intact, and it's riddled with more hooks than a Peter Hook family reunion. The glammish stomp is still present and correct, as is an insistent chorus, and whilst nobody is likely to give the song any points for subtlety - Slade would have killed to have something so terrace-pleasing in their set list - sometimes that really doesn't matter. They deserved to have a minor hit with this at least, although I can't help but wonder whether it would have been more at home amidst the early nineties indie scene.

After the album didn't perform to their expectations, MCA dropped them, and The Look jumped from the frying pan into the fire with Towerbell Records, an independent label whose owner later fled the country owing many of his acts vast sums of money. According to their website, the band turned up for a meeting one afternoon and found the windows to Towerbell boarded up. One could hardly have blamed them for giving up at this point, but it was with some surprise that I found out that they'd very recently reformed and released a follow-up album two decades later entitled "Pop Yowlin". It's available on iTunes, and from the brief samples I've heard so far proves they're still in love with producing skronking great barnstormers. Lovely.

Click on this link to download "Real Live Heaven"

And, if you want, view "I am the Beat" on German TV below (Thanks to DeOudeDoos for the upload).


Anonymous said...

MCA and Mercury were about the worst of all the major labels. For most signing with Mercury was the kiss of death and Graham Parker's "Mercury Poisoning" pretty much says it all.

MCA being American based seemed to treat their British artistes not called Kim Wilde as if they didn't exist. Their idea of something worthwhile was the godawful 5 Star. Jackson 5 rip off The Jets. They spent a lot of money promoting them and where are they now? Nowhere, thank Christ.

And look at the CD age... MCA were renowned for shoddy CD's with very few of them taken from anything resembling mastertapes.

But how on Earth MCA gets swallowed up into Universal and then get called Geffen is beyond me... Buddy Holly on GEFFEN? I nearly died when I saw that.

Anonymous said...

please re up the look stuff thanx

23 Daves said...

Already done: