Friday, May 18, 2007

I Still Hang Around, Neither Lost Nor Found...

In many ways for me the very definition of the start of Friday night are the opening bars of this song. You never get to hear them on the radio because they always play the shorter single version and you miss that lush, sad, sweet, slow Randy Crawford intro.

They used to call this prologuey bit of a song the 'verse' - all those old Jerome Kern and Cole Porter and George & Ira Gerswin tunes have got them, and Ella used to include them but most other singers dropped them and they got forgotten.

For me the entire loveliness of 'Street Life' is in the shift from this blue beginning to the 1-2-3-4-GO! horns that launch the rest of the song. And then the song and Joe Sample's keyboards and arrangement really get a chance to breath in this luxuriously lengthy 11 minute version. It ends properly too - you think it'll fade, but in the dying seconds you get a soft echo of that first 1-2-3-4 and we're done.

Lyrically it's a perfect evocation of the sadness at the heart of the glitz of an urban Friday or Saturday night. The kind of thing, in an entirely different musical context, Tom Waits used to write about so well.

Are you getting that I love this record?

The Crusaders - 'Street Life' (1979)

Patti Smith update: The Roundhouse is beautiful - do go if you get the chance; she opened with 'Gloria' and 'Redondo Beach'; 'Are You Experienced?' and 'Within You Without You' (yes, that one) were cover high-points and she told a very funny rambly story about visiting the British Museum to see the Rosetta Stone. You had to be there. Hope I'm in such good form when I'm 60...(maybe I shouldn't have had those last two double Jack Daniels mind. My head hurts and we're out of Nurofen.)


  1. Sorry buddy. Street Life is one the list of songs I just cannot stomach. Just does nothing for me. But please don't think I'm a bad person because of that....

  2. It's funny, but as I posted this I thought 'You know, I reckon a lot of people can't stick this record...'!!

  3. Well I like it, but then I would like this sort of thing.

    Interesting parallel to Gershwin, Kern, et al., Dave. I never heard that part of a song called the "verse" before, but it makes perfect sense as they call the improvs over the song part "choruses". I've been wracking my brains to come up w/more modern pop songs that have those intro "verses". The best I can do is a few Beatles songs: Do You Want To Know A Secret ("you'll never know how much I really love you..."), Here There & Everywhere ("to lead a better life..."), and If I Fell ("if I fell in love with you"). I'm sure there are better examples from other bands that are eluding me right now...

  4. Hey Emmett, good to hear from you!

    No coincidence I think that so many of the songs you could think of were Beatles tunes; McCartney in particular, whose Dad played the trumpet in a number of dance bands during the period, was always a big fan of the music of the 1930s, wasn't he? You can hear it all through his work even to the present day.

    It's a challenge you've set though - more recent songs with a lead-in 'verse'...(and to qualify, it really has to have a different tune to the main song).

    Can't think of any myself right now (but it is Monday and raining and I'm only half way through my post-lunch mug of tea).

  5. I love it too. You are a bad person jc.

  6. I'm still thinking about this, Davy. All I've come up with is another Beatles tune which really nails this structure on the head (intro "verse" followed by AABA "choruses"): to wit, "Honey Pie". But then that's a retro number anyway so it sort of doesn't count.

  7. Emmett - your selfless toil in the name of music trivia is exemplary.

    'Honey Pie' indeed! You're right of course - it's a spot-on parody of 1930s popular song, and so HAS to have that 'verse'. And what all those older songs (Kern, Porter, etc) have in common is that they were all originally in musicals - the character has to 'talk' his way into the song from the dialogue. Probably why we can't think of any recent ones...(apart from things in 'Grease').


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