Saturday, 2 April 2011

Kylie Minogue & Jason Donovan - Especially For You (1988/ No. 1/ 14 weeks/ PWL) Jason Donovan - When You Come Back To Me (1989/ No. 2/ 11 weeks/ PWL)

You could always tell when Stock, Aitken & Waterman were pulling out the stops for something that they wanted to be remembered - a bit more care was put into the instrumentation. Both of these prestige Christmas products are free of the lapses that even aficionados like me tend to find mar their universally excellent songs; rum-ti-tum percussion and blaring synthi-horns. Here we find rather nice flamenco guitar solos and Christmassy bells. And best of all -

Those harmonies that usher in the duet!

Wow they're divine! There's a little pause before the listener is swept into the world of the song;

Especially for you
I wanna let you know what I was going through
All the time we were apart I thought of you
You were in my heart
My love never changed
I still feel the same

There's a directness to the best SAW lyrics that tends to be overlooked, and is a really difficult technique for songwriters to master. You could call it simplicity, but I prefer to hear it as unaugmented expression of feeling and circumstance - objectives and obstacles, as dramatists are encouraged to think.

There is something atavistic about the appeal of these songs to the appreciative listener - the search for the missing other... This theme is made yet more direct in the video for Especially for You, and the memorable Top Of The Pops appearance climaxing in Kylie running into Jason's arms. For good or ill, it is a moment that is remembered by everybody who was even faintly following pop music in Britain in 1988.

And the next year's follow-up is, if anything, even better. In marketing terms, I think that a trick was missed in not making the single Kylie & Jason: The Return - Kyliealike vocals from SAW stalwarts Miriam Stockley and Mae McKenna are all over the backing of this, sometimes taking lines where Jason remains mute, the invisible and enacted presence of Kylie making her a more spectral loved other than in 1988. This song is actually a bit harsher than Especially for You, not having a pay-off of a reunion in the last verse. Its also explicitly set at Christmas in England;

So many people
Smile on their faces
Armfuls of presents
Going to places
There’s a chill in the air
as I walk through the night
How I wish I could walk
through the windows of time
Would I see happiness there?
see your face everywhere
But the lights all go down
over London...

The tempo of the song then steps up a gear, leading to several minutes of various protestations of Donovan knowing that she will come back and that when she does the fire will glow, etc. Sometimes this can sound ecstatic to me, sometimes hollow - I only realised after 19 years of listening to this song that what I've always heard as "pain in my heart" is actually "a flame in my heart". This double edge of joyous conviction, but a conviction based on little but faith with no indication of reciprocal feelings from the loved other makes 'When You Come Back To Me' a pretty accurate representation of what the feeling of hope is actually like, and makes this song amongst the very best of Christmas hits.

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