Friday, 18 March 2011
Lonnie Gordon - Happenin' All Over Again (1990/ No. 4/ 10 weeks/ Supreme)
Perhaps the greatest record that Stock, Aitken and Waterman ever made. You can certainly tell that its one of their prestige productions, when they're really pull out all of the stops in order to make a classic single. Although the SAW formula was always enjoyable, there are a lot of lesser works where you can tell that they're working on autopilot; a verse that doesn't go anywhere, an unattractive blare of synthi-horns.
Perhaps this is because in this instance they're creating a dance (pop-house) record, which therefore had to be absolutely of the (January 1990) moment and carry a certain club credibility. It owes a lot to contemporary Italia house, and is therefore inspired by 'Ride On Time' by Black Box, the sound of Summer 1989. If you're making a record that's indebted to one of the most exciting singles in pop history, you've got to be really good! There's tremendous charm about the arrangement, especially in the way that it combines pleasing machine powered effects; jets of steam, pumping noises. There are also spot-on atmospheric 1990 embellishments - yelps of "whoo" and "whee" in the mix. (The type of thing that provoked my 17-year old muso distrust, I'm embarrassed to recollect.)
The thing that really made the writer-producers raise their game here was that they were working with a singer who totally knew her chops. Lonnie Gordon came from the Bronx, sang in clubs, had moved to the UK, and become the first-choice house diva to call upon for any number of acts by the late 1980s. The degree of passion in this performance, realised in ecstatic wailing and screaming, overwhelms the framework of the arrangement and is the thing about the song that you always remember first, which isn't something that you could say about the usual SAW roster; Sonia, Bananarama, Rick Astley, etc.
It tells a familiar story of returning to an unsatisfactory boyfriend against your better instincts... but then, Hey! What can you do?
I prom-ised tu my-self...
I'd neev-uh mayke the same mis-takes a-gen
And though I look for some-one else...
I nev-ah really waaahnt tu walk away
just the SAME
all the PAIN
Look in your - eyes!
you said -
then you -
LEAVE me !
The first two minutes of verse/chorusry is fab, but, once you know the record, acts as foreplay in anticipation of the extended chorus/ bridge/ reprise that the you know its leading towards: an extended section of multiple Lonnies exploring the situation from every possible vocal perspective. The effect of this section on the listener is deliriously exciting.
Several things happen simultaneously. Lonnie reiterates "Happ-nin'!-all-O-ver-AGAIN!" what feels like a million times, but she also magically appears in another place, holding the note of "Agaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaain!" for an eon. Backing vox (some of whom sound a lot like Kylie Minogue to me) counterpoint the ecstasy of Lonnie's voice with an undertone of "BELIEVE", "DECEIVE" and "LEAVE". Lonnie protests "No! No! No!" and then we're in the breakdown bit, where a seductive analogue house bassline strokes the listener while Lonnie breaks free of language - "OH!WOOOAHWAH!" - the structure of the song no longer able to support the overpowering emotion.
Although the lyrics of this are perfectly fine, its one of those singles that you respond to very much as a record, rather than as a song. It comes on and you instinctively throw yourself into it. You have to rush onto the dancefloor for this one! It offers such pleasure that it's just what you do. Which is very much in keeping with the pattern of returning to an unreliable boyfriend once again. BELIEVE me! Its Happ-nin'!-all-O-ver-AGAIN!