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Where is our lexicon of love? Pop stars today only sing about themselves

ABC's The Lexicon of Love is being re-released

ABC's The Lexicon of Love is being re-released


July 24, 2023   5 mins

I remember the first time I heard The Lexicon of Love. Aged 22 in a no-horse town, more terrified by the day that I had made a mistake in marrying the first man I had sex with, I couldn’t stand to hear “The Look of Love” and “Poison Arrow” on the radio, turning them off quickly lest my treacherous mind be read. That’s what the best love songs do — make us feel that, though they’ll be listened to by heartsore hordes, they’re speaking just to us.

Do they still? Next month’s belated 40th anniversary reissue of ABC’s legendary debut will be marked with — deep breath — the album performed live at Hammersmith Odeon, numerous remixes, a disc featuring Mantrap, the group’s 55-minute espionage thriller directed by Julien Temple, and an essay by lead singer Martin Fry. For once, the hoo-ha seems reasonable. Entering the album chart at number one, the record featured three classic top 10 singles and remained on the charts for 50 weeks.

Yet for all the Lexicon‘s success, it’s hard not to conclude that the love song has since become the exception rather than the rule. Was it a case of the singer, not the song? Did Fry’s voice give a depth to his creations that might otherwise not have been there? Hardly: the song-cycle was so spectacular that its success happened despite, rather than because, of the magic pipes of the warbler. Fry was a profoundly humdrum vocalist, a phenomena that affected many of the biggest bands of the time, including Duran Duran and Spandau Ballet, whose Simon Le Bon and Tony Hadley both often sounded as though they had a crucial body part trapped in a door.

The death of the love song is often attributed to that old, shag-shy stalwart: the end of innocence. When sex got slammed on the table, love, and all the yearning metaphors that fuelled the great love songs, went out through the window. But love wasn’t murdered by sex; after all, Mick Jagger and David Bowie were both slappers who wrote many great love songs. I’d also wager that Adele and Ed Sheeran have put it about a lot less than most people, definitely less than most pop stars, but their love songs are the aural equivalent of that tinned gunk designed to nourish invalids. Like great political leaders, then, great love songs can’t be conjured up by monogamy or banished by promiscuity. Neither can “commercialism” be blamed, as if the great love songs were written in some Arcadian glade. On the contrary, many came from songwriting industrial complexes, from Tin Pan Alley to the Brill Building.

Instead, much of the blame can be placed on the atomisation of society. Great songs — love, and otherwise — require an oceanic element, a single story that millions can relate to. When I was a teenager, we would congregate in the cloakrooms on a Tuesday lunchtime, literally holding our breath until we found out where our favourite single was in the new Radio 1 top 20. I remember my friend Carol bursting into tears when “The Jean Genie” failed to reach the top spot and having to go home as she couldn’t sufficiently pull herself together to face an afternoon in double physics. Then came Thursday’s Top of the Pops, when you could moon over the latest teen idols singing their love songs, just for you — and, if you were lucky, witness the outrage of your dad as David Bowie cracked on with his guitarist.

It’s not just songs, though; artistic representations of love have generally deteriorated. Is it likely that we’ll ever see a film such as Casablanca or read a book such as The End of the Affair again? Now, even romcoms have been ditched for superhero franchises, while Sally Rooney writes novels which might generically be called “Janet and John Get Naked and Say Stuff about the Pointlessness of Existence”. Love, though always as mysterious as a mermaid, was once as easy to find as chips — but with the endless chatter and clatter of online life, how will we ever stop our trivial amusements long enough to hear the song of the siren? Stop that racket, I’m trying to watch Love Island!

Of course, none of this is helped by the fact that, thanks to social media and therapy culture, we talk about our emotions so much that there’s nothing left for love songs. Consider this lyric from last year, in Cat Burn’s “Ghosting”:

“I always come first, prioritise myself
‘Cause I could lose it all
And fall down a deep hole
I gotta watch my mental health
So I recharge alone
Don’t take it personal
I’m just an introvert
So don’t stress, I’ll be fine
I just need some time.”

This may well be an excellent life lesson — but as a love song, it sucks. And not in a good way.

Though I know what I like when it comes to love songs — “Wouldn’t It Be Nice” by The Beach Boys, “Baby It’s You” by The Shirelles, “Just Like Heaven” by The Cure — others will disagree. So I asked the composer Robin Watt, whose modern showtunes have been compared to those of the American Songbook canon, what he thought the problem is. “Irving Berlin, probably the most successful composer in history, famously played piano with one finger,” he told me. “A lack of musicianship isn’t a bar to composing great love songs. Berlin often broke the rules by having unusual lengths for each section or bunging in an extra bridge. In total contrast, these kids today can’t seem to break out of this dreadful musical rut. The effect is one of permanent suspension in a state of despair, whereas once a melody was about creating and resolving tension. Even uptempo stuff today still has this thread of self-regarding woe to it. The solution would be that composers stop taking themselves so seriously — but, unfortunately, that won’t happen as long as they have all these ‘issues’.”

ABC’s subsequent decline after the splendour of their debut is a microcosm of what has happened to the love song generally over the past four decades. Beauty Stab, their 1983 follow-up, was not just an example of Second Album Syndrome, but a veritable self-immolation; Simon Reynolds called it “one of the great career-sabotage LPs of pop”. Though ABC has staggered on in various incarnations ever since, it quickly went a bit Light Entertainment. In 2005, Fry toured with Tony Hadley, a missed opportunity which, if they’d only included Simon Le Bon, might have been a crooning equivalent of the Three Tenors — the Three Tenners, perhaps, as that’s the absolute most you’d pay to see them.

Haunted by his Citizen Kane, Fry announced in 2015 that his new album would be called The Lexicon of a Lost Ideal, “a take on The Lexicon of Love, but all these years on. I’m a man in my fifties now with a wealth of experience. It’s about how you grow older but you make the same mistakes over and over and over again.” When it was released the following spring, imaginatively re-titled The Lexicon of Love II, it entered the UK album charts at number five, ABC’s highest ranking since the original. It wasn’t a bad record — but there’s a world of difference between not bad and perfection.

Will the love song ever get its mojo back? I really do hope so, even though I personally have heard all the great love songs I can handle. Because only then can we once more go serenely to our favourite pizza parlours without hearing the great love songs of the 20th century slowed down and droned to death by sad young people who know there’s something missing from their own repertoire, but don’t have the lexicon — of love — to put it right.


Julie Burchill is a journalist, playwright and author of Welcome to the Woke Trials, available now. Her latest play, Awful People, co-written with Daniel Raven, comes to Brighton Pier in September 2023.

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Graeme Archer
Graeme Archer
10 months ago

Whenever I have the misfortune of hearing a pop song these days – usually if I’m in a taxi and feel too British to request that a radio be switched off (and in any case, the alternative – LBC – is too horrible to contemplate) – I’m reminded of Julia’s job in 1984. That’s what future ‘art’ will be: algorithm-driven self-obsessed rubbish (as beautifully skewered here by Ms Burchill, long may she reign), churned out by indifferent technicians and released into the culture like a bacillus emerging from sewage. I never thought I’d look back on ABC with nostalgia, but the popular art of the 1960s, 70s and 80s really was of a higher standard than anything today. Thank you for a great article!

Julie Burchill
Julie Burchill
10 months ago
Reply to  Graeme Archer

Thank you, Graeme!

Clare Knight
Clare Knight
10 months ago
Reply to  Graeme Archer

I have to say that “released into the culture like a bacillus emerging from sewage”‘ is quite the analogy!

Muad Dib
Muad Dib
10 months ago
Reply to  Graeme Archer

I’ve heard one of those songs recently, not sure about the artist, but it hit me as deeply tragic, not in a romantic way, although it’s clearly intended to be a love song. The lyrics that stuck with me were:
“I should be moving out,
but we just signed a lease
”
What an agony, to chose between your feelings and a credit score. Obviously score wins, but it reflects truly tragic, narcissistic nature of the society, where all other people are just there to fill a purpose and admire us. Youth is so anxious, filtered, puritan even, no wonder they can not express their feelings


Huw Parker
Huw Parker
10 months ago
Reply to  Muad Dib

A quick search suggests the the song you heard is ‘Your Girlfriend’, by Blossoms. I don’t know what it sounds like, but the lyrics are worth a read, and actually rather poignant. In context, that line is not at all the cold calculation you suggest.

Huw Parker
Huw Parker
10 months ago
Reply to  Muad Dib

A quick search suggests the the song you heard is ‘Your Girlfriend’, by Blossoms. I don’t know what it sounds like, but the lyrics are worth a read, and actually rather poignant. In context, that line is not at all the cold calculation you suggest.

Julie Burchill
Julie Burchill
10 months ago
Reply to  Graeme Archer

Thank you, Graeme!

Clare Knight
Clare Knight
10 months ago
Reply to  Graeme Archer

I have to say that “released into the culture like a bacillus emerging from sewage”‘ is quite the analogy!

Muad Dib
Muad Dib
10 months ago
Reply to  Graeme Archer

I’ve heard one of those songs recently, not sure about the artist, but it hit me as deeply tragic, not in a romantic way, although it’s clearly intended to be a love song. The lyrics that stuck with me were:
“I should be moving out,
but we just signed a lease
”
What an agony, to chose between your feelings and a credit score. Obviously score wins, but it reflects truly tragic, narcissistic nature of the society, where all other people are just there to fill a purpose and admire us. Youth is so anxious, filtered, puritan even, no wonder they can not express their feelings


Graeme Archer
Graeme Archer
10 months ago

Whenever I have the misfortune of hearing a pop song these days – usually if I’m in a taxi and feel too British to request that a radio be switched off (and in any case, the alternative – LBC – is too horrible to contemplate) – I’m reminded of Julia’s job in 1984. That’s what future ‘art’ will be: algorithm-driven self-obsessed rubbish (as beautifully skewered here by Ms Burchill, long may she reign), churned out by indifferent technicians and released into the culture like a bacillus emerging from sewage. I never thought I’d look back on ABC with nostalgia, but the popular art of the 1960s, 70s and 80s really was of a higher standard than anything today. Thank you for a great article!

Steve Murray
Steve Murray
10 months ago

Burchill’s just nailed it.

The pop “rut” has been ongoing for maybe 20-25 years, the length of the internet generation. Can anyone name a truly great song from this period (compared, for instance, with “Wouldn’t it be nice” which she unexpectedly cites) that’ll still not just be remembered but actually resonate more than half a century in the future?

Pop songs are/were about the longings of youth but young people seem afraid to “long” anymore. Nothing is withheld, nothing reserved. Nothing, therefore, to be gained. Current songs simply reflect that, but the reflection is shallow, lacking imagination or any sense of breaking a mould which the spirit of youth should require.

If it’s true that “teenagers” arrived with the advent of pop in the 50s, they and great love songs departed with the ironic ubiquity of binary code.

Jim Veenbaas
Jim Veenbaas
10 months ago
Reply to  Steve Murray

There’s lots of great stuff out there. We just never hear it. I’m from Canada, but recently discovered The Big Push – amazing originals and covers.

Mangle Tangle
Mangle Tangle
10 months ago
Reply to  Steve Murray

Agreed – beautifully written, too

Julie Burchill
Julie Burchill
10 months ago
Reply to  Mangle Tangle

Thank you, Mangle!

Julie Burchill
Julie Burchill
10 months ago
Reply to  Mangle Tangle

Thank you, Mangle!

Jim Veenbaas
Jim Veenbaas
10 months ago
Reply to  Steve Murray

There’s lots of great stuff out there. We just never hear it. I’m from Canada, but recently discovered The Big Push – amazing originals and covers.

Mangle Tangle
Mangle Tangle
10 months ago
Reply to  Steve Murray

Agreed – beautifully written, too

Steve Murray
Steve Murray
10 months ago

Burchill’s just nailed it.

The pop “rut” has been ongoing for maybe 20-25 years, the length of the internet generation. Can anyone name a truly great song from this period (compared, for instance, with “Wouldn’t it be nice” which she unexpectedly cites) that’ll still not just be remembered but actually resonate more than half a century in the future?

Pop songs are/were about the longings of youth but young people seem afraid to “long” anymore. Nothing is withheld, nothing reserved. Nothing, therefore, to be gained. Current songs simply reflect that, but the reflection is shallow, lacking imagination or any sense of breaking a mould which the spirit of youth should require.

If it’s true that “teenagers” arrived with the advent of pop in the 50s, they and great love songs departed with the ironic ubiquity of binary code.

Apo State
Apo State
10 months ago

Just wait; it’s about to get worse: AI will be our songwriters soon, and it’s no Irving Berlin!
The best artists, whether visual or musical, take chances, experiment, and innovate. Maybe my view of AI is too cynical, but I believe these qualities to be uniquely human. I suspect AI will bring about even more homogeneity, especially in popular culture.

Clare Knight
Clare Knight
10 months ago
Reply to  Apo State

Yes, artists must fear AI, but I suspect it won’t necessarily be all rubbish. I think there will be some quality song- writing and that’s the problem, we won’t know the difference. The thing is does that matter?

Last edited 10 months ago by Clare Knight
Clare Knight
Clare Knight
10 months ago
Reply to  Apo State

Yes, artists must fear AI, but I suspect it won’t necessarily be all rubbish. I think there will be some quality song- writing and that’s the problem, we won’t know the difference. The thing is does that matter?

Last edited 10 months ago by Clare Knight
Apo State
Apo State
10 months ago

Just wait; it’s about to get worse: AI will be our songwriters soon, and it’s no Irving Berlin!
The best artists, whether visual or musical, take chances, experiment, and innovate. Maybe my view of AI is too cynical, but I believe these qualities to be uniquely human. I suspect AI will bring about even more homogeneity, especially in popular culture.

Nell Clover
Nell Clover
10 months ago

The question of “Where did the pop love song come from? “might answer the question” Where did the pop love song go?”

Late Victorian industrialisation saw the birth of mass, popular, entertainment. Suddenly millenia of culture could be raided and creatively retold in a new contemporary theatrical form and played to the masses. So popular was this that fortunes were made and modern celebrity was born.

Building on the music hall, the early 20th century saw the birth of mass distribution of music by vinyl record and radio. Suddenly millenia of culture could be raided and creatively replayed in contemporary musical form and bought by the masses. This too created fortunes that funded an exponential expansion of music production.

Transport technology revolutions in the 19th century propelled mass migration, which by the 20th century had produced large populations of very different heritages mixing millenias of cultures. At the same time, social barriers fell, encouraging even more mixing of cultures.

The early 20th century also saw a rapid fall in infant mortality amongst high birth rates. Combined with longer education, and greater wealth, the teenager was born, and there was a lot of them. Our younger selves are extraordinarily fickle, rebellious and yet hopelessly in need of identity. The mass distribution of music had barely begun when this demographic change occurred. This huge new market funded the hyper creation of new music, now tapping millenia of different cultures. This is when popular became pop.

Then came a rapid succession of new musical technologies in the middle and late 20th century. From electric to electronic, millenia of cultures could be fused in entirely new sounds and sound scapes. This is how pop became Pop! and sustained itself up to the end of the 20th century. Just as Western birth rates collapsed and the demographic bulge in teenagers became middle aged.

Pop music was born out of rapid social upheaval, economic improvement, demographic change, technological advancement, and – most importantly of all – music technology advancement. Pop music in less than a century reworked all the world’s cultural heritage dating back millenia in a million creative ways to produce something undeniably new and arresting.

But once all the new sounds are exhausted, what comes next will always sound a lot like what went before. This isn’t due to a lack of creativity or talent, just the limitations of using the same sounds to make genuinely new music. Take northern soul as an example. An entire genre of pop was fuelled by the rediscovery of 1960s motown “flops”. Motown itself had run out of genuinely fresh ideas in the late 1970s when a small number of these old flops were rediscovered. These flops were produced with real talent and creativity but had failed in a crowded market place. Once the record shops had been raided of all their obscure 1960s motown there was nothing left to fuel northern soul but nostalgia and perhaps the rare occasional new take on northern soul.

Pop will continue, new contemporary themes will arrive, but the pace of creating new memorable pop will be far slower. This loss of momentum will serve only to slow that pace further as young people look for other outlets to be rebellious and find identity. You will have to wait a longer for great new pop love songs.

Last edited 10 months ago by Nell Clover
R K
R K
10 months ago
Reply to  Nell Clover

I rather think that love songs ran out of steam a very long time ago. Popular music was definitely in full swing in the early 1900’s and one of the eventual results, the American Song Book, established a basic repertoire of songs that represented song writing at its best. There was comparable material out of the UK and Europe [think of Charles Trenet], but at some point something broke, a connection was lost and things have never quite been the same since. I really think the rise of rock had a lot to do with that collapse: my parents certainly thought so. I was born in the 60’s, and so never directly experienced their music, but I’ve come to understand why they felt that way and I have often found little to admire in the pop music of my generation and beyond. There will always be great songs and great love songs written, but they are scarce, and too many songs look for a 2 or 4 bar rhythmic or harmonic hook and then do nothing whatsoever of musical and emotional interest.

R K
R K
10 months ago
Reply to  Nell Clover

I rather think that love songs ran out of steam a very long time ago. Popular music was definitely in full swing in the early 1900’s and one of the eventual results, the American Song Book, established a basic repertoire of songs that represented song writing at its best. There was comparable material out of the UK and Europe [think of Charles Trenet], but at some point something broke, a connection was lost and things have never quite been the same since. I really think the rise of rock had a lot to do with that collapse: my parents certainly thought so. I was born in the 60’s, and so never directly experienced their music, but I’ve come to understand why they felt that way and I have often found little to admire in the pop music of my generation and beyond. There will always be great songs and great love songs written, but they are scarce, and too many songs look for a 2 or 4 bar rhythmic or harmonic hook and then do nothing whatsoever of musical and emotional interest.

Nell Clover
Nell Clover
10 months ago

The question of “Where did the pop love song come from? “might answer the question” Where did the pop love song go?”

Late Victorian industrialisation saw the birth of mass, popular, entertainment. Suddenly millenia of culture could be raided and creatively retold in a new contemporary theatrical form and played to the masses. So popular was this that fortunes were made and modern celebrity was born.

Building on the music hall, the early 20th century saw the birth of mass distribution of music by vinyl record and radio. Suddenly millenia of culture could be raided and creatively replayed in contemporary musical form and bought by the masses. This too created fortunes that funded an exponential expansion of music production.

Transport technology revolutions in the 19th century propelled mass migration, which by the 20th century had produced large populations of very different heritages mixing millenias of cultures. At the same time, social barriers fell, encouraging even more mixing of cultures.

The early 20th century also saw a rapid fall in infant mortality amongst high birth rates. Combined with longer education, and greater wealth, the teenager was born, and there was a lot of them. Our younger selves are extraordinarily fickle, rebellious and yet hopelessly in need of identity. The mass distribution of music had barely begun when this demographic change occurred. This huge new market funded the hyper creation of new music, now tapping millenia of different cultures. This is when popular became pop.

Then came a rapid succession of new musical technologies in the middle and late 20th century. From electric to electronic, millenia of cultures could be fused in entirely new sounds and sound scapes. This is how pop became Pop! and sustained itself up to the end of the 20th century. Just as Western birth rates collapsed and the demographic bulge in teenagers became middle aged.

Pop music was born out of rapid social upheaval, economic improvement, demographic change, technological advancement, and – most importantly of all – music technology advancement. Pop music in less than a century reworked all the world’s cultural heritage dating back millenia in a million creative ways to produce something undeniably new and arresting.

But once all the new sounds are exhausted, what comes next will always sound a lot like what went before. This isn’t due to a lack of creativity or talent, just the limitations of using the same sounds to make genuinely new music. Take northern soul as an example. An entire genre of pop was fuelled by the rediscovery of 1960s motown “flops”. Motown itself had run out of genuinely fresh ideas in the late 1970s when a small number of these old flops were rediscovered. These flops were produced with real talent and creativity but had failed in a crowded market place. Once the record shops had been raided of all their obscure 1960s motown there was nothing left to fuel northern soul but nostalgia and perhaps the rare occasional new take on northern soul.

Pop will continue, new contemporary themes will arrive, but the pace of creating new memorable pop will be far slower. This loss of momentum will serve only to slow that pace further as young people look for other outlets to be rebellious and find identity. You will have to wait a longer for great new pop love songs.

Last edited 10 months ago by Nell Clover
Hugh Bryant
Hugh Bryant
10 months ago

Rick Beato on YouTube provides many excellent technical analyses of why 21st century pop music is such thin gruel – but I suspect that the real reason it fails to satisfy is that ,in common with most contemporary cultural output, there’s just too much of it. Artists, like governments, need to do much less, and do it much better. If Ed Sheeran wrote a third as many songs, they’d likely be three times better. But, of course, that wouldn’t work as a business model in the age of streaming.

Mike Downing
Mike Downing
10 months ago
Reply to  Hugh Bryant

I totally agree with you about overproduction. I’m gay and have been watching a back catalogue of movies over the past few months. And I’ve come to the conclusion that there’s far, far too much of everything. The quality is in inverse proportion to the quantity. Most of the stuff should never have been funded. I’m sure a lot is due to woke box-ticking or (contrary to the perennial whiners out there), there must be a lot of spare cash sloshing about.

Last edited 10 months ago by Mike Downing
Mike Downing
Mike Downing
10 months ago
Reply to  Hugh Bryant

I totally agree with you about overproduction. I’m gay and have been watching a back catalogue of movies over the past few months. And I’ve come to the conclusion that there’s far, far too much of everything. The quality is in inverse proportion to the quantity. Most of the stuff should never have been funded. I’m sure a lot is due to woke box-ticking or (contrary to the perennial whiners out there), there must be a lot of spare cash sloshing about.

Last edited 10 months ago by Mike Downing
Hugh Bryant
Hugh Bryant
10 months ago

Rick Beato on YouTube provides many excellent technical analyses of why 21st century pop music is such thin gruel – but I suspect that the real reason it fails to satisfy is that ,in common with most contemporary cultural output, there’s just too much of it. Artists, like governments, need to do much less, and do it much better. If Ed Sheeran wrote a third as many songs, they’d likely be three times better. But, of course, that wouldn’t work as a business model in the age of streaming.

Michel Starenky
Michel Starenky
10 months ago

Illiteracy. People cannot write good lyrics.

Clare Knight
Clare Knight
10 months ago

That’s not true. There are many, many beautiful songs out there.

Last edited 10 months ago by Clare Knight
Clare Knight
Clare Knight
10 months ago

That’s not true. There are many, many beautiful songs out there.

Last edited 10 months ago by Clare Knight
Michel Starenky
Michel Starenky
10 months ago

Illiteracy. People cannot write good lyrics.

Christopher Chantrill
Christopher Chantrill
10 months ago

Well, I blame the sexual revolution. Songs used to be about the anticipation of love. But now, as Blanche complained, girls are expected to “put out.”

Huw Parker
Huw Parker
10 months ago

But so many of the classic love songs have been written post the sexual revolution, so your argument doesn’t really stack up.
I point the finger not at the sexual revolution, but at the identity revolution. The thing about love for another is that if it means anything at all, there’s an element of risk to the self. However, for identity cultists, the self is the be all and end all. Long before you start producing your art, you have to have a convincing narrative – a story arc, ideally involving a perceived misidentification, trauma, rejection, alienation, self-discovery and finally celebration of a newfound and preferably contentious or deliberately obscure identity. And who on earth has the capacity – or even the time – for creating songs about loving other people when they’re so preoccupied with themselves?
Nah, sex didn’t kill the love song. Narcissism killed the love song.

Huw Parker
Huw Parker
10 months ago

But so many of the classic love songs have been written post the sexual revolution, so your argument doesn’t really stack up.
I point the finger not at the sexual revolution, but at the identity revolution. The thing about love for another is that if it means anything at all, there’s an element of risk to the self. However, for identity cultists, the self is the be all and end all. Long before you start producing your art, you have to have a convincing narrative – a story arc, ideally involving a perceived misidentification, trauma, rejection, alienation, self-discovery and finally celebration of a newfound and preferably contentious or deliberately obscure identity. And who on earth has the capacity – or even the time – for creating songs about loving other people when they’re so preoccupied with themselves?
Nah, sex didn’t kill the love song. Narcissism killed the love song.

Christopher Chantrill
Christopher Chantrill
10 months ago

Well, I blame the sexual revolution. Songs used to be about the anticipation of love. But now, as Blanche complained, girls are expected to “put out.”

UnHerd Reader
UnHerd Reader
10 months ago

aaaah such good writing and intelligent analysis, strikes a chord (so to speak). Often annoying – but not here- and provocative. Keep on going Burchill for the good of everyone with a brain.

UnHerd Reader
UnHerd Reader
10 months ago

aaaah such good writing and intelligent analysis, strikes a chord (so to speak). Often annoying – but not here- and provocative. Keep on going Burchill for the good of everyone with a brain.

Mark Phillips
Mark Phillips
10 months ago

Two of my favourites are, ‘A Kiss To Build A Dream On’ by Louis Armstrong, and, ‘Bus Stop’ by the Hollies. Dreams and courting. Innocence rather than leaping into bed and banging her brains out.

Last edited 10 months ago by Mark Phillips
Mark Phillips
Mark Phillips
10 months ago

Two of my favourites are, ‘A Kiss To Build A Dream On’ by Louis Armstrong, and, ‘Bus Stop’ by the Hollies. Dreams and courting. Innocence rather than leaping into bed and banging her brains out.

Last edited 10 months ago by Mark Phillips
Clare Knight
Clare Knight
10 months ago

What seems to be missing in the music of today is soul. The soulful songs and singing of the likes of Otis Redding is hard to beat. To hear him sing “these arms of mine’ is to go weak at the knees.

Steve Murray
Steve Murray
10 months ago
Reply to  Clare Knight

Or Aretha Franklin’s version of “Say A Little Prayer”.
(My knees not affected, but the hairs on the back of my neck.)

Last edited 10 months ago by Steve Murray
Steve Murray
Steve Murray
10 months ago
Reply to  Clare Knight

Or Aretha Franklin’s version of “Say A Little Prayer”.
(My knees not affected, but the hairs on the back of my neck.)

Last edited 10 months ago by Steve Murray
Clare Knight
Clare Knight
10 months ago

What seems to be missing in the music of today is soul. The soulful songs and singing of the likes of Otis Redding is hard to beat. To hear him sing “these arms of mine’ is to go weak at the knees.

J Bryant
J Bryant
10 months ago

I suspect the love song still thrives away from the hyper-commercialization and nihilism of pop. In the country/blue grass genre, for example, Sarah Jarosz writes some beautiful stuff. Check out her “Build Me Up From Bones” on youtube if you’re interested.

Clare Knight
Clare Knight
10 months ago
Reply to  J Bryant

Exactly. It’s the non-commercial indie singer/songwriters who hit the mark.

Clare Knight
Clare Knight
10 months ago
Reply to  J Bryant

Exactly. It’s the non-commercial indie singer/songwriters who hit the mark.

J Bryant
J Bryant
10 months ago

I suspect the love song still thrives away from the hyper-commercialization and nihilism of pop. In the country/blue grass genre, for example, Sarah Jarosz writes some beautiful stuff. Check out her “Build Me Up From Bones” on youtube if you’re interested.

Pat Rowles
Pat Rowles
10 months ago

I don’t have the slightest problem with Julie’s take on Lexicon Of Love or what has become of the love song, but (at the risk of sounding like a contrarian) I’ve always thought Beauty Stab to be the better ABC album and an overlooked minor classic.
While it lacks the pop sensibility of Poison Arrow and Look Of Love, I think the songs are more consistent, its mix of heavy guitars, horns and synths sounded ahead of its time, and I take my hat off to the band for not playing it safe when following up such a successful debut.

Pat Rowles
Pat Rowles
10 months ago

I don’t have the slightest problem with Julie’s take on Lexicon Of Love or what has become of the love song, but (at the risk of sounding like a contrarian) I’ve always thought Beauty Stab to be the better ABC album and an overlooked minor classic.
While it lacks the pop sensibility of Poison Arrow and Look Of Love, I think the songs are more consistent, its mix of heavy guitars, horns and synths sounded ahead of its time, and I take my hat off to the band for not playing it safe when following up such a successful debut.

Simon Blanchard
Simon Blanchard
10 months ago

The Lexicon of Love pretty much epitomises all that went wrong with popular music in the 80s, with the arrival of computers, FM synthesis, sampling and the departure of organic human warmth. I’ve always believed the 80s were the decade when rock became light entertainment (just like football) so it was gratifying to see the phrase appear later in the piece, though ironic given JB’s “contribution” to music journalism at the time. The fact that the NME, after her review of Television’s second album (far from an example of second album syndrome) gave the job to a grownup, the following week, is enough to cast doubt on her assessment of LOL. Lol.

Last edited 10 months ago by Simon Blanchard
Huw Parker
Huw Parker
10 months ago

But that’s how the world works, and always has. Just as there are those who lose what art they may have in technology, there are those who have sufficient artistic vision to be able to bend technology to their will. David Hockney’s use of Ipad drawing programs is a case in point. (I suspect, had you been around two hundred years ago, you’d have been complaining about orchestras phasing out the harpsichord in favour of the piano.)
Moreover, The Lexicon of Love is a particularly bad example upon which to try to make your argument. It is a triumph of the artist over the technology -literate, witty, human, emotionally engaging, and packed to the rafters with great melodies. It is supported by the technology it uses, not undermined by it. And it enthralled a generation who felt it spoke directly to them.

Huw Parker
Huw Parker
10 months ago

But that’s how the world works, and always has. Just as there are those who lose what art they may have in technology, there are those who have sufficient artistic vision to be able to bend technology to their will. David Hockney’s use of Ipad drawing programs is a case in point. (I suspect, had you been around two hundred years ago, you’d have been complaining about orchestras phasing out the harpsichord in favour of the piano.)
Moreover, The Lexicon of Love is a particularly bad example upon which to try to make your argument. It is a triumph of the artist over the technology -literate, witty, human, emotionally engaging, and packed to the rafters with great melodies. It is supported by the technology it uses, not undermined by it. And it enthralled a generation who felt it spoke directly to them.

Simon Blanchard
Simon Blanchard
10 months ago

The Lexicon of Love pretty much epitomises all that went wrong with popular music in the 80s, with the arrival of computers, FM synthesis, sampling and the departure of organic human warmth. I’ve always believed the 80s were the decade when rock became light entertainment (just like football) so it was gratifying to see the phrase appear later in the piece, though ironic given JB’s “contribution” to music journalism at the time. The fact that the NME, after her review of Television’s second album (far from an example of second album syndrome) gave the job to a grownup, the following week, is enough to cast doubt on her assessment of LOL. Lol.

Last edited 10 months ago by Simon Blanchard
UnHerd Reader
UnHerd Reader
10 months ago

Even ABC sounds like aural slurry when compared to the incomparable June Christy & Stan Kenton’s version of “Every Time We Say Goodbye”.

Huw Parker
Huw Parker
10 months ago
Reply to  UnHerd Reader

You’re allowed to like more than one song.

Huw Parker
Huw Parker
10 months ago
Reply to  UnHerd Reader

You’re allowed to like more than one song.

UnHerd Reader
UnHerd Reader
10 months ago

Even ABC sounds like aural slurry when compared to the incomparable June Christy & Stan Kenton’s version of “Every Time We Say Goodbye”.

Champagne Socialist
Champagne Socialist
10 months ago

Old woman complains about modern music and says it was way better in her day.
World yawns and moves on (except for a few geriatric moaners who agree because they hate everything).

Huw Parker
Huw Parker
10 months ago

Interesting comment. Is it that you think old people don’t deserve an opinion, women don’t deserve an opinion, or both?

Huw Parker
Huw Parker
10 months ago

Interesting comment. Is it that you think old people don’t deserve an opinion, women don’t deserve an opinion, or both?

Champagne Socialist
Champagne Socialist
10 months ago

Old woman complains about modern music and says it was way better in her day.
World yawns and moves on (except for a few geriatric moaners who agree because they hate everything).