Friday, May 18, 2007

“Girl Don’t Come” / Sandie Shaw


Sandie Shaw was to the British Invasion what Julie Christie was to mid-60s British cinema – the It Girl, the carelessly gorgeous free spirit who soared above it all. While Dusty Springfield and Petula Clark and Cilla Black and Lulu belted out their hearts, Sandie Shaw simply peered through the part in her long straight hair and wriggled her bare feet. We identified with those other girl singers; we could only dream of being Sandie Shaw. She had style, she had grace; she parlayed her wavery voice into a handful of hits that say Swinging London to me like nothing else.

Every girl singer had to make her mark with a Bacharach-David song in the mid-60s; Sandie Shaw’s was “(There’s) Always Something There To Remind Me.” But from then on most of her songs were written by Chris Andrews, who totally got how to show off her most appealing vocal qualities – the laid-back rhythms, the delicate attacks, the shimmering sustains. “Girl Don’t Come” pulses with languid Latin jazz, incredibly cool and urban. Sure, it’s a slight song – just a candid snapshot of desire and frustration – but it’s got atmosphere to die for.

From the very start, the intro’s syncopated trumpet and drums make me picture a Soho pavement, slick with rain, outside a neon-lit nightclub door. Then Sandie, with a sort of detached curiosity, starts to spin her tale: “You have a date for half past eight tonight / Some distant bell starts chiming now.” Now I picture the guy, in a suit and skinny tie, leaning nervously against a lamp post. He’s trying so hard not to check his watch, but that damn church bell tells him the time anyway. (There always a church bell within striking distance in London, isn’t there?) Next she layers emotion onto the visual, as the horns enter, huffing like impatient traffic, and chord modulations ratchet up the anxiety: “You wanna see her / You wanna see her, oh yeah / So you wait, you wait and wait [beat] / Girl don’t come.” The way her voice falls, disappointed, on the low notes of that last phrase is so bittersweet.

I love the fact that this is in present tense, and tense is the right word for it -- we’re right there in the street with this poor bloke, hearing the clock tick: “The time rolls on, those minutes fly by / You wanna go, but just you try, guy.” Yep, he’s caught all right, prisoner of his own miserable desire. As the strings swoop in on the bridge, it’s almost like a camera panning in a circle, registering every detail as he freaks out and breaks down: “You’ve been stood up, tears fill your eyes, oh-oo-woh / You hurt inside, you want to die-ie-ie-ie, oo-oh-oh.”

Sandie Shaw looked like the sort of fab bird who’d stand up some different guy every night of the week – but instead she’s telling the tale, and taking his point of view. That’s a nice reversal. I sincerely doubt whether anybody EVER stood up Sandie Shaw (or Julie Christie either, for that matter), but here she is lounging under the next streetlamp down, observing the scene. Dressed in Mary Quant, of course, and swinging an impossibly tiny purse by its impossibly thin strap. In just a minute, she’ll get bored and head for some chic party just off the King’s Road, folding those long legs into Laurence Harvey’s Alfa Romeo. Oh, take me with you, Sandie.

Girl Don't Come sample

1 comment:

Iñakink said...

I don't know if you will remember, but you sent me this song on the first CD circle we did on the forum. I wouldn't know it if it wasn't for that, so thank you very much!