Monday, February 16, 2009

“Love Is All Around” / The Troggs


Love, indeed, is all around us this time of year. But in 1967– the hippy-dippy flower-child aura of groovy love must have been impossible to escape. Hence this hit single, written by Reg Presley (great rock & roll name, eh?), lead singer of the Troggs – yes, the same Troggs who did “Wild Thing.” Hearing this song out of context – like for example, with Bill Nighy’s Christmas-ized parody in Love Actually -- I’d never have said it was the same band. “Love Is All Around” goes for a much more conventional pop sound, right down to a schmaltzy overlay of strings; to me it sounds much more West Coast (think the Association) than BritBeat.

But when all is said and done, it’s basically a seduction song, just like “Wild Thing.” Maybe it’s a different sort of girl he’s seducing this time, but hey, whatever works. He starts off all dreamy-- “I feel it in my fingers / I feel it in my toes” – and then drifts off on the trendy love vibes of the era (“love is all around me / And so the feeling grows / It is written on the wind / That’s everywhere I go”). But pretty soon he gets down to the bottom line: “So if you really love me / Come on and let it show.” In other words, put out or get out.

Smooth operator that he is, he slips his challenge in, oh so casually, and then deftly adds a layer of goo: “You know I love you, I always will / My mind's made up by the way that I feel / There's no beginning, there’ll be no end / ‘Cause on my love you can depend.” Right down to the rhyme-chasing inverted word order, this is complete poetic cliché. He’s regurgitating last week’s stale Valentine candy -- and he’s got an ulterior motive for sure.

Listen to the deliberate pace, those sidling chord shifts, that tick-tock percussion – it’s full of underlying tension, a.k.a. sexual frustration. It’s like he’s circling around her; in verse three he edges closer: “I see your face before me / As I lay on my bed” (Clue #1: He’s in bed). Look at how coy the next lines are: “I kinda get to thinkin’ / Of all the things we said.” (Clue #2: Promises were made.) He waves the contract in her face -- “You gave your promise to me / And I gave mine to you” – before making his demand: “I need someone beside me / In everything I do.” Sure, it’s not totally explicit (“everything” could be innocent), but those hip-shifting chord changes are totally suggestive. Especially in the song’s long fade, as he doggedly repeats “Come on and let it show” over and over-- this isn’t a plea, it’s a command.

I’m sure love was all around in 1967. It was the dawn of the era of free love; the air in London must have reeked of sex, and this guy wants his piece of it. He’s willing to shovel on whatever romantic platitudes she requires—but he won’t be put off for long. Ah, Valentine’s Day – ain’t love grand?

Love Is All Around sample


wwolfe said...

I have a different take on this one. In fact, mine more or less flips yours: instead of seeing the lustful guy from "Wild Thing" lurking in this song, I find the sweet dope of this song underneath all the heated-up huffing and puffing in "Wild Thing." I've never been a fan of the "put up or shut up" school of music - one of the main roadblocks to me enjoying Led Zeppelin, to pick an obvious example - so the fact that this record has always made me give a big, contented sigh of romantic bliss makes me think Reg doesn't have an ulterior motive here.

Mark said...

I had no idea the Troggs sang this! It's only a vaguely familar song, and I must admit I had no idea Bill Nighy was parodying this song in "Love Actually." It's pretty much the opposite of Wild Thing, isn't it?

On a design note, I love the switch to the beige/taupe background! (Reading text on computers with a black background can be a real eyestrain!)

Holly A Hughes said...

Gee, wwolfe, I've been pondering your reading of this song all day -- but listening to this song still makes me feel like Reg is putting the moves on me. (Not that I'd mind.) I like your comment about the "put up or shut up" school of rock, though -- that's another thing altogether. (Notice the absence of Led Zeppelin tracks on this blog.)

Glad you like the design, Mark. Somehow they'd altered the template to give me lurid blue titles, and I couldn't change the color, so out of desperation I just changed the whole thing. I was fond of the black background, but you're right, it wasn't very readable. And now lo and behold, the Ray Davies forum that inspired it, with its charcoal-gray backdrop, just changed its design today too. It must be the dawn of a new era...