Saturday, October 24, 2009

"You Make Me Feel Good" / The Zombies

Don't have much to say about this song, actually -- though I did spend the afternoon experimenting with this little movie, which seems the most reasonable way to post the entire song on this blog without embedding a downloadable mp3 (sorry, but giving away music I don't own isn't really my thing). Besides, I think it's always fun to have an image to look at too.

"You Make Me Feel Good" was the B-side of the first single I ever owned, the Zombies' "She's Not There" (one of the first songs I ever wrote about on this blog -- click here to read that post) . I am deliriously uncritical about all those tracks from the Zombies' all-too-brief 1960s heyday. They've recently reformed, and are still wonderful, but guys in their early 60s just can't do the yearning adolescent thing the way they could when they were 20.

Generally I prefer the tracks where Colin Blunstone sings lead -- that angelic choirboy voice of his sent shivers up my spine then, and still does today. On this B side, however, I hear Rod Argent singing lead instead. While Rod's voice isn't as angelic, it adds a note of urgency that works just right for this song. Oddly enough, they keep trading the vocals back and forth -- not in simple classic call-and-response, but handing it back and forth, Rod for the verses and Colin for the refrain.

Sure, the song is all about how happy he is with his girlfriend -- as the chorus puts it, "So good, so good, don't have to justify why / I feel so good, so good, so good / Never thought could be so good to me." But the way Argent sings it, it's not all sweetness and light. There is, in fact, a lurking subtext, and it's all about sex. Notice how it starts out in the middle of a conversation: "You don't need any reason, do you baby?" Reason for what? You might well ask. Rod never spells it out, though; he simply hands the vocal over to honey-voiced Colin, who finishes the pleading refrain, "But if you need a reason, / I'll give one to you / [oh, yeah] You make me feel good / [what, oh yeah] You make me feel good!"

I have learned that in pop songs, when they won't call something by name, it's sex they're talking about. I didn't make this connection back in 1964, but now I see it plain as day -- he's buttering up his adorable teenage girlfriend so she'll sleep with him. That accounts for the groan at the edge of Rod's voice, for all the impatient mmms and oh yeahs and harmonized moans that burst out through the song. That accounts for the insistent foregrounded drumbeat, for the winsome organ intro, for those un-hunh electric guitar curls that punctuate the verses. For a guy who claims to be contented, he's practically squirming off the sofa. But he's a nice suburban kid too, not some over-sexed thug; he's trying to win her over with psychology. For a certain sort of girl, that's the only way to get in.

None of those other British Invasion bands did sincere longing the way the Zombies did. The Beatles and the Stones were more menacing, the Kinks and the Who neurotic, Herman's Hermits safe and cuddly. The Zombies struck other notes as well, but this sort of song was their specialty -- and man, did they do it right.


J-Money said...

Very cool post... my first (and admittedly only) exposure to the Zombies came via Odessey & Oracle which I thought was an excellent blast of psychedelia that didn't go too far toward being loopy and/or unlistenable. And "This Will Be Our Year" is a gem.

Thanks to your paragraphs, I may have to do a bit of digging into their earlier stuff. And, you know, start learning their names!

wwolfe said...

I spent a lot of time listening to the 2-disc anthology on Epic during my freshman year in college. I didn't understand then, and I still can't grasp, why this band only had two hits in America while they were still a live, functioning unit. Sometimes the public muffs it, I guess.