Popular music is full of loves songs, mostly of the dysfunctional kind. Baby, I'll die if you leave
. That sort of thing was a staple of pop music back in the days when radio mattered. Of course, there's a lot more to love than the sort of thing that can be captured in 2:46. Still some great pop songs have written about love angst, teen or otherwise.
The Shangri-Las were every greaser's wet dream, probably a lot of nerds too. Give Him a Great Big Kiss
isn't exactly a love song, more like teen lust, but it has the greatest spoken introduction in pop history. So good that David Johansen and the NY Dolls stole it stole it for Looking for a Kiss
. How can you go wrong with lyrics
Big bulky sweaters to match his eyes
Oh boy what a prize
Tight tapered pants, high button shoes
He's always looking like he's got the blues
How could a girl from Queens resist those dirty fingernails. This was one of Shadow Morton's teen symphonies. The Shangri-Las made the other girl groups like the Supremes and the Ronnetts look like goody-two-shoes.
When it comes to real love songs, Smokey Robinson is the master. Bob Dylan called Smokey the greatest romantic poet alive today. Smokey cranked out rhymes and produced hits for Motown in its heyday. For pure soul, you can't beat My Girl,
one of the hits he penned for the Temptations. It starts with James Jameson's bass heartbeat and then the guitar riff followed by that steady drum beat. Smokey wrote this for lead singer David Ruffin. It's tailored perfectly for his voice. No matter how many times I've heard this, I never get tired of it. I don't think anyone else does either.
Smokey also wrote the greatest teen makeout song, Ooh Baby Baby
. During the sixties, Mowton was a perfect hit making machine. The band on this song is also the Funk Brothers. Many bands tried to get that sound, but the bass and drums on this and so many other Motown songs of the period set a standard that none could match. And then there's Smokey's voice, like a voice you hear in a dream and that stays when you wake up.
The Cure know about Lovesong
) Too bad this video is so dumb. Robert smith singing in a cave, who thinks these things up?
Only Nick Cave could get away with opening a song with a line like "I don't believe in an interventionist God" and make it work, but Back Into My Arms
works, mixing prayer and love. It's supposedly dedicated to PJ Harvey.
Johnny Hartman and John Coltrane seems like an unlikely pairing, but they mesh perfectly. This entire album is just plain wonderful. The songs are very spare, usually just an intro by Trane followed by Hartman's baritone interpretation of the song. Together they manage to turn some fairly pedestrian tunes into great art. Pick any song on the album and it's great. My One and Only Love
is an example. Each track on the album was recorded in a single take, except one. That one was recorded twice only because Elvin Jones dropped a drumstick. That's an indication of how perfect the match between the Coltrane quartet and Johnny Hartman was.
Lamb is one of my favorite bands from the 90's. Lou Rhodes has one of those not perfect voices that delivers perfect songs. This one, Gabriel
, gives me chills. I'm not sure what it's really about, but to my mind it's one of the few mature love songs. (lyrics
I can love
But I need his heart
I am strong even on my own
But from him I never want to part
I'm good on my own, but you make me better.
The greatest love song of all
isn't about romantic love. Again, the heartbeat bass and steady drums, but this time function as a prayer. If I ever have a memorial service, I want this played.