I’ve never been to the States, but I think I know pretty much everything about it from films and the telly and the three or four books I’ve read by US authors. I know that it is a vast, beautiful country of contrasts; I know that its peoples are many and diverse; I know that a New York minute is considerably quicker than a Shrewbury one. The Americans I’ve met have been enthusiastic, kind, open people who haven’t always been able to understand my Essex Estuary accent, but that’s alright, why would they?
Like most British people, I have been bombarded with American popular culture since the day I was born. Tere is a massive amount of stuff I like, and lots of it that I absolutely love and couldn’t live without, so I positively welcome the opportunity to go Yank for a month, as long as the term ‘Yank’ is not offensive. The trick is to try and narrow it down to a few dozen choices… I’ll start with my favourite American artefact EVER, ‘Give Him A Great Big Kiss’ by The Shangri-La’s.
The Americans have always had a genius for pop music and pop art, and this short song combines both to brilliant effect. The Shangri-La’s were tough girls from Brooklyn, two sets of sisters, one of the sets twins. Their catalogue is extraordinary, songs of love and longing and loss, with incredible production from George ‘Shadow’ Morton, who also wrote most of their best stuff.‘Give Him A Great Big Kiss’ is full of life and hope and the excitement of going out with a slightly seedy hunk from the wrong side of the tracks.
The interplay between the girls is superb, the dialogue brilliant (my favourite lines are ‘Yeah, well I hear he’s bad’, ‘Mmn, he’s good/bad, but he’s not evil’) and the stomping, hand clapping lead up to the joyous chorus is absolutely magnificent, with the use of the onomatopoeic ‘MWAH!’ as fresh and funny and sweet as a Roy Lichenstein painting. I’ve listened to it 50,000 times, I’ll listen to it another 50,000 times before I die.
The record begins with the unforgettable shouted phrase ‘When I say I’m in love you best believe I’m in love – L-U-V!’ as if even as they sing about their happiness they know it is a passing phase, a youthful dream. Grown up L-O-V-E will present itself one day but, for now, L-U-V is more than enough, especially with a boy who’s always wearing shades and likes to dance close, very, very close.