Monday, 23 February 2009

Nothing Rhymed : Gilbert O'Sullivan, Tom Jones, Morrissey, Dusty Springfield

I was thinking a lot about rhyming, in song lyrics & poetry, after a comment here recently. My own preference is very much for it, although I understand how forced it can feel to write with such constraints, and how forced, even trite, it can seem to the listener/reader. In some ways, that difficulty, a maze of hurdles to be negotiated gracefully, is exactly what I enjoy so much; the pleasure of both expected & unexpected rhymes & rhythms is what makes songs, and some poetry, such fine things to discover and revisit.

The choice of tune to accompany such thoughts might seem rather obvious, and perhaps it is; but for me, it's one that on first impressions, can easily seem to be a bit "rhymes for the sake of it", not helped perhaps by Gilbert O'Sullivan's typical delivery. Look/listen more closely though, and there's real quality here, more immediately obvious in Tom Jones' version (so long as Tom Jones' usual style doesn't put you right off...).

For me, Jones lends the words deserved gravity & feeling, easily overlooked in any of O'Sullivan's songs, due to both his voice, and (if you're old enough to remember him on telly), appearance. That's unfair, but true, I'd say - and accounts for him being greatly underrated as a writer.

Nothing Rhymed - Gilbert O'Sullivan
Himself (1971)
buy | website

Nothing Rhymed - Tom Jones
She's a Lady (1971)


I found a very nice version, again with more obvious feeling, from the lovely Dusty Springfield - live on the Marty Feldman Comedy Machine show, in 1971, video below.
Nothing Rhymed - Dusty Springfield

Morrissey covered the song live, and even introduced himself as "I am, for now, Gilbert O'Sullivan" - not a great bootleg recording here, but hey.
Nothing Rhymed - Morrissey
live at the Ambassador Theatre, Dublin, Ireland (2002)

If I give up the seat I've been saving
To some elderly lady or man
Am I being a good boy
Am I your pride and joy
Mother please, if you're pleased. say I am

And if while in the course of my duty
I perform an unfortunate take
Would you punish me so, unbelievably so ?
Never again will I make that mistake

This feeling inside me could never deny me
The right to be wrong if I choose
And this pleasure I get
From say, winning a bet
Is to lose

When I'm drinking my Bonaparte Shandy
Eating more than enough apple pies
Will I glance at my screen and
see real human beings
Starve to death -
Right in front of my eyes

Nothing old, nothing new, nothing ventured
Nothing gained, nothing still-born or lost
Nothing further than proof
nothing wilder than youth
Nothing older than time
nothing sweeter than wine
Nothing physically, recklessly, hopelessly blind
Nothing I couldn't say
Nothing why 'cos today
Nothing rhymed

Listening to all the versions, and re-reading the lyrics, leaves me way more appreciative of the original performance; what do you think?. I'm impressed, even though I've always liked his work, and will return to Gilbert O'Sullivan again soon.
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