Sunday, 25 October 2009
SMOKEY ROBINSON at the ROUNDHOUSE
Smokey Robinson’s songs have enriched my life and made the world a better place. I absolutely love him but it hasn’t always been that way.
As a twelve year old wannabe punk in the summer of ‘81 I hated him. “Being With You” was number one and the sight of him of Top Of The Tops mincing around that apartment, pretending to sniff flowers, coked off his noggin, and singing like a big girl was too much to take. And a red pool table. Who ever saw such a thing?
By the time of the Christmas school disco I’d switched allegiances to the Mod/2-Tone brigade and had perfected that hopping and kicking from foot to foot dance that all the in-crowd did to Madness records. We’d only dance to them, The Jam, and “Ghost Town”, which wasn’t an easy record to dance to, and sneer at the Adam and the Ants and Duran Duran nonsense.
There was a girl, Janet, that I fancied. We’d had a bit of history in primary school. I’d call for her in the mornings until her Mum started talking to me in Italian. I was so petrified I didn’t dare call again. We’d snog (that’s me and Janet, not me and her Mum) behind the gate in the playground and in the field opposite her house. She wrote me a letter saying how good I was at football and I bought her a necklace from the newsagent for Valentine’s Day. We split up and I tried to woo her back on the last day of school by going through all my copies of Shoot! to tear out all the Arsenal posters for her. It didn’t work. She looked at me like I was some sort of cretin. I can still picture her putting her chair on the table, walking out, and that was that.
We moved to secondary school and were in separate classes but she was at this school disco, stood over the right hand side of stage, and I’d been keeping my beady eye on her. She always looked different to other girls: petite, short boyish hair, red t-shirt with "Paris" on it and wearing a neckerchief – quite a sophisticated continental look for a twelve year old in 1981. The DJ played some smoochy number and I tried rustling up the courage to ask her to dance. I left it too long and thought if he plays another I’ll go for it. Cue that frigging horrible sax solo at the start of “Being With You”. Typical. Still, get in there my son. I asked her. She looked embarrassed and looked at the floor. Then looked at her mate. Then at me. She didn’t say anything. Time slowed right down. By now that cretinous feeling was creeping up on me again. Come on girl. More silence, more sideways glances. Go on. Smokey was hitting his stride, cooing away. Finally, after an eternity, she begrudgingly agreed. We walked to a spot on the dancefloor and the moment I put my arms around her, “Hey you! Don’t watch that, watch this! This is the heavy heavy monster sound, the nuttiest sound around”, comes booming out, “One step beyond!” and I’m swamped in a sea of manic moonstomping and never got my hands on her again.
Twenty eight years later and Smokey is in front of me singing that same bloody song, but I don’t care. He can sing whatever he wants, however he wants. He can even stick a sickly Spanish rap in the middle if he wants, and he does. He is Smokey Robinson. Nuff said.