Song 139: The English Beat “Save It For Later” (1982)

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Another one for the “so simple, but so great” category. The entirety of “Save It For Later” is three chords, yet the English Beat (known in the U.K. only as “The Beat”; it was changed here because Americans are easily confused) stuffed the song with strings, saxophones, and sexual puns.

It takes a couple listens (it did for me, anyway) to realize that the lyrics of “Save It For Later” contain a filthy joke: “hold my hand while I come… to a decision on it”, which makes the preceding “Two dozen other dirty lovers must be a sucker for it” more than a little risqué. And awesome.

I first heard this song as a cover by Harvey Danger, which is kind of embarrassing to admit, but what are you gonna do (I stand by my love for Harvey Danger, though). I sought out the English Beat version and realized that these were the same dudes that did “Mirror In the Bathroom,” which initially struck me as strange: that song is jagged and ska-driven, and “Save It For Later” is the very definition of pop music, with no rough edges. It’s like two different bands.

Speaking of covers, many bands have covered this song. I don’t know if that’s because its three-chord structure makes it fun and simple to play with, or just because it’s a good song. Either way, it’s a fun one to randomly hear pop up, because it never gets old. I guess fellatio jokes, like classy string arrangements and pretty melodies, are like that.

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Song 87: Marshall Crenshaw, “Mary Anne” (1982)

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This one is all dependent on that intro, and the intro phrase that repeats throughout the song. Without it, “Mary Anne” is a standard-issue “don’t worry about it, girl” song, a midtempo ballad about not letting the bad things get you down. That crisp, warm guitar line is what makes this song work.

I’m not guitar- or gear-savvy enough to know what kind of guitar effects Marshall Crenshaw is using in this song, but whatever it is, it’s providing just enough edge to prove his point. The edge is giving the song the bite that acknowledges that life isn’t great (“it isn’t such a crime”, “it happens all the time”), while the chords (the ever-versatile I-IV-V chords, with some minors thrown in) provide the comfort.

As I’ve said before, I’m no vinyl snob, but this one sounds great on record. The coldness of a CD and the clarity of a digital copy just wouldn’t do it justice.