It’s gone and got a bit autumnal here this last week and so I have found myself reaching for music that is the equivalent of slipping into a nice warm bath for me, The Beloved Happiness. I wasn’t hepcat enough to have discovered this when it came out in 1990, although I had definitely spent chunks of time dancing to bits of it in clubs in the years until a foxy girlfriend played it for me one hazy horizontal afternoon; I was smitten*.
The goofy opener ‘Hello’ is the one that did the damage to my defences, it still never fails to make me smile to this day. I will fess up here and now that I have a medically diagnosed weakness for list songs and the Beloved’s very tongue-in-chic mangling together of cultural figures and slightly crap British TV celebrities does it for me every time, allied to a great tune, excellent beat and the most laid back vocals this side of JJ Cale and I was/am totally defenceless. Come on, a song that can name check John Paul Sartre and Barry Humphries … hello!
Little Richard, Little Nell
Willy Wonka and William Tell
Salman Rushdie and Kym Mazelle
Hello, hello, hello, hello…
NIpple warning! He dances like me, although I am marginally less prone to getting my nips out in public, marginally:
Then it gets even better. ‘Your Love Takes Me Higher’ ratchets up the BPM and gives me flashbacks to the taste of dry ice, the feel of the water bottle in my hand and the flashing of a trigazillion strobes. It’s yet another perfect concoction of happy housey beats, soft and melodic but totally insistent; the sort of thing that still makes me flail my limbs around like a loon, albeit in my own kitchen these days, mostly. Happiness then makes a clever left turn into rather gorgeous 80’s pop with ‘Time After Time’ which is all mature and happy/sad in a way that I would normally flee from as fast as my Adidas would take me, but wrapped up in these strings I fully embrace.
Finally I’d like to send lots of love and big hello to anyone that knows us. Deep joy to the Little Lord Jesus and hugs to everyone who’s felt that 5am loving feeling. It’s just the sun rising!
That excerpt from the LP dedication notes gives the game away a little. Happiness always had the reputation as a very, umm, ecstatic LP and it’s true, the whole album is built along a naïve friendly communal quest for love and, double umm, happiness. It was very much an album for folk to play when they found themselves at home after the night out at 5am, somehow unable to sleep. Which is exactly why ‘The Sun Rising’ is so damnably perfect here, because chances are it was when you got around to playing Side 2. Just listen to that bass! Talk about some deep house magic, this is it along with all those half-whispered vocals and that fabulous vocal sample takes you back to every happy dawn you’ve ever witnessed, every harmonious uppy without any lurking nasty neggies. I know it’s kind of corny but I think it is absolutely magic.
Similarly great is the closing one-two punch of the high-tempo ‘Up, Up And Away’, by far the most conventional dance track here (and no worse for that) and the far subtler ‘Found’, with its dignified, heartfelt, slow-burning declaration of love.
(Takes a moment to sigh deeply, contemplating all the happiness of youth, the ability to stay up all night, the recklessness of yore and the loss of certainty/hair)
Sorry, where was I? Ahh, the snows of yesteryear, Beloved Happiness. I have thoroughly enjoyed revisiting this mellow treasure trove. The mood is perfect, some of the tracks are too but it doesn’t manage to be a perfect LP, ‘I Love You More’ misses the mark and just gibbers like a zonked out simpleton and there are definitely a couple of lesser tracks here, but hey let’s not harsh the vibe, folks, Happiness can be a real tonic.
What was interesting to me is that both my kids have really picked up on Happiness this week too, who’d have thought it all those years ago? Anyway got to go, I need to finish putting the shelves up in the garage before my former foxy girlfriend gets back from her sister’s house.
*he said ambiguously.