Last Saturday, in the new episode of Gessles nio i topp on Swedish Radio, Per Gessle and Sven Lindström discussed songs about colors. According to Per, when you are listening to music, you often associate the songs with colors. In the studio he also associates his songs with colors. Sven says he read it about John Lennon that he also talked about colors, e.g. ”I want a green sound”. Mr. G says he can understand it and adds that there are a lot of songs that have colors in their titles.
Per’s Top 9 songs about colors
9. Cyndi Lauper – True Colors
8. Billy Idol – White Wedding
7. The Rolling Stones – Paint It Black
6. The Stranglers – Golden Brown
5. The Who – Behind Blue Eyes
4. Small Faces – Red Balloon
3. Visage – Fade To Grey
2. Booker T. & the M.G.’s – Green Onions
1. Van Morrison – Brown Eyed Girl
The ninth song on the list is True Colors from Cyndi Lauper from August 1986. It’s a fantastic song written by Tom Kelly and Billy Steinberg who were a very successful songwriter team before the ’90s. They wrote e.g. Like A Virgin for Madonna, I Drove All Night, Eternal Flame for The Bangles. Cyndi Lauper broke through 3 years before True Colors with Girls Just Want to Have Fun. Money Changes Everything is also a fun pop song of hers. True Colors was her last No. 1 on the US Billboard charts and then she disappeared. She did several come-backs though. One of her come-backs was with Kinky Boots, the musical which was a big success. True Colors was covered by Phil Collins in the ’90s. Sven says he read a story of Noel Gallagher who stated that their goal when they formed Oasis was to kick Phil Collins off the charts. Back to Cyndi, Per thinks she is a fantastic artist and has a very strong personality which can also be seen on stage.
Sven tells white is a color too and here comes one of Per’s bleached favourites. Next one is White Wedding from Billy Idol. Mr. G likes Billy Idol and thinks he released fantastic singles. He and his right hand, guitarist Steve Stevens looked out really cool. White Wedding was produced by Keith Forsey who started as a drummer. Drummers are very good producers, the guys say and mention Butch Vig as another example. White Wedding is on Billy’s first solo album from 1982, the year when GT released Sommartider. Sven thinks Sommartider was a bigger hit than White Wedding. Per agrees, but he still thinks WW is damn good. Sven has the feeling that the song was growing and growing and became a bigger hit later, not when it was first released. It came out as a single in autumn 1982, but didn’t chart on Billboard, which Sven can’t understand. Then it was released again in summer 1983 and peaked at No. 36 on the Billboard Hot 100. Dancing with Myself was the first single from the same album. That was a new recording of the old Generation X song. Billy Idol was in Generation X under the punk era in England, but then he moved to Los Angeles and started his solo career.
Song No. 7 is Paint It Black from The Rolling Stones from 1966. Per thinks it’s a magical song. It has a clash, being dangerous, but beautiful at the same time. The Rolling Stones was damn good in 1965-66. Per says he always thought PIB was recorded in England, but they recorded it in Los Angeles. Sven asks if Per realized that originally the song was released with the title Paint It, Black, with a comma. It disappeared later and Per thinks Mick Jagger wanted to add something intellectual. He couldn’t really find out why the comma was there. [The comma is said to be just a clerical error by Decca Records. /PP] PIB was released on the album Aftermath, which was the first LP of The Rolling Stones with songs written solely by Mick Jagger and Keith Richards. A year later came another album, Their Satanic Majesties Request, which is almost unlistenable according to Mr. G. They did fantastic singles though, e.g. Have You Seen Your Mother, Baby, Standing in the Shadow? which is phenomenal. It’s pop-psychedelia at its best. PIB is more than a classic pop song. Brian Jones plays the sitar in it and Per says The Rolling Stones was awesome when he was in the band. One could recognize it when it was Brian playing the instruments. Sven says Johnny Ramone was following Brian Jones and he even copied his hairdo.
Next is Golden Brown from The Stranglers. Their first album was Rattus Norvegicus. They came with the English new wave era in the end of the ’70s. Per doesn’t have a close relation to them, the only song he was listening to was Golden Brown from 1981. He liked the harpsichord sound in it. Their song Peaches was damn good too. Sven remembers when he was in London in 1977-78, it was there in all pubs on the jukebox. They even had a song about Sweden, Sweden (All Quiet on the Eastern Front) written by Hugh Cornwell. In Golden Brown one can hear The Doors influence. Per doesn’t really know what the song is about. Drugs or something else. Its best position on the charts was No. 2 in the UK. Well-deserved, Per says. The song has a lovely atmosphere, great production and it’s in fine 6/8 time signature. It’s a little odd for being a song from 1981. It certainly stood out on the radio when it was released.
No. 5 is Behind Blue Eyes from 1971 from The Who, one of Sven and Per’s common favourite band. Sven says earlier they had a program with nine best songs from 1971 and this song wasn’t on that list. Per says it could have been on that one too. It’s from The Who’s 5th album and for Per that’s the best The Who album of all. There is no bad track on it. Maybe you can skip John Entwistle’s My Wife. Pete Townshend peaks here and the whole band is in top shape. Sven also thinks they were one of the biggest bands in the world in the ’70s and this album was incredibly perfect. It was kind of a follow-up album to Tommy, instead of the rock opera, Lifehouse. Behind Blue Eyes is a wonderful ballad according to Per. Sven says it’s a ballad for appr. 2 minutes and 18 seconds, but then comes Keith Moon in and the band explodes. The power chords of Pete Townshend are awesome. Mr. G says he always thought The Who’s weakest link was Roger Daltrey’s singing, but he reconsidered it and now he thinks he is a fantastic singer. When he was listening to Pete Townshend’s demos he realized how much Roger Daltrey added to the songs. Also if you are watching their early live performances, you can see he is a great frontman.
Next song is Red Balloon from Small Faces. It came out in 1969 on The Autumn Stone double LP which Per had when he was a child. It was a cover of Tim Hardin’s song. Sven says there is more hippie feeling in it, but Per says one could sense it already in Tin Soldier or Lazy Sunday. It’s a typical Small Faces song, it has a fantastic soundscape. Tim Hardin was a great songwriter. He also wrote If I Were a Carpenter and Lady Came from Baltimore. Red Balloon was not a big song for Tim. Bobby Darin covered it too. It was one of Per’s favourite songs when he grew up and his records were his best friends. Sven asks if one can say it’s a cozy song. Per says not really if you know what the lyric is about. It’s about drugs. Sven laughs and says it’s a recurring theme, but they are picking songs about colors after all.
No. 3 is Fade To Grey from Visage from 1980. It was one of the first synthpop hits. It sounded modern. When you say synthpop, today people think of the digital world we live in and how you make music on laptops. It was actually the beginning of it all. Visage was a new wave band and they became linked to the New Romantic movement. Sven says regarding the genre, one can link to Bowie’s Berlin albums or maybe even Kraftwerk. Per adds Bowie’s Scary Monsters album too, which was released the same year as Fade To Grey. Steve Strange, who was the brain behind Visage appeared in the video to Bowie’s Ashes to Ashes. Steve Strange was a scene-maker what was hip in the ’70s in London. He had a club there, called Billy’s. Midge Ure, founding member of Visage, singer-songwriter was in another band too, Ultravox and they released their album Vienna the same year as Visage released FTG. Everyone in Visage wanted to do a different project, so no wonder the band broke up. The video to FTG was directed by Godley & Creme from the band 10cc.
No. 2 is Green Onions from Booker T. & the M.G.’s. It’s one of Sven’s favourite bands, he thinks they are super cool. GO was their break-through song in 1962. They became a houseband at Stax Records in Memphis and played on hundreds of recordings. They also did instrumental covers of The Beatles’ Abbey Road songs. Sven asks Per if he knows Hammond organ. He says he stumbled over it, but he is a keyboard guy. He tells Sven ”you know, I come from a band that plays Farfisa organ.” Sven says Hammond organs already existed in the ’30s. It was invented by Laurens Hammond and it has a fantastic sound. Jazz musician Jimmy Smith was a Hammond organist. Jon Lord from Deep Purple also played it even live on stage, Billy Preston too on The Rolling Stones tours. Mr. G says they should have a separate program about songs with Hammond organ. In Green Onions Booker T. Jones also plays Hammond organ and Steve Cropper plays the guitar. Booker T. & the M.G.’s was a band that consisted of both white and black members. Their name comes from the British car brand MG, however, their record label stated that it stood for Memphis Group.
No. 1 is Van Morrison’s Brown Eyed Girl. Whenever Per hears this song he becomes happy. Van Morrison was the singer of Them before, but this was released by him as a solo artist. BEG was released in 1967. It’s one of the most played songs on American radios of all time. Once when Sven was in Liverpool with a gang of Beatles fans, a friend of him from Malmö said he knew the guitarist in Frankie Goes to Hollywood, Brian Nash. He was also from Liverpool and he was there and showed them around. It was much fun. He talked a lot about his career in bands, playing at weddings and parties, as well as in cover bands. Sven asked which song is the most popular that people ask most often to be played and he said Brown Eyed Girl. And then they all started singing it there in Liverpool. It has a magnetic effect, Per says and he thinks it’s a song of timeless quality.