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Photo by Kelly Sikkema on Unsplash

Roxette’s “It Must Have Been Love” has to be the coolest, most detached Scandinavian take possible on having your heart broken.

Its appearance on the soundtrack at one of most poignant moments in the classic movie “Pretty Woman” propelled “It Must Have Been Love” to the top of the charts around the world in 1990, including a spell at the Number One spot on the Billboard Hot 100.

Written by Roxette’s Per Gessle, “It Must Have Been Love” started off as a Christmas song, of all things, back in 1987, with the subtitle “Christmas For The Broken Hearted”. In some ways, knowing that makes the song all the more poignant…not only is vocalist Marie Fredriksson all on her own, just after having her heart broken, but the cad who left her walked out just before Christmas! …

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Photo by Emily Morter on Unsplash

As the old saying goes, the road to hell is paved with good intentions.

“I’m just a soul whose intentions are good/Please don’t let me be misunderstood” is the sort of PR-scripted, law firm vetted, apology you hear from politicians and business leaders caught with their hands in the till or, indeed, in a variety of other places their hands shouldn’t have been.

“Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood” was written for Nina Simone by Bennie Benjamin, Horace Ott and Sol Marcus. …

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Photo by Eric Froehling on Unsplash

Growing up, I loved the Philadelphia sound. Their brand of smooth, sophisticated soul was everywhere in the 1970s, bridging a gap between the rawer 1960s-style soul and the disco revolution, which would soon dominate our airwaves, record shops and cinema screens.

Philadelphia International Records, to use the label’s proper name, was founded in 1971 by Kenneth Gamble and Leon Huff, along with Thom Bell.

Gamble and Huff had become friendly while working as session musicians in the Philadelphia area. …

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Photo by Jordan Wozniak on Unsplash

“La La Land” is one of the most beautiful films in recent memory. Sure it has some great songs too, “Another Day Of Sun” among them, but as a piece of visual art, “La La Land” is nothing short of extraordinary.

The whole movie is clever, achingly beautiful, poignant and heartfelt from start to finish, with large chunks shot in long, continuous takes which I can only imagine must have been a nightmare for actors, dancers and directors alike.

But I’m glad they persevered. The end product is certainly worth it.

The first time I saw the opening sequence, performed to the song “Another Day Of Sun”, I was captivated. The song itself is wonderful, and the choreography spectacular. …

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Photo by Ioana Cristiana on Unsplash

“The Candy Man” is one of those songs which never fails to lift your mood, no matter what’s going on in the world.

Many of us remember it fondly from watching the movie “Willie Wonka And The Chocolate Factory” as children…and perhaps again with our own children and grandchildren. It brings back memories of happy times and safe spaces, being surrounded by love, and smiles on children’s faces.

The “Willie Wonka” movie was adapted from Roald Dahl’s book “Charlie And The Chocolate Factory” (good family quiz night question there — the movie and the book had two slightly different titles).

Roald Dahl had written lyrics for some of the songs in his original book, but “The Candy Man” was written specifically for the film by a partnership which came about as close as you could get to songwriting royalty in the late 1960s and early 1970s — lyricist Leslie Bricusse and composer Anthony Newley. …

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Photo by Mike Erskine on Unsplash

I was too young to see “Love Story” in 1970 when the film first came out. But when I saw it for the first time many years later, I was captivated by the music.

Francis Lai won a well-deserved Best Original Score Oscar for his work on “Love Story”. Seldom has a film score captured and amplified the emotions on-screen as well as Francis Lai did on this occasion.

“Love Story” is a hugely emotional film in itself, of course, and there’s always a danger that the score for a very emotional film over-does the emotions, detracting from, rather than adding to the emotions we see playing out in front of our eyes. …

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Photo by Markus Spiske on Unsplash

“Star” by Stealers Wheel is the musical equivalent of one of those “how it started…how it turned out” memes. Except in reverse.

The story starts brightly enough…

So they made you a star

Unfortunately it goes downhill from there pretty quickly.

Nowadays Stealers Wheel are best known for their song “Stuck In The Middle With You” which, after 20 years in relative obscurity, got an unexpected revival as the musical backdrop to a particularly memorable scene in Quentin Tarantino’s 1992 blockbuster movie “Reservoir Dogs”.

And “Stuck In The Middle With You” is a great song, no question. …

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Photo by David Heslop on Unsplash

There aren’t many blood-soaked movies about hit men with iconic folk-influenced songs on their soundtrack, but Quentin Tarantino’s 1992 film “Reservoir Dogs” is one of them.

Tarantino was looking for a jolt to cinema-goers’ senses and something to serve as a counterpoint to a particularly notorious scene in “Reservoir Dogs”. His choice of Stealers Wheel’s “Stuck In The Middle With You” would turn out to be a masterstroke, reviving a wonderful song from 20 years earlier and raising it to iconic status in the process.

Gerry Rafferty and Joe Egan wrote “Stuck In The Middle With You” and originally recorded it with their band Stealers Wheel in 1972. …

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Photo by Liam Riby on Unsplash

Marc Almond has had an interesting musical journey. He started out as one half of pioneering synth-pop duo Soft Cell. Their biggest hit was the 1981 UK Number One “Tainted Love”, but they also racked up a series of commercial and critical successes before disbanding in the mid-1980s.

Soft Cell’s “Tainted Love” was a cover of Gloria Jones’s 1964 original with a synthesiser-based makeover. The original was never a hit in either the US or the UK so it was virtually unknown before Soft Cell’s cover. …

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Photo by Dan Gribbin on Unsplash

Whether you think “Without You” is a Nilsson song or a Mariah Carey song largely depends how old you are. But the correct answer is “neither”.

“Without You” was written in 1970 by two members of British group Badfinger, Pete Ham and Tom Evans, and was first recorded by Badfinger for their 1970 album “No Dice”.

Badfinger’s main claim to fame was that they were the first group signed to the Beatles’ Apple record label. Although modestly popular at the time, the group imploded in the early 1970s in the aftermath of series of lawsuits and contractual disputes.

Even Badfinger themselves didn’t think “Without You” was that great a song and never released their album track as a single. …


No Words, No Song

Without words, it’s just a nice tune. Add words — now you’ve got a song. And songs can change your world. I write about some that changed mine.

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