Classic Songs of My Youth Revisited #35

The Outfield – Your Love

From September 1984 to the spring of 1986, my main source of new music – and primary viewing pleasure – was MuchMusic, Canada’s only 24-hour music video channel. That was sort of a lie – they initially had eight hours of programming that was then repeated twice – but in that lie was also the knowledge that if they played, say, “Like A Virgin” at 1:38 p.m., you could safely tune in at 9:38 that night and 5:38 the next morning for another Madonna fix.

That all came to an end in the spring of 1986 when I began renting a room in the home of a lovely lady in her 90s who was known to all in her circle (regardless of actual blood affiliation) as Granny. Granny controlled the television with occasional jokey (though I never tested this) threats of lethal force, as I had enough problems right then without adding “fistfight with a near-centenarian” to the list. Granny had her shows (I wish I could say for certain that “Murder, She Wrote” was one of them, but let’s just agree that it was) and I could either watch with her or do something else. The one concession was that I convinced her to check out “ALF” when it debuted in September 1986, and it soon became our weekly ritual to watch together, even past the point when I had tired of the show, because it seemed to make Granny happy to do this one small thing together.

Because I no longer had a television or reasonable access to someone else’s, I rarely saw music videos between May 1986 and spring 1990, when I moved in with my then-girlfriend and her Panasonic. As a result, I had no awareness of the video representations of most of my favourite songs of that era (and still don’t, really) unless they became ubiquitous in the culture, like Peter Gabriel’s “Sledgehammer”. Which meant that when I finally watched the video for The Outfield’s “Your Love”, more than 37 years after its release, I was, umm, a little confused.

I have been hooked on “Your Love” since I first heard it in early 1986, so I don’t know why I missed the video initially. I bought the album on cassette and regularly listened to the entire thing – it’s just one pop gem after another. The lyrics to “Your Love” always seemed pretty straightforward to me: the narrator’s girlfriend Josie is out of town and he’s hooking up with his slightly older and very secret side piece who he’s more attached to than he’s prepared to admit. But there are other theories. That Josie is the older girl, and he’s hooking up with someone too young for him. (Creepy.) That Josie is a man and he’s sneaking around with his friend’s gal. (Plausible – though there aren’t a lot of male Josies.) Who expected such worlds of possibility in a humble pop song?

But that video? There is some conceptual weirdness going on here. Why is the woman painting the album cover during the video shoot? Is she supposed to be drawing inspiration from being with the band? There is a sort of flirtation with chipmunk-cheeked frontman Tony Lewis and then that out of left field check in from guitarist John Spinks (R.I.P. to both men), but it’s also clear she isn’t even looking in their direction while they perform, despite some shots through the glass she is painting on that suggest otherwise. And do Spinks and his fellow guitar player think they’re in a different band? A power stance? This isn’t metal, fellows: it barely qualifies as rock. And just a style question: is there a rule somewhere that blind keyboard players have to wear shades? (See Milsap, Ronnie, and Charles, Ray, and Wonder, Stevie, and – oh, you get the point.) Then there is the paint dripping down the screen, suggesting a connection between the song and the painting that doesn’t really exist. And, finally, she just ups and starts to leave halfway through the song. Sorry, boys – at least you’re going to get a pretty cool album cover out of it.

“Your Love” isn’t exactly unique: the strain to connect the visuals to the song was a constant in that era, though considering that this song actually tells a story, the effort really should’ve been saved for some other tune. And let’s face it: some bands are just meant to be heard and not seen, and the era when videos were the key promotional device threw that reality out of whack. I’m not saying The Outfield were such a band, but not everyone could fit as smoothly into that box as, say, Huey Lewis & the News, with their strong-jawed but obviously goofy frontman and his super cool and very game band mates.

In the end, though, it’s the song that perseveres. It’s a fantastic power pop record, a little more new wave influenced perhaps than others of that ilk, and with a great opening guitar hook that draws you in (and different hooks later that keep you listening – the guitar has three different motifs by my count, which come and go throughout). There’s an echoey effect to the whole song, and I’ve always loved the drums, which have a subtle boom that serves as a nice counterpoint to the texture of Lewis’ voice (which I like best when he goes low about a third of the way through) and the shift to more tinny guitar in parts (and the song doesn’t really kick into gear until drummer Alan Jackman shows up 29 seconds in). It’s a song that doesn’t overstay its welcome, a mere 3:36 of boy meets girl/boy cheats on girl with another girl or on his best friend with girl/boy feels deep regret and shame but knows he’s going to do the whole thing all over again the first chance he gets. You know: a pop song.

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