Peach – On My Own
When you were young, did your parents ever try to get you to listen to classical music, telling you that the big composers were the pop stars of their day? If you were anything like me you probably muttered “what do you know?” under your breath and went back to playing your seven inch of I Should Be So Lucky, completely unaware that it was based on Pachelbel’s Canon in D. As, it turns out, are a lot of other records – including All Together Now by the Farm and Don’t Look Back in Anger by Oasis. In fact its chord progression has cropped up so often that Pete Waterman calls it “almost the godfather of pop music”. Today, however, we’re not discussing this particular godfather, rather the ‘funny uncle’ of pop music – Finland’s Jean Sibelius, whose Symphony No.5 (premiered in 1915) has lent itself to several completely amazing pop songs, and one by Sinitta. Here’s how it normally sounds (fast forward to 1:20 for the relevant bit).
The section we’re talking about is known as the ‘swan motif’, as it was apparently inspired by a swan’s call – I’ve only ever heard swans make very angry sounding honks, but maybe things are different in Finland. As far as I’m aware it first recognisably appeared in pop music in 1974 during Beach Baby by The First Class – a no.13 UK hit. Fast forward to 3:05 for the goosebumpy bit and all will become clear.
Ten years later along came Strawberry Switchblade with what turned out to be one of my ten favourite records of all time, Since Yesterday. The Sibelius lift graduates here from ‘nice bit in the middle’ to the entire hook of the record and it is just unspeakably brilliant. I’ve included the twelve inch mix here because it delivers maximum swan and also a really lovely oboe solo. This one is the Sibelius chart-champ, peaking at no.5 in the UK.
Then, in 1988, there it was again, this time in Sinitta’s I Don’t Believe in Miracles. For me this is one of the lesser songs in her canon, but Sibelius enlivens the chorus no end. This one hit no.22 in the UK. Zip along to 0:51 for the good bit.
Things went a bit quiet after that, but you clearly can’t keep a good motif down because in 1996 exciting new trio Peach (or Peach Union if you’re reading this in America) delivered On My Own which, gratifyingly, finally put the swan into Mute Records. Sibelius crops up here at 2:52, though they do change it a tiny bit. It’s a lovely grace note in a record which would actually cope very well without it, but gosh I’m glad it’s there.
Now, far be it from me to question the tactics of record company executives, but I can’t help but note that Peach appeared during that awkward Saint Etienne interregnum between late 1995 and early 1998. There were obvious similarities – two boys (one of whom was ace producer Pascal Gabriel) one girl, shared influences (both on record and record sleeve), and in singer Lisa Lamb, a suitable Shelley Preston-esque replacement for the ‘tienne should Sarah Cracknell ever flounce off. Of course I’m doing them a great disservice here, but I sort of resented them at the time because I didn’t know if my favourite band were coming back. However, I did grudgingly love On My Own. It really is a great single, and it does one of my favourite things in pop, which is to fool you into thinking it’s only ok by virtue of a slightly pedestrian verse, followed by an anticipatory bridge bit. This part is very important because it gives you a few toe-tapping seconds in which your brain has a ‘this could go either way’ moment, and when it goes the right way – as it does here, into a spectacularly brilliant chorus – it’s all the more joyous. Especially because with the ‘oooh la la la’ backing vocals it immediately recalls the previous year’s One Man In My Heart by the Human League, which is obviously one of the greatest pop moments ever.
So by this point in the single I was willing to dump all my prejudices and declare that Peach were really very good indeed, and then the Sibelius bit popped up and I decided they were amazing and prepared for a life of fandom. But On My Own flopped the first time out, and by the time it got a re-release in 1998 (thanks to a plum slot on the Sliding Doors soundtrack) Saint Etienne were back, Dubstar had come along and turned my head and I sort of forgot about them, not even buying the album when it eventually came out that June. And that was it for Peach. I can’t help but feel slightly responsible.
By my reckoning we are now long overdue a new pop appearance from Sibelius. What’s stopping you, pop stars? It’s a great hook, makes any record at least 50% better and perhaps most importantly – you don’t have to pay any royalties. Anyone?
Entered chart: 14/09/1996
Chart peak: 69 (on re-release in 1998)
Weeks on chart: 2 (cumulative)
Who could sing this today and have a hit? Does Pixie Lott have a hit left in her? If so, this could be it.