Randy Newman – Falling in Love
I don’t know about you, but these days I tend to struggle when it comes to finding new music without being directed towards it by other people or a helpful “Discover Weekly” playlist – the consequence being that I rarely get that lovely feeling of having come across something that is just mine, for a little while at least. This is why I miss the era of the lucky bag so very much (see Pete’s post on Modern Talking for more on this).
You always knew what you were getting with a lucky bag – usually five records, all of which would be unknown to you because they were flops and wouldn’t be in the bag otherwise – and four of them were almost guaranteed to be completely horrendous. Even though they’d only cost you twenty pence each, you’d still feel bad about putting them in the bin, which invariably meant that ten years on when your mother demanded you clear out all the crap from your bedroom you would find yourself squinting at the seven inch of Raw by Spandau Ballet wondering how on earth that got there.
But the fifth record – if you were very very lucky – would be a gem, and so it was with a lucky bag I purchased from DMC (Disco Music Centre) in Dumfries at some point in 1989. Determined to extract some value from this purchase, I played the records contained within the taped up bright orange carrier bag, saving something called Falling in Love by Randy Newman for last on the assumption that it would be the one I’d be least likely to enjoy. And so, after four total duffers and with a severe case of buyer’s remorse setting in, on it went – and within ten seconds I realised that the pound I’d spent represented possibly the greatest return on investment I’d ever achieve.
Now, at this late stage of the decade I was highly unlikely to listen to anything unless it had a “remix and additional production” credit somewhere on it, so this song represented a complete departure from my usual thing – it wasn’t sung by a girl, it didn’t gallop along at 128bpm or more and my brother liked it. And it was produced by Jeff Lynne, who at the time I associated with great big heaving records which sounded like they would collapse under their own weight at any moment (I have revised my opinion since then). Yet my love for it was complete and instantaneous, and every time I’ve heard it in the subsequent twenty nine years it’s brought the same stupid grin to my face and the odd tear too. It’s the kind of song you might expect to discover your parents dancing to in the kitchen when they think no-one’s watching.
From the perspective of a sixteen year old with precisely zero experience of the subject matter, Falling in Love seemed to offer a much more grown-up and realistic explanation than the slightly hysterical one provided by, say, Love in the First Degree by Bananarama. It’s a bit more fuzzy and confusing than that, which my forty-four year old self, who occasionally dances in the kitchen, can happily confirm.
Falling in Love – which I like to think of as a bit of a blueprint for Randy Newman: the Pixar years – also came (in 1989) with possibly the most self-aware video ever made, in which Randy is tasked with writing a love song for a Tom Selleck movie (Her Alibi, never seen it), gets gently mocked by his girlfriend (“what’s the matter, Phil Collins busy?”) and is then plunged onto a set which possibly created a worldwide dry ice shortage that year. It’s all very Beauty School Dropout, and thoroughly un-Randy – which makes it all the more delightful. Of course if you were looking to score a bit movie hit single at the time, you wouldn’t immediately think ‘get me Randy Newman!’ (though equally if you were looking to score a big hit movie you wouldn’t immediately think ‘get me Tom Selleck!’ either) – so Falling in Love never really stood a chance of being a hit here in the UK, hence its lucky bag fate. Lucky for me though, eh?
Entered chart: did not chart
Who could sing this today and have a hit? Perhaps this could be a surprise hit for, um, Donny Osmond following an appearance on the Sunday night edition of Strictly Come Dancing. Stranger things have happened.
Falling In Love did actually stand a small chance of becoming a hit, as it was the song performed by Newman along with an all-star cast of backing singers at the climax to the disastrous 1989 Brit Awards show. Indeed the show had gone so badly tits up that they were under running by about 15 minutes and so performed the damn thing twice just to eat up some time. Not even this could rescue it however and as you note it failed to graze the charts at all, despite a huge press campaign following up the live TV performance.
About 3-4 years ago it found its way onto the playlists distributed by companies who supply piped muzak to various public places. For a few weeks it seemed to be following me around as I’d hear it in petrol stations or over the PA system in shopping centres in a quite unexpected manner for a lost hit from 25 years earlier.
I missed those Brit Awards due to a ruddy power cut. The greatest television event of my lifetime. *sob*