69 Love Songs #1

by Oliver Rose

Photo Credit: Predgucia Magazine

I’m retiring my column Pretending To See The Future after eighteen instalments – that’s more than enough to synth your teeth into… 

Last week, I was re-listening to The Magnetic Fields’ 1999 opus, 69 Love Songs. It’s a fantastic album and, despite songwriter Stephin Merritt’s protestations, it contains some of the most beautiful love-songs of our time. The record’s focus is, in his eyes anyway, removed from love-songs specifically, such that the tracks comprising it aren’t love-songs at all – rather, they are songs about love.

It got me wondering about love-songs in a wider sense – my own favourite songs about love in general. Quickly, I was compiling a list; soon after I decided to devote a column to it.

So, in short, this new fortnightly entry from me will feature three tracks from sixty-nine. Some of them are straight-up love-songs; most address the subject in a different way. Regret, pain, confusion – it’s all here. I hope you enjoy my selection, personal though it is – I think there are some real corkers in here…

1. You Don’t Have to Say You Love Me – Dusty Springfield 


We begin then with a perverse love-song from the heart of British soul – the late, great Dusty Springfield. This track, adapted from an Italian number, is a sweeping baroque-pop masterstroke, from its swelling strings to the distinctly smoky flavour of Springfield’s powerful voice. The dynamic is sonically massive, and yet the sincerity is real – at no point does the track seem pantomimic. It is the pure, crystalline form of that which Merritt toys with on 69 Love Songs, and, at almost three-minutes exactly, it’s perfectly pop-sized (another of Merritt’s agendas). Its sentiments are similarly indisposed; the suggestion that although actions speak louder than words, it’s not possible to dispense with the latter entirely; there’s certainly a mournful tone to this record, even if, underneath, its aim is adoring.

2. Pure – The Lightning Seeds 


Soppy anecdote: my parents each own a 12” copy of this single, bought for one by the other. I know, right? To be fair, this track is plainly excellent. It’s an incredibly simple pop-song comprising uncomplicated chords, sparse arrangements and succinct lyrics – as pure technically as it is in thought. Lyrical clichés include rainbows, the moon and, of course, eyes. It truly is cynic’s kryptonite, this, but its superfluousness is just too massive to dismiss. Ian Broudie’s joyfully wonky indie croon is accompanied by organ tones straight off of a The The record and jangly guitars, with Billy Bragg-esque trumpeting to boot (oh, and some Peter Hook-style high-end bass playing too). Paul McCartney would, no doubt, call it “silly”, but even down to its naïve–styled sleeve, Pure is innocent fun.

3. I’ll Never Be Anybody’s Hero – Morrissey 


To the affected masses reading this column, I apologise for you have waited long enough. Produced by long-time Bowie-collaborator and all-round glam-era hero Tony Visconti in a recording complex below the Sacro Cuore di Maria in Rome, the album, Ringleader Of The Tormentors, seems to represent Morrissey’s long-speculated and shockingly honest concession to true love. As ever, the Hulmerist balances cunning and agony precisely (anyone willing to dismiss Morrissey as a political loudmouth exclusively, think again – that he may very well be, but his love-songs are tragically excellent). Lamenting the death of a lover over an utterly magnificent tune from Alain Whyte, St. Steven’s vocal melodies glide beautifully over meandering bass and a glorious orchestra of hyperbolic guitars. Never was the lonely aftermath of a match made in heaven so wonderfully pondered.

Listen to the PearShaped 69 Love Songs Playlist below.