Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Top 100 Songs From the 1990s (No. 12)

12. "A Girl Like You"
Artist: Edwyn Collins
Year: 1994

It was Oct. 10, 1995. I had just moved to Washington, D.C., after two years in rural East Asia and was still playing catch up with all things pop culture. The television was on late that evening, nothing but background noise while I thumbed through the paper, when my ears picked this up from Conan O'Brien: "Ladies and gentlemen, my next guest is here to perform a song currently climbing the U.S. charts after enjoying huge success worldwide. His new album is called 'Gorgeous George.' It's a real pleasure to welcome Edwyn Collins."


I really had been gone a long time.

The album had come out more than a year earlier, and "A Girl Like You" had already been a smash around the world, including peaking at No. 4 in the UK nearly five months earlier. America was discovering it as a single spawned from the soundtrack to the film 'Empire Records.' Like Nick Lowe with "(What's So Funny 'Bout) Peace, Love and Understanding," Mr. Collins finally had his song to pay the bills, and I couldn't have been happier for him. For you trivia buffs, "A Girl Like You" would make it all the way to No. 32 on the Billboard Hot 100.

The way the song was performed on TV that night didn't really prepare me for the studio version. In fact, the music was almost secondary. I remember thinking "there's no way that's Edwyn Collins on my television." Those of you in the UK may not understand this, but I had never actually seen him move before. I only knew Edwyn from stills in magazines and on album sleeves. Then I wondered if that could possibly be Paul Cook from the Sex Pistols back there on the kit. It turned out Cook played that catchy vibraphone part on the record. I also thought Collins' guitar seemed pretty hard and not all that jangly, but I thought it sounded great anyway. I bought 'Gorgeous George' the next day.

To this day, I don't think "A Girl Like You" sounds like Edwyn Collins, but I love it anyway. I liken it to Nilsson's "Jump Into the Fire." Great song, a big hit, but not much like the work that defined him. I dedicate this one to Mrs. LTL. This will be her second favorite song in my little group of 100. Her No. 1 is still about a week away...


The Swede said...

What a terrific performance, I can totally see why it stopped you in your tracks. I've never seen it before today and felt compelled to watch it through twice. Brilliant.
'A Girl Like You' was omnipresent on UK radio at that time and is still a regular 'oldie' to this day. It's one of those rare and magic pop songs that ticks boxes for multiple age groups, making its appeal broad.

C said...

As The Swede says! This footage stopped me in my tracks too and has given me goosebumps. Superb performance of a perfect song.

kevinpat said...

Every time I heard this song I thought it was Bowie! Catchy as kissing with the flu and a great song from the 90s. I like the Conan performance. Mr. Collins (Edwyn. Gawdforbid not Phil…) can really play those instruments, ringing the life from that guitar. Cool. Bravo. Thanks. There are also some other very snappy songs on that Empire Records soundtrack.

Echorich said...

This one hits deep inside my 90's top 10. Yes it's not the Edwyn Collins any of us would have expected, but one good listen and you know it couldn't be anyone else. But it's a buzzy, deeply confindent, world weary or experienced sounding Collins - maybe this is why his voice is deeper and so grounded.
I agree that you'd be lying if you didn't, at least for a moment think this was some new, timely sounding Bowie track - it's all in the voice and swagger.

drew said...

A few years ago when he played the ABC in Glasgow with Roddy Frame on guitar, Frame totally wigged out during this and turned into an alternative Hendrix it was fucking amazing.

Swiss Adam said...

I saw Frame do the same at the Manchester gig on that tour. Stunning. Top song Brian, good choice.

Brian said...

Drew and Adam, I have seen some footage of Frame and Collins doing this one. I envy you guys.

Swede, Describing this one as an "oldie" is depressing. Feels like yesterday... but it certainly wasn't.

Kevinpat and Echorich, I agree with you on the strong Bowie sound on this one. David could have used a little more of this mojo in his '90s work.

C, I almost like this live performance better than the studio version. I rarely add video, but I was hoping a few of you would put yourself in my shoes for a moment.

Ian Balentine said...

Ah geez, I how did I go straight from Stereolab to Saint Etienne without noticing this great entry. I've been a fan since OJ released You Can't Hide Your Love Forever. I lost track of Edwyn until this song was released and it certainly rekindled my passion for the guy's music! It appears as if we're on the same wavelength, musically, the closer you get to completing this list. Excellent choice!