Tuesday, November 14, 2006

The Rhythm Divine

I love this song. And its accompanying video matches perfectly its haunting lyrics and rich, elegant sound. . . .

You know that my tears
Have kept me away.
The longer you're gone
I'll hunger and shake.
From Warsaw to Rome
I'll wait out of time.
With you in my heart,
the Rhythm Divine.

It is, of course, “The Rhythm Divine” by the Swiss techo duo Yello, featuring the legendary Shirley Bassey on vocals. Released in 1987, the song was a minor hit in several European countries.


April 2015 Update: Writes Niall McMurray:

In the mid to late eighties there was a bizarre sort of supermarket trolley dash by male pop stars seemingly hell-bent on scooping up every past-their-sell-by-date-but-still-safe-to-consume female diva from the sixties and seventies. And so in fairly short order, Sandie Shaw, Dusty Springfield, Eartha Kitt, Liza Minnelli and Shirley Bassey found themselves in the pages of Smash Hits for the first time in their careers, and back on Top of the Pops – often for the last. Some of the results were absolutely stellar, namely “Hand in Glove,” “What Have I Done to Deserve This?” and “Losing My Mind.” Others – specifically “Cha Cha Heels,” were cynical campy nightmares which did no favours to any of the parties involved (in this case Bronski Beat and Eartha Kitt).

Pet Shop Boys and The Smiths knew exactly how to treat their charges – with sincerity. Neil Tennant once addressed the “camp” issue by pointing out that pure camp is actually 100% sincere, and he was spot on. “Cha Cha Heels” represents a crass idea of what camp is, whereas something like “So Sorry, I Said,” which he and Chris Lowe wrote and produced for Minnelli is absolutely sincere, and incredibly effective as a result. Boris Blank and Dieter Meier, better known as Yello, clearly understood this too, and in 1987 they approached Shirley Bassey with a song they’d written specifically for her with Billy MacKenzie of The Associates.

“The Rhythm Divine” belongs to an incredibly small genre I like to call Music for Spies – icy, atmospheric and moving at a gloriously glacial pace, it’s a Bond theme minus the bombastics, made for shadowy transactions in dark corners of romantic European cities. What’s so astonishing about it is how little of it there actually is – the backing track is incredibly sparse, just an ominous synthesiser presence and the occasional brass flourish. The entire record hangs on two things – Bassey’s perfectly pitched, precision timed lead, and MacKenzie’s multi-tracked, Greek chorus-like backing vocal. Both are just incredible.

For more of Shirley Bassey at The Wild Reed, see:
Time of the Tigress
The Living Tree: Shirley Bassey and Me
History Repeating
Oscar Highlights 2013
Quote of the Day – February 26, 2013
Shirley, Shirley, Shirley!
Happy Birthday, Shirley!

Other featured musicians at The Wild Reed:
Dusty Springfield | David Bowie | Kate Bush | Maxwell | Buffy Sainte-Marie | Prince | Frank Ocean | Maria Callas | Loreena McKennitt | Rosanne Cash | Petula Clark | Wendy Matthews | Darren Hayes | Jenny Morris | Gil Scott-Heron | Shirley Bassey | Rufus Wainwright | Kiki Dee | Suede | Marianne Faithfull | Dionne Warwick | Seal | Sam Sparro | Wanda Jackson | Engelbert Humperdinck | Pink Floyd | Carl Anderson | The Church | Enrique Iglesias | Yvonne Elliman | Lenny Kravitz | Helen Reddy | Stephen Gately | Judith Durham | Nat King Cole | Emmylou Harris | Bobbie Gentry | Russell Elliot | BØRNS | Hozier | Enigma | Moby (featuring the Banks Brothers) | Cat Stevens | Chrissy Amphlett | Jon Stevens | Nada Surf | Tom Goss (featuring Matt Alber) | Autoheart | Scissor Sisters | Mavis Staples | Claude Chalhoub | Cass Elliot | Duffy | The Cruel Sea | Wall of Voodoo | Loretta Lynn and Jack White | Foo Fighters | 1927 | Kate Ceberano | Tee Set | Joan Baez | Wet, Wet, Wet | Stephen “Tin Tin” Duffy | Fleetwood Mac | Jane Clifton | Australian Crawl | Pet Shop Boys | Marty Rhone | Josef Salvat | Kiki Dee and Carmelo Luggeri | Aquilo | The Breeders | Tony Enos | Tupac Shakur | Nakhane Touré | Al Green | Donald Glover/Childish Gambino | Josh Garrels | Stromae | Damiyr Shuford | Vaudou Game | Yotha Yindi and The Treaty Project | Lil Nas X | Daby Touré

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