Amongst the many half-baked explanations for Dublin band Something Happens’ inexplicable lack of global success, back in 1990, with the superb Stuck Together With God’s Glue is one that focusses entirely on lead singer Tom Dunne’s paisley shirt collection.
There may be some truth to it (take a look at the video below), but it’s an unfortunate theory, because the paisley shirts actually revealed a deeper truth. Something Happens were one of the bands that, in the ’90s, ushered in the ’60s’ most important conquests to Ireland – Sex and Pop.
The sexual revolution had passed the Republic by back in the ’60s, thanks to a Catholic-minded legislature that made sure that foreign filth like the pill remained foreign. It was only in 1979 that a bill was introduced allowing chemists to sell contraceptives, and even then only on the presentation of a doctor’s prescription certifying that the said items were for bona fide family planning purposes (not, God and Government forbid. for the purpose of pleasure!). A new bill, hotly contested by the hot and bothered, was introduced in 1985 allowing for the sale of condoms, by chemists, to adults.
In 1990’s economically depressed Dublin condoms were, as they say, a bit thin on the ground. And it’s against that background that the Happens’ second album came out – a potent mix of pop tunes marked by Ray Harman’s ‘electric’ guitar playing and Tom Dunne’s way with words. And while the album will be chiefly remembered for the hits ‘Hello, Hello, Hello, Hello,Hello (petrol)‘ – listed by the NME that year in their top fifty singles – and ‘Parachute‘ – a light hearted love song floating on a wing and a creaky metaphor, the song that keeps me coming back is The Devil in Miss Jones – the song that most aptly sums up this album driven by lust and catholic guilt.
The Happens were the first band to make me realise that having guitars on a track didn’t have to make it ‘heavy’, in fact – as with most of their songs – the opening chords here are giddily light. When the keyboards and lead guitar kick in seconds later it’s like an explosion of colour (back to the paisley shirts then) and the mood is good. You’d be hard put to realise that the song’s title is taken from / shared with a ’70s porn film, as opposed to the 1941 Oscar nominated The Devil and Miss Jones (directed by Sam Wood). But it is, and there’s the rub.
“From the guy at the back with love
to the girl up there
to the devil in miss Jones
even if I only stare”
The greatest things about this song (in no order of preference):
1) It has a melody so brilliant that they didn’t bother to have a sung chorus
2) The lyrics -always under-rated, perhaps because the band were always so tongue in cheek – are stunning. They managed to mix melancholy and frustration with a mischievous glint in the eye. Genius.
3) The song builds up to a rocking frenzy that Onan would be proud of – the song takes on the subject matter, and runs with it
4) Related to the above – this is the sound of tight band pushing and over-reaching. The rhythm section of Alan Byrne and Eamonn Ryan up the ante of the song perfectly to its logical conclusion.
Perhaps the best song on what is certainly one of the most under-rated albums ever.
(couldn’t find a video for it, unfortunately – so here’s the video for Hellox5 Petrol instead)
Tags: irish rock