English words are like onions, when you sing. Chop them, roast them whole, caramelise them, scatter them as crunchy red raw rings on a salad. They never stop being onions, but you’re in charge of the flavour and the texture they provide.
Fire is a classic onion. We all know what fire is. It’s the singer’s job to make us feel what fire ‘is’ in their song.
“It was my mate who convinced me to do it. He ran a car showroom, and he said, ‘I’ve got this group come from Australia, but the singer’s not very good. Can you do a demo for me?’ I said, ‘What do I get?’ He said, ‘Well, I don’t have any money. I’ll give you a set of carpets.’ That was 1969″
It’s 1966. The Kinks’ manager gives you a chance to record Chip Taylor‘s Wild Thing, one take only, on borrowed time. It’s a song of few words. Choose one and pour your heart into it. Groovy? Love? Or the vaguer, more intriguing wild? Choose well or you’ll be back on the building site forever.
By the way – don’t be fooled by the stripy fancy dress in the video. There’s a bricklayer’s heart beating desperately beneath it:
Imagine this: you have quadruplets. It’s the night before their 9th birthday. You’re wrapping their identical presents, identically. You won’t let them accuse you of ribbon-length favouritism this year.
Your wrapping’s finished. You say, out loud, with relief: All wrapped up the same. You tip the sound of same forward onto the m, and close your mouth firmly. You finish the word quickly and neatly. Same, in your mouth, at this moment, communicates certainty. A job well done.
Your quadruplets get up early and set about examining the birthday parcels. This year they’ve decided they want to be treated as individuals. Discovering 4 identical parcels in a homogenous heap, they begin to wail inconsolably: All wrapped up the same.
How does the word same sound in the mouth of a distraught quad? They scoop a space out of the central diphthong and pour their disappointment into it. Stretching same into sa-a-ame. The m softens and loses its certainty as the word billows and blows with misery. Same word, different message.
Julian Cope uses same to power the chorus of his song Reward. Without certainty, without disappointment, but resonating with enigma. The video’s a rare chance to see how we used to do carpooling in the UK: