I woke up at five-ish this morning, for some reason thinking about Kirsty Maccoll. I have always been a huge fan of her voice and writing, and have an intense weakness for those spectacular, sparkling harmonies.
I was very troubled by her death, and it continues to crop up in my mind from time to time. Listening to ‘Days’ is almost unbearable – I’ve dashed out of many a shop to avoid hearing it since. I braved it this morning, though, and remembered how much I love the production: those rimshots at the beginning, really live and ‘roomy’ compared to the relative dryness of the vocal. The bass in at 0.36, and a subtle build to full, shiny, pop majesty – layers of complexity sounding like simplicity itself. And Johnny, of course.
What really murders me about the song, though, is its stoicism. We have Ray to thank for that. It should be called ‘Days (or How the English Grieve)’.
When I was a teenager I used to borrow tapes from the library. Kirsty’s ‘Galore’ was pored over. When you folded out the sleeve there were various plaudits from people she had worked with. I remember reading Morrissey’s in his idiosyncratic handwriting: “She has great songs and a crackin’ bust.”
What the fuck would Kirsty think of Morrissey now? Can you imagine? He wrote about her death in his morbidly unputdownable autobiography. Apparently he was the one who suggested she visit the Mexican resort in which she eventually lost her life.
After ‘Days’ I played something I haven’t clocked before: the 12” version of ‘A New England’. Wow! Talk about a host of heavenly angels – it sounds really festive and does exactly what an 80s extended mix should do. It’s fucking amazing. I’m guessing Steve Lillywhite had a hand in it. To all those people who can no longer bear to listen to The Smiths, dive in for joy.
“I don’t feel sad about letting you go, I just feel sad about letting you know.”