Record Review: Lene Lovich – Bird Song

Stiff Records | UK | 12" | 1979 | 12 BUY 53

Stiff Records | UK | 12″ | 1979 | 12 BUY 53

Lene Lovich: Bird Song UK 12″ [1979]

  1. Bird Song
  2. Too Tender To Touch [Roger Bechirian remix]
  3. Trixie

This is a record that completely rocked my world at the time of its release and betcha-by-golly-wow, it hasn’t ebbed yet in my unmeasurable esteem! I was aware of Lene Lovich from seeing her then ubiquitous music videos for “Lucky Number” and “Say When” on early, primordial music video programs pre-MTV. So I was primed, but in late 1979, this single was the harbinger of her second album, “Flex,” and it was even dramatically stranger than the earlier singles that had caught my ear.

The A-side opens with an unresolved drone that’s pierced by Ms. Lovich’s otherworldly trilling that was like nothing else I’d ever heard in my sixteen years on planet earth. Lene swoops and glides down several octaves in a hot second as if she does this sort of thing all of the time. The rhythm section then picks up at a bouncy, near ska pace, that seems at odds with the dread the song carries throughout its length.

The result is one of the most deliciously unbalanced breakup songs ever as Ms. Lovich careens out of control as the result of her paramour’s abandonment. Les Chappel’s multitracked bass vocals added to the sense of vertigo as the organ solo adds shades of frenzy during the middle eight. During the intense coda, sustained tritone organ chords swirl into the mix alongside synthesizer warbles as well as Lene’s piercing wails.

It was many years later when I finally heard Yma Sumac and discovered where Lene lifted her astonishing vocal technique from. It made probably more sense in a New Wave context than it had thirty years earlier like some otherworldly bolt from the blue. Of course, not everyone can sing with that range and I in no way mean to diminish Lene’s impressive achievements.

The first B-side is the US remixed version of “Too Tender To Touch” from her first album, “Stateless.” Having only heard US editions of this album on LP and CD from 1980-1990, I eventually discovered that “Stateless” was completely remixed by Roger Bechirian for the US market. I have “Stateless” on a Conoisseur Collection disc [The Stiff Years vol. 1] that reveals nothing about which version was used to master the disc, but a few years back, I finally came across the original UK “Stateless” LP and one day I need to spin it to determine which version I have on CD. I suspect that all CD versions are from the Bechirian remix. Lene and Les must have liked the remix because he produced the “Flex” album and “Bird Song!”

The non-LP B-side, “Trixi” is also the B-side to the 7″ of this single, which also nestles in my Record Cell. It’s a winsome instrumental that helps to relieve the [delicious] anxiety that the A-side generates.  So high was my esteem for this release that I bought any formats that crossed my path over the years.

The sting of regret compels me to reveal that I missed the one chance I ever had to see Lene Lovich in concert. the year was 1992 and I had just taken a road trip [8+ hours] to Atlanta with my friend Charles to see Pete Burns in concert, rightly suspecting that it would be memorable. Then Charles found out that the very next week, Lene was in concert. At the time I thought that driving to Atlanta from Central Florida two weeks in a row was decadent, so I stupidly passed up my only chance. I had the presence of mind to give Charles my “Bird Song” 7″ sleeve for an autograph though, so I do have the reminder to wear around my neck! Of course a year later, driving to Atlanta for kicks was like breathing; sometimes twice a a week for the right concerts! Arrrgh.

– 30 –

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9 Responses to Record Review: Lene Lovich – Bird Song

  1. Taffy says:

    Love love Lene. Bird Song is quintessential Lovich, and I heartily concur with your glowing praise. Never heard Trixie before, but no matter how good it is, an instrumental Lene Lovich is missing what I come here for – the crazy-ass voice!

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  2. Echorich says:

    Roger Bechirian was responsible for some great New Wave. He cut his teeth working as an engineer for Tony Visconti and working with Marc Bolan, Moody Blues, and even the Bay City Rollers. He was the go to guy at Stiff, worked with Graham Parker, Nick Lowe and Elvis Costello. I remember him most for guiding the sound of the first 3 Undertones albums – records I hold really dear. He even engineered The Jam’s rise to the top single Going Underground and gave Chrissie Hynde a “Wall of Sound” on Better Stop Sobbin’.

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    • Echorich says:

      Oops that should have read Stop Your Sobbing…sorry I need sleep…

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    • postpunkmonk says:

      Echorich – Elvis Costello! The Attractions! Huang Chung! The Undertones! Lene Lovich! Nick Lowe! and even… The Monkees!

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      • Echorich says:

        Night owl here…been like that since Junior High School. Always came in handy when I was at a show at Danceteria in the 80’s bands like Nick Cave and Cocteau Twins had a habit of not getting onstage until 2 or 2:30am. Latest ever was certainly planned and that was New Order performing at the Paradise Garage on a “secret gig” after their Felt Forum gig the night before…and that is kinda fuzzy as well. It was just after 3am when the band came out and blew away the audience. Lots of the dance heavy tracks. Quando Quango and Konk opened up the show. Surprisingly whenever I look up their gigography on line, I have a hard time finding this show. They did their famous short show at the Paradise Garage in July of 83 which ended up part of the video for Confusion, but this later show was really secret.

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  3. That Lene concert was sooo worth it, but honesty compels me to admit that I had to wait till 2 in the morning before she finally went on after a long lineup of bands, though I did get to spend about an hour before her set chatting with her and Les (super nice people, but very cynical about the biz we call show), so that made up for a lot. That was a legendary evening (large portions of three concerts in a single night!) but that’s a tale for a cocktail and warm fire evening …

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