Dave Stewart + Barbara Gaskin: It’s My Party CAN 12″ 
- It’s My Party
- Waiting In The Wings
When I went to college, I spent long hours in the library, which was as good as the internet, in that day and age. I loved reading the deep periodicals that catered to every conceivable specialty interest in that huge research library. But there were also periodicals that I’d never seen before, due to their cost. Primary among these was the almighty Billboard magazine, which at that time, cost something like $150 a year for a weekly subscription. I think it arrived every Tuesday and I awaited each week’s issue with delight as I read through them diligently. I remember seeing a lot of press on a single that really caught my eye in 1981. Since it was less than a year following the breakup of The Tourists, but sliiiiightly before the appearance of Eurythmics, I mistakenly thought that this new single on Stiff Records by Dave Stewart and Barbara Gaskin was what the former guitarist for The Tourists had made as a followup project.
The single was on Stiff Records, an unimpeachably hip label in the milieu of 1981, still! And it seemed to have been a big success on the UK charts, going top ten and charting for much of the summer. I’d surmised that it was a cover of the Lesley Gore bobbysoxer’s lament, but I really had no way of testing this theory since I never, and I mean absolutely never saw a copy in any record stores. Since I was a big Tourists fan, I was gunning for it and would have bought it on sight.
<flash forward five years>
It was only after a cool looking CD on the new Rykodisc label appeared that I finally got the chance to buy the song, on the compilation that Ryko compiled from the boxful of singles that Dave Stewart + Babrara Gaskin released in the first half of the eighties without them ever making an album statement. It was the better part of another decade before I ran across a Canadian 12″ version of the single to actually buy after a looooooong wait. By that time, the single’s non-LP B-side was the prize in my sights. And of course I no longer mistook Dave Stewart for David A. Stewart of Tourists and Eurythmics fame. In fact, the other, eventually more famous Dave Stewart conspicuously used his middle initial in his professional name in order to differentiate himself from the other Dave Stewart who came to pop in the early 80s as a keyboard genius from Prog mavens Hatfield And The North as part of Prog’s “Canterbury Scene” in the late-60s -mid-70s when the more famous Dave Stewart was a roadie for Amazing Blondel.
The song we all know was given a smooth, technopop sheen similar to what The Buggles were doing, particularly in 1981. The song opened with a synth-gong [a Steve Hillage in-joke, perhaps?] before Barbara Gaskin’s dubbed out vocals echoed the phrase “I’ll cry if I want to” until the screech of tires upset the dark reverie being built for the song to begin in earnest. Stewart played all of the instruments and that included the Simmons drums he used to give the rework of the 60s classic some early 80s muscle. His synth bass gave the song a heavier touch than you may be used to hearing with it, but the delicate rhythm box and fluttering synths [particularly in the middle eight] add nice contrast to the overall effort. The song only reverts to the typical upbeat sound associated with it after the climactic “Judy’s wearing his ring [gasp]” line.
Gaskin’s lovely vocals were double tracked for that 60s je ne sais quoi, but her vocals were certainly strong enough to carry a song without resorting to such techniques. I love her singing since it is entirely free of melisma and grandstanding of any kind. The B-side is a delightful original song with her smooth vocals giving the song a delightful adult pop vibe not entirely different from what Swing Out Sister would be doing five or six years down the line.
SOS would probably not be using all of the chops that Stewart brought to bear on this original song, though. It began with the motorik chirping of synth crickets and piano chords but by the time of the middle eight, Stewart was ripping into a juicy Progged out synth solo of a Billy Currie-vs-Rick Wakeman caliber. Fortunately, Currie won the bout and all of this was tightly controlled in the service of a shimmering pop song instead of an album side. The hints of Prog bubbling up from the foundations of synth pop would contain the tension dynamic that characterized all of the music that Stewart + Gaskin would release for the next 30 years, with their last album finally spilling over into the Prog zone, albeit in a totally winning way.
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