Record Review: Dave Stewart + Barbara Gaskin – It’s My Party

Platinum Records | CAN | 12" | 1982 | PDR 001

Platinum Records | CAN | 12″ | 1982 | PDR 001

Dave Stewart + Barbara Gaskin: It’s My Party CAN 12″ [1982]

  1. It’s My Party
  2. 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.

– 30 –

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14 Responses to Record Review: Dave Stewart + Barbara Gaskin – It’s My Party

  1. jsd says:

    I was introduced to Stewart & Gaskin around 1992 by a friend who was really into the whole Canterbury prog scene. I never got into the prog so much but Stewart’s pop productions are fantastic, often times lending unearned depth to shallow trifles such as this, or Siamese Cat Song. Their covers of Thomas Dolby (Leipzig) and XTC (Roads Girdle The Globe) are fantastic.

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    • postpunkmonk says:

      jsd – I have to say that I prefer DS+BG’s covers of “Leipzig” and “Roads Girdle The Globe.” It comes down to Ms. Gaskin’s poised vocals.

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      • Tim says:

        Is the Dolby cover easy to find these days? Not my favorite Dolby song by a mile but I do like what they’ve done cover-wise with other things that i have heard by them. I think that it was PPM that turned me onto one of their albums in the first place!

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        • Brian Ware says:

          Their entire back catalog remains in print and they maintain an online store through burningshed.com. Hard copies and downloads. They’re also on ITunes.

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  2. I had no idea they’d carried on this long! Now I have to go look up their later work. Would love to hear their version of “Leipzig!”

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  3. Echorich says:

    Sorry, Stewart & Gaskin are Prog/Pop nails on my musical chalkboard…I basically go screaming out of the room when It’s My Party, Busy Doing Nothing, or Leipzig come up on a Pandora or Youtube rotation…in comparison – give me David A. Stewart and his smooth jazz/funk rock collaborations with Candy Dulfer any day.

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  4. Tim says:

    I had forgotten all about the trip to the library for the new Billboard. The public library and the university one each received one issue and there were a bunch of us who wanted to read through it. My hometown has a news stand *which is still in business* that also sold it and thinking back now at some of the items that they had, like Billboard and Variety (weekly)…..how much of that did they sell in a week?!?!?!? Once I found a new Billboard I usually went straight to the Dance column to see what sort of twelve inchery may be in the pipeline from home and abroad. I think that the holy grail for some time was the ABC “Viva Love” that I read about but did not hear for probably fifteen years after that. I’m fans of both ABC and the Brothers In Rhythm but that track…..did nothing for me.

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    • postpunkmonk says:

      Tim – My wife works in a library and once she brought home the current Billboard that they received two copies mistakenly of and like any magazine left publishing now… it felt like a pamphlet. And sure, I used to pore over weekly Variety as well! Those 800 page MIDEM issues…!

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      • Tim says:

        I bought a Weekly Variety in early 82 because it had a really deluxe gatefold ad about some movie being made with the name REVENGE of the Jedi. Still have that ad. I think that it cost me $1.75. I’ve seen these sell on eBay for just sick amounts of money due to the whole Revenge vs. Return thing on the title.

        I used to work in a crack haus I mean library and even working there (and I was one of the techs who processed new material and made it more durable for circulation) I had no inside track on that Billboard! Our periodicals librarian would cut me no slack on that. She was a hoot…she used to go through the Playboys with a three inch long stamp that read OSHKOSH PUBLIC LIBRARY and stamp all the nekkid ladies.

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        • postpunkmonk says:

          Tim – Hah! Back in 1982 chasinvictoria sent me that gatefold ad from Variety with “Revenge of the Jedi” and in my desperate years [anything past 2001] I did sell it on eBay! I can’t remember getting “sick” amounts of money for it, though. I’d have to check my spreadsheets to see what it yielded.

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          • Tim says:

            I’ve seen them go for $600-700 but I think that you need to find two fools with way too much money who get in a bidding war to land that kind of money. Right time right place right idiots.

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            • postpunkmonk says:

              Tim – Seriously! I have archived my earlier ebay sales data off the main hard drive, so I didn’t find the price it sold for but if memory serves, something around $30 seems to be the range that I recall. What I couldn’t do with $800 for a hunk of paper that meant that little to me!!

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  5. Brian Ware says:

    As a keyboard player of a certain age who experienced the classic years of prog in real time, my respect and affection for Dave and Barbara runs deep. Yes, those early singles collected on the Rykodisc set presents a bit of a stylistic hodgepodge. For those who find “Busy Doing Nothing” or “Siamese Cat Song” grating, it’s understandable without the balance of their superb versions of “Roads Girdle The Globe”, “Leipzig” and their other early a-sides. However, the real joy begins with their second and third LPs “The Big Idea” and “Spin”. Also recommended is their excellent “Green And Blue” released in 2009 after a brief 18 year break.

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