Wednesday, 9 March 2011

39: Will Powers, “Kissing With Confidence” (no.17, 1983)

I’ve written elsewhere in this list about how the one-hit wonder sometimes doubles as a sort of modern art project - a way of communicating ideas, rather than merely making money - and this oddity has always struck me as one of the best examples of the form: more so than, say, Laurie Anderson’s dryly conceptual (and really rather dull) “O Superman” (no.2, 1981). (To Anderson’s defenders, I would quote Tony Wilson - a man who knew more than most about pop-as-Situationist-prank - quoting William Morris: “Nothing that is useless can ever be truly beautiful.” At least with Will Powers, you learn how to kiss someone properly.)

The background: acclaimed Rolling Stone rock photographer Lynn Goldsmith decided to get into the rock game herself, by recording a satirically minded album with several of her music world chums, in the guise of lifestyle guru Powers. Several singles followed from the resultant album (“Dancing for Mental Health”), but this was the only one that stuck: co-written with Todd Rundgren, Steve Winwood and Chic’s Nile Rodgers (which explains the fab guitarwork), with a chorus sung by Carly Simon and a computer-generated video (ahead of its time back in 1983, but then again, Tron seemed impressive back then) overseen by Goldsmith herself.

The result falls into that strange subgenre of one-hit wonders as spoken-word self-help texts (hear also: Baz Luhrmann, “Everybody’s Free (To Wear Sunscreen)” (no.1, 1999) or Dan le Sac vs. Scroobius Pip’s “Thou Shalt Always Kill”, when we get round to it) and, whether intentionally or not, seems to spot how the body-confidence issues alien to the let-it-all-hang-out flower-power generation would soon be preyed upon for financial gain by less scrupulous advisors than Will Powers himself: whether female-oriented celebrity magazines or those with a new range of male cosmetics to push upon us. Though it began as a muso in-joke, the Powers project continues: Goldsmith’s blog actually contains some perfectly salient life advice. What is keeping you from kissing with confidence?

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