Sunday, 17 April 2011

10: The Passions, “I’m In Love With a German Film Star” (no.25, 1981)

All hail the rhythm guitar - too rarely employed in mainstream pop, and here playing a crucial role in the layers of atmosphere and mystery surrounding The Passions’ sole UK chart hit. That singularity of atmosphere is such that not one of the, ahem, diverse roster of artistes who’ve covered “I’m in Love with a German Film Star” - not the Foo Fighters, in their otherwise wholly respectful take on it, not Sam Taylor-Wood, in her Pet Shop Boy-enhanced electronica version - has ever quite managed to match it, and certainly The Passions’ lack of follow-up success suggests even they knew, deep down, what they’d achieved over these three minutes. (In many ways, it’s the perfect one-hit wonder: the work of a band who simply drifted back into a fog of their own creation.)

Inevitably, such a premise - singer reminisces about the time she found herself sitting opposite said film star in a smoky Berlin bar - has led to much speculation over the identity of the actor in question. (It’s the New Romantic “You’re So Vain”, in this respect.) The clue may be in the “playing the part of a real troublemaker” lyric - could it have been the dude with the shaggy blonde hair who turned up in all those early Wim Wenders films? Could it have been that the singer had got her nationalities wrong, and she was thinking about Rutger Hauer? Wikipedia suggests a more mundane reality: that the object of the singer’s affections was an individual going under the most un-Teutonic name of Steve Connelly, a former Clash and Sex Pistols roadie who’d landed bit parts in several German films of the period. But let’s pretend the star in question is still out there. Let’s all pretend she’s - oh, I don’t know - Julia Jentsch, say. (Which reminds me: have I ever told you about the time I had dinner with Julia Stiles?)

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