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Friday, 20 February 2009

Albert Hammond, Genius

I promise, I'm not an old fart of a music fan, but there is something great about the Sky Arts music programming, which I've mentioned here before.

Simply, if you're into music, it's worth checking out. They have a new series called Songbook which features interviews with songwriters talking about how they come up with their work. In a sense, it's quite a dry programme as the subjects are interviewed in a studio by music writer Will Hodgkinson, with various instruments around them with which they can play their songs in a low-key kind of way. Because of that, you have to want to know about this stuff, and so far I haven't got round to the Jarvis Cocker and Donovan episodes, but the one I wanted to post about here was the Albert Hammond one.

I didn't know anything about him, other than the fact that Albert Hammond Jr is in The Strokes, which in itself is pretty cool.

But it's really Jr's dad that deserves all the credit. The songs that he's written have sold over 360 million copies, and he's had countless awards. Here's just a few of the more famous ones:
When I Need You - Leo Sayer
Nothing's Going To Stop Us Now - Dionne Warwick
I Don't Want To Lose You - Tina Turner
Don't Turn Around - Aswad
One Moment In Time - Whitney Houston

As I write that list I realise that it's not the coolest collection of songs you'll ever see written down, but that was the great thing about this show. When the guy who actually wrote these songs is relating why he wrote them, it gives the music an infinitely greater amount of credibility than hearing some 80s diva warble them.

Take When I Need You for instance - my only knowledge of that song is that my big sister used to sing it in the car when we were kids in the early 80s, and I would have said it was pretty cheesy, if I'm honest. But when Albert Hammond tells you about the story behind it, it makes it a whole different song. After he saw a Wings concert in the 70s in New York, he suffered an immediate creative crisis of confidence and felt like packing it all in. So he called his wife who told him to stop being daft and he was great at what he did etc etc. He wrote When I Need You that night. And then when he performs it just on a piano, it's just really poignant.

So of course, the first thing I did was get hold of the song When I Need You. And I can now wax lyrical about Albert Hammond, Genius.

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