January 9, 2009

Mod-A-Day: Eleanor Rigby

Father McKenzie wiping the dirt from his hands
as he walks from the grave.
No one was saved.
No one was saved, or hardly even remembered from modster Eleanor Rigby, which if you believe internet hype, was the greatest of great mods (and/or mod bands) that ever roamed this mortal coil.

Let me be clear that I like Eleanor Rigby. A lot. It wasn't always that way. First I heard the band. I read a litttle, and listened some more. They were good. But then I read just a bit more and I was, frankly, skeptical.

After all that, I wanted to write a post that explained why I'm not sure Eleanor Rigby is as great as everyone on the internet says. I was mostly certain, after having listened to the tracks for a number of years that they were at least pretty good. I admit that the marketing side of my brain looks at the ER story and screams publicity. But, at the same time, the other side of my head listens to the tracks that have been released and thinks they're worth listening to. Most more than once. Or thrice.

First about the music. Some of Eleanor's tracks are dervivative. Some are more so, being blatant rip offs. A couple are covers -- slightly more honest, but ever so less authentic. The few decent originals fall back into the derviative category, but not more so than most mod bands of the 80s, even the highest profile ones. At least she had originals, something a lot of revival and 80s bands couldn't say in the plural sense. The songs were decent, mod, power pop type R&B tracks with soul influences, very in keeping with the "80s" feel they were reaching for. Some had a more new wave sense than others, but, overall the songs were solidly mod, and so probably less appealing to the mainstream, resulting in a more cultish, scene following.

But the marketing, that's where it seems to have all taken off. Who am I to say, I'm basing this simply on reading and following the career/legend of Eleanor Rigby. Of course a cute blonde with great mod-frinedly songs would get a bit of a following in '85 or '95 or '05 or whenever. Never mind that most of us (stateside anyhow) didn't hear about her until the 90s, because by then the legend was growing exponentially. The internet, of course, was good for marketing. A mysterious, hot blonde, who produces a few decent tracks and then literally disappears off the face of the earth. And then is praised online. I hate to say it, but it's a PR spinmeister's dream come true. Thus is born the legend of Eleanor Rigby. Albums are reportedly exchanged for high dollar amounts, and her singles highly sought after.

And not without reason. These are pretty damn good tracks. From the most popular Over and Over and I Want To Sleep With You to the subsequent Censorship and the less heard soulfulness of Mod Girls (where she evokes a motownish soul styling that grows on you in the way Weller's did) and a nice cover of I'm Not Like Everybody Else. Marketing over the years has included stunts like issuing albums with condoms (surprisingly not a panacea for sales) which are destined to help get your band, label, producer, etc., free publicity. Eleanor Rigby is no exception (depending on how you define success.)

So, here is the "controversial" song, I want to sleep with you, that was banned in the UK, vaulting Eleanor Rigby to "heights" the Beattles could never have dreamed of. I have to say that her story is almost better than her music.

Eleanor Rigby -- I Want To Sleep With You

Youtube the video here