So, Al Stewart’s The Year of the Cat was on the radio yesterday and, as always, I was taken aback by the fact that it was released in 1976. For some reason, I associate it with the late 80s. And it wouldn’t have been out of place in, say, the mid 90s. The 00s would be stretching it a bit, but why not ?
I must admit that it doesn’t work as well if you go back in time. 50s ? No. 60s ? Perhaps, as there was already a lot of variety in terms of pop music styles at the time but the production does sound more recent to me.
Still, I find it impressive that this song could have fitted in at least three, possibly four decades (70s, 80s, 90s + 00s).
Any other example of timeless songs? Just to be clear, I’m mainly talking in terms of “soundscape”, not “quality”, though the two may be difficult to distinguish.
Similarly, I’m Henry the Eighth I Am was a 1910 music hall song before Herman’s Hermits revived it in 1965. Of course the 1960s instrumentation was completely different, but I was surprised to learn that, in another way, the song was still the same. I was sure that the breakneck pace the Hermits sang it at was a modern imposition on a more stately old music hall song. I was startled to learn that the song really was sung fast. Joe Brown, who really revived the song in 1963, ran it even faster than the Hermits.
Queen’s “Crazy Little Thing Called Love” (1979) was straight rockabilly that would’ve fit snugly into the late 1950s. The same could be said for The Stray Cats’ 1980s oeuvre, though they were a deliberate throwback act.
Other songs that recalled 1950s musical styles were The Georgia Satellites’ “Keep Your Hands to Yourself” (1986) and Billy Joel’s “Tell Her About It”, “The Longest Time”, and “Uptown Girl” (all 1983).
To state the obvious (well, obvious to me at least ), I feel that a lot of Disney hits since The Little Mermaid (Be Our Guest, Hakuna Matata, Can You Feel the Love Tonight, A Whole New World, and on and on…) would’ve been big in any decade since the 1950s.
Here’s The Young Bohemians performing “What I Am”:
Here's Cathy Dennis performing "Just Another Dream"
So which song was released in the 1980s, and which one in the 1990s?
Well, I need’t spoiler this; “What I Am” in the 80s song. (I’m cheating, they are just two years apart.) But “What I Am” is not at all dated; if I’d never heard it before and you told me that song was a hit last year, I’d totally believe you. It’s plausible “What I Am” could have been recorded any years in the last thirty. Cathy Dennis songs are very obviously limited to a short time period between maybe 1987 and 1992; music from other eras never sounds like that.
Another interesting example would be Aerosmith. Their brilliant work in the 1970s truly transcends its time; “Sweet Emotion” could have been released in the 80s or the 90s or eight years ago.
Nevertheless it was written in the 60’s. But, at least to my ears, there is something about the trumpets and the "ooh"s that give it a 70’s sound. Or maybe because it was a hit then I associate that sound with the 70’s.