July 8, 2005

Exile - Kiss You All Over

If you’re going to become a one-hit wonder, you’ve got to have a proper game plan. You need to know how you’re going to stifle your career to ensure you remain the purveyor of just one chart smash and no more. To whit, M fucked off directly after “Pop Muzik”. Post “Your Woman”, White Town solely released records he knew would never get any airplay. Carl Douglas spent the remainder of his career churning out unsuccessful rehashes of “Kung Fu Fighting” because he didn’t want to do anything else with his life. And Liam Lynch shot himself two months after the release of his hilarious “United Staes of Whatever”.

And then there’s Exile. Exile formed in 1963. 13 years later, they hit #6 (#1 in the US) with “Kiss You All Over”. And then… nothing. No more gracing of the charts. They changed lanes at the exact moment they hit high speed, cut the apron strings to soft rock, and then reinvented themselves as a country band. They had 10 country chart #1 singles stateside, but outside of the stalwart players of the Nashville Pub Quiz League, the general public would be hard pushed to hum them. You want to know how far they’ve fell off the radar? Their Wikipedia entry hasn’t even been started yet.

But for me, “Kiss You All Over” is one of the ten finest, and easily most underrated, one hit wonders of all two for two simple reasons. Firstly, they played the game properly. They knew that two things happen after you have that one hit. One, you’re forced into churning out re-workings of it to a disinterested audience (the previously mentioned Carl Douglas with his follow-up smash “Do The Kung Fu”, or mid 90s Latino boy band No Mercy will attest to this). Two, you can try and create new and exciting material, before the crowd stare at you disinterestedly and ask you to play The Hit (“Nah, play “Streets of London”” syndrome. Soon to be experienced by plenty of student ironists at Tony Christie gigs as well). So you may as well turn into a country band. Hey, you’ve dominated one genre with a fell swoop and a strained chorus, why not switch to a different one? After you’ve climbed to the top of a mountain, is there any need to mount another expedition up it? And, the second reason to love it, is that it’s simply one of the finest singles of the 70s.

The trick to loving “Kiss You All Over” is to understand that the verses are Chinese whitebait. Chinese whitebait farmers breed their fish, and monitor their diet, in order to assume they are as tasteless as possible. The reason given for this is that when you serve whitebait, you focus upon the source you put on it. If you want good fish you’ll order salmon. If you want ranch dressing, you’ll order whitebait with ranch dressing. There’s nothing to be gained by making the whitebait taste of anything: in fact, you’ll just be detracting from how exquisite the ranch dressing is by giving it an extra, unwanted taste.

The verses of “Kiss You All Over” are plain, vanilla, your standard “I’m waiting on the phone”, “I’m coming home to you babe”, “Can’t wait for you” issue lyrics that those FM radio cats kicked back in the soixante-dixes. Our man on vocals is singing like he’d rather have a good night’s sleep rather than some freaky jungle-sex. The drum pattern does literally sounds like someone plodding home from a heavy day’s work. Maybe this song is the synth-rock “Working In A Coal Mine”? Those verses chill, you, sure, but there’s something to come.

They delay it. Two verses before the chorus. He starts shouting in the second. The producer has discovered that those switches go up, and he’s moved all of them as far up as they can go. The guitarist starts getting a bit antsy of the drums being repetitive, so he just throws a few random noises in. Our man wants to get his fuck on right now. He holds it off though. You have to hold it off, start thinking about dead kittens, anything to delay this chorus. It’s what women love. It’s what humans love.

“Love you. Need you. Yeah”

And that chorus. Like the verses x 100. Too much is going on. This is the right way to overproduce a track, it’s like prog produced by non-virgins. It’s like 10CC gone totally off the deep end into erotomania. And then we slap on another verse.

“Love you. Need you. Oh…. Babe”

People can’t recreate these sounds any more. They can’t recreate “TILL THE NIGHT CLOSES IN!!!” This isn’t irony, this is emotion. Ecstasy, pain, and just sex sex sex. It gets too much for the producer, and after a mere two verses and two choruses he has to turn things down slightly, go for a walk, get some fresh air. These are the kind of songs you light up a cigarette after listening to.

I asked around a few people to canvas opinions on this track when I knew I had to write about it. The best response I got was “Why hasn’t this song seeped properly into pop culture? Why isn’t it on film soundtracks?” And it’s true: research shows that the only OST this has popped up on is Jim Carrey “Please please please give me an Oscar” flick “Man On The Moon”, and the only compilations it even turns up on a bargain basement “Sounds of the 70s” type affairs (except for this piece of awesomeness that understands that the only song ever recorded that is anywhere near as good as “Kiss You All Over” is “The Humpty Dance”). This song has been lost to the general public. It’s time we started claiming it back. Chinese whitebait may be an acquired taste, but everyone loves ranch dressing.

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The styPod | 8:00 am

2 Responses to “Under the Stylus (Dom Passantino)”
  1. Dylan Says:

    This may seriously be the best music blog entry I’ve ever read. You’re right, this sound is induplicable. It’s disco, porno and A.M. radio all mixed in one.

    Thanks for the track.

  2. hutlock Says:

    Not to quibble, but they didn’t exactly disappear as you said. They just became a country band. They certainly cahrted in the states on the C&W charts for quite a few years after this track. But nice piece regardless.

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