See, this is going to be far better for us all than big month-long splurges. After the success of the original Songs To Learn And Sing last November and the failure of the More Songs... follow-up last month to make it to the end of the period allotted to it, what's now going to happen is a new volunteer/victim will be putting the song they think everyone should hear forward on the first day of each month, or if that day falls on a Sunday or Monday the first day after our weekend business has been concluded. Sound reasonable? Good. Here's everything that has been submitted so far in the name of Songs To Learn And Sing, and here's the choice - a free choice, remember - for this month, from comedian James Kettle:
Toto - Africa
If you’re a sentient being, the likelihood is that you’ve been exposed to this song before. If you’ve ever idled away the day staring at VH1 Classic or been shopping in a supermarket on the continent, the odds only go up.
Now, you might not think much of this song. You might think that the lyrics are trite and silly, and laugh at couplets like "I know that I must do what’s right/Sure as Kilimanjaro rising like an empress above the Serengeti". You might cringe at the efforts of a bunch of be-mulleted LA session musicians to rustle up a funky African groove. You might note the unfortunate irony that Toto’s statement that they "bless the rains down in Africa" coincided with the onset of the Ethiopian famine (which doesn’t so much prove the non-existence of God so much as suggest that if he is up there, he doesn’t have much time for the hubris of be-mulleted LA session musicians).
But I love Africa. It’s utterly ridiculous, and wonderfully bereft of irony. There’s nothing apologetic about the song - every note, every bizarre line ("He looked at me as if to say/Hurry boy, she’s waiting there for you" - what kind of facial expression is that?) is performed with utterly bombastic sincerity. And yet it’s a wonderfully listenable record, with a dementedly soaring chorus that only seems to reinforce the inherent ridiculousness of the whole performance.
I was once a guest on a late-night show on Resonance FM (the niche-within-a-niche London arts station dedicated to broadcasting experimental noise, some of it verbal) and the DJ asked me to bring in some records to play. I brought in Africa. To be strictly accurate, I brought in my £1.50 vinyl copy of its parent album Toto IV. He looked at it, put it to one side, and stuck on some experimental noise. Here’s what you would have heard.
The complete collection