It's so easy to find music now, isn't it? Hold your mobile phone up in a club, dial Shazam, get a text with the name of the song that's playing. Check out google, or discogs, and find a band's history, or any of their releases. Surf around the itunes store, filling in the gaps in your collection. Spend a while on ebay or gemm, or on message boards, tracking down an elusive CD, or a double for that old 7" that's starting to sound a little scratchy. But it wasn't always this way- when I started collecting, it was much, much more tricky. Back then, it seemed as if I had a long list of tunes stored up in my head; and I'd have to spend a huge amount of time trying to tick them all off, every time I visited a new record shop. There really was no effective way of sourcing things that weren't naturally stocked in your local shop: you could try and make a special order, but the process was very hit and miss. Without computers to check availability, or stock levels, an order might sit in a shop for weeks (or months) on end. The catalogue for actually placing orders was a giant red book, that most record shops had, but seldom used - another problem being that looking through a book of such size for a record whose title you weren't perhaps 100% sure of, wasn't something that most shop assistants would really care to attempt.
So, as I said, it was the "internal list" that I relied upon. Secondhand stores, out of town shops, record fairs, and a lot of "digging in the crates". This song is one which was on the list for quite some time. First heard in 1979, I tracked a copy of the album down in 1985 (without a sleeve!) in an Our Price in Watford which was having a closing down sale. Then, about 15 years later, finally found another copy in the Record & Tape Exchange. I've never seen a CD, though I think one was released in Holland in the late 80's: I'm presuming it's now out of print. But why was I searching so hard for this one song? It's all about how I found it, I suppose....
I first heard it on The Old Grey Whistle Test, in 1979. For the previous Christmas, I'd been given a brand-new Radio-cassette player, which I'd been using to religiously tape John Peel, and I also used it to tape stuff off the telly. So, on that Sunday night, I sat in front of the TV, gingerly holding up the recorder in front of the tiny speaker of my parents Sony Trinitron, and recorded it. Here's the exact clip I saw ( well, the second half is - the song comes in after about 4 mins)
And I just played that cassette to death. So, the fragility of the way I found the song meant I was desperate to actually own a proper copy, lest anything happen to the tape. I always felt that If the tape snapped, or got mistakenly recorded over, that I'd lose the song forever. So began the search. I'm still looking for the CD, though the album will do for now. I've never actually played any of the other songs on the album; "I Love You...." is track one, side one - so once that's finished, that's the album finished for me too. Childish, I know, but that's the way it goes.
Some more info on the song? Well, it's taken from a film with a flimsy plot about a bank robber, tied into the Dutch punk scene. It features (amongst others) Nina Hagen , Lene Lovich , and of course, Herman Brood. Brood is a fascinating character, and rightly revered as a true Rock'n'Roll legend in Holland, though his reputation didn't really cross over into many other territories - he managed a one-off hit in the US ("Saturday Night") and that was about it. However, in Holland, his influence is still felt to this day, as a performer, as well as an artist and sculptor. A long-time drug-user (and one who made no secret of the fact), he tried for many years to rid himself of his demons, but in 2001 was eventually devastated to find out that he was suffering from a terminal illness, and that he had mere months to live. On the 11th of July 2001, Herman Brood leapt to his death from the seventh floor of the Amsterdam Hilton, before that illness could claim him. There's more on Herman Brood here and his available recordings can be bought here (confusingly, there actually is a "Cha Cha" CD in print, but it's not the OST to the film). The song itself? Well, it's all about Brood, and the way he throws himself into its performance. He sings as if his life depends on it. The song can be taken, simply, as a paean to the love he's lost, or more obliquely, as a plea for help to break the spell of the substances he's using as a crutch to escape the pain of that lost love. Whatever the meanings, it's just a wonderful song, and always brings that same frisson of excitement I felt as a 12 year-old kid, holding a cassette player in front of a telly, in a small house, in a tiny village in the west of England, one Sunday Night. RIP Herman.