Sunday, April 14, 2013

The Fun Boy Three's Lips: Even More Sealed Than The Go-Go's'

One day Terry Hall must have realized that he had co-written a song with Jane Wiedlin. Not only that, but the song that they'd co-written together had turned out to be pretty damn good. And not only that, but the song had also become a big hit for Jane's band. Could he really leave a great song that he'd co-written just ... lying there?

"But," Terry must have figured, "if I'm going to do my own version, I need to do it my way."

Wait ... whoa ... hold the phone. What the hell happened to "Our Lips are Sealed"?

Listening to the Fun Boy Three's version of the song, I am convinced that Terry's absolute main objective was to record a version that would be as completely different from Jane's version as possible. In fact, the song is so different that it's almost unrecognizable. It's like he replaced the cocaine with some morphine. But the mark of a great composition is that it can be performed in a number of different ways and still retain its core appeal. I think Terry showed Jane just how good of a song "Our Lips are Sealed" really was. (Or maybe the whole thing was David Byrne's idea. Seriously, think about all the musical connections that this one simple track contains. We've got the Specials, the Go-Go's, the Talking Heads ... it's like a New Wave orgy.)

Gone is Gina's "disco" beat, replaced with shuffling maracas and conga drums. Charlotte's Byrdsy guitar licks are now being played, almost note for note, by a sinister harpsichord, and Kathy's little bass solo is played by a cello. There is a guitar in this recording, but it bubbles along in a wobbly, repetitive manner underneath the rest of the mix. Neville and Lynvald chant "Bum, Bum-Bum" in the background as if they're the witch's guards from The Wizard of Oz. There are some distant, heavily echoed squeaks in the background here and there - possibly a rusty faucet being turned on, or a feral cat being strangled to death, I can't tell.

Perhaps the most immediately apparent difference between the two versions is the sound and style of the lead singers. Anyone used to Belinda's California quiver will do a double-take upon hearing Terry's extremely British phrasing. Whereas Belinda sang, "Can you hear them?/They talk about us/Telling lies/Well that's no surprise," Terry sings, "Can you hear them?/Talking 'bout us/Telling lies/Is that a surprise?" Cheerio, dahling! "It doesn't madder what they say" even becomes "It doesn't mat-tuh wot they say."

To be clear, I love the Go-Go's' version of "Our Lips Are Sealed" more than I love my own pinky finger, but (God/Belinda don't strike me down) I have to say that I may like the Fun Boy Three's version just as much, and possibly even ... more? Rather, let me say this: after having played the Go-Go's' version to death, I am a little bit sick of it, and if you were ask me to listen to a version of the song right this very minute, I think I would choose to listen to the Fun Boy Three version. What I didn't realize is that, apparently, you have to choose.

See, if you're from the UK, the Fun Boy Three version is the version you would know. The Go-Go's' version had only peaked at #47 there, whereas the Fun Boy Three version peaked at #7, becoming the group's last hit. It was even featured on the Trainspotting soundtrack. On YouTube, you will find several comments from fans of the Fun Boy Three version who sound rather frustrated that the Go-Go's' version is more well-known, usually using phrases such as "far superior," "way better," "1000 times better," etc.:
In my humble opinion, this is about a thousand times better than the Go Go's version. This is nice and eerie. The Go Go's version is too sunny...

Love the Go Go's, but this is SOOOOO much better. His deadpan delivery of these lyrics is PERFECT.

I loved this by Go Go's in the 80's but I STILL love FBT's version more ;-)

Terry sung it how it should have been sung. The Go-Gos version isn't dark enough.

This is a far superior version than the Go-Go's effort. Much more moodier, darker and atmospheric.

FBT's version of this song is by far the best.

I always preferred this version to the Go-Go's one. I like the vocal harmonies.

same here. this versions way better

Brilliant tune, this is for better than the Go GO's version, no contest

I like the Fun Boy Three version better than the Go-Go's. Not that the Go-Go's version is bad, but I like this arrangement much better. For me, this is the definitive version of the song.

this knocks the gogos version into a cocked hat - anyone who don't think so must have shit in their ears
Then there are those who take the Go-Go's' side:
The better of the two? Are you deaf? Woof! That was Aweful. And I'm a Specials fan....

Lacks the passion of the original. The vocals are too monotone.

A brilliant song by Terry but the Go-gos do it better

Go-Go's Version 10000% Better.
And then there are those like me - the peacemakers:
A beautiful song, whether it's done by the darker Fun Boy Three or The Go Go's...

Certainly a lot darker than the Go-Go's version...each is really appropriate for each group though. I'm a fan of both versions.

The 2 versions represent the two different views of the couple and thier fling esentially, Janes version was done by the Go Gos as a defiant nevermind everyone else we'll have our fun and be happy style while Terrys version based on his original letter comes froma more sombre we'll be judged on this but we cant do much about it. Probably a good representation of an English & then American take on the exact same incident. Americans optimistic English pessamistic
And then there are the miscellaneous:
always loved this song...but can this man get any MORE MISERABLE? dark and moody i get but this? you can see it in the drummers face, shes like "C'mon dude its back to Stacking Pastrami for me down at the deli...will you please move, do something...anything. Fuck."

The bad hair...the eye make-up...the apathetic, slightly sickly, angry, condecending facial expressions...
You've got to love the '80s!
The drummer chick looks like she'd just eaten a plate of bad fish.

For a bloke, he's got a beautiful shaped mouth.

Terry has a Cure look going on. Just needs to smear on some lipstick.

Ta wersja jest ciekawsza (niż Go-Go's ). Zresztą to chyba najlepszy numer w wykonaniu tej kapeli.
In conclusion: there are two hit versions of "Our Lips are Sealed" - whether you like it or not.


Herr Zrbo said...

Could he look any more apathetic when singing this song? I can barely tell that he's moving his lips. He's stiff as a pole. Jeez man, do you want to be in the band or not? And if you're going to be the lead singer could you at least take that dead ferret off the top of your head? It actually frustrates me how little he seems to care about even singing this song. At least Robert Smith flutters his hands around.

Little Earl said...

Terry cares. He's just afraid to show it.