Sunday, January 13, 2019

Certain Songs #1425: The Pale Fountains – “Jean’s Not Happening” | Medialoper

Album: …From Across The Kitchen Table
Year: 1985

One of those mid-1980s U.K. bands who could stand in as ersatz Smiths for people who either a) couldn’t stand Morrissey, b) loved their sound and wanted more or c) both, The Pale Fountains made two records: 1984’s Pacific Street and 1985’s …From Across The Kitchen Table.

If you’ve never heard them or can’t remember them, it’s alright: neither album was released here in the Colonies, and in fact, I’d never even heard of — or more likely forgot about — Pacific Street until I started writing this post, but somehow in early 1986, …From Across The Kitchen Table made it to KFSR, and with it, the stunning “Jean’s Not Happening,” an absolutely essential proto-Britpop single.

As produced by Ian Broudie — who helmed the first three Echo & The Bunnymen albums — “Jean’s Not Happening” is a whirlwind of psychedelic guitar, soaring strings and wistful lyrics that can easily be mentioned in the same sentence as mid-decade landmarks like “The Killing Moon” or “There is A Light That Never Goes Out.” Not quite as great as those two songs, but pretty damn close.

Starting off with a guitar sting and an ace solo from singer / guitarist Mick Head, “Jean’s Not Happening” jumps immediately into its story, with a mixed-down guitar underneath the straightforward rhythm section.

Here I am, standing here for at least an hour
And do you know, eight more minutes of this
And I think I’m gonna take that shower
Well, come on, what am I supposed to do?
Well, I think I’ll wait
What’s this feeling I think I hate?

I’ll admit: the whole business about taking “that shower” has always seemed a bit silly to me. What shower? Why doesn’t Head just sing that he’s going to take a shower? But then again, it gives us the illusion that we’ve been dropped into an ongoing situation, that Jean knows exactly what shower even if we don’t.

And, in any event, it doesn’t matter, because with assist from drummer Tom Whelan, who upshifts into a nice double-time and the playful dancing string arrangement, Head tumbles into a chorus for the goddamn ages.

Jean’s not happening no more
She’s like the pouring rain
Jean’s not happening no more
She’s like the pouring rain

And if that’s all there was to “Jean’s Not Happening,” that would have been enough, but after the second chorus, Head launches into a slashing, skittering, almost shredding guitar solo that almost careens out of control several times, even failing to be brought to heel by a stop-time incursion by the string section, until it finally crashes back into the chorus, having tripled the overall energy of the song.

After that it’s all about how Jean wasn’t happening, Head getting both more desperate and more excited as the song and the relationship both come to an end. It’s utterly majestic, and also resonated with me on an extra level, as that summer, I embarked on a short, tumultuous and ultimately doomed relationship with a woman named Jean, prompting me to drunkenly scrawl “Jean’s not happening, no more” more than once in my big black notebook.

That said, while it’s possible that my emotional connection to the song has caused me to overrate it some, but then again, just listen to that utterly indelible chorus one more time, and it’s more likely that I’ve underrated it.

“Jean’s Not Happening”

“Jean’s Not Happening” Official Music Video

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