Julian Cope presents Head Heritage

Lori & The Chameleons - Touch

Lori & The Chameleons
Touch


Released 1979 on Zoo / Sire
Reviewed by keith a, 10/06/2006ce


Unsung in these parts normally means music made by serious looking men with long hair who made some so-called seminal album in some remote wooden out-building in somewhere like Texas, although in the name of authenticity these out-buildings are always called ‘a ranch’*. Failing that, they’re German…

Touch on the other hand is a 7” single, sung by a pretty looking Liverpool lass with a blonde bob – that’s a hairstyle folks, not a Dylan tribute act who specializes in playing a certain double album – and what’s more on the reverse of the picture cover, she’s, gulp!, smiling!! OK, Lori didn’t write this song, and it’s probable that she was little more than a puppet for the Chameleons (AKA Dave Balfe and Bill Drummond) left-field quest for pop domination, but who cares - this is a great single.

Now I hadn’t heard this 45 in years till recently and couldn’t get over how great it sounded when I finally played it again. And since then…well it’s it probably fair to say it’s been on my turntable more than is necessarily healthy of late. But whilst it undoubtedly sounds of it’s time (it was originally released on the seminal Liverpool label Zoo Records way back in 1979, before Sire/WEA got it’s corporate mitts on and sent it all the way up to the dizzy heights of no. 70 in the UK Hit Parade), it still somehow manages to sound as fresh as a daisy.

Opening with high pitched noises that manage to sound both eerie and frothy, we’re initially not entirely certain where we’re going from here. And then in comes the beat – a fairly typical 1979 disco beat at that (there’s even syndrums for gods sake!!) and a tinkly organ, before Lori comes in with her deadpan yet optimistic, spoken vocals, apologising for being late before recounting those dreamy lyrics that are almost child-like in their desire about going to the harbour and watching ships sail away to far way lands. And as this is Tokyo she’s talking about, we also get the best oriental sounding guitar this side of Hong Kong Garden, although the key to this record’s origins is really the organ, presumably played by former Teardrop Dave Balfe, as it stamps its Zoo I.D. all over this. Indeed, it’s quite remarkable really how a label that existed for such a short time had its own sound almost from the start, and with that keyboard sound and those syndrums, it’s almost like the early Teardrop Explodes playing Ring My Bell.

As for Lori, well she seemed to disappear as quickly as she came, with nothing more than a follow-up single, the rather good The Lonely Spy (which was later featured on the Zoo compilation To The Shores of Lake Placid, along with an uncredited, re-worked snatch of this single), to show for her music biz career, but that doesn’t matter. She never made a disappointing third album or released some dodgy live set that you end up buying despite yourself. Where she is now I have no idea and frankly, I’m not sure I want to. All temptations to Google in an attempt to find out where Lori may be were put on hold when I realized I might discover that she was later a member of the Johnny Hates Jazz or the Fields of Nephilim or something equally horrid. I prefer to think that she’s living a life of domestic bliss somewhere on the outskirts of Liverpool, and is – at this very moment – putting down the ironing and saying to the long-term love of her life, “We could go down to the harbour and watch ships sail away to faraway lands”. And off they will set, even though they both know that all this will really entail is a quick trip to the Albert Dock, where they can sit and watch the ferry slowly make its way across the Mersey to the faraway place that is Birkenhead. Still, wherever Lori is, I hope she’s happy. She made a four minute single that is pop perfection itself. And that’s more than enough for me.


* A shed is out of the question.


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