In times like these, seems like we could all use a little bit of “Happy Talk.” Today we deliver! Captain Sensible put out his very sensible first solo single, “Happy Talk” on this day in 1982.
So we have a punk rocker with a beret prancing around with a decidedly giddy big Broadway musical number. Nothing unusual here…
Sensible is Ray Burns, the bassist for The Damned, a band some would claim was the first real Brit punk band. Remarkably, only six years prior, they played their first gig in ’76, opening for the Sex Pistols and had arguably the first Brit punk hit record with “New Rose.”
By ’82 though he seemed to be bored with the punk scene and decided to step out on his own with a solo album, Women & Captains First. As allmusic put it, his aim was “to show he could do more than just straight-forward punk rock and there’s no arguing – he succeeded.” With song titles like “Yanks with Guns” and “A Nice Cup Of Tea”, there was little doubting that Sensible had a bit of a wacky side too!
The album didn’t sell in any huge quantities, but garnered decent reviews. Sensible wrote ten of the twelve songs, with only this one – from Rodgers and Hammerstein’s 1949 musical South Pacific – and a 1924 tune called “Nobody’s Sweetheart” being the exceptions. He says he found a copy of South Pacific when looking through his parents’ record collection and recorded it when “exceedingly drunk.” It wasn’t his pick as a single, but again we see how little artists know about their own records appeal! The song went to #1 in the UK, and was the biggest single he ever had, with or without The Damned. Although the single didn’t get noticed much here, the follow-up, the equally quirky “Wot!” got decent video play in Canada and helped the album hit the top 50 year-end charts on Toronto’s CFNY-FM.
Ever the cryptic type who’s hard to get a read on, Sensible formed a political party in Britain in 2006 because watching Tony Blair on TV made him want to “put a brick through” the screen. Not surprisingly, the party was a mix of whimsy (banning idolization of Paris Hilton or the Spice Girls) and serious (they put forward a real and intelligent document on things such as Middle Eastern policy and the Iran war.) He also turned vegetarian in the ’80s and followed up “Wot!” with a single called “Wot! No Meat?”.
Looking at the news today, it’s hard to know what to think of Ray Burns. But it’s not a bad day for some “Happy Talk”. And looking at our political arena, a vote for the Captain might just be “sensible”!