Sad Cafe's "Run Home Girl" single

SAD CAFE  “Run Home Girl”  b/w  “Feel Like Dying”  (A&M Records #2111, 1978)

What do the words “Manchester, England” mean to me?  (Football hooligans and songs from Hair aside.)  Probably the same things you’re thinking:  Factory Records, Joy Division, Crispy Ambulance, New Order, The Smiths, The Buzzcocks, The Fall, Happy Mondays, John Cooper Clarke, Tony Wilson, 24-Hour Party People, that damn “Blue Monday” 12-inch, The Stone Roses, The Verve, The Hacienda, the whole “MADchester” proto-rave scene that seemed to dominate MTV before the grunge (and the E) took hold.  Oh, OK…and that band with the two snotty brothers who verbally gob all over each other constantly…what was their name?  I forget.  Anyway…

Radio-friendly adult-contemporary soft-rock wasn’t exactly pouring out of Manchester in the late ’70’s, but a shiny little slice of it can be found in Sad Cafe’s woefully underrated catalog, exemplified here by this single taken from their 1978 LP, Misplaced Ideals.  I probably would’ve never heard of this record had it not been for a late-night radio call-in show that invited listeners to win prizes by answering trivia questions.  I can’t recall what question I answered, but I remember being invited to show up the next day at a local record shop to claim my prize, which was a fresh (and very sweet-smelling, if I remember correctly) copy of Ideals, plus this single (for some unknown reason).  And claim it I did.

Sad Cafe's "Misplaced Ideals" LP (US artwork)

Side A, “Run Home Girl,” is glossy, sexy, sax-driven, and chock-full-o’-hooks like all good ’70’s AM-radio classics should be.  It reached the lower echelons of Billboard, and, several weeks after my victorious contest win, briefly became a pop radio staple, keeping its momentum throughout 1979.  Back then, the glistening guitars of “Girl” sounded ace blasting from a dashboard on a hot summer day (while sucking on a lime Slurpee, of course) alongside tracks like “Rich Girl” and “Smoke From A Distant Fire.”  Today, I hear elements of this track in young groups like Phoenix, who are mining the lesser-exploited aspects of ’70’s pop for a new generation.

The real payoff here, however, is the flipside, “Feel Like Dying,” a deeper cut also taken from the Ideals LP.  With its lugubrious, Mick Karn-style bassline and all-night-jazz-club piano, “Dying” starts off in that sorta bluesy, cigarettes ‘n’ whiskey after-hours-bar mode that Frank Sinatra made fashionable, then suddenly builds up and explodes into a splashy wet-wash of blistering guitar and sax, then drops you back down and lets you drift out to sea, breathless.  Slap this on your next late-night-spliffs-&-cocktails mix between some Daryl Hall and some Boz Scaggs and you’ll see what I mean.  Purely great.

(Unfortunately, there’s no clips of either of these tracks anywhere on the ‘net, but you can take in some of the Cafe’s other classics here.)

Sad Cafe’s singer/songwriter/frontman/mastermind Paul Young (not to be confused with “Every Time You Go Away” Paul Young) moonlighted in Genesis’ Mike Rutherford’s successful side-project Mike + The Mechanics while simultaneously recording and performing with Sad Cafe throughout the ’80’s and ’90’s.  Though they scored several more hits in the UK, stateside success eluded them, and Young died of a heart attack in July of 2000.  Sadly, the Sad Cafe is now closed.

NEXT WEEK:  It was the ugliest slab of puke-like purple vinyl I’d ever seen.  And I had to have it.