Simply Red – Money’s Too Tight (To Mention)
The period between 1984 and 1985, let’s say until Live Aid, was perhaps the most beautiful period, but also the most important of the Eighties. Most beautiful because, and this is of course very personal, that periodbrought a creativity that had no equal in the history of pop. Most important because it really marked a boundary, many groups will not be able to regain the same success after Live Aid, but others were born in this period and will soon replace them.
At the end of March 1985 the absolute debut single came out for a group that would really become a brand of the 80s and beyond. They had chosen to make a cover, a choice that they will repeat many other times, and they had chosen a song written a few years earlier. A song that dealt with a delicate topic, the situation where you find yourself in financial constraints and you need to ask for help because you have a weak job, or not well paid, or maybe you have lost your job because your industry is going through a difficult period. A song that is dramatically current in every period of restrictions.
We must not think, however, that it was a sad song: the Valentine Brothers, american, in 1982 had made an irresistible song, between funky and soul, with a bass that dictates the rhythm and a very hot saxophone that takes the stage for over a minute. And so the challenge of making a cover of this song was pretty serious, taking it from funk soul to pop, and overseas.
Obviously Mick Hucknall likes these challenges, because on that Thursday at the end of March that anticipated Palm Sunday the incredible career of Simply Red began, launched into orbit by their beautiful version of Money’s too tight (to mention). To put it all, on the album cover the title appears as “Money$ too tight (to mention)”.
This song will be part of Simply Red’s first album, Picture Book, which will be released in October and will include other gems like Come to My Aid and the wonderful Holding Back the Years.
Mick and Simply Red rearranged the song with more pop and European sounds, but absolutely without changing it. But now it was certainly better suited to the ears of European teenagers. The original song didn’t have a real video, there are clips of the Valentine Brothers in different TV shows. Simply Red made an absolutely simple video, where they actually play the song in a dark, smoky venue where people play pool or drink the night away. A perfect context not only for the lyrics of the song, but also for the type of image that Simply Red wanted to give, with Mick’s red hair coming out of his hat and his energy hardly contained on stage.
Mick also changed some of the lyrics. He introduced a reference to Reaganomics, Reagan’s economic doctrine, guilty of not bringing the benefits and the improvement in living standards that he had promised. Or at least, guilty of not distributing it evenly. The Valentine Brothers didn’t talk about it, Reagan had only been president for a year in 1982, and certainly not so many things had happened yet. But in 1985 it was certainly easier to think back of Reagan’s first term (re-elected at the end of 1984), and of the promises that his neoliberalism had kept or not. Even England, in the middle of the Thatcher era, was living quite hard times, the years that the Iron Lady called “of tears and blood”, and perhaps it was also useful for the British teenagers to vent a little on overseas politics.
Simply Red didn’t stop there: Reagan is also called “old man that’s over the Hill”, Capitol Hill, mentioned in another verse; in fact, when Reagan was elected, he was the oldest new President ever (at the time of his oath he was sixty-nine years old, and will only be surpassed by Trump’s seventy years and Biden’s seventy-eight). The presidential couple is also explicitly mentioned in the verses Mick sings at the end, when he repeats “We’re talking about Ronnie Ronnie” and even asks “Did the earth move for you Nancy?” to the president’s famous wife.
In short, a song that was far from easy and superficial, but Simply Red’s energy and great music sent it to the top of the charts within a few weeks. And so began the great career of Mick Hucknall and Simply Red.
Simply Red on Wikipedia