John Creedon was in mellow mood on RTE radio – three slushy numbers in a row: Baby Washington’s ‘That’s how heartaches are made’, Jimmy Helms’ ‘I’m gonna make you an offer you can’t refuse’ and Diana Krall’s version of Dionne Warwick’s ‘Walk on by’. On an evening when the car thermometer still showed ten degrees at 10 pm and there was a first scent of spring in the night air, the music offered ten minutes reprieve from the relentless election coverage and constant mood of economic gloom.
There were moments when Jimmy Helms’ voice evoked strains of The Stylistics, a male vocal soul group with a liking for lengthy introductions to their songs and with a tendency towards falsetto singing, (a group whose sound evokes a violent reaction in an otherwise mild mannered friend in Dublin). Swinging through the bends in the road south of Ballyragget, there was almost a scent in the night air of moments from the 1970s, something indefinable, slipping beyond the consciousness before even it had taken shape.
Admitting familiarity with the work of The Stylistics would have courted ridicule amongst male friends in teenage days. To have revealed a capacity for reciting whole chunks of their songs would have destroyed the last shred of any credibility I might have possessed. But, no matter about ridicule, there was something about their music that seemed to create an atmosphere. Maybe it was something to do with teenage romance; maybe it was because it had a distinctive sound.
Driving from Belfast to Dublin late one night some years ago, the DJ played The Stylistics’ ‘Betcha, by golly, wow. It was after midnight and the day had been long and there was a 6.30 am start the next morning, but, like Jimmy Helms this evening, the sound suddenly lightened the whole moment. It had a mellowness that created a feeling that the world around was choreographed, that even the motorway had soul. Maybe John Creedon should play music like it more often.