Friday, January 18, 2008

Ian Gomm -- "Hold On" (1979)

When the UK label Stiff broke out across Europe with its eccentric group of artists, Ian Gomm fit right into this rat pack. Many of them specialized in in short punk or power pop songs, like Elvis Costello and Nick Lowe.

Gomm played bass in the cult pub rock band Brinsley Schwarz while Lowe manned the guitar. When that act broke up, Gomm recorded a solo album called
Summer Holiday in the UK, but released here on Epic as Gomm With The Wind with a different song order.

Even if the sunny redhead didn't record another song, he'd still be collecting royalty checks to this day for co-writing Nick Lowe's breakout classic, "Cruel To Be Kind."

But he wrote about dozen short memorable new wave-ish rock songs in the "Cruel To Be Kind" mold for that debut album and one of them went right to the top, "Hold On." Ringing in with an A minor-E minor-F major pattern on the shiny acoustic guitar, the bass, drums and saxophone drop into the second verse, with the echo coming at the end of each first line:

I've been drifting on the sea of heartbreak
Tryin' to get myself ashore
For so long, for so long

Listenin' to the strangest stories
Wondering where it all went wrong
For so long, for so long

But hold on hold on hold on
To what you've got
So hold on hold on hold on
To what you've got

A lot of these pub rock acts who broke into the new wave movement were doing nothing complicated. It was all about simple rock songs, good playing, careful arrangements and usually a bit of wit. "Hold On" was quite a short song but it was extremely catchy. Enough so that my grad school roommates used to mime it rather graphically while changing that chorus to "Hold on hold on hold on to what I got."

Packed with a dozen songs, the album was also short but a remarkable showcase of economic rock songs in that Lowe style. Honest to God, every one of them could have been a hit single. He also slowed down The Beatles' "You Can't Do That," until you are dissecting every syllable in that early classic.

Remarkably, none of those songs followed "Hold On" up the charts. I know Gomm had other albums, even as recent as the 90's, but nothing impacted.

Below is a February 1982 Swedish TV broadcast of Gomm performing "Hold On" live with the legendary power pop pioneers the db's backing him up.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

As a child, I remember hearing "Hold On" played on a jukebox in a pizza restaurant. The song was new at the time, but I rarely encountered it afterwards. I heard it a couple of years ago when it was playing in the MGM Grand casino in Las Vegas. "Hold on to what you've got??" That's very un-Vegas for sure.