Monday 13 June 2022

The Only Way Is Up

 Cover version of the month #77
Yazz and the Plastic Population cover Otis Clay

The Only Way Is Up by Yazz is a cover version!

It's a song I've always loved, euphoric pop music at its very best. 

Written by George Jackson and Johnny Henderson, the song was originally recorded and released by Otis Clay in 1980

Yazz and the Plastic Population released the single in July 1988, the Second Summer of Love (which many will argue lasted for 2 glorious summers), absolutely perfect timing for a generation of people turning on to ecstasy and house music.

The Only Way Is Up hit number one for 5-weeks, going on to become the second biggest selling single of the year. While not quite a one-hit wonder (follow up single Stand Up For Your Love Rights reached no.2 and her album reached no.3), Yazz has recorded and performed very sporadically since those heady days.

Clay's original version of the song has a 45-second intro, jazzy guitar, punchy strings and backing vocals that build for Clay to come in with the opening line. Yet during that intro the positive nature displayed through the song (even when discussing how low things are) is teased by Clay declaring. We're gonna make it, we're gonna make it baby

It's the classic love will conquer all; homelessness/eviction/hunger ... no matter what, if Clay and his love stay together then they can make it - they are low but the only way is up.

Clay and his band hit a groove and I've found myself listening back to the song regularly since I discovered it. I've definitely fallen for it, but the Yazz version will always have a special place in my heart.

Actually, it would be interesting to hear Yazz's vocals over Clay's instrumental track.

 But back to those heady days of 1988 and Yazz's version of The Only Way Is Up.

Horns, an urgent beat, squelchy synth and Yazz's vocal come in on the intro to the first verse. It's interesting to read the lyrics to the verses in black and white. They capture the time in a different way - highlighting the real struggle people were facing in the 80's - broken down, lowest turn, sure ain't no fun and not knowing where the next meal is coming from.

The build in the bridge is just teasing us ahead of the euphoric chorus, Yazz and her backing singers urging us to hold on, hold on ... before declaring ...

The only way is up, baby

For you and me now

The only way is up, baby

For you and me now

Yazz's vocals rise through the next verses before the bridge and the thrilling chorus kick in. After an instrumental, we're back to the bridge before the chorus is hammered home time and time again. It's pure pop perfection

As it was the 80's, there is, but of course, an extended 12-inch version, adding a full 2-minutes on to the song. This allows for an extra instrumental with strings, a breakdown, some 80's effects, which disappointingly (at least for me) doesn't build back into the chorus.

Check the Otis Clay version HERE and the Yazz versions HERE 

EDIT and one of the first people to read the blog has alerted me to this mellow acoustic version by Stornoway. Check that HERE

All previous cover version of the month blogs are listed below. To listen, search for Everything Flows Cool Cover Versions playlist, featuring all of the songs below, on Spotify or CLICK HERE

Previous covers of the month

13. Hurt
39. ABBA-esque
40. Jumpin' Jack Flash
64. Lola

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