Friday 8 October 2010

Clandestine Classic VIII - Nanny In Manhattan

The eighth post in an occasional series that is intended to highlight songs that you might not have heard that I think are excellent - clandestine classics, if you will. Maybe they'll be by bands you've never heard of. Maybe they'll be by more familiar artists, but tracks that were squirelled away on b-sides, unpopular albums, radio sessions or music magazine cover-mounted CDs. Time will, undoubtedly, tell.

Today's offering is the jeans-ad-driven one-hit wonder from New York retroists Lilys. If you've heard this before then maybe you're old enough to remember the 1998 Levi's ad for (I think) silver tab jeans that a snippet of this song was used to soundtrack. Back then, being used on a Levi's ad was a passport to immediate singles chart success. With that song, at least... after all, didn't I just say thay Lilys were one-hit wonders over here? From what I can glean from their Wikipedia page, they haven't enjoyed that much more chart success in their home country either but, frankly, who cares?

I've written before about the perils and pitfalls of music that is used for adverts, but happily Nanny In Manhattan is another of the exceptions that prove the rule. It is a joyous thing to behold - a perfect retro pop-nugget, less than two minutes in length, that recalls 1966 Beatles, early Monkees (i.e. when their songs were written by other people), a bit of the Kinks, hey, maybe even a pinch of some Yardbirds. It's almost a pastiche... but it's one that has been so carefully crafted, and clearly by someone who loves, respects and (crucially) understands the working of music from that era, that it works so well. The only ever-present member of Lilys is Kurt Heasley; he described how Levi's came to use this track by saying "they wanted something kitschy and retro, but didn't want to pay for a Small Faces' tune" and that just about sums it up.

As a teen in the Eighties, I devoured Sixties music in parallel with my love for The Jam, The Smiths, The Wedding Present and The Stone Roses. Songs that were recorded before I was born became engrained in me, and still are. Maybe that's why I loved this song so much when I heard it on the jeans ad, enough to be one of the many who propelled the single to #16 in the UK singles chart. Certainly that's why I still love it enough for it to be today's clandestine classic. You can still pick it up on Lilys' 1997 debut album Better Can't Make Your Life Better, which apparently is so good that I've just added it to my Amazon Wish List. If you just want to listen (and watch), then check out the original promo for the song below, courtesy of YouTube. Is it just me that watches this and thinks of the Monkees TV show...? No, thought not. Enjoy.


  1. I loved this record too... so much so that I bought the album at the time. Unfortunately there was nothing on there in quite the same league. Don't pay TOO much for it on Amazon!