Every now and then a voice stops you in your tracks. This week, The Recs were delighted to discover Shoreditch-based singer, Laurence O’Brien, with his tender and emotive cover of Yazoo’s ageless classic, Only You.
The song Only You came into being with Vince Clarke’s less-than-amicable departure from Essex synthpop band, Depeche Mode.
Worried he would no longer have a record deal with Mute Records, he was keen to play the label something on his own. He wrote the song but needed a vocalist to record the demo. As luck would have it, fellow Basildon resident, Alison Moyet, had just put an ad in Melody Maker looking for a band to sing with.
A week after recording the demo, Mute wanted to release Only You as a single. Released in March, it was the embodiment of a slow-burner as it slowly made its way week after week up the charts until finally in May, it reached #2 in the UK singles chart.
The NME rated Only You as number 8 in their Greatest Pop Songs in History list in 2012. Classic Pop Magazine rated the song as twelfth in their Top 100 Singles of the 80s.
Memorably, the track was used in the closing scenes of the final episode of the classic British sitcom, The Office, when Dawn and Tim finally kiss.
A Fresh Take on a Classic Pop Song
Laurence O’Brien, a music graduate from the University of Sheffield, has carved a niche crafting understated acoustic performances of classic pop hits, such as The La’s There She Goes, Bob Dylan’s Make You Feel My Love (no it isn’t the tearful Vegas canceller’s song, pop-pickers) and Sixpence None The Richer’s somewhat overlooked gem, Kiss Me.
For such a new artist, he has built up an impressive fan following with a credible 72,000 monthly listeners on Spotify. Even though we are well out of the Festive season, Laurence’s consequential take on God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen is worth checking out – far removed from the traditional lightweight Christmas fare.
As enjoyable as these tracks are, it’s O’Brien’s thoughtful interpretation of Yazoo’s Only You that marks him as a future music talent to watch out for!
Vocally pitched somewhere between the jazz sensibilities of Jamie Cullum and the effortless smoothness of Michael Bublé, Laurence O’Brien delivers his own achingly tender acoustic interpretation of the synthpop classic. Thoughtful phrasing of what Alison Moyet has described as the song’s “nursery rhyme aesthetic” results in a heartfelt and moving take on a such a recognisable original.
Acoustic covers can often fall into the trap of bland, unimaginative and lazy facsimiles unworthy of their source material. Laurence O’Brien’s Only You cover proves that a great voice, singing with real feeling, can offer a rewarding fresh perspective on the most revered songs.
And if you were wondering how a twenty-two year old singer might have chosen a song that will celebrate its fortieth anniversary this year, we have the answer…
Laurence sent The Recs this photo “of just a few of my dad’s records, he has all the originals dotted around the house”