Greatest songs ever: Toast by Streetband

Paul Young - Streetband - ToastI love this song. Maybe it’s the sheer ridiculousness of it, or the blinding originality and free form lyrical structure, but there is something so special about Toast by Streetband it deserves to be in our Greatest Songs Ever features.

This was beat poetry at a level never seen in the bars of San Francisco, and some (slightly mad) people have claimed this was THE start of rap music.

One-hit wonders, Streetband were briefly successful with ‘Toast’, but never gained any real commercial fame, despite releasing two albums and having almost constant airplay on Capital Radio.

You probably know the young fresh face singer went on to be a multi-million selling, US No1 solo artist in his own right, but back in November 1978 Paul Young was just another long haired singer in a rock n roll (Street)band.

We caught Paul on a break from recording and talked ‘Toast’…

Can you remember much about recording the song?
Well, yes…. it was my fledgling beginnings at recording, so it was all a bit of a learning curve….

Who wrote the lyrics?
They were made up on the night Chaz Jankel came to see us, he was the producer/arranger behind Ian Dury & The Blockheads, and he was scheduled to produce us.

Believe it or not, it all came about (bear with me) because we had a novice road crew and not one of them could change a guitar string.

When the rhythm player bust a string, he went off to do it himself (at the John Bull pub in Chiswick) and the rest of the band started busking on (once again, believe this) ‘Lover’, the jazz standard that I’d heard by Tony Bennett.

So I wouldn’t be standing there like a plonker, I started scatting over the rhythm and arrived at the word ‘toast’ at the end of the chord sequence. It made sense, so I repeated that at the end of every chord sequence.

Chaz thought it was part of the act! And I suppose the ‘Cockney-ness’ of it appealed to him. He suggested it as the b-side of our first single, Hold On. So yes, I wrote the lyrics, although I had to make it up again in the studio as it was all off the top of my head.

Did you ever have to mime it? If so how did it go?
Well, it was too difficult to mime, so I always did a live vocal. You remember these things better when you’re young!

Do you think it helped or hindered your career?
Um, hindered, although why should I change a thing? It all panned out it the end..

Are you proud of the song?
Not really, what a strange start for a singing career. We credited it to the manager (listed songwriter B.Kelly) as our publishing was frozen, and never saw a penny either!

Was music more fun then than it is now?
It was more fun in the Q-Tips, once I’d learned a bit! And the QT’s were more my idea, whereas I joined Streetband and was dictated to by them. Only because I knew nothing!

Paul Young - StreetbandAre you still in touch with any of Streetband or the Q-Tips?
The Q-Tips, yes. And one of Streetband.

What is your favourite kind of bread to toast?
I try not to eat much bread now! I’m forever toasting for the kids though… Hovis medium sliced for them.

And topping?
If I do, Ginger jam is a new discovery.

There is a rumour you are working on new material, is this true?
Yep! It’s just good songs, organically recorded. That’s the plan.

Do you have a release date in mind yet?
No, Not yet.

How is your voice these days?
Fine, as long as I practise! I always sang at the top of my range and ran around a lot, two things I’ve had to temper…

Are there any bands or artists around at the moment you like?
The Black Keys, Next Girl; like that. I Am Kloot, need to find out about them… I like Jessie J too! Gifted voice….

What are your plans for the rest of 2011?
Gigs, gigs, gigs: no money in records! Although I do need an album, and so do Los Pacaminos , more as a calling card these days…

Los Pacaminos: Highway Patrol live in the studio (below)

So there you have it, you heard it first on Flush the Fashion, Paul’s days of toast are over, but lookout for some new music on the way. Incidentally there is even a Facebook Fan Page for the song HERE complete with the lyrics.

You can keep up to date with Paul on his website

More ‘Best Songs Ever’ soon…..