Sign of Love by Aimee Mann

Aimee Mann scored her only hit single with her first attempt. She fronted Boston new wave band ‘Til Tuesday, whose debut single ‘Voices Carry’ reached #8 on the Billboard charts. Despite the immediate success of ‘Voices Carry’, it took a few years for Mann’s artistry to catch up with her success. ‘Til Tuesday hit their straps with their third album, 1988’s Everything’s Different Now, an underappreciated masterpiece that chronicled Mann’s breakup with fellow songwriter Jules Shear.

‘Til Tuesday didn’t release any music in 1987, but Mann had a couple of interesting appearances on record. She sang backing vocals on Rush’s ‘Time Stand Still’, an unusually poignant song from the Canadian progressive rock trio. She also placed a song as a solo artist on the soundtrack to Back to the Beach.

I’ve never seen Back to the Beach, but I understand that it’s a 1980s parody of 1960s beach party films. It stars Frankie Avalon, who appeared in many of the original 1960s beach party movies, as well as surf guitar legend Dick Dale. It’s an incongruous vehicle for Mann’s first solo release, ‘Sign of Love’. Mann’s song shares album space with Pee-Wee Herman’s take on ‘Surfin’ Bed’ and Dave Edmunds’ ‘Wooly Bully’.

Unusually, Mann didn’t write ‘Sign of Love’ – it was penned by her friend Jennifer Condos. She didn’t record it with ‘Til Tuesday, instead working with a bunch of studio musicians. It’s not technically a b-side, but it fits the spirit of the series – an overlooked track that didn’t appear on a studio album.

Mann has disowned ‘Sign of Love’, but to these ears it foreshadows the tuneful adult pop of Everything’s Different Now. Perhaps the chorus is more repetitive than Mann would have written herself. Mann didn’t properly launch her solo career for another six years with 1993’s Whatever, leaving ‘Sign of Love’ as an overlooked curiosity in her catalogue.

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11 Comments

  1. I do like this a lot. I’ve also liked what you posted about her before. The 80s-type production actually sounds good with this song. Very good pop melody.
    With female singers…I’m pickier for some reason…but this is cool.

    • I think this is my first Mann post, actually. Mann seems like she’s a Beatles fan – her Bachelor #2 album from 2000 in particular has some Beatles sounds for me – the guitar tone, the harmonies.

      • Really? It must have been someone else then. I liked Til Tuesday but I didn’t know she was the singer until I read it on a blog.
        I’ll check that one out. This one I didn’t know but liked it at first listen….she had a great sound here.

        • She is the kind of artist you’d expect me to cover – just haven’t got to her yet. I don’t especially like what I’ve heard from the first two Til Tuesday albums but the last one’s terrific.

  2. Unfortunately, I did see “Back to the beach” and I will never get that time back. TBH, I didn’t know Mann got her start in Til Tuesday. I love the Magnolia soundtrack. Now, that is a movie I would watch again…

    • I didn’t want to write off Back to the Beach without seeing it, but I was assuming it was a bit trashy.

      Tom Cruise’s best film role, right? Respect the!

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