I know It’s Gonna Happen Someday

So sang Morrisey who was copying Bowie* who returned the compliment by covering the song.  

2017 Suzuki Swift: source
2017 Suzuki Swift: source

What’s gonna happen? For one thing that a good car design will be replaced by a less good one sooner or later.  It would appear that the fashion for blacked out C-pillars knows no limits. The 2017 Suzuki Swift now sports one. 

2017 Suzuki Swift: source
2017 Suzuki Swift: source

There are very few photos of the rear. This might because the lamps are remarkably busy and characterless at the same time. If you extract the lamp silhouette by itself it´s a poor shape, isn’t it? The area from the C-pillar down is a graphic mess. Small plastic air-flow addenda have been added too.

The Swift’s decline into a bloated non-entity passed me by in the pre-Christmas rush. Its transformation from a smart and tidy small car to this is akin to Presley’s Jumpsuit era or Marlon Brando after the Last Tango in Paris. The Nissan Z-cars also come to mind.

2017 Suzuki Swift: source
2017 Suzuki Swift: source

We must be nearing the peak prevalence of this design trope. If I have decided it is too common every other designer must be thinking so too. So who will be the last to try this design and experience the creepy feeling one gets when left standing during musical chairs.

oOo

*You can see a nice studio sequence of Bowie and Mick Ronson working on the guitar solo. I’ve been watching various studio and rehearsal footage of Bowie and it’s interesting to see his at work. He’d make demo vocals and keep them on a Walkman for reference in the studio. To understand Ronson’s contribution you need to imagine he’s painting with sound. The album version is sung with tremendous range. The Morrisey version is not actually that good. Ronson’s guitar work is virtuoso. It was his last work with Bowie.

Author: richard herriott

I like anchovies. I dislike post-war town planning.

20 thoughts on “I know It’s Gonna Happen Someday”

  1. Thanks for pointing this out. I’ve always felt I have to get a better understanding of Bowie’s work and life and will take this as a welcome invitation to do so.

    1. It´s taken me 25 years to get this far. I´m one of a peculiar minority who got to know him via his Tin Machine work. At this point many exhibit the knee jerk reaction “that was rubbish” without ever a) having heard it or b) seeing it as part of the whole career. I see it as a valuable period of experimentation which prepared him for the next two decades.
      My own view is to see Bowie as a vocalist and composer of the first rank and as an actor and writer who acted in song and who wrote lyrics. The personas he´s famous for were tools used along the way and, I find, a distraction from the vocals and music. Like most artists he had better and worse phases – for many he did nothing much after 1983 which is somewhat of a misunderstanding. I´ll stop now: pet topic alert.

  2. The original Swift was a very distinctive and tidy thing. At a time when it still mattered somewhat, Car even named it its Car of the Year. This third modern era iteration deserves no such accolade and, yes, that rear pillar is a disaster zone.

    1. The hardworking people at Carsalesbase reported there are 700 models of cars in China. What´s the point in being another pebble on that beach? Europe isn´t exactly a small market, is it? You are probably right though. This one seems to have been clinicked for appreciation on Beijing and for tolerance in Frankfurt.

    2. Richard: of course I see no problem in design a car aiming at the Chinese market, of course. especially for Suzuki, whose glory days come from India and China.

      for as much as a company wants to keep global (see “One Ford”) to “create identity” or whatever is euphemism for “cutting costs”, this Suzuki makes a serious case for changing some bits for the West. in my book, the front end is the worst offender, but the C-pillar could change, too. maybe it’s the frequent DTW reading, but I’m really growing tired of the hidden rear door handles everywhere.

  3. One wonders what part internal politics has in this process of watering down? The second generation Swift was an outlier, sharing very little styling-wise with the rest of the range. Ditto the New Mini, FN Civic and Focus mark 1. Each was replaced by cars that seemed to wilfully misunderstand or occlude design elements that made the original cars successful. Surely the designers must know this?

  4. Personally this is a big disappointment since the old Swift was so good. But I might suggest that for every one of us here who admired it, there were lots of potential customers who thought “ooh, it’s a bit boring looking”.

    1. Isn’t this the counter-example to the Golf? For forty plus years the Golf has been Golfish. One set of customers and pundits call it boring, the others plus VW like the consistency. Suzuki evidently lost their nerve or customers asked for change or both. I think they’d have been better to stick with the tested and tried Swift shape since they’d found what amounted to a classic or archetypal formula. They have other products for people who want variety.

  5. I don’t care too much about Bowie, but I’ve been a Morrissey admirer since I was 12. Hence: watch your spelling. 😉

    1. I see. The two aren´t really comparable.

      Other artists attracted my attention down the years but they are all second and third order performers, good and all as they are. Everyone has a pet artist. For some it´s Dylan, others the Beatles or Leonard Cohen or perhaps Prince or REM. These would be people with long and rich careers with a wide variety of work in their ouevre. In my view there are very few people with a long career, a lot of albums and a huge range of styles and subjects.

      My big problem with Morrissey is that I did not consider him all that adept at singing. Someone gave me one if his albums and I though the backing band were excellent but the vocals intrusive. For some that might be the appeal and Morrissey was certainly a good lyricist and astute social observer. It probably is a black mark against me that I preferred the Housemartins and early Beautiful South to Morrissey (they seem to have emerged at the same time). At the same time I nurtured the Irish band Microdisney whose brief career included about six very good albums (and a good vocalist in Cathal Coughlan who learned to sing in the course of their recording career – his early singing is weak, his later singing very accomplished). Stereolab and Robyn Hitchcock were my other two bands. Hitchcock can´t sing very well but he has his moments (and sometimes a very good backing band) while Stereolab are the acoustic version of really, really good wall-paper.

      Did you think much of the Housemartins?

    2. I have yet to check out the Housemartins! I have many favourites in different genres that I’ve been following for ages already, including amongst others Teenage Fanclub, Arab Strap, TV on the Radio, World Party, Randy Newman, Elvis Costello, Del Amiti (yes, really!) and indeed R.E.M. They’ve all never been afraid to try something new, and often it horribly failed. I’m not the “fan” type by the way, I’m interested in the lyrics and the music, but I can’t care less about e.g. Morrissey’s militant veganism.

  6. Dangerous drift here on the DTW night shift. Next thing it will be football and cats…

    1. I wandered into my favourite non-car topic, the work of Mr David Bowie. I understand that non-afficionadoes will be a bit nonplussed. I don´t have any singles and don´t have all the albums. I own no memorabilia but have two biographies, have seen him live three times and my daughter wrote a fan letter asking him to visit us if he was in Denmark.

  7. The Housemartins had two proper albums (“London 0 Hull 4” and “The people who grinned themselves to death”). In some ways the transition to Beautiful South (with Paul Heaton on vocals and lyrics) was starting with the second album. Some people find the bleak cynicism wearying. They had super tunes though. And then as the years rolled by the Beautiful South´s satire on smooth mainstream pop turned into smooth mainstream pop (that was 22 years ago now!).

    REM are a strange band. I have most of their albums and have gone on binges of their music. What is odd is that they seem not to have written the definitive “everyone knows this song” anthem. And I think the hits from Automatic for the People didn´t really penetrate the public´s conscience as you´d expect. They are a good band yet flawed. I think one thing is that Michael Stipe is a good singer with a distinctive voice which allowed him to write essentially uniquely unsingable songs. The phrasing is so idiosyncratic that it discourages the amateur to have a go. It´s a pity Berry the drummer had his brain burst. The band ran out of steam after that.

    Elvis Costello: champion lyricist. Like Dylan and Waits he ought to have stayed away from the mic. He´s an artist I have listened to on and off but only have one album, the now-deleted Brutal Youth which has a fistful of brilliant, brilliant songs. I expect many would say he was past his best by then. The albums with Bacharach (I have one) are hard to take. He really, really can´t sing.

  8. R.E.M.’s last albums are actually quite good, I like Accelerate as much as their ’80s stuff. I’m mostly into late ’70s/ early ’80s Costello, his autobiography is a very entertaining read by the way. The Bacharach album is horrible and so are many of his others, but it’s great he dares try experiment. Listen to Robert Wyatt’s version of Shipbuilding, it’s brilliant: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UjUkjpJa6bY

    This is definitely the most diverse car blog on the net.

    1. REM: “Up” worked quite well, I agree. “Around the Sun” never took off: 12 mid-tempo songs but live it was a different story. Accelerate is good: what I miss in their later work was experimentation with instrumentation and arrangements. And Stipe´s voice crumbled. He´s very MOR on a couple of the Accelerate songs.
      So I am not alone in thinking the Bacharach album was awful. Good to know.
      Thanks for the link!

  9. On the occasion of his death, I like many others took the opportunity to reacquaint myself with Bowie’s output. Like any artist who leaves a significant body of work, the “best of” playlists barely scratch the surface. Yet because he was so experimental and willing to fail, some sort of curation is absolutely necessary. For example, although for me Young Americans is not a great album, the title track is probably my favourite individual Bowie song. I started out on compiling a “best of the best ofs”, but in the end I had to give up as I just didn’t have the time to devote to it.

    As a side note, after being far too overexposed to the song in my youth, I had the pleasure of hearing Under Pressure with fresh ears. How lucky I was to grow up at a time when both Bowie and Freddie Mercury could exist simultaneously in the same continuum AND release a track together. Simply unbelievable.

  10. Here’s Morrissey’s version of Bowie’s Drive-in Saturday: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v572u93I7Cg The song is brilliant, I think it’s Bowie’s voice that makes me prefer Morrissey’s version. I have the same issue with Queen, some of the songs are quite good, but I find Freddie Mercury’s voice very annoying.

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