What happens when you blend The Kinks’ ‘Days’ with ‘Thank You Very much’ by The Scaffold – both tracks of the 1960s? Well add a cast of Mancunian music and culture icons, a state-of-the-art studio in Salford and thousands of ‘thank yous’ from across the country… and it’s the winning combination of fuel behind the new single to celebrate the National Health Service: Thank U NHS.
And this is something contagious you’ll be glad of, believe me.
The track opens with gentle keys and acoustic, accompanying a series of personal ‘thank yous’ for NHS services which pull the listener in; tangible, truthful voices. We are lost in thought…
And then the beat drops, with a plunge into ‘Days we remember all our lives’, amplified with gutsy bass and the bubbling uplift of a children’s choir. It pulls heartstrings, but also your attention. It’s a strong, striving tune.
A soar on strings sends the song into another series of ‘thank yous’ before a return to the brilliant blend on The Kinks’ classic track. A vocal interlude serves as a funny and funky kind of crescendo between the synchronisation of songs.
And the video speaks volumes in itself. Titled ‘Thank U NHS’: The General Public featuring Johnny Vegas, Shaun Ryder, Micky P Kerr and children’s choir The Little Belters – it puts the British people at the forefront of a terrific tune. It’s fun and includes dancing on a roof overlooking MediaCity, studio time at Gas Music and plenty more.
The video and vocals are packed with further guests including Mike Sweeney, Sadie Frost, Gaina Williams, Stuart Armstrong, Connor Wilde and Tom Bleasby – and yet it never feels chaotic, instead a case of well-coordinated creativity.
With strings, orchestration and keys from Mel Purves and Phil Gregory, plus Gary Hilton and Steve Southern (of Gas Music and Modern Family Unit) on composing, mixing and producing, the song builds during its progression – to brilliant effect.
So often we take the NHS for granted, neglect it from our thanks. So it seems even more fitting that an oft-neglected, under-represented instrument is part of the key driving force of the track – the tambourine.
Tambourine provides a steady yet shimmering rhythm which maintains audience interest, and sounds strikingly Christmassy too. Combine it with the gut-plucky bass and it’s a winning combination.
That this strength of rhythm is maintained between the blend of two songs is testament to the strength of the track – it’s very satisfying indeed – and despite the repeated motif of ‘thank you’, does not feel repetitive.
How so? The vocals pop and pulse, each keeping a distinctness of voice – Shaun Ryder soaring through with character, and I’m pretty sure you can almost hear Julie Hesmondhalgh cracking a smile as she says her own ‘thank you’. It’s warm, witty and just what we need not just this time of the year – but all year.
And it doesn’t stop there. A mid-section simmers, a pause of instrumental reflection before accelerating to a soaring, almost triumphant note which seems to turn to the shimmering sound of rain shower, sashaying back into ‘thank you for the days’ at full belt. Fantastic.
It’s available to buy / download from the grass roots Bandcamp site and then on all major platforms from this week onward.
Photography – with thanks to Georgina Robinson