Perfect Day '97 Part II: Robson & Jerome

Robson & Jerome album cover.
I think this was the album I had. But on tape.


I've been thinking more about "Perfect Day '97," the novelty celebrity-studded cover I posted about last week. The song's inappropriate for a children's charity single because it's about heroin, but that's not why I loathe it so much. I've found the tangle of anxiety that it has knotted in the strings of my mind and am starting to unpick it.

The feeling I get when the first few bars come on the radio or something now is panic. A certain percentage of that is simply feeling returned to the year 1997, to being 9. But another chunk of it is panic about cover versions.

Aged 7, I had a hand-me-down WalkMan. To go inside it I had two tapes: The Greatest Hits of Boney M and Robson & Jerome's self-titled album. The first was a gift from my religious aunt. The second I must have demanded in Woolworth's or something.

The Jerome part of Robson & Jerome was Jerome Flynn, the actor who played Bronn on Game of Thrones, and Robson Green, who has been in a lot of less famous things. The pair had co-starred in the mid-90s series Soldier Soldier, which was set in the army at the same time. Somebody must have had the idea of having them record an album of covers.

I loved the Robson & Jerome tape. It had all these astonishingly good songs on it. It was the same aunt who broke it to me that all those songs—"Up On the Roof," I remember, and "Unchained Melody," which was a single—were not neither Robson nor Jerome's own works. It made sense when I thought about it. "(There'll Be Bluebirds Over) The White Cliffs of Dover" did not sound contemporary. Somewhere in my mind I had also fabricated the memory of a version of "Roll Out the Barrel," thankfully factitious.

The presence of an old war song on the record and in my own imagination, as well as the fact of the Soldier Soldier television series, now makes me realise that elderly people must have formed their fanbase. The military is very much an elderly person thing in the UK.

This happened to me constantly as a child. I would like a cover version, and then be humiliated when somebody with grey or white hair told me that it wasn't the original. Maybe this is part of why I spent my tween years so completely obsessed with music magazines. I liked reading the shit they printed for retired men, like Mojo. I definitely was genuinely keen on learning things about music. But I wonder now whether I was also just very afraid of being wrong.

It can't have been that long between me hearing "Perfect Day '97" for the first time and getting interested in The Velvet Underground—but it definitely happened that way around. I definitely found out who Dr. John was from the video. And I must have hated—since I still hate—the way the ad libs and weirdnesses of the cover are baked so deeply into my brain and take such priority over the "real" song. Heather Small is a genius vocalist, but "You're going to rrrreap just what you sow, yeah" is buried in my mind much too deeply to ever pull out.

It's so humiliating to be trapped in time, especially when you're a child. You can't get out of it. Nobody will let you even try! The sound of "Perfect Day '97" to me is the sound of understanding that.