I Wrote That – Joan Armatrading on Love and Affection

Love and Affection was Joan Armatrading’s first chart success. Released in 1976, it reached number 10 in the UK charts and has since been covered by Sheena Easton, Sly Stone and Martha Davis, Courtney Pine and Kele le Roc.

M spoke to the Ivor and Gold Badge award winner to find out how she wrote her most enduring ballad.

M: Do you remember where and when the song came to you?

Well, it came out in 1976, and I wrote it in 1975. Such a long time ago!

M: What first triggered you to write the song?

So far I’ve never told anyone, but it’s obvious in terms of its opening line, ‘I’m not in love, but I’m open to persuasion’. It’s really a song about love and friendship and about not being fickle. There’s a line in there that says, ‘I’ve got all the friends that I want, I may need more, but I’ll stick to the ones I’ve got’. Sometimes people get caught up thinking that having lots of friends means they’ve got lots of acquaintances, instead of just a handful of people that they are close to. It’s pretty important and special to have close friends, because you know if anything happens, or you are really down on your luck, there are people there to help you. That’s really what the song is about.

It started and ended with that guitar, it didn’t migrate onto anything else

M: Was it a lyric, melody or something else that first popped into your head?

It’s actually two songs that I put together. I can’t remember exactly what started it all off because I don’t have a definite way of writing. I don’t write words first, or music first. Sometimes a verse will trigger me off, sometimes it’s music and words together. Sometimes everything comes from a guitar I’ve picked up, and sometimes I go to the piano. Love and Affection came from my 12-string guitar. It started and ended with that guitar, it didn’t migrate onto anything else.

How did you develop the song from those two original ideas?

There is one part of Love and Affection that is the dominant bit, but I used a part from another song near the end. If you have something like that and you put things together, you really don’t want to be thinking in terms of two separate songs or it won’t work. For me, it had to quickly become one song. I don’t even remember how much of the second song went now.

M: When and where did you first record it?

I recorded it at Olympic Studios in London. I wrote it in 1975, and when I was touring that year I sang it on stage. I had it all worked out before I recorded it. I had all the parts ready, and knew what I wanted. Glyn Johns was the producer, but even when I have a producer I’m very much involved with what’s going on with the song. I write in a range. I think about what’s going to be in the song and tend to think about the whole of it as opposed to parts.

M: So did you record it all at home first?

Absolutely. I’ve always had a tape recorder at home. I started out with just a cassette, then I got a two-track, followed by a four-track, eight-track, 16-track. Right from the beginning I’ve always demo-ed everything myself and played everything myself. So with Love and Affection it was a case of layering stuff up at home. For my last four albums I’ve recorded and played everything myself; it’s just an extension of what I’ve always done. But instead of doing it on analogue tape I do it on a computer now, with Logic.

M: The song is still really popular today. Why do you think it has resonated with so many people?

Whatever answer I give won’t be the right one! I suppose you have to go and ask all those people what it is. They’ll all come up with something different, but one thing I think they might have in common is a connection to the opening line. People can relate to that. It’s such an opener for people to think about their own situation. If they are in love, at some point they weren’t in love. That can strike a chord. Then I think they like that big voice that comes in and they like the 12-string guitar. It’s got a few things going for it that really work with people.

M: Are you aware of all the cover versions? What do you think of those?

I’m aware of some of them. I haven’t heard all the versions that people have done of all my songs. But the version that I really like is an old one by Two Nice Girls. They put it together with Velvet Underground’s Sweet Jane.

Love and Affection

Written by Joan Armatrading

Published by Imagem Songs Ltd.