When the song Jilted John became a smash hit in the UK in 1978, nobody was more surprised than Graham Fellows, or "Jilted John" himself. In fact, its companion piece on the single Going Steady was considered the more likely to make a chart impression, but the public was won over by the unlucky John's romantic turmoil as well as the memorable closing refrain of "Gordon is a Moron" which a lot of people incorrectly believe to be the song's title.
So although it seemed logical to build an album around this success, the only slight hitch was that nobody bought it. That has pretty much everything to do with the fact that the songs sound nothing like the single, and even the single was rerecorded to fit this new style. To put it another way, you'll be disappointed if you're looking for punk rock. The album was produced by the legendary Martin Hannett, he of Joy Division and John Cooper Clarke, but True Love Stories predates both of these artists and therefore lacks the "eerie wall of sound" Hannett would become known for, settling into a more carnivalesque novelty sound which you may love or hate.
The lyrics are nostalgic and funny in equal measure. In I Know I'll Never, we hear that John "loves T. Rex, Sweet and Slade - and Mott the Hoople are really great!" and that "Barry is my mate and we can sup / Two bottles of cider each and still stand up". It's a kind of manifesto for a 12-year-old boy. Presumably this is the same Barry as in Baz's Party, a fantastically frenetic ode to trying to fit in at a teenage party where by the end it seems that maybe Barry can't handle his cider as much as he claims to. While John and his friends scoff crisps, the girls dance on their own. Eventually a well-lubricated John tries his luck - he tells Belinda Clark that "these aren't very comfy chairs / so why don't we go and sit upstairs" with predictably unhappy results. "I say I love her, she replies / No you don't so stop telling lies".
The album's cobbled-together nature can be seen with the strange inclusion of the Jilted John album version, which takes about his infatuation for Julie, followed directly with The Birthday Kiss, which describes his break-up with Sharon. But it really hits its stride when Karen comes on to the scene. I have no idea how True Love tanked as a single, since it's wonderful; dreamy and echoey and school disco-y with a great little bass line - and John even gets the girl! In the Bus Shelter is a cute little instrumental where the highlight is when John blows up a bag of crisps and proceeds to pop it in Karen's face.
Although the album slightly peters out with the limp "Goodbye Karen", the b-side "Sold on You" is a real pearl if you like cheesy disco music, which I certainly do. True Love Stories certainly didn't deserve to be forgotten about, and anyone who grew up in the 1970s will fall for its charms.