Monday, 26 October 2009

63. 10 pretty songs with sweary titles

It's a Motherfucker - Eels
Your Fucking Sunny Day - Lambchop
How Fucking Romantic - Magnetic Fields
Bloody Motherfucking Asshole - Martha Wainwright
Fuck the Universe - Ryan Adams
The Man Don't Give a Fuck - Super Furry Animals
Fuck this Shit - Belle and Sebastian
Fuck it, I Love You - Malcolm Middleton
Cunts - Aidan John Moffat
Grudge Fuck - Pernice Brothers

It's been a relatively long time since I posted anything, the reason being simply that I've been very busy, rather than that I'm running out of ideas - though they are slowing down somewhat, I've still got a few stored up. The thing is, it's not the start bit of each post or the end bit that takes the time, or ought to take the time, it's the middle bit, the real meat, and too often lately I've found myself rushing out some incoherent nonsense, which hasn't expressed anything interesting about the subject in question.
So, I thought, this subject might offer some kind of opportunity to write something coherent about swearing, which has always interested me. Unfortunately, I'm right in the eye of a cold, which, though hardly debilitating, is befuddling and wearying.
So, this post may well end being fairly piecemeal all round. Sorry.
Still, good set of songs. I'll see what I can wring out of the subject. What's interesting about using "fuck" or another swear in a songtitle is that you are necessarily courting controversy and demanding attention even though the phrase you have used might well be one of the most natural and simple imaginable. As soon as you've put the swear in the title it will be commented on in those terms.
I like the idea of this blog because it really comes close to exemplifying the difference between the perceived "danger" of a swearword and its actual place in our language. The Eels song is as barely beautiful as anything by Nick Drake or Joni Mitchell or anyone, and the tacit meanings expressed by the central phrase "It's a Motherfucker" is what gives the song a lot of its power.
Elsewhere, to be fair, some of these songs do use "fuck" with more aggressive intent eg Martha Wainwright and Ryan Adams - the Ryan Adams isn't actually pretty, it's kind of ghastly and compelling, but i truly think it is the sound of a man at lowest ebb, but still putting it into a coherent song.
They're all "fuck" apart from the Moffat song, which isn't really a song at all, more a brief discourse on the use of the word itself.
There's a view that cunt remains the last taboo, swearwise, and while it's still perceived, i guess it's still true, while it's still the one which will get a disapproving glance for or which you'll hold back from saying in front of certain people, but its place as a no-go area, as a word of particular offence, is built on nothing really.
I've softened somewhat in my attitude to swearing, or rather my attitude to people's attitude to swearing. While in the past, I'd have argued about absurdity and hypocrisy and ignorance giving language more power than it merits and giving children easy lines to cross, I do see that not swearing in front of children/ at work etc is, like the royal family, a convention that, though basically silly, serves moderate purpose and will be around for a while to come.
I also acknowledge that when you see comedians live who you've seen on TV not swearing, and they're f-ing and blinding away, thy look silly and forced in their effort to either a) look natural or b) look adult or c) look edgy, and likewise, swearing often looks bad on the page when writers use it to capture a vernacular.
So, there we go, that's it. No poem, i don't think. I don't really know how i could exemplify the issue without looking smug or naff or both. If anything comes to me, I'll come back to it, but I'll just end with ****.

Tuesday, 13 October 2009

62. 10 South London Songs

From one locale to another

Waterloo Sunset - The Kinks
Guns of Brixton - The Clash
Up the Junction - Squeeze
Latchmere - The Maccabees
Morden - Good Shoes
Electric Avenue - Eddy Grant
The Only Living Boy in New Cross - Carter USM
The Lambeth Walk - (Me & My Girl)
Battersea Odyssey - Super Furry Animals
The Wombling Song - The Wombles

Not a bad bunch - I'd wager there are a lot more classic songs with a very North London feel to them, what with Camden and all that, and probably even more with an East London feel. Still, South London's where I'm at right now and I think this lot do it proud. There might well be more South London hip-hop etc but it's not my specialist area. Roots Manuva is from Stockwell but i couldn't think of any of his songs which were location specific.
I've covered quite a wide area here - Up the Junction is the definitive South London song, I reckon, with its beautiful absurd couplets. Also, it was good to discover a song about Morden, a legendary place to most people as the end of the Northern Line, you usually hear people saying it the way they say Mordor in Lord of the Rings whch is like the way they said Murder in Taggart.
I moved to South London about six years ago (from my birthplace in the West, which i may cover in a way later) but I wasn't initially sold on it and envied my cooler brethren in the North. While your Camdens and Shoreditches and Islingtons and Crouch Ends and Stoke Newingtons remain favoured holiday hotspots, as a place to live I'm a big fan of my current area of the South. I think things rally pick up when you get south of the Common. It's an interesting one, South London - though there are obviously good and bad little bits all around, it wouldn't be unreasonable if someone taking the 37 from Peckham to Putney felt themselves gradually going from one end of the scale to the other - I've been to and seen nice places and parts of Peckham and Tooting and Dulwich and Brixton and Earlsfield and Wandsworth, but I do have my preferences, and Richmond and Camberwell are different worlds.
In a way, Clapham, the epitome to some people of South London, is the part that annoys me the most, Clapham as in Clapham High Street and also Clapham Junction area - that's the area of the rugby haircut and the dull bars and the overly rammed Saturday nights. That's probably what I had in mind here.

I woke, night time, to a window smashing
nearby, like I'm in a classic Jam song.
Round here, the trains don't rumble like Ealing
lets them - but cats still yowl and boots still crush
weak skulls. Blood drips outside the M and S -
is it middle class blood? What an affront!
to those coarsened voices waking families
with their braying baiting inanities.
I draw lines too, don't think I don't. Nos and
yeses, north and south, giggs or not quite giggs ...
Spare me my own stunted sober words in
average kitchens at those tortuous parties
where the invitation, marking not yet
total purdah, is the only pleasure
and dumb boys, turned nasty adults, working
as spin doctors for that sly fuck Cameron
are the window smashers and they are the
neighbour wakers, drunk on lifelong privilege.
I draw different lines, do I? Well, I can
resent any man or any woman -
that I'll say for my part. Sketchy hatreds
withhold madness, smashing windows barely
interrupt my barely troubled slumbers

Grr, angry ... i think it was a time i wasn't really drinking so was envious of all the drunk people out having fun. That's all really.

Saturday, 10 October 2009

61. My 10 Favourite Fence-Related Songs

Aah, 61, my favourite number. The number of my football shirt in St Andrews, so appropriate that this tape should be St Andrews-related.
I've opted to include only one song by each artist, with just one reasonable exception

Not One Bit Ashamed - King Creosote
Setting Sun - The Aliens
I Don't Know Where to Begin - The Pictish Trail
False Alarm - KT Tunstall
Amsterdam - U.N.P.O.C
St Patrick - James Yorkston
Melonbeard - The Lone Pigeon
Lovelife - Barbarossa
Dry the Rain - The Beta Band
And the Racket They Made - King Creosote

I assume that most readers are well-versed in Fencelore, so I don't have to give too much of the background story.
Some may carp at the inclusion of the Beta Band and KT Tunstall but they are certainly Fence-related artists, albeit not on the Fence label, and part of the story.
What has struck me in putting together this list is that, after it was initially interesting that the folk who ran the music store downstairs had a record label and made music, I now look at what has been produced from this small enclave of Fife and it really does include several of my favourite, favourite songs of all time. Genuinely and truly and, I think, disregarding bias.

St Patrick, Amsterdam, Not One Bit Ashamed are modern classics in their way and I truly believe Dry the Rain is one of the greatest, most influential songs ever written. It was the first song on the first Beta Band EP. Where could they go from there?
"If there's something inside that you want to say, say it out loud, it'll be ok, I will be your light, I will be your light, I will be your light, I will be your light"
That bit was written by Gordon Anderson aka The Lone Pigeon aka the lead singer of The Aliens. I've seen him in action a few times and the results have been very variable, but occasionally exceptional. I used to think he was the genius of it all, but I've rather changed my mind to think it's the brother Kenny, King Creosote, the founder and centrepiece of the collective. He seems to be able to thrive within so many different styles, has a far prettier voice and is a much better lyricist. Not One Bit Ashamed is a superb pop song, which i've seen wake up many mid-afternoon festival crowds, but at the moment I love And the Racket They Made even more.
This is its lyric [As you can see from the comment before, I've misattributed the lyric, it's HMS Ginafore who wrote it, not King Creosote. I haven't heard her version, I do love his. Anyway sorry for getting that wrong. What a klutz I was]

And your words chased round and round in my head last night
They chased their own tails
And your words jigged round my mind all night
To look at me now, I'm quiet as sound

And the tide shrinks back into its womb
and i hope the empty shells and bones of your stories
will litter and clutter the shore
and I hope that when I find them I'll remember how they danced
and the racket they made when they were alive

For my task, I have tried to write more in the nonsense-lyric style of the Lone Pigeon. Nonsense in a good way. I've noticed recently I've often excused my own patchiness by saying it is pastiche, which is a bit of a cheat really, but so be it. Another way i've been cheating recently is that if lists are about artists, I've been incorporating lots of their lines. Kind of weak.
I've written things about the Fence Collective before, because I like the story so much, but they were a bit too intrusive. I've also tried often to write in the style of James Yorkston, who is a master of words in the folk idiom, but generally failed.
There are several other great Fence songs which don't make this 10 - Robot Man, Jumping at the Cats, Woozy with Cider, Here on My Own, Beeeswing Summertime, Words Fail Me Now, Happy Song, Rox, Lonely Vagabond, Boats, When the Haar Rolls In, Touched by Tomoko, O Catherine, Friday Night in New York to name but a few. Then there is Sweet Jesus by James Yorkston, such a tremendous song I can't believe I haven't put it on the list.

O well. Here is my nonsense song

See how the wind blows
east sands up south street
down through the west port
walking like a rainbow
here's a funny wee man
with a funny wee beard
listen to the song cycle
down in the cellar bar
simple wineglass symphony
simple as a rainstorm
built in a kingdom
year upon cold year

See how the sun shines
down table mountain
yellow t-shirt, melon
bearded moonbeam man
here's a funny wee tale
with an awkward ending
beeswing summertime
brothers trying to work it out
take the time to dry the rain
end of the rainbow time
shine of the beacons
till who knows when.

Wednesday, 7 October 2009

60. 10 Songs about the 1970s

1970's - Aberfeldy
1970 - The Stooges
1972 - Josh Rouse
1973 - James Blunt
1974 - Ryan Adams
74 -75 - The Connells
1975 - Gene Clark
1977 - The Clash
1979 - Smashing Pumpkins
Born in the 70s - Ed Harcourt

Perhaps I should have waited until Post Number 70. Perhaps. But I become impatient.
And I've had to include James Blunt. Dear me.
I don't remember the 1970s. Not one second of it. I think my first memory is of whacking my head in 1980. When I was born 'You're the One that I Want' was Number 1.
A lot of my favourite music is from the 1970s. The good thing is one doesn't have to care about punk being Year Zero and one can like music from before and after. You can see it is a major cultural shift, though. A modern film which chose to set itself in 1972 would arguably be trying to do something very different from something set in 1977. That's my impression, anyway.
So it is that 1972 by Josh Rouse (feelin 1972, grooving to a Carole King tune) and 1977 are very different songs (no Elvis, Beatles or Rolling Stones).
Ash named their debut album 1977 as the year of their birth and the year of Star Wars. In films, the mid 70s saw the dawn of the Blockbuster Age, whereas in music it's a bit like the opposite.
There are a lot of images from the 1970s imprinted on my mind like I feel I was there. The summer of 1976 particularly. A summer of heatwave, the cricket pitches as Clive Lloyd's West Indies team toured were parched, something you'd never see now. We used to call it the Ladybird Summer, which I'd assumed was a wellknown term, but i can't find it anywhere else, so it must have just been us.
And so, and so, and so
this has got couplets like Squeeze, a fine late 70s band. It has a refrain of sorts.
it's called


Born at the end of the Ladybird Summer
weaned on the wise words of Weller and Strummer
Dad spent the day at the Kennington Oval
watching Viv Richards make Tony Greig grovel

...& o, you've got to be careful, so careful
what you might say and how you might phrase it
back then before widespread use of crash helmets
when your head gets hit your little brain stays hit...

Mother was schooled in the best west of London
her twenties were spent with the good work being undone
by 76 all the lessons were unlearnt
heavily pregnant and heavily sunburnt

Lost dad somewhere and couldn't find a replacement
entered the 80s in a rough Camden basement
hardly the life that your Grandad had planned out
he kept you from squalor with irregular handouts

...and O, you've got to be so careful, so careful
what you accept and how you accept it
kind words from charmers and car rides from strangers
and life-changing moments'll go undetected...

Ambrose and Walsh replaced Holding and Garner
Strummer took leave and along came Nirvana
made your own way through the last days of Thatcher
streetwise and smart to your own growing stature

Learnt to discern between angels and devils
learnt far less from GCSEs and A Levels
saw through the mirage of Cool Britannia
summers were spent dealing drugs in Espana

...and you've got to be careful, so careful
what you might sell and who you might sell to
there can be changes in luck and in judgement
making your deals with the hand that life's dealt you...

Back in the city for the start of the century -
connections remade with the new English gentry
for the clueless but rich; it's no wonder they need you -
earning your name as a star of new media

The 70s saw no year headier or hotter -
owned by Clive Lloyd and ruined by Johnny Rotten -
by 77 it was colder and wetter
and the life you were born to got steadily better

Now your word's worth more than YouGov and MORI
selling the future to Labour and Tory
Ladybird, Ladybird, child of the scorched grass
born lost and solemn, determined to laugh last

But o, you've got to be careful, so careful
when you might laugh and who you might laugh at
One wrong move will take a billionaire's fortune
and coldly and casually slice the top half of it

Saturday, 3 October 2009

59. 10 Songs for Chicago

Dear Chicago - Ryan Adams
Via Chicago - Wilco
Chicago - Frank Sinatra
Chicago - Joseph Arthur
Frankie's Gun - The Felice Brothers
Lake Michigan - Rogue Wave
Old Man Chicago - Alberta Cross
Take Me Back to Chicago - Chicago
Sweet Home Chicago - Robert Johnson
Chicago - Sufjan Stevens

I'm posting this one now for two reasons 1) the city's failed bid to host the Olympics (the post had been devised in anticipation of the bid not failing). Obama slightly ill advised on this one. I think the US can't expect to host it every decade or two really 2) I was there almost exactly a year ago, having a very nice holiday, enjoying the Obama hype, wondering at the huge array of big buildings, not being able to walk very well. I'd like to go back some time - it seemed to be a great city.
My list above pretty much bypasses the two genres for which Chicago is most famous - jazz and house. I even thought about including something from the musical Chicago, but Frank Sinatra and Robert Johnson will have to do. Apart from that, it's the usual indie suspects. Wilco, the greatest band in the world, are from Chicago, so I could have included more from them and Sufjan Stevens has released his tremendous 'Come On Feel the Illinoise' album, which includes songs like 'The Seer's Tower'. Did you know the Sears Tower has recently been renamed The Willis Tower. My hotel was pretty near it. It's tall. It wasn't long after I ran past it that my troubles began ...

Where things end up is often defined by their starting point.
I started with "Lake Michigan seems like a dream to me now ..." which has two consequences 1) what i wrote had to be fractured, uneven and in some way dreamlike 2) since that line is an allusion to a lyric, what i wrote had to be full of such allusions and half-quotations.
So that is how it is. If this was a truly interactive forum followed by more than about "pi" people,
i'd suggest trying to spot all the quotes

NOTES FROM CHICAGO (I fell in love with the place, I made a lot of mistakes)

Streets heaving with gatorade
October pressed a hated heatwave

walls closing in, all the walls cramping us

now the window of the tallest tower
allows no limits to my vision

Lake Michigan seems like a dream to me now

Glazed eyes raised from river green
my favourite album cover framed
curved towers unbroken, voices escaping

One too many hot bright mornings
shaved too close, knees still creaking
where's the breeze, the freeze when you need it?
Trapped in running, punning hell
the crippled voice inside my head mocks
Pheidippidehydrated, Pheidippidehydrated

Three hours seems like a dream to me now
four hours is a nightmare
i made a lot of mistakes
i fell in love with the place