Monthly Archives: April 2007

Music To Walk Home To

In this post I mentioned that “no-one I like or trust” would recommend U2 to me. This was proved on Wednesday evening when, over a pint and a man-chat with James, I let slip that I have a Phil Collins song on my iPod, and that I like it. It was the closest I’ve seen James to lamping anyone. Guilty pleasures, you know?

But the song (Take Me Home from the album No Jacket Required, or as my brother would have it, No Talent Required) holds a special little corner of my heart, with a select group of tunes which formed a significant part of my developmental years. It’s a rotten little piece of Collins, but I don’t know, the twinkling synth backing motif, the skittering drums (especially that drum machine handclap), and most worrying, that bit that sounds like a bagpipe, piddling around in the background – it all just gets to me somehow. It is at this point that I quote Noel Coward, along with every other sod on the net, who said something about “the potency of cheap music”. Of course, this isn’t cheap music, it’s overproduced, overwritten, overplayed and over-sung. But it can overwhelm me, especially if I’m walking home alone.

In that respect, Take The Long Way Home by Supertramp is even more powerful. My sister liked Supertramp, and played Breakfast In America through my bedroom wall. This one in particular grabbed me, and I had it on an ancient cassette for years, only recently replacing it with an MP3 (I wasn’t going to buy the CD). It is choice fodder for staggering home after an after-show party. The lyrics make more sense for that, and the melody veers from uplifting to melancholy on the turn of a key. Add to that the relevant bits about “when you’re up on the stage it’s so unbelievable, … how they adore you” and an adolescent egotist could find a lot to sink his teen hopes into.

But for complete ‘standing-at-the-top-of-Cemetery-Hill-in-Bedford-looking-at-the-town-lights-and-feeling-angsty’, nothing beats True Faith by New Order. In 1987, it really hit the spot. The pounding drums, the (again) slightly melancholy synth chords, the lyrics which talked about growing up, and away from those around you. And most of all, the background melody during the chorus, another synth line. It’s difficult to describe – there are several bits of songs, chord changes, and the like that just send a shiver down my no-nonsense English spine.

True Faith just hits the spot. Of course, this is not a guilty pleasure – it is my favourite song of all time. A common thread with these songs is that they are sung by men, in a key that I can sing. Perhaps my inner (though not very well hidden) frustrated rock star likes songs it can imagine me standing on a stage singing to a huge audience. I certainly let rip when I’m alone in the house. And now and then, when events overtake me or changes wash over me, these and other songs come back to help me through.

My Knee-Jerk Politics

Approaching Tooting Station this morning, I saw two nice young people handing out leaflets. As I passed them, I smiled and took one, without stopping. I think I just caught the headline “Fair Deal For Tooting Station” and then I saw that horrible scribbly-tree logo, and the word “Conservatives”. I involuntarily blurted, “Oh! No thanks”, stopped, turned and gave the leaflet back. I didn’t catch the reaction to that, but it was clear why I did it.

I hate the Tories. Sometimes it feels like a knee-jerk reaction, or a throwback to an earlier, simpler age. Other times my hatred and contempt for them burns with a flame that is clean and pure. But should I have read the leaflet? Probably. What “fair deal” could they be offering? Tooting is in Wandsworth, a Tory local authority, hence the poor street cleaning and low council tax. The Tories forced through the dismembering of British Rail that left us with Railtrack vs. the Infracos. They’re already responsible – what possible suggestions could they have?

Maybe I should have read the leaflet. But it’s like music – people may say (no-one I like or trust, mind you), “Matt, have you heard the new U2 album? I know you don’t like U2, but this one’s really good”. It’s U2, though, isn’t it? Bonio, The Side or whatever he calls himself, the lot of them. The personnel are the same. They’ll never change.

Ten Years Is A Long Time

About ten years ago, two people sat in a restaurant and made a deal, about a particular house, in a particular street, and about a particular relationship between them, the house, and their roles, and the future of those roles.

No, not Tony Blair and Gordon Brown. Mairi and I.

Now, ten years later, the experiment is at an end, Blair is still in 10 Downing Street (but only just), and I am in the spare room. It’s been a long journey, with lots of ups and downs, and the parallels are uncanny…

  • Brown is Scottish, as is Mairi
  • Blair is an Oxford graduate, I have a degree from Buckinghamshire College of Higher Education in High Wycombe (pron. higgy wik-OM-bee)
  • Blair was a frustrated rock musician at college, I was frustrated at college.
  • The Blair/New Labour revolution was based on a foundation of long term social justice with the central tenet of “education, education, education” – Mine and Mairi’s relationship was built on a foundation of long term friendship, with a central tenet of appreciation of the arts, i.e. telly and pop music.
  • Mairi and I got Shuggie – Blair and Brown got, um, Peter Mandelson? Robin Cook?

I’m sure there are many more, but you get the picture. Like I said, uncanny. Another weird parallel was the fact that mere months after we got together, Princess Lady Diana Spencer of Wales was killed in a tunnel in Paris. I remember exactly what I was doing when I heard the news – I was listening to the news. Ha ha. We woke up late on Sunday morning, after fending off the Peterborough scum from our french windows all night. I came downstairs and switched on the TV, and immediately heard the words, “Princess Diana has been killed in a car crash”. I remember thinking it was a coincidence that I’d turned on the TV just at the moment it was announced, but then I realised that they had been repeating the phrase since 5am or whenever.

Over the following weeks, the country went insane, with an alarming amount of short-term revisionism, displayed most clearly in the pages of the tabloids like The Sun, The Daily Mail, The Mirror and The Express. As it happened, I had been buying The Mirror in the week leading up to that Sunday. This was because they were giving away vouchers to get a cheap flight to Europe on Easyjet – £9.99 to Amsterdam or something – and for no other reason. Every day that week, the Mirror had printed photos of Diana ‘n’ Dodi (al Fayed, the playboy son of a discredited Egyptian businessman) cavorting on a beach and shaming the entire country by acting like a right dim tart.

Then all of a sudden, The Sunday Mirror had a completely black front page. The hysterics that followed are a matter of public record, including Elton John re-writing and re-releasing ‘Candle in the Wind’ (b/w ‘I’m Still Standing’ – ho ho ho).

And now, after ten years of Dodi’s Dad Mohammed accusing everybody from the paparazzi to the Royals, it appears that if the case is dragged out any longer, no-one can be charged with any crime (I think) which means el Fayed’s staff, who some say are responsible for sending the car off with a drunk chauffeur etc. will get off scott free, leaving MeF to continue to splash scandalous headlines across that most level-headed of tabloids, The Daily Express. Sorry ‘The Express‘.

I don’t know how this anecdote reflects on mine and Mairi’s relationship. Something about head-turning car crashes? No, definitely not. 10 years of hurling blame around? Not that either.

A nation mourns – that’s closer to it. And now I need to do the same.

Sorrento Travelogue 3 – Tuesday

I’ve been told that I shouldn’t be blogging about last September when I have more important recent events that I should be blogging about. Well excuse me! I refer you to the blog of Achewood character Pat Reynolds

Today we took the hydrofoil across the bay to Capri, where the rich and beautiful people go. Beautiful place, views of the whole Sorrento coast, and Naples, and Vesuvius on the hazy horizon. Once on the island I left Mairi in a café to rest, and took the funicular railway up to the main streets. Capri is a funny mix of the same old tourist souvenir shops, selling Limoncello, cameos, and inlaid wood boxes, standing next to boutiques from Prada, La Perla, Rolex, Cartier, etc. Also, in common with the more “financially accessible” Sorrento, some cafés and restaurants had photo montages attached to the menu boards outside, to show the good times available within – the only difference being that on Capri, Mariah Carey and Keanu Reeves are the ones having the good time. Didn’t see any celebs myself though, too many swarming tourists (myself included) following guides holding up umbrellas.