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.