Have I ever mentioned how much I love Sleeper?
Sure I have.
I mentioned it here ages ago.
And a bit here too.
I may have said something about it here as well.
At Christmas I was given a paperback copy of “Just for One Day (Adventures in Britpop)” by Louise Wener. I had read it before of course…more than once. The only copy I had was on a Kindle. Holding it in my hands highlighted the difference between “electronic” and “real” very clearly…like holding a seven inch single versus playing/streaming an mp3 of a favourite song. It’s the thrill of the physical…physical, let’s get into physical.
As I started reading the story of Louise Wener again I was struck by the number of songs she mentions. Songs from her childhood, songs that reminded her of friends, boyfriends, nearly boyfriends, music that soundtracked first loves, nearly loves, lost loves, singles and albums that were chosen over moon boots, records that inspired her, songs that she covered, songs that helped create her own songs…on and on and on.
I was suddenly gripped by a wonderful notion.
Or at least that is what it seemed like when it first gripped me.
By the time I had seen the idea to completion it felt…like a moment of madness.
I decided to list every song that is mentioned in the book.
Often people use music as a means of showing other people how interesting they are. No? Just me? Seriously? You’ve never pretended to like a band or song because it was cool and you thought that people would think you were cool if you liked it? Hmmmm. Okay. Let’s try again…
Often I use music as a means of showing people how interesting I am. This is because I am a middle-aged man with no real life. My day to day existence is made up of going to work, having tickle wars with my six year old daughter and then going to bed. Music allows me to present a vision of myself that is more in keeping with who I think I am.
In “Just for One Day”, Louise Wener discards traditional rock and roll memoir cliches where the authors describe how the first record they ever owned was “Low” by Bowie and their first gig was the Sex Pistols at the Free Trade Hall (despite their not having been born) with the intent of proving how rock and roll they are. Instead of that Wener does something radical…she is honest. Every song that rocked her boat, every single that thrilled her, every band she was obsessed with in a way that only teenagers can be…well, teenagers and middle-aged men…and the effect is startling.
From the songs that she mentions their were many that had played a part in my own life but that I had forgotten, there were others that I had long ago discarded because they were a bit naff and not in keeping with how cool I am (ahem) and there were some that I hadn’t ever listened to.
Put together they paint a picture of the process of growing up and moving on. These songs are her life story…in some ways they are my life story too.
Here then, for absolutely no reason at all is part one of “The Sounds of Wener”. Forty songs that paint some sort of picture of the artist as a young woman.
You are very welcome.
Ladies Night by Kool and the Gang
My dad had a “Best of…” Kool and the Gang album. Long before I discovered self-pity and introspection, or The Smiths to give them their full title, I soothed the pain of feeling low by “dancing” around by bedroom to “Ladies Night”. That “…sophisticated mama” line made me feel like a ladies man as I growled it in my pre-pubescent falsetto voice.
Brown Girl in the Ring by Boney M
Jamaican Germans…Germaicans? Boney M are a band who always seemed a bit, well, rubbish but whenever you hear this you have to work hard to keep a grin off your face and a wiggle off your hips.
I Know Him So Well by Barbara Dickson
Ever fallen in love with someone you shouldn’t have fallen in love with? Of course you have. When you are in it, right in the heart of it, things seem perfect. Blinded by the sun of love or lust or the fear of being alone again or…you can’t imagine it will fall apart.
Then it does.
When that happens it is comforting to have Barbara Dickson on your side. “Perfect situations must go wrong”…bloody right Babs.
Heart of Glass by Blondie
I don’t trust people who don’t like Blondie. I especially distrust those people who do not dash for the dance floor when “Heart of Glass” strikes up. I am fairly sure that such people are not real people at all but are instead hollow husks…no heart, no soul. Watch out for them…they tend to wear Pink Floyd t-shirts and take great delight in telling you how the live version of some tedious bit of indier than thou nonsense is better than the one that made it onto the album…yawn.
Bright Eyes by Art Garfunkel
“Watership Down” is really sad.
Only “Bright Eyes” could have done to capture that sadness, there is just something so tender, warm and human about Art Garfunkel’s voice.
Wuthering Heights by Kate Bush
If reincarnation is a real thing then I am either coming back as Victoria Wood or Kate Bush.
You can’t make me choose.
I’m also not getting into a debate about how I can come back as two people who already exist.
Kate Bush is a genuine eccentric of the sort that only England can produce. The voice, the lyrical themes, the movement, the look…she is an icon, inspiring more women in pop than you could name.
Silver Lady by David Soul
My mum used to work as a nurse in burns unit.
On Saturday nights when she was working the night shift my dad would let me stay up late to watch “Starsky and Hutch”.
Summer Nights by John Travolta & Olivia Newton-John
I have never seen “Grease” or listened to this song all the way through.
I think it all seemed a bit too “rocker” for the young Mod who lived inside of me when I was a teenager.
Xanadu by Olivia Newton-John
The film was the final screen appearance of Gene Kelly.
It’s not right that is it?
Up the Junction by Squeeze
I’m not keen on Jools Holland…he looks shifty and I have a nagging suspicion that he’s not very nice.
Difford and Tilbrook have a knack for writing catchy ditties but I’m not sure Squeeze are a band anyone has ever really loved.
Wings of a Dove by Madness
Rarely mentioned in the story of Britpop but clear and present in so many of the songs we love and adore from that era. Only The Kinks can really match those early Madness songs in their ability to capture the ordinary lives of ordinary people in ordinary towns and package it all up in three minutes of pop.
A Hard Days Night by The Beatles
Popular beat combo from the 1960’s. Teenage girls really liked them.
So Lonely by The Police
Tricky this isn’t it?
One has to be able to separate the art from the artist.
Or at least try to.
Almost impossible with Sting though, innit?
My Perfect Cousin by The Undertones
John Peel adored “Teenage Kicks” by The Undertones and many people see it as their finest moment, arguably one of the finest moments in British pop, but the truth is that “My Perfect Cousin” is a better song…and “A Good Heart” by a solo Sharkey is even better than this.
Enola Gay by Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark
It is a little known scientific fact that it isn’t possible to really be friends with someone who doesn’t like UK ’80’s elctro-pop.
OMD, Soft Cell, Depeche Mode, Pet Shop Boys, Human League…people who don’t own records by at least one of those bands are weird. Really weird. And a bit scary. Avoid them.
It’s Different for Girls by Joe Jackson
“It was something that I heard somewhere that struck me as a cliché. The sort of thing that someone might say. And again, I thought, What could that be about? And that maybe the idea was to turn it on its head and have a conversation between a man and a woman and what you’d expect to be the typical roles are reversed. So that was the idea of that.”
(Joe Jackson, 2012)
Often overlooked and underappreciated Jackson is a singer/songwriter who really deserves to be thought of alongside Elvis Costello…at least during his peak years. Clever lyrics, memorable riffs and catchy choruses…go check him out.
Coward of the County by Kenny Rogers
It’s not popular or cool but I love me a bit of country.
Not so much country with the Western but certainly country.
Kenny, Dolly, Willie, Loretta and Johnny.
Atomic by Blondie
Pure pop perfection.
So is the Sleeper version.
Working my way Back to You by The Spinners
Another group of people whom one should be extremely wary of are those who don’t accept the fact (and fact it is) that the music of Black America is, more than any other, the music that best explains, presents and understands love, lust, passion, rage, injustice, the horrors of existence and the glories of life and that the presentation of those in soul, funk, disco and rap/hip-hop are universal…tearing down the imaginary wall of race and doing all of that, very often, while also making music that lifts the spirits and forces the feet into a close approximation of dance.
This classic from The Spinners is a tale of love, lust and betrayal…that is also a floor filler and foot stomper.
Can the Can by Suzi Quatro
Speaking of stomping your feet.
Here is the first lady of glam rock Ms. Suzi Quatro with a song that out boogies Bolan’s boogie and makes Slade seem sedate in comparison.
Paper Roses by Marie Osmond
People dismiss the Osmonds as naff and a bit too nice but they made some great records and “Paper Roses” by the only sister Osmond to make her mark on the charts is a lovely song.
Also…Mormons. Who are also dismissed as a bit naff and a bit too nice. But they gave us the Osmonds. Who are really good occasionally. So, you know…what can you do?
Goodbye Yellow Brick Road by Elton John
I’ve never really “got” Elton John. He’s a bit like The Beatles in that respect. I get that people love him. I understand his place in the rock and roll tapestry. I know he has sold more records than there are people in China. I get it. I just don’t get it.
Super Trouper by ABBA
I haven’t seen “Mama Mia”. Have you?
Bette Davis Eyes by Kim Carnes
This song features on a compilation album called; “Pure Soft Rock”.
That is exactly what this is.
It’s that sort of eighties hair rock that fans of music made by men with dreadful haircuts and earnest lyrics absolutely despise. That might be why I like it so much.
Vienna by Ultravox
I got into a bit of Twitter spat the other night when I, loudly, proclaimed that “Waterfalls” by TLC was good enough to be number one everywhere forever.
I think it’s a fact.
However…I may have been hasty because I’ve just listened to “Vienna” again and it is, arguably, even better than “Waterfalls”.
Stand and Deliver/Ant Rap by Adam and the Ants
I’ve got a real fascination with people who are damaged.
Depression, anxiety, arthritis…and probably a dash of certain other mental and physical health problems.
I’m intrigued by what it is that makes people prone to mental health problems…and even more intrigued by those who are so afflicted but who rise above it to produce great art.
You may think that calling what Adam Ant did “great art” is stretching things a bit.
But he is a damaged man and he has battled demons…so I’m in.
Baggy Trousers by Madness
A better look at the awful reality of the education system for many young people than The Smiths “Headmaster Ritual” but because you can dance to it and the people who made it seem not to be suffering from NPD it rarely gets the respect it deserves and is, often, dismissed as a novelty record. It’s not. It’s great.
Imagine/Give Peace a Chance/Woman is the Nigger of the World/Cold Turkey by John Lennon
I don’t like The Beatles.
I really don’t like John Lennon.
Don’t you Want Me?/Darkness/Seconds by The Human League
Phil Oakey deserves to sit at the top table of UK pop writers but because he had a wacky haircut and had hit records he isn’t given the sort of respect he deserves.
Take “Don’t You Want Me?” a fantastic piece of pop writing that acts as both documentary and cinematic fantasy at the same time.
A better record than anything many of the bands I spent much of my life worshipping could ever even think of creating.
Under Pressure by Queen & David Bowie
Freddie and David.
The ridiculous (that’s meant as a compliment) grandeur of Queen and the aching cool of Bowie bundled together in one fantastic moment.
It’s Not Unusual by Tom Jones
One of the greatest male vocalists in British pop history.
I think his audience began to define him at a certain point in his career…the knicker throwing ladies who loved Tom more for his pelvic prowess than for his voice. That is, I think, a real shame because he really has made some incredible records and deserves to be thought of alongside the likes of Dusty Springfield and Stevie Marriott when we think about UK soul voices.
I Don’t Know How to Love Him by Sara Bareilles
This is the unholy trinity for a lot of people.
In truth though “I Don’t Know How to Love Him” is a really beautiful song.
Hot Lunch Jam by Irene Cara
I’m gonna live forever.
Could “Fame” have been the inspiration for the classic Oasis single?
Noel sat in a hash filled/fuelled fug in Manchester watching, adoringly, the kids from “Fame” leaping and yelping their way through a series of improbable musical numbers and thinking “Fook me. I want a bit of that.”
People of a certain vintage know though that few things are more wonderful than “Fame”.
We Will Rock You by Queen
You can say what you want about Queen…be as rude and dismissive as you like.
Bring up all the bile and bluster you have within you.
It won’t make any difference to the fact, and it is a fact, that their grand, operatic, stadium rocking, pop-rock anthems will have you singing along in the car, or grinning like a loon when the Live Aid appearance shows up on the telly.
I’m not a fan but as “We Will Rock You” plays in the background I’m stomping my foot and singing/chanting along.
Part two is on its way…