52% intelligent. 9% modest. More monkey than bear.

Friday, September 30, 2005

Take off your overcoat, you're staying for the weekend

Oi oi! Friday night. Lovely-jubbly. Just before I get a curry in and uncork a cheeky bottle of red, it's time for our regular weekly pilgimmage to the land where the Earworm is King. I've been experimenting this week, and I've been seeing how often I can deliberately inflict an Earworm onto the poor guy who sits next to me at work. It turns out that it's pretty easy, and this week he has inexplicably found himself humming "Take Me Out" by Franz Ferdinand, "The Model" by Kraftwerk, "Talk" by Coldplay (all the more impressive as he had never heard the song before I hummed it quietly next to him for a few minutes), "The Deadwood Stage" by Doris Day ("whip crack away, whip crack away, whip crack away!") .... and perhaps unforgiveably, "Dancing In the Moonlight" by Toploader. He had his revenge though: I went off to a meeting, and when I came back, I discovered to my chagrin that I had been reinfected with the damn song as he was still humming it. Gah. I blame Fox.

Anyway. This week's Guest Editor is comfortably my favourite Singapore based ex-pat teacher of all time.... (for some reason the intro to "The Boy With The Arab Stap" has just started playing in my head. Curse my wretched susceptibility to Earworms!). He's also a longtime reader of this blog, and has been known to grace a stage in a Destiny's Child -ahem- 'tribute' act. Looks quite the part, too.

Yes. Ladies and Gentleworms. Without further ado... it is my great pleasure to present for your earworming pleasure:

Earworms of the Week - Guest Editor #19 - Mike from All Right Here?

I have a relationship with earworms which is often full of regret. Sometimes I’ll hate a song so much, or find it so laughable, that I listen to it lots of times just so that I can win an argument about how bad it is because I’ll then know the reasons why it’s so bad. I know the entire choruses to two R Kelly songs, for example. My regret is that, as a result, neither of them ever leaves my head for very long. I almost made the same mistake with Usher recently, but realised what was happening just in time. Fortunately, there are some good songs in my head too. I thought about lying and just putting good songs down, but it’s a real honour to be writing on SwissToni’s Place, so I want to do it properly. Here goes nothing, then.

The Vapours - Turning Japanese
I’ve only got this on a best of the 80s cd or something. It came on my MP3 player on shuffle the other day. It kept me awake all night and it really sticks. Some people think it’s about onanism which, interestingly, can have a similar effect.

Nelly - Ride Wit Me
Nelly. In his younger days a pair of plasters used to adorn his cheeks and he wore silly hats. He’s now matured into an artist who just wears silly hats.

Anyway, this song is the one that goes “Must be the money!” and I blame its earwormness on a school camp I was supervising when it came out. My colleague and I were washing up while the pupils were being teenagers in the next room – you know, dousing themselves in black make-up, hugging each other and crying about important things like how fat they thought they were. We were listening to the radio as we were washing up and both agreed that, even though we were far too old to really appreciate it, this Nelly chap had written a rather catchy sounding “rap” with an infectious chorus. In the manner of your dad, we started singing “Hey! Must be the money!” with some enthusiasm. We turned around to discover that most of the teenagers were standing in the doorway, looking at us incredulously.

Nelly, they informed us, was “lame”.

It’s never really left my head since. It came out in 2000. Argghh!

Spandau Ballet - Gold
This is an all time favourite of mine and a karaoke standard. I always ensure that I hold the mic in a Tony Hadley manner, you know, as if it’s one of those cigarette holder things.

For many years I thought it contained a reference to “the man with the suit and the face”, which always made me wonder what the man with the suit but without the face might have looked like. A great tune, I thought, but what nonsense these lyrics are. I discovered recently, however, that the lyric is actually “the man with the suit and the pace.” So that’s cleared that up.

Hard Fi - Hard to beat
A euphoric, rolling, uplifting song that manages to sound rocking and a bit housey all at the same time. The song’s about a guy seeing a girl that he likes, going up to her and saying, “Hi, how you doing?” This line, believe it or not, actually works, and one chorus later she’s already removing his shirt. It reminds me of being young and having much better lines than his, but them not working.

For pure energy and that feel good factor, this song is… er… hard to beat…

R Kelly - I Believe I Can Fly/Ignition
Well, one thing’s for sure. He’s no Shakespeare.

Two songs at once is, of course, cheating. For reasons explained earlier, these two often worm their way into my head as a kind of R Kelly medley, one segueing seamlessly into the other. “I Believe I Can Fly” contains the simplest and commonest of rhyming couplets, which therefore renders it empty and meaningless. He rhymes fly/sky day/away soar/door. Must have taken him all of two minutes. And the passion with which he sings these lyrics that a five year old would dismiss as, “Not my best work, Miss,” makes me laugh at him.

And so for “Ignition”. It’s too ludicrous for words, so what did I do? I learnt every word of the chorus.

Recently, some kids did an assembly on a history trip they’d been on to Vietnam. For the photo slide show at the end they chose “Ignition” as their background music. A somewhat incongruous choice, I thought. The best thing was, the teacher in charge of the music turned it up when the intro started, before hastily turning it down as soon as R Kelly started describing the sordid details of his “freakin’ weekend”.

Simon And Garfunkel - America
Simon and Garfunkel songs pop into my head more than anyone else’s, I think. Whether I’m “At the Zoo” or meeting “Old Friends”, whether I’m “Homeward Bound” or watching that “Most Peculiar Man” George W Bush on the telly, they have a song that pops into my head for the occasion. The one that permeates most, though, has to be “America”. I love the lyrics. “Laughing on the bus, playing games with the faces/She said the man in the gabardine suit was a spy/I said be careful, his bow-tie is really a camera”. This reminds me of Ella and me “people watching”. It’s a romantic song, but there’s more than a smidgen of 2000s US/British paranoia about it too.

Teenage Fanclub - I don’t want control of you
This isn’t my favourite Teenage Fanclub song, but it’s the one that’s running round my head at the moment. What I love about this song is the lazy, carefree strumming, the beautiful harmonies, the great melody (obviously) and the dramatic key change just before the end. The main bit that’s going round my head is the falsetto harmony that accompanies the key change so I’m giving myself a bit of a headache, as you can imagine.

Kelis feat Andre 3000 – Millionaire
It’s the bass line and Kelis’ sexy voice coming in that appeals about this one. It’s very enjoyable to pogo around the living room to. I was singing it all day today. Kelis plus Outkast equals pop heaven. It makes me think of rain at night for some reason.

Ash – Orpheus
I’m not interested in fast cars or even driving quickly in a normal car. Indeed, most people make no bones about telling me that I drive like a Grandad. I don’t care. I have no desire to drive any differently. Until this song comes on, that is. When it does, I picture myself hitting the open road in a convertible, drop top down (as Craig David might put it), driving excessively fast on a beautiful summer’s morning. It’s the melody that has this effect on me, despite the fact that the lyrics mention both “sunshine in the morning” and “the open road”. I reckon they wrote the lyrics to fit the melody. Whatever. It’s a winner.

Kings of Leon – King of the Rodeo
This is in my head because I’ve been listening to a lot of Kings of Leon lately. This is probably my favourite track because it makes me drop whatever I’m doing and bellow along. I keep getting different bits in my head. The riff which kicks the song off is very simple and very hummable. The thing I like best about singing along to Kings of Leon, though, is the fact that I can understand about one word in twenty. It sounds to me like they’re singing in Polish or something, so when I sing along I can make up my own language. It’s kind of my own individual club singer round from the tv show “Shooting Stars”. For all its indecipherability, it’s pure, unadulterated class.

Cheers Mike. Good list my friend, good list. Good choice for number#1 too (Statue John will no doubt be along to voice his approval in due course). Very eloquent explanations too.

Speaking of cheeky reds, next week's Guest Editor will be RedOne from Run Over By The Truth. For some reason, I thought that Red had already had a stab at this, but upon review of a list of previous guest stars, I realised that this was not in fact the case. Red has a lot to say about music, and was good enough to find the link to a very sad and appropriate blues song for me the other day. Not before time, Red's absence will be remedied next week, and I'm very much looking forward to it.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I can hear the dulcet tones of a jalfrezi gently beckoning me..... À bientôt, my lovelies.

[previous guest editors: Flash, The Urban Fox, Lord Bargain, Retro-Boy, Statue John, Ben, OLS, Ka, Jenni, Aravis, Yoko, Bee, Charlie, Tom, Di, Spin, The Ultimate Olympian, Damo]


  • At 9:21 pm, Blogger LB said…

    ooh, that's a good list.

    Love is like a high prison wall, you know.

  • At 10:21 pm, Blogger red one said…

    Mike - yeah, S&G are particularly earwormy. I get The Boxer on the brain ridiculously often. It's the "I am leaving, I am leaving, but the fighter still remains" line that does it, for some reason.

    Swiss - hope it's going to be alright after that build up...

    *stage fright*


  • At 1:03 am, Blogger Damo said…

    Orpheus by Ash.

    It doesn't get much better than that.

  • At 6:13 am, Blogger Aravis said…

    Simon and Garfunkel have the same effect, and America takes up near permanent residence. Though in my case it's the last verse that tends to replay in my mind.

    Great list!

  • At 8:25 am, Blogger Turners in the Country said…

    ha, this is funny; i just wrote about this very phenomenon on my blog regarding hard-fi's hard to beat, and then just stumbled on your blog. eerie.

    earworm is a great term, never heard it before.


  • At 8:02 pm, Blogger LB said…

    R&V, rap, soul, it's all the same load of old cobblers. Diddy, Beyonce, Usher, Jay Z, Public Enemy, Lemar - it's all cack and all sounds the same.

  • At 9:29 pm, Blogger swisslet said…

    R&V? what's that?

    I have some sympathies for the Lord B. point of view here: I just don't get the music of people like Mariah Carey, R. Kelly, most rappers, Usher, Diddy (or whatever the clown is called this week)... however, I have one massive caveat - which is that I think that it is a mistake to tar them all with the same brush.

    Part of my reason for saying this is that I am actutely aware how my music taste could be dismissed in this way as "indie guitar bollocks", and yet I could hold forth for hours about how there are many and various subtle different textures between bands as diverse as The Smiths, Franz Ferdinand, Coldplay, James, The Auteurs and so on. I know that some people might wonder why I think the Stereophonics and Ocean Colour Scene are crap, when they seem to tick most of the boxes that make them look like "the kind of thing Swiss would like". Music taste isn't like that (and the whole concept of 'genre' is pretty bunk as well, but that's probably a different story). Radiohead and Toploader are far from being the same kettle of fish, although I'm sure lots of people would lump them into the same category and dismiss them all as cack and sounding the same.

    The other part of the reason I won't dismiss it all as "R&B nonsense" is that I like some of it, or can at least appreciate what makes it good (at least to my ears). I can hear a world of difference between the likes of Public Enemy and P. Diddy. And although I'm not a big fan, I can hear people like Snoop Dogg and Eminem and can (at least in so9me way) appreciate their talent, even if I might not want to dash out and buy their records.

    Um. I've rambled a bit. You know this though, don't you? All 80s bands were not created equal either.....


  • At 9:35 pm, Blogger swisslet said…

    ...this doesn't mean that you can't say something is crap. You can. Please do. Just be a little more specific when you do!


    (we've had this argument before, so I imagine that you will just disagree and reiterate that you think it's all crap. I bet you have some "R&B" that you absolutely love in your collection somewhere.... Let me have a look at your iPod....)

  • At 10:47 pm, Blogger LB said…

    it's easier for me to say it's all a load of old tat. You will notice that I have deliberately sent myself up there by putting Public Enemy and Lemar in the same sentence. Even I know that's like comparing Michelle Shocked with Michelle McManus.

    I own the Black Eyed Peas cd for example. And I can quite happily listen to, say, Kanye West (but not that awful "Diamonds Are Forever" one). And there are others I can listen to sometimes also (for example I hate Nelly as much as anyone, but that "Dilemma" one was OK, right? and "Burn" by Usher isn't as reprehensible a record as others I could mention.)

    You know I am being deliberately silly, here, although I would reiterate that I think the vast majority of all rap, R&B, soul is crap, albeit hugely popular.

    But then I like Climie Fisher, don't I? and Brother Beyond. and S Club 7. [lists other rubbish pop acts ad infinitum]

    It takes all sorts, it's just not my cup of tea. But it was all meant as a light-hearted jape, young Swiss-ling.

  • At 11:55 pm, Blogger swisslet said…

    I'm still none the wiser about R&V

    (and isn't Lemar winning all sorts of awards and stuff? Or should I not get you started on the MOBOs?)


  • At 11:56 pm, Blogger swisslet said…

    hang on - you own the black eyed peas CD?


  • At 1:12 am, Blogger Hyde said…

    Hope you enjoyed the curry and the "cheeky bottle of red!"


  • At 3:29 am, Blogger Me said…

    One thing that really used to irritate me before I left England was adverts on the telly advertising hip hop compilation albums which had no hip hop on them whatsoever. It was all R and B.

    I would argue that I was write to say that Nelly is rap because he raps on the record.

    I just say "treat each record on its merits, regardless of the genre or what the artist has done previously".

    I've always found the Stereophonics, for example, absolutely woeful, but I loved Dakota. Britney Spears was just a pretty face to me until she released Toxic, which is a slab of pop genius.

    And "Ride Wit Me" by Nelly is actually quite good...

  • At 9:08 am, Blogger Me said…

    Just read that comment back and realised I wrote "write" instead of "right". Embarrassing.

  • At 3:12 pm, Blogger Tom said…

    Oooh. "Turning Japanese" by the Vapours. Now that was very good, wasn't it? Produced by the mighty Bruce Foxton of the Jam, the greatest bass player to ever come out the British New Wave (1976-1978).

  • At 8:44 pm, Blogger Flash said…

    Top notch list!

    Seriously though, it must be "the man with the suit & the face", I refuse to change after 22 chuffing years!

    I refuse I tell you!

    Oh & "Hard to beat" is simply divine!


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