Monday, August 13, 2007

British Baker's Dozen

Remember British music from the 80s? No? Well you might suck at this test then!

What follows is a 'baker's dozen' of lyrical excerpts from British-made pop music from that simultaneously glorious and inglorious decade, the 1980s.

Your task, should you choose to accept it, is to identify the song and the artist. The best of British luck to you:

18/08/07: Updated with the answers:

"With the money from her accident
She bought herself a mobile home
So at least she could get some enjoyment
Out of being alone"

Billy Bragg - 'Levi Stubbs' Tears' (from the album 'Talking with the Taxman about Poetry', 1986)... A typically affecting mix of the personal and the political, from our much-loved 'Bard of Barking'.

"People I see
Just remind me of mooing
Like a cow on the grass
And that’s not to say
That there’s anything wrong
With being a cow anyway"

The Teardrop Explodes - 'Elegant Chaos' (a bit of a rarity, but you can get it on the album 'Floored Genius - The Best of Julian Cope and the Teardrop Explodes 1979-1991)...

"Needles and sins, sins and needles
He's gasping for air
In the wishing well
Dust to rust, ashes on gashes"

Siouxsie and the Banshees - 'The Killing Jar' (from the album 'Peepshow', 1988)... Cracking single from the album the Banshees themselves consider their masterpiece.

"Don't tell me you don't know the difference
Between a lover and a fighter
With my pen and my electric typewriter
Even in a perfect world where everyone was equal
I'd still own the film rights and be working on the sequel"

Elvis Costello and the Attractions - 'Everyday I Write the Book' (from the album 'Punch the Clock', 1983)... This was about as sentimental as Elvis used to get back then, but the lyrics are still nice & caustic.

"I dreamt about you last night
And I fell out of bed twice
You can pin and mount me like a butterfly
But 'take me to the haven of your bed'
Was something that you never said"

The Smiths - 'Reel Around the Fountain' (from the album 'The Smiths', 1984)... The first song on the first album. A real life-changer for millions.

"Hot dog, jumping frog, Albuquerque"

Prefab Sprout - 'The King of Rock'n'Roll' (from the album 'From Langley Park to Memphis', 1988)... 'The Sprout' sound a bit twee these days, but it's still a funny lyric.

"If I wait for just a second more,
I know I'll forget what I came here for,
My head was so full of things to say,
But as I open my lips all my words slip away
And anyway"

Yazoo - 'Nobody's Diary' (from the album 'You and Me Both', 1983)... Melancholy synth classic from the band fronted by Alison Moyet but masterminded by Vince Clarke - also of Depeche Mode and Erasure - and a certified genius of electronica. PS: Apparently this band was called 'Yaz' in the U.S.A.

"Unicorns and cannonballs,
Palaces and piers,
Trumpets, towers, and tenements,
Wide oceans full of tears"

The Waterboys - 'The Whole of the Moon' (from the album 'This is the Sea', 1985)... The Waterboys have two gears. One is quite downhome and 'fiddle-dee-dee' folky. And the other is 'The Big Music'. Like this. This song was so popular back when it was released that I recall becoming thoroughly sick of it - but I saw them a year or two ago and must admit that it's an incredibly rousing number when played live. Sample here.

"Ritual ideas relativety
Only buildings no people prophecy
Timeslide place to hide nudge reality
Foresight minds wide magic imagery"

Big Audio Dynamite - 'E=MC²' (from the album 'This is Big Audio Dynamite', 1985)... The band that Mick Jones formed after he was kicked out of The Clash was very progressive - and chronically underrated. This little beauty was one of the first chart songs to use samples to a large degree, while the lyrics contain a whole slew of allusions to the movies of Nicholas Roeg! (e.g. Walkabout, Performance, Don't Look Now, The Man Who Fell to Earth).

"He's walking where I'm afraid I don't know
I see the firemen jumping from the windows
There's panic and I hear somebody scream
He picks up his newspaper and puts it in my pocket
I'm trying very hard to keep my fingers clean
I can't remember tell me what's his name"

Madness - 'Michael Caine' (from the album 'Keep Moving', 1984)... Top pop song from 'the nutty boys', featuring the dulcet tones of the great man himself. Sample here.

"all the faces
all the voices blur
change to one face
change to one voice
prepare yourself for bed
the light seems bright
and glares on white walls"

The Cure - 'Charlotte Sometimes' (single, released 1981)... Nice and spooky, it's based on a children's novel of the same name.

"Somethings happening here today
A show of strength with your boy's brigade and,
I'm so happy and you're so kind
You want more money - of course I don't mind
To buy nuclear textbooks for atomic crimes
And the public gets what the public wants
But I want nothing this society's got"

The Jam - Going Underground (single released 1980)... A shouty, rabble-rousing classic.

"I've asked myself
How much do you
Commit yourself?"

Talk Talk - 'It's My Life' (from the album 'It's My Life', 1984)... This one was covered, quite faithfully, a few years back by No Doubt... but in place of a mighty synthesizer there was a bland guitar, and in place of Mark Hollis's huge voice there was just Gwen Stefani. So it was a fair bit shittier.


Natsthename said...

""Don't tell me you don't know the difference
Between a lover and a fighter
With my pen and my electric typewriter
Even in a perfect world where everyone was equal
I'd still own the film rights and be working on the sequel"
-Elvis Costello, baby, with "Every Day I Write The Book" I loved that song.

Joe the Troll said...

I'm well on record for ignorig lyrics, so I can't guess at even a one. I want to know about that one that mentions Albuquerque, though.

It'll probably be a month or so, but I'm planning a TtU that I KNOW you will like!

Cheezy said...

Nat: Yep, you got it.
Joe: I'll answer the Albuquerque one in a couple of days, along with all the other unanswered ones!... And I'll keep my eyes peeled for that TtU.

Natsthename said...

I'm pretty sure the second to the last one is a Jam song, but damned if I can think of the one right now!

Cheezy said...

Yep, that's close enough for me! 'Going Underground' it is...

Natsthename said...

YES, that's it! I need to go play some Jam right now!

Lucyp said...

Wow, i do suck at these lyrics games but anyway..
The 'Albuquerque' lyric is from Prefrab Sprout, cannot remember the name of the song though unless it was called Albuquerque.
Apart from the jam one Nat got (and that was only from the second to last line), i am stumped with the rest.

Cheezy said...

I think it's my fault, Lucy (and everyone)... I didn't know where to pitch these, so I erred on the side of obscurity... cos I reckoned that lyrics like "That ain't workin', That's the way you do it, You play the guitar on the MTV" would be (a) shite, and (b) too easy.

Anyway, yep, Prefab Sprout was the Albuquerque one. The song, 'The King of Rock'n'Roll'.

I'll give the others in a day or three... unless O'Tim wants to steam in with all the answers first :)

Joe the Troll said...

"I didn't know where to pitch these, so I erred on the side of obscurity"

I made the same mistake with a movie quiz not long ago. O'Tim was ALL honked off.

Natsthename said...


Jefe said...

I'm sorry to say I was not listening to BritPop in the 80s at all! I was splitting my time between hardcore/punk/metal (some of which was very British), bebop jazz and old country. So other than the Elvis Costello tune, which Nat got first, I'm stumped on 'em all!

O' Tim said...

Well shit I posted a comment a coupla days ago but she gawn!

It was something like "I hardly have a clue on these Cheez, but I'm thinking there may be some XTC in there."

And if not WHY not? They've got some of the most obscure and meaninglessly fun lyrics ever written. And some not so meaningless:

Dear God,
Don't know if you noticed, but... Your name is on a lot of quotes in this book
Us crazy humans wrote it, you
should take a look

NOW you've got me all honked off!

Joe the Troll said...

I think Andy Partridge is responsible for some of the cleverest lyrics I've ever heard.

Cheezy said...

Sorry to disappoint, but there's no XTC in there! But I agree about the quality of some of their lyrics...

About to update with the answers...