Stuart's Diary

Hello, welcome to a new week. I want to get outside, but it’s sleeting dirty weather, so I’m just sitting at the window thinking about music.

There’s certain songs that give me enjoyment and comfort, and that’s because they are written about the experience of music itself. The playing of, the business of, but maybe most poignantly, the writing of, the creation of.

There’s a few that spring immediately to mind, real favourites like Free Man In Paris by Joni Mitchell. In this one, she’s already a queen of song, and she just wants to step aside for a minute, escape the business..

I was a free man in Paris
I felt unfettered and alive
There was nobody calling me up for favors
And no one’s future to decide
You know I’d go back there tomorrow
But for the work I’ve taken on
Stoking the star maker machinery
Behind the popular song

The coolest little passage I found, that sums up the writers desire/fate to be subsumed in music, comes from Regina Spector, from Fidelity.

I never loved nobody fully
Always one foot on the ground
And by protecting my heart truly
I got lost in the sounds
I hear in my mind all of these voices
I hear in my mind all of these words
I hear in my mind all of this music
And it breaks my heart

Felt’s Ballad Of The Band is a priceless snapshot of mid eighties underground ambition..

And where were you, when I wanted to work?
You were still in bed
You’re a total jerk
Oh yeah and I feel like giving in..

There’s a place for abstract and there’s a place for noise and there’s a place for every kind of sound
So come on now and tell me why there’s a void!

It’s all my fault, yes I’m to blame
Ain’t got no money, ain’t got no fame
And that’s why, I feel like giving in

I love Felt. If Lawrence had had his way, he might have been happy, but would we? I just hope he’s happy now..

Ok, here’s a few more I love..

The Byrds – So You Want To Be A Rock ‘n’ Roll Star
The Smiths – Paint A Vulgar Picture
Simon and Garfunkel – Homeward Bound
Dire straits – Sultans Of Swing

..but how about you maybe fire me off a few? I can’t think of any more.

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33 Comments

  1. Kevin writes:

    Like you Stuart, I wish I was outside. Instead I am sat in my office, taking a five minute break, having my dailly browse of your website. Mind you, it’s pants weather here in Dundee too, so blessings for a dry office.

    I now have the “Balland of the Band” in my head, and that cant be bad. It has replaced “Legal Man” i’m afraid.

    How about Mott the Hoople’s “All the Young Dudes” ? I’m sure Orange Juice penned a song about music, but cant think ……do you think “Sad Lament” could count ?

  2. James writes:

    Range Life by Pavement is quite an obvious one. I like that tune.

    A really heartbreaking one is Battery In Your Leg by Blur. I’ve never been too much of a Blur fan, but it’s a really lovely song.

    “Put a rock beat over anything”

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VSbEZLIFktU

    Homeward Bound is probably my favourite song of all time.

  3. Ben writes:

    There’s always the Divine Comedy b-side ‘Anthem for Bored Youth’: http://is.gd/kYitsb

  4. Martin James writes:

    Sleety here in Northumberland too stuart.

    Most obvious one

    This Is Just A Modern Rocksong

  5. rob writes:

    LCD Soundsystem – You Wanted A Hit
    !!!!

  6. rob writes:

    Also, Storytelling makes myself (and probably many other fans) want to write and be creative. Sometimes when I listen to it, it makes me write and be creative!

  7. Nathan. R. writes:

    Dylan’s “Sara” contains the lines,

    ”Stayin’ up for days in the Chelsea Hotel,
    Writin’ “Sad-Eyed Lady of the Lowlands” for you.”

    And also, “A New England” contains the most curious couplet,
    “I was twenty-one years when I wrote this song,
    I’m twenty-two now, but I won’t be for long”

    Some more, perhaps, tenuous examples;
    David Bowie – Lady Stardust
    Sex Pistols -EMI
    Morrissey – The World is Full of Crashing Bores
    Orange Juice – Rip It Up (“and my favourite song’s entitled ‘Boredom’)

    I think you’ve pretty much established they key songs about songs…!

  8. Christina writes:

    Rolling Stones – I can’t get no satisfaction

    “When I’m ridin’ round the world
    And I’m doin’ this and I’m signing that
    And I’m tryin’ to make some girl
    Who tells me baby better come back later next week
    ‘Cause you see I’m on losing streak
    I can’t get no, a no no no
    Hey hey hey, that’s what I say
    I can’t get no, I can’t get no
    I can’t get no satisfaction ”

    Get Off of My Cloud (allegedly written in reaction to their sudden popularity after the success of Satisfaction)

    “I live in an apartment on the ninety-ninth floor of my block
    And I sit at home looking out the window
    Imagining the world has stopped “

  9. Sara Sizzle writes:

    Aside, of course, from many many songs by Belle and Sebastian, Fidelity is my favourite song in the whole entire world. Beautiful. Regina makes me feel as very special kind of happy.

    I love songs about music – about singing most especially.

    Other than Regina’s, one of my favourites is definitely The Carpenters – Sing. That’s one of my spring cleaning songs, all the windows open… mop socks on. Singing in to the broom.

    Another one – apologies if others think it lowers the tone – but a fantastic pop song in my opinion, Natasha Bedingfield – These Words.

    ‘Read some Byron Shelley and Keates, recited it over a hip-hop beat
    I’m havin trouble sayin what i mean, with dead poets and a drum machine..’

    Ha, I leave this now before I embarrass myself (aherm…)

    Sara x

    PS – Incidentally had it not been you asking the question, my first answer would have instinctively been Expectations because the line ‘write a song I’ll sing along’ has always been one that’s made me SO incredibly happy.

    When I was a teenager it made me feel all enveloped in loveliness as I hid away in my bedroom writing songs (ok, they were weird folk songs called things like ‘Barbie sheds her skin’ but I tried) and these days I find it coming in to my head whenever I see a lovely but slightly awkward teenage girl.

  10. Stephanie writes:

    Well, this one’s gotten popular again as of late:

    “If I was a sculptor, but then again, no
    Or a man who makes potions in a traveling show
    I know it’s not much but it’s the best I can do
    My gift is my song and this one’s for you “

  11. Sara Sizzle writes:

    Loads of stuff by The Beastie Boys.

    Like Flowin’ Prose from Hello Nasty.

    http://www.lyricstime.com/beastie-boys-flowin-prose-lyrics.html

    Can’t resist another cheesy one

    Song for The Radio by McFly

    (please don’t ban me from the site…)

    “So here’s another song for the radio
    And here’s another line from the heart
    So don’t pretend you hate us when you sing our songs…”

    It might not be everyone’s cup of tea but an accurate reflection of how Tom Fletcher (the singer and who wrote it) felt at the time about his music…

  12. Maria writes:

    Gorky’s Zygotic Mynci – Spanish Dance Troupe

    Perhaps not so much about writing music, but thinking screw everything else: music is what matters.

    “ain’t finished my essay
    coz rock’n’roll rules, ok!
    my conclusion this summer
    was there was much too much rain
    so i ran off on Thursday
    with a dance troupe from spain
    where wine, dance and music
    is the name of the game”

    The way it breaks into the refrain from ‘Wouldn’t it be nice” just melts me.

  13. Matt writes:

    What about ‘Songs of Love’ by the Divine Comedy? Fantastic song which then bursts into the Father Ted theme tune. I love it. Especially the lines

    “Young, uniform minds in uniform lines and uniform ties
    Run round with trousers on fire
    and signs of desire they cannot disguise
    While I try to find words
    as light as the birds that circle above
    To put in my songs of love”

  14. alan c writes:

    Hi
    your blog reminds me of “when i still have thee” by teenage fanclub.
    I love the couplet

    “well the rolling stones wrote a song for me
    It’s a minor song in a major key”

    the whole concept of identifying with the songwriting process and how it directly relates to the listener to the point where what the artist is doing is only for that listener. All the best music does that, it reflects the listener who projects their take on the songwriting process.
    Along the same line the track “the beatles and the stones”by the house of love taps into that experience of the music being just for the listener
    “the beatles and the stones made it good to be alone”….great song, fantastic lyrics

    ps. Was at zoey van goey gig on sat, spotted you there and my wife reminded me of a night out we had out in ashton lane in 97-98 when we first had arrived in glasgow having lived in edinburgh previously. Our edinburgh sunday morning soundtrack had regularly been when you’re feeling sinister.
    We were meeting her fellow psychiatry trainees for dinner and. remember hearing some familiar songs being played by a couple of buskers as we walked down the cobbles and they looked suspiciously like members of B+S…it was yourself and steve i think. It was a bit surreal but i’m fairly certain it was your good selves as we recognised you from a gig at the queen’s hall when we stayed in edinburgh…or perhaps it’s a mad dream. Can’t remember if i gave you 10p.

    Alan
    http://www.myspace.com/eastcoastdefector

  15. bob leane writes:

    Wraithlike by Maximo Park?

    quite contemporary so its not packed with indie cred but i remember hearing an interview about it!

  16. bob leane writes:

    Here’s a song that finally you can understand
    A minor statement meant to counteract the plan
    A list of wraith-like things, that quicken the heart

    Just another song of faded memory
    A raison d’etre for the entire family
    I don’t remember it well
    I was in love for a spell

  17. Elizabeth writes:

    A couple of my faves that drip with irony and satire.

    Song for Whoever – The Beautiful South
    Polite Dance Song – The Bird and the Bee

    B & S, I love you from the bottom of my pencil case.

  18. Andrian writes:

    Morrissey – Sing Your Life

    It’s unbearably sunny here in the Philippines, Stuart.

  19. Adam writes:

    Your inclusion of “Paint A Vulgar Picture” got me thinking. I quickly realized the best examples I can think of, especially from the last couple decades, are mostly about the “darker side” of the music industry.

    Spoon has written a few over the years. Of course there was the “Agony of Lafitte/Lafitte Don’t Fail Me Now” 7″ after their acrimonious split from Elektra in the late nineties, and a number of their songs can be read as commentaries on the business side of things (“Merchants of Soul” off Gimme Fiction, for example).

    James mentioned Blur. “Look Inside America” off their self-titled is autobiographical and deals with the monotony of touring. They also have a song on their album 13 called “B.L.U.R.E.M.I.” which is all about recycling musical trends, and Damon Albarn often worked in references, both implied and overt, about the downsides of being a musician throughout many of their songs.

    In terms of name-dropping influences, both the Minutemen (“History Lesson Pt. 2”) and Sebadoh (“Gimme Indie Rock”) turned in fine efforts, though I think the former had the more touching one.

    And lastly, a big personal favorite of mine is The Mountain Goats’ “The Best Ever Death Metal Band In Denton.” Despite the disappointment and interference its subjects face, they’re left with this heartening last verse:

    “When you punish a person for dreaming his dream
    Don’t expect him to thank or forgive you
    The best ever death metal band out of Denton
    Will in time both outpace and outlive you”

    Encouraging stuff for any dismayed artists out there.

    • Stuart writes:

      I’m off to listen to the minutemen now, ‘double nickels on the dime’

      my last entry is super trouper by abba

      I was sick and tired of everything
      When I called you last night from glasgow
      All I do is eat and sleep and sing
      Wishing every show was the last show

      Facing twenty thousand of your friends
      How can anyone be so lonely?
      Part of a success that never ends..

  20. Carlos Bacigalupo writes:

    I was going to quote “Paint a Vulgar Picture” but you made it first!

    However here’s another old one written with the (dark side of) music business in mind:

    “Ohh…Where are you now
    I’m over here
    We’ve got those empty pockets
    And we can’t afford the beer
    We’re smoking holes and we’ve got only dreams
    And we’re so damn drunk we can’t see the stairs”
    – “Heaven Up Here” by EATB

    I remember reading in an Ian McCulloch biography that he tried to express his disgust with the fact that by their 2nd album they were already pretty famous in the UK but weren’t a penny richer than in the beginning.

    Going back to “Paint a Vulgar Picture”, I actually met Morrissey at the soundcheck of his Buenos Aires show @ Luna Park in the year 2000.

    10 years later I met YOU after you gig exactly in the same spot! 🙂

    All the best,
    Carlos

  21. andrea writes:

    Kings of Convenience

    “Homesick”

    I lose some sales
    and my boss won’t be happy
    but I can’t stop listening to the sound
    of two soft voices blended in perfection
    from the reels of this record that I found

    every day there’s a boy in the mirror
    asking me
    what are you doing here
    finding all my previous motives
    growing increasingly unclear

    I travelled far and I burned all the bridges
    I believed as SOON as I hit land
    all the other
    options held before me
    WILL wither in the light of my plan

    so I lose some sales
    and my boss won’t be happy
    but there’s only one thing on my mind
    searching boxes underneath the counter
    on a chance that on a tape I’d find

    a song for
    someone who needs somewhere
    to long for

    homesick
    cause I no longer know
    where home is

  22. michele m writes:

    How about “Ziggy Stardust”-Bowie? Does “All the Young Dudes”-Mott the Hoople qualify? I think I’m on track with “Twentieth Century Boy”-T Rex and “Rock and Roll High School”-The Ramones. And “Virginia Plain”-Roxy Music? Some old school faves of mine.

  23. elisa writes:

    Maybe someone will think it’s off topic but…I’d say Bittersweet symphony…And Chumbawamba’s Voices, that’s all

  24. Catherine writes:

    Complete Control by The Clash. Still one of my favorite singles, bought when I was a wee lass of 14 or 15 in 1977.

  25. Catherine writes:

    Ooh, thought of a few others: “Metranil Vavin” “Bill Drummond Says” and the wonderfully brilliant “Elegant Chaos” with one of my favorite verses:

    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
    But people are people
    With the added advantage
    Of the spoken word
    We’re getting on fine
    But I feel more of a man
    When I get with the herd

    by the one and only, Julian H. Cope.

  26. Dot writes:

    Oh ya Stuart there are so many. I wouldn’t choose A New England but Wishing the Days Away- Billy Bragg. Neko Case- Guided By Wire. REM untitled. Written by Woody Guthrie revived by Billy Bragg and Wilco: Way Over Yonder In The Minor Key. The Smiths: Rubber Ring:
    “don’t forget the songs that made you cry, and the songs that saved your life”. Oh be still my broken heart!
    For B &S well I would have to add I Know Where The Summer Goes:
    “…the boy who made records out of postcard messages”…
    Ya, ya, ya….Your voice moves me to tears Stuart it truly does.

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