The Dark Side

Originally published July 2008

I was going to write a thoughtful post about enjoying records that are considered a bit naff by some people. And not in any smug, ironic way either, but genuinely and honestly appreciating them as good music. But as I was trying to articulate those thoughts and how they relate to this record I just kept hearing this evil voice inside my head shouting YES! IT’S BARRY FUCKING MANILOW! AND I LOVE IT!! REALLY LOVE IT! I RECORDED THIS FROM VINYL! VINYL THAT I OWN!!! THAT I BOUGHT WITH MY OWN MONEY!!! I LIKED IT THAT MUCH!! WHAT ARE YOU GOING TO DO ABOUT IT? HUH? HUH??? — and I think, deep down, that’s what I really wanted to say.


Download: Could It Be Magic – Barry Manilow (mp3)


Auto Eroticism

Originally published September 2016

Unlike a lot of men I’m not really a car person. Living in London I didn’t need to drive and didn’t learn how until I was 30 when I moved to Florida where you have to if you want any sort of life. As a result I don’t really equate them with freedom or girls like in the Springsteen songs and see them mostly as things to get you from A to B. Not that I don’t appreciate a beauty of a classic car like an E-type or Mustang (and wouldn’t say no to owning one), but I don’t get erotically aroused by them like the bloke in Queen’s “I’m In Love With My Car”.

There are a lot of pop and rock songs about cars but few make them as blatantly sexual as this. Written by drummer Roger Taylor, it’s hysterically over the top but there’s something gloriously ecstatic about it that I’ve always loved. With its lines about “pistons a pumpin” and “my hand on your grease gun” it’s almost, um, Ballardian in its erotic fetishization of cars.

I first heard this when it was the b-side of “Bohemian Rhapsody” and kids at school would sing “I’m In Love With My Bike” to it. We knew all the girls loved a nice Chopper.

Download: I’m In Love With My Car – Queen (mp3)

No One Likes Us And We Don’t Care

Originally published April 2007

The Stranglers were probably the least respected band to come out of punk. Not just because they had a drummer in his 40s and a bass player with a silly martial arts fetish, but their songs were laced with sexism and violent misogyny (“Sometimes I’m gonna smack your face” was the opening line of their debut album) which didn’t quite fit in with the revolutionary, empowering spirit of punk. They probably thought they were being provocative when they just came across like dirty old men. Still, I liked them quite a bit (though the friends I had who really liked them were also into Heavy Metal – ’nuff said), and listening to their early records gave you the same kick you got from Derek and Clive (Live) or the sick jokes that used to go around school the minute someone famous died (“What was Marc Bolan’s last hit?” “A tree”) — they were nasty bastards but made some great records, and at that age you thought dirty words were funny.

By their standards their third album Black and White (1978) was quite an artistic and mature affair. It was their most musically inventive and the first one where the “humour” didn’t involve ugly women and prostitutes. Not coincidentally I think it’s their best album. The opening song “Tank” is a classic parody of the rock and roll car song, instead of the freedom of a Little Deuce Coupe it’s about the thrill of driving a tank and shooting people. Quite a change for The Stranglers to be taking the piss out of military machismo, how very liberal of them. “Hey! (Rise of The Robots)” is a funny song about robots taking over the world (“They’re gonna want a union soon/Oil break that’s dead on noon”) driven along by some great skronky sax playing by Laura Logic. Silly stuff, but a vast improvement on what they used to find amusing. The way these two motor along shows what a seriously good group they could be aside from all the macho shithead stupidity.

Download: Tank – The Stranglers (mp3)
Download: Hey! (Rise of The Robots) – The Stranglers (mp3)

Funny story: Our Gran used to buy me and my sister an LP each every Christmas and in 1977 my sister asked for a copy of The Stranglers’ No More Heroes album. On Christmas Day the whole family — aunties and uncles, cousins and grandparents — is gathered together and my sister decides to play her new record. If you know the album you can probably guess the rest of this story. Halfway through side one there’s this track on it called Bring On The Nubiles” and the chorus…um, goes “Let me, let me, fuck ya, fuck ya, let me lick your little puss.” As you can imagine there were red faces all around, apart from us kids who thought it was hysterical. I still have a wry smile whenever I think of my Gran going into her local Woolworth’s and buying the album in the first place.