Sunday, 4 December 2016

My Top Ten Self-Pity Songs (Volume 2: The Ladies)

Almost as soon as I posted Volume 1, my old friend Sally started protesting on Facebook. I'm sure she won't mind if I share her rant with you all now...

"Rol. Rol. Rol, Rol, Rol, Rol, Rol, Rol, Rol, Rol... Where are all the tear-streaked, self-hating women you introduced me to? What of Not Pretty Enough? Footsteps Fall? Bloody Mother-Fucking Asshole? Maybe that's not strictly self pity, but it sure felt like it to me. If you do this again it should feature the mascara-streaked, the unnoticed despite hours of prep, the gin-soaked, the Laydeez"

Well, who am I to refuse such a heartfelt plea? And yes, Sally was right: I was remiss in making Volume 1 all about miserable fellas. (Although I had forgotten just how much I used to share the misery with anyone and everyone way back when Sally and I worked in the same office.) And so, to redress the balance...

10. Eddi Reader - Footsteps Fall

Thanks to Sally for reminding me of this one, a good few years since I listened to it, but it's gloriously miserable.
I’m in a new place now
They don’t know me next door
Though I can hear their footsteps fall

Every night about this time
Does he take her in his arms?
There’ll be Django playing as they waltz across the floor

And loneliest sound of all
Is the sound of love through a stranger’s wall...
9. Lucinda Williams - Lonely Girls

The thing about mining a rich seam like self-pity is that way down at Number Nine you'll find songs which would have been Number One on any other Top Ten. There's a brutal simplicity to Lucinda Williams' lyrics here, each line repeated over and over to hammer home the point...
Heavy blankets 
Heavy blankets
Heavy blankets
Cover lonely girls
But the kicker comes at the end when Lucinda reveals: she knows of what she writes.

8. Aimee Mann - Save Me
You look like a perfect fit
For a girl in need of a tourniquet
Not a love song, but a desperation song. Not the only one on this list, as it turns out.
C'mon and save me
If you could save me
From the ranks of the freaks
Who suspect they could never love anyone
Ooooh, that last line. Aimee, you're killing me...

7. The Carpenters - Goodbye To Love

Whenever I listen to the Carpenters, I'm reminded of John Cusack's opening monologue to High Fidelity... what came first: the music or the misery? Makes you wonder about poor, tragic Karen...
I'll say goodbye to love
No one ever cared if I should live or die
Time and time again the chance for love has passed me by
And all I know of love
Is how to live without it
I just can't seem to find it
So I've made my mind up
I must live my life alone
And though it's not the easy way
I guess I've always known
I'd say goodbye to love...
6. Martha Wainwright - Bloody Mother-Fucking Asshole

I'll admit, when Sally suggested this one, I wasn't sure it fit the criteria. The titular "hero" is Loudon Wainwright III, and on the surface this is just Martha's semi-tongue-in-cheek attack on her father's longstanding habit of writing extremely autobiographical (if highly amusing) songs about his family... though frankly, Martha got off light compared to Rufus. But when you delve a bit deeper, it is gloriously miserable in its own way, and despite being one of her earliest songs, it might be Martha's finest hour.
And you have no idea
No idea how it feels to be on your own
In your own home
With the fucking phone
And the mother of gloom
In your bedroom
Standing over your head
With her hand in your head
With her hand in your head
I will not pretend
I will not put on a smile
I will not say I'm all right for you
When all I wanted was to be good
To do everything in truth
To do everything in truth
5. Diana Ross & The Supremes - I'm Livin' In Shame

Now here's someone who really has a reason to feel self-pity. The sequel to the equally spectacular Love Child, here we find Ross's self-hating heroine moving away from home to escape the shame of being born in poverty to a "slum mum"... only to drown in guilt when that deserted and disowned mother dies lonely and heartbroken while her daughter parades around university pretending to come from a wealthy family.
Got a telegram
Mama passed away while making home made jam
before she died she cried to see me by her side
She always did her best
Ah cooked and cleaned and always in the same old dress
Working hard, down on her knees
Always trying to please
Mama, mama, mama can you hear me?
Mama, mama, mama can you hear me?
I'm living in shame
Mama, I miss you
I know you've done your best
Mama, I miss you
This song utterly destroys me. In a very good way.

4. Black Box Recorder - Child Psychology

I was going to disqualify this on the basis that it's written by two blokes (John Moore and Luke Haines), but then I realised it's not the only song like that in this list. Besides, it's the performance that matters, and Sarah Nixey makes this her own.
Life is unfair: Kill yourself or get over it!
3. Kasey Chambers - Am I Not Pretty Enough?

There is no creature in the known universe more well-versed in the fine art of self-pity than your average teenager, and our Top Three today demonstrates that perfectly with three slightly-older ladies turning to their teenage selves for devastating inspiration. Here Kasey Chambers turns romantic desperation into an artform, and then wonders...
Why do you see right through me?
That said, she's a novice when compared to the all-time champion of channeling teenage angst into a pop song...

2. Janis Ian - At Seventeen

At Seventeen may well have been written about the horrors of being a teenage girl... but sadly, most of the lyrics recall my own teenage woe with clinical precision...
To those of us who knew the pain
Of valentines that never came
And those whose names were never called
When choosing sides for basketball
It was long ago and far away
The world was younger than today
When dreams were all they gave for free
To ugly duckling girls like me
1. The Shangri-Las - Past, Present And Future

Melodrama on a supremely epic scale was the Shangri-Las' stock in trade, and they certainly turned it up to 11 on this 1966 ode to joylessness. Set to Beethoven's Moonlight Sonata, it sticks a dagger into teenage heartbreak unlike any other record you'll ever hear. Sublime.

No surprise to find both Morrissey & Marr were fans...

That's Volume 2 out of the way. I hope you realise this series could run and run. Especially if you keep encouraging me. Misery does love company...

Friday, 2 December 2016

My Top Ten Self Pity Songs (Volume 1)

Things are still pretty hectic at the moment and I'm swamped with trying to decide what my Top Ten Albums of 2016 will be... and writing the posts to accompany them. However, rather than go a week without a Top Ten, I thought I'd plunge into the archives and re-run an old favourite. My Top Ten Self Pity Songs (Volume 1... if I'm still stuck, I'll run Volume 2 next week) originally appeared six years ago in my old blog, Sunset Over Slawit. That was more than just a music blog, but I lost interest in writing about all the other aspects of my life and packed it in just before starting this one. I made the old blog private although many of the posts had by then been stolen and re-posted by a clickbait website on the other side of the world so they may still exist on the internet somewhere (despite reporting the thief to the google police, nothing was ever done about it).

I've edited this re-post slightly because I'm not the same person I was five years ago...

Ironically, it's the complete opposite to the post I would have written this week if I'd had time. I'd planned to follow Swiss Adam's lead and post ten happy, upbeat songs to counteract the tsunami of bad news we've had to face in recent weeks. Turned out I couldn't even manage five...

Isn't self-pity great? I hereby declare it the most ace emotion ever! If I'm having a bad day, there's nothing guaranteed to cheer me up more than a good long bout of feeling sorry for myself.

You'd think that with all the money and groupies and cocaine and stuff, your average rock star wouldn't have much time for self-pity, yet they seem to get off on it almost as much as I do. Although to be fair, most of the anthems to self-loathing listed below come from early in the respective artist's career - by singing about how shit they felt, they made oodles of money and hence stopped feeling so shit about themselves... and then went on to stop writing such good songs, since happiness is rarely conducive to artistic greatness.

This is Volume 1 simply because there are so many great self-pity songs, I really couldn't narrow it down to just ten. I'll throw some more onto the fire the next time I'm feeling crappy. Do feel free to add your own suggestions in the comments box...

10. Mansun - What It's Like To Be Hated

How are you feeling today, Paul Draper?
Ugly, scruffy, no one
Nasty, bitter, enraged
Hated, broken
Oh, come on now, cheer up - it can't be that bad.
Disturbed, unwanted at birth
The fucking joke that we are
I've never had any friends
Fair enough then.

9. Teddy Thompson - Turning The Gun On Myself

I really should do a list of suicide anthems. And this really should be on it. But as it's possibly the best song Richard Thompson Jr.'s ever written, it deserves its place here too.

8. Strangelove - Freak

If your name was Duff, you might expect your life to follow suit. So, cheesed off that fate had robbed him by leaving that all-important 'y' off the end of his name - otherwise he might have been The Man From Atlantis or Bobby Ewing - Patrick Duff formed Strangelove and channeled all his negativity into this...
I walk the plastic streets
Just like a monkey
Just like a geek
My scraping knuckles bleed
I hear my Mummy crying out
He's a freak
I live a life alone
And all my friends are gone
It kind of turns me on
I hate them one by one by one
I'm a freak
7. Eels - Dog Faced Boy
Coming home from the school today
Crying all along the way
Ain't no way for a boy to be
Begging ma to shave me please

You little punks think you own this town
Well someday someone's gonna bring you down
Life ain't pretty for a dog faced boy
E from the Eels has built a career on feeling sorry for himself, understandably so when you consider some of the things that have happened to him. That said, he's always aware that things could be worse. He could always have a face like a shaggy mongrel.
Ma won't shave me
Jesus can't save me
Dog-faced boy!
 6. Wheatus - Teenage Dirtbag

I don't care, I love this song. It encapsulates how shit it is to be a teenager, listening to Iron Maiden, unable to get the girl you want because she's dating a dick. The video features perpetual loser Jason Biggs trying to cop off with Mena Suvari (from Amy Heckerling's underrated teen-com Loser). The band followed this supreme ode to woe with an Erasure cover. But as one-hit wonders go... wow.

5. Eric Carmen - All By Myself

When Eric Carmen was young, he never needed anyone. Making love? Making love was just for fun! Sadly, those days are gone. Now he's living alone, thinking of all the friends he's known... but when he dials the telephone... nobody's home.

I don't know about you, but I'm welling up.

4. Simon & Garfunkel - I Am A Rock
I've built walls,
A fortress deep and mighty,
That none may penetrate.
I have no need of friendship; friendship causes pain.
It's laughter and it's loving I disdain.
I am a rock,
I am an island.
See the genius of Paul Simon here is that, bad as he's feeling, he's actually convinced himself he's better off that way. There was a time in my life I lived by the following lines...
I have my books
And my poetry to protect me;
I am shielded in my armor,
Hiding in my room, safe within my womb.
I touch no one and no one touches me.
Listening to this song reminds me how much better off I am now.

3. Beck - Loser

For many years, I thought that Beck sang "So - open up the door - I'm a loser baby, so why don't you kill me?"

Only when it comes to writing this post do my investigations reveal he's actually singing "Soy un perdedor", which, according to the internet... is Spanish for "I'm a loser".

2. Radiohead - Creep

I wish I was special. Don't you?

1. The Smiths - I Know It's Over

Of course, I could have compiled an entire Self-Pity Top Ten just from Smiths songs. And I could have made a Top Hundred just from sticking pins at random in Morrissey's solo catalogue. But none of them would have been quite as majestically miserable as this. It begins with Morrissey climbing into an empty bed he equates with a grave... and goes rapidly downhill from there. He then imagines a relationship with a potential partner who turns round and says to him these immortal words...
"If you're so funny
Then why are you on your own tonight ?
And if you're so clever
Then why are you on your own tonight ?
If you're so very entertaining
Then why are you on your own tonight ?
If you're so very good-looking
Why do you sleep alone tonight ?
I know ...
'Cause tonight is just like any other night
That's why you're on your own tonight
With your triumphs and your charms
While they're in each other's arms..."
Then again, if you've never sat alone late at night and asked yourself these questions... count yourself very, very lucky.

There - that was so much better than a Top Ten Feelgood Songs, wasn't it?

Wasn't it?

Monday, 28 November 2016

November #1 - The First Record I Ever Bought

In December, I'll be counting down (as I do every year) my favourite albums of the year. Before that... a confession.

Over at What's It All About, Alfie? recently, Alyson revealed the first album she ever bought. She seemed almost reluctant to admit it was an Elvis album... as though that was something to be embarrassed by. God, I wish my first record was an Elvis record.

It's time that the tale were told...

(After Queen and Neil Diamond, I think you're ready for this now.)

I was 15 when I bought my first records. Quite late, considering. I'd been getting into music a lot around that time. Both my sister and brother had left home and had kids of their own, so I used to babysit for them often to earn a bit of spending money, and when I did I always ended up working my way through their records. I'll be honest, my sister had the cooler collection, although my brother did have A Kind Of Magic by Queen, and I played the grooves out of that (as previously discussed). My sister though: she had Elvis, and the Supremes, and the Beach Boys, and Bowie, and Kate Bush... and I babysat for her a lot because she worked till 9 in the evening and her husband was a long distance lorry driver, only home on weekends. Four or five nights a week then, I'd sit in my sister's living room after my nephews were in bed and watch a bit of TV... then fall into that record collection. It was my teenage awakening.

Eventually, I got my first record player. I might be imagining this, but I think it was a little red turntable with built in speakers. I don't think I had it long and I have no idea what happened to it (or whether it's just romanticised nostalgia) but I know that pretty soon after I got a midi system with a built in cassette deck for making mixtapes... and the rest is history. Thirty years later, this blog is the end result.

The first album I owned then, there's no problem there. Queen's Greatest Hits. A Christmas present from my sister because she saw how much I loved that band. I thought Bohemian Rhapsody was the greatest song ever written. There are days when I'll still fight its corner.

But that doesn't count as my first record, does it? It has to be the first one I bought with my own money, right? Strangely enough, the first single I ever bought, rapidly followed by the first album I ever bought, were both by the same artist. Here's a few clues to his identity...

It was 1987 and he was riding an incredible wave of success.

We shared the exact same birthday (day, not year... I was only 15, remember).

He grew up in New Jersey.

I honestly thought that when I grew up, I wanted to be him.

Oh, yes.

His name was...

Longtime readers of this blog will by now have guessed that my favourite artist is Bruce Springsteen. (There was a time I'd have said it was a toss-up between him and Morrissey, but I'm coming to realise, as I grow older, Bruce is in a different class.) I believe in the redemptive power of rock 'n' roll, and Bruce has been my constant companion since I first dove into its river. So wouldn't it be a wonderful kind of symmetry if the first single - or the first album - I ever bought was one of his?  

But life's not that neat, is it?


This is the first single I ever bought...

Then, a week or so later, this was my first album...

And you know what, I'm not ashamed to admit this: I loved them then, and I still love them now.

I could tell you how I was a huge fan of Moonlighting, and David Addison was the coolest guy on TV.

I could tell you that the song Respect Yourself (originally by the Staple Singers) is such a classic, even a smug Hollywood egomaniac couldn't ruin it.

I could tell you how the single was saved by the uncredited - at the time - guest vocals of June Pointer (with her Sisters on backing vocals).

I could even go with the flow and say, hey - as croaky as Willis sounds on this record, at least his voice isn't as bad as Meat Loaf's on that record I chose as my Number One last month.

But why should I have to defend the purchasing choices made by a musically-naïve adolescent any more than I have to defend the "guilty pleasures" of a 44 year old muso-irker?

Respect Yourself was a reasonably classy, yet still tongue-in-cheek, rendition of a great old song - and, I'd argue, Willis's cover of Under The Boardwalk, backed by the Temptations was even better (plus it was the 12th best-selling UK single of 1987, folks... so never underestimate the British record buying public). And there were some equally fun tracks on the rest of the album. It was never going to set Willis on the road to rock 'n' roll stardom (maybe he foolishly thought it would... but then Die Hard came along the following year and he saw a much more lucrative future), but it did the job right then. And it holds a special place in my heart.

(Willis's second, and final album, was called If It Don't Kill You, It Just Makes You Stronger. It didn't make his recording career stronger. I still have a copy on my shelf, one I'll never, ever give to the charity shop (and let's face it, who'd buy it?), even though I probably won't ever listen to it again.)

We only get one life and the choices we make matter, even the duff ones. They all mean something to us, and this record means something to me. Let's never forget...

If you disrespect everybody that you run into
How in the world do you think everybody's supposed
To respect you?

Friday, 25 November 2016

My Top Ten Queen Singles

Struggling for time, so I thought I'd repost this as it's timely for two reasons. Firstly, I suggested a Queen song over on the latest edition of The Chain this week and spurred a little debate. Secondly, it's 25 years ago this week since Freddie passed away and Queen died with him. Hard to believe, but harder still is the fact that they've been gone longer than they were around. (All due respect to Brian - not Roger, because he's an arse - but you can't have Queen without Freddie. John had the right idea.)

I still remember the day Freddie died. I was at uni at the time and I remember sitting in the lecture theatre, not hearing a word. He was probably the first real hero I lost. 25 years later... well, look at the year we've had. I don't suppose it'll get any easier...

Originally posted September 2012 - I've not changed the order, though I probably would have done if I'd thought about it...

Queen were the first band I ever truly loved. The idea of choosing only ten of their songs was just too daunting. So here's my Top Ten of the stuff everybody knows. Give me a break - I still had FORTY songs to choose from. One day I'll bore you with my Top Ten Queen Album Tracks. Until then...

10. Headlong

The last great Queen single, by which time Freddie was a shadow of his former self. Not that you'd know it, listening to this.

9. Hammer To Fall

Not the obvious choice from The Works album, but although Radio Gaga soundtracked my adolescence ("I'd sit alone and watch your light, my only friend through teenage nights") and I Want To Break Free features the wonderful video that ended the band's American career, there's something special about Hammer To Fall. Might be the guitar hero power chords - Brian May did invent the air guitar, after all.

8. Spread Your Wings

I'll be honest, I didn't even know this had been released as a single. It only ever reached number 34 in the charts, but it's always been a favourite.

7. Tie Your Mother Down
Tie your mother down
Tie your mother down
Take your little brother swimmin'
With a brick that's all right
6. Breakthru

Late 80s Queen is often dismissed by purists... but then, Queen are often dismissed by musos in general. Time to irk them further then. I was 17 when this song came out and I sank my heart into it, convinced it was the anthem that would change things between me and whichever lacklustre young lass was ignoring my feeble attentions that week.

Plus - Queen perform atop a high speed locomotive in the video. What else do you need?

5. Killer Queen

I keep meaning to write an in-joke into one of my comics in which a certain character keeps her Moët & Chandon in a pretty cabinet. Nobody would get the joke, but it'd make me smile every time I looked at it.

4. You're My Best Friend

If I'm in the right frame of mind, this song makes me weep. I know, I'm weird.

3. Seven Seas Of Rhye

Nobody did utter nonsense quite like Freddie & the gang. This, their first ever hit, ends on a slice of music hall frippery that never fails to remind me of the opening to The Queen Is Dead. Coincidence?

Meanwhile, just listen to that piano!

2. Bohemian Rhapsody

You may have expected to find this at number one. Or you might have predicted I'd be controversial and drop it from the list entirely. It's impossible to ignore though, and there was a time in my life when I considered it the greatest song ever written. Me, Wayne, and Garth... party on - excellent!

1. Somebody To Love

Before I discovered The Smiths, this song was my How Soon Is Now.

Each morning I get up I die a little...

Any other Queen fans out there? Outraged that I didn't have room for A Kind Of Magic, Flash, or Crazy Little Thing Called Love. I feel your pain... but there can be only ten.

Tuesday, 22 November 2016

November #2 - Neil's First Time

2. Neil Diamond - Desiree

Although I'd planned to feature this song anyway this month (because it's been on rotation: no idea why), it became a little more timely after Alyson from What's It All About, Alfie? raised a question over at A History Of Dubious Taste about whether Neil Diamond was acceptable in these circles (since most things are, but Michael Bolton clearly isn't). Of course, we all jumped up in support of Mr. Diamond... well, Jez and I did, but I'm sure the rest of you were nodding along in silent approval.

Anyway, here's one piece evidence in the Neil Diamond Rocks case, a 1977 number in which Neil tells us about his first love, and drops in a little innuendo along the way that would make Alison Moyet proud...
It was the third of June
On that summer's day
When I became a man
At the hands of a girl
Almost twice my age...
(By the way, Alison Moyet Rocks too. Get over it.)

Built around a bassline very reminiscent of It's Still Rock 'n' Roll To Me* (Billy Joel Also Rocks... but as he released that song three years AFTER Desiree, maybe he was also a Diamond fan), Desiree has everything you could want from a pop song: a great story, a dramatic performance, and stabs that Elvis could have karate-kicked you off the stage to. Today, I'm leaving my shirt unbuttoned for Neil.

*By the way, if you have the time to watch Billy's video too, I'd recommend it for the way he dances at the drum break. It looks like he's squaring off in a pub fight, about to headbutt you. Class.

Monday, 21 November 2016

November #3 - Bertel Haugen Spends Too Much Time With His Books

3. Bertel Haugen - Tytyros 

Heard this on 6music (Cerys) and was instantly taken with it. Here's the potted biog from Bertel's bandcamp page because I'm feeling extremely lazy today...

"Bertel Haugen was born on a small farm in rural Wales to a Dutch mother and a Norwegian father. He now lives in London where he records quirky folk songs. Bertel uses all sorts of household implements, from pencils to whisks, to create his drum sounds and plays all the instruments himself."
If I describe the background to this particular song, it may sound a tad pretentious. Bertel is obviously fond of Greek writer Nikos Kazantzakis (the man who wrote Zorba The Greek & The Last Temptation of Christ). Having read Kazantzakis's 1954 novel Freedom Or Death, he decided to reinterpret it in this song. Stop! Don't click on yet! I promise you this isn't as stuffy as it sounds! There's a lightness and gentle humour here I really like. Plus it contains my favourite lyric of the week, so please give it a go...
She says I spend too much time with my books
I don't care enough about my looks
She calls me a coward to my face
She says I am just a disgrace...
And so I quit.
Paul Simon would be more than happy with that, I reckon.

Friday, 18 November 2016

My Top Ten Mashed Potato Songs

For Mash, get... ten songs that will make you want to do the mashed potato...

Although the Top 3 is inevitable, this may well be the most mashed-up Top Ten I've ever compiled, genre-wise. I'm not too proud to say I Love It.

This week's post is dedicated to jjdaddyo (sorry, jj, I don't have a link anymore since blogger deleted my bloglist a while back: if you still have a blog, let me know where it is) who recommended our opening tune for the second volume of My Top Ten Supermarket Songs a few weeks back. It would have fit in well there... but it fits even better here.

10. Joe Jackson - (Do The) Instant Mash

From Joe's 1979 debut record, Look Sharp, the one where pretty girls are out walking with gorillas down my street...

9. Neil Young & Crazy Horse - T-Bone 

As previously discussed, there are by now very few subjects Neil Young hasn't written a song about, but this is out-there even by his standards. 9 and a quarter minutes of Neil complaining that he's only got mashed potato: no T-bone. From 1981's Re-Ac-Tor album, not one of  his most critically-acclaimed records. I doubt he gives a shit what the critics think. I hope he eventually got his T-bone.  

8. The Ronettes - Mashed Potato Time

There are a number of records on this Top Ten (as well as a bunch more I didn't have room for) which refer to the Mashed Potato dance craze of the early 60s. This is the one that does so most directly, originally recorded by Dee Dee Sharp, it was re-recorded by the Ronettes under Phil Spector, who then credited it to The Crystals once the Ronettes had split up. That Phil Spector, eh? What a genius / maniac / tool.

See also (Do The) Mashed Potato by James Brown, Shake A Tailfeather by Ray Charles and The Blues Brothers, Let's Dance by Chris Montez, Do The Strand by Roxy Music and Little Latin Lupe Lu by Mitch Ryder & The Detroit Wheels (for Hi-Fidelity fans).

7. Terrorvision - Discotheque Wreck

From the superb 1994 album, How To Make Friends & Influence People, Terrorvision cheekily steal the mashed potato lyrics from this week's Number One and slip them effortlessly into this superfly guitar stomper which confirms them as Bradford's finest rock band.

6. Ella Fitzgerald & Louis Armstrong - A Fine Romance
We should be hot as a couple of hot tomatoes
But you're as cold as yesterday's mashed potatoes...
Written by Jerome Kern and lyricist Dorothy Fields for the Fred Astaire / Ginger Rogers movie Swing Time, this will be more familiar to anyone of a certain age as the theme tune to an 80s ITV sitcom starring Judi Dench and Michael Williams. That version was sung by Dame Judi herself, but the problem with it was, as the rhyme above shows, this is a song that should only ever be sung by Americans... because no matter what Fred & Ginger sang in Let's Call The Whole Thing Off... nobody, British or American, ever says "po-taa-toes". 

So we'll stick with Ella and Louis, because you can't beat them. Or mash them.

5. Eminem - So Far

One of the best tracks from Eminem's 2013 comeback album, Marshall Mathers 2, this is built around the chorus to Joe Walsh's Life's Been Good and features the usual First World whinging about how hard it is to be a white, rich rap star. Luckily, Eminem understands the irony of this and... damn it, say what you like Eminem, but dude can rhyme...
Can't pump my gas without causin' an accident
Pump my gas, cut my grass, I can't take out the fuckin' trash
Without someone passin' through my sub harassin'
I'd count my blessings but I suck at math
I'd rather wallow than bask, suffering succotash, but the ant-
Acid it gives my stomach gas
When I mix my corn with my fuckin' mashed
Potatoes, so what hoe kiss my country bumpkin ass
Missouri southern roots, what the fuck is upper class?
There are some mashed potatoes in there if you look for them.

4. Nirvana - Sliver

Oh boy, I'd forgotten how much I loved this. It's so easy to remember Kurt Cobain for the tragedy, the reluctant artist stuff, the end... so easy to forget this guy had one hell of a sense of humour too. Occasionally. Here, his mum and dad leave him at grandma's house while they go to a show and he has to eat her mashed potato and can't chew his meat too good.
Grandma, take me home!
3. Wilson Pickett - Land of 1000 Dances
Nana nana
Nana nana
Nanana Nanana
Nana nanaaaaaa!
If your exposure to the above nana chorus is limited to Ini Kamoze's Here Comes The Hotstepper... here's where it came from.

I was amused to discover though that the song's original 1962 recording, by New Orleans r 'n' b man Chris Kenner, didn't feature any nanas at all though. They were added three years later in a version by Cannibal & The Headhunters. But it was Wilson who took all those nas to another level.

That said, it's interesting to hear what Jimi Hendrix and Patti Smith do with this song too.  

2. The M.A.S.H. - Theme From M.A.S.H. / Manic Street Preachers - Theme From M.A.S.H.

Of course, the Mobile Army Surgical Hospital had very little to do with mashed spuds... but then, as already discussed, very few songs on this list are actually about potatoes.

Interesting story behind this one. Robert Altman, director of the original M.A.S.H. movie wanted a song called 'Suicide Is Painless' to feature in a key scene of the movie... and specifically wanted its lyrics to be duff: "the stupidest song ever written". He tried to write those lyrics himself but couldn't get them stupid enough... so he gave the task to his 14 year-old son Michael, who wrote them in 5 minutes... and became a millionaire in the process. Not too stupid then, eh, Robert?

The thing is, there's a thin line between stupid and profound, and in the context of the film... and certainly the TV show that followed, using this song as its theme tune... this nonsense suddenly began to feel very profound indeed. I loved M.A.S.H. when I was a teen, not so much the Altman version, but certainly the Alan Alda show. I was one of the hundred million plus viewers who tuned in to the final episode and sobbed when this song played out for its final time. Stupid, yeah.

I found it impossible to choose between the original and the Manics' 1992 cover version, released as a charity single, double A-sided with the Fatima Mansions' cover of Bryan Adams' Everything I Do, I Do It For You. (Punctuation note: it's not often you see a sentence that contains three apostrophes after the s like that. Sorry, English teacher geeking out here.) James Dean Bradfield's guitar and vocal suit this song perfectly. Sadly, it would become a little too prophetic for another member of the band though...

1. The Contours - Do You Love Me?
You broke my heart
'Cos I couldn't dance
You didn't even want me around
But now I'm back
To let you know
I can
Shake 'em down
Another one featuring that ridiculous mashed potato dance step. Originally written for The Temptations, who'd done a runner that day, so Berry Gordy gave it to The Contours instead when he bumped into them in the Motown corridor. It was their only real hit: but what a hit.

Of course, being of a certain age, my first exposure to this song was in Dirty Dancing. I was 16 when that film his video in the UK. It was regular Friday night viewing, at least when Ferris Bueller's Day Off (or Friday the 13th... I was a complex child) was unavailable for rental at the local video shop.

Personally, I prefer roasties, jackets or chips. But if you've got to have your potatoes mashed, I don't think you can deny the tastiness of this Top 10. Any favourites I missed out?

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