Fancy a brew? The nights are drawing in, it’s getting cooler, and thus hot drinks become the desired thing for many on more occasions. That said, I drink tea regardless of the time of year.
/Subject /Hot Drinks, Tea, Coffee
/Playlists /Spotify / /YouTube
/Related /124/Food & Drink /Tuesday Ten/Index
/Assistance /Suggestions/138 /Used Prior/17 /Unique Songs/111 /People Suggesting/58
/Details /Tracks this week/10 /Tracks on Spotify Playlist/10 /Duration/48:47
Perhaps unsurprisingly, too, now I think about it, there is a clear geographical separation on drink preference in this week’s post. English artists are mostly singing about tea, and both English and North American artists are singing about drinking coffee.
There were rather more suggestions than I was expecting this week, too – thanks as ever to everyone who took the time to contribute.
A quick explanation for new readers (hi there!): my Tuesday Ten series has been running since March 2007, and each month features at least ten new songs you should hear – and in between those monthly posts, I feature songs on a variety of subjects, with some of the songs featured coming from suggestion threads on Facebook.
Feel free to get involved with these – the more the merrier, and the breadth of suggestions that I get continues to astound me. Otherwise, as usual, if you’ve got something you want me to hear, something I should be writing about, or even a gig I should be attending, e-mail me or drop me a line on Facebook (details below).
/The Chemical Brothers
/Where Do I Begin
/Dig Your Own Hole
Amid the dancefloor slaying output from the Chemical Brothers in the nineties, it is often forgotten that they also had a fine line in mellowed-out, post-club tracks, not to mention a fine ear for the right collaborator. One such collaborator was the young Beth Orton, whose own career had barely begun by the time she first appeared with the duo, and her finest moment with them remains this track.
A fuzzy, woozy sound (I think a heavily treated acoustic guitar?) dominates the early part of the song, as Orton’s protagonist tries to piece together the aftermath on a Sunday morning, not initially sure where they are, or even able to “focus on a coffee cup”.
Oh yes, I’ve known that feeling. I’m generally hopeless in the morning until I have caffeine, whether it’s been a big night beforehand or not…
/Cup of Brown Joy
/The Indifference Engine
Professor Elemental’s so-called “Chap-Hop” isn’t always my bag, but there are certain songs that are great fun, like this one, where he celebrates that most English of things, a good cup of tea. It isn’t, of course, actually English, or indeed was introduced here first – the plant originates in East Asia, and tea gradually spread to Europe in the 16th and 17th Centuries, and took another century at least beyond that to truly become the preferred hot drink in the UK.
I’ve been a tea drinker as long as I can remember. My dad is a coffee drinker (and long a fairly fussy one at that), but also drinks tea, and I never got the taste of coffee. I probably drink more tea than I should – although I have at least switched to decaffeinated tea in the evenings these days.
Herbal tea, though? No thanks.
/Right Said Fred
The late Bernard Cribbins was a much-loved TV actor, especially for the various roles he played aimed at children, although he also had a number of more serious roles that he excelled in too (especially his later-life role as Wilf in Doctor Who). But he also had success in the early 1960s with two novelty singles.
One of those is the marvellous Right Said Fred, telling the tale of three workmen trying to move a heavy object up the stairs in a building. It is, of course, a farce – as they initially struggle to move it, then begin removing elements of the object, followed by the door, the wall and even the ceiling.
Why is it relevant here, then? Because every time they stop to think about what to do, they have another cup of tea. I count that they get through six cups each as they scratch their heads, and ultimately fail…
/Black Coffee In Bed
/Sweets from a Stranger
Squeeze were one of those bands who had a sublime eye for the minutiae of life, and in this retro-soul song, it’s one where one small detail triggers an avalanche of unhappy memories. It’s a coffee stain on a book that is the start, as he remembers late nights, “lips full of passion and coffee in bed”, after this person left them to move on – of course, he cannot at all, even a new love isn’t enough. Interestingly, Paul Young and Elvis Costello provide backing vocals on this excellent song.
It might sound like it was recorded in a shed somewhere, but this earlier Mark E. Smith song feels exactly as the title suggests. Smith mentions in the first verse that he’s necked a “jar of coffee”, and the song has the nervous, coiled energy of someone who has consumed far too much caffeine. In fact, there’s enough energy here to power the band through a concert, although it’s unlikely to be sustainable without an awful lot more later on (and the caffeine crash would be horrendous).
/By Your Command
/Ziltoid the Omniscient
There are few metal artists of our time that could get away with what is basically Rock Opera about an alien being who invades earth to find the ultimate cup of coffee – and make it actually entertaining and good (it was also an absolute hoot live, too). So anyway, he makes his demands, and humanity obliges with a hot cup of black coffee.
Needless to say, Ziltoid finds it “FOUL“, and invades Earth. I know the feeling, Ziltoid…
/Cup of Coffee
As Shirley Manson herself noted last year, the saddest song in the Garbage discography, interestingly enough amid what is regarded as the poppiest album they ever released. A song about breakups and regret (it was written during a painful divorce), and the cup of coffee in the title is firstly an excuse for the end of a relationship, and later a bitter proof of relationship failure.
/Cup of Tea
/The Corner of Miles and Gil
A rare appearance (this is their first since the early days of this series, back in 2007!) of the underrated songwriter that is Michael Head. Shack had unexpected success with the glorious HMS Fable in the late nineties – right time, right place, perhaps – but then faded away into the background again, and by the time of this (actually very good) album in 2006, Michael Head was back to being a brilliant songwriter being criminally ignored.
This song does what he does so well – jangling, slight indie-rock with harmonies and glorious melodies, and someone appears to be spiking Head’s tea – perhaps with LSD, of all things…
/Modern Life Is Rubbish
It is easy to forget that back in early 1993, Blur was in a bad spot. What was meant to be their big single to herald their second album, Popscene, didn’t even make the Top 40, and thus the song was pretty much buried for some years. The second album, when it arrived, was a minor masterpiece (although not always appreciated as such at the time), and it was deliberately very, very English, railing against the Americanisation of the UK and instead looking back to late-60s pastoral pop (and even punk at points, such as on the thrilling Advert). One of the best singles from the album was Chemical World, a song about the young getting away – or outright avoiding – the struggles of modern life, whose key line “Had to sit down and have some sugary tea” ended up titling the Sugary Tea tour that Blur embarked upon to promote the album.
For me, tea with milk, no sugar, thanks.
/Everyday Story of Smalltown
/The Big Express
Finally, we move away from coffee and tea, to the town of Swindon, and the working class, (mostly) railway origins of it. XTC’s great overlooked masterpiece, to my ears, The Big Express was something of a concept album about their hometown, but was also the point where they were truly freed from having to worry about performing live, and the sound was radically different to the preceeding Mummer. Sadly it bombed at the time, but the studio experimentation ended up inspiring their Dukes of Stratosphear project (that saw unexpected success).
One of those songs about Swindon is …Smalltown, heralded by kazoos, and a look into life in such a town where things don’t change – including drinking hot Oxo (hot water with a dissolved beef stock cube in it), as if that might hold off the future. The alternative might be to drink hot Bovril, as recorded in one of Jasper Carrott’s greatest sketches, The Football Match, about watching his beloved Birmingham City at Old Trafford. Indeed the food hut at my local club Hythe Town does hot Bovril (not that I have any inclination to try it).