Those close to me will know all too well just how sweet a tooth I have – I’ve rarely met a sweet thing I don’t like (unless it involves bananas or Parma Violets) – and right now, we’re still getting through our Easter Eggs in this house, so it seemed the right time to look at this subject.
/Subject /Sweet, Sugar
/Playlists /Spotify / /YouTube
/Related /124/Food & Drink /Tuesday Ten/Index
/Assistance /Suggestions/147 /Used Prior/23 /Unique Songs/109 /People Suggesting/61
/Details /Tracks this week/10 /Tracks on Spotify Playlist/9 /Duration/32:39
That said, it turns out – something I’d suspected anyway – that many songs about sweet and sugary things are not directly about them, and a few of those songs feature here.
Thanks, as ever, to those that supplied songs for this one back in 2020. I catch up eventually.
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).
/Within A Mile of Home
The use of sugar as a foodstuff goes back to ancient times, but was only introduced to Europe by the Crusaders, and sugarcane plantations in the New World began in 1501. Sadly the European demand for sugar was a key driver in the Atlantic Slave Trade, as slaves from the African continent worked the plantations in the Americas.
Other sources of workers were found, too: Oliver Cromwell got a free hand to banish Irish “undesirables” (i.e. catholics at the time), and by 1655, over 12,000 Irish Catholics had been forcibly shipped to Barbados in particular to work on sugarcane plantations in indentured servitude, and this song reflects the fury at their exile from their own country – and the rough hand their descendents continued to be dealt through the ages.
/System of a Down
/System of a Down
The breakthrough track from the chaotic System of a Down debut album is still a bracing track 25 years on. Instantly anthemic (and the source of many “what the fuck is he on about” questions at the time of release), it also is one of the oblique political statements by the band. On first listen it appears to be a comment on casual violence and white privilege, perhaps, but the video makes things more explicit, commenting on US addiction to cocaine (often nicknamed “sugar”) and sugary goods generally, with an image popping up a few times with the phrase “Aspartame Kills” – Aspartame being a frequently used artificial sweetener.
/Pour Some Sugar On Me
By some considerable distance the biggest-selling band from Sheffield (having sold over 100 million records worldwide – about five times what the Human League have sold), and Hysteria was the point where they became one of the biggest bands in the world. It took time, though – drummer Rick Allen had lost his arm in a car accident, they went through three producers before returning to Mutt Lange, the sessions were difficult and expensive, and it took until this song was released as the fourth (of seven!) singles a year after the album release before things went truly nuts.
Listening back to the album, though, it’s a slick, hook-heavy album that barely has a duff second, never mind song, and like most hard rock of the time, everything is some kind of metaphor (or play on words) for sex. Pour Some Sugar On Me is almost entirely double entendres – and the sugar here certainly isn’t the sugar you might put in your tea. Still, it remains catchier than the plague.
/Empire Records OST
It was Rex Manning Day only last week, so why not feature another song that might mention sugar a lot, but in reality has rather different treats on the mind.
That said, the version in the film is very different indeed to the version that appears on the soundtrack release. The film version, which is the key song as the film reaches its climax, sees Renée Zellweger’s character sing additional vocals (that I think improves the song) but makes the lyrics a bit anonydyne. The uncensored version, mind, dispenses with the beating around the bush and is outright about sex, and despite the title, it isn’t particularly sweet – more carnal.
One of the three bands that were formed or benefitted from the dissolution of reluctant Nu-Metal linked band Human Waste Project (and there are a host of other bands that members have featured in too, such as Snot and Bad Religion), this band was led by HWP vocalist Aimee Echo. Instead of the darker, metallic power of that band, this was punky new-wave and was a heck of a thrill live, too. Gorgeous was one of their thrilling early singles, which appears to be a song about infatuation and lust, and uses a host of sugary metaphors to drive the point home.
/The New Transistor Heroes
Probably a song dentists worldwide would have winced at hearing, as the Glasgow trio followed on from Kandy Pop (notable as the song they played as the first ever unsigned band to play on Top of the Pops) with a song celebrating the sweets of their childhood, in three breathless minutes.
I remember the sweetshop at the end of the road by the Middle School (age 10-13, thereabouts) I attended. Before and after school there would be a steady stream of schoolkids going in to buy “a quarter” (a quarter of a pound: thereabouts 113g in metric) of something – that might be Strawberry Bonbons, Midget Gems, Rhubarb and Custard, or Butterscotch Tablets, even Malt Lick if you remember that. There’s a similarly old-school sweet-shop in Hythe now we’re living down here, and I occasionally treat myself to something that takes me back – even if the price is rather higher than it was in the late eighties…
/Screaming Banshee Aircrew
The title track to SBA’s third and final album is a nasty piece of work in my ways – the burbling synths provide an ominous backing to a taut, sharp-edged track that imagines some of the worst things men can do, frankly, while sweetly mentioning in the chorus “sugar and spice and all things nice”, a reference to the 19th century nursery rhyme What Are Little Boys Made Of? – and in that, of course, it is the girls that are made of that…
/from the choirgirl hotel
Not for the first time this week, the sweet treat here (a Raspberry Swirl) is not what the song is about. A bit of a departure for Amos at the time – being a thrilling, neo-post-punk rush of a track, on an experimental album that leaned into electronics more than ever – lyrically it moved away from some of the darkness of the rest of the album, instead taking on those men that won’t perform cunnilingus…
This wasn’t a song I was expecting the other week, when I finally saw Tori live after over three decades – and not unexpectedly she didn’t play it – but what I did get was an exceptional, fascinating live show that was quite unlike anyone else I’ve ever seen.
/The Blacksmith and the Toffee-Maker
The late Jake Thackray was something of a northern chanson, but most of all he was a storyteller. For this sweet – in all senses – tale of two unlikely lovers drawn together in a country village, he has an eye for extraordinary small details and the hope of people who don’t have a great deal. The song itself is inspired by Cider With Rosie (a book that somehow I’ve never actually read), and I must confess that I never knew that a pub we were rather fond of in Islington was named after this song. In a new guise, that pub is now named after a notable Islington women from Elizabethan times.
/Sex and Candy
Finally, we close out this week with a nineties curio, a song I’d not thought of in years until it was suggested in the thread for this post. Probably best described as a low-key, post-grunge track that is languid and sun-drenched, and while sweet things are mentioned, once again this is another song about attraction (and the title was apparently inspired by an exclamation at a house post-sex). It’s still a quite lovely song, mind.