This past week, my wife and I achieved something that for a good period of our relationship, we feared might be out of reach entirely: we bought a house.
/Subject /Housing, Home
/Playlists /Spotify / /YouTube
/Related /317/Hometown Unicorn /Tuesday Ten/Index
/Assistance /Suggestions/198 /Used Prior/16 /Unique Songs/159 /People Suggesting/82
/Details /Tracks this week/10 /Tracks on Spotify Playlist/10 /Duration/39:03
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).
For both of our adult lives until this point, we’ve been renters, and so this has been something of a point of celebration. The hard work is now to come, of course, as we prepare the house (decorating, some purchases of white goods and furniture, and actually moving), but we now have a target.
Which got me thinking about the idea of houses and homes in song. I wasn’t really sure there was much, but when I opened it up for suggestions, I was surprised to find nearly 200 suggestions coming my way, covering a wealth of views on the subject and songs both new and old.
This turned into one of those mostly-personal posts, allowing me to reflect on my own circumstances over time, as well as political and social issues around the idea of housing (mostly in the UK). I nowadays work in housing and telecoms technology, working for a company looking to provide better connectivity to mostly social housing in the UK – an area long since underserved by the Telecoms and Internet firms as it is difficult and expensive. In other words, I’m in a role these days where I’m trying to do something good, and even with the odd frustration, I love my job.
Thanks, as ever, to everyone – including a few new contributors this week – who took the time to suggest songs.
Next week, /amodelofcontrol.com turns 20 years old. So expect something that covers that.
/The Young Gods
The mighty opener to The Young Gods’ best-known album pretty much is a perfect introduction to the band: Franz Triechler’s dramatic vocals first are accompanied by bubbling, beatless ambience, before being swept away by thundering industrial rock as he proclaims “Hey Friends! We’re easy to find…”
My wife and I have lived together since 2006, and this will be our fourth place together – and the first we’ve owned. But like our previous places, it will be a home where we welcome friends with open arms, either as a place to stay, a place to catch-up, or a place to party and celebrate.
/Not So Manic Now
First up: this is not a Dubstar original, having originally been recorded by the deeply obscure Wakefield band Brick Supply (more about the origins on Steve Hillier’s website), and it’s remarkable how little Dubstar changed in the end. It’s a dark song, about an old woman in a council tower block being attacked by someone posing as a salesman, and in those early nineties years, the humble council tower block was very much out of fashion.
While tower blocks go back as far as Roman times, it took longer for modern ideas to catch on – partly because better understanding of the causes of fires and fire safety meant that limits were quickly imposed until things caught up. Remarkably, the first tower block in Great Britain wasn’t built until 1951 (in Harlow), but they proliferated quickly as an apparently sensible way of quickly improving living standards for the all-too-many who were still living in inner-city slums.
It didn’t take long for problems to surface, and the partial collapse of Ronan Point in 1968 – just two months after the building was completed, when a gas explosion blew out load-bearing walls and killed four – saw swift changes to building regulations and a slow-down in the building of such blocks, and even demolition in the following decades of entire estates.
But even with a renaissance in building towers and modern flats, the Grenfell Tower fire in 2017 renewed attention on lax safety standards and cost-cutting (and the public inquiry into it is still not complete, seven years on), and it is clear that constrained funding – amid many other problems – appears to be at the root of so much that is wrong.
Like so many of Pulp’s songs, this one has a basis in fact: Jarvis Cocker and Steve Mackey finding a temporary place in a Mile End tower block that was, to put it mildly, truly grim. I had two experiences living in awful places in particular – one was a bit further east in a very-much-pre-gentrification Maryland (Stratford, London), the other in an also pre-gentrification Archway. Both, though, were at least partly terrible thanks to fucking appalling landlords.
Which should also mean that we mention Carter the Unstoppable Sex Machine’s Sheriff Fatman, a song written in the late-80s that referenced slum landlords Peter Rachman and “Nicholas van what’s his face“, and if updated, would likely include people like Fergus and Judith Wilson, infamous for their (apparently mortgaged to the hilt) buy-to-let empire in Kent and appalling treatment of tenants and minorities.
/Sometimes I Sit and Think, and Sometimes I Just Sit
Then again, you hardly need to look for specific landlords, as rents are now eye-watering, particularly in London. Rightmove recently revealed that the mean rent in London is now £2,631 per month, and going on reports from friends and elsewhere recently, trying to even get a place to rent is now difficult to say the least.
The whole system is fucking broken, and the current Government at least appear to have no desire to fix it. But fixing it would mean more social housing, better funding, and an actual fucking plan.
As Courtney Barnett noted back in 2015, though, it’s not as if London is a unique case. On this downbeat, thoughtful song, they detail an experience viewing a cheap place in a rundown suburb of Melbourne, and consider the past of the place as well as their own bleak housing future. A news report just last week suggests renting in Melbourne has only got worse since.
/Broadside Ballads, Vol. 2
Pete Seeger’s strident left-wing politics saw him blacklisted in the US for a time, but in the present day his views seem progressive. One of his songs – originally written by
Malvina Reynolds, although Seeger was the first to release a version – was about the bland, identikit development of Westlake, Daly City (in the Bay Area of California), but could also be seen as comment on suburban sprawl and White Flight. Many large US cities saw mass migration out to the suburbs as unrest occurred during the civil rights movement, and in many cases it took decades before any form of regeneration or improvements happened (at least in part because many of these cities saw their tax revenue collapse, most notoriously Detroit).
Again, the flight to the suburbs happened elsewhere too, and as industrial buildings and warehouses in the UK have been rebuilt or repurposed, centre-city living has become “cool” again – and vastly more expensive.
/The House Where I Was Raised
Unlike Frank Turner, I didn’t spend my childhood in one house, and my memories of that period are not of one particular place – or even town. Family and economic changes meant that by the time I left for University, I’d already lived in eleven homes (in five different towns or cities), which meant that for many years as a child, I never really made deep friendships – as I never had the time to do so. Like Frank Turner, though, I remember some really difficult times, relatively short notice moves, and rarely having much stability – and indeed twice in my life functionally, if not officially, homeless for short periods.
That said, until I met my wife, things were still pretty transient – I was already in my twenty-third house (at the age of 26) when we met. This new house – the first I’ll ever have owned – will be my twenty-eighth house, and hopefully it will be the last time I have to move in some time.
/It’s A Shame About Ray
This week I learned that Kitchen is not an original song by Evan Dando: instead written by his then-bandmate Nic Dalton and recorded originally for his other band Godstar. But having listened to the original, I’ll stick with the glorious Lemonheads take. Something of a celebratory song about a beloved partner and how hopelessly in love they are, it also references “how it started in the kitchen“.
Funnily enough, my wife and I originally met at a house party (although in a lounge, rather than a kitchen, as I recall), and that story has been recounted to various friends many times over the years. The spare room in our storied Finsbury Park flat was the beginning of two still-going relationships of friends of ours, and our kitchen in that same flat had a number of strange happenings at parties…
/Mansion on the Hill
I think all of us, at some point, have looked in envy at the bigger houses in the area where we live, perhaps even suggesting which one we might buy if we were to come into significant sums of money (in most cases, “when we win the lottery…”). That is at least part of the themes of this later period A3 song, alongside stories of illegal raves and striving to live, never mind affording something better.
As for the mansion on the hill? In the town where we live, the wealthiest mostly live, literally, in mansions on the hill, in the well-heeled village many metres above on the cliff. There’s some nice houses up there, sure, but I’m happy with what we now have.
/Home By The Sea
This song is pretty much here for the idea it invokes, rather than the actual meaning (which is as part of a pair of songs, where a burglar ends up imprisoned in a house they’ve broken into by the ghosts that live there). Like so many people in lockdown, we decided it was time to leave London – especially as there was already the likely prospect of having to move at some point in the future, and we decided to pre-empt that to allow us the choice and time to move – and head to the coast, to a small town outside Folkestone.
Perhaps unexpectedly, it turned out to be the move we needed. Three years in, there’s still a thrill in living so close to the beach, and the fresh sea air really is invigorating (although the wet and windy winters aren’t always fantastic fun).
/The God Machine
/Scenes From The Second Storey
The God Machine were one of those intense bands that had a short life, and are loved intensely by the small number of people that discovered them. They were a band a long way from home: originally from San Diego, they upped sticks and moved to London, and endured an essentially penniless existence for a period before they were signed to Fiction Records. Their dark, powerful rock music owed something to goth, something to Swans and perhaps something to epic prog rock, too, and many will have first heard them through this song. The steady roll of Home was also one of the first songs to sample Le Mystère des Voix Bulgares (whose gorgeous sounds have been perhaps oversampled since), and seems like a plaintive cry from a lonely artist who is literally and figuratively an awful long way from home comforts.
Sadly, the band was to end all too soon, with bassist Jimmy Fernandez dying suddenly of a brain hemorrhage, prior to the release of their second album One Last Laugh In A Place of Dying. The luckless band deserved so much better.