I got wind over the weekend that the bar that I ran tcf in for five years is closing – initially it sounded like it was for good, but instead it’s apparently for a refurb that will see The Nelson in Sheffield close for eight weeks. So it feels like an appropriate time to look at songs about going out on the lash. Lets call this a concept Tuesday Ten. A night in the life.
Going To Town
Well, you’ve got to get psyched up and ready to set the town on fire first, right? And here Greg Dulli and his band kick up a soulful storm, as he talks his lover into a night on the town. And while it kicks up a gear into the chorus, the song never quite lets loose entirely – what with the potential downsides suggested, and that mournful cello adding a downbeat backing to what should be a valedictory three minutes. Even better is the live version, which thrillingly segues from Stevie Wonder’s Superstition into the song in the blink of an eye.
Between The Bars
The problem with going out for a few beers is that it is all too frequently drinking to forget…and this song is possibly the finest song on that very subject. Two and a half minutes of Elliott and his guitar, and a sad, sad lament of him making a female friend feel better by taking them out for beers…but as seemingly always happens, feelings get in the way. What is interesting is that it never appears to be made clear whether his affection and feelings are reciprocated or not.
Just a for a couple of albums – before they descended into charmless, misogynistic trash – this bunch of Californian dope-punks were a whole world of fun. But when they added a little bit of heart into their songs, as on their best moments on breakthrough album Broke, they were at their peak. And it’s this song that still gets the dancefloor going over ten years (!) on. Amidst the funky, thrashing tune, is a vocal about how Jared just wants some company rather than drowning his sorrows at the bar. That it’s a pretty girl he’d like by his side is just posturing to put a brave face on.
I Work in a Saloon
The Weekend Never Starts Around Here
Talking of putting a brave face on…Aidan Moffat’s love life never looked exactly rosy, and here he is stuck behind a bar, looking across the room and seeing nothing but previous girlfriends. And it is hard not to empathise with the bar staff on busy nights like that. But hey! His evening gets worse, when the one object of his desire turns up, asks for a cocktail he can’t make, and fucks off. The result? That universal feeling of wondering why you bothered in the first place.
A frankly pretty odd smash hit single, that somehow mashes up exhortations to join Dick Valentine at the titular bar with some pointed digs at the Iraq War, and managed to get itself censored for TV airplay as a result. Still, as a joyous, silly couple of minutes, it beats the hell (pun intended) out of most of the other crap I’ll hear in bars on nights out. (see also: Jonathan Richman & The Modern Lovers’ I Was Dancing In A Lesbian Bar)
Where It’s At
Still, by this point in the evening, we’ll have had more than a few drinks, so I’d suspect much of the night won’t be making a great deal of sense. And right on cue, here’s a party in a bar I’d love to attend, and that makes absolutely no sense whatsoever: cool, mellow, countless snippets of other songs, and lines of words (or, sentences) that make no sense at all (With your elevator bones and your whip-flash tones. Huh?). But then, this song helpfully summed up in five minutes just why Odelay was so sodding awesome – it’s a mashed up party album that was probably as fun to make as it is to listen to.
Hardly the most representative song from Iggy’s oeuvre, really, but it fits here. A long way into the night, and it is time to strut your stuff into the club. Looking and feeling like kings and queens, a stately strut into the bright lights and dark corners of the venue of choice, looking your best and being your best. It is all about a little confidence, of course. It gets you a long way.
But before you know it, the world is spinning, the music stops, the lights go up, and you wheel out of the club into the night, confused, tired and quite likely a little drunk. And going through with questionable plans. Be that an ill-advised night with a lover, or walking away before you go too far (those lights injecting a dose of reality), or finding somewhere else to keep going at. This song – by no means a Cohen song that I like, particularly, there are vastly better songs even on this album – covers it all, by a man who has seen his fair share of the nightlife over the years. (umm, see also Semisonic’s Closing Time?)
One last pick me up before you go home, you say? Well, one location that has been providing just that is Bar Italia in Soho, incredibly since 1949. A regular location for late-night clubbers, I’m not sure it ever actually closes. But it’s a vital resource in a twenty-four hour city, and I certainly was a relatively regular (late) visitor at weekends in my University years in the nineties. As great as their coffee is reputed to be, though, I can’t vouch for it (as I don’t drink coffee at all). Still, Pulp’s closer to their marvellous album Different Class is as spot-on and elegant a tribute as you’ll get.
Red Light Indicates Doors Are Secured
Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not
The thing is, you’ve got to get home at the end of the night, too. And I can just picture the chaos of trying to get a taxi home as the pubs and clubs kick out in the heart of Sheffield, as this song was written about doing just this. The bartering with the cabbie, the dissection of the night, the scuffles and silliness out of the window, the preferred route home. Alex Turner, like all of his songs on the ‘Monkeys first album, captured the subject in exquisite lyrical detail.
And you know what? I think it’s time for a nap after all that. It was a long night.
A few others that didn’t make the final list, that would also be appropriate in some way or another:
Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds | O’Malley’s Bar
Dresden Dolls | Me & The Minibar
Glassjaw | Tip Your Bartender
The Doors | Roadhouse Blues
Levellers | Just The One
The Pogues | Fairytale of New York
Tom Waits | Warm beer and cold women