In a remarkable coincidence (and really, it is!), Tuesday Ten: 340 this week happened to fall in the week where I reach the landmark age of 40. When I realised this the other week, I decided to ask my regular readers and contributors on Facebook for songs that celebrate…something, anything.
As is customary nowadays, I had a fascinating, diverse set of songs suggested. From disco classics to rock anthems, from satanic doom metal to teen pop, from Britpop to cartoon songs – and amid 113 suggestions in total, there were 98 unique songs, of which seven I’d used before.
The thing is – and as a number of those contributors realised – celebrations aren’t necessarily just birthdays. There are a whole number of things to celebrate, from big things to small things, and there is any number of excuses for a celebration, too. This week’s post reflects that and goes from gonzoid to serious (and back again).
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. 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).
/I Get Wet
I have a fairly strict policy nowadays of not repeating songs in this series, but for this, I’m making an exception (it previously featured on /106/It Seemed A Good Idea At The Time eight years ago). And, I’m going to right a wrong while I’m here. This song has endured better than I could ever have imagined, and Andrew W.K. turns out to have been a hell of a nice guy in his glorious advice column over the past few years. This song is one of those ones that is so simple, and so brilliant. It’s a song about partying – celebrating life and having fun, casting aside the drudgery of everyday life and finding something to be excited about. It’s a concept I can wholeheartedly get behind – and perhaps why my wife and I have a habit of throwing parties from time to time, although maybe not on the scale of last Saturday for a little while…
Was there ever a better party band than CHIC? The Rodgers/Edwards core of the band had a sound that was endlessly copied, sampled, reworked and re-used for others, but importantly across all of CHIC’s best music, had a sunny, upbeat disposition that helped to cast away the troubles of the late seventies, and many of their songs took a view that Andrew W.K., among others, was to later to also settle on – let’s party away our troubles, even while there was an awareness of what they were going to return to when the party ended. Even after disco ended, CHIC still held their allure, of course, but it’s taken perhaps until the last decade for Rodgers to finally get the respect he was owed in the first place.
With it being my birthday this week, I’ve already had Happy Birthday sung to me once (although that was the “traditional” version, of course, the one that Warner Music Group had to pony up an awful lot of money after a class-action Lawsuit confirmed that they should never have been collecting licensing fees for it in the first place), but not this gloriously bouncy three-minutes of new wave brilliance. One of those songs where I hear it once, even just a snippet of it, and it’s in my head for days.
Amid the scorched-earth power and fury that emits from every single pore of PJ Harvey’s still-astonishing debut album, there were a few moments of amazingly hair-raising triumphalism, and this song – potentially another of her earlier songs about worship or mythical characters in one form or another – and in particular the chorus, is a rallying cry of celebration, of a battle won. I’ve not always been a winner – in fact, I’ve very much lost more than I’ve won over the years – but I’ve had an uncanny habit of winning comparatively big when the chance arises. That lottery win, mind, still eludes me, but if I ever do win? Expect a party bigger than anything we’ve ever thrown before, that’s for sure…
“I understand the cultures of a different kind
But here word celebration just doesn’t come to mind”
One of the greatest live bands of our time – and one that has this amazing habit of turning every gig into a raucous celebration – tear into staid Western weddings here, with various wry observations from Ukrainian-American frontman Eugene Hütz wondering why such a wedding isn’t going on for more than a day – or more to the point finishing early. A wedding – if you so choose to do so – is meant to be a celebration of life, of happiness, and indeed is one with as many friends and family as possible. Everyone chooses to do their wedding in a different way, of course, and ours didn’t finish particularly late, but hell, it was a whole lot of fun. I do wonder, though, if this song was inspired by Eugene being at a particular wedding…
/It’s A Fine Day
/Jane and Barton
Later covered with much wider success by Opus III – and missing out the more….contemplative second verse, not to mention parts of the vocals being used to spectacular effect in Orbital’s Halcyon and On – this a capella song can be taken at face value as a celebration of life itself, and indeed the Opus III cover perhaps emphasises that side of things. But the more I think about the original, the more I wonder whether this is a celebration of the tiniest steps forward. Like even leaving the house in the depths of depression, just to see the sunshine and take in the fresh air. At my lowest ebb, even that felt like I should be hanging out the bunting for it.
/Born To Run
“It’s a town full of losers and I’m pulling out of here to win.”
There is a celebration coming here, but it’s on the horizon, as the protagonist in one of Springsteen’s greatest songs (and probably my dad’s favourite song of all) prepares to get out of his small-town hell and, like so many of Springsteen’s characters in song, do something with their lives. In this case, whether that celebration ever comes is unclear, but one thing is for sure – look up any of the many live takes of this online, and every single one of them has a roar of joy and celebration when that unmistakable harmonica intro comes in. My dad, by the way, finally got his wish of seeing this song live a few years back, and it was inspiring to hear him tell me the next day about how amazing it was. I’ve long felt I’ve missed a trick by not going to see Springsteen myself – if he tours again, maybe I should…
Sometimes, you need to celebrate what you are, concentrate on self rather than others. Nina Gordon of Veruca Salt – one of the 90s alternative bands who rather fell apart, before returning in recent years (I just wish they’d come to the UK!) – appeared to have this view with this song, mentioning in one interview a great many years back that “I spent so much time celebrating them that I sort of neglected to celebrate myself or even acknowledge myself in that way.” Sage advice, frankly, and maybe in slightly different ways, advice that I should have heeded when I was first listening to this album as a teenager. I’m perhaps more confident in myself nowadays, but even so, there are times that the last person I want to celebrate is me.
/One More Time
Perhaps, though, I should have a couple more songs to finish that really are celebratory. Daft Punk, at their peak, were possibly all celebration. All their best songs are fist-pumping dancefloor monsters, songs of abandon and instant party-starters, and the monstrous opening track to Discovery is probably their greatest of all. The disco-house glory of the music is great enough, of course, but it is pushed to near perfection by the late Romanthony’s soulful vocals, a reminder of the celebratory feel that music can bring.
/The Glorious Liberation of the People’s Technocratic Republic of Vinnland by the Combined Forces of the United Territories of Europa
Yeah, I know. The Drab Four, really?
Yeah, really. Another of their little jokes, I guess (on this album, I think there are three or four – some feat on an album that is actually so, so bleak in part), this one-minute throwaway later in the album is a valedictory, imaginary victory celebration for a country that doesn’t exist, over an “enemy” that doesn’t exist either. A joke war anthem to celebrate…what? In a world where “Fake News”, conspiracy theories and flat-out lies told by politicians gain more traction than the truth, maybe this was just ahead of it’s time. I look forward to the day when we can celebrate a victory of common sense and rationality over lies.
I may have to wait a while, mind. In the meantime? I’m going to celebrate the end of my thirties, and the beginning of my next decade.