Everyone has someone, I suspect, that they loved and lost, or loved without ever being able to express it properly. I certainly have in the distant past but have no intention of talking about that here. But the idea of unrequited love – as this is the subject of Tuesday Ten: 369 – is something that has inspired some incredible music.
/Something I Can Never Have
This weeks post comes from a suggestion thread about six months ago, and at the time resulted in 135 song suggestions, with fourteen of them used before. But more importantly, it was an exceptional set of songs that everybody came up with, and it was quite the trial to whittle this down to ten songs. Thanks as ever to all that offered suggestions.
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).
The quite wonderful synthpop of Cygnets sadly appears to have been a short-term thing – at least judging on the fact that their Facebook and website pages have both vanished offline, and their Twitter account has seen no activity at all in eighteen months. Their exceptional album Isolator was #13 on Countdown: 2014: Albums on this ‘site (not to mention Gallows at #2 on Countdown: 2014: Tracks), and one of the best moments with this groovy, driving track, where the protagonist is lusting after a girl who is into other girls, not him – and he imagines what things might be like if she was into him after all.
/Getting Away With It
I have to say that Electronic would perhaps be a footnote of a side-project in musical history, were it not for this exquisite song. Not only Bernard Sumner and Johnny Marr, but Neil Tennant from the Pet Shop Boys offers a subtle backing vocal too, and between the three of them they offer a glorious pop song that – like many of the best such songs – has a bright and sunny exterior but is a dark, bleak thing underneath. Sumner considers his own actions, and as the climactic chorus hits home, he’s clear that the relationship is doomed, and the feelings of the other party don’t appear to include him anymore, if they ever did.
/When the Pawn…
Fiona Apple remains an intriguing, singular artist – releasing albums at her own pace, with a style quite unlike anyone else and a wordy lyrical touch that rewards repeat listening as you try and understand what she’s getting at. This song is hardly her only song on this subject (the later Jonathan, off the quite brilliant The Idler Wheel…, is potentially another that springs to mind), but probably the most direct. A richly detailed song in every way, the lush orchestration (and thrillingly unexpected appearance of brass later on) masks the hurt at the heart of the song, as Apple obsesses over someone she admits she hasn’t a chance of getting for herself.
/Welcome Interstate Managers
A song that remains a staple on the alternative music channels – likely because of the cheeky video involving Rachel Hunter, to be honest – it was also a song that resurrected the career of a band who had initially shown such promise (their early single Radiation Vibe in particular), but had rather fallen away since. This song changed all that, with a catchy, sunnier outlook and the rather-taboo subject of a teenage boy fancying his best (female) friend’s mother, and fantasising about a relationship that would never happen in real life.
/True Love Stories
Perhaps best known for it’s refrain of “Gordon is a moron“, it was also on Top of the Pops for the first time the day after I was born. Which makes it nearly forty-one years old, and still with a universal subject. That of, the party left really fucked off when a relationship ends, and gets to witness who the person that dumped you moved onto. Sometimes you wish them the best, but other times, there’s no question of that, and this wonderfully bitter song is one of those. The man behind Jilted John, by the way – Graham Fellows – is perhaps better known nowadays as his character John Shuttleworth.
/I’m In Love With The Girl On The Manchester Virgin Megastore Check-out Desk
…and weirdly two of the suggestions this week that are featured, both come from the northern punk scene, and notable future comedians were behind them both too. This one featured Chris Sievey – later on better known as the comedic persona Frank Sidebottom – and details a fleeting attraction. That of someone who makes you catch your breath in an impersonal place (here, shoppping), and someone you’d never have a realistic chance of anything happening, but your brain still considers taking it further in a fantasy sense. That said, not many would then write a song about it, perhaps…
/You Didn’t Want Me
/In This Place Forever
Mesh are, of course, a band well versed in heartbreak and unrequited love, it having been pretty much their specialist subject for their entire career (which streches well back into the nineties). This song – which comes from their debut album – has recently been returned back to their live sets, in a version rather more turbocharged than the mellowed out album take. And so, it could almost be the template for what Mesh do so well – a song of self-flagellation, bitterly detailing all the sacrifices and time wasted for a significant other who, it turns out, wasn’t reciprocating whatsoever.
It may be, musically, a reworking of Laura Branigan’s Gloria – and far from Pulp’s best single, but what is great about this song is Jarvis Cocker’s wistful recollections. This is a song of “what ifs”, curious about what might have happened if things had worked out differently, and that is something that all of us must have considered at some point or another. What made the song all the sadder, in retrospect, was when news broke that the Deborah that inspired the song, Deborah Bone, had died aged just 51 – and that they never did meet up again.
/Damn, I Wish I Was Your Lover
/Tongues and Tails
One of those wonderfully left-field suggestions that I sometimes get – and a song I probably hadn’t even thought about since it eventually left the MTV playlists sometime in the nineties (for a time it seemed to be played every hour or two). It’s also an older song than I thought, too, dating from 1992 (I’d have placed it around 1995), but the synth-backed rock song that it becomes very much dates it nicely, now I think about it. A rather more explicit song than others on this list (the reference to The Jungle Book is very much not about the story, for example), Hawkins makes a great play here of how much better she is for her target than their current lover, but there is never a single point where there is any suggestion that things are being reciprocated.
/I’m In Love With A German Film Star
/Thirty Thousand Feet Over China
This glorious, dreamy song perhaps loses it’s beauty a bit when you realise that the subject is not someone like Marlene Dietrich, but punk-roadie (and bit-part actor in German films!) Steve “Roadent” Connelly. The atmospheric beauty here is down to, more than anything, Barbara Grogan’s voice and that distinctive guitar sound, with the song not actually having much else to it – and that space in the mix and the wistful, yearning feel leaves it as possibly the greatest song of all about unrequited love, at least to these ears. Also of note is the staggering Dubstar cover that heralded their unexpected return nearly a decade ago – and also opened that London show six years back.
But anyway – the hurt of unrequited love has inspired some amazing, iconic music over the years. Perhaps it really is the worst of times that inspires the best art after all.