You can file this week under “how have I not covered this subject before?”. Honestly, I rather thought I might have touched upon this subject before, but aside from one about mine and my dad’s relationship through music, I really never have.
/Tuesday Ten/381/It’s A Family Affair
/074/Music, My Dad and Me
For many, though, the family is a touchy subject. A number of friends barely have contact with their families, if at all, and while my family might be rather disjointed, spread to the winds and not always in regular contact, we’re still a family, much as my wife’s is too. Not surprisingly, either, families in song are rarely the homogenous unit that the media and advertisers especially seem to think we all have, and that is very much reflected in the Ten this week.
Some stats, as always before we get started. 204 suggestions were made, of which six had been used before. Sixty-two people suggested 178 unique songs, from a vast number of genres and across a wide space of time – and it was certainly an intriguing list that had me thinking for some time over which songs to include when it came to chopping the list down to ten.
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).
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/Peggy Sang The Blues
/England Keep My Bones
It perhaps says something about how much this album means to me, and a number of my friends, that this is the sixth song from it to be featured across my /Tuesday Ten series, and no less than nine of the original twelve songs have been considered for inclusion at one point or another. Still, for me, Turner’s finest album, it speaks to us because it celebrates and questions the country that we live in – England. Both at a national level, but more importantly on a personal level. How do we keep moving forward and accepting our place in the world, when there is so much to question?
But at points on the album, he also looks back to the past, such as on second track Peggy Sang The Blues. Long a raucous live favourite (hence why I’ve included a live version on the YouTube playlist rather than the video), it depicts his apparently much-loved grandmother returning to offer “words of wisdom” in his dreams, giving him the pep talk that he perhaps needed at the time.
My grandparents are, except one, now a distant memory. My paternal grandmother fights on (although has been pretty unwell of late), my paternal grandfather died over two decades ago (and I’d not seen him for nearly a decade before that, the reasons I’m not explaining her), my maternal grandfather – someone who I adored when I was younger, but to my eternal regret I didn’t see as much as I would have liked in later years – succumbed to prostate cancer a decade or so ago, and my maternal grandmother lost a battle with leukemia in the months before I was born (the woman I knew as my grandmother, my grandfather’s second wife, was the only one of these whose funeral I attended, a couple of years ago in Salisbury). I don’t generally do regret – it does nothing to help you move into the future – but here I make an exception. Why didn’t I see them more? Why is there never enough time to do everything you wish?
/Rattle Them Bones!
I’ve written quite a bit about local North London band LOCKS, whose dark-as-pitch, folk-edged blues has captivated my wife and I for a couple of years now – although we’ve managed to miss a number of recent live shows, as simply life has got in the way. So let’s go back to one of the band’s earliest and best tracks, one of the clutch of songs on their debut EP Rattle Them Bones!. Locks Geary-Griffin’s vocals aren’t always fully discernable, but here the band drift away from the fantastical songs of death to real life issues, that of the family. There is a palapable sense of despair from Locks as the onlooker, as the protagonists try to “keep up appearances”, hiding their troubles from the neighbours, and clearly she knows the reality of what’s going on. Quite what has happened is unclear, but maybe that’s for the best.
/Become What You Are
The song, over the years, has rather summed up neatly the relationship between myself and my sister. We’ve occasionally got on, but really, not that often. My sister’s choice to not really talk to the rest of the family – long story, not delving into that here – hasn’t helped, needless to say, so aside from the odd unexpected SMS, I’ve not seen or spoken to her in a few years – a habit of changing her number on occasions means that I don’t have a current number for her. She’s three years younger than me, had two kids young (the elder of which is going on eighteen now, I think), and I hope she’s doing well.
Talking to friends, there are a few who get on with their siblings, but in the wider scheme of things, not many of them. Juliana Hatfield, by the way, is still touring and recording, but isn’t perhaps the alt-press darling that she was in the early nineties, particularly around the time of this fabulous album.
/My Little Brother
/Bang Bang Rock & Roll
In addition to my sister, I have two step-brothers and two step-sisters. My step-sisters are twins, and just a month older than my sister, while my step-brothers are six months older and two years older respectively. Thus, I was the little (step)brother, I guess. Musically, us three brothers went our separate ways pretty quickly, although there was a lot of mutual discovery as – like many of us that were teenagers in the early nineties – tapes were passed around with the latest cool (or not so cool, in some cases) bands on them. Grunge and Britpop were both touchstones for us, but by the time my elder step-brother went to Uni in 1994 – and then we followed in 1996 – separation of our musical interests was pretty swift. I don’t think there was anything quite like the scorn in this great song, mind…
/The Dresden Dolls
The Dresden Dolls – and Amanda Palmer’s solo work – was always at it’s best when she went “all in”, and Half Jack is absolutely one of those. An almost ever-present song at the myriad DD/AFP shows I’ve seen (at last count, fact fans – Dresden Dolls x3, Amanda Palmer x10), it is often the dramatic centrepiece of the set (or the closer), and there’s a reason for that. A long, slow-burn of a song whose extraordinary payoff makes it worth the wait, it is Palmer examining her often difficult relationship with her father, who was only occasionally part of her life as she grew up. What’s really interesting is that they’ve come closer together more recently thanks to music. Incidentally, I looked at my own relationship with my dad through music back in /Tuesday Ten/074 in 2009.
Rammstein’s third album was every bit as overblown as their live show by this point, and after the word-of-mouth hit that Sehnsucht was, Mutter was the point where they went into the mainstream musical discourse. Part of this was that live show, but the spectacular videos also helped (and there were five or six of them from this album). Apparently written about some of the band members’ own difficult relationships with their mothers, perhaps not unsurprisingly the fantasical nature of this song adds some fiction to it, if you can find it amongst the gloriously overblown orchestration.
/Intro – The Gift Recordings
Arguably one of the turning points for the then-perennially-struggling band, that eventually saw them turn into one of the defining British bands of the nineties, this song is really one of a pair of Pulp songs from that era that are wrapped around family – the other being Babies, of course. But while the latter is wrapped around siblings, this is a character study from the outside looking in. A dumped suitor watches jealously and then later gleefully – as his erstwhile love loses their sparkle, and descends into apparent drudgery of having a young family, unfulfiled and bored. Families don’t have to be boring, that’s for sure, and there is something of a spiteful judgement in the lyrics, but perhaps a case of “settling too young”?
/Texas Piano Man
The recent – unexpectedly marvellous – support to Eels in Hammersmith was this artist, the “Texas Piano Man” who has something of an outlaw vibe about him, and amid his sweary songs and gloriously funny asides (go check out Nobody Smokes Anymore in particular), there were some moments of surprising tenderness. Especially this song, which was the song that got me started on this week’s post, and didn’t half ask some questions of my own experiences.
Except that mine wasn’t about my father. Some readers will know that I’ve recently started meeting up with my mother again on occasions, after thirty years or so where I’d seen her just once (and that was over twenty years ago). I’ve tried not to ask questions, though. I don’t want to dwell on the past anymore. Sure, it’s a different dynamic now, perhaps, than it would have been had I been in contact with her all the time, but it’s positive, I like seeing my mother again, and I have a great half-sister now too. And, after all these years, my wife has finally met my mother, something I’d wondered whether it would ever happen.
/Thunder & Consolation
Surprisingly – especially for the amount of times that they get suggested – this is only the ninth time New Model Army have made it into a Tuesday Ten (and yes, I know they were in the tracks roundup last week, too). Their songs have actually been suggested fifty times, so call this a redress.
And there is a specific reason that they are featured this week. Sure, this song is about the family ties that bind and fray, where families support and don’t, and how some people fall through the cracks of the family support network. But it is also about the wider “family” that many of us have, and the fandom of the band demonstrates neatly. Somehow, I’ve only seen NMA live the once (an exceptional show at the Forum some six or seven years ago now), and talking to a friend at the bar – who was also incredulous that it was my first time – some random tattooed punk the other side of me just patted my shoulder, and said “welcome to the family, brother”. A brotherhood, if you will, of people with a common interest and common cause, who understood the power of the music and what it means to them all.
This applies to us and our friends in London, too. Many of us are some distance from our familial support networks – some much further away than others – and thus we support each other like a family, in whatever way we can. Even if it is just a short conversation.
/Family Man – Remixed
A song that has appeared in a couple of versions – I’ve plumped for the remixed version that closes out Ebbhead, and is thus their last truly great song (even if it is some way from the hard-edged EBM of old) – this song rather subverts familial bliss. On the surface, the family man in question is the perfect husband that loves his wife and kids, but behind the scenes – or is that just in his imagination? – he’s an out-and-out pervert, leather-clad doing all sorts with random people. Perhaps unexpectedly, too, this was not part of the current reunion live show, while Ascend and Godhead from the same album were.