The advent of the COVID-19 effective lockdown has left many of us in a quandary. How do you keep fit when you should be avoiding leaving the house as much as possible? The Government has advice on this, of course, and when we take a walk locally each day, we are seeing an awful lot of runners.
/Tuesday Ten/402/Pumping Iron
But neither my wife or I are runners, particularly. So we had to think about this differently. We’re going out for that one walk per day, and doing push-ups and sit-ups each morning (gradually increasing the number, too). But as well as that, reducing the number of times we shop has made us think differently about how we eat, too. Supermarkets are a bit of a nightmare right now, so we’ve switched to shopping locally where possible, as we’re lucky enough to have a number of good-quality stores that sell fresh fruit and vegetables, as well as most of the rest of the stuff we need. But also, we’re eating better. Less junk food, more healthy stuff. Will it last? Who knows!
This lockdown probably hasn’t helped a burgeoning fitness industry in the UK, either. Figures from last year suggest that the wider industry was still growing in 2019, while in the last weekend before the effective UK lockdown there were an awful lot of ParkRunners, too. There are always villains in situations like this, too, though, and Mike Ashley of Sports Direct duly stepped up to the plate, trying to make a point that his stores were an “essential service” to keep them open, although he did eventually back down in the wake of an awful lot of negative comment.
So, this week is songs on the subject of fitness, which covers many forms, and indeed it is quite a stylistically diverse Ten this week, too. There was no recommendation thread for this post, my wife and I came up with the initial songs for this while we were preparing dinner one evening late last week!
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).
/Witness (1 Hope)
/Run Come Save Me
An amusing note at the beginning of this video suggests that Rodney Smith was not exactly the sporty type at school (he came last in every event one school sports day), and he returns to his school to present the cup for that year’s sports day…and decides to get involved! The song itself – one of his best – is a witty take on the lengths we go to getting fit, and how much of it can be a mental as much as a physical struggle. In my own experience, I’ve never set foot in a gym in my life. I was lucky to have a metabolism that has kept me relatively slender, but I do keep myself moving and vaguely fit, even if I’ve never been that great at sport. I enjoy participating, and certain things I’ve got much more into since leaving school, but the whole business of constant gym attendance or heavy-duty fitness work just isn’t something I’m interested in.
/That Perfect Body
/Perfect Body EP
EBM has long been a genre that fetishizes the physical form, be that in beauty, fitness or indeed sex. Swedish EBM-revivalists Spetsnaz – and they were at the vanguard of the post-millenial EBM boom that still seems to show no sign of abating – pretty much created the perfect anthem for this in their early, bulldozing single That Perfect Body. Subtly satirising the desire for the perfect form that we’re sold every day in advertising, the song itself is a simple, thundering charge, with Pontus Stålberg the ringleader as he barks his vocals. Needless to say, this song – and the rest of the band’s material – is fantastic fun live, as we were reminded a few years ago at BIMFest in Antwerp…
I have quite a number of covers of this song, that often rather change the feel, somewhat. There’s the outright dirty sleaze of the Revolting Cocks take, or the at least a bit more subtle Goldfrapp rework. But let’s return to the original, as subtlety is in short supply even here. While the video is very much Olivia Newton-John leading a fitness workout, the song is very much not about that, unless your kind of fitness workout involves two (or more, up to you) people and is distinctly horizontal…
/Call On Me
The first years of the new millenium saw a whole host of eye-popping videos for mainstream dance tunes, for which most are better remembered for the videos than they are the songs. Many of them reworked old pop hits (particularly from the eighties), and many of them, to put it mildly, were sexually suggestive. This one was both of those. It reworked the melody and words from Steve Winwood’s Valerie (indeed, so well was it done that Winwood actually re-recorded his vocals to make it fit better – after all, no doubt he got a fair chunk of royalties from this), and the video is the most improbable, sexually-charged aerobics session you’ll ever see.
/Eye of the Tiger
/Rocky III OST
I was surprised to find that while researching for this post, that Survivor are still a going concern – and indeed have been an active band as long as I’ve been alive (admittedly with a few breaks, and a few lead singers, too). They will, however, be eternally remembered for their monster hit Eye of the Tiger from Rocky III (at last count it has apparently sold over nine million copies, a song that sounds exactly like you’d expect training montage music to sound like. Indeed an instrumental version of the song is the soundtrack to Rocky’s boxing training in the film, as he gears up to fight Mr. T (in his film debut, remarkably).
One of the most important training elements for a boxer, mind – and many other athletes – is skipping. Something that can be deceptively hard to do well, as it requires quite a level of coordination to do well, as you’ve got to move your body in time with the movement of the rope. I’ve never been very good at it, and thus stay well away from the skipping interlude (soundtracked by this song, of course) every 80s night at Whitby. Especially as I’ve likely had a few drinks by that point. The titular variant involves two ropes turning in opposite directions, just to make it even harder…
/Let Your Body Learn
/That Total Age
I was initially intending on using the opening track Fitness to Purpose from this album – but it’s another song equating fitness with sex (and there’s already a few of those this week). So instead, the tumbling power of another song from that album, which is all about getting your kicks from dancing to the pounding rhythms of EBM. Something that’s appropriate right now, as all kinds of livestream events have popped up from DJs otherwise who’ve nothing to do at night at the moment, meaning that you can probably find a way to livestream your taste in club music straight into your lounge if you want to keep fit by dancing. That said, if you wanted a good workout, dancing to the whole of this relentless album each day would certainly blow the cobwebs away…
/Going to the Gym
Here’s one where going to the gym has targets. Lethal Bizzle is going to the gym not just to be fit and be a musclebound man, and not just to impress, either. His target is to be fit enough for a lot of sex. At least he’s honest about it, I guess – and sex, I’d think, will burn off an awful lot of calories. This throwaway, not entirely serious song ended up as, of all things, a Christmas single, although according to the Official Chart Archives, it never charted.
/The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner
/Somewhere In Time
There are, surprisingly, few songs about running, at least that I could find. One, though, is this Iron Maiden song, from perhaps one of their albums that hasn’t aged as well as others. The song and title come from the Alan Sillitoe book (and film adaptation a few years later), where a boy with no prospects betters himself through dedication to running. I’ve dabbled in running in the past – I turned out to be relatively good at cross-country running at school, and have on occasions got into running, especially now I live adjacent to the large area of Finsbury Park (that has an approx. 2.2km road/path loop around much of it). I’ve not started Parkrun yet, although I intend to at some point, and many of my friends range from casual parkrunners to more serious types, even to the level of Ultramarathon and Ironman competitors. I look at many of these friends in awe for their discipline.
Talking of discipline, let us talk about The Greatest Band of All Time, one so dedicated to their fans, and so committed to fitness they even launched a fitness App (shame it was only ever on iOS). The lead track from this two-track single (Pumping Iron) is based, of course, on Arnie’s breakthrough film, and doubles live as a motivational anthem for fans to throw some serious bodybuilding shapes onstage. The other – this song – is based on an obscure early Arnie film Stay Hungry, that frankly I’d forgotten it even existed, that’s set in a gym.