Just over two years ago, I asked for suggestions around songs involving the senses. Needless to say, this ended up being a gargantuan thread, with the easy decision made to split it out.
/Senses Working Overtime/Touch
/Tuesday Ten/Senses Working Overtime
So, this is the fourth of six posts on the senses, and I’m returning this week to a subject that has gained something of a new meaning during Lockdown – Touch. This isn’t just about the physical act of touching, though. There is more to it than that this week.
There were 54 song suggestions for this part of the senses series, a reasonable number overall. Eleven songs had been used before, there were 41 unique songs, and 33 people suggested songs. Thanks, as ever, to everyone who 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).
It has been an uncomfortable fact across the three months of Lockdown now that many friends of mine – and many more people besides – have been starved of human, physical contact. Of course, in trying to stop a pandemic in its tracks, reducing the level of physical contact to a minimum is understandable, but for those living alone, it has until recently made things exceptionally difficult. That said, it told us a lot about the priorities of our Government that cleaners and nannies were able to return to work in people’s homes some considerable time before support bubbles for single people were considered. Back to the music, then, and Springsteen is here asking for the simple solution of human physical contact, rather than emotional considerations, and I’ve no doubt that’s what some of my friends are looking forward to at the moment.
/Lay Your Hands on Me
/Peter Gabriel 4
Interesting, there were two very different songs on this Peter Gabriel album that explored the idea of physical human contact. I Have The Touch was one of the singles from this album and is as a result perhaps the better-known song – as Gabriel wants the touch of another person. But, Lay Your Hands on Me seemed the more interesting song to write about. This song explores the concept of Faith Healing, and specifically Laying on of hands, where physical contact is used as a conduit for some form of divine contact or intervention (and not just in Christianity, either). This song, a gentle burble of synths and huge, gated drums for the chorus (as was the fashion at the time), has a devotional feel, too, particularly for the exquisite, choral backing of the chorus and coda.
/Place Your Hands
There always was the chance of an earworm or two in this week’s list, going on the suggestions that I had, and here’s one of them – Reef’s biggest hit by far, a song that was so ubiquitous on TV and radio that it was impossible to escape for a long time after release, and of course becoming an integral part of 90s TV staple TFI Friday, too. Musically, it certainly bears all the hallmarks of a George Drakoulias production, with roots-rock sounds and gospel influences, and is one of those songs that struck a nerve and connected with many, many people. What I hadn’t realised is that the song is apparently a nod to Gary Stringer’s grandfather, as he deals with the grief of their death, and so the placing of hands here is perhaps a wish for one more touch of hands with their dead relative – and thus perhaps a deeper, more meaningful song than I’d ever thought it was.
/Look But You Can’t Touch
/Open Up and Say… Ahh!
Eighties hair-metal was always going to end up in here somewhere, right? So step forward Poison with this on-the-surface three-minutes of sleazy rock, as they begin to detail yet another “bad” object of their affection (was there ever any other type for these bands?). Except, there’s a sting in the tail, as Bret Michaels is disappointed and slapped down, by a lady who allows him to look but not touch, and no matter how he asks or tries, she is impressively implacable, slapping his hands away and making it clear that she says “no”. To his credit, at least, he accepts his lot, and the song ends with the situation still being one of no touching…
/Touch Too Much
/Highway To Hell
AC/DC with Bon Scott, mind, had the opposite problem to deal with on Touch Too Much. Here, Scott has too much to do with, as his ladyfriend rather overwhelms him with a “touch too much”, I guess a happy difficulty to have (too much has got to be better than too little right?). Notable as the last single released before Scott’s untimely death (and indeed performed on Top of the Pops just days before he died), it does exactly what you expect an AC/DC song to do – it rocks, it has a great chorus, has a few great lyrics (“the body of Venus…with arms” is a particularly hilarious favourite). AC/DC’s great talent was knowing exactly what they were good at and sticking with it.
/Everything I Touch
Even Christopher Hall has mocked his own lyrics at more recent shows (and certainly did when I saw them in Chicago in 2016), about how unrelentingly bleak and desperate they could sound at (many) points, pretty much drowning in the failure of human nature, both their own and that of others. Then, I wasn’t exactly listening to them for a pick-me-up, that was for sure. By the time of their third album Darkest Days, too, there was the feeling that they were trying for a wider audience (thanks to their label), that never really came off, but listening back, this album is better than I remember. This song sees Hall lament that everything he’s involved with fucks up – pretty much the idea of the anti-Midas touch before it was coined, in that case.
/The Blue Hour
Suede has moved in an impressively singular direction in recent years, uninterested in repeating their BritPop “glory days” and making symphonic albums that dig deep into the underbelly of life. The Blue Hour seemed to take them away from the city, so long that well of inspiration for them, and remarkably, it suited them well. Cold Hands is one of the more dramatic, powerful songs on the album, as Anderson’s words take you with him into a small, desolate village somewhere, where the air is cold and the cold hands appear to suggest an absence of life, an absence of anything happening at all, with nothing to live for.
/Touch-a, Touch-a, Touch-a, Touch Me
/The Rocky Horror Picture Show OST
The ultimate in cult hits – that lest we forget was a broadly-ignored film, to begin with, before it became the midnight movie sensation that saw it never withdrawn from cinemas (it is reckoned to be the longest-running theatre release in cinema history) and something of a cultural touchstone. Weirdly enough, I watched it again for the first time in probably two decades recently, and the camp silliness is hugely enjoyable, and perhaps interesting to think just how subversive it must have been when released (and, in many respects, how far ahead of its time it was in some attitudes to sex and gender). This song is perhaps about more than touch, but it still counts – where Janet finally snaps over what Brad has done, and decides that she wants more touching in a sexual way, and gives in to her lust…
/In Strict Confidence
/A Single Touch
/Exile Paradise (Bonus Edition)
Across the decade or so between Love Kills! and La Parade Monstreuse, In Strict Confidence were on an extraordinary purple patch, the five albums across that period all being brilliant in different ways. In fact, they were so overflowing with ideas and great songs at the time that a good number of them were hidden away on sprawling EPs or even bonus discs of the albums – and one of those was this glorious song, a bonus to the lush delights of Exile Paradise. One of Antje Schulz’s best vocal performances during her time with the band, it is a simple love song at its heart, as she first questions her actions, before her heart takes over as that single touch from her lover makes everything ok. For a band that can often couch their sound deep in gothic darkness, this ray of sunshine was a welcome and joyous one.
/Touched By The Hand Of God
/The Best of New Order
New Order were, as they proved just a few years later with their exceptional World In Motion, football fans (both Bernard Sumner and Peter Hook are die-hard Manchester United fans, too), and this great non-album single references a certain, infamous football moment the year before release. That was, of course, the Hand of God, where Maradona used his hand to score the first goal against England, just four years after the Falklands War and with no little bad blood between the teams (and then, of course, used his feet to eviscerate England on his own with probably the greatest solo goal ever scored just minutes later, too). Not often a New Order song I think about really, but aside from the naff, hair-metal pisstake of the video, it’s still a pretty great song.