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/Sight
/Tuesday Ten/Senses Working Overtime
So, this is the fifth of six posts on the senses, and this week it is the act of sight – both actual and metaphorical. There were 75 song suggestions for this part of the senses series, possibly the most in the series. Seven songs had been used before, there were 69 unique songs, and 32 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).
/…And Justice for All
One of the very rare occasions where I feature Metallica (this is only their seventh appearance and the first from this album) is to feature probably their most overblown song of all. One tells the tale of a quadruple-amputee man, blind and unable to communicate as they wish for death in the aftermath of war – one that, perhaps for the timing of the song, I always thought was Vietnam, but now I look it up, it’s actually WWI (and is broadly lifted from the anti-war novel Johnny Got His Gun, later remade into a film that Metallica bought the rights for to stop having to pay royalties on it, as they used so much of it in the lengthy video).
/World In My Eyes
One of the many highlights in the Depeche Mode back-catalogue (and, indeed, is there a song on Violator that isn’t worth your time? I think not), this doomy, atmospheric song is rather more upbeat in tone than it might first appear. This is a song of pleasure and abandon, as the Dave Gahan implores his lover to let down their inhibitions and follow his lead – in other words, Gahan pushes them forward, his lover follows his visions to pleasure. Perhaps tenuous, but hey – it’s a fucking great song and what they see is a key part of the pleasure here.
/Eyes Shut Tight
/Do We Speak A Dead Language?
It is perhaps interesting to note that there were more suggestions for songs about what you don’t see than what you do see. One such song is from the less-remembered than they should be downset., an LA rap-metal crossover band who had a deep social and political message (Ray Oropeza is a Union activist, as I understand it, and his father died at the hands of the LAPD), and in the years following the 1992 L.A. Riots, they had a lot to write about. This song, as far as I can tell, is about those that shut their eyes to the issues around them in the inner cities, using drugs and escaping from the real world – and suggesting that if they kept their eyes open, they could be part of those making a difference. This band hold a special memory for me, in being the first band I was ever commissioned to write about when I went to Uni, and as I recall were a formidable live band.
/We Close Our Eyes
Go West was one of the many pop-soul bands of the eighties, but one of the few with a number of genuinely memorable singles – not least their top five debut single We Close Our Eyes. A song that sounds enormous – thanks to the massive drum sound and huge, stabbing synths – it was also helped along by the striking video (by Godley & Creme, those eighties video artistes extraordinaire). The closing of eyes here is a metaphor for avoiding reality, and dreaming of success rather than actually achieving it. Reality, and actually doing things, can be very hard – but this is one of those songs that makes me feel ten feet tall again.
/You Probably Couldn’t See for the Lights But You Were Staring Straight at Me
/Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not
It is genuinely mind-boggling to think that the Arctic Monkeys’ debut album is now nearly fifteen years old. An album that, once it emerged from the fog of insane hype, actually turned out to be a great indie-rock album, topped off by a set of extraordinary lyrical observation pieces that were full of exquisite detail – especially if, as I did at the time of release, live in the city he was singing about. This song, though, has a more universal feel, when in a dimly-lit club, and you can’t see shit. Peering through the smoke and haze of a sweaty club, probably a few drinks to the good, and you could gesture anything at me and I’d have no fucking idea what you were doing. And yep, that probably included hitting on me.
“an eye for an eye makes the whole world blind”
The horn-laden, funk-soul sounds of Blind certainly make the opening of the final Talking Heads album a striking one (it isn’t an album of theirs that I go back to particularly often, I have to admit), and that quote (attributed to Gandhi, but not confirmed as such) sums up the song nicely. Seemingly about blind, blinkered thinking in geo-politics, it comes across as a furious song from Byrne, and consider that it was released in 1988, ahead of the War on Terror and both Iraq Wars, and thinking about what was being said as I listen again in 2020, it seems like David Byrne was somehow predicting the horrors to come.
/On The Wire
The sharp-edged synthpop of Tenek was one of the highlights of Infest a good few years ago, a set stuffed with anthemic songs and was over far too quickly. This punchy track from their second album is one of their best, a song that is perhaps about trying to avoid the truth. The protagonist is trying to get over a past love, telling themselves that everything is fine and they are dealing ok…but then they try and convince themselves that she’s really dreaming of him (i.e. having “visions”) when it is clear that she isn’t. Still, the multi-tracked vocal chorus is glorious.
/Fall Heads Roll
A band often suggested but not regularly featured – I’ve probably had as many suggestions of The Fall as the band had members over their lengthy period of activity until Mark E. Smith’s death – I’ve perhaps not always featured them because I can’t always work out what the fuck Smith was on about. I’m not 100% clear on this one, either, but it’s a great song. Propelled forward by that mighty, filthy bassline, Smith tells some disjointed story, and reputedly this song is about David Blunkett, probably the most prominent blind politician of recent times (and one who was very keen on “law and order”).
By no means the first concept album, but The Who’s astonishingly overblown, and dramatic chaos, of Tommy rather set the standard. Tommy Walker, the titular character, is “psychosomatically deaf, mute, and blind”, but is also a spectacularly good Pinball player, and at the end of the story – that of course was turned into a film too (Tommy) – ends up heading a cult. Still, the album is frankly better than it has any right to be, and this sizzling track is one of those that have entered the Rock canon.
/Put Your Hands Where My Eyes Could See
/When Disaster Strikes
Probably rapper Busta Rhymes’ best-known song – helped along by that incredible video – it is a song that says an awful lot in three minutes, as is Busta’s style. Across a languid, laid-back beat pattern Busta brags a lot, offers other opinions, but makes it clear that if someone wants to hang with him, in this case (I think!) that other person needs to take the time to understand his point of view and experiences (hence “where my eyes could see”). In the light of the Black Lives Matter protests and wider discussion that this has – at last – forced, it is something many of us could do well to do better at.