I gave up smoking in around 2001 – having been a smoker through my teens and through University, only giving up when my girlfriend at the time insisted I did so. I went through periods of being a heavy smoker, particularly at stressful points during my Uni years, but somehow managed to give up without any such aids – aside from an enormous increase in the amount of chewing gum I went through for some years after.
/Tuesday Ten/425/Smokers Reflect
/Tuesday Ten/Drugs and Alcohol
Many of my friends and partners smoke, which is their choice. Like other things, I’m not going to police them on it, and it’s entirely their call whether they do so or not. That said, we do not allow smoking in our flat (only out on the balcony), and that’s something that will never change. Anyway, this is another of those subjects that I can’t believe I’ve not covered before – songs about smoking.
No less than 136 songs were suggested. 18 of those had been used before (on 14 different posts), and there were 116 unique songs. 69 different people suggested those songs – and thanks to everyone who got involved, as ever.
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).
On an album that was fizzing with energy and vitality, and notably took a particularly post-punk edge for a band that so often flitted between styles, this was very much one of the moments where things became reflective and more laid back. It’s an elegant, thoughtful song, too, as Tom Barman considers his life and concerns during the time it takes to smoke a cigarette. A regularly-played song at dEUS shows since this album came out in 2008, mainly as vocalist Tom gets to legitimately smoke onstage during it (as the cigarette is very important to the song) – and indeed, the one time I’ve met him before a show (at a show by his side-project Taxiwars in Stoke Newington), it was while he was having a cigarette outside the venue…
Incidentally, a post over the summer on their Facebook confirms that dEUS have been back in the studio again, with that long-awaited new album finally due in 2021.
Interestingly one of the few songs suggested that is fully, and totally, about being in the throes of nicotine addiction. In one of their earlier songs, Siouxsie details exactly how much she relied then on her cigarettes, from first in the morning until the last at night, her smokers cough, the potential for illness that it may cause. But, she seems to revel in her stained fingers and cloud of smoke, distancing her from others, and the song is strangely celebratory. I can’t imagine such a song passing under the radar in 2020, that’s for sure…
/No Sleep Demon
One of the very first Seabound songs I heard after Hooked – indeed probably the first after that, as it didn’t take me long to get my hands on No Sleep Demon, and this is the opening track. The slow burn of this song, as the rhythm gradually picks up and takes over from the twinkling synths that herald it, is as beguiling as the tale that unfolds. This is a song – at least as I see it – of clinging to hope, and the swirling smoke, both from cigarettes and struck matches, coils around the details, obscuring reality from the protagonist. They are hurtling towards danger and heartbreak, but by sheer force of will, they are being dragged along for the ride regardless, and instead of stopping and thinking, they simply light another cigarette, and wait for oblivion.
As The Graun pointed out last year, Mr. Brightside has had extraordinary longevity. The song has spent no less than 241 weeks in the UK charts (the most of any song, ever) – and indeed as I write is in the top 100 again for the fifth consecutive week, at #89 – and is one of those songs that has cut into the consciousness of many like few songs do. A soaring indie-rock song that is ostensibly about bitter jealousy – of watching the one you fancy going off with someone else, and your brain filling in the gaps of what you don’t see, as you seethe at your own failure – it is full of delicious detail that perhaps makes the song so great. Particularly the one couplet that is relevant for this week’s /Tuesday Ten – “While he’s having a smoke / And she’s taking a drag” – a display of intimacy that hammers home what the protagonist has lost out on.
/Veronica Sawyer Smokes
I mean, I could have used Clove Smoke Catharsis (from their still quite brilliant Black Sails In The Sunset, another song referencing clove cigarettes), but instead I’m going for a later song by the band, that nods to one of my wife’s favourite ever films in the title, at least. The song is another of lost love and jealousy, perhaps – and like all the great AFI songs – is a huge, anthemic punk song at heart – and the shared cigarette detailed here could have been with the protagonist, but it could also have been with another, not them, and the ambiguity here is perhaps the kicker. Either way, it’s another tale of woe and failure in love.
/Give the Anarchist a Cigarette
Chumbawumba, never a band to shirk back from making direct statements, laid in hard on Bob Dylan on this song – the title a reference to a famous scene in Don’t Look Back, where Dylan is told by his manager that he’s perceived not to offer any solutions, and his retort is the title here. Chumbawumba, too, perhaps were casting the net wider, snarling at the host of bands that are happy to fan the flames (the metaphor for the cigarette here) of discontent but entirely unwilling to follow through and force change. That said, while Chumbawumba saw themselves as outsiders – and were heavily involved in the anarcho-punk movement of the eighties, with a lot of political statements and actions – they eventually had an unexpected number-one single and made headlines in showy ways too…
/I Don’t Want To Get Over You
/69 Love Songs
A band I’ve never featured, and unlike many of my friends, I have never listened to any of 69 Love Songs until doing the groundwork for this post. This short, oh-so-knowingly-bleak song, though, is kinda amusing in many ways. Like the wallowing in loneliness following a break-up (yep, been there), but it’s the later imagery that’s the kicker, where he imagines returning to teenage gloom over the breakup, in a gloriously dramatic way – by reading Camus, and smoking clove cigarettes…
Until this band were mentioned in the suggestion thread, I’d not thought of them for a long, long time. A grimy late-nineties band from Doncaster, this was as I recall their best track by far, propelled forward by a bruising rhythm section and some kick-ass riffs. The title is Cockney Rhyming Slang for cigarette (oily rag = fag), while the song appears to reference One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest, particularly the chorus, where they are demanding their cigarettes from Nurse Ratched…
/Cigarettes After Sex
There had to be a way I could include this band this week, and happily Truly allowed this. Like all their best songs, a barely-there musical backing provides a skeletal structure for Greg Gonzalez’s often filthy vignettes of love and lust. This one is a tale of no-strings hook-ups, frankly, but its the details that make it. Like the wearing of perfume, or the colour of their lips, or, in the first line of this song, sitting with your lover and smoking a cigarette in the garden, with apparently no cares beyond those garden walls.
/Nobody Smokes Anymore
/Texas Piano Man
Finally, a song that addresses recent changes in social environments. Here in the UK, a smoking ban was introduced in almost all public places by 2007 (England was the last part of the UK to do so), and the effect on venues in particular was dramatic. It certainly improved the air quality in pubs – while in clubs, the smell of stale sweat later in the night was not particularly pleasant either – but in both, it changed the dynamic enormously, seeing huge numbers of people troop outside on a regular basis to smoke, and frequently leaving near empty dancefloors. But from a public health standpoint, it has been a triumph – just 14.4% of the population smoked in 2019 – an enormous drop from the 45% of the population who smoked in 1990 (when the predecessor to the Opinion and Lifestyles Survey began).
Robert Ellis, though, isn’t doubting the health benefits, though, on this rabble-rousing song, where he still does smoke, and instead, he’s just pissed that a) he can’t find a light to cadge from anyone else, and b) he sees the reduction in smoking as an example of the end of the fabled rock’n’roll lifestyle, where no-one is raising hell and having fun. Naturally, this was the highlight of his excellent live set (remember them?) supporting Eels in August 2019, one of the best, and most fun, support sets I’ve seen in an age. I might not smoke anymore, but I can see his point.