In a decision that perhaps would have surprised me a few years ago, never mind my wife, later this week we move out of London, our home for more than the past decade, for a new life by the coast. I’ve spent over a quarter of my life in this one flat in Finsbury Park, north London, and I’ve loved a good proportion of that time.
/Tuesday Ten/On Location
/082/Life In The City
/135/A Night On The Town
/258/That’s why múm has gone to Ísland
/262/A Place Called England
/275/First We Take Manhattan
It’s not all been perfect, mind. I’ve had some of the worst mental health issues of my adult life here (thanks to a job that is now firmly in my past), we’ve had some crap neighbours, there’s been a couple of other health scares, we’ve had family deaths and other issues. Then, there was COVID, which suddenly shrunk our world to little more than a square mile or two of this huge city, and it slowly dawned on us that we’d had enough, and it was time to leave, for somewhere with more space and a different type of life. We’ll be back in London to see friends, and occasionally for work when things allow, mind, and we’ll miss the social scene and partying that we were part of. But then, with other people moving on too, it’s definitely time.
Leaving, then, is what this week’s /Tuesday Ten is about. Leaving London does come up, but so does leaving other places for London, not to mention leaving other circumstances entirely. I had a suspicion, too, that I might get a lot of suggestions this week when I asked a few days ago, and so it proved – no less than 172 suggestions overall. Seventeen had been used before, there were 151 unique songs, and 81 people suggested songs (rather more than in a while, I think). Thanks to all of you – and needless to say, the /Tuesday Ten series will continue wherever I am (I’ve posted previously from the US, the Dominican Republic, Italy and Belgium at least in this series, so a comparatively short move to the Kent coast will make no real difference to my schedule in the long term!).
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).
/Look What Happened
/Borders & Boundaries
One of the most suggested bands this week was, surprisingly to me, at least, Less Than Jake. Everyone who suggested them made reference to the fact that, apparently, a lot of their songs about the idea of leaving town. Was growing up in Gainesville, Florida that bad, I wonder? Or did they just tap into that teenage idea of moving the fuck on from where you grew up, and expanding your horizons? This song definitely does that – but it’s one of talk without action, where the protagonists are saying they are going to leave, swearing this is their last night before they go, but they can’t quite take that step yet. Equally surprising is that this song also references an old Japanese legend, that of Urashima Tarō, at least according to the rather detailed Wiki about the band.
/New Adventures in Hi-Fi
The album New Adventures in Hi-Fi often feels like the forgotten album amid the early-nineties explosion in interest in this band – after the big hits, the adulation, and then the somewhat backlash against Monster, my general memory of this album is one where R.E.M. retreated somewhat, but as I dug into it again for this, maybe I was wrong. Leave has a bizarre structure in ways – a gentle intro wrongfoots you before a looped ARP effect arrives like an alarm, and never goes away under the rest of the meandering pace of the song – but the guitar sound is 100% R.E.M., that’s for sure. Michael Stipe seems to be thinking about moving on, about the passage of time, and when it is time to go and do something else (when the anger subsides, anyway). This album, recorded at least partly while they were endlessly touring at their height of popularity, turned out to be a turning point – drummer Bill Berry left after this album, and most people agree that the odd song aside, R.E.M. were never the same after that.
/Hey, That’s No Way to Say Goodbye
/Songs of Leonard Cohen
Another artist that was almost guaranteed to be included, thanks to the sheer volume of song suggestions, was Leonard Cohen. It turns out – not that I should be surprised – that he wrote about, and took a lot of inspiration from, the idea of leaving, and dealing with the idea that some things in life will be fleeting. That includes relationships, of course, and this song, originally recorded by Judy Collins just weeks before Cohen released his own take on the song he wrote, seems to deal with a relationship that has foundered and is lost, the only thing left to decide is how to leave.
/I’m Leaving (V2)
From the very first ABC release back in 1981 (although I’ve gone for the sharper re-recording on the (excellent) post-reunion album Wind[Re]Wind), this track is something of an unusual piece within the earlier days of industrial electronics and nascent EBM, as it is unashamedly a ballad and quite a gentle one at that. Like some other songs featured this week, there is bitterness and anger to the words that are said, but here, there is also a sense of sadness. A desire from the character Dirk Ivens inhabits here to want to leave a relationship, but also the town and perhaps their life too (although the latter is only hinted at). The key feeling, though, is bitterness at a life that must be moved on from, and forgotten about.
/We Gotta Get Out of This Place
Not that you’d perhaps initially know it – thanks to the utter immersion in sense of place that The Animals achieved with it – but this song was originally written by Brill Building songwriters Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil in New York City, but The Animals took it on as their own, becoming an anthem to breaking the mould of the past, and going on and bettering yourself. Here, they escape the drudgery of working-class life – and early death thanks to poverty and pollution, the fate of the father in the song – with a transcendental call to arms that, when you read about singer Eric Burdon’s tough life at school and as a child, you can see why he puts everything into this song. Burdon certainly left that life behind, becoming a worldwide star thanks to his extraordinary, powerful voice – and seems to have never stopped since, either, judging on his lengthy discography…
/This Town Ain’t Big Enough For the One of Me
/The First Three Years
Frank Turner was thinking along the same lines in some of his earlier songs, as he also was thinking about leaving town on a few occasions. Probably the best – and one that really does hit home a bit – is this song, where Turner is itching to go and leave the small town that he grew up in, where all the people are the same as ever, everyone knows everyone’s business, and nothing will ever change. A change is good, right? New challenges, new things to get excited about, new inspiration. I’ve never really stayed put, I guess, so perhaps I do have a bit of wanderlust in me…
/So Long, and Thanks for All the Fish
/Eat the Elephant
Back in The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, it is revealed that the Dolphins all left the Earth just prior to it being demolished to make way for a hyperspace bypass, having given up trying to communicate their warnings to humankind – and their final communication was revealed to be “So Long, and thanks for all the fish”. A Perfect Circle aren’t quite as gloriously funny, or cutting, perhaps, in this song – an unusually melodic and bright song for them – as they dig into modern America and the obsession with celebrity and spending shit-tons of money on…betterment. Maybe the dolphins were right.
/Everything’s Changed (Since You’ve Been to London)
/Bloodshot and Fancy Free: The Best of Kingmaker
Kingmaker had a short career in the indie-spotlight, being one of the most notable victims of the nasty habit of the British music press (particularly the NME and Melody Maker) savagely taking down any artist who dared to have any pretensions of success for far too long – not to mention their sharper, smarter nature (and often caustic lyrics) becoming rather out-of-step with the retro love-in that Britpop all-too-often was. Like so many bands, too, they had to move to London from their provincial home (in this case, Kingston-upon-Hull), and like anyone who goes to the Big Smoke, there’s perhaps a bit of distrust to those returning, as Loz Hull details in this deliciously catty song. God forbid, eh, that we’ve seen more of the world in London – had our horizons expanded by friends from different lands, tasted food we’d never otherwise have, heard music we could never have heard – and come back wondering why provincial towns couldn’t be more like that. London is different, but because people go there to do.
That said, it isn’t all perfect – the long-time London-centric nature of this country has caused resentment, division and an economic and political divide that was one of the catalysts for Brexit, and are wounds that may never heal. But also, as the cost of living in London gets ever higher, many are moving out of the city, and there’s perhaps a question of how this demographic change might affect the political landscape. After all, are many of these people going to vote Tory?
/A Place Called Home
/Stories from the City, Stories from the Sea
I think the biggest surprise about PJ Harvey’s commercial breakthrough Stories from the City, Stories from the Sea, was how positive much of it felt, at least when taken at face value. It was an album of love, of hope, and of finding happiness in so many ways, and it was all the more surprising for the darkness that had come before in her work. I can associate with A Place Called Home, that’s for sure. For the first twenty-five years of my life, I’d moved from place to place, from house to house, an awful lot. I’d lived in different towns and cities, in different houses, without really the chance to put down roots particularly. Since I met my now wife, things have settled, and as we passed eleven years living in North London, it became clear that we were ready to move again, to find “our” new place, and moving from the city to the sea.
/By The Sea
I’m not sure that, before the past twelve months, I’d ever considered living by the sea. The closest I’ve come in my life was to live in North Kent, on the fringes of the Medway Towns conurbation, but even that was really a few miles from the inner edge of the large Medway estuary, and to get to the actual seaside was about a twenty-five-mile drive east to Whitstable. In one of the many character sketches in Suede’s earlier work, here, the protagonists are yearning to leave a flat in north London, for a “seaside shack” by the sea, but deliberately leaving everything behind.
We’re not planning on doing quite that. But we’re leaving Finsbury Park (the next stop down from the location in this song, Seven Sisters, on the Victoria Line), for a house just a few minutes from the seafront in Hythe, Kent. No plans to sell everything first and live off-grid, mind, we just want something new. Bring it on.