The moon leans down, large and white.
My eyes are closed but I see you in my dreams. You are standing over me. Your wine-coloured mouth is saying something, I see the shapes.
It’s not good, this thing we’re in. This space. You are asking me something, pleading.
The sheets surround me, crisp and white.
Outside the pinpoint stars shine, unblinking.
I hear it now.
You are singing.
You never had the best singing voice, did you love? Good for you though, you’re putting some feeling into it, throwing yourself around like you’re on American Idol.
“I’ll go anywhere with you/just wrap me up in chains” — it’s catchy love, I like it. Not sure you’ve really thought about it though. B&Q with me on a Sunday morning? Or stay in bed with a cuppa and Instagram? …
It’s happening. Office workers all over the country are being told to pack up their work laptops, locate the charger for said laptop (shit), access VPN (argh) and work from home.
This time just over a year ago I jacked in my own office job to go freelance. I have valiantly battled through my first year of hermitude, and oh! The lessons I’ve learned.
For the home is but a jungle of distractions. Here’s how to be ready.
If you can’t shove it in a cupboard, remove yourself from where you can see it. Work from a spare room, a box room, a closet, the downstairs loo, wherever; just find the neatest space in your house and sit in it. Clear space, clear mind. …
Nena’s 1983 smash hit 99 Red Balloons is a reliable staple of every 1980s compilation CD and the soundtrack to many a drunken wedding disco. Yet its catchy-like-a-cold hooks belie a more serious political message.
The song was inspired by a trip to a Rolling Stones concert in West Berlin, 1982. Nena’s guitarist Carlo Karges witnessed balloons (unspecified in number) being released as part of the performance. As they drifted over the stadium, they formed a UFO-like shape, making Karges wonder how they might be received if they happened to pass over the Berlin Wall into East Germany.
A seed was planted that became the song. …
Blondie were one of the first bands I really remember. I was introduced to them so early on that, initially, Debbie Harry seemed unremarkable in her women-in-a-band-ness. As I grew out of childhood and into worldly awareness, that concept got flipped.
I began to see Harry refracted through the male gaze. A rare and untouchable sex object in a world of critically acclaimed white boy rock music. A shiny bird’s egg in a snakepit of auteurs with guitars.
I never paused to ask — why aren’t there more women playing this stuff? …
It is September 1999, my first week at university. None of my flatmates are into punk rock, I’ve already looked.
Some have brought less than 10 CDs with them and one has a Jamiroquai album. This is not the bohemian paradise my parents promised me.
And now, against my better judgment, I am dressed in school uniform, along with a thousand or so other freshers, and swigging aftershock at Uropa. It is heaving and about a million degrees.
Oh what a night/ Late December back in 63/what a very special time for me/as I remember what a night
Some disgusting posh boys are trying to talk to us. I can’t decide if they’re taunting us or trying to get in our pants. It occurs to me they were probably wearing actual-for-real school uniform a matter of weeks ago, back at boarding school. That feels a bit fucked up. …
I love a slightly rubbish claim to fame. I love the ones that give you a sense of celebrities as real human beings, as likely to get a flat tyre or drop a pack of eggs on the floor in Tesco as you or I.
Then there are the nearly-but-not-quite stories — the uncle who sold Dido a two-bed flat in Primrose Hill, the all-night drinking sesh with Damon Albarn’s cousin.
And I love the stories that reveal even more about ourselves than the celebs. …
A group called Clean Bandit are playing. I don’t know them because I’ve had my head in a whirl of nappies and reflux and teething for the past 13 months, totally unaware of the outside world and its pop music. They play a song, since sullied by being used on endless adverts, with an uplifting chorus and a danceable beat.
Out of nowhere, I’m infused with the euphoria of a hundred club nights from years gone by. I leap up and dance with my chubby baby for the whole song. I throw him in the air. He giggles. …
Who needs snotty fashion punks when you’ve got feisty Liverpudlians in fetish gear?
In 1984, Frankie reigned supreme. The leather-clad quintet muscled their way to the top of the UK charts with the now-legendary Relax, despite the track being banned by the BBC.
Their lyrics were saucy, their marketing was confrontational and singers Holly Johnson and Paul Rutherford were ferociously, joyfully homosexual. It was enough to make conservative middle England’s false teeth fall out.
While certain sections of the country reeled in horror and goggled at the salacious tabloid headlines, the rest were dancing to Frankie in nightclubs and buying records in their millions. …
When I was about 17, I went on a date with an absolute knobhead in shiny shoes who was well into house music. He was 25, so he’d been out raving at cool clubs in the 80s while I’d been at home watching Going Live.
I was too young, I’d missed the boat and frankly I didn’t give a toss. I was happy ploughing through the 4AD back catalogue and spending my money on baggy trousers and skate shoes instead of expensive nightclubs. House music was for townies.
He told me he was going to see Graeme Park at Media, and when I professed my ignorance he became hysterical, claiming this was the DJ who brought house music to the UK and all this stuff. Sounded a bit shit to me, and I probably said it. …
You know it’s coming. The sharp intake of breath. The “WHAT, it’s a classic!” Yes, you have blasphemed. Repent! You have disliked a song everyone else thinks is iconic. How very dare you.
I could have listed any number of songs here really, as I work hard at being contrary. But, for me, Imagine is the most painful of all. A dreary, milky-eyed plodder at best, it’s been made even more unbearable thanks to years of overplay and endless ill-advised cover versions. All of which are a good sight worse than the original. You may as well cover Twinkle Twinkle, Little Star. …