Tag Archives: Arctic Monkeys

Songs that make your head go “mosh” at 50!

As I was reading other book blogs on the internet with BBC Radio 6 on in the background, my concentration couldn’t resist the chimes of The Ramones singing “Sheena is a Punk Rocker”  – my head immediately started to pulse back and forwards! I’ve been doing this since I was a teenager – and that’s a long, long, long time ago! I love the idea of songs which worm their way into your consciousness and even sub-conscious and stay embedded there – and then any time you hear them you have an almost Pavlovian reaction as soon as the first bars sound out!!!!

Personally I think you need hair for that metronomic pulsing of the head if you are to “mosh” properly – luckily I still have plenty though it’s predominantly grey and white these days! (There’s a different debate to be had perhaps about the dignity of a 50 year old man moshing – but I don’t care really!)

About 10 years ago I was at the V Festival when the much younger brother of a friend invited us to join them in the mosh pit, commenting that I had the perfect hair for it! It was a great moment – firstly acceptance of a sort by a younger generation for us more at the “dad rock” end of the age spectrum and secondly at last all this hippy like hair I’d carried around for 20 years or more was finally “perfect” for something – I accepted the offer and had a great time in the mosh pit for a set by Placebo – mind you at the end of it I realised that the thing that had come in most useful in moshing with these kids wasn’t my hair but how I’d learned to make effective use of my elbows in a defensive capacity from years of playing football! Even then I was black and blue next day – but happy! Anyway I digress – back to songs that make you want to go……mosh.

Several of mine are from my early days as a half-hearted punk (half – hearted in so far as while I loved the music and the clothes I still wanted to keep my long hair and my fear of needles meant the only earrings I ever had in were clip-ons!) So from back then, to this day, songs that still make my head and neck pulse instantly include “Pretty Vacant” and also “Anarchy In The UK” by the Sex Pistols, The Ramones doing “Blitzkrieg Bop” in addition to the aforementioned “Sheena is A Punk Rocker!”, and “Kick Out The Jams” by MC5. Today my tastes are a bit different – some might say they have become mellower – I like to think of them more as having grown-up! However there are still so many songs that instantly make my head rock – I can’t remember what most of them even are but there are some I am aware of. It always happens when I hear the Arctic Monkeys “Fake Tales of San Francisco”, “Hey Scenesters” by The Cribs, “Take Me Out!” by Franz Ferdinand and the wonderful “New York City Cops” by The Strokes!

One of the things which other men of my age may be aware of is the plethora of hair products out there for us men to hang onto our hair for as long as possible – I use some ridiculously named and ridiculously expensive serum and shampoo stuff  – and while there are lots of reasons for doing it (actually there may be only one reason – vanity – but I give it lots of different names!) – one of the reasons is definitely so I still have enough hair to get that instant surprise and pleasure and joy from suddenly realising that my head is off and moving to some song or other. Time for me to get a fix of The Strokes I think!

Joining the dots from Coronation Street to Elbow to great Edinburgh pubs…..

……………………..it’s quite logical really!!

My family was watching Coronation Street the other night (they have a soap opera routine which flits from Emmerdale to Corrie to East Enders and then back to one or the other – from night to night the order might change but the purgatory of this stuff is relentless!!!!) and I guess I was half listening and half tuned in when, as part of the story line, I heard one of the characters explain that he had managed to get two tickets for an Elbow gig in Manchester!!!! I should be clear from the outset that rather than it being a compliment for Elbow being name checked on Corrie, in my opinion the compliment is the other way round – Coronation Street finally gets some credibility by linking itself with Elbow!

Now for me there is good music – stuff like Coldplay and Radiohead and Arcade Fire and Arctic Monkeys –  and then there’s music I adore – stuff like Two Door Cinema Club and Doves and I Am Kloot and Guillemots – and then “aboon them a’ (as the wonderful Robert Burns lauded the haggis!) for me come Elbow!! Guy Garvey – or as he’s referred to in our house – Sir Guy of Garvey (somehow I think he needs a name or title to raise him above that of any other artist/musician!) – is for me the most talented individual in music today  – lyrically I think his work is wonderful (in evidence I offer a line from the beautiful song “Starlings” – “You are the only thing in any room you are ever in” – the work of a genius!) – in addition their melodies and harmonies are great, the production is always breathtaking and when you see them live they are simply better than anyone else I have ever seen!

Now all this may sound utter hyperbole – it probably is utter hyperbole – but to me it’s as true as the three other deeply personal facts that I hold to be absolutely true – firstly that brown Smarties are the best, secondly that Scotland as a country invented the modern world (and there is a great little book bearing broadly that title which is proof enough for me!) and thirdly that my partner is the most beautiful woman ever. And I hold these are absolutely correct – I now have Elbow being referenced on Coronation Street to prove they are as good as I think they are – the book I referred to can prove the second of my facts – I’m currently looking for the evidence to prove the first personal fact and frankly I don’t need any proof on the third personal fact!

This referencing of popular music in a mainstream soap opera watched by millions every week got me musing about popular music being referenced in books – either playing in the background or linked into the personal tastes of book characters – and that led me to conclude that I think the books which do that most in my experience are the wonderful Detective Inspector Rebus books by Ian Rankin. I love the books, I love the way they are written, I love the setting (Edinburgh is a great city) and of course I like Rebus’s taste in music! (I think Rebus does reference Elbow in one of the books but I can’t remember and when I skimmed through them I couldn’t find it – if someone knows the answer put me out of my misery!)

And that led me to also reflect that perhaps more than even his taste in music, I love his taste in Edinburgh pubs! The main drinking establishment referred to in Rebus is of course the Ox – and I’ve been to the Oxford Bar – indeed I think it’s so closely linked with the books that it is oft referred to as Rebus’s bar! But to be honest it isn’t my favourite – for me the best pub in Edinburgh is a tie between “Mathers” and the “Athletic Arms”! I used to love Mathers openness and atmosphere, sitting or standing by the bar in Mathers is a joy – and as it was in a great location at one end of Princes Street it was a common haunt for me in my student and post-student days. The Athletic Arms is known to all and sundry as Diggers – obvious enough when you know it’s placed in between two large cemeteries! It’s a great traditional pub – back when I frequented it mind you, there was little chance of sitting at the bar as the place was always rammed. But it sold  great beer – McEwans 80 Shilling was the beer of choice then – and the barmen wore these old style maroon coloured jackets and had a caustic line in wit for anyone unfortunate enough to be ordering something they didn’t approve of (I remember one mate getting a tongue lashing for having the temerity / stupidity to ask for whisky – with coke in it!!!! Sacrilege!)

So in going from Coronation Street to Elbow to Edinburgh pubs, the moral and message of this ramble is simple.

If you get a chance to hear Elbow – take it! – If you are ever in Edinburgh and get the chance to drink in Diggers or Mathers – take it! – And if you are ever in Edinburgh and ever hear of Guy Garvey drinking in, or Elbow playing in, either Mathers or Diggers  – then let me know of this chance……………..and I’ll take it!