Sunday, August 28, 2005


As anyone who's ever switched on a stereo knows, music is about all sorts of things, and love and sex are never far from the top of that list. And those categories run the full range of expressions from the simplest "I love/want you" to "I particularly love/want you when you do this" to "Why haven't you done that for me lately?" to "Damn, I wish you were still around to do that again". Sometimes a song even does away with the love part and focuses on the sex. I've dealt with more than a few that go straight to the nether regions but for me, this one is just a little bit more special than the rest.
Firstly, seek out the "Touch Dance" remix album by the Eurythmics, rather than the rather anodyne "Touch" album. Secondly, dispense with any thoughts of love, emotion or whatever cuddly bunny-wunnies you may have hiding in your bedside table. This is a song that brings to mind the more experimental aspect of physical relationships, wrapped up in a subtle, steady yet unstoppable mix of melody and suggestive noises. "I've got a delicate mind/I've got dangerous features/And my fist collides/With your furniture/I'm a highway Mohican/I've got a razor-blade smile/So don't come near me/I've got singular style/Fifteen senses/Are on my plate/All the things/That you love to hate/I'm an electric wire and I'm stuck inside your head."
This song lends itself so easily to a visual interpretation that it's positively indecent, and if you let yourself get carried away just a little you'll find yourself dressing in PVC and carrying a whip, a candle and some chocolate butter. Annie Lennox's singing is utterly salacious, her tongue rolling so lasciviously around the 'l' in "like" that you find yourself wondering if she can tie a knot in a cherry stalk with that same tongue. If you compare this song to, say, Aerosmith's "Pink" - another song that wants to get you in bed - you might find that while "Pink" is full of humour, sly winks and nudges like a "Carry On" film, "Regrets" is a song that takes its sex seriously.


Certain songs occupy a special place in our lives, in our hearts and in our memories, endowed as they are with a master key to our emotions. To some people, it's the song that they shared with their first great love; to others, it's the song that they got married to, or that their first child was born to (my daughter was born to Prince singing "Peach", which is a bit of a double-edged sword if you ask me); to others, it's the song that they played endlessly through the dark, stormy autumn of a broken heart.
Then there are songs that by some chemical happenstance conjure up emotions from nothing; they cook up a fearsome broth of powerful associations, whisking you instantaneously to some far-off place in your past, to some long-forgotten room where all you can do is wallow in the excess, or the complete lack of...... of something. You find yourself short of breath, fighting a heavy lump rising in your throat, bewildered by a kaleidoscope of "something" that you can't quite put your finger on. You find yourself attracted yet repelled by this, perhaps exultant that you can feel such a powerful emotion, yet frustrated and angered that you can't nail it down, classify it, name it, associate it.
So you spend some time revisiting this song, this place, trying for all your worth to put some sense into this blank. Sometimes you get close to a name, a time, a face or a place, but it's never a complete picture and the next time you try, you're back at square one. After a while, the obsession dies away and your life regains a level playing surface; but once in a while, when you hear that song again, all the symptoms reappear and you find yourself short of breath again, eyes glistening, overcome by an intense feeling of..... of what, dammit?
For me this is that song.

Thursday, August 25, 2005

"Every Breath You Take"

Old loves.

We fall in love for a variety of reasons, but they could be summed up thus: "because he/she has something I want", be that beauty, brains, talent, humour, vulnerability or just a nameless chemical that speeds through our receptors and lets off a grenade in our head. Our love poses a question that we can answer, or it answers a question that we've been asking all our lives. But rarely does our love answer ALL those questions or ask precisely ALL the questions we have the answers to.
And when, or if, love fails, some of us fall to measuring each inch of the quantum leaps that brought us together and then pulled us apart. Some of us are analysing, some of us are ignoring; we're either obsessing sweatily over the whys and wherefores or perfectly happy that it's over.
This is a song for those of us who are never satisfied with the conclusions we draw.
It's a dark, angry, peevish, whiny song, even though it deosn't sound it. We're perfectly aware that we're onto a loser here, that our obsessions will never be rewarded, but we need to let that person know we're still there, that we care, that we're retreating, shrinking into a hard nugget of bitterness and that we can't do a damn thing about it. If we had the time, we'd be standing outside their window watching, drawing the strength to go on from the injustice and anger, the sheer unfairness that we feel.
The insistent monotonous beat, the pulsing bass, the utter simplicity of this song speaks of a single-minded pursuit, the discarding of anything but the essentials. This is a dangerous song, a threatening one: "Every move you make/Every vow you break/Every smile you fake/Every claim you stake/I'll be watching you", as if to say, "you betrayed me; but I'll be watching, chronicling all your future betrayals" as if that will somehow lessen the pain.

It's never simple, is it?

Monday, August 22, 2005

"Love and Affection"

Early morning on the last day of the holidays, I sit on the front porch, look at the sunlight beginning to run thickly down the trunks of the beech trees, pull out my iPod and consider the possibilities for a song to describe that slightly hollow feeling that accompanies the end of something special, the memories freshly-minted that now have to be put away, folded and stored in the last corner of a bulging duffel bag before we head back to our real world.
Bitter-sweet, because we go from one happiness to another, from the head-back, wide-eyed shocked laughter of a child being caught by surprise by a large splashing wave, to the head-back, wide-eyed smile of bliss on seeing a loved one again. And, for a while at least, we'll close our eyes from time to time and remember a moment, an afternoon, a joke, a face that we treasured all too briefly on our travels.
So why have I come to this song? Partly because the love I feel for my old, spiritual home is something that drills so deep inside me that it feels like a living, breathing person who has walked beside me for many years. I can look out towards the hills and say to them: "Thank you/You took me dancing/Cross the floor/Cheek to cheek," remembering the days I have spent clambering to their summits. I can stand at the harbour's edge and silently say goodbye to the fishing fleet as I would to a friend who I'll hope to see again.
And all the while, I will be looking forward to saying hello to a new love that awaits me at home: "Just take my hand and lead me where you will." Fresh, renewed, cleansed, this is a song for new beginnings, old friends, warm memories and the aching chasm of hope.

Sunday, August 07, 2005

"Madame Helga"

There's something unashamedly indulgent about a song that stands four-square in the box marked "testosterone", that wears its colours on its sleeve and doesn't feel the need to apologise for being a serious boys-only song. Think of the Faces' "Stay With Me" or Paul Kelly's "Darling It Hurts" and you get the picture. This is the Stereophonics jumping feet-first into the deep end of the pool and pulling every single axe-hero pose, every fist-pumping chord-change out of the box of tricks. It's a wonderful, swirling, lazy, vaguely menacing slab of sound. Kelly Jones must have applied the extra-coarse sandpaper to his vocal chords for this: his voice is Rod Stewart on steroids, raw, tearing at the edges, reaching for that last scrap of power to push the song over the edge. The song's about a mysterious woman the band met in Sri Lanka; but they've painted a whole slightly acid- or alcohol-fuelled fantasy around her: there's the waking up in an unfamiliar place, the strange faces passing by in a blur of overindulgence, the desperately unsettled feeling of being someplace where you don't feel one hundred percent safe. The song pushes on, gathering momentum as the dream blows hot and cold, the chorus suggests the sort of out-of-body experience we've all had when we find our limits, and by the end you're slightly sweaty, wondering if you'll ever get home to see your local pub again.