I’m not sure at what point I became embarrassed or awkward to be associated with the English flag. If I wasn’t already, then that image above would have done it.
I know I’ve always been a bit embarrassed about the English National Anthem, which compared to other nations – Wales, say, or France, or Germany – is such a dirge. I remember watching An Audience with Billy Connolly back in the 80s, and thinking he had it spot on:
Although, over the years, I’ve come to think of this as a decent substitute (not necessarily this version, mind) although in the back if my mind there’s a good reason why it shouldn’t be this, which I can’t quite recall at the moment:
But we’re not going down this route this morning, otherwise I’ll be talking about Keith Allen, his involvement with New Order’s World in Motion and then comparing it to Three Lions, and you’ve probably read articles discussing which is best 1000 times already this summer, and every summer a major football tournament is on.
No, I’m here to talk about the appropriation of the English flag by wrong ‘uns: your bully boys, your beer boys, your fat bald tattooed cheerleaders, your racists, your…dare I say it…Brexit voters, your Conservative MPs.
And so probably the first time I was aware of the bad connotations, of the gangs it was associated with, was when Morrissey flounced on stage back in 1992, at a gig where he was supporting Madness, who – much as we love them – have a higher than most ratio of skinhead fans, which I’m sure is in no way related to Suggs being a Chelsea fan.
I’ve never quite understood why that association survives; ska music is a perfect blend of cultures, tapping into reggae rhythms and often lyrically articulating the woes of the forgotten working classes, and yet still there they sit, the racist fuckwits, loving the music but utterly missing the point.
The sort of person who, for example, will claim to be cheering on the England team, but will boo the team’s decision to take the knee before games, in a show of unity against all forms of inequality:
When Morrissey came on stage at Finsbury Park that day, he was waving and wrapping himself in a St George’s flag, seemingly, it would seem, to provoke that small section of the Madness crowd. And he performed this song:
Now. If I were being kind, I’d say that is clearly written in the third person and is not necessarily representative of the writer’s views.
There is no challenge to lines such as “England for the English”, or “You want the day to come sooner when you settle the score”; there’s no pay-off explaining these are hideous views to hold in these modern times.
And so people began to look back through his work, and found songs like Bengali in Platforms which includes the lyric: “Life is hard enough when you belong here”.
And to old interviews, when he was quoted as saying things like “All reggae music is vile.”
And because at the time he was the darling of the indie-world, nobody challenged him on these points.
Until that day in Finsbury Park, when, credit where credit’s due, the NME went: hang on a minute….something’s not right here.
And then, twenty odd years later, having stropped and refused to speak to certain publications, and protested his innocence – “My mother’s Irish, how could I be racist?” – he turns up on TV wearing a For Britain pin badge:
For those unfamiliar with it, For Britain is a far-right political party. Even Nigel Farage believes it is made up of “Nazis and racists”.
But I haven’t come here to talk about Morrissey.
The English flag has become a focal point again, all because of not just our beer-swilling racist football fans, but because of things that members of our current Government have said.
Here’s Tory MP asking new director-general Tim Davie why the BBC’s annual report does not feature any images of the union jack:
Answer: because it’s a report, not a picture book.
Shortly afterwards came a whole slew of Conservative MPs being photographed or screen-grabbed from Zoom conferences, with the Union flag displayed proudly in the background.
Here’s Robert Jenrick MP in an interview with the BBC:
And here’s everyone’s favourite smirking bully Priti Patel in an interview with LBC:
And here’s…seriously, there’s loads of these, and the message they were supposed to send was clear: being a Conservative is your British duty. And if you don’t have a British flag, then you’re unpatriotic.
Around the same time, and amplified more recently, we heard new rhetoric, where various issues – the customs border between England and Northern Ireland, the issues with exporting sausages to Ireland, the problems our fishermen and farmers now face are all the EU’s fault.
That’s right: their fault for implementing the “oven-ready” deal Boris agreed and signed up to, either without reading and understanding it, or with no intention of upholding it – I’m not sure which is worse – just so he could add Prime Minister to his CV, along with the stuff about being sacked twice as a journalist for lying, for agreeing to help have someone beaten up, the infidelity and lies (of course he couldn’t sack Hancock for having an affair, this is the very stuff that we’re supposed to admire in Johnson) – the usual stuff one expects a PM to have hidden in his closet.
And then there is James Wallis.
Wallis is the Conservative MP for Bridgend in South Wales comprising mainly of farmers, Young Conservatives, young Conservative farmers, and slightly more dyed-in-the-wool Conservatives who have moved out of Cardiff because there are too many ‘ethnics’ there nowadays. On Thursday, Wallis stood up in the House of Commons with the notion of giving a rousing speech about the Union Jack. He began by bemoaning the “fact” that the Senedd (the Welsh Parliament) had banned the display of the Union Jack, which wasn’t strictly true: they have banned the display of all flags, not just the Union Jack.
He went on, dressed like this:
Out of shot: Union Jack socks and matching Y-Fronts.
He went on to say how despicable this untrue thing was, because people “across Wales are proud” to fly the Union Jack, which represents all four nations of Great Britain: England, Scotland, Northern Ireland and….oh….perhaps just three then. His speech stumbled to a halt and he sat down again.
Remember how we used to be able to spot Donald Trump dog-whistling the lowest common denominator from his following, calling them into action? Remember how we laughed and said that couldn’t happen here?
Well, that’s exactly what this sabre-rattling, flag-promoting is, a call to arms for those thick enough to follow, but a little more subtle and easier to say “Who me? I never started this” afterwards.
I know I have often moaned in the past about how time-consuming it is to write The Chain, but this morning, at around 2am, having put off writing it every day this week, it suddenly occured to me that there are three reasons why it takes me so long:
1. You won’t be surprised to learn that I don’t own every record that gets suggested, so I have to track down a copy to post here. I quite enjoy this aspect, as it goes;
2. As I’m going through all of your suggestions, I put all the songs on a playlist so I can familiarise myself with them, and hopefully come up with either some decent jokes (I’ll let you be the judge of how succcesful I am with that) and/or some funny video clips to include in the post. This latter aspect, as I’m sure you can imagine, often leads me down a YouTube rabbithole. That said, I quite enjoy this aspect too;
3. For practically every song you suggest, I manage to think of at least one more to link to either the source record, or your suggestion. That’s not meant to sound like a boast, more a statement of fact: people who write music-based blogs tend to know quite a lot of records. I try to exert some kind of control over the amount of my own suggestions I include but sometimes I just can’t resist. I really like this aspect as well.
So next time I moan about what a pain it is to write The Chain, ignore me. Once I get going on it, I bloody love it.
As can be seen by the amount of suggestions I’ve made this time.
And that’s despite the source record being, in my opinion, one of the worst singles by – well, I’m not going to say the worst bands, not when Black Eyed Peas and Coldplay are both things – but certainly by a band that I don’t much care for.
In case you’ve forgotten, said source record this time around was this:
As usual, the suggestions can be split into categories, one for each word: ‘U2’, ‘Beautiful’ and ‘Day’, with a few tangents thrown in for good measure.
We’ll save the vitriol of links to U2 for later I think, so let’s start with a suggestion from PhonicPat:
“[Beautiful Day] is from their ‘All That You Can’t Leave Behind” album which leads nicely to…:”
Over to C from Sun Dried Sparrows to kick off all the nominations linked to the word ‘Day’ and complete the cleansing of the palate:
“I think ‘keeping it simple’ will be my mantra from now on, so… Beautiful Day takes me to beautiful Days. I’ve just been through your back pages and I couldn’t see Kirsty MacColl’s sublime cover version appearing here before, so can we have that one please?”
Next up is a clutch of suggestions/songs mentioned in passing – which you all know I can’t resist – from Kay. For those of you who don’t know, Kay is my manager at work, but also a friend. She, too, wants to keep things simple:
“I’m a simple soul [I’m saying nothing – Ed], so I immediately started thinking of songs about a particular day of the week. First thought was…”:
“…then remembered [Look out, folks, she’s off. Experience tells me to get comfy and look like you’re paying attention – Ed] Foals had a song called Sunday, and I thought I would choose that, so you’d have to post it (much to your disgust)…”
Allow me to explain that “much to your disgust” comment: I’m not a Foals fan. I don’t dislike them either, to be honest. I just find them a bit “meh”. I don’t understand why anyone would want to pay money to go and see them, unless they need to pick up a new Yasser Arafat-type scarf from the merchandise stall, that is.
Anyway, carry on.
“…but then thought neither a Monday or a Sunday is a beautiful day. So I’m going for…”
That’s all the ‘Day’ suggestions, and before we move let’s move on to the “Beautiful” links, a suggestion which covers both, and I’ll hand you over to The Robster from on/off/on-again/no-he’s-definitely-gone-this-time Is This The Life?
“Beautiful Day was used by ITV for their ill-fated coverage of The Premiership back in, erm, I don’t remember. Quite a few years ago. The song I always associate with football on TV is Life Of Riley by the Lightning Seeds which Match Of The Day used for its Goal Of The Month feature.”
Ill-fated it certainly was, for two reasons: firstly, given an alternative, I don’t know anyone who would elect to watch football on ITV, and secondly, tactical analysis was provided by former professional footballer Andy Townsend, not from the comfort of a warm studio, but from what was know as The Tactics Truck, for no other reason, it seemed, than alliteration.
Whilst we’re on the subject of football, here’s PhonicPat with a couple of suggestions which I’ll allow, even though they link to The Robster’s suggestion more than to the source record:
“Late to the party this time around and some of my thoughts already reflected in the comments [but I haven’t got to them yet in this post, in case you were wondering – Ed]…More footy with…”:
“…and one more football song:”
Sorry, Pat. I can’t say I enjoyed that one. Worst Record of the Week, in my book.
Now we’ll move on to just plain Beautiful, words often used to describe Swiss Adam from Bagging Area, I’m sure:
“There are lots of songs that link to beautiful – Peaking Lights’ Beautiful Dub has the double pleasure of the word in its title and being beautiful to listen to.”
There’s a little snatch (and no, I don’t mean Bono) of the melody of that, such as it is, which reminds me of Una Paloma Blanca by Jonathan King, but since I’ve banned Morrissey’s solo records from the blog because of his extremist views, I guess I should extend that to convicted paedophiles too. So instead, here’s the George Baker Selection with the titularly-truncated (presumably Ms Stubbs complained) Paloma Blanca:
Personally, whenever I hear the name U2, I want to rebel against it, and listen to the complete opposite. So, like a typically confusing clue on 70s game show 3-2-1…
…here we go: The clue mentions the complete opposite and the the opposite of U could be Me or it could be We; the opposite of the opposite of 2 is the number immediately adjacent to it, so it could be 1 or it could be 3; if you want to rebel against something then you want to bring about change, and perhaps the most famous rebels were the French Resistance…so the next suggestion is of course:
I mean, really I should be awarding myself some points for Showboat of the Week. Not that I can be bothered awarding points anymore. Nobody really cares about them, do they?
Here’s Martin again with another song which sort of links to the band’s name:
“Finally I want to mention ‘U Talk 2 Much’ by Sultans of Ping FC, not least for its U2-referencing sleeve art”:
Which takes me back to PhonicPat, and an alternative Sultans of Ping FC tune, suggested “…for the footy link”:
Do you remember when U2 graciously and modestly decided that everyone with iTunes should be blessed with a free copy of their 2014 Songs of Innocence album, whether they wanted it or not? Well, that leads me here:
Time to go off on some (non-football) tangents, I think, and so here’s Alyson from What’s It All About?:
“U-2 is a kind of plane and another plane become the inspiration for a song by OMD, so I’m going for Enola Gay, which very scarily was a big hit for them in 1980, 40 years ago now. The awful event addressed in the song, the atomic bombing of Hiroshima, happened only 35 years prior to that. Is it just me or is time running away with us as we get older?”
And follow that up with an equally warm hand on his entrance for Stevo Kifaru, who, for a first-time Chain Ganger has certainly got the hang of naming a load of records knowing full-well I won’t be able to resist posting them all:
“U2 were named after an American spy plane, the Lockheed U-2, so I’m going with the theme of Spies for a second. My initial thought was…:”
Pop the handbrake on for a moment and hide the jacket potatoes, I have (yes, yet another) suggestion:
….which I’m sure you’ll agree is the very best of the mixes, right Chums?
It turns out Stevo is quite the Chatty Cathy (a bit rich, coming from me, granted), for he continues:
“I also thought U2 reminded me of the nomenclature of German submarines, always beginning with a U, & that brought me to Das Boot. Many years ago my friend randomly asked me, what was the number of the sub in Das Boot? I thought for a second & said U96. I have felt like such a nerd since that day, my friend obviously grateful that I answered his question, but the look he gave me was one of shock at my depths of geekness….In reality I just remembered the techno remix of the theme tune that was released under the name of U96….”:
In the interest of balance, perhaps I should point out that Bono at least seems to be vaguely self-aware and have a sense of humour about how many people view him, even if that sense of humour has been written by somebody else:
“U2 to Stiff Little Fingers to Grandmaster Flash and back to U2 in 3 moves:
There is a story that Adam Clayton says the bass line for U2’s ‘With Or Without You’ is basically Stiff Little Fingers’ ‘Alternative Ulster’ slowed down.”
Now. I know you haven’t suggested it, and I wouldn’t ordinarily post a second song by the source artist (especially when it’s U-Sodding-2), but I don’t think I can let that slide without investigating. So here’s both of those records, to allow us to compare and contrast:
Hmm. I suppose he may have a point. But it’s not exactly the most complicated bass-line in the world is it?
“SLFs 1997 album Tinderbox,” Rigid gamely continues, undeterred, “contains a cover version of ‘The Message’, which includes the lyric: “Don’t push me cos I’m close to the Edge”
So, here’s both the cover and the original. I do like a bit of SLF, but I know which of these I prefer:
Sounds a bit Walk This Way, only not as good to me, no? Imagine the Run DMC boys hadn’t turned up at the studio and so Aerosmith recorded their part too.
Where were we? Ah yes: Grandmaster Flash:
Of course, any mention of The Edge being close to the edge means that I’m contractually obliged to share this clip:
Last ones before we find out what the next record in The actual Chain is, and I’ll hand over to The Great Gog to bring things to a thrilling climax as only he can:
“The phrase ‘close to the edge’ has already been mentioned. Of course Bono and the other two are close to The Edge when they play live. Close To The Edge was also an album recorded by Yes in 1972. Later versions of this album include a cover of the Paul Simon-penned America, also recorded in the same year.”
Now, I’m no Yes man, so I checked what Wiki has to say about this, and GG is quite correct:
“In 1987, ‘Close to the Edge’ was reissued by Atlantic Records on CD in the United States and Europe. Another issue of the album was digitally remastered by Joe Gastwirt in 1994. In 2003, the album was reissued again on disc in an expanded and remastered edition by Rhino and Elektra Records. Included were two previously unreleased tracks: an alternate version of ‘And You and I’, an early run-through of ‘Siberian Khatru’, and Yes’s 1972 single ‘America’ with its b-side, an edit of ‘Total Mass Retain‘.”
Never in doubt:
It’s not so much a cover version as a lot of proggy noodling with the Simon & Garfunkel lyrics chucked in after a while.
I should be careful how I phrase that, really; for to describe them as ‘Simon & Garfunkel lyrics’ does rather give the impression that Art had some involvement in the song-writing process, a goof that Annie Nightingale made when she interviewed Paul Simon for The Old Grey Whistle Test many years ago:
“1972 saw Simon record the song ‘Mother & Child Reunion’,” GG continues. “He performed this song on stage (and presumably close to The Edge) with U2 at Madison Square Garden in 2015.The performance is on YouTube but the quality isn’t great and there’s a load of waffle from Bono at the start of it.”
Which seems a good enough reason to just post the Paul Simon version:
And all that leaves me to do is….oh wait. Rigid Digit is back:
“Forgot to include the story of my U2 branded SatNav.It’s terrible – the streets have no names, and I still haven’t found what I’m looking for.
And I think my U2 fridge is on the way out – all it does is Rattle and Hum.”
Thanks Rigid, I trust you’ll be here all week?
Anyway, as I was saying (he says, locking the door behind him to be on the safe side), all that leaves me to do is to give you the next song in The Chain, along with the way the person suggesting it got there. And don’t worry, it’s a waaaaaaaay better record this time:
The link: As PhonicPat said right at the top, Beautiful Day appeared on the band’s All That You Can’t Leave Behind album. What Pat didn’t say was that said album was produced by Brian Eno (and Daniel Lanois); and the album that this is taken from (Fear of Music) was also produced by Brian Eno (without Daniel Lanois):
So, your suggestions, please, for songs which link to Cities by Talking Heads, along with a brief description of the link, via the Comments Section down below or via email to email@example.com in time for whenever The Chain circus next rolls into town, in a month or so’s time (probably).
There’s a certain amount of mutual appreciation about today’s selections.
When I first started this blog, I decided that the main thrust of it would be to document every pop record that I ever bought, in the order I bought them, a la that scene in “High Fidelity”, and to reclaim a few songs back that many would consider to be Guilty Pleasures. I introduced an arbitrary starting point, that being the first pop single record that I had either bought for myself or cajoled someone into buying for me.
The reason for this, was that were I to start any earlier than that, I would be talking about records I owned by Basil Brush, or The Wurzels, amongst others. I owned a few bits and bobs like that, mostly “comedy records”, by the likes of The Barron Knights or the aforementioned Wurzels, who both dealt in “funny” versions of popular hits.
Now I’d planned to stay well clear of them, but on Friday night, as I was waiting to be served at the bar, the original of today’s choice sprang to mind. Then I remembered that a much cooler band had released their version of it as a limited edition 7″ single, available only on their 2005 tour, or via their website.
It was too perfect a choice for me to miss up. So I ordered myself a pint of Hawkes’ Urban Orchard cider (and darn yummy it was too, as were the following six) and resolved I’d post both versions of the song that had enticed me so.
The more observant of you will have spotted mention of British Sea Power’s “Remember Me” up there on the 7″ sleeve, and felt the cold finger of fear brush down your spine when you realised what that meant. Yes, on the same limited edition release, The Wurzels returned the favour. So, for the sake of completeness, here’s the original: