Sunday, December 29, 2019

Harmonies In My Head

Three years ago, on the day after Christmas 2017, in what was to become an annual tradition here at Inventory Full, I posted a list of all the songs and lyric fragments I'd used as post titles throughout the year. There wasn't a lot to it. I typed out the titles, put together a YouTube playlist, linked to it and that was pretty much that.

The following year I did it again, on Christmas Day itself, only this time I included the links in the post instead of making a playlist. I also added commentary to each entry.

This year I realised by June that I'd already used enough quotes to fill a post so I wrote one covering the first six months of 2019.  Since then, my reliance on music to add nuance has continued to the point where I'm finishing up the year with not one but two more title collections.

There were fifty-five post titles in June's post. Parts Two and Three run to seventy-three. Or is it seventy-four? Ah, who's counting?

Well, I am, I guess. At time of writing, with a few days of the year left to go, the post count for 2019 stands at 249, including this one and tomorrow's. I'm aiming for a nice, round 250 by New Year.

It's the first time in nine years I've passed two hundred. The previous high point was 197, twice in a row, 2012 and 2013. Those happen to be my first two full years of of blogging after which I slowed down a bit. You can thank (or curse) illness and Blaugust for the resurgence.

Sixty percent of all the titles I've used this year have been music-related. Some of them are obvious. Many aren't. Oblique post titles are something of a theme for this blog even though the degree to which I indulge myself undoubtedly acts as a deterrent both to search engines and potential new readers.

It's always been that way. Looking back, the trend was established right from the start. The first five consecutive posts here all used songs or lyrics for titles.

Over the years I've all but used up the music in my mind, which is how and why things have become not just oblique but positively abstruse. These days I tend to write the post then search for musical matches for themes and concepts. I very much need to start making notes on why I chose certain titles because coming back to them months later I find myself as mystified by what I meant as most of my readers must have been.

Working on this post, I've found myself staring at some of the entries, wondering if I meant to evoke something cultural or whether I was just lazily grabbing common phrases from the language with no intent to reference anything in particular. It's a thing I do occasionally, even though I know I shouldn't. The first couple of titles below demonstrate that all too plainly.

The List Starts Here...

On The Level - I very much doubt I was thinking of anything in particular when I chose "On The Level" for a title. It's one of those generic phrases that thrust themselves forward, uninvited. I'm sure I wasn't thinking of the Mac de Marco number. I don't like him much. Or at all. How he became the poster boy for U.S. indie mystifies me. I also didn't mean this Leonard Cohen track, because until I was checking google for this post I'd never heard it. It's quite pleasant, which pretty much sums up Leonard's entire career. I'm not a big fan of him, either, although he's a lot better than Mac de Marco.

Party On - And by embarassing co-incidence, the next one up (I'm taking them chronologically) is just as bland. It's going to become obvious quite quickly in this rundown that I use a lot of generic and stock phrases for titles. I could try to justify it by retrofitting some hip, happening or funky musical reference, of which I would have been utterly ignorant at the time, like for example Pure Energy. Even if I could get away with it, I would know. So let's not do that.

I Just Ride - Lana Del Rey to the credibility rescue! From Ride, obvs. This is more like it! Every time I quote Lana you can bet I meant to do it. This is one of her very best, although that's hardly narrowing things down much. She is close to infallible, after all.

Why Can't We Live Together? - Timmy Thomas - It's also a fair bet that if a title sounds like a passably well-known tune or lyric from the '70s, '80s or '90s, I did indeed have it in mind when I wrote the post. My mental rolodex (I'd say "and doesn't that date me?"except I've never actually seen a rolodex. I think they were obsolete before I was born...) is stuffed with cultural detritus from those glory years.

Back To The Old House - The Smiths - Oh, Morrissey... I'd prefer not to give the old git even this pitiful dribble of publicity but I have so many of his words stuck in my head like shrapnel. For some reason there seem to be a million covers of this. I'd love to link one instead of Mozzer but most of them are, erm, not very good. Even the Billy Bragg and Everything But The Girl versions aren't all that. It's a weird song to cover and no-one seems to have much of an idea how to avoid its obvious pitfalls. I guess we'll have to have the original, taken here from the 1983 John Peel Session

A Secret Understanding - Magazine, from Shot By Both Sides. Okay, this is less problematic all ways round. Not only did I genuinely pull this one straight from my memory banks, I've even seen Howard sing it live, at a student hall gig at some long-vanished polytechnic. The glamor of rock and roll, eh?

Hot Fun In The Summertime - Sly And The Family Stone - I'm far too young to have been at Woodstock (thank God). I was even too young to go see the movie when it came out. Not just the first time but when it was re-released several years later. It was an 18 Certificate and I think I was sixteen at the time. I know it was the first film I lied about my age to see. This one isn't in the movie but it was a #2 U.S. hit on the back of it all the same. I don't think I even heard it until about ten years ago.

Everybody Ought To Have A Maid - Sondheim - Here, in a postively insane version by Dean Martin, Orson Welles and Jack Gifford (who he?). I'm proud to say I was unaware of this one until I found it while googling "Song Titles Maid". I had to argue hard with myself to let it through. I'm kind of embarassed even to admit I know it exists. Which is saying something when you see some of the other stuff on this list...

Try To Hang On - Pavlov's Dog - I love Pavlov's Dog. I believe I may have mentioned that before.

Imperfect Is The New Perfect - Caitlin Crosby - Never heard of her or the song until I found it  while looking for a title for the post. She has kind of a country Melanie Martinez thing going on.

Bubble Pop - HYUNA. Another google find. 143 million views on YouTube can't be wrong, can they? Don't answer that. Also, really quite a dodgy video. I couldn't actually watch it all the way through. Well, I could. I just didn't want to.

Flying High - Time for another plunge into the Bumper Grab Bag of Cliches. I see now it's been used a few times for "music" by such luminaries as Opus and Falco (!) and Ozzy Osbourne. Also The Commodores. I'm going to pretend I meant this one by Captain Hollywood Project. Sooner them than Ozzy. From now on I probably should stop including titles I can't source convincingly.

Here Comes The Train - from The Shangri-Las' "Train To Kansas City". One of my favorite songs ever, although that's a pretty long list. I discovered it by way of a cover. There are some other good versions out there - Neko Case, Superchunk, Belle and Sebastian...

You're Not Going Out Dressed Like That - The Distractions - I actually heard the mother of a friend say this when when he was about to leave the house dressed in a bin liner at the height of punk. In retrospect, my sympathies are with his mother. It's a great title for a punk song but sadly this is less Punk/New Wave, more ersatz Merseybeat.

On Some Faraway Beach - Eno - His first four albums mark one of the greatest consecutive runs  released in my lifetime. An astonishingly subtle and versatile songwriter and a surprising haunting and ethereal vocalist. I sometimes wish he was less of a polymath, then he might have made more rock albums.

Some Journey - Suzanne Vega - While we're on the topic of ethereal voices...

Did You Ever See A Whale? Sharon Prabhakar - There's ethereal and there's "Is this real?" That diction! Can't argue it's not catchy but then so is measles.

I'm Still Standing  - Elton John  - I don't believe there was ever a time when it was cool to like Elton but I always have and I find like him more the older we both get. That said, this is not one of my favorites from his astonishingly extensive catalog. It's a decent little rocker, as it goes, I guess, but it's no Tiny Dancer.

Everybody's Got An Idea - from Green by The Papertiger Sound. One of my absolute favorite bands of the last ten years. I have everything they've recorded, pretty much. I wish they'd come off hiatus and get back into the studio again or even embark on some solo projects. God, they were good...

Seventeen Days - Prince - Except I was actually thinking of a song I wrote called "Seventeen Ways". Or I think it was called that. I wish I could link it. There were a couple of decent rehearsal recordings of the last band I was ever in playing it but the guitarist kept them when we split up and I never spoke to him again. All I have is a tape of the one rehearsal we did with a keyboard player, where he vamps through every song trying to figure out his part. He worked them out eventually but not that day. The tape is unlistenable.

Word Up - Cameo, duh! Also Gun, KoRn, The Boss Hoss... There are a surprising number of covers of this classic, none of them really worth our time.

Leaving Here - The High Numbers - Well, you could have fooled me. I thought it was a Motorhead original. Turns out it's The Who from before they were The Who. A bit thin, I'd say, but then brittle always was a mod thing. Ronnie Wood's old band The Birds did a more muscular version. No-one did it like Lemmy, though.

How Funky Is Your Chicken? - The Jackson 5 - It's the question we're all asking.

This Is The Modern World - The Jam - Have I not used this before? Apparently I haven't. Well, I have now.

And that's it for Part Two. Fizzled out towards the end there a bit, didn't it? Still, we made it to half way through August. Blimey!

Part Three tomorrow. It's already done so there's no escape.


  1. I'd be interested in learning what exactly you don't like so much about Morissey? Is this solely about some of his political statements or maybe there's something bigger?

    1. It's entirely about his many and varied political and quasi-political statements. I'm not taking a particular stand on it - he is obviously entitled to whatever opinions he chooses and is free to use his celebrity to find a platform to express them. Doing so, however, has predictably alienated many of his former admirers. I have friends who virtually worshipped him for decades but who now can't bear to listen to his music - particularly his current material.

      I was being a little arch in my comments about him. I'm actually not in favor of the kind of cultural Stalinism that means a body of work is invalidated when its creator falls into disrepute. In the case of a band like The Smiths it's also worth remembering there were three other people invilved, one of whom actually wrote *all* the music. It seems unfair in the extreme for them to take the balme for things the singer says many years after the band split up.

      Even so, I don't want to act as though I'm unaware, or don't care, about the things he's been saying. I thought it worth a little gloss when linking, that's all. And, of course, I love covers and would often prefer to use a good cover over the original - only there don't seem to be many good covers of Smiths songs.

    2. Yeah, I agree, "Bigmouth Strikes Again" is probably a song that describes Morrissey the best. I don't really have hard stance on many of his statements, but I can see how they could be alienating. I don't really know if he tried to be controversial from the very beginning of his career or he's really this bitter.

      As for covers, I see Morrissey as one-of-a-kind performer. It's hard to imagine his songs being that addictive without his vocals and his little mannerisms.


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