Track 8: “Things can only get better”, D:Ream

Famous for being the New Labour campaign tune for 1997, and marking the end of 18 wasted years – all that North Sea oil, and what did we do with it?
My personal pleasure was buying the CD with 6 different versions (I’d bought 4 track editions of Happy Mondays songs before) and playing it time and again on the train down to London.

“Things can only get better”, D:Ream did not win us the General Election as some have claimed, but as an anthem, it captured the feeling for 1997.
For some it captured the election night – although we in Nottingham were still in the count until 6:30 in the morning.
We did go on and we got a lot done, although it ran out of steam with the bankers’ betrayal and with Gordon Brown.

The song has also become – with the rise of Professor Brian Cox – a reminder of my physics degree which I approached as a way of getting a degree without the fullest appreciation of the value of the subject; a mild regret.  The TV documentaries have become much better and some of the books have been excellent.
Track 7: Billy Bragg

Track 7: “Lovers Town Revisited”, Billy Bragg

“Fighting on the dance floor happens anyway …”
If there’s a shadow over life for boys and young men, it’s violence.  Something that went away when you were perceived to be too old.
Useless and the uselessness is captured by

“Lovers Town Revisited”, Billy Bragg.
Words that are meant to be heard, in a short and sharp format.
“Sometimes [he’s] makes me stop and think.”
Like The Smiths, Billy writes songs that tell more realistic stories of love and life.
More political songs too – from a more traditional labour movement perspective.
Pleased to meet him recently at the Rough Trade shop in Hockley (on the day of the Pentrich revolution 200th anniversary march) when he was pushing his book on skiffle.

Track 6: The Smiths

Track 6: “Girl Afraid”, The Smiths

“… you and me,
“we can ride on a star
“If you stay with me, girl
“We can rule the world”
Take that.  Dross.  Implerialistic dross.


The Smiths were such a breath of fresh air when they arrived in 1983.  Big fans of pop, but discerning.  Morrissey well read (see the “England is mine” movie); Johnny Marr highly-skilled on guitar.  Deliberating choosing a plain name for their band.
For the BBC Radio Nottm show wanting to know about songs that change your lives, “Rubber Ring” even has the lyric.  But the track I’ve chosen is –

“Girl Afraid”, The Smiths.
Nice jangling; and just listen to the lyrics.
And value difference.

Track 5: Joy Division.

Track 4: “Making Plans for Nigel”, XTC

The first gig at university, and that surprise that people thought it was so important to shout out the names of those favourite tracks, in case the band didn’t play them.
The concert hall at the Guild of Students was a nice size, and it was a pleasure to see XTC, part of the new wave, were the first headline act I was gonna see.

“Making Plans for Nigel”, XTC seemed profound then, but perhaps less so now, especially since we’ve lost British Steel, and the confidence we had to really run the country.
The song has many hooks, and the first of them is the drums. So distinctive.
And the song has cropped up in the most surprising of places.
In the crumbling streets of Havana, Cuba, we’d found a decent restaurant, save for the 2 men and a woman touring the tables singing a song at each – and expecting a tip.  And we so didn’t want to stop and listen to “Guantanamera” being sung for us, but we were the last table and the meal was a tad compromised cos we knew they were gonna reach us and we were gonna say No.  We said No, and then felt guilty as they graciously accepted our decline and moved away to the ’50s juke box, where they dropped a big old Cuban coin in the machine and those drums came out, moe powerful and engaging than ever before.

Track 3: “You’re Wondering Now”, The Specials

Again at a Salop home game, and a mate explains to me how ska was being re-worked as “The Prince” comes over the tannoy, and you’re getting ready for university, and after all the music the West Midlands has had (Slade, Black Sabbath, er, Judas Priest, ELO) it seemed yet another vindication for choosing Birmingham University.
And yeah, the region comes up with UB40, Selector and The Specials.

Yet as outside the mainstream as it sounded then, it an’t now – BBC tv’s “Death in Paradise” has even embraced “Wondering Now” made popular by The Specials.
I particularly like the Colchester Institute live performance “You’re wondering now”, Specials, broadcast by the BBC.
Can’t see it on radio, but the fashion, dancing and the performance is great, if let down by the “alright”s at the end.

Track 2: “Hot Love”, T Rex

Year 5, 1971, a new suitcase portable record player, and I’d like to say I was buying cool stuff.
Instead, it was “Poppa Joe” by The Sweet and strangely, “Without You” by Nillson – not even sure now why that happened.
The pop charts were so exciting then.  Sharing our knowledge of the acts. Learning who had reached what spot.  Buying those lyrics magazines.  Going to our first village hall discos.
So what has stuck?

“Hot Love”, T Rex
Seventies.  Glam Rock.   As the Slade bass player said, “that special bass lilt.”
And keeps coming up – played when I went on Radio Nottm for Lord Mayor’s Parade day.
Too young to have seen then of course, unlike my mate Penny Griggs.
Was a surprise to me though when working for British Rail, having been asked to design and deliver a software distribution system that would react to receiving the equivalent of a “telegram”, that my managers had never heard of “Telegram Sam”.

England is Mine owes the viewers more

For a fan, who loves The Smiths and has watched the documentaries, this is a great film.
It shows a young man who is very different, who lives for words and for pop, and receives encouragement from his Mother who sees a special talent.  His chosen circle are confident in art, words and music.  His unchosen circle are not, but he tries to avoid conflict with varying degrees of success.  Problem is, the difference and avoiding conflict can come across of lack of care, concern and gratitude.
And I’m not sure that those who don’t know enough of the Morrissey story can enjoy the film enough.  Something more is needed to be done for those who are not on the inside.
Except, no doubt, that would be very un-Morrissey.