Most Exclusive Residence for Sale: Ten Songs About Houses. The Parents of Estate Agent Suzy Lamplugh Make An Emotional Appeal for Her Safe Return. This Day in History, 30/07/1986.

1.  The Kinks ‘Most Exclusive Residence for Sale’

(from the album Face to Face, 1966).

2.  Blur ‘Country House’

(from the album The Great Escape, 1995).

3. Shakin’ Stevens ‘This Ole House’

(from the album This Ole House, 1980).

4.  Madness ‘Our House’

(from the album The Rise & Fall, 1982).

5.  The Housemartins ‘Build’

(from the album The People Who Grinned Themselves to Death, 1987).

6.  Talking Heads ‘Burning Down the House’

(from the album Speaking in Tongues, 1983).

7.  Van Morrison ‘Green Mansions’

(from the album Hymns to the Silence, 1991).

8.  Pulp ‘Mile End’

(from the album Trainspotting OST, 1996).

9.  Siouxsie and the Banshees ‘Happy House’

(from the album Kaleidoscope, 1980).

10. The Smiths ‘Back to the Old House’

(from the album Hatful of Hollow, 1984).

Too Much Too Young: Ten Songs About Pregnancy and Childbirth. Victoria Gillick, A mother of 10, Fails to Prevent Doctors Prescribing Contraception to under-16s Without Parental Consent. This Day in History, 26/07/1983.

1.  Squeeze ‘Up the Junction’

(from the album Cool for Cats, 1979).

2.  Morrissey ‘Pregnant for the Last Time’

(single A-side, 1991).

3.  The Specials ‘Too Much Too Young’

(from the album The Specials, 1979).

4.  PJ Harvey ‘C’mon Billy’

(from the album To Bring You My Love, 1995).

5.  Manic Street Preachers ‘Life Becoming A Landslide’

(from the album Gold Against the Soul, 1993).

6.  The Smiths ‘This Night Has Opened My Eyes’

(from the album Hatful of Hollow, 1984).

7.  Sex Pistols ‘Bodies’

(from the album Never Mind the Bollocks, Here’s the Sex Pistols, 1977).

8.  Madonna ‘Papa Don’t Preach’

(from the album True Blue, 1986).

9.  Pulp ‘Little Girl (With Blue Eyes)’

(single A-side, 1985).

10. REM ‘Me In Honey’

(from the album Out of Time, 1991).

Celluloid Heroes: Ten Songs Which Name-check Actors and Actresses. Happy Birthday to Woody Harrelson, 54 Today.

1.  Madonna ‘Vogue’

(from the album The Immaculate Collection, 1990).

2.  James ‘Just Like Fred Astaire’

(from the album Millionaires, 1999).

3.  John Cale ‘Leaving It Up to You’

(from the album Helen of Troy, 1975).

4.  Gomez ’78 Stone Wobble’

(from the album Bring It On, 1998).

5.  The Kinks ‘Celluloid Heroes’

(from the album Everybody’s in Show-Biz, 1972).

6.  Lou Reed ‘City Lights’

(from the album The Bells, 1981).

7.  Kim Carnes ‘Bette Davis Eyes’

(from the album Mistaken Identity, 1981).

8.  Ultrasound ‘Kurt Russell’

(B-side of the single Best Wishes, 1998).

9.  R.E.M. ‘Man on the Moon’

(from the album Automatic for the People, 1992).

10. Gil Scott-Heron ‘B-Movie’

(from the album Reflections, 1981).

The New Diana: Ten Songs About Princesses. Happy Birthday to Princess Alexandra of Hanover, 16 Today.

1.  Coldplay ‘Princess of China’

(from the album Mylo Xyloto, 2011).

2.  Black Box Recorder ‘The New Diana’

(from the album Passionoia, 2003).

3.  The Divine Comedy ‘The Frog Princess’

(from the album Casanova, 1996).

4.  The Kinks ‘She’s Bought A Hat Like Princess Marina’

(from the album Arthur (Or the Decline and Fall of the British Empire), 1969).

5.  Gene Pitney ‘Princess in Rags’

(from the album Big Sixteen Vol.3, 1966).

6.  Peter Gabriel ‘Kiss That Frog’

(from the album Us, 1992).

7.  Lady Gaga ‘Princess Die’

(previously unreleased).

8.  Frank Zappa ‘Jewish Princess’

(from the album Sheik Yerbouti, 1979).

9.  Sonic Youth ‘Renegade Princess’

(from the album NYC Ghosts & Flowers, 2000).

10. Kylie Minogue ‘Dreams’

(from the album Kylie Minogue AKA Impossible Princess, 1997).

Bicycle Race: Ten Songs About Bicycles. Maurice Garin Wins the First Tour de France. This Day in History, 19/07/1903.

1.  Queen ‘Bicycle Race’

(from the album Jazz, 1978).

2.  Be Your Own PET ‘Bicycle, Bicycle, You Are My Bicycle’

(from the album Be Your Own PET, 2006).

3.  British Sea Power ‘No Lucifer’

(from the album Do You Like Rock Music?, 2008).

4.  Pink Floyd ‘Bike’

(from the album Piper At the Gates of Dawn, 1967).

5.  Mark Ronson & The Business Intl. ‘The Bike Song’

(from the album Record Collection, 2010).

6.  Kraftwerk ‘Tour de France’

(single A-side, 1983).

7.  Madness ‘Riding on My Bike’

(B-side of Driving in My Car, 1982).

8.  The Mixtures ‘Pushbike Song’

(single A-side, 1970).

9.  Vivian Stanshall ‘Terry Keeps His Clips On’

(from the album Teddy Boys Don’t Knit, 1981).

10. Anne Sofie Van Otter Meets Elvis Costello ‘Broken Bicycles / Junk’

(from the album For the Stars, 2001).

1984: Ten Songs Inspired by Nineteen Eighty-Four. George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four is Published. This Day in History, 08/06/1949.

1.  Radiohead ‘2+2=5’

(from the album Hail to the Thief, 2003).

2.  Muse ‘Resistance’

(from the album The Resistance, 2009).

3.  Coldplay ‘Spies’

(from the album Parachutes, 2000).

4.  David Bowie ‘1984’

(from the album Diamond Dogs, 1974).

5.  The Clash ‘1977’

(B-side of the single White Riot, 1977).

6.  Manic Street Preachers ‘1985’

(from the album Lifeblood, 2003).

7.  Dead Kennedys ‘California Uber Alles’

(from the album Fresh Fruit for Rotting Vegetables, 1980).

8.  John Lennon ‘Only People’

(from the album Mind Games, 1973).

9.  The Jam ‘Standards’

(from the album This is the Modern World, 1977).

10. Eurythmics ‘Sexcrime (Nineteen Eighty-Four)’

(from the album 1984 (For the Love of Big Brother), 1984).

Song of the Day: Music Inspired by Television Shows (Day Two). “And So It’s My Assumption, I’m Really Up the Junction”.

Up the Junction is the eighth track on, and third single from, Squeeze’s second album, Cool for Cats (1979).   The song became one of Squeeze’s most successful singles, reaching number two on the UK chart and has become one of their most enduring and recognisable compositions. The tale of working class life set in the band’s native South London is notable for not having a chorus, instead using key changes to its base progression in order to mirror the dramatic arc of its storyline.  ”.  Structurally, the song is similar to Bob Dylan’s Positively 4th Street (1965), which songwriters Chris Difford and Glenn Tilbrook have cited as an influence.  In a piece written for The Guardian on the 5th May 2015, Tilbrook stated “There’s no chorus because I thought a repeated section would spoil the flow of Chris’s story”.

Lyrically, the song is well-known for its use of half rhymes.  For example, “ready” and “telly”; “kitchen” and “missing”.  The title of the song is not sung until the final line.  Difford has been known to cite Roxy Music’s Virginia Plain (1972), which similarly only has the song’s title in the last line, as the inspiration for this.

Difford has acknowledged that the song takes its title from the 1965 television play Up the Junction, aired as part of The Wednesday Play series, directed by Ken Loach, and the subsequent film version, released in 1968.

The play is, in turn, based on Neil Dunn’s collection of short stories of the same name, first published in 1963. The film version of Up the Junction featured a song named also named Up the Junction by Manfred Mann, which is unrelated to Squeeze’s song.

Although Squeeze’s Up the Junction is not a retelling of the play, it does include several parallels.  Firstly, both the play and Squeeze’s song are a portrayal of daily life in the Clapham area of London, the song beginning with the lines “I never thought it would happen, With me and a girl from Clapham”.  The “Junction” in both the song and the play refers to Clapham Junction railway station.  Clapham is seven miles southwest of Deptford, where the band is from.  The term ‘up the junction’ is English slang meaning without hope, or taken at its crudest level with another English colloquialism, ‘screwed’.   In turn, ‘screwed’ is also a colloquialism for someone who has just had sexual intercourse, thus linking in with the theme of pregnancy in both the play and particularly in the song, in which it is a main theme.  The use of colloquial working class language is prominent in both the song and the play.

As the song continues, the “windy common” mentioned as the place where ‘it happened’ between the song’s protagonist and his love interest is a 200 acre park in Clapham which has sports fields, freshwater ponds, a bandstand and its own tube station.  Further into the song, following a verse of flirting between the couple, we find the lines “We moved into a basement, With thoughts of our engagement, We stayed in by the telly, Although the room was smelly”.  Here, the protagonist and love interest are living together and thinking about marriage.  They are living very modestly but happily, staying at home and enjoying each other’s company and watching the television.  Further to this, in the following lines, “We spent our time just kissing, The Railway Arms we’re missing, But love has got us hooked up, And all our time it took up” sees the couple loved up and starting a new way of life away from the local pub, “The Railway Arms”.

In the following verse, the protagonist tells of how he “got a job with Stanley, He said I’d come in handy, And started me on Monday, So I had a bath on Sunday”.  The first day of a new job being a special enough occasion to have a bath is a reflection of the economic situation of the characters in the song.  Additionally, the idea of having a bath as and when needed is an example of the humorous self-defacing attitude towards British working class life prominent in the song.  For further examples of this, see the line “She dealt out all the rations, With some or other passions” in the first verse.  This line not only depicts the love interest playing hard to get but is also a comment on rationing in post-World War Two Britain, which didn’t end until 1954.  If we were to take the song to be set in the same era as the play, with the book on which it was based having been published in 1963, then although rationing was finished, it would have still been very fresh in the memories of the characters involved.  Also, the couple live in a “basement”, which has connotations of them being at the bottom of the property ladder.

In the next verse, “I worked eleven hours, And bought the girl some flowers, She said she’d seen a doctor, And nothing now could stop her”, we see the change in circumstances which informs the rest of the song.  Interestingly, after the love interest finds out she is pregnant, the song’s tempo speeds up, perhaps referring to the passage of time taking on a new speed and evoking the chaos which the couple are thrown into.

For the next verse, “I worked all through the winter, The weather brass and bitter, I put away a tenner, Each week to make her better, And when the time was ready, We had to sell the telly, Late evenings by the fire, With little kicks inside her”, the song shifts from a major to minor key in order to simulate the passing of time and circumstance and the change of season.  The “brass” is another British colloquialism from the phrase “cold enough to freeze the balls off a brass monkey”.  It is derived from small monkeys cast from alloy brass which were very common tourist souvenirs from China and Japan in the 19th and 20th centuries.  They often, although not always, came in a set of three representing the Three Wise Monkeys carved in wood above the Shrine of Toshogu in Nikko, Japan.  Some sets added a fourth monkey with its hand covering its genitals.  Similarly, “tenner” is another British colloquialism, meaning ten pounds.  The fact that the couple have “to sell the telly [another colloquialism, meaning television]” shows how tight money is, particularly with their new arrival imminent.  The couple also live in cramped conditions; note how their living quarters is referred to as a “room” earlier in the song.  This means they would be thinking there would now be very little room for a “telly” once the baby arrived.  The fact that the couple are sitting in front of the fire in the penultimate line of the verse is telling of the coldness of the couple’s flat during the winter.

The next verse, “This morning at four fifty, I took her rather nifty, Down to an incubator, Where thirty minutes later, She gave birth to a daughter, Within a year a walker, She looked just like her mother, If there could be another”, switches back to the major key, conveying the joy of childbirth.  This joy is short-lived, as the next verse explains:  “And now she’s two years older, Her mother’s with a soldier, She left me when my drinking, Became a proper stinging, The devil came and took me, From bar to street to bookie, no more nights by the telly, no more nappies smelling”.  In this verse, the stress of fatherhood has taken its toll on the protagonist, his partner and his daughter are no longer in his life and he has succumbed to the twin vices of drinking and gambling.

The following verse, “Alone here in the kitchen, I feel there’s something missing, I’d beg for some forgiveness, But begging’s not my business, And she won’t write a letter, Although I always tell her, And so it’s really my assumption, I’m really up the junction” finds the protagonist missing his partner and daughter and his old life but admitting that it is his own fault that he is on his own.  The fact that he wants his ex-spouse to write a letter shows that the protagonist wants to make amends for his wrongdoings and have his family back in his life.  The brilliance of the song’s composition is seen in the way in which the final line, featuring the phrase “up the junction”, referring to both the hopelessness of the situation and Clapham Junction, brings the song full circle with the opening scene, “I never thought it would happen, With me and a girl from Clapham”.

And what became of the “girl from Clapham”?  She reappears in the later Squeeze song A Moving Story, from their 1998 album Domino.

The music video for Up the Junction features the band playing in a flat.  The flat is actually John Lennon’s old house, the same house where the promotional film for Imagine was filmed.  Additionally, the song is also notable for its accompanying Top of the Pops performance, for which the band, miming to the song, swapped instruments.  For example, singer Glenn Tilbrook is on drums and pianist Jools Holland is on guitar.

Song of the Day: Music About Other Artists (Day Seven). Carly Simon on ?: “You’re So Vain, You Probably Think This Song is About You”.

Carly Simon’s You’re So Vain, from her 1972 breakthrough album No Secrets has been the subject of much debate for decades.  Many of her ex-boyfriends have wondered whether they were the inspiration behind the singer’s cutting description and Simon has relished in it, throwing curveballs and adding to the mystery at every opportunity.  Other than You’re So Vain being a wonderful pop song with one of the most classic choruses in music history, together with an array of brilliant and sometimes witty lines, this mystery is the key to the song’s longevity.  So, let’s line up the vain suspects.

Prior to You’re So Vain becoming a hit, Simon told interviewers that the song was about “men” in general and not a specific “man”.  However, this didn’t stop potential subjects wondering whether the song was about them and Simon’s audience trying to unravel the clues in the lyrics.

Mick Jagger wondered whether the song was about him.  Jagger provided backing vocals for You’re So Vain and in Angie Bowie’s 1993 book Backstage Passes, she claimed that Jagger had been “obsessed” with Simon.

Additionally, Angie Bowie claimed to be the “wife of a close friend” mentioned in the final verse of the song.

When You’re So Vain was sampled for Janet Jackson’s 2001 single, Son of a Gun (I Betcha Think This Song is About You), from the album All for You, Simon stated that “The apricot scarf was worn by Nick [Delblanco].  Nothing in the words referred to Mick”.  Simon started dating Delblanco in the early 1960s whilst he was studying at Harvard University and was being hotly tipped as the next big thing in literature.  She and Delblanco travelled to France together where Simon acted as her boyfriend’s helpmeet.  The couple broke up in 1964.

Could the song be about Kris Kristofferson, with whom Simon had a summer-long love affair with in 1971?  During their romance, Simon wrote the song Three Days, from the album Anticipation (1971), about Kristofferson.

In return, Kristofferson wrote I’ve Got to Have You, from the album Breakaway with Rita Coolidge (1974), about Simon.

As quoted in Sheila Weller’s 2008 book, Girls Like Us, Kristofferson said of the Simon:  “Looking back on the romance, I was pretty self-absorbed in those days.  Carly was funny and really smart – she had more brains than I did.  I have a hard time now believing she tolerated my company”.

In a 1989 interview, Simon said that the song is a little about Warren Beatty, whom she dated in the early 1970s, but is actually a composite of three men from her days in Los Angeles.  In a 1983 interview with The Washington Post, Simon said:  “It certainly sounds like it was about Warren Beatty.  He certainly thought it was about him – he called me and said thanks for the song.  At the time I met him, he was still relatively undiscovered as a Don Juan.  I felt I was one among thousands at that point – it hadn’t reached, you know, the populations of small countries”.

To keep her audience on their toes, Simon has divulged letter clues as to the mystery man over the years.  During an interview with CNN in 2004, she said, “Well, I guess for those who are interested in clues – the name of the person it was about had an ‘E’ in it … Maybe I could disclose another letter.  Ok, it also has an ‘A’ … Well listen, two vowels ain’t bad!”  Additionally, in an interview with Regis and Kelly in 2004, when asked by Regis Philbin who the mystery man was, Simon dropped another letter clue, this time saying, “If I tell it, it’s going to come out in dribs and drabs.  And I’ve given out two letters already, an ‘A’ and an ‘E’.  But I’m going to add one to it.  I’m going to add an ‘R’, in honour of you”.

Between 1972 and 1983, Simon was married to singer / songwriter James Taylor, who is often cited as a potential source of inspiration for the song.  However, in an interview with Rolling Stone in 1973, she said, “No, it’s definitely not about James, although James suspected it might be about him because he’s very vain.  No, he isn’t, but he had the unfortunate experience of taking a jet up to Nova Scotia after I’d written the song.  He was saved by the fact it wasn’t a Lear”.

Cat Stevens has also been cited as a speculative candidate.  Simon opened for Stevens at The Troubadour for three nights in April 1971.  Following the sell out shows, Simon travelled back to New York with Stevens, where he asked her out and the pair became romantically involved.  Simon wrote her single 1971 Anticipation, from her second album, also called Anticipation, whilst waiting for Stevens to pick her up for a date.  She also dedicated the aforementioned album to him, using his real name, Steve (Steven Demitri Georgiou).

In return, Stevens wrote the song Sweet Scarlet, from his 1972 album Catch Bull at Four, about Simon.

For his 2006 book, Is Tiny Dancer Really Elton’s Little John?, Gavin Edwards interviewed Simon’s ex-husband James Hart, whom she was married to between 1987 and 2007, who said, “I’m sure that the song wasn’t about anybody famous”.  Hart was the subject of another of Simon’s songs, Coming Around Again, from the album Coming Around Again (1987).

On the 19th June 2008, disc jockey Howard Stern claimed on his show on Sirius Satellite Radio that Simon had privately revealed to him whom the song was written about following an interview.  Stern said of the revelation that, “There is an odd aspect to it … he’s not that vain”.  On the 17th March 2009, again on his radio show, Stern claimed that it was a “composite of three people”.  Most recently, Stern said on air on the 5th May 2014, “She takes me aside, pulls me close, whispers in my ear three names.  She goes, it wasn’t one person, it was three people”.  Stern also said that he thought one of the names could have been Warren Beatty and another might be American business magnate and Geffen Records boss, David Geffen, but said he “forgot”.

Another possible candidate may be musician Dan Armstrong, whom Simon had first known whilst performing in nightclubs in the mid 1960s.  Armstrong owned Armstrong’s Guitar Repair Shop and in 1968, the two met officially and started a relationship when Simon took her guitar to be fixed.  Their relationship lasted for two years.  In Sheila Weller’s 2008 book Girls Like Us, she states that “Although Simon described him as an arrogant, opinionated Neanderthal, she found him to be overwhelmingly handsome and very gifted musically”.  In his 2012 biography of Simon, More Room in a Broken Heart, Stephen Davis claims that Simon described herself as “naive” at the time.  Could Armstrong be at least the inspiration behind the lines “Oh, you had me several years ago, When I was still naive”?  After Simon broke her relationship with Armstrong off, he moved to Los Angeles to set up a new business.  Simon regretted her actions and tried to make it up to Armstrong but tono avail.  Her heartbreak over the end of the relationship inspired the song Dan, My Fling from her 1971 debut album, Carly Simon.  Armstrong’s full name of Daniel Kent Armstrong feature all three letters of Simon’s clue.

During an interview with WNYC’s Soundcheck on the 4th November 2009, Simon stated that she had hidden the identity of the vain man, whispered backwards, in a certain version of the song.  The next day, the show revealed that the name was “David”.  Simon, however, denied that the name was David, saying that she spoke “Ovid” both forwards and backwards and that it sounded like “David”.  In the February 2010 issue of Uncut magazine, Simon once again stated that the subject of the song was whispered backwards in a re-recording of You’re So Vain.

At this time, a representative for Simon confirmed that the name was indeed “David”.  Following this, various publications quickly reported that David Geffen was the subject of the song and that the song had been inspired by Simon’s jealousy over the attention that Geffen had paid to label-mate Joni Mitchell.

However, Simon’s publicist stated that the song was not about Geffen but there was indeed “a David who is connected to the song in some way, shape, or form”.  In an Email to Showbiz 411, quoted in the March 2010 issue of Rolling Stone magazine, Simon said “What a riot!  Nothing to do with David Geffen!  What a funny mistake!  Someone got a clue mistaken for another mistake”.  Simon went on to say that she didn’t know Geffen when she wrote the song in 1971.  This would be true as the song was written prior to Simon’s label Elektra Records being merged with Geffen’s Asylum Records in 1972, when Geffen assuming control of the combined companies.  If the David in question is not David Geffen, then could it be David Bowie?  Taking Simon’s  ‘A’, ‘E’ and ‘R’ clues and using Bowie’s real name, David Robert Jones, then perhaps.  Additionally, and to add further confusion, the February 2010 issue of Vanity Fair noted that the names “David”, “Warren” and another unintelligible name are whispered during the recording.

That’s cleared that one up then.

King of the Mountain: Ten Songs About Mountains. New Zealander Edmund Hillary and Nepalese Sherpa Tenzing Norgay Become the First to Reach the Summit of Mount Everest. This Day in History, 29/05/1953.

1.  Kate Bush ‘King of the Mountain’

(from the album Aerial, 2005).

2.  Biffy Clyro ‘Mountains’

(from the album Only Revolutions, 2009).

3.  Bjork ‘The Modern Things’

(from the album Post, 1995).

4.  Ike & Tina Turner ‘River Deep – Mountain High’

(from the album River Deep – Mountain High, 1966).

5.  Inspiral Carpets ‘Biggest Mountain’

(from the Island Head EP, 1990).

6. Marvin Gaye & Tammi Terrell ‘Ain’t No Mountain High Enough’

(from the album United, 1967).

7.  The Shamen ‘Move Any Mountain’

(from the album En-Tact, 1990).

8. Loretta Lynn ‘High On A Mountain Top’

(from the album Van Lear Rose, 2004).

9.  Super Furry Animals ‘Mountain People’

(from the album Radiator, 1997).

10. The Supernaturals ‘Everest’

(from the album A Tune A Day, 1998).

Life in Tokyo: Ten Songs About Japan. Sada Abe is Arrested After Wandering the Streets of Tokyo for Days with Her Dead Lover’s Severed Genitals in her Handbag. Her Story Soon Becomes One of Japan’s Most Notorious Scandals. This Day in History, 21/05/1936.

1.  Japan ‘Life in Tokyo’

(from the album Quiet Life, 1979).

2.  The Cure ‘Kyoto Song’

(from the album The Head on the Door, 1985).

3.  The Vapours ‘Turning Japanese’

(from the album New Clear Days, 1980).

4.  Clean Bandit ‘Rather Be’

(from the album New Eyes, 2014).

5.  Elvis Costello ‘Tokyo Storm Warning’

(from the album Blood and Chocolate, 1986).

6.  Tom Waits ‘Big in Japan’

(from the album Mule Variations, 1999).

7.  Manic Street Preachers ‘(I Miss the) Tokyo Skyline’

(from the album Rewind the Film, 2013).

8.  Eurythmics ‘I’ve Got A Lover (Back in Japan)’

(from the album Savage, 1987).

9.  Heaven 17 ‘Geisha Boys and Temple Girls’

(from the album Penthouse and Pavement, 1981).

10. Blur ‘Yuko and Hiro’

(from the album The Great Escape, 1995).