The Ghosts Of Christmas

Christmas, eh? Everyone loves it – the food, the presents, the laughing at tramps who don’t get anything, the good will, and of course the music. I actually pity you poor yanks and your crappy Christmas music – everyone knows the UK owns the Christmas Song, although since our peak in the 70s and 80s there hasn’t been much to sing about. No surprise then that the Manics stepped up out of nowhere in 2007 with this slice of nostalgic perfection.

Musically, it has all the hallmarks you want, jolly, woozy, party music with big brass, jingle bells, and cheery chorus, and hooks as addictive as cocktail sausages. Lyrically wonderful it is too, each line marvelous at evoking universal memories – or universal for Britain. Footballs, Scalextric, drunken joy, Morcambe And Wise – this is a song which should be played alongside all of the other British favourites and deserves airplay every December on all of those terrible Top 50 Christmas song shows which take over the music channels on TV each year.

Misheard Lyrics: Sulu’s on the malteaser (?)

Actual Lyrics: Zulu’s on, the Milk Tray’s out

The Ghosts Of Christmas: 4/Great

Nightman’s Favourite Songs Of All Time – Everlasting Love – Love Affair

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One of my Glastonbury snaps from 2003

Greetings, Glancers! This song is marvelous. I’d forgotten about for a long time… forgotten isn’t the correct word – more like I hadn’t thought about it for years. In most of these posts I talk about my memories of the songs as they tend to have some special nostalgia or anchor in space and time. Unusually, I have no idea when I first heard Everlasting Love and I can’t think of any nostalgia surrounding it. I remember it from my childhood, but I remember millions of songs from then too. It’s just so good that when I listened to it again out of the blue, its quality knocked me over.

This is one of those songs which has been covered, successfully, a billion times. The version I’m talking about most is by Love Affair. When I first heard the song again recently, I couldn’t have told you who it was by, and when I watched the Love Affair video online I was confused as it seemed like a very recent video. Like maybe from the 80s or 90s, but with an HD makeover to make it look even more modern. But no, this version, and the video, are from 1968. I still don’t understand this. Seriously, watch this video and tell me it’s from 1968 and not from today. On closer inspection, some of the hair and clothes and dances tell you it’s from the 60s, but so much of it feels ultra-modern. The music and the look hasn’t aged a second. What adds to the weirdness is that the singer looks about 14 years old, yet has the voice of a seasoned blues rocker.

The song was originally written and released in 1967, the first performer being Robert Knight, yet the most successful version in the US was by Carl Carlton seven years later. Both these versions are good, but they lack something special – probably the fact that I’m more familiar with the Love Affair one. There’s a terrible version by Sandra in the 80s – quite a lot of cheesy pop versions in the 80s in fact, Gloria Estefan did one, and a bunch of boy bands and pop stars have since done their own thing with it, with diminishing returns. What stands out is the melody and the earnest message. It’s one of a very select group of songs which came from the 60s and has been re-recorded with financial and critical success in every decade since. Still, the Love Affair one tops them all.

What’s so good about it? I love the ever so slight subversion of the verse chorus format – here the song extends the verse without reaching the chorus (I say extended, but we still hit the chorus inside the first minute) and then, with no fucks given, just sticks with the chorus for the entirety of the song. With a chorus like this, you can understand why they keep it. The chorus acts more like a refrain, with slight musical and clear lyrical differences with each cycle. I love the whole instrumental section with its Motown brass and thumping beats, I love how the intro gives the whole song away in just a few moments – with one of my favourite bass parts in history chucked in to act as a transition. Hell, I even love the dancer in the video. No, not that strange lip-licking, prancing harlequin who skips about, but the long-haired woman who is probably 90 years old now.

I know these posts are meant to represent my own personal favourite songs of all time, but I honestly feel like this is more, that this song, and this version of it, is one of the best songs of all time. It’s just perfect. Great orchestration and performance, powerful vocals – understanding that it isn’t the easiest song to sing, and just an overall vibe of goodness.

Let us know in the comments what you think of Everlasting Love!

Donkeys

Generic Ratings: 1: Crap. 2: Okay. 3: Good. 4: Great

A true cult favourite for most hardened fans, this one has been adopted by fans as their own anthem and dedication, hardly surprising with lines like ‘put some lipstick on, at least your lies will be pretty’ speaking a thousand truths for us outcasts and misfits who find affinity with the band. Musically it’s okay, standing out mainly for a fantastic solo and of course Bradfield’s high pitched final screech. I do like how the solo sounds so skyscraping, only for it to be restrained and drawn back as the song comes to a softer, stuttering finish.

This B-Side to Roses In The Hospital is one of the most highly regarded by fans and the band alike and would later appear on Lipstick Traces – I like it okay and go between giving it a 2 or 3 score, but the solo tends to keep it in the higher group.

Donkeys: 3/Good

Misheard Lyrics: 1. Donkeys don’t have lots of tears. Actual Lyrics: Donkeys don’t allow their tears.

Misheard Lyrics: 2. And emotion never fear. Actual Lyrics: No emotion never feel.

Misheard Lyrics: 3. Donkeys wake up in a sty. Actual Lyrics: Donkeys weight cracking a spine.

Misheard Lyrics: 4. Lost with solace inside/loves the silence inside. Actual Lyrics: Those with silence inside.

Misheard Lyrics: 5. Donkeys are only left with dice/lice. Actual Lyrics: Donkeys are only left with lies .

Love Letter To The Future

Generic Ratings: 1: Crap. 2: Okay. 3: Good. 4: Great

This is an interesting one, a B-Side from Your Love Alone Is Not Enough which seems like a straightforwards rocker, but has plenty of substance and an interesting and unusual structure, at least from this band’s perspective. It opens innocently enough with chugging chords fading into a big riff, which then gives way to thick, unsteady massive chords and superb Bradfield verse vocals. The chorus returns to the big riff with powerful enough melodies and lyrics sung over the top. We get Bradfield putting on his guitar God hat again for a brief solo before returning for another fun and furious chorus – it’s overall a fun song with a few decent ideas in its structure which raise it above being just another heavy B-side.

Love Letter To The Future: 3/Good

Misheard Lyrics: 1. Measuring our lives in coffee stains

Actual Lyrics: 1. Measuring out lives in coffee spoons

Nightman’s Favourite Songs Of All Time

Greetings, Glancers! It’s that time once again when I drop trou’, squat, and squeeze out a fresh, steaming new category into a spreading puddle on the floor. I’ve done my favourite films by year, you’ve seen me listing my favourite songs by particular artists, you’ve been dismayed by my virgin adventures through the greatest albums of all time, and you’ve glimpsed briefly before disgustedly closing my personal blog posts where I talk about myself.

There’s a lot of negativity out there and this blog has its fair share of cynicism and annoyance – what can I say; that’s me. But this is going to act as a counter to all of that guff. These are going to be my purely positive, gushing posts about my favourite songs of all time. Unlike my list posts, and unlike my neverending Manic Street Preachers posts, I’m going to try to give a little of the factual information around the song, its commercial success, its culture significance, and why it means so much to me. I’m aware that there are a number of artists I regularly post about – my Madonna, Bowie, Bon Jovi posts etc, my Manics posts, along with any number of album reviews, but in these posts I’m going to try to hit a wider array of artists. In that vein, many of these songs may be little known, many will be one-hit wonders, many will come from artists you won’t expect me to comment on, and hopefully you’ll get a little more insight into me, and maybe find some new songs to love. I was going to go random – post whatever – then I was going to do it alphabetically by artist, before finally settling on alphabetically by song name.

Isn’t that exciting? Are you excited? You should be. All that’s left for me it to pull up my gunks, wash my hands, and get to work.

Send Away The Tigers

Generic Ratings: 1: Crap. 2: Okay. 3: Good. 4: Great

If any fans were put off by the experimental, electronic sounds of Lifeblood, then the opening track of Send Away The Tigers should see those fans sighing in relief. They play a little trick with a false organ start, but the opening guitar attack sets the tone for the album – a more streamlined, old fashioned rock sound with guitars, drums, bass, and vocals all unhindered by studio jiggerypokery. It’s a terrific opening riff, and the melodies and musical strength shines through the three and a half minutes, not allowing any spare seconds for additional nonsense – the point is made, and we can leave it at that. Lyrically, Wire seems to be on better form, and although the old themes of regret and nostalgia are prevalent there is a freshness to proceedings after the sleepy nature of the last album which makes you sit up and listen – and that chorus is bound to stay in your head for hours.

Send Away The Tigers: 3/Good (Patrick Jones video)

Misheard Lyrics:

  1. There’s no hope in the counties
  2. Faces on whores
  3. Same noise death and destroy
  4. Look at me I’m modest and free

Actual Lyrics:

  1. There’s no hope in the colonies
  2. Fixing some holes
  3. Same noise left to destroy
  4. Look at me I’m honest and free

Little Baby Nothing

Generic Ratings: 1: Crap. 2: Okay. 3: Good. 4: Great

The band may have been seen as cross-dressing, eye-liner and lipstick wearing freaks in their early days, spouting political sleaze and dirty little punk songs, but it wasn’t until Little Baby Nothing that many of the reasons behind the sleaze and the look became clear. This was a feminist band, almost in militant fashion, not a band who simply dressed that way because they were hot enough to pull it off, not simply espousing and waxing lyrical on the struggles of women due to some designed outsider chic. This was a band who thoroughly despised male dominated culture and called it out for the systematic destruction and whoring of species that it was. Musically and lyrically one of the finest, and most pure in terms of its targeting from any Manics album, it’s clearly a high mark.

The band’s first duet, bringing on board ex Porn Star Traci Lords (after they couldn’t get Kylie Minogue) to perform vocal duties, the lyrics are poignant and potent and merge perfectly with the glossy 80s sheen of the sound. Bradfield tugs at all the strings with his performance, the melodies are gold throughout, and I adore the shift from the verse and chorus to the final section. It certainly comes across as cheesy in its sound now, but it doesn’t take long to look past that to find the honesty of the intent and the power of the music. For my money, it’s also (easily) the best video the band has ever made.

Misheard Lyrics (it feels somehow wrong doing this to what is one of the most gorgeous lyrics of all time, but there you go):

  1. Not allowed to connect you
  2. To steal frequent love
  3. Need to do long (?)
  4. Orderly behind his money
  5. Asking for condolerijusive (??) flowers
  6. Loveless labour
  7. Dress your life in loving
  8. Breaking your mind with Bobby Dom fertility (?)
  9. Mouths broken up, quenched to the last

Actual Lyrics:

  1. No-one likes looking at you
  2. To steal vacant love
  3. Need to belong
  4. All they leave behind is money
  5. Eyes, skin, bone, contour, language as a flower
  6. Loveless slavery
  7. Dress your life in loathing
  8. Breaking your mind with Barbie Doll futility
  9. Moths broken up, quenched at last

Little Baby Nothing: 4/Great (Album version)

Found That Soul

Generic Ratings: 1: Crap. 2: Okay. 3: Good. 4: Great

I remember shortly before the release of Know Your Enemy that James did an interview for some music magazine – it could even have been a guitar magazine, where he proclaimed that the band were ‘ready for war’. It was typical Manics sloganeering and bravado but it symbolized some of the thoughts they were sharing at the time – that perhaps the success of their last two albums had taken them too far from their musical, political, and lyrical roots, that they had accumulated a host of new fans who knew nothing of their past, and that they had spent too long being shoe-horned into a movement to which they never belonged. The net result was supposed to be a return to a more fierce, polemic sound and everything about this first single and opening track Found That Soul was geared towards those thoughts. It has a fast, traditional, punk sound, the production is pulled waaay back, and the video is a bunch of books being dropped onto a table. James whips out a solo and has a bit of a snarl to his vocals again, yet the constant clatter of the piano gives it a grounded rock’n’roll vibe.

Found That Soul: 3/Good

Misheard Lyrics: 1. Show me or wander you can’t piss you off

2. A band still stranded here

3. So clean so rusk (?)/Soaking so rust

4. Sick and fail but/Sickened feel but

Actual Lyrics: 1. Show me a wonder you can’t be sure of

2. But still stranded here

3. So clean so lost

4. Sick and pale but

Interiors

Generic Ratings: 1: Crap. 2: Okay. 3: Good. 4: Great

I can’t imagine many calling this out as a favourite from the band or from the album, given that it could easily get lost among the more well known singles, but this has always been a personal favourite of mine, and a much stronger song than say Kevin Carter or the title track. I love the non-intro, I love the stabbing guitars, I love the shouted, stuttered melodies, I love the warmth of the guitars in the pre-chorus and through the chorus, I love the twisting little middle section, but most of all I love Bradfield’s vocal – the way he unleashes that final ‘ say what you have’ – incredible.

Misheard Lyrics:

1. Say worry ’bout tomorrow

2. A beautiful landscape of damnation

Actual Lyrics:

1. Say where is the tomorrow

2. A beautiful landscape of your nation

Interiors: 4/Great