100 Days Project

Michael: Saving the languishing lyrical gems of modern pop

My aim is to trawl through my memory, my "record collection" and quotation references to unearth great pop poetry, drop it in, shine it up, make a comment or two as to its origin and personal impact. Enlighten? Hmm. Entertain, amuse, I hope. 100 times.

Day 16:

Word Gets Around

There are songwriters who, through maybe rising from the housing estates to a mansion's cloistered gates manage to remember where they came from and want to immortalise it in song, or, and these are the ones I like, the prosaic, the quotidian, the day to dreary day is their stock in trade and so they return to it again and again, an endless festering fount of inspiration. Carter USM, Suede, Blur, Paul Heaton/Beautiful South and, from across the hills, boyo, Stereophonics. Kelly "I do not sound like Rod Stewart" Jones can still trot out some delicious descriptions of the everyday struggle, but certainly in his band's formative years, he tossed them off effortlessly, so to speak.

I love "Too Many Sandwiches" off Word Gets Around, the title alone so brilliantly British and a perfect summation of a sad, suburban wedding day, all done on the cheap, everyone trying so  hard to get a bit of glam into their lives. Perhaps Jones was a wedding singer, but he nails the dirt beneath the dishes to perfection, that whole "here's what's really going on." It's funny, sad, pathetic and, like all good lyrical notions, deliciously easy to empathise with. You don't roll your eyes and go, what the fuck are you talking about? No, instead, it's more that slow nod of the head and, oh yeah, that.

Like Carter, he's got a ready wit, the opening line a marvellous and smart start:

"Shopping spree for the family tree, haven't seen your family tree, in quite a while"

There it is, the first problem: weddings are, by their nature, a big family get-together, often of families who prefer not to get together. Then, hell, just add alcohol...

"Too many sandwiches and wine, sherry stains down your best man's tie, what a speech"

There's something so prosaic about sandwiches, so suburban and sad, which is the whole thing really. And the band? Well, like everyone else, they've done this a thousand times before as well and, hell, may as well make the most of it...

"The band arrive, the grannies cry, the singers tongue's in the bar maid's mouth, what a voice"

Nice. And there's always that relative, in this case good old grandpa:

"Grandpa drank a drop or two and his head's still stuck down the portaloo, what a man"

And into the chorus, where the sadness blooms. If it weren't so common, it'd be pathetic.

"You bought a sequin dress for your chicken breasts, the disco's late and he's overpaid tonight
You got a diamond ring and a man who sings, the man who sings made love to the bar maid twice
And that's just tonight..."

Contrast it to The Boss's capturing of the mystery of The Big Day, and rather than projecting hopelessness for the couple, he sees it all as mysterious, unknown...

"By Our Lady of the Roses
We lived in the shadow of the elms
I remember ma draggin' me and my sister up the street to the church
Whenever she heard those wedding bells
Well would they ever look so happy again
The handsome groom and his bride?
As they stepped into that long black limousine
For their mystery ride..."

Stereophonics wring the romance right out of the day by arguing there was never any there in the first place. Springsteen imbues it all with a fragrant, almost dreamlike quality, a sense of hope and wonder in store. Maybe.

As you were