Tag Archives: Sister Death

#31songs: 31: If I could choose just one

The Jazz Butcher — a desert-island disc

At the outset of this project I was grateful to Dr H. when she pointed out that there were 31 days in July, not 30, and that I might use one of them for the Desert Island Disc option; but now I’ve got to the end it’s proving tricky.  There are certainly other songs that I’d like to write about. Thinking about the relation of Pat’s songs to 1960s soul music has been interesting; and recalling that he did a cover of ‘Stand By Me’ at the first Jazz Butcher gig I went to, in March 1987, has made me hear ‘Swell’ (from Fishcotheque, recorded later that year) quite differently.  But ‘Swell’, lovely though it is, wouldn’t be my desert island disc.  As soon as I’d started blogging this series, Dr D. of London mentioned ‘She’s On Drugs’, and I instantly regretted not keeping the cue ‘Song about drugs’.  I also wish I’d had the categories ‘A Song about Eccentrics / Eccentricity’ (that would be ‘Mr Odd’ sorted), ‘A Song about a Town’ (that would be ‘Chickentown’), ‘A Song about Separation’ (several, including ‘Swell’ and ‘Racheland’), ‘A Song about Animals’ (many, many songs, from ‘Girls Who Keep Goldfish’ on the first album down to ‘Animals’ on the most recent).  I worried, starting this project, that I might find myself coming to dislike aspects of Pat’s songwriting when forced to describe them, but I’ve actually developed renewed respect for the sharpness of his ironies and their awareness of limits, and for the performances by all the players, including Pat’s vocal performances.  I’ve also realised that even an allowance as generous as 31 songs doesn’t do justice to his output.

In any case, the idea of being trapped on a desert island with just one song to listen to is terrifying, and reminds me of a story from the days when cars first had auto-reverse tape players: someone crashed his car while listening to Wham!, and found himself trapped in it for hours, upside down, with the first Wham! album on auto-repeat; ‘It was terrible’, he said, somewhat ambiguously, ‘I thought I was going to die.’

But, if I were selecting just one song from the ones I’ve already written about, I suppose I would opt for ‘Pineapple Tuesday’, in that months on a desert island would allow me to devise a strange dance to go with it; or ‘Girls Say Yes’ for the guitar solo alone; or ‘When Eno Sings’ because it would lead to the image of Brian Eno in his tiny craft coming to the rescue, or because it would lift my spirits.  Or alternatively, with the Wham! anecdote in mind, I could choose this one, which must be one of the few indie-rock songs to take its inspiration from the dying words of a saint: