[20] The Smiths, ‘Panic’

The Smiths © Tom Sheehan

TIME TO TACKLE 1986 AT LAST and we start with Moz, j’en ai mar and litigious chums. But first, a final word on The Beatles. Enjoyed this little exchange in the Past Masters sleevenotes, Brian Matthew interviewing the chaps in 1964 on the release of Beatles For Sale:

BM: I’ve heard it said that a lot of these would make good singles. Do you think there’s any likelihood at all of them being released?
John: You can’t release singles off an LP after the LP’s been out.
BM: A Lot of people do.
Paul: Well, in America they do…
John: Well, they’re different over there, aren’t they?
Paul: In America they do that, but it’s a bit of a drag.

The Beatles were, of course, er, past masters at dishing out the quality singles without recourse (on the whole) to plundering their albums, but it’s become a rare practice. In this sense, The Smiths were one of their last natural heirs, hurling out singles and albums at breakneck speed without repetition – until the record company squeezed everything they could out of Strangeways, Here We Come. ‘Paint A Vulgar Picture’, indeed.

’Panic’ was one of those bonuses. Christ, it was released one month after The Queen Is Dead and doesn’t even appear on it. Throwaway downloads aside, I can’t imagine that happening now. Remind me if I’m forgetting something. Anyway, ‘Panic’ has a taste of will-this-do? about it, but it clangs and saunters amiably and is suitably apocalyptic, if on a provincial scale. Its signature line, “hang the DJ” smells a bit of sniffiness towards burgeoning club culture, but you can prefer to hear it as an early blood-on-the-carpet attack on Simes and DLT. Junior prefers to hear it as “gingerbread man, gingerbread man, gingerbread man”.

Gingerbread or not, she loves it, identifying with the title – “I do that sometimes, don’t I?” – and puzzling over the band members not actually being related. Like half the world, I’m in a Beatles moment right now, but she later makes me switch off Abbey Road to “play The Smiths again”. God, Dad, you’re so square.

The music they constantly play:

Wizzard, ‘I Wish It Could Be Christmas Every Day’

We’re not the sort to embrace cliché here at Jukebox Junior, as everyone knows, and we don’t try to act out the words as if we were on Dave Lee Travis’ Golden Oldie Picture Show. That said, this song “put a great big smile on somebody’s face” at the very moment it promised. I hadn’t even moved away from the stereo, let alone launched into a fittingly silly dance.

Mind you, Junior often saves her biggest beams for the very start of each record, when I’m still standing at the decks. It might not just be about the music. She could be saying, “Ha. Dad, you really reckon you look like a Superstar DJ there, don’t you?”. She may well mock, but, yeah, she may well mock.

To give Roy and Wizzard their due, the whole song goes by in a whirl of limb-kicking, smiles and squeals. And when her dad unveils his falsetto to sing along with the children’s choir at the end, Junior can scarcely contain her joy.

Unless she’s just mocking me again.