[20] Squeeze, ‘Cool For Cats’

Ah, 1979. I started paying attention to Top Of The Pops, Arsenal, all life’s sweetest joys. Moved to Hertfordshire in January and stayed there for 17 years (minus a dozen terms in Bristol). Pop baffled me, but that may have been down to assuming that everything Terry Wogan played was current. In that world, the Supremes were going strong and Cliff Richard was still a chart-topper. Hmmm.

Marrying new wave and pub rock, Squeeze had a boisterous appeal that worked well in the playground; to seven-year-olds a band to file alongside The Specials, The Jam and the rising Madness – stuff it was ok to like and bowl along to as if you were something else, something a stretch more streetwise than a kid with a fringe and grey shorts. If it was cool for cats, we wanted a bit of it. In essence, the single isn’t typical Squeeze, more a part within a part for Chris Difford to play, but he sounds smart and the band bounce in broad-shouldered style. The drifting middle eight’s useless though.

For all I know, Junior’s already at the age when she wants to impress her peers, and she’s got all the moves to do so. A jerky dance matched the sproinging bass and she gave an airing to this week’s trick – humming along to the tune. At the end she asked whether Junior 2 (Juniest? Minima?) liked the song now there’s scope for a blog within a blog – and then requested the next track on the Best Of. Give it a week or so, missy.

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[6] Madness, ‘Our House’

This reminds me of boarding school, yet again. We had a boarding house in the middle of our street, and some of the older lads expertly adapted the lyrics for a Christmas party sing-song. It’s not laced with as much poignancy for me as you’d expect; I knew I was getting out in a few days. Thanks, doctor – same time next week?

Before the melancholy overwhelmed the madcap, this was Madness’s peak. It’ll bring a fond tear to the eye, but still has the jaunt. Their keen eye for the poetry in the humdrum was never sharper and the strings tug at your ducts while the piano thumps at your funnybone. That’s what they did.

Junior only picked up on the thumpy bit, and wriggled from side to side in a new and exciting way of complicating the nappy change.

[20] Madness, ‘Michael Caine’

One of the later, more melancholy offerings from Madness. Written by Carl Smyth and Woody, with lead vocals from Carl/Chas and – can we say? – an early use of sampling in a pop record, it was the first of their singles to miss the Top 10 in two years. Pity, because it’s a smart little tune. Founder member Mike Barson leaves his piano, and the band, at the start of the video and it’s the beginning of the end.

None of this was denting Junior’s cheerful disposition, as she sat in the trusty inflatable and chewed the entire sponge book. Even Dad’s lame two-ball juggling met with jolly appreciation. I think she understood how much fun Madness were, even when they kept it downbeat.

I’ve heard this song’s about Northern Ireland. The references are somewhat oblique, if you ask me.