[17] The Flaming Lips, ‘Peace Sword (Open Your Heart)’


Junior’s yawning now. Come on, this is The Flaming Lips getting back to what they do best – breaking all the dials on the decibel meter and tripping out with love for everyone in the room. And that synth whistle moves sweetly through the changes. Come on. “I like the way he keeps in time with the music,” concedes Junior. “How do they remember the words?” Well, I’m not sure Wayne Coyne picks from a very large cache.

Junior 2 gives it the thumbs up. ‘Peace Sword’ is a bright spot in a year when the Lips have layered on the doom, checking out the human psyche and not liking what they find in the brilliant The Terror and, um, pretending to split up on Twitter. It’s a far cry from larking about in a giant beach ball. Actually, it’s not that far, is it?

I keep singing Paul McCartney’s ‘Let Me Roll It’ to this.

Anyway, the panel’s getting restless. Time for some pop.

[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:

[20] The Beatles, ‘The Ballad Of John And Yoko’

“Beatles!” Junior exclaimed, as I introduced her to the sleeve. “I like Beatles.” She may have meant “beetles”, but managed some booty-swinging to the last verse, a small nod of appreciation for the rock’n’roll version. She spent the rest of the time squeezing between the sofas to fetch the baby doll, complaining about getting stuck. The band themselves were in a bit of a fix, although this sunny record has its head firmly in the sand.
The ditty itself – a tale of John Lennon and Yoko Ono hopping around the continent acting the halfwit – is a solipsistic frippery, but I’m soft on it. My warm feelings extend from its timing: April 1969, and The Beatles are limping to a conclusion, hamstrung by legal divisions and poisonous in-fighting. Yet, amid all this, the two most obviously at loggerheads are working hard together – Paul McCartney indulging Lennon, Lennon enlisting his help with the writing, and the pair of them playing every note of the song, nary another Beatle in sight. It feels like the last true collaboration, two against the world.

Paul McCartney, ‘Wonderful Christmastime’

I won’t give it its full title, as suggested by one esteemed reader. This record is what Christmas is all about for me. Not because of any great quality, or special essence, but because it was a hit when I was four years old at about that time you understand what Christmas means. Loads of presents. Ever since, those synthesised squelches have been tied up in the whole shebang for me.

Junior is again more interested in the vinyl going around on the turntable. We let her put her hand on it, for a photo op, and she manages to slow it down, speed it up and stop it completely. She thinks this is pretty smart. And hey, it’s a decent remix.

The video was on TMF (or something like that) the other day. What a lady mullet Linda had. A little hedgehog bit on the top, with the rest long and lifeless. You just know that the Levellers were taking notes that day. There are some staggeringly cheap graphics, some forced “let’s stage the show right here” false spontaneity and that pervading air of McCartney bonhomie. See? It’s what the festive season is all about.