Pop Music is evocative and few people can recall the headiness of youth without linking it to a soundtrack that drips, stickily with audio nostalgia. Sometimes, memories are tinted rosier by the opening bars of their 16 year old self’s favourite album and, often, the charge of hormonal recall deafens us to the levels of unparalleled dross we once held dear, and played over and over and over. To paraphrase Nick Hornby‘s character Rob in High Fidelity, was I miserable as a kid because of the music I listened to, or did I listen to it because I was miserable? Except, I realised that despite the epic levels of sulking and adolescent ‘why me’-ing, really I need to substitute the word miserable with ‘the Queen of Cringe’.
Being a mildly unhinged masochist, I have decided that I want to share with you songs that evoke memories for me, memories that made and ruined said songs and that are seared on my consciousness by profound, youthful experiences; experiences like watching dramatic 90s Hollyoaks plot lines, family-based embarrassments and flirtatious moments so unsexy, that bystanders may have requested to be put on witness protection programmes, lest I try and eliminate all those present at the scenes of my pre-mature idignities.
Indignity Top Ten (in no particular order of mortification)
I once loved UB40’s cover of Elvis‘s I Can’t Help Falling in Love With You because it reminded me of a boy I fancied to such a cringeworthy degree I can still remember the registration number of his mum’s car. From 20 years ago. So, now, not only do I have memories of an attempted woo-ing so toe-curling it induces violent cramp, I also know that I hung some of my tenderest libidinal longings on an audio turd.
Similarly, another pheromone-drenched teen lothario, who broke my heart more than once (complete with floppy hair, doe eyes and an interesting take on ‘breaking up’ after a whirlwind, two-week, snog-a-thon) is conjured out of nowhere, like a fart that no one will admit to, should I ever hear Dreams by the nasal, Pop-Pirate Gabrielle.
Nothing Else Matters by Metallica casts my reluctant mind back to such denim-eroding dry-humping that, even 17 years on, I blush a little at the thought.
The entirety of the Bob Marley and the Wailers‘ Legend compilation recalls a sober but surreal evening spent at the house of a friend’s boyfriend. The boyfriend’s best mate (in a dreadlock wig) locked me in the bathroom with him and asked if I wanted to lose my virginity, presumably in the bath (I didn’t ask). I am happy to report that, after mulling it over for about a nano second, I politely declined and asked him to sod off so I could have a wazz.
Say What You Want by Texas recalls an odd date with a posh boy. I know he was posh because he referred to food eaten in the evening as supper and his parents’ house had a gravel driveway. We went to a shit pub and then to the house of begravelled driveway fame one Sunday afternoon. He had Oscar Wilde quotes taped up around his ‘deep 17 year old’ styled boudoir including the slightly rapey ‘I can resist anything but temptation’ on his bed post. He resisted me though, possibly because of an experimental haircut, my penchant for faking nonchalance by ‘dressing down’ in a bobbly jumper, or because I smirked at the quotes…perhaps all three…I will never know.
Mr Vain by Culture Beat fondly recalls the horror of my first French kiss, aged 13. I was egged on by a girl in my year to get off with a boy in a leather waistcoat at Friday youth club after half a swig of Diamond White. It lasted all of 4 seconds because my brain was shrieking ‘GET THAT OUT OF MY MOUTH!’. I couldn’t believe all my contemporaries were obsessed with doing what effectively, felt about as erotic as licking a slug.
I cannot hear Hendrix’s All Along the Watchtower without feeling the joy of being stoned off my tits in the back of a friend of a friend’s Vauxhall Astra, whizzing around suburban streets and laughing hysterically at cheese in a 24 hour Tesco. I thought we were THE COOLEST and that my future as an art student would be bohemian and wild and free. In short, it reminds me of being an utter twat.
The intro to Don’t Speak by No Doubt, like the aroma of peach schnapps and pilfered Superkings, makes me wince so violently with embarrassment I’m lucky not to have required a hernia operation. There must be a graph somewhere charting the direct relation between levels of heartbreak and how much of a plonker you’ve been dumped by, with an added trauma factor if he is in a daftly-named band. Admittedly I was punching above my weight, but I think the last nail in the coffin was my asking him if he’d copied chunks from Tennyson’s The Lady of Shallot in the ‘deep’ poem he’d penned for me. (He had) (Don’t think he thought I’d notice).
November Rain by Guns and Roses, reminds me of a chapter in my teenage life so bizarre, ridiculous and over dramatic I shudder at the thought. Friends had taken to CB Radio (in the dark days before mobile phones, Tumblr or Snapchat) and our lives became populated by strange bodiless voices, other disenfranchised youths and the odd borderline sex-offender. The high point and most feminist episode of this peculiar time was bunking off school, necking some Jack Daniels and having a tattoo of the Chinese sign for woman (yes just like Sporty Spice I discovered one terrible day*) on my left bosom. I was tattooed by a man who, when he tattooed my friend’s 16 year old behind, said ‘Bend over love, I’ve not had my breakfast yet’. He was so creepy, he should have worn a bell around his neck. Dark days, darkest of all for my poor mother I fear.
*Another cool thing ruined by unparalleled pop-cultural-naffness; I got a trendy vest from Warehouse with a big fish on it for my 18th and then fecking Sally Webster on Corrie had a make-over and had it too. I never wore the damn thing again. Pffft.
Roll With It by Oasis recalls a delightful friend of a friend’s older brother I went out with briefly. His enlightened view on gender politics meant that when I asked for a pint of bitter at the pub with a bunch of almost grown-ups, he returned with 2 half pints, because ‘girls shouldn’t drink pints’ or it turned out have facial piercings, wear trainers or smoke. Ha I showed him!
I must say running through this ghastly hit parade reminds me just how much I learned about the opposite sex before I was even 18…’twas quite an education.
Bonus List: Songs ruined for me by others
Roads by Portishead, a song I had previously loved for it’s melancholic beauty will forever vomit the dreary grimace of Ruth from Hollyoaks onto my mind’s eye, as she stood deciding whether or not to abort Kurt’s baby. Thanks a bunch Hollyoaks. Bands beware, the lump of cash you get for being played on a hit show could forever align your genius to a pile of utter spaff in the minds of your fans.
On my 16th birthday I bought a copy of The Fugees‘ cover of Killing Me Softly. Didn’t matter how many times I played it, I still loved it, until my stepmother to be, in her singing voice, which had the whiny quality much beloved in Gordon Brittas, belted out ‘Strumming my face with his fingers’, thus killing dead my ability to divorce such a beautiful song from the memory of a woman who laughed like Roland Rat.
More quality misheard lyrics:
A friend did 2 weeks in Our Price as work experience in 1995 and was asked for I’m a Train by Tina Arena and the not really eponymous ‘Kiss from a Seal’.
‘The trucks don’t work, they just make you worse’ The Verve
‘Its the cross-eyed bear that You gave to me’ Alanis Morissette
‘I’ll give you something big enough to tear your ass in two‘ Robin Thicke…oh wait, sorry that utter scrotum of a lyric is for real, it just beggars effing belief.
Would *love* to hear others, nothing tickles me like a bodged lyric.