30 Songs for Valentine’s Day

We had less entries this week than last, which either means people really love the eighties or they aren’t particularly bothered about Valentine’s Day. (Or possibly that people are tiring of my nonsense. But that doesn’t seem very likely, does it?) We still had enough entries to make a top thirty though, so that’s nice.

But before we look at those who were lucky in (picking songs potentially about) love, let’s spend a minute or two with those who were (metaphorically speaking) left in the kitchen at the party (of picking songs… or… whatever. You try coming up with fresh introductionss every week, mate. It isn’t as easy as it looks.)

  • Fat Roland picked It’s More Fun to Compute by Kraftwerk. I’ve no problem with the sentiment (whatever floats your bot*) or the song, but I didn’t like it enough for it to make my top thirty. But I was so moved by Fats failing to make the chart again that I had one of my incredibly rare (but often beautiful) changes of heart and decided to give him back the hundred points I took of him a couple of weeks ago. I know. I know. I’m just an all round great guy. Happy Valentine’s Day, friend.
    * that’s probably the best gag I’ve ever done on this website and it looks like a typo. Such is life etc.
  • Georgia Boon recommended We Dance by Pavement, but without some sort of backstory that would have justified bringing a butter knife to a cupid’s arrow fight. I am very fond of the Pavement songs that I’m familiar with so I suspect this song is a bit of a grower, but three listens brought nothing from me but cold hard indifference. Is that too harsh? Probably. Soz.
  • Dan Williams chose My Backwards Walk by Frightened Rabbit, which I liked very much, but the start of it reminded me of a Smog song (the one that goes  I something something something and the something something body) and trying to work out what it was annoyed me very very slightly and, in a week of very fine margins, that was enough to keep it out of the running. It sometimes seems wildly unfair, my judging system, but I have bar charts that prove it is bona fide to the max.
  • Penny tried to sneak a bit of Dire Straits in the chart with a reasonably pleasing cover of Romeo and Juliet performed by Widowspeak but, I’m sorry, I can’t allow it to score. You can’t spell “Mark Knopfler points out where you went wrong there” without “no points”.
  • James Battisson recommended Lovesong by The Cure. I should probably put something in the rules about the futility of nominating anything by The Cure recorded after Michael Dempsey left the band in early 1980, but I haven’t as yet and I am pretty lazy so I probably never will. Hopefully people will read this and take it on board.
  • Dan went with Chet Baker’s version of My Funny Valentine. It’s a very good song, or at least I thought so until somebody sang it to me during a live performance they were doing. There’s nothing like a perfectly sung rendition of the line “Your looks are laughable” aimed directly at you to make you think, “alright, steady on there, pal. Blimey.” Pure motives be damned. That shit cuts deep. Anyway, no points.
  • Daniel Carpenter recommended You Can’t Hurry Love by The Concretes and for a minute I was all, “Oh yeah? Phil Collins version not good enough for you, is it?” but it turns out it is a completely different song. It’s a good song too, and one that I would have put on my list of the songs that very nearly made the chart, but after Dan’s absolute bollocks up last week, suggesting the 1980s should be remembered most fondly for Let’s Dance (of all songs, Jesus) I wanted to give credit it where it was due and acknowledge that Dan may have turned a corner, spiritually and morally. Good for him, I say.

OK, at the risk of making some of you feel unloved and starved of attention, the following eleven songs very nearly made it into the top thirty but didn’t. They were all good choices. I had to make some difficult decisions. I made them. You lost out. I offer my condolences.

  • Michael Conley – The Mountain Goats – No Children
  • James Beck – Duke Special – Portrait
  • Rihaab – Sufjan Stevens – Futile Devices
  • Justin Chisnall – Hefner – Good Fruit
  • Tom A. – Malcolm Middleton – Fuck It I Love You
  • Stephen May – Porridge Radio – Sweet
  • Richard Jones – The Antlers – Two
  • William Mallin – The Paradise – In Love With You
  • David Coates – Hedwing and the Angry Inch – The Origin of Love
  • Sex Police – Palace Music – Valentine’s Day
  • Plashing Vole – Joan Baez – Diamonds and Rust

Which brings us to this week’s bonus points. There were only two up for grabs this week and they are both going to Bruno Di Gradi, who recommended Alone Again by Gilbert O’Sullivan, a song that I did not like at all. In fact, I don’t think I have ever had a reaction quite so visceral to something quite so innocuously whimsical. I proper hated it. But I suspect that Bruno knew, going into things, that that might have been the case. So he gets two points, for the audacity.

The Top Thirty

We start our list where (with a different song choice) we might have ended: with Taylor Swift. Em recommended Begin Again and it’s a great song with a nice sentiment so, yeah, it scores two points and that. I explained last week why 30 and 29 both get two points btw. I’m not doing it again. Have a look if you’re that interested.

Sleepy recommended I Believe in a Thing Called Love by The Darkness (Live at Hammersmith) and, after shooting out the traps in the first two weeks and then stalling slightly in recent weeks,  some points this week will probably be very welcome, even if there are only two of them (which I’m awarding for the title and the message of the song more than the actual song itself, which is probably not as good as a few that failed to make the cut). OK, that’s a dog racing and a golf metaphor I’ve managed to fit into this paragraph. Can I add a third for a hat-trick of sporting references? Yes. Yes I can.

Until this week I was unaware that anyone had dared to write any music based around the wives of Henry VIII since Rick Wakeman failed so painfully in the 70s (though, actually there is a weooooooooow bit on one of the songs on The Six Wives of Henry VIII that I would defend, if it came to it). But Toby Marlow and Lucy Moss did, and Six is a song from their Musical called, errrr Six. It was nominated by Donna Morris who gets three points for doing so because I liked the song and that.

While the version from Trolls is, imo, definitive, there is no escaping the fact that Cyndi Lauper’s version of True Colors is also, you know, good. And so, Henriette Pleiger gets four points for recommending it. Anyone who hasn’t seen the Trolls movies (i.e. most of you) will probably think I’m being facetious about the whole that version being great thing, but I’m not. They’re really underrated films, you know.

Lenni Sanders recommended Angel from Montgomery by John Prine. I’ve just looked John Prine up on Wikipedia and, unless his mom wrote his entry, I feel like I should probably know a lot more about him. All I know at the moment is my ignorance, like Socrates or Plato or whoever it was who knew he didn’t know anything. What do I know? I know it’s (and Lenni’s) getting five points.

If I gave bonus points for delivery of the word ‘twat’ then Tom Mason‘s recommendation of We Get On by Kate Nash would have won him a couple of hundred this week. While it isn’t quite as spectacular as her delivery of the word ‘bitter’ in Foundations but it’s still superb. If Nash were to ever write a song with the phrase ‘bitter twat’ in it, it might be the greatest of all time. Until then, Tom will have to make do with six points.

And while we are on the subject of Nash, make series four of GLOW, Netflix, you absolute bastards. Sorry, I went off on a bit of a tangent there, but you never know what algorithm is reading your stuff.

What exactly the ‘it’ is in Bobby Valentin’s Use It Before You Lose It is a matter of interpretation but, as long as your thoughts don’t stray too far toward the overtly sexual, it is probably good advice, I think. Maybe even if they do. I’m not here to judge you. Well, I am, but purely on a music recommendations basis. Your sexual imagination is your own concern. Anyway, this song (recommended by David N Atkinson) is getting seven points.

Sal Page kept it a little cleaner with I Only Want To Be With You by Dusty Springfield (and anyone familiar with Dusty in Springfield will know that keeping things clean isn’t exactly easily done with Dusty Springfield songs – blimey that album is saucy). It’s a little slice of the 60s, all sparkly and new, and I’m awarding it eight points.

Ages ago, Mark Riley had somebody in session and I really didn’t like their songs. (And I do mean ages because I haven’t listened to 6Music in years – to the point I’ve just had to check if Mark Riley is still alive so I didn’t say anything that could be construed as speaking ill of the dead) Anyway, I had got it into my head it was Cate Le Bon but listening to Love is Not Love (recommended by Geisterhaus) I can see that it definitely wasn’t. Maybe I dreamed the whole thing. Life is full of surprises, innit? Oh yeah. Nine points.

Slugger recommended Song for Zula by Phosphorescent. I thought it sounded a bit like Bruce Springsteen singing over Song for a Found Harmonium and as such I liked it very much. I’m not sure what else to say about it apart from that, and that I am going to chuck ten whole points in its direction, because I’m dead nice like that.

There is a whole lost decade of indie in my life. Possibly longer, depending on how you define the term (in my day – etc etc – it meant anything released on an indie record label but post-Oasis it came to mean ‘anything with guitars that is sort of a bit jangly’). Consequently, I thought the only thing I knew about Turin Brakes was that they had released several albums with uninspiring cover art. But I was wrong. I know this song Painkiller that Tom. has recommended. I know it and I like it too. I didn’t know it was called Painkiller, or that it was by Turin Brakes, but I knew the song. Eleven points, for teaching me humility. Double that if you can tell me the film I just referenced without Googling it.

You probably know by now that Adam Farrer has set himself the challenge of nominating something by Tom Waits every week. He hasn’t come unstuck yet, and I kind of hope he manages to last the full season but we’ll see, won’t we. This week he nominated Blue Valentine and got himself another twelve points to add to his total. Which probably means another week at the top of the table. Who knows, he might even win the whole tournament! (he definitely won’t).

Nick Portnell got himself a few nods of approval on Twitter when he nominated The Kiss by Judee Sill and rightly so, because it is a tune. The bad news is, nods of approval won’t get you any points. The good news is, me liking the song will. Thirteen points and the respect of your peers; not a bad week for a February in lockdown.

One of the advantages of you recommending songs instead of albums is I get to listen to things more than once. I listened to everything three times this week (yes, even the Gilbert O’Sullivan song). You Saved My Life by Cass McCombs wouldn’t have made the top thirty if I had only listened to everything once because it needs a couple of plays to reveal its beauty But with three plays it soared up the chart and bagged Leighton fourteen points. Proof, if proof were needed, that the system works. And the same is true of Benjo‘s choice, Impregnable Question by Dirty Projectors, so I’m giving him fourteen points too. The more observant of you will have spotted that I’ve snuck in an extra song here. I have no regrets.

Dan Edmonds took a more cynical glance at Valentine’s Day by recommending Ex-Girl Collection by The Wrens (though thankfully he didn’t go full nihilist by picking Ex-Girlfriend Club by The Television Personalities). A healthy dose of cynicism will never go unrewarded by me [Probably. I reserve the right to keep my definition of ‘a healthy dose’ a closely guarded secret] so here’s fifteen points. Oh yeah, and the song is very good too.

And speaking of cynicism, our resident cuddly misanthropist, Rob Cutforth (he’s an angel really) went full ‘whatever’ by recommending Whatever by Liam Lynch. I don’t think it gets said often enough, but Whatever is a really good song, possibly one worth more than sixteen points, but I don’t want to undermine Rob’s distrust of all humanity by giving him the points he deserves, do I? Treat him mean, keep him keen etc.

But enough hatred for our fellow humans. Let’s bring things back on a more romantic track. It is Valentine’s Day after all. And what could be more romantic (in about eight senses of the word) than a bit of Northern Soul? Nothing. That’s what. Mark G recommended Do I Love You (Indeed I Do) by Frank Wilson which is, obviously, a right proper banger, so that’s seventeen points right there.

Taking it more old school than almost anyone else has before in this competition (if we ignore the odd classical recommendation for the sake of argument/convenience) Mat Pringle invited us all the way back to 1959 with The Flamingos flipping gorgeous version of I Only Have Eyes For You. It’s a shame that (largely due to the ubiquity of postmodern irony) you can’t really do doo-wop any more. You can get eighteen points for it though, so it’s not all bad news today.

With a choice that might be a bit *too* on the nose for those of you stuck miles away from your significant other, Skerret recommended Zoom by Fat Larry’s Band. But not only is Zoom an appropriate title it is also a bit of a classic, isn’t it? You might say you prefer Heart-Shaped Box or something but you don’t. Not really. All together now, “Zoom. Just one look and my heart went nineteen points”.

Just missing out on this week’s top ten is Rebecca H‘s recomendation, Dancing On My Own by Robyn. It feels wrong keeping Robyn out of a top ten because top tens seem a natural place for her music, if you know what I mean, but it has been a very strong week so here I am, doing just that. Twenty points is twenty points though. If my maths is correct. Which I am pretty sure it is.

Subfuscous recommended Ideologically Unsound by Poison Girls. How had I never heard of this band before this week? I can only put it down to stupidity on my part. The ‘spirit of punk’ is a phrase churned out to justify some nonsense or other so regularly that you forget it did actually mean something at some point. Vi Subversa was 44 and a mother of two in 1979 when Poison Girls released their first single. Now that is punk rock. That is not letting the man decide how you live your life. And as if that wasn’t enough, Ideologically Unsound also features the couplet – “Want you to kiss me and say I’m yours / Want you to fumble in my drawers” which would be my Lyric of the Week, if I did such a thing, which I don’t. In conclusion, twenty two points.

Picky Bastards has had a slow start to 2021. Part of that has been his fault. Part of it has been my fault. But enough blame games, on to the next. This week he recommended Exit Music (for a Film) which isn’t exactly Everlasting Love in the romance stakes but qualifies by being from the Romeo & Juliet soundtrack and scores twenty four points because I am an absolute sucker for the fourth verse (that “and you can laugh a spineless laugh” bit – utterly gorgeous).

Old romantic that he is, David Hartley chose the song that the love of his life (Hi Hannah! *waves*) walked down the aisle to, which was These Chains by Hot Chip. To be brutally honest, if this was the song that Dave put the bins out to on a Wednesday morning it would still have scored pretty well because I adore Hot Chip, but the love he showed in his choice did get him a couple of extra points, because I am, on the whole, a fan of love. Twenty six points.

I was tempted to dock Desmond the twenty eight points he got for recommending F.E.E.L.I.N.G.C.A.L.L.E.D.L.O.V.E. by Pulp because F.E.E.L.I.N.G.C.A.L.L.E.D.L.O.V.E. is so annoying to type (I had to press caps lock and everything – twice now as well – it’s infuriating). However,  I am not going to because a) I’m a nice guy, all heart really, and b) it’s a perfect pop song. It’s weird, looking back, how obviously better than Blur and Oasis, Pulp were. Hindsight, eh? It’s quite the thing.

In what might be one of my most controversial decisions of all time, I am about to award a song I was largely nonplussed by twenty nine points. OK. Let me explain…

So, Sam Whyte recommended GMF by John Grant and, despite my previously not being blown away by anything I had heard by John Grant I very much loved it as soon as I heard it and had to admit that maybe John Grant is a thing I could like. Thirty points right there. Easy. But then, General Zod recommended TC and Honeybear and, well, I liked it but I didn’t love it. Under normal circumstances I wouldn’t have given it any points but (and this is the important bit) Sam had just proved that I did like John Grant after all, so… maybe by this time next week I would also love TC and Honeybear. And while I want it on the record that I am in no way kneeling before Zod, I’m going to give them twenty nine points just to be on the safe side.

Graham Cox recommended Rebel Girl by Bikini Kill, mentioning as he did so the split album they did with Huggy Bear that the song was on. I used to have a copy of that on vinyl, and a very positive influence on my teenage self did it make too. Sorry, I went a bit Yoda in that last sentence. I’m not redrafting it though. Sod that. Type through to the end in one big stream of thought will I. Where was I? Oh yeah. Rebel Girl. Excellent choice. Thirty two points.

We don’t, as a species, talk enough about Chris Isaak. He’s done some superb albums, has Chris. It’s about time he got some props. Lil’ Vanni Byniaeth knows what I’m talking about, recommending Wicked Game, a song which is in my top ten songs to sing along to (in my head, I can do the low bits and the high bits but I’m sure if you recorded me it would sound like a cat in a tumble dryer.) Thirty four points.

Chris Bissette recommended Accept Crime by Alexisonfire which, with its “there is no police between two beating hearts” love is love is love message, is exactly the sort of thing that deserves to be sitting in this week’s top three. Cracking tune too. Thirty six points.

The fact that there are two songs in this week’s top three that I hadn’t heard before this week illustrates perfectly how much I personally get out of running this competition. New music, in my face, every week. I love it. Jummo70 recommended Tiger Phone Card by Dengue Fever and if you don’t know it, give it a listen right now (I mean, you should be giving all the songs in the top thirty a listen every week, and if I wasn’t a dunce who signed up for one of Spotify’s competitors I might have been able to provide you with a playlist. Oh well. C’est la vie.) Thirty eight points.

Chris *Wear Your Dang Mask* wasn’t to know that when he recommended God Only Knows by The Beach Boys he was choosing the song that was playing when my wife (Hi Jo *waves*) and I signed our wedding certificates but he was and he was guaranteeing himself forty points as he did so. How could I let anything else beat it? I couldn’t, could I?


So that’s that. Next week the theme is YORKSHIRE. Plenty of choice there. So much so that I could have done Sheffield, Leeds and Bradford as separate categories. But I wanted to give everyone a chance, your Pontefracts and your Pickerings and your Todmordens. Chose well and recommend promptly. The deadline is 11.59pm on Thursday.

And before you go, I thought I would give you all a (platonic obvs) Valentine’s present in the form of this Pathe footage of one of the all time great love songs. Even if you don’t like the tune (which I hope you do btw) watching what pop music was like and how it was presented eighty-odd years ago is fascinating. Enjoy. See you next week.