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A Song That Reminds Me Of Somewhere

May 11, 2014

I have never been a regular blogger, diary-keeper, journal-writer, event-logger. I’ve never regularly carried a camera, or, now one travels with me courtesy of my phone, I never think to bring it out if ever I see something interesting. I wish I was that kind of person, it seems like a lovely thing to do, to have a record of how you felt and what you did at different junctures in your life, of what you saw. I don’t have that sort of mental make-up, I’m afraid. I like things like Last.fm that do it for me, (and it aggrieves me that certain music I listen to goes un-logged) and for convenience sake, I like the lists of previous grocery orders on Sainsburys Online or Ocado so I don’t have to think what to order. But general speaking I don’t have the discipline or the subscription to a routine that allows me to document all I do. I try and cram too much into the limited hours we all have available to us as it is, without committing time I don’t have to the process of recording what I’m up to.

So this 30 Days of Music thing is quite a challenge, to make a point of not just thinking about what to include, but to write it up, with justification or at least some side-story that gives the song context. I’m thoroughly enjoying it. (And I’m glad to say that at least one person is reading this. Hi, James! Strikes me this is the kind of thing you’d be good at, especially when your life is going through such seismic changes!). I’m enjoying thinking about music, how it affects me, what it stands for, how it does the things it does, and working out how various bands and pieces of music fit into the scheme of things. I spend an inordinate amount of time thinking about music and reading about music. I’m not very good at documenting what I think but it does come out, albeit in funny ways. I’ve written two book-length pieces about music and musicians, with another three to come at some point. A friend and I wrote a sitcom about a music journalist, (which sadly wasn’t very funny). Most of the books I read are about music, musicians, record labels, (I’m on a bit of a roll with them this calendar year. I really should write up some reviews of them).

So in picking a song for any given day, any given topic, I’m trying to make it less about me and more about the music itself. While it would be a little too literal to pick a song for the A Song That Reminds Me Of Somewhere category that name-checked somewhere – Scarborough Fair or Ilkley Moor Bhat t’At – I don’t want to go with a song that just happened to be playing when something important or tragic happened to me, (nothing wrong with doing that, I hasten to add).

So if that’s what A Song That Reminds Me Of Somewhere shouldn’t be, I need to come up with something that it is. I’m going to go for a song that conjures up a place for me, without the song being particularly associated with that place or a given time. Ladies and Gentlemen, I give you Arctic Monkey’s Riot Van:

This is the most oblique song about unrequited love that I’ve ever come across. The reason the kids in the song are baiting the coppers is because the girl they fancy at school doesn’t fancy them back. Or at least that’s how I read the subtext to the song. They are too young and too skint to get into pubs, so all they can do is float around in front of a row of shops that are closed for the night, bored and reaching for whatever entertainment they can muster, in this case arguing with the police.

I did that kind of knocking about from time to time, though generally speaking we always had someone’s house to go to. But Riot Van reminds me of hanging around the shops half way up Fox Hill in Sheffield, which is not a million miles away from where the Arctic Monkeys are from. But the odd thing is, I never did that. By the time I lived in Sheffield, I was in my mid- to late-20’s, maybe even my 30’s, and I was a bit beyond knocking about around a row of shops. However, Riot Van evokes that time and place so well that it makes me nostalgic for something I never did. That’s a quality piece of writing, if ever there was one.

One Comment leave one →
  1. May 12, 2014 1:26 pm

    Huh. I absolutely never picked up on the unrequited love subtext to this song. Then again, there’s lots of songs where I didn’t pick up on the subtext…

    And I highly recommend keeping a journal at least when travelling. I wish I had done it more, because I cherish the notes from the few times I have

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