The Jam


Spring’s here. Summer’s right around the corner. And you know what that means. Things with wings. Things that crawl. Things that bite and sting. That’s right: insects. Here’s some songs about the nightmarish creatures who share our planet. (To listen to this or any of our other playlists via Spotify, click here.)

“Antmusic,” Adam And The Ants

“Don’t step on an ant, you’ll end up back and blue, you cut off his head, legs come looking for you.” Ugh…

“Insects,” Altered Images

Before they were cute, before they embraced pop stardom, Altered Images were Lil’ Siouxsie and the Banshee Babies. This is them at their most Junior Banshee-esque

“The Butterfly Collector,” The Jam

Lyrically, this song is close kin to “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road” by Elton John. Paul Weller’s loathing of the upper-class dilettante slumming in his milieu is just that bit more visceral. There was time when Weller was writing good enough songs that he could throw this away as a b-side.

“Hey There Little Insect,” Jonathan Richman And The Modern Lovers

Many artists have attempted to present themselves as wide-eyed naive grown-up children and it generally comes off creepy and uncomfortable. Jonathan Richman just about stayed on the right side of the man-child divide.

“Honey For The Bees,” Alison Moyet

From the debut solo album that was supposed propel her to international mainstream superstardom but ended up convincing her that the last thing she wanted to be was an international mainstream superstar.

“Human Fly,” The Cramps

We will never see their like again. Thankfully.

“Caterpillar,” The Cure

Almost every Cure song sounds like it could be about an insect.

“Dragonfly,” Blondie

From the universally-dismissed The Hunter. Perhaps better than it originally seemed?

“Loco Mosquito,” Iggy Pop

Iggy’s Eighties Arista era was a weird half-hearted attempt to make him MTV famous and radio friendly. Here is evidence as to why that was never going to happen.

New Romance,” Spider

Written by Holly Knight, covered by Lisa Hartman on Knots Landing, should have been a HUGE hit. Still sounds great.

“Love And A Molotov Cocktail,” The Flys

Endearing post-punk anthem with a once—heard-never-forgotten chorus.

“King Of The Flies,” Fad Gadget

More flies. How do they know to get in the house but they never know how to get out?

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Mixtape: Question-and-Answer Songs 0

A few years ago, the Scottish indie pop band, Camera Obscura responded to Lloyd Cole & The Commotions’ 1984 song, “Are You Ready to Be Heartbroken?” with “Lloyd, I’m Ready To Be Heartbroken”. Chris Rooney digs up a few more “questionable” songs that are followed up with musical answers from another New Wave artists. It’s a fun holiday game for all the family. (Click here to listen via Spotify and/or to follow any of our other awesome Mixtape playlists.)

Question: Lloyd Cole & The Commotions, “Are You Ready to Be Heartbroken?”

Answer: Camera Obscura, “Lloyd, I’m Ready To Be Heartbroken”

Question: The Stranglers, “Who Wants the World?”

Answer: Tears For Fears, “Everybody Wants To Rule The World”

Question: Howard Jones, “What Is Love?”

Answer: Culture Club, “Love Is Love”

Question: The Smiths, “How Soon Is Now?”

Answer: The English Beat, “Save It For Later”

Question: Men At Work, “Who Can It Be Now?”

Answer: Gary Numan, “Me! I Disconnect From You”

Question: Eurythmics, “Would I Lie To You?”

Answer: Deborah Harry, “Liar, Liar”

Question: Culture Club, “Do You Really Want to Hurt Me?”

Answer:  ABC, “Tears Are Not Enough”

Question: The Jam, “Just Who Is The 5 O’Clock Hero?”

Answer: The Cars, “Just What I Needed”

Question: The Cure, “Why Can’t I Be You?”

Answer: Kirsty MacColl’s cover of The Smiths, “You Just Haven’t Earned It Yet, Baby”

Question: Erasure, “Who Needs Love Like That?”

Answer: The Motels, “Only The Lonely”

Question: Nik Kershaw, “Wouldn’t It Be Good?”

Answer: Howard Jones, “Things Can Only Get Better”

Question: Joe Jackson, “Is She Really Going Out With Him?”

Answer: Bananarama, “I Heard a Rumour”

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Mixtape: You Don’t Bring Me Flowers 0

They beautify our lives then they wither and die. That’s right, this week’s theme is flowers. Let’s see what eighties songs with a floral theme we can dig up–ha!– and how many of them are about roses. (For this and our other Spotify playlists, click here.)


“Flowers Of Romance,” Public Image Limited

Okay, so -called Pil aficianados, hands in the air if you stuck with them through records like this because deep down you were hoping against hope that they’d release something that sounded more like “Public Image” and by the time you’d accepted that was never going to happen, you were stuck with a bunch of records that pretty much all went nyah-nyah-nyah-nyah-nyah. Just me, then?

“Blind Among The Flowers,” The Tourists

Pre-Eurythmics, Annie Lennox and Dave Stewart did time in a journeyman powerpop outfit called The Tourists, who had a few its but left little impression. Somewhere between this and “Sweet Dreams”, Annie Lennox found a whole new voice.

“Good Year For The Roses,” Elvis Costello

I’m not going to say I knew nothing about country music in the early eighties. Gram Parsons, The Flying Burrito Brothers and the “Sweethearts Of The Rodeo”-era Byrds were highly touted by Glasgow’s local tastemakers, such as they were. But, in common with a lot of British youth of the era, the country record I was most familiar with was “Almost Blue”, Elvis Costello’s reverent collection of covers. These days, the best thing I can say about it is that it served as a gateway to the originals. But then again, these days, it’s hard to imagine a contemporary country artist even knowing the originals.

“Trees And Flowers,” Strawberry Switchblade

A mixtape encore for this stirring song about agoraphobia from the underappreciated Glaswegian duo. It takes a particular kind of talent to write a song that sounds as sweet as this and contains the line, “I hate the trees and I hate the flowers.”

“English Rose,” The Jam

Timing was never in any band’s favor more than it was on The Jam’s when their third album, “All Mod Cons”, was released. The previous, “The Modern World” had been met with little more than a collective shrug. The music press were trumpeting new and exciting bands every week. The trio ran the risk of being lost in the shadows. Then the “Quadrophenia” movie inflamed the imagination of British teens soured on punk. The massed ranks of kids in parkas and pork pie hats had a look and a lifestyle but they didn’t have a soundtrack. So they adopted The Jam. And they adopted the band at the perfect time. Paul Weller went all-out to show what he could do on this record, even dropping the gritted-teeth delivery to sing this delicate acoustic love song.

“Carnation,” The Jam

Yes, a second song about a flower from The Jam. This one has a more typical Weller lyric: “If you gave me a fresh carnation, I would only crush it’s tender petals.”

“I Touch Roses,” Book Of Love

Another Mad World: The Book no-show. Which is a shame. I would have liked to know a lot more about this three-girl one-guy goth-pop outfit. Next time!

“The Flood,” Blue Orchids

When part of your adolescence was spent with fingers poised on a tape recorder waiting to tape songs from John Peel’s show, little nuggets of obscurity like this wind up dotted in the depths of your subconscious. Even without resorting to Wiki-research, I recall the Blue Orchids came from Manchester and were made up of various disgruntled members of The Fall. I remember owning this record but I can’t believe I ever played it.

“After Dark,” Flowers

From Edinburgh, on Fast Product, the label that released the debut records by The Human League and Gang Of Four. This song is like a case study in dysfunction from Masters of Sex set to music.

“Young At Heart,” The Bluebells

Yet another Scottish song with a floral connection. Yet the streets of my home own are smeared with dogshit and simmering cigarette butts. Ah, the irony. The Bluebells were lucky enough to be plying their trade in 1984, a year in which a Glasgow accent and a guitar were considered sufficient qualifications for a record deal. This line-dancing reboot of a song originally recorded in fake Motown fashion by Bananarama performed decently on it’s initial release Ten years later, long after the band had split, the song was used in a commercial and shot straight to number one. Not only were The Bluebells’ fortunes briefly revived, the session musician responsible for playing the fiddle that dominates the song, stumbled out of obscurity to sue the band for half the publishing. Which he received. And if this mixtape wasn’t already dominated by my Scottish homeland that is soon to decide on it’s independence, there’s a cameo at the start of this video from Clare Grogan of Altered Images, known to readers of Mad World:The Book as Gary Kemp’s “True” muse.

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