Category Archives: Fiction

Not the Best Thing that Ever Happened …

Book: Skagboys

Author: Irvine Welsh

Music: You’re the Best Thing

Artist: The Style Council

Sometime back in the late 1980s or early 1990s, under duress from a good friend at the time, I swapped my copy of The Style Council’s Greatest Hits for something else. I don’t even remember what I got in exchange, I just know it wasm’t as good as the album I gave up. It was on cassette, by the way. Unlike with many other albums, I had not bought it on vinyl and did not buy it on CD or as an MP3. I can, of course, just stream it for virtually nothing these days but I still wish I hadn’t so easily given into his wheedling.

 


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Stick a Fork in Their Ass and Turn ’em Over, They’re Done (Thanks Lou)

Book: Skagboys

Author: Irvine Welsh

Music: Sister Ray

Artist: Joy Division

While the artists here are Joy Division this is a cover of a Velvet Underground tune. It’s interesting, even though the lyrics obviously remain the same—dark and depraved—Ian Curtis’ rendition with Joy Division easily trumps Lou Reed’s Velvet Undergound original for sheer gloom. Lou Reed’s voice has this tone that seems to add a litte cheeriness to the darkest of lyrics. ‘Walk on the Wid Side’ and ‘Sweet Jane,’ for instance, are delivered with such a smiling tone that you’d almost forget what they’re about. The epitome of that Lou Reed ‘the-world’s-a-dark-and-dangerous-place-but-I-sound-happy’ approach, in my opinion, is his solo track ‘Last Great American Whale.’ That song is a wonderfully enjoyable litany of bad things happening and concludes with as vicious a critique of American values as you’ll find but yet it’s sold with a remarkable degree of whimsy.

 


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Please Keep Your Bloody Tootsie Rolls to Yourselves

Book: Skagboys

Author: Irvine Welsh

Music: Slags, Slates, Etc.

Artist: The Fall

I wonder what that ‘Etc.’ in this song title might cover? If it’s unspeakably vile things then first in line would be Tootsie Rolls. America’s a great country but Tootsie Rolls? WTF?

Were they something created from old engine grease and ear wax during The Great Depression? I can visualize great sprawling warehouses in decrepit grey neighborhoods filled with thousands of crosslegged urchins rolling long ropes of this stuff before being forced to dance all over them in razor blade-soled shoes, chopping them into bite sized chunks while some cigar-chewing Daddy Warbucks slobbers through his laughter.

I write this as my kid is about to go out trick or treating this Halloween night. She’ll inevitably come back with a sizeable proportion of her haul made up of fucking Tootsie Rolls. People are bastards.

What’s going to be left after the nuclear apocalypse? Cockroaches and Tootsie Rolls. And the Tootise Rolls will outlast the cockroaches by aeons.

 


[https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EEKQ4SgKJe0]

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Do People Not Love Their Hometowns Anymore?

Book: Skagboys

Author: Irvine Welsh

Music: I Belong to Glasgow

Artist: Andy Stewart

More Andy Stewart – this is not one I’ve ever heard before. He sounds like he’s had a few scoops before recording this one. A wee bit slurred, but that’s OK. Do people write slightly maudlin songs like this anymore about their hometown or home country? Seems like it’s gone out of fashion.

 


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They Fuck You(r Musical Tastes) Up, Your Mum and Dad (with apologies to Philip Larkin)

Book: Skagboys

Author: Irvine Welsh

Music: The Northern Lights of Old Aberdeen

Artist: Andy Stewart

Although no version of the song is referred to in Skagboys, my internal jukebox immediately began to play the version by the famous (in certain circles) Scottish balladeer, Andy Stewart. I suppose that’s because I must have heard it so often on the radio programmes my mother and father used to enjoy because I don’t believe we ever had it on a record. But it’s remarkable that when I hear the song title, 45 years later, I can hear the voice and remember at least the first couple of lines of Stewart’s rendition.

Just a couple of months ago my daughter was horrified when I pointed out that she was singing along with Fleetwood Mac’s “Go You Own Way,” a song she professes (along with the band’s entire catalogue) to despise.

Nothing changes.

 


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Familiarity breeds disinterest

Book: Skagboys

Author: Irvine Welsh

Music: Istanbul (Not Constantinople)

Artist: The Four Lads

Last November, Paris was the target of a terrorist attack and the world responded with a flood of tricolors. Last week Istanbul was the target of a terrorist attack. I failed to notice any instances of Facebook users generating a profile pic overlaid with red and the white crescent and star of the iconic Turkish banner. Yesterday, Dhaka in Bangladesh was the target of a terrorist attack. I haven’t seen any profile pics being overlaid with green and the red disc of the rather less familiar Bangladeshi flag. I wonder why that is. Are those places just not as sexy or evocative as Paris for many people, Americans especially, or are these attacks, like the mass-murders by gunmen in the US becoming so commonplace that people don’t have the time or inclination for the Paris-like outpouring of Facebook emotions?


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Jim Morrison is Dead and So is Elvis

Book: Skagboys

Author: Irvine Welsh

Music: Riders on the Storm

Artist: the Doors

Jim Morrison was only 27 when he died. Never ceases to shock me when I re-read that.

Leaping forward in my reading many, many months into your future, though not mine since I’ve already read it, I revisited Stephen King’s “The Stand” recently. There’s a great little vignette in the book where a character tells the story of encountering a mysteriously familiar figure at a small petrol station in rural West Texas at which he worked part-time. Having fumbled with that unexpected familiarity for a while this gas station cowboy realized he’d just sold fuel and sundries to the living, breathing Jim Morrison. In that universe, he’d obviously faked his own death and burial. I’d bet that everyone who reads that scene for the first time expects it to be Elvis. I did. Apart from it being an unexpected gem buried in the epic novel which manages to be more eerie in those few pages than the entire premise of the book—a plague-emptied America becoming the stage for a classic good v evil contest—I like it for that – it dodges the obvious. It strikes me as I write this, though, that Elvis may not even have been dead when King wrote the novel (or this part of it). It was first published in 1978, a year or so following Elvis’ death, but he’d been writing it for several years.


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