Category Archives: Rock

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.



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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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Willie Dixon Wasn’t Dead in 1990

Book: Skagboys

Author: Irvine Welsh

Music: It’s All Over Me

Artist: Otis Blackwell

Skagboys is Irvine Welsh’s prequel to Trainspotting. There are a lot of musical references in it so you’ll be joining me on this journey for a few weeks.

More people know Otis Blackwell’s songs than know Otis Blackwell, I suspect. The last several posts were related to Elvis Presley. Otis Blackwell was responsible for “All Shook Up,” “Return to Sender,” and “Don’t be Cruel.” He was a black man writing hit songs for white rock and roll singers. Willie Dixon was another songwriting overlord whose songs are more often associated with white artists than himself. One of the great thrills of my concert-going life was attending a tribute to John Lee Hooker in Madison Square Garden in October 1990. I honestly couldn’t believe it when Willie Dixon came out and sang his own “I Just Want to Make Love to You.” I thought he was dead. Bo Diddley played that night to as well as, obviously, John Lee Hooker. Others I recall are Ry Cooder, Johnny Winter, and Al Kooper. I remember it being a very long concert.

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Memorieeeeees, Like a Liar in My Mind … Part 2

Book: The Good Humor Man: Or, Calorie 3501

Author: Andrew Fox

Music: Burning Love

Artist: Elvis Presley

Maybe Elvis-related topics bring out the uncertainty of recollections.

My memory of hearing about Elvis’s death is this. I got up for school the morning after the news broke in the US and my father told me Elvis had died. I remember going to school and discussing it with two of my good friends who were fervid Elvis fans and, therefore, bereft. But, again, it couldn’t have happened that way because there would’ve still been a week or more of our summer holidays remaining on August 16, 1977. Maybe the bit about my father telling me about it when I woke up that morning is accurate but the rest must either be a scenario created entirely in and by my imagination or I’ve adapted some elements of reality into a different narrative over the years.

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Memorieeeeees, Like a Liar in My Mind …

Book: The Good Humor Man: Or, Calorie 3501

Author: Andrew Fox

Music: Graceland

Artist: Paul Simon

(It’s been a long time. A lot’s been going on.)

The human memory is a funny and unpredictable thing. I planned to write a post about how this song, or more specifically the album from which it comes, formed part of the soundtrack to my first spell in the US – the summer after my final year in university when I worked as a waiter in a country club in Connecticut.  The fact is, though, that was the summer of 1988. This album was released two years previously in 1986. I would’ve sworn that I remember “Call Me Al” playing incessantly on radio and MTV during that summer. Seems, after all, that is not possible.

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