Hic! Everyone raise a glass to the rock stars of the past and to this week’s feature...songs about alcolholic beverages! Yes that’s right, everything from wine to ‘gin and tonix’ to general boozing. Despite being tee-totallers here at the AAA (Bring back prohibition we say! Alcohol causes more problems than it solves and really is just another form of tax and an excuse for acting silly in my book – and I don’t need any excuses for that!) it’s quite clear that great numbers of the AAA, erm, aren’t. Well, not if their songs are anything to go by anyway! So after great prompting by our resident boozy canine Bingo (star of our Youtube videos – and if you haven’t seen them yet why not?! Our link is on the site) we’ve decided to dedicate a top 10 to drinking songs , in order not of chronology or alphabet this time but by tipsiness, from slightly sizzled to stark raving bingod (as its known in my house). What’s interesting is how sizzled some artists appear to be, with repeat offenders such as Oasis, Lindisfarne and The Kinks (all pretty predictable) and The Moody Blues (erm, less so). Anyway here’s the full list:
1) The Moody Blues “Vintage Wine” (Sur La Mer, 1988)
A sweet little number to start, with Justin Hayward comparing the halcyon music of the 1960s to wine from the same time period (this song came out in 1988 remember – if you still have wine left over from 1968 its probably turned to vinegar by now!) ‘I’m proud of the things I believed in then – and if I had the chance I’d go back again’ sings Justin – and we’ll give him the benefit of the doubt that he was talking about the peace and love ethos, not how many bottles of booze he used to consume. Still, the reference to alcohol is limited to a single (repeated) line so not so tipsy just yet...
2) Oasis “Cigarettes and Alcohol” (Definitely Maybe, 1994)
You might be surprised this song isn’t higher on the list, but then again this classic (and third ever) Oasis single isn’t really about having a good time – its about the drudgery of modern life that causes you to turn to alcohol and the like in the first place. ‘Is it worth the aggravation to find yourself a job when there’s nothing worth working for?’ is one of Noel Gallagher’s best ever lines, even though he himself only ‘got’ what he meant sometime after (if the Oasis Time Flies DVD commentary is anything to go by!) ‘You could wait a lifetime to spend your day in the sun-shee-ine’ go the lyrics,but because there’s no one out there to help you you might as well get drunk out of your skull (ie waste the present because you have no future). A reluctant drinking song where alcohol is simply an escape from bodom...err boredom...um boredom. I think. I can’t see straight any more...
3) The Kinks “When Work Is Over-Have Another Drink” (A Soap Opera, 1974)
Ray Davies’ marvellous spoof of concept albums ‘A Soap Opera’ is much discussed on these pages, turning from a funny album about wanting to be famous and the boredom of modern day living into a sad album about mental breakdowns and whether ‘stars’ are ‘special’. By the end of side one Ray Davies’ star-maker is fully into his role as the ‘normal’ human ‘Norman’ and is already tiring of the 9-5 shifts he’s putting in at Norman’s accountancy office. Cueue not one but two songs about how drinking ‘helps ease the strain of his boring occupation, dull conversation, living by the book and the rules and regulations’. Ray directly equates having a tipple to escaping depression, figuring like so many that, as he can’t fight the problems in his life, he may as well drink them away. Given Ray’s on stage antics (around this time he tried to balance a can of beer on his head, dropped it and fell over on the foam, breaking his leg) this may well be autobiographical – whatever it is, its depressing, especially by the end of the second song and hearing six whole minutes about the wonders of booze while they limit the character’s options and bring out the worst in his character makes for depressing, though compelling listening. I’mshtarting to get a little...hehehehehe
4) The Moody Blues “Send Me No Wine” (On The Threshold Of A Dream, 1969)
Another sweet song about wine (were the Moodies obsessed?!) from John Lodge, which basically says ‘you don’t need to do me favours or give me presents to gain my company – I’d come for nothing!’ The chorus runs ‘If only everybody found the answer in love’, but the rest of the song is less happy, and the narrator is portrayed as a withdrawn, rather reluctant talker, spending his life ‘in fascination’ instead of getting involved. Is that the alcohol talking one wonders? I’msutgonna pause there...for...erm....maybeonemore?hic!
5) The Kinks “Alcohol” (Muswell Hillbillies, 1971)
The first song on this list to deal with the curse of alcohol head on, this is another Kinks song and a live favourite, a ‘story about a sinner, who used to be a winner’ who got left ‘in the gutter’ all because of that ol’ demon alcohol. A ‘middle class executive’ turns to drink directly after pressures from the office and ‘his fanatical wife’s ambitions’ force him to work harder than ever with just a little prop to keep him going (that turns into a relentless demon when unleashed from his cage). He loses his job, beats up his wife and loses her too before ending up in the arms of a floozy spending his dole money for him, ‘lying on skid row’. As the chorus of the song goes ‘its very sad...’, although the fun the band have with it onstage (full of ad libs, OTT dramatics and sliding brass parts) is in stark contrast to the more sombre studio version and ends up not sounding that sad at all. Hichichichic...help I’ve forgotten how to type!
6) Lindisfarne “Juiced Up To Lose” (Happy Daze, 1974)
‘Why you looking at my best friend? You came here with me! I’m drunk and I don’t know how, what you doing to me?’ The first of two drinking songs from the same album suggest there’s a problem and certainly this song (from Mark II bassist Thomas Duffy) sounds like a car crash in slow motion, all angry pouting hurt and defiant bitterness. Yet again a bar is the scene of a fallout, life changing moment and the narrator is clearly out of control, leaving off his present problems to confess how ‘I can’t do anything right’. A difficult listen but all pulled together by way of a puffing harmonica part and the closest folk-rockers Lindisfarne ever came to heavy metal. Hahahahahahahahahahahahahic!
7) 10cc “The Anonymous Alcoholic” (Bloody Tourists!, 1978)
Like many a 10cc song, you can either take this at surface level as merely a ‘comedy’ song or dig under the surface for the serious ‘message’ the song is trying to tell us. A Gouldmann/Stewart collaboration, this offbeat track follows a hapless worker at an office party who used to be an alcoholic but has changed his ways, only to fall off the stool in spectacular fashion. With his friends egging him on and peer pressure he drinks more and more (‘you were the one left out in the cold’), despite hating the taste, before making a pass for the bosses’ wife. After collapsing he hears the voices in his head saying ‘everyone was having fun but you were the one left out in the cold’ after passing out on the floor. He’s aso been sacked for his erotic dances with mrs boss lady. What does our poor hapless narrator do in his misery? You guess it, he heads for the bar, having learnt nothing from his experience.
8) Lindisfarne “Gin and Tonix All Round” (Happy Daze, 1974)
The second ‘Happy Daze’ song about booze, this features another likeable-really narrator who admits ‘I didn’t mean to hurt you, but I was not really sure [what I was doing]’. The problems with alcohol addiction are perfectly summed up by Alan Hull’s clever lyrics, that ‘I realised that I’d had too much – so I called out for more!’ This thinking character then comes to his senses, thinks he’s realised where the world is going wrong – but when he tried to speak about it he realises ‘there was nothing left to say’. He then bids us a fond farewell and ends with the catch ‘I hope you don’t believe a single word I say!’, with the song getting as hazy and out of focus as the poor drunk narrator. Hhhhhhhhcvsahfo hf ousp fapif nwpf aogf apnifpnaiwpri npiwer pnapweir npawenr hic!
9) The Who “However Much I Booze” (The Who By Numbers, 1975)
The most despairing, desperate moment on a whole album that’s as bleak as any I’ve ever heard, this is self-admitting alcoholic Pete Townshend coming to terms with the fact that he’s been hiding his insecurities and fears behind brandy but that he’s now reached a crisis point where the drink makes things worse, not better. ‘No matter how much I booze there ain’t no way out!’ is the chorus, in between such dark verses as ‘The night comes down like a cell door closing...sitting alone with a bottle and my head a-floating, far away from the phone and the conscious that’s going on at me and on at me...’ He then asks for forgiveness from his fans, asking them to ‘glance very briefly at the songs I write’ to understand himself better telling them that he’s ‘a faker, a per clown’ but that ‘ the truth lies in my frustration’ and saying that, in the end, it doesn’t matter – there’s still no way out. Note that this song is one of only two vocals Pete takes on this very personal album, giving the other eight o Roger Daltrey to sing, which suggests what a personal song it is to him. An admirably brave and forceful song, as good as any Pete ever wrote for The Who. You’remybeshtestsreadersinthewholewidewworlddddhic!
10) Oasis “Those Swollen Hand Blues” (B-side of ‘Falling Down’ 2009)
I’ve never heard another track like this one, the final B-side on Oasis’ final single. It starts off muted, as if its being played under a giant cloth, before pulsating drums and a screaming vocal from Noel Gallagher punctuate the sound with particular might (its like a hangover, apparently).The song takes its cue from a Pink Floyd song (‘Nobody Home’ from ‘The Wall’) that alludes to drinking (though its at least partly Syd Barrett in the original). Noel often talks abou his ‘booze years’ between 1997 and 99 when he felt ‘out of control’ but this song dates from nearly a decade later. Is it a memory? Or a lapse? The poor narrator is trapped, he ‘can’t see the wood for the trees’ before his ego kicks in, declaiming ‘I’m the apple of my eyes’ before quietly admitting ‘If only I could keep myself sober I would understand why’. The second verse then adds ‘...for only one day’. Noel’s vocal is a perfect mimic of a drunk (perhaps he was when he recorded it?!) slurring all over the place and falling over frequently, moving at all only with great effort. Sombre, compelling and far superior to all but one of the tracks that graced the last, disappointing Oasis album ‘Dig Out Your Soul’. It also makes for a neat mirror image of ‘Cigarettes and Alcohol’, the narrator-dabbler with booze turning into a fully fuelled alcoholic of this song. Zzzzz zzzzzzzzzzz zzzzzzzzzzzzz zzzzzzzzzz hic!