Monday, 7 September 2015

My Top Ten Vegetable Songs

This week, I'm not just helping you with your five a day... I'll double that healthy goodness, and throw in a few spare veg on the side...

Special mention to.... Prefab Sprout, The Smashing Pumpkins, The Red Hot Chilli Peppers, The Gourds, Radish, The Black-Eyed Peas and Beans on Toast.

10. The Beach Boys - Vegetables

Let's get the obvious one out of the way first, shall we? I love the Beach Boys. Most days, I'd rather listen to them than The Beatles, The Stones and most other 60s bands. I don't think it's hyperbole to call Brain Wilson a godlike genius. But there are times when... well, the drugs don't quite work.
If you brought a big brown bag of them home,
I'd jump up and down and hope you'd toss me a carrot.
I've linked to the original version of this song (titled Vega-Tables) above because it features Paul McCartney's greatest ever performance... chewing a stick of celery as percussion. 
I know that you'll feel better
When you send us in
Your letter and
Tell us the name of your...
Your favourite vegetable.
Off the back of this recording, Brian decided to open a health food shop in Hollywood called The Radiant Radish. It didn't last.

For more non-specific vegetable tracks, see Radiohead's Vegetable and Joshua Radin's not particularly sporty Vegetable Car

9. Weezer - Pork And Beans

Weezer's record company told them they needed to be more commercial. This was their ironic response... and to double the irony, it became a hit.

See also Little Richard's Rice, Beans and Turnip Greens... which also leads us to Sultans of Ping FC - Turnip Fish.

8. Teenage Fanclub - The Cabbage

Typically jangly fun from the Fannies - not sure what it's got to do with cabbages. Maybe that's all they had in their vegetable rack the day they wrote it.

7. The Ronettes (not The Crystals) - Mashed Potato Time

Recorded by The Ronettes, credited to The Crystals when included on their 1963 Greatest Hits album. That Phil Spector, eh? What a git. Made some cool records though.

See also Skunk Anansie's Charlie Big Potato which is as scary as you would imagine it to be.

6. Pavement - Carrot Rope

Pavement's biggest UK hit, though it wasn't released as a single anywhere else.

Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to work out just what the hell Malkmus and co. are going on about here. Personally, I think it's something dodgy...

5. Courtney Barnett - Canned Tomatoes

Ah, you're saying, but Rol... a tomato is a fruit! Right? Hmm. Depends who you ask. According to this fascinating article in National Geographic, the American Supreme Court ruled that “tomatoes are the fruit of the vine, just as are cucumbers, squashes, beans and peas", whereas the EU have decided that "carrots, sweet potatoes and... tomatoes" are all fruits. But, I'm sorry, if tomatoes are the same as carrots and peas, I think I'll stick with my original rule: if I eat it for pudding, it's a fruit. And I don't eat tomatoes for pudding, so...

On her recent "hit" Dead Fox, Courteney Barnett goes into some detail about her vegetable-buying habits...
Jen insists that we buy organic vegetables
And I must admit that I was a little skeptical at first
A little pesticide can't hurt
Never having too much money, I get the cheap stuff at the supermarket
But they're all pumped up with the s**t
A friend told me that they stick nicotine in the apples
Prior to this, she released Canned Tomatoes... which has rather less to do with vegetables, from what I can make out.

If you agree that tomatoes are veggie, you might also dig Kaiser Chiefs - Tomato In The Rain and the record Fatboy Slim sampled for Rockafeller Skank: Sliced Tomatoes by The Just Brothers.

4. XTC - The Ballad Of Peter Pumpkinhead

Andy Partridge's timeless ode to the good guys who fall foul of shadowy conspiracies...
Peter Pumpkinhead put to shame
Governments who would slur his name
Plots and sex scandals failed outright
Peter merely said any kind of love is all right
If pumpkins are your thing not just on Halloween, see also Kate Nash's Pumpkin Soup and Dogs Die In Hot Cars - Queen Of Pumpkin Plukes.

3. Half Man Half Biscuit -  Asparagus Next Left

Nigel Blackwell sees sinister intent behind the most innocuous of hand-written country road signs.
“This-a-way For New Potatoes”
An arrow points innocently
Dirt track to a darker place
That’s what it says to me
“Last Chance For Hanging Baskets”
They’re even giving you clues!
“Fresh Broad Beans and Aubergines”
Euphemisms, Audrey, euphemisms!
Beyond that, we get the usual unrelated moments of observational genius, most notably...
We all knew someone at primary school
Who had a very powerful magnet
There's a very serious message in this song, however: a dire warning for the unsuspecting motorist...
So stay alert on the minor roads
Remember Phyllis Triggs
Oooh! Rhubarb! Lets go!
She’s still not been accounted for
2. Dan le Sac Vs. Scroobius Pip - Cauliflower

Dan le Sac does not make my kind of music at all. Blippy bloppy dance music - car alarms mixed with electronic belches and drum machines. I'm too old for this shit.

 It says something then for the razor sharp lyrical prowess of the awesome Scroobius Pip that I rate this (and anything else the pair release together) so highly.
I fell in love with a girl from the city
Still got cauliflower ears from when her voice first hit me
And a swollen lip, from when her lyrics first kissed me
And when I went to pull back ever so gently bit me
I still hear her sometimes but it's not the same
Like when you get a pen and paper and write your name
Over and over and over again
Although it hasn't, in the end it somehow seems to change

You see, that's not just songwriting. It's poetry. And I'm an English teacher, so I know a little bit about that.

The video's brilliant too.

1. Booker T & The M.G.s - Green Onions

It's not often you'll find an instrumental topping one of my Top Tens, but it's not often you hear an instrumental as perfect as Green Onions. The crisp drums, creeping bassline, sharp stabs of Steve Cropper's guitar - and, of course, Booker T.'s indolent organ... no vocalist could have improved upon this. Some debate over whether they called the track Green Onions as a reference to marijuana, their mate's cat or just because Booker didn't like green onions and wanted to throw them all in the bin. In the end, it's better we don't know the truth.

See also The Onion Song by Marvin Gaye & Tammi Terrell (in which a metaphor is stretched beyond credibility: still brilliant, though) and Glass Onion by The Beatles (in which many metaphors are stretched beyond credibility: less brilliant, but the Walrus was Paul).

I know you'll feel better if you leave a comment and tell me the name of your favourite vegetable song...


  1. One of my faves is Guy Clark's "Homegrown Tomatoes" (even if he does pronounce "tomatoes" wrong).

    1. I'll let him off - that's a great tune.

  2. You snuck Radiohead in there. Apologies for doubting you on my quick skim over the list.

    1. I daren't miss them out, just in case you're reading.


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