Sunday, 29 May 2016

My Top Ten Bickering Couple Songs (Volume 1)

Let's celebrate the bank holiday weekend with a good argument, as so many couples do.

Here are ten of the best arguing couples on record... although I had plenty more to choose from, so don't be surprised to hear a Volume 2 one day soon...

10. Ute Lemper & Neil Hannon - Split

Way, way back in the year 2000... before many of today's 16 year olds were even born... German musical actress Ute Lemper teamed up with the likes of Scott Walker, Nick Cave, Elvis Costello and the Divine Mr. Hannon for a "pop" album. This was one of the acrimonious highlights...

I was there for you.
You were there for me...
And him,
And half of the western world it seems...


No, baby, that's not fair,
There were two or three...
...At most
But I don't like to boast.


Oh you make me sick.
9. Loretta Lynn & Conway Twitty - You're The Reason Our Kids Are Ugly

I first heard this duet as recorded by one of my favourite bands of the noughties: The Indelicates. In fact, I'd be featuring their version here if it was on youtube: they really do make it their own. Hunt it down if you can.

In its youtube absence though, the original recording by Loretta and Conway is pretty damned cool too. Because looks ain't everything and money ain't everything...

8. Dexys - I'm Always Going To Love You / Incapable Of Love

Dexys' (minus the Midnight Runners of their youth) 2012 album One Day I'm Going To Soar is one of the greatest comeback records in the history of pop... and these two songs are undoubtedly the highlight. It all begins with a passionate fling between Kevin Rowland and new recruit Madeleine Hyland which goes awry when Kev admits he doesn't know how to love her. (Men!) After a bitter row, she chucks him out... which leads directly into the explanations and recriminations of the following track. Too-ray-aye this ain't...

7.John Prine and Iris DeMent - In Spite of Ourselves

John and Iris take turns listing their faults... but in spite of all that, they're still very much in love. Which is always nice to hear.

She don't like her eggs all runny
She thinks crossin' her legs is funny
She looks down her nose at money
She gets it on like the Easter Bunny
She's my baby, I'm her honey
I'm never gonna let her go


He ain't got laid in a month of Sundays
I caught him once and he was sniffin' my undies
He ain't too sharp but he gets things done
Drinks his beer like it's oxygen
He's my baby
And I'm his honey
Never gonna let him go
6. Space & Cerys Matthews - The Ballad of Tom Jones

Space are unfairly remembered as another bunch of Britpop also-rans, but listen to this again and it's a thing of unique beauty that sets them on an entirely different platform from the likes of Cast, Menswear and those two idiot brothers. It's weird, yes, but never too self-consciously quirky. The lyrical detail saves it, along with the genius move of employing Cerys for guest vocals: who else could have sung, "I have never thrown my knickers at you!" with such conviction (not to mention perfectly setting up Tommy Scott's comeback, "And I don't come from Wales")?

Best thing about it? This was actually their biggest chart hit... although we probably remember them more for Me & You Vs. The World or Female of the Species. Seriously, give this one another listen and remember: this song was on radio station A-lists all across the country. That's something which would never happen today...

5. The Beautiful South - A Little Time

Paul Heaton has probably written more bickering couple songs than anyone else I can think of (see also You Keep It All In, Your Father & I, Even A Palm Tree, etc. etc.).

The beauty of A Little Time though is that on first hearing it sounds more like a traditional love duet. Heaton wisely chose not to sing this one himself, instead giving the male part to the much less sarky-sounding Dave Hemingway, while original Beautiful South femme fatale Brianna Corrigan could well be singing the Diana Ross part of Endless Love. Until you listen to the lyrics. Or watch the video...

The bitch! She killed his teddy!

4. Tom Waits & Crystal Gayle - Picking Up After You

Tom and Crystal love to have a good whinge about the state the other one leaves the house in... makes you think they deserve each other. Things do get a little personal at times though. Highlight for me is when Tom asks Crystal...
Tell me - how long have you been combing your hair with a wrench?
3. Lush & Jarvis Cocker - Ciao!

Another forgotten classic from the Britpop era in which Lush's Miki Berenyi trades barbs with Jarvis, celebrating the demise of their "relationship". Methinks they doth protest too much...

'Cause I've met this girl and she's so good to me
She's really beautiful, fantastic company
 Oh, when I'm with her I realise what love can be
'Cause she's fifty times the person you will ever be  


Good luck, mister, do you think I care?
Since you've been gone the offers have been everywhere
 I've got a million guys just lining up for me
I've turned a corner, boy, my life is ecstasy...
2. Dean Friedman & Denise Marsa - Lucky Stars

Marsa was uncredited on Friedman's biggest hit, yet she plays an essential part. It's Dean's lyrics that make this most like a real couple's argument though. The song's filled with non-sequiturs, rhetorical questions, clumsy inference, misunderstanding, sarcasm and the two of them finishing each other's sentences. You may consider it cheesy 70s MOR (sax break and all), but it's much deeper and smarter than that.

Plus, unlike a lot of the arguments on this list, this one has a happy ending...

1. Otis Redding & Carla Thomas - Tramp

Nobody bickers like Otis & Carla... there's not a wasted line in this classic. Best bicker? Without question...
Carla: Look here. You ain't got no money.

Otis: I got everything.

Carla: You can't buy me all those minks and sables and all that stuff I want.

Otis: I can buy you minks, rats, frogs, squirrels, rabbits, ...anything you want, Woman.
Tramp wasn't written as a duet. The original version by Lowell Fulsom is just one guy bragging about what a lover-lover man he is. The beat's been sampled by everybody from Joe Tex to Ice Cube to Prince (on 7). The song's been covered by everyone from Salt 'n' Pepa to ZZ Top to the Steve Miller Band. But no other version comes close to Carla and Otis...

What are the chances of you agreeing with any of those? Bloody zero! You'll just disagree to be awkward. I know you.

Next week: Divorce Songs.

You asked for it!


  1. Excellent stuff Rol as always
    Can I offer up Parallel Bard by Robbie Fulks and Kelly Willis?

    1. Robbie Fulks is someone who has only entered my radar very recently - partly, I think, via your blog. Not heard that one but will try to track it down.

  2. Billy Connelly has got to feature next week!

    1. He will get a mention...but perhaps not in a way you'll appreciate.

  3. Brilliant to hear Tom and Crystal again. What about 'I Remember It Well' by Maurice Chevalier & Hermione Gingold? One for the teenagers!

    1. Yes, and if I step back further in time, there's Let's Call The Whole Thing Off and Anything You Can Do, I Can Do Better... which is just scratching the surface.

  4. Great list of songs, my offering would be from an obscure 90's band called Lodger with a song called I'm Leaving, still sounds great, check it out on YouTube, cheers Jim Dubai

    1. Wow - great suggestion, Jim. I do remember Lodger (one of the Supergrass lads was a member?) but I'd completely forgotten this tune. Listening back to it now, I do vaguely remember hearing it back in the day... thanks!

  5. I was certain I would have seen it here...
    SALLY TIMMS & MARC ALMOND - This House Is A House Of Trouble
    That's my No 1, but the rest of your favourite are great too!

    1. That's brilliant. Never heard it before, or it would have been included. Another one for volume 2 - thanks!


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