Thursday, 8 September 2016

My Top Ten Maths Songs (Volume 2: Addition)

Maths lessons continue. This week, it all adds up.

10. Medicine Head - One And One Is One

Thanks to Charity Chic for reminding me of this one, otherwise I'd have gone with One Plus One Is One by Badly Drawn Boy, which is also a cool song... but not quite as cool.

They're both rubbish at adding up... but they're not the only ones on this list guilty of that crime.

9. Nine Below Zero - Eleven Plus Eleven

I will hold my hand up and say that there is a gap in my musical education when it comes to Nine Below Zero... I never even liked The Young Ones (apart from their collaboration with Cliff). But there are many bloggers out there who hold this band in high esteem and I must have picked this up from one of them. I like it: particularly the harmonica. Beyond that, I know nothing... 

8. The Violent Femmes - Add It Up

Basically, if you add up the lyrics of almost every pop song ever written then boil the results down to their most basic meaning, this is the product of that equation.
Why can't I get just one screw...?
7. The Beatles - Come Together

Also a suggestion, from an Aussie Beatles fan on Facebook...
He roller-coaster, he got early warning
He got muddy water, he one mojo filter
He say, "One and one, and one is three."
Got to be good-looking 'cause he's so hard to see
Is Abbey Road the best Beatles album? Discuss. (Rather than discussing why the Beatles aren't Number One. Because that's just obvious.)

6. Bob Seger System - 2+2 =?

Long before the sweeping, classic rock Americana of the Silver Bullet Band, Bob Seger was in a bunch of other bands dating back to the early 60s: The Decibels, The Town Criers, Doug Brown & The Omens, The Last Heard... and this, the first to get his name up front. This Vietnam protest record was their first single, from 1969, and Jack White once claimed it was his favourite song. Can you hear any hints of Seven Nation Army in the guitars?

5. Radiohead - 2 + 2 = 5 (The Lukewarm.)

Thom goes all George Orwell on our arses again: if it's not the Karma Police, it's the Thought Police. That's who he blamed George Bush Jr.'s election victory on.

A long time since I listened to this, it sounds a lot better than I remember.

4. Beach Boys - Add Some Music To Your Day

I still consider Sunflower and Surf's Up to be "late period" Beach Boys, which is ridiculous really, when you consider that this was released just 9 years into their career... and they're still going, almost 50 years later!

But there's a maturity to the songwriting on songs like Add Some Music... that's not found on the pure pop cars, girls & surfboards bliss of their classic 60s output. It feels like the nights are drawing in a little, there's an Autumn chill in the air, but they're still doing all they can to hold on to the sunshine... 

3. Love - Seven And Seven Is

Another claimant for the "first ever punk song" crown, here Arthur Lee turns up the psychedelia to 11 before detonating an atomic bomb in its closing seconds. Not even the Sex Pistols got that punk.

Apparently Arthur had the hots for a girl in high school who shared his birthday, March 7th. I'm guessing it never went anywhere, judging by the pent up frustration in his voice...

2. Okkervil River - Plus Ones

When he's on point like this, few contemporary lyricists can match Will Sheff. Here he adds one to a whole host of famous numerical hits and manages to craft a fine love song out of the results...

Listen out for the 97th Tear, 100th Luftballoon, TVC16, 9 Miles High and the 51st Way To Leave Your Lover... among others.

1. Haircut 100 - Love Plus One

I don't care who you are, if you don't consider this one of the greatest pop tunes of the 80s, you need your ears checked. Plus, Nick Heyward is a damned fine bloke, although he wasn't swinging from a rope dressed as Tarzan when I met him.
Where does it go from here?
Is it down to the lake, I fear?
I wish I'd thought to ask him what was so scary down at the lake...

Which is your plus one?


  1. First song I heard from Nine Below Zero - harmonica, slide and drums to the fore. Yowsah!

  2. Love Plus One, brilliant! (And I know that makes me sound like a Paul Whitehouse character on The Fast Show...). And you know I love 2+2=5 already.

    Can I get a nod for "One" by Aimee Mann, which closes with the line "One is the number divided by two"? Except damn, it's addition this week isn't it, you'll be saving that for division, I guess?

    1. Hmmm... I love Aimee's version of that old Harry Nilsson song... I'll have to try to remember to make room for it.

  3. Nine Below Zero played the college circuit when I was a youth and always put up a good show

  4. Nick Heyward has stated that Love Plus One is a veiled protest song about the Falklands.
    If you follow Nick's arguments/protests, and some of the overly intellectual internet b****cks then it probably is.
    That knowledge does somewhat detract from being a fine, fine slice of 80s pop (although second place for me being "Fantastic Day").

    Further Mathematics:
    Billy Preston proves his mathematical prowess with the song:
    Nothing From Nothing Leaves Nothing

    1. Yeah, I'd rather it was just a silly pop song too.

      Nothing From Nothing is a good call when I get to subtraction... although I probably should have done a post on bad mathematicians in rock!

  5. Seasick Steve - I Started out with Nothin' and I Still Got Most of it Left

  6. Love it - this is just the kind of thing I end up thinking about as I spend most of my day working with boring old numbers but would rather be writing about songs!

    1. If only someone would pay us all to spend our days doing that...


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