Friday, 30 September 2016

My Top Ten Maths Songs (Volume 5: Division)

***Before I start this week's Top Ten: a plea for help.***

Last night, my blogroll disappeared from the sidebar of my site. I have no idea where it went, but all efforts to recover it have been in vain. I have tried my best to reconstruct it from memory (and via the blogroll of my old blog, Sunset Over Slawit, although many of those links are long gone now) but I'm sure there are many favourites I've forgotten. So if you know that I'm a reader of your blog and usually list it to the right... but you can't see it there now... please leave a reminder in the comments box. If you're a music blogger reading this site but I DON'T read your blog, it may be that I just don't know of its existence. Anyway, the same goes for you guys... just leave me a link and I'll add you to Rol's roll.

I calculate that this must be the last of my mathematical posts. It may well prove my last post ever after I'm laughed out of the blogosphere for one particular selection. But, hey: Irk The Musos!

Special mention to Joy Division... and Half Man Half Biscuit's superb "tribute", Joy Division Oven Gloves.

10. Kevin Ayers - 2 Goes Into 4

Psychedelic king and Soft Machine founder Ayers brings us a brief coda to his 1974 album The Confessions of Dr. Dream and Other Stories. It starts out with a simple bit of maths... and then goes quickly mental.

Surprisingly not the shortest record on this week's Top Ten though...

9. The Song Which Dare Not Speak Its Name

OK. Here we go. I make no bones about this: it is a truly awful record. But I would argue that's largely down to the production, by the three men responsible for the nadir of popular music in the late 80s. And yes, it's sung by a bloody soap opera star... although arguably one I've grown to have more respect for in his later years (I saw him in the stage version of Jeff Wayne's War Of The Worlds and he was excellent). The song itself - if you strip away all that awful production - stands up well as a decent enough pop song. If it'd been recorded 20 years earlier by The Supremes, it would be remembered now as a classic.

That said, I know: it's awful.


I was 16 when it was released, and even though my musical tastes had moved well beyond teen-pop, something about this record (and a couple of other singles from the same album) appealed to my cheesy sense of fun. I remember singing along to it with a friend (who was a strict Smiths / Pet Shop Boys devotee) at the top of our voices on the school bus, ironically perhaps, but not caring about the embarrassment attached.

I didn't have to tell you this. I could have denied its existence in the playlist of my memory and clung onto my shreds of blogger cool, but no... honesty is the best policy. I often say on this blog that I do not believe in Guilty Pleasures and will shamelessly extol the virtues of Barry Manilow, the Bee Gees, Genesis, Bryan Adams, Taylor Swift, Elton John, Abba, Guns n Roses, Whitesnake, Lady Gaga, et al. where other bloggers fear to tread. I mean I draw the line at U2 and Michael Bolton, but that's about it. But this time, I fear I've just gone too far...

Perhaps I should consult Jez over at A History of Dubious Taste? If anyone will stick up for me here, it's got to be him...

8. Tanya Donelly - Divine Sweet Divide

Back to cool with the former Throwing Muse, Breeder and Belly-lady.

Out go the jangly guitars, in comes a solo piano which shows off Tanya's voice at its very best.

7. Against Me! - Bitter Divisions

I became momentarily obsessed with White Crosses, the album this (bonus) track comes from, a few years back. It took Against Me! into more anthemic, Green Day territory than their earlier, punkier recordings and proved a good sing-a-long, thump-the-steering wheel protest record.

I haven't really been paying much attention to the band's career since then, so I was interested to read that the lead singer, Laura Jane Grace (formerly Thomas James Gabel), recently revealed herself to be transgender, as chronicled in 2014's Against Me! album Transgender Dysphoria Blues. As I have a friend / former colleague who recently went through the same thing, I'm very interested in tracking that record down.

6. Death Cab For Cutie - Long Division

Ben Gibbard stretches the metaphor, but it's forgivable when the rest of his lyrics are so emotive and evocative.
The television was snowing softly
As she hunted for her keys
She said she never envisioned him the type of person capable of such deceit

And they carried on like long division
And it was clear with every page
That they were further away from a solution that would play

Without a remain remain remain remainder
5. The Cardigans - The Great Divide

From First Band On The Moon, the album that broke The Cardigans onto the international stage (it's the one with Lovefool on!) this low key, bittersweet track puts Nina's vocals front and centre.

4. Neil Young - The Great Divide

Another Great Divide, from Mr. Young's 24th album... released 16 years ago. There have been 14 more since. Sounds timeless.
In the great divide
Nothin' to decide
No one else to care for or love
In the great divide
I don't fit in too well
3. Big Star - St 100/6

Not actually a calculation of division, though it looks enough like one to get it in here. The title is apparently an imaginary catalogue number Alex Chilton and Chris Bell gave to an imaginary record on an imaginary record label they threatened their real record label they might release if they didn't get their skates on and put out their debut album. Less than a minute in length, it's the final track on #1 Record, an homage to Abbey Road era Beatles.

2. Elvis Costello & Burt Bacharach - Long Division

While Hal David and Elvis Costello were extremely different lyricists, both dealt in melancholia and wordplay. While never aiming to equal the Bacharach / David collaboration, 1998's Bacharach / Costello juxtaposition brought a new lease of life to both artists. It gave Costello the timeless melodies he'd been moving towards after years of feasting at the new wave, country, soul and alt-rock tables, and it afforded Bacharach the opportunity to write his first album of new songs in 21 years. Just beautiful.
And every night you ask yourself
"What am I to do?"
Can it be so hard to calculate?
When three goes into two
There`s nothing left over
1. Aimee Mann - One

OK, I owe this one to Martin because I really didn't have a Number One for this final Maths Top Ten until he suggested this a couple of weeks back... and we won't ever get a more perfect One than this One.
One is the loneliest number, much much worse than two
One is the number divided by two... 
Of course, One is originally by Harry Nilsson, an artist whom I have a huge amount of time and respect for, and not only because he was Number One on the day I was born. But much as I love Harry's version, the divine Ms. Mann knocked this One out of the park when she recorded the soundtrack to Paul Thomas Anderson's Magnolia: a good film made great by its musical score.

Perhaps this Perfect One will make up for that Imperfect Nine... somehow, I doubt it.

Which one is most likely to divide opinion?


  1. Jason Donovan makes the cut, but 'Across the Great Divide' by The Band doesn't? Dear oh dear! Consider this muso irked! :-) Admittedly though, there are some tip top tunes among the other nine selections.
    'Divide and Fall' by The Wolfhounds is the only other suggestion that springs to mind.

    1. PS. My blogroll disappeared last night too. I'm going through the same process of reconstruction as you are. What happened?

    2. My bad on The Band, that would definitely have edged Kevin out of the Top 10... leaving Jason safe to fight another day.

      I suspect some big google conspiracy is afoot!

  2. Replies
    1. Oh, and a top choice for your number one, by the way ;)

    2. Thanks for the link, Martin, that will prove invaluable.

    3. Aye, thanks Martin. That's helped a lot.

  3. My blog roll went as well!
    Obviously something in the air

    1. There seems to be a bigger problem here as I've updated my new one a few times today and the updates aren't sticking either. Very frustrating.

  4. I spotted the Guilty Pleasure signal in the sky: Cheers, Jez

    1. I knew I could count on you for the support!

  5. Rol,
    I used to feel that the arbiters of cool were going to jump on my bones if I posted one of my own favourite "pop fluff" selections, but I'd feel so sheepish if I ignored my own musical inclinations. (Regrettably, the song would be accompanied by some feeble excuses for its inclusion and an apology for foisting it on my readers.)

    Blogs which feature the songs that their owners genuinely enjoy, rather than what they think their visitors want to hear, are (to me) the most interesting to visit. So, please, continue to post the songs that mean something to YOU.

    You asked if I blog. The answer is yes and no - I'm presently moving to a quiet little corner of the net where I'll continue to post some of my favourite vintage songs. I'll leave a link for you when I'm ready to re-open.

    1. I'll look forward to that, VS.

      I never was cool. Possibly that might be down to my parents who were older than most other kids' parents when I was a teenager: they were actually pre-rock 'n' roll teens themselves so didn't really get pop music at all. The closest my dad ever got was Frank Sinatra and my mum instilled in me a love of C&W at an early age. I'm grateful to them for that now, they gave me the freedom not to have to follow the crowd, and to find my own way in the pop landscape. I think my ecletic tastes are largely down to the fact that they never once commented on the music I listened to. They showed an interest on occasion, but never passed judgement.

  6. Just to set your mind at rest, I wasn't on your blogroll - and for good reason: I love the songs, but don't think I've found one I could do with the barrel organ.

    1. Well, you're there now... so we'll see.


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