Sunday, 4 December 2016

My Top Ten Self-Pity Songs (Volume 2: The Ladies)

Almost as soon as I posted Volume 1, my old friend Sally started protesting on Facebook. I'm sure she won't mind if I share her rant with you all now...

"Rol. Rol. Rol, Rol, Rol, Rol, Rol, Rol, Rol, Rol... Where are all the tear-streaked, self-hating women you introduced me to? What of Not Pretty Enough? Footsteps Fall? Bloody Mother-Fucking Asshole? Maybe that's not strictly self pity, but it sure felt like it to me. If you do this again it should feature the mascara-streaked, the unnoticed despite hours of prep, the gin-soaked, the Laydeez"

Well, who am I to refuse such a heartfelt plea? And yes, Sally was right: I was remiss in making Volume 1 all about miserable fellas. (Although I had forgotten just how much I used to share the misery with anyone and everyone way back when Sally and I worked in the same office.) And so, to redress the balance...

10. Eddi Reader - Footsteps Fall

Thanks to Sally for reminding me of this one, a good few years since I listened to it, but it's gloriously miserable.
I’m in a new place now
They don’t know me next door
Though I can hear their footsteps fall

Every night about this time
Does he take her in his arms?
There’ll be Django playing as they waltz across the floor

And loneliest sound of all
Is the sound of love through a stranger’s wall...
9. Lucinda Williams - Lonely Girls

The thing about mining a rich seam like self-pity is that way down at Number Nine you'll find songs which would have been Number One on any other Top Ten. There's a brutal simplicity to Lucinda Williams' lyrics here, each line repeated over and over to hammer home the point...
Heavy blankets 
Heavy blankets
Heavy blankets
Cover lonely girls
But the kicker comes at the end when Lucinda reveals: she knows of what she writes.

8. Aimee Mann - Save Me
You look like a perfect fit
For a girl in need of a tourniquet
Not a love song, but a desperation song. Not the only one on this list, as it turns out.
C'mon and save me
If you could save me
From the ranks of the freaks
Who suspect they could never love anyone
Ooooh, that last line. Aimee, you're killing me...

7. The Carpenters - Goodbye To Love

Whenever I listen to the Carpenters, I'm reminded of John Cusack's opening monologue to High Fidelity... what came first: the music or the misery? Makes you wonder about poor, tragic Karen...
I'll say goodbye to love
No one ever cared if I should live or die
Time and time again the chance for love has passed me by
And all I know of love
Is how to live without it
I just can't seem to find it
So I've made my mind up
I must live my life alone
And though it's not the easy way
I guess I've always known
I'd say goodbye to love...
6. Martha Wainwright - Bloody Mother-Fucking Asshole

I'll admit, when Sally suggested this one, I wasn't sure it fit the criteria. The titular "hero" is Loudon Wainwright III, and on the surface this is just Martha's semi-tongue-in-cheek attack on her father's longstanding habit of writing extremely autobiographical (if highly amusing) songs about his family... though frankly, Martha got off light compared to Rufus. But when you delve a bit deeper, it is gloriously miserable in its own way, and despite being one of her earliest songs, it might be Martha's finest hour.
And you have no idea
No idea how it feels to be on your own
In your own home
With the fucking phone
And the mother of gloom
In your bedroom
Standing over your head
With her hand in your head
With her hand in your head
I will not pretend
I will not put on a smile
I will not say I'm all right for you
When all I wanted was to be good
To do everything in truth
To do everything in truth
5. Diana Ross & The Supremes - I'm Livin' In Shame

Now here's someone who really has a reason to feel self-pity. The sequel to the equally spectacular Love Child, here we find Ross's self-hating heroine moving away from home to escape the shame of being born in poverty to a "slum mum"... only to drown in guilt when that deserted and disowned mother dies lonely and heartbroken while her daughter parades around university pretending to come from a wealthy family.
Got a telegram
Mama passed away while making home made jam
before she died she cried to see me by her side
She always did her best
Ah cooked and cleaned and always in the same old dress
Working hard, down on her knees
Always trying to please
Mama, mama, mama can you hear me?
Mama, mama, mama can you hear me?
I'm living in shame
Mama, I miss you
I know you've done your best
Mama, I miss you
This song utterly destroys me. In a very good way.

4. Black Box Recorder - Child Psychology

I was going to disqualify this on the basis that it's written by two blokes (John Moore and Luke Haines), but then I realised it's not the only song like that in this list. Besides, it's the performance that matters, and Sarah Nixey makes this her own.
Life is unfair: Kill yourself or get over it!
3. Kasey Chambers - Am I Not Pretty Enough?

There is no creature in the known universe more well-versed in the fine art of self-pity than your average teenager, and our Top Three today demonstrates that perfectly with three slightly-older ladies turning to their teenage selves for devastating inspiration. Here Kasey Chambers turns romantic desperation into an artform, and then wonders...
Why do you see right through me?
That said, she's a novice when compared to the all-time champion of channeling teenage angst into a pop song...

2. Janis Ian - At Seventeen

At Seventeen may well have been written about the horrors of being a teenage girl... but sadly, most of the lyrics recall my own teenage woe with clinical precision...
To those of us who knew the pain
Of valentines that never came
And those whose names were never called
When choosing sides for basketball
It was long ago and far away
The world was younger than today
When dreams were all they gave for free
To ugly duckling girls like me
1. The Shangri-Las - Past, Present And Future

Melodrama on a supremely epic scale was the Shangri-Las' stock in trade, and they certainly turned it up to 11 on this 1966 ode to joylessness. Set to Beethoven's Moonlight Sonata, it sticks a dagger into teenage heartbreak unlike any other record you'll ever hear. Sublime.

No surprise to find both Morrissey & Marr were fans...

That's Volume 2 out of the way. I hope you realise this series could run and run. Especially if you keep encouraging me. Misery does love company...


  1. Not convinced listening to these late at night in one sitting was a great move!

    I'd try to add to the list but I think I need to move to happier thoughts and try to remove my 'love child' earworm.

    1. Sorry. I'll play some Black Lace tomorrow.

  2. As it turns out my Skeeter Davis song from last time would have fitted this list better. As for The Carpenters, can't listen to them any more as just get too sad (partly down to the lyrics and partly because of what happened to her). Rainy (frosty up here) Days and Mondays indeed.

  3. Carpenters music is even sadder when you learn about her troubles. As a film buff, Aimee Mann's Save Me is associated with watching Magnolia, great soundtrack.
    I like the Shangri-Las song, thanks for the recommendation.

    Here are 5 more that come to mind:
    Kid-The Pretenders (sounds upbeat but the lyrics are anything but)
    Sleep To Dream-Fiona Apple (the opening lyric always gets me)
    Wet Blanket-Metric (can remind us of awkward teenage moments)
    Never Be Mine-Kate Bush
    Nothing Compares 2 U-Sinéad O'Connor

    1. Some great suggestions to add to the ever-swelling pot. Thanks, Chris.


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...