Thursday, 11 October 2018

Grumpy Old Men Top Ten: "Things Ain't What They Used To Be" Songs

I've got so many series on the go at the moment, I can't keep up with them all. So here's a Top Ten of Grumpy Old Men songs (aided and abetted by a few grumpy old women) based around the idea that things were much better when I was a lad. Y'know: strikes, power-cuts, the three day week, Margaret Thatcher, the Yorkshire Ripper, Kajagoogoo... I'm talking the good old days now!

(Nothing personal against Kajagoogoo. They just have a funny name.)

When I did a google image search on "things ain't what they used to be", the above image popped up and I felt it somehow appropriate.

10. Stanley Brinks & The Wave Pictures - Things Ain't What They Used To Be

One of those songs you pick up on an old Uncut or Mojo CD, burn to your record library, then never actually listen to until 20 years later when you come up with a random post idea and... not bad, actually.

9. The Black Keys - Things Ain't Like They Used To Be

The perfect accompaniment to a general miserablist malaise.

8. Neil Young - Days That Used To Be

Amazing that this is the first time Neil Young has featured in my Grumpy Old Men series...

Talk to me, my long lost friend, tell me how you are
Are you happy with your circumstance, are you driving a new car?
Does it get you where you want to go, with a seven year warranty?
Or just another hundred thousand miles away
From the days that used to be

7. Duke Ellington - Things Ain't What They Used To Be

Now that's what I call jazz. Hope The Swede approves.

For a version with lyrics, you can't go wrong with a bit of Ella Fitzgerald...

No use bein' a doubtin' Thomas,
No ignorin' that rosy promise;
Now I know there's a happy story yet to come.
It's the dawn of a day of glory: millennium
I tell you things ain't what they used to be.

Perhaps a little too optimistic there, Ella, considering where we ended up...

6. Will Hoge - They Don't Make Em Like They Used To

Can we ever live up to what our parents' generation went through. Probably not...

Whoah-oh, story after story
Of all your faded glory
Is all I ever hope to live up to
Whoah-oh, know as I get older
I'm standing on your shoulders
Trying to be just like you
But they don't make 'em like they used to

5. John Wesley Harding - There's a Starbucks (Where the Starbucks Used to Be)

Most things change, but some things stay the same...

There's a freeway where we played football in the fields
Apartments on the pitch at Highbury
There's a shed called Deer Creek
Of which my one critique
Is there's no creek now and it's all deer-free

There's a Walgreens where there was no wall, just greenery
There's a theme park in a palace in Tennessee
That tree there is a pylon
But some things you can rely on
There's a Starbucks where the Starbucks used to be

Video of the week!

4. Pandora's Box - The Future Ain't What It Used To Be


No holds barred.

Pure, unadulterated melodramatic insanity never sounded so pompously extravagant.

3. Larry Jon Wilson - Things Ain't What They Used to Be (And Probably Never Was)

If you've never heard Larry Jon Wilson before, can I suggest you prepare your ears for a treat?

They tell me one day I'll look back and laugh at what I'm goin' through.
The way I feel, I think they're telling lies.
My songs all die in empty talk like buds that dry upon the stalk
And ill winds come to blow them to the sky...
Blow them to the sky

Man, that voice. Not sure about the grammar though.

2. Marvin Gaye - Mercy Mercy Me

Considering Marvin wrote this heartfelt plea for the ecology back in 1971, you can imagine him turning in his grave every time Donald The Trump opens his mouth.

I have a special fondness for the version recorded by Batley Bob in the 1990s too.

1. Max Bygraves - Fings Ain't Wot They Used T'Be

They put a parking lot on a piece of land
Where the supermarket used to stand
Before that they put up a bowling alley
On the site that used to be the local pally
That's where the big bands used to come and play
My sister went there on a Saturday
Come dancing

Wait, you say. Those aren't the lyrics to a Max Bygraves song! They're the lyrics to The Kinks' 1983 comeback single, Come Dancing. True enough, but I bet Ray was thinking of Max's big hit from 23 years earlier when he penned those lines... if you don't believe me, just listen to the opening lines of Fings Ain't Wot They Used T'Be.

Here's a proper grumpy old man song for you! Go on, Max!

We used to have stars...
Singers who sung
A Dixie melody

They're buying guitars, plinkety plonk
Backing themselves with three chords only

Once we'd dance from 12 to 3
I've got news for Elvis P
Things ain't what they used to beeeee!!!


  1. A very enjoyable list. Bonus points for making me laugh out loud by nicknaming Robert Palmer Batley Bob.

  2. Replies
    1. Winter Of 79 was Tom's attempt at clairvoyance.
      Most of his predictions did not happen, and Spurs did not beat Arsenal. Arsenal won 1-0 on Boxing Day 1979 (no crowd trouble was reported).

      Yes, I do look at these things too deeply.

  3. John Wesley Harding!

    It's not just me writing that name in the world of blogthings.

    Writer of some very good songs - enjoys a "cult" following (ie he rarely sells more than 26 copies of each album)

  4. Ditto TS - a few laugh out loud moments amongst the above. You had me going with the Max/Kinks lyrics as well.

    If we weren’t all so busy being grumpy perhaps we would see that things are indeed no worse than they used to be, it’s just that globally, there’s a different mix of what is classed as bad.

    If I ever actually get off to sleep, when l wake up tomorrow I’m going to try and be a glass half-full person all day (or at least until lunchtime).

    Thanks as ever for the Top Ten.


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