Monday, May 3, 2021


Our head honcho here at SMM sends out our homework on just about every second Saturday, with a handy explanation of how it may be tackled: what the words mean, how it may be interpreted and, often, links and examples to songs, bands and whatnot, that could bear association, however arbitrary. Anything, really, to stoke the fires of inspiration. My brief is to steer as far astray.....

So "Fast", as well as vroom vroom, is a verb to abstain from food, whether for health or for religious goal. The latter is a common concept, the Bible honing in on forty days (and nights) as the ideal length to achieve peak asceticism. Bonus points if spent in the wilderness. Plus, of course, in Islam there is the yearly rite of Ramadan, conveniently ongoing now, whereby followers forgo food during daylight hours. An old workplace had an extensive moslem workforce, Monday night monthly meetings torture for them, as the rest of us tucked in to the bribery of sandwiches. Then, at a decreed moment, suddenly, the day ended, and they dived in to whatever was left, breaking their fast. Hence also breakfast, the end of the fast we all undertake overnight, give or take midnight munchies. And the catalogue of songs about breakfast is as enriching as a full english of sausage, bacon, eggs, mushrooms, beans and black pudding. Oh, and tomatoes, lest anyone think it unhealthy.

Given the Yusuf/Cat Stevens song linked above, it is quite by chance that this song carries a distinct middle eastern flavour to its opening. The impeccably no notes knowingly underused vocal of the brilliant late Billy McKenzie are plastered all over the melody, and it is one of the highlights of the Associates 1995 third album, Perhaps. So ahead of the time was McKenzie, ahead of any time, arguably, it was widely slated at the time, with the passage of time being far kinder than the critics of the day. I love it and his bonkers vocal cascades. The lyrics, as was entirely normal for the band, seem to bear little application to the meal in question, other than a passing mention. But I'm not going to let that deny me featuring th song.

No such frippery with good old Bill Callahan, breakfast: its preparation and its delivery is all the song is about. OK, so a subtext about anorexia might also be in there, but Bill has such a deep inviting bathtub of a voice, it's more about the sound. I would have liked to know what the menu featured. I'm guessing eggs are featured, no doubt 'over easy' or some such americanism. A newer song than often featured here, from his 2020 recording, Gold Record, but I just so love this guy's voice as to feel it churlish not to include it. Funnily enough, although I never bother with it, when I do indulge, it could also be my favourite meal of the day.

Is bed and breakfast a thing outside the British Isles? The idea of a room for hire, with purpose self-explanatory. Not a hotel, a private house, often with a formidable harridan at the helm, letting out her rooms, providing a cooked meal in the morning, ahead of booting you out on your arse until the evening, whereupon you could return, alone, no guests, to your room. Seaside towns have street after street of them. OK, the picture I paint is as dated as the world within all the songs by Madness, the endearingly chirpy ska band with a way both for the gaucheness of English life and the rose tint they apply to it. Hugely successful over four decades, they translate especially badly to countries where the language is supposedly the same. The bed and breakfast man of the song is, I suspect, rather than a frequenter of such establishments, more the sort of chap capable of treating the bed of his paramour as if it were such.

An instrumental interlude courtesy the genius of Norman Blake, a consummate artist on any stringed instrument you might ever mention, guitar through mandolin, banjo and dobro. Here, effortless finger picking evokes the joys of an eye-opener, that pre-solids shot of the hard stuff that rightly gives drunks such a bad name, the first tune displaying that he'd had the (absent) fiddlers ration too. A US national treasure, he is not to be mistaken with the same named weegie guitarist with Teenage Fanclub, himself not averse to a song about the demon drink. Time of drink taken not alluded to.

One of the disappointments that comes with continental travel is the continental breakfast, paltry fare where the only hot thing provided is, if you are lucky, a hardboiled egg, plonked alongside a cold croissant and the end of last nights baguette. Sue Foley, a Canadian blues singer and guitarist, perpetually number three in the rankings, behind Bonnie Raitt and Susan Tedeschi, has clearly toured Europe and tries to excite the table with some local colour. I think I'd sooner have breakfast in Texas.....

Breakfast is served......

 Billy, BillBlakeMadnessFoley,

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