I’m really sad to read about the death of Sarah Harding, who has died of breast cancer aged just 39 (please, please, please get yourself checked out whether you’re male, female or neither). Her band, Girls Aloud, were one of the finest pop bands we’ve ever had: they had the same crying-on-the-dancefloor thing as the best ABBA songs and made some of the most anthemic, life-affirming and joyous bangers you’ll ever hear. I have never wanted to be in a band as much as I wanted to be one of Girls Aloud.
I’m delighted to be featured as today’s Woman of the Day by Braw Gals In Music: Jordan’s Instagram/Facebook/Twitter has highlighted some incredible women and non-binary people, and I’m very proud to be included.
My band released a Christmas EP last year, and I think the closing track is even more appropriate this year. It’s called A Christmas Prayer.
The lyrics are:
I hope you have a good one I hope your christmas is fun I hope you’re with your family and there’s something for you under the tree and I hope you thank your lucky stars
Say a prayer for the lost and lonely pray for the battered and the bruised raise your glasses and remember the ones that didn’t make it through
I don’t believe in a god up there but I offer up a Christmas prayer to fill every aching heart with love fill every hateful heart with love fill every broken heart with love fill every empty heart with love
I hope you have a happy Christmas and that 2021 is better for all of us.
A chosen family is, as the name suggests, a family that someone chooses for themselves. It blurs the lines between friends, siblings and parents. For trans people, relationships with biological families can often be strained or marked by transphobia. Chosen families can step in as replacement care networks that provide emotional and community support when biological family ties break down.
There’s a song on my band’s current EP about this. It’s a very noisy guitar song called Tribe.
The key line, which is also the chorus, is simple and true:
My band released a Christmas EP last year, and I wanted to make Christmas releases a tradition for us. This year there’s just one song, a quiet acoustic thing about being unable to spend Christmas with the one(s) you love. It’s a very simple arrangement and production but I think that fits the vibe of the song.
Well, this is it, from now on. Like the War on Christmas, the faggot debate is set to become a perennial staple of the culture war. Every year column inches will be devoted to it, thinkpieces like this one will be written, people will become more polarised on the issue, and more and more straight people will gleefully sing about faggots, not because they hate queer people but because they’ll be damned if they’ll be told what to do by the ‘woke’ left. Meanwhile more and more queer people will be reminded of those people who do hate them, and everyone will trust each other a little less and the world will get a little bit shittier for everyone. We need, as a culture, to break out of this loop. The problem is, we won’t, until it’s too late.
…As for me, I don’t care if you, as a straight person, do or don’t sing the lyric about the faggot, but I would like to live in a society where you’re not desperate to.
I think Pet Shop Boys are one of the greatest singles bands of all time, and I’ve long been drawn to their mix of melancholy and euphoria. Their 1987 chart-topper It’s A Sin remains one of the strangest, most rewarding pop songs ever to reach number one in the UK chart.
It’s also a hell of a record for a confused teenager who’s battling with their identity:
When I look back upon my life
it’s always with a sense of shame
I’ve always been the one to blame
For everything I long to do
no matter when or where or who
has one thing in common too
It’s a sin
Oh man, the times I’ve cried to that one.
If you’re tired of overly worthy rock memoirs, Chris Heath’s two books about Pet Shop Boys touring – Literally and Pet Shop Boys Versus America – are wonderful, waspish and hilarious.
Singer Neil Tennant was a huge influence on me – he was a journalist for Smash Hits, my very favourite magazine – and he coined the term “imperial phase” to describe the temporary period in an artist’s career when they can do no wrong and create incredible things.
Show me your Beatles, show me your Bowie, and I will show you ‘Being Boring’. A masterpiece, to be sure, but also something more elusive than that. Entering the charts at 36, ‘Being Boring’ eventually climbed to 20, but its legacy wouldn’t be measured in chart success. It became, for many, a song of a lifetime, and for a generation of LGBT people an essential and early monument to a senseless tragedy.
I’ve seen Pet Shop Boys live a few times and Being Boring makes me cry every time. Just writing about it now has choked me up. It’s a beautiful sad song.
The track’s impressive vocabulary (cache, trepidation, haversack) belies a simply structured lyric – a three act drama that begins with Dowell and Tennant’s childhood, takes in their move to London and ends, as Tennant explained to the Guardian, “looking back at what’s happening, and I’m doing what I’m doing, and he’s dead”. Of course, part of the song’s enduring hold is its resonances well beyond gay life. It looks at the biggest of themes – friendship, loss, the passage of time. Anyone who’s life has involved some degree of escape, some degree of self-actualisation can’t fail to be grabbed a little too tightly by lines such as “I never dreamt that I would get to be/ The creature that I always meant to be.”
There’s a lovely and very sad obituary of the late NME writer Dele Fadele in The Guardian. Fadele was an extraordinary writer and the obituary demonstrates how much of an impact he had on people. He certainly had an impact on me: in the 80s and 90s the music press was a lifeline for me, and writers such as Fadele were mesmerising.
The article notes that the decline of the music press, never particularly well paid or suited to longevity, left Fadele with increasing financial problems – he “wasn’t a good salesperson, which is what you have to be to survive as a freelance”; the post-NME success of many ex-writers, few of whom could hold a candle to the likes of Fadele, proves that point.
It’s a hard industry to work in, harder still if you have mental health problems, and it’s a terrible shame to read of Fadele’s worsening health. He was a tremendous writer and by all accounts, a really lovely man who “had the best hugs”. The world’s a sadder place without him.