What a strange, wonderful experience last night. I met up with one of my oldest friends, Dej Mahoney (always more grown-up than me, Dej was head of school at Epsom College when we were both there in the early eighties, and such a dutiful godfather to my youngest daughter that he brought her chocolates last night).
We ate some Tapas and then went to see “If You Kiss Me, Kiss Me,” a one-hour production at the Young Vic where the actress Jane Horrocks sings a whole load of quite obscure songs from what I think was the greatest period of rock & pop outside the sixties, namely 1977-1982. Don’t ask me what the play is about or if it even counts as a play: there are 30 seconds of dialogue at the start and the end, and the rest is music.
But what music! The last time I heard ‘Anthrax’ by Gang of Four (“Love’s got me like a beetle on its back; I feel like a case of anthrax”) I was eighteen. I recognised that, as well as ‘Atrocity Exhibition’ and ‘Isolation’ by Joy Division. (Dej was more of a George Benson guy when we were at school — I had to help him a little with his Human League and Siouxsie). Of course we both knew ‘I Know It’s Over’ by the Smiths, which, as Jane performed it, I felt was just a class apart as a song — so much so that Horrocks seemed about to cry during it. Some others I had no clue about, though: ‘Nag Nag Nag’ by Cabaret Voltaire I have literally never heard. And despite being a fan of the Fall I didn’t recognise the Mark E. Smith song containing the line, “Mr Reagan hanged himself at number 13.” So on the way out I took a photo of the songlist and here it is for you:
What did it all add up to? Here is my pocket review:
- If you are fifty, you’ll hear songs that take you back to your teenage bedroom
- You realise how distinctive the look and feel of the time was — a lot of bands dressed like workers in a nuclear power plant, and there was a bleakness to the writing which captured teenage angst completely
- The inclusion of ‘Life is a Pigsty’ by Morrissey is a little baffling, since it came out on the album ‘Ringleader of the Tormentors’ only ten years ago and is one of Morrissey’s worst, but …
- The main joy of this production is that you see what the songs mean to Jane. And you are (if you’re like me) reminded of what they mean to you. As Dej said when we left — it’s art. Because art is what’s real and true