Monday, July 06, 2009
Behind the Music #3: Squeeze - "Up the Junction"
Cockney pub-rockers Squeeze: Everybody knows them, everybody loves them. From whey-faced girly-voiced smack enthusiast Glenn Tilbrook to oleaginous, twitching boogie-woogie keyboard wizard Jools Holland, this was, and indeed is, a band with star quality coursing through their veins where you or I have to make do with blood.
"Up the Junction", a number 2 chart-topper from 1979 is the band's signature anthem. The song takes its title from the 1960s book/play/film of the same name. A winning mix of mawkish self-pity and cloying sentimentality has seen the song become a firm favourite among Squeeze fans and normal people alike.
The lyrics tell of a doomed love affair between a drunken waster and, let us not be coy here, a harlot, some say roundheels, who hails from the salubrious Clapham area in South London. Our hero tells us of the initial stages of this romance:
"Out on a windy common, that night I've not forgotten.
When she dealt out the rations, with some or other passions.
I said 'you are a lady', 'Perhaps', she said, 'I may be'."
Firstly, while I'm no Emily Post, I would dispute that a young woman who is giving up the sweet, sweet poontang on a windy common can rightly have any claim to being a lady. She's a whore, fellows, a WHORE, I tell you.
Secondly, young Chris Difford, the lyricist here, is really reaching to accommodate these rhymes, no? "When she dealt out the rations, with some or other passions"?
Bitch, pur-leez! Some or other passions? That shit is weak.
Moving the story on, the dewy-eyed youngsters set up home in an idyllic lovenest.
"We moved into a basement, with thoughts of our engagement.
We stayed in by the telly, although the room was smelly."
Turning a blind eye for the moment to the rather unorthodox basement/engagement rhyming scheme, it sounds rather blissful, doesn't it? Old Dog's mess and his slut, stopping in their stinking basement gawping at the gogglebox instead of putting the hoover round and maybe getting busy with the Febreze or the Airwick.
Still, our hero lands himself a job, working with Stanley, eleven hour shifts, a nice little earner, no doubt. Does his lass follow suit, maybe bump up their income so they can move somewhere a bit nicer, possibly?
Does she heck as like. She reverts to the only skill she's ever shown, namely getting schtupped. She gets herself pregnant.
"She said she'd seen a doctor and nothing now could stop her."
It is probably at this point where our narrator was cursing the tactical error in shacking up in a basement. One can't "accidentally" push one's knocked up girlfriend down the stairs in a basement, can one? His lass was dead right, nothing now could stop her. Young feller-me-lad, doing the square thing by our Nell, kept grafting away, saving the princely sum of a tenner a week throughout the winter, a nice little nest-egg for when the baby arrives, you'd have thought.
Not so, apparently.
"When the time was ready, we had to sell the telly.
Late evenings by the fire, with little kicks inside her."
It isn't clear why the television had to go. They had, after all, been paying the rent and the bills and saving a tenner a week with just the one income, which would be remaining unchanged. Maybe it was just a whim of the hormonally volatile distaff half, who knows?
We are slammed immediately into the here and the now with the next development.
"This morning at 4.50, I took her rather nifty
Down to an incubator, where thirty minutes later
She gave birth to a daughter, within a year a walker"
Again, a couple of queries. One, did you really bring her to an incubator? Did you bollocks, you took her to the maternity ward. You were telling fibs to make it rhyme, weren't you? Bad boy.
Two, within a year a walker? What day is this? Who's the president? The poor bairn was only born this morning, old horse. Talk sense, won't you?
Actually, he's completely lost the plot, timeline-wise, now.
"Now she's two years older, her mother's with a soldier
She left me when my drinking, became a proper stinging"
Told you the girl was a roundheels. Frankly, the excuse about his drinking becoming a proper stinging is not only nonsense but it doesn't even rhyme. She was just desperate for a new bone to gnaw on, so to speak. Muggins is left to rue his complicity in the break up and remember happier times.
"The devil came and took me, from bar to street to bookie
No more nights by the telly, no more nights nappies smelling"
It would seem our friend has been hitting the bottle like it owes him money. He's forgotten that he sold his television set and he's getting nostalgic for the delicate aroma of babyshit-stinking nappies. His friends would do well to advise him to take more water with it.
True to form, our protagonist signs off with a dollop of negativity and another godawful attempt at a rhyme.
"And so it's my assumption, I'm really up the junction".
There we are, then. "Up the Junction" - a heartfelt perfect pop ballad or some ham-fisted melodramatic bad teen poetry? The choice, dear reader, is yours...
But it's the second one. That's the right answer.