Friday, 22 May 2009

'Mr Sex' (and Any Major Dude With Half A Heart): Songs for the Dumped

So do you want another example as to why women have a far easier time with relationship issues than men? Go to the karaoke, and I guaran-damn-tee you that there will be at least one woman making a dog’s arse out of I Will Survive by Gloria Gaynor, proclaiming to the world that she’s finally over that twatty ex and is a strong, independent woman who won’t be held down by rubbish blokes ever again (before ruining the effect by going off for a crying jag in the toilets or clamping herself to some random Jeremy Kyle guest in a Lonsdale top).

All well and good. But what about those of us who have penises? Where’s our I Will Survive – songs that allow ourselves to roar with pride that we’re not being dicked about by exes anymore and have moved on with grace and dignity without resorting to outright misogyny (whilst simultaneously letting the female population of the pub be aware of the fact that they can queue up for a portion)?

Having been kept awake for ages at night going through the Guinness Book of Hit Singles of my mind, I finally snapped and sent out the Sex-Signal to my esteemed musical blog-chum, the amazingly brilliant Any Major Dude With Half A Heart, asking him to come up with five tunes men could fall back on. Not only has he come up with ten, he’s also got them ready for download (and he whipped the best ones, as he’s a thousand times more organised than I). His ten are here, mine are below – but first, please be aware of the following provisos;
1) This list is written under the assumption that the bloke running the karaoke has a ludicrously eclectic range of songs, and not just the usual rubbish.

2) It’s also written under the assumption that said karaoke is not rammed with the usual bumfluff-‘tached Oompah-Loompahs who want to do fucking Angels, or the mad old trout who demands to sing Crazy at least seven times.

3) It’s really, really hard to find male versions of I Will Survive, as you will soon discover. Most of the songs I’ve settled on don’t quite match the sentiments of the former – and some of them are not the most right-on in tone - but they all manage to carry off the impressive feat of sounding triumphant in defeat.

4) I reserve the right to swear a lot when you come up with glaringly obvious suggestions that are miles better than mine.


Ben Folds Five – Song For The Dumped

Song For The Dumped really is the national anthem of embittered dumpees. Ben Folds has been discarded with pitiless diplomacy: “So you wanted to take a break, slow it down some and have some space…” He stood no chance; you can’t argue yourself out of that one. How would you respond? And how would you like to respond. Probably like Folds: “Well, fuck you too.” Less than considerate? Perhaps. But, man, he had just BOUGHT HER DINNER. Now he wants his money back, “and don’t forget to give me back my black T-shirt”. Yeah! Give him back the black T-shirt! The new girlfriend is getting cold!

Tom Waits – Who Are You

Ben Folds wants to her to give back the T-shirt; Waits wants her to TAKE BACK what she gave him: lies. And he’s only getting started in what might be the greatest fuck-off song from the male perspective. “Did my time – in the jail of your arms.” Oooh! “Go on ahead and take this the wrong way, time’s not your friend.” Ouch! “Are you pretending to love? Well, I hear that it pays well.” Oooof!

Godsmack – I Fucking Hate You

It is fair to say that Godsmack’s repertoire of scathing zingers is rather more slender than that of Waits and they do lack Ben Folds cutting drollness, but they sing from the heart. Not only was that horrid ex apparently lying to Mr Smack, but she also impugned his good character (and we must trust that his integrity was entirely unimpeachable before), as the lyric suggest: “And every day I’m gonna blame you, even if you justify every fuckin’ bullshit lie…it only makes me want to break you.” Inarticulation often accompanies a broken heart, which might explain the lyrical descend to the levels subsequently occupied by Paris Hilton on her excursion into the world of popular music: “Don’t ever look my way. Don’t even think I’m playin’, cause I fuckin’ hate you. You’re such a liar; I love to hate you” (punctuation is mine; as conceived by the lyricist, none might have been intended). And with that out of the way, we can finally deliberate on the heart of the song: “Fuck you! Fuck you! Fuck you! Fuck you!” And why not? Sometimes that is all that needs to be said.

Justin Timberlake – Cry Me A River

The song apparently was a riposte to Britney Spears’ alleged infidelity. Likewise, our notional karaoke singer might have been the blameless party in a split generated by a betrayal. He might have done the dumping, but the betrayal was hers. Either way, the relationship is over, no matter how much she begs. “Girl I refuse, you must have me confused with some other guy. Your bridges were burned, and now it’s your turn to cry, cry me a river.” The sentiment, of course, borrows from a much greater song by the same title. That one is more commonly sung by women (best heard in Julie London’s version).

Hank Williams – Your Cheating Heart

Where Timberlake is piqued over Britn… the girl’s infidelity, Hank Williams (the first one, not the McCain-lovin’ son) navigates the byways of false empathy as he sketches out what emotional turmoil awaits the indiscreet ex. “Your cheatin’ heart will make you weep. You’ll cry and cry and try to sleep.” Just reward for cheating on the doubtless scrupulously faithful Hank. Of course Hank may just be hoping or projecting; the girl might well be pleased to be rid of him, and perhaps with good reason. But just in case she isn’t, he adds: “You’ll toss around and call my name.” And wouldn’t that just settle the score?

Lou Rawls - You’ll Never Find Another Love Like Mine

Where Hank Williams wishes psychological suffering upon his ex, Lou is more sanguine about love lost — and he can afford to be, since he was only rejected, not cheated upon. His cheer obviously is a mask: when he says she won’t ever find anyone as good as him, he is bathed in anguish, and not making an intrepid foray into the dark art of divination, his rebuff of “ifs and buts and maybes” notwithstanding. He’s not “bragging on myself, baby”; it’s just inconceivable that anyone can love her as tenderly and completely as he has. She’ll regret rejecting him. “Late in the midnight hour, baby — you’re gonna miss my lovin’. When it’s cold outside — you’re gonna miss my lovin’.” His whoa-whoas serve to underline the hopeful taunt. He’ll get over her in good time, and when she realises what she has lost, it’ll be too late. Take that, you wretched waster of good love!

Any rejected fool in love will know precisely what Lou is talking about. Twenty years ago, I was such a fool, suffering from unrequited love, a distressing case of frienditis, with Elizabeth (not necessarily her real name). One night at a club, You’ll Never Find... came on. While she was dancing with some random other, I whispered to my friend: “And I dedicate this song to Elizabeth.” Our mutual friend emphatically agreed with the sentiment. Well, Elizabeth just didn’t love me that way. The way she did love me was expressed by ramming a stake through my heart while cackling viciously like a particularly sinister witch in Macbeth as portrayed by an overacting diva as she told me that we should just be friends. I recently caught up with Elizabeth. She is happily married to a nice man who clearly adores her, and she him. So Lou proved to be less than prescient. But at the time, his anthem of defiant self-validation in which she, not he, was the big loser helped to shake the heavy dust of lovelorn despondency off my shoulders. And within only a year and a half, I was even over her…

Whitesnake – Here I Go Again

Some men are accumulating experience at being dumped, much like our present friend as he goes again here. He won’t waste much time mourning the old relationship. In karaoke mode, he is proclaiming himself ready to be swept off his feet by the next knightess in shining lycra. And what woman of compassionate spirit would fail to give the man a chance when he philosophies: “I’m just another heart in need of rescue, waiting on love’s sweet charity. And I’m gonna hold on for the rest of my days, ’cos I know what it means to walk along the lonely street of dreams.” Sure, the poetry is risible, but he probably will get laid tonight.

Garth Brooks – Friends In Low Places

Being dumped for reasons of economic class just isn’t right-on. But this is what has happened to Garth Brooks (or the song’s first-person protagonist). He confronts her for a final time on her wedding day. And as he might in the rejected script for a rom-com, Brooks trespasses on the nuptials in his cowboy boots (and perhaps a 12 gallon Stetson), intimidates the alarmed groom, and tells the bride that he’s down with her new life — as turning up uninvited to an ex’s wedding invariably communicates. “I toasted you, said, ‘honey, we may be through’, but you’ll never hear me complain.” With bravado he celebrates having found refuge in drink among the flies at his local bar (here we imagine a joint where Achy Breaky Heart commands respect) populated by the cohort of low social expectations in the title. Brooks is, as we and his ex can guess, fooling himself. But at least he can get in a little dig as he makes his declaration of emotional independence: “Hey, I didn’t mean to cause a big scene. Just give me an hour and then…well, I’ll be as high as that ivory tower that you’re livin’ in.” At which point his lowly-placed pals join in the rousing, presumably alcohol-fuelled chorus.

Prefab Sprout – When Love Breaks Down

The dumped karaoke song for the more introspective, analytical man. It isn’t even clear yet that he has been dumped, or that the relationship is over. But our hero is already making plans for that eventuality, which he seems to regard as virtually inevitable. So, what happens when love breaks down? Firstly, you stop the truth from hurting you. Secondly, you lie to yourself (as some of our friends in the preceding songs have done). Thirdly, “you join the wrecks who leave their hearts for easy sex”. Which is why we are presently singing karaoke songs about failed relationship in a bar populated with women in first place.

New York City – I’m Doing Fine Now

At the beginning of the post I flagged Ben Folds Five’s Song For The Dumped as the national anthem for the dumped, but the real song of recovery, of liberation from the cast irons of a broken heart, is this glorious soul number from 1973. The protagonist is at a more advanced stage of recovery than our notional karaokist, but projecting an aspirational confidence that happiness will return with a new love certainly would do no damage to the prospect of getting laid or, depending on your temperament, strike up a rewarding relationship with a very nice girl. The opening verse updates us comprehensively: “Remember the day you up and left? I nearly cried myself to death, oh yeah. And then I met someone else. She made me stop and get a-hold of myself.” And here comes the taunt: “Oh girl, I’m doin’ fine now, without you, baby.” Repeated often enough to drive home the message: what the hell was I doing tormenting myself over you for?

‘Mr Sex’’s Top Ten

Iron Man – Black Sabbath

This song might sound like a big metal robot getting ready to kick the world’s face in, but don’t be fooled – the sentiments are as close as it gets to the male version of IWS. Ignore the rammell about being turned to steel in the great magnetic field – that’s Ozzy trying to say that he’s been chucked by a bird without his mates twigging and taking the piss out of him. Perfectly male sentiments, too – while Gloria gets over her ex by finding someone better, Ozzy can only purge his feelings of rejection by pretending to be 100 feet tall and putting his metal Doc Martens through a building. Because we’ve all thought that, haven’t we, chaps?

By The Time I Get To Phoenix – Isaac Hayes

And yes, it has to be the full Isaac Hayes version. While Glen Campbell sounds like a deadbeat Dad making a midnight flit with a barmaid half his age, Black Moses takes the time to explain that his ex was a right slapper who made him work triple-time so she could get her nails done, and only now does she realise how mint he is, ha ha. Problem is, he takes eleven minutes to lay this all out before he sings note number one, so you’re going to have to work your arse off to prevent a bum-rush by the woman desperate to sing fucking Crazy again and a hail of empty WKD bottles. Wearing a dressing gown made of gold chains might help.

Say Hello, Wave Goodbye – Soft Cell

Marc Almond might not be the most aggressively masculine singer in this list (and the opening line forces you to state that a) you’ve had a bit of a roar and b) you knock about in a pub called The Pink Flamingo), but don’t let that put you off, because the glee with which he lays into his rubbish ex is a joy to behold. Bonus points for the subtle allusion that you’re after a ‘nice little housewife’, as the pub will be full of ‘em. I’d mention the David Gray version, but I’d rather not, as I’ve never heard it.

Who’s Gonna Take The Blame – Smokey Robinson and the Miracles

Poor old Smokey seems to have spent the vast majority of his life being pissed about by women, but he clocked what the girl in this song was all about ages ago; a window-smashing, abusive cow who needed getting shot of. Naturally, said harridan becomes a ‘woman of the street’. Smokey charitably alludes that he tried his best, but he’s bragging, really. Moral – you’re going to end up having sex for money in graveyards for dumping me, you rotten cow.

Stone Free – Jimi Hendrix

It was either this or Roadrunner by Junior Walker and the All-Stars, because the sentiments are the same: I’m single because I go round the country (possibly as a sales rep), I can’t be doing with women putting me in a plastic cage (by making me stay in and watch Strictly Come Dancing), and I’m a wild spirit who needs to live his life the way he needs to, in order to be spiritually fulfilled (by downloading porn torrents, watching back-to-back episodes of Top Gear, and playing Football Manager until 3am next to a stack of pizza boxes).

Devil Woman – Cliff Richard

The standard get-out clause for any dumped male: She Was Mental. And Cliff (who has allegedly not had it off since rationing was stopped in the UK) is in full-on warning mode about his ex, who sounds a bit like that cat-woman in Conan The Barbarian who turns into a ball of flame after that romp in the cave, advising any other bloke sniffing around to LEG IT. Whilst subtly bragging that he’s been there, of course.

Get Out My Life Woman – Lee Dorsey

As you’ve noticed, the tone is changing very quickly from ‘I will grow stronger without you’ to ‘Oh, bollocks to you, then’. And this is probably the most elegant, understated OBTYT I’ve ever come across.

Jilted John – Jilted John

The most joyous, cathartic, triumphant I’ve-been-dumped song ever. She is a slag. And he’s a creep. She is a tart. He’s very cheap. She is a slut. He think’s he’s tough. She is a bitch. He is a puff.

(and Kid Jensen can shut his gob in that video, the cheeky bastard).

Fuck Off – Wayne County and the Electric Chairs

Say no more. But be aware the singer in question ended up having a sex change. There's getting over someone, and getting over someone.

I Will Survive – Cake

Sod it, why not? 99.99999% of songs don’t have genitals, and the ones that do can easily be operated on.

So what have we missed, then?

(and for more AMDWHAH musings of music and love, click here)


Jules said...

I've always liked "Dance Away" by Roxy Music!

Heloise said...

What about 'Gone for Good' by The Shins?

Zeb said...

I think Snake in the Grass by Annihilator would fit nicely in that list too.

lydia said...

How about "Dick Around" by Sparks?

Delbert Wilkins said...

Definitely, definitely, definitely "Don't Think Twice, It's Alright" by Bob Dylan.

badgerdaddy said...

First song that came into my head when I read your intro was 'By The Time I Get To Phoenix' - I was trying to describe that to someone on the phone earlier and it's just not possible.

Soft Cell's a great shout, too. The David Gray version has got to be close to 9 minutes long. Danger.

Mab said...

There's also most of Buddy Holly! 'Early in the morning' comes to mind.

lydia said...

Oh yeah, and "I guess things happen that way" by Johnny Cash! I've always felt this was such a "guy" way of dealing with this -- the glum but resigned shoulder shrug of acceptance. "I don't like it, but I guess things happen that way."

Kriss said...

What about Yes by Mcalmont and Butler?

You can't help someone recover
After what you did
So tell me am I looking better?
Have you forgot
Whatever it was that you couldn't stand
About me about me about me?

Yes I do feel better
Yes I do I feel alright
I feel well enough to tell you what you can do with what you got to offer


Jules said...

Apocalyptica featuring Adam Gontier of Three Days Grace - I Don't Care.

The word verification thingy says "cunch".


Sounds appropriate though!

FiFi said...

Aw, come on! One glaring, perfect choice! Got the be The Mavericks and Dance the Night Away.

Here comes my happiness again
Right back to where it should have been
'Cause now she's gone and I am free
And she can't do a thing to me

I just wanna dance the night away
With senoritas who can sway
Right now tomorrow's lookin' bright
Just like the sunny mornin' light

And if you should see her
Please let her know that I'm well
As you can tell
And if she should tell you
That she wants me back
Tell her no
I gotta go
Perfect lyrics, plus it's upbeat so gets across the 'we split up and that's good thing' vibe that's so perfect about I Will Survive. And no-one will throw WKD bottles at you for requesting something rubbish/that no-one else has heard on (often one and the same thing, I find:-))

Nottingham's 'Mr Sex' said...

OK ^that^ - along with I Can See Clearly Now The Rain Has Gone by Johnny Nash - are the two obvious missed ones.

Anonymous said...

I have to just say I think I fancy Mr Sex more than anyone I've never met. PLEASE keep writing this!

Anonymous said...

Nine Inch Nails - Something I can Never Have.

Old track from the late eigthies, but a simple piano track with with vocal - a beautiful bleak song.

not the most uplifting... but still a good one to wallow in...

hawkeye said...

I love this list. I already linked on Any Major Dude's page, but I have a blog devoted solely to songs for the dumped.