The Long and Winding Song Title

The Nice - Ars Longa Vita Brevis

I was driving home this evening – as I’m prone to do of an evening once the old nine to five has reached its innevitable climax – and was listening to The Nice’s Ars Vita Longa Brevis. It had been that kind of a day.

One of the songs on the album is the snappily titled ‘I’m One Of Those People That My Father Tells My Sister No To Go Out With’. Which got me thinking: what other songs in my collection feature a proponderance of verbiage in their titles?

And so, in no particular order, I’ve drawn up a list of twenty that have caught my eye.


  • ‘I’m One Of Those People That My Father Tells My Sister Not To Go Out With’ – The Nice

  • ‘Return Of The Hardcore Jumble Car Boot Techno Disco’ – Bentley Rhythm Ace

  • ‘The Confessions Of Dr Dream – Part One – Irreversible Neural Damage’ – Kevin Ayres

  • ‘Prelude: It’s A Fast Driving Rave Up With The Dandy Warhols Sixteen Minutes’ – The Dandy Warhols

  • ‘What Is The What If The What Is Why?’ – Moloko

  • ‘As If Your Eyes Were Partly Closed, As If You Honed The Swirl Within Them And Offered Me The World’ – Brian Eno and Rick Holland

  • ‘There’s No Lights On The Christmas Tree, Mother, They’re Burning Big Louie Tonight’ – The Sensational Alex Harvey Band

  • ‘The Black Hawk War, or, How to Demolish an Entire Civilization and Still Feel Good About Yourself in the Morning, or, We Apologize for the Inconvenience but You’re Going to Have to Leave Now, or, ‘I Have Fought the Big Knives and Will Continue to Fight Them Until They Are Off Our Lands!” – Sufjan Stevens

  • ‘Last Chance To Evacuate Planet Earth Before It Is Recycled’ – Porcupine Tree

  • ‘Nothing That Has Happened So Far Has Been Anything We Could Control’ – Tame Impala

  • ‘The Smell of Today Is Sweet Like Breastmilk In The Wind’ – múm

  • ‘Uncle Sigmund’s Clockwork Storybook’ – Robert Forster

  • ‘Nothing Is Ever Lost Or Can Be Lost My Science Friend’ – Liars

  • ‘The Sir John Hawkins Memorial Carpark’ – Billy Childish and the Spartan Dreggs

  • ‘Moroccan People’s Revolutionary Bowls Club’ – Blur

  • ‘Neon Meate Dream Of Octafish’ – Captain Beefheart and the Magic Band

  • ‘Several Species Of Small Furry Animals Gathered Together In A Cave And Grooving With A Pict’ – Pink Floyd

  • ‘Collective Dreamwish Of Upperclass Elegance’ – Grandaddy

  • ‘You Probably Couldn’t See for the Lights But You Were Staring Right At Me’ – Arctic Monkeys

  • ‘Approaching Pavonis Mons by Balloon (Utopia Planitia)’ – The Flaming Lips

Goodbye to David Bowie


It was a bit of a shock, wasn’t it.

David Bowie’s death was announced as we ate our breakfasts, had our showers and got the children ready for the day. ‘But he’s only just released an album,’ we all said – as if that might somehow have put some kind of a delay on mortality.

But then it all became clear. This was all part of the plan. David Bowie knew he was going and so the album was his way of saying goodbye: ‘Look up here – I’m in heaven’ he sings on Lazarus.

Tony Visconti got it right – being Bowie’s producers he was well placed to get it right – when he said how ‘His death was not different from his life — a work of Art.’ How could we expect it to be anything else?

I’m ashamed to say my knowledge of David Bowie is not as great as it could be. A couple of best ofs and three rarely listened to albums.

This will, inevitably change. Today, at work, I was listening to The Next Day, which I hadn’t yet properly got my teeth into and was kicking myself that I hadn’t properly listened to it before.

I’ll be getting my hands on Black Star at the earliest possible opportunity.

As to why I haven’t bitten the bullet with Bowie’s back catalogue when I’ve furiously consumed much of Dylan, The Beatles, The Clash, Pink Floyd and all the other grand masters of rock, I really don’t know.

It’s particularly weird because when I first fell  head over heels in love with all this modern pop music stuff, it was partly down to a Bowie song.

It was in an ‘A’ Level music class. In these lessons the four of us would often be asked to listen to some piece of music and analyse it to death: a Mozart symphany, a Beethoven sonata, a Monteverdi vesper – or ‘Changes’ by David Bowie.

The fact that the people who set the ‘A’ Level syllabus saw fit to put Bowie’s music alongside Mozart and Beethoven is the biggest compliment a schools examining board can probably make.

And it’s one that we should all make.

I listened to ‘Changes’ transfixed. The rising piano introduction, the horns, that voice. It was pure perfection. Whether or not I was able to identify any parallel fifths or notate the bass line by ear, I have no idea.I was probably just too bowled over.

It’s a magnificent song. But enough from me; it’s probably just best to listen to it.

There’s another David Bowie related memory I have from school.

We put on a production of Jesus Christ Superstar. I played Pontius Pilate. My mate Matt Mills played Caiaphas. And my friend Guy Grimsley played Herod.

While I was given a 1920s gangster outfit to wear, and Matt wore a dinner jacket, Guy was going to have the most fun in a glam rock outfit. The plan, originally was for it to be part Gary Glitter part Aladdin Sane.

Somewhere along the line the Gary Glitter news broke (this was 1997) and the director decided, rather wisely, to emphasise the Aladdin Sane element – and wisely so.

For many, many reasons.

Farewell, you rock and roller. Farewell.

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