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Songs: City Centres

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Every week in Sunday papers
Some silly sod is bound to say
That the fact that British High Streets
Have the same national chains
Means that all our city centres
Are now utterly the same
It seems that life within the M25
Gives you brand names on the brain

Because they say that City Centres
All look the same
Because our modern city centres
Have been taken over by shopping chains

Lift your mind beyond the signs
Of the franchises and you'll find
That the hills and stone of Sheffield (for instance)
Are no way alike
To Peterborough's bricks and flatness
Or to Truro or to Milton Keynes
Even though they've all got Marks & Spencers
Boots and Body Shop and HMV

Yet you say that City Centres
All look the same
Because our modern city centres
Have been taken over by shopping chains

Go get a book and look
At the city 90 years ago
You'll find it in the Local History section
Of Smiths or Waterstones
The architecture's lasted, the street layout's the same
The weather and geography all remain
Only names on shopfronts
And moustaches have been changed

Yet they say that City Centres
They all look the same
I think it's you that's turning Mental
You've been taken over by shopping chains

And if you think that City Centres
They all look the same
I think it's you that's turning Mental
You've been taken over by shopping chains

Published by Wipe Out Music Publishing

This is another song with a long and torturous gestation, but a very swift LABOUR. Oh yes. The idea for it was SWIRLING round in the ether for ages - i specifically remember an afternoon last summer sitting reading, I think, The Independent On Sunday (which is like The Guardian on Saturday without all the good bits, and with more smugness) and discussing an ANNOYING article with the Joy Of My Heart, which claimed that all city centres nowadays are indistinguishable. This was made all the more laughable by the photographs, which showed several city centres in pictures now and 100 years ago - each city centre looked VERY different from the others, but strikingly similar to itself in the past. Only the high use of moustaches and hats was notable.

Some months later I went up to HULL with Tim. On the way I was telling him that I was having a bit of trouble thinking of new things to write songs about - out of the BLUE he related pretty much ENTIRELY the same opinion as the above, and between us we worked out precisely how the song would be structured. "Peasy", I said, "I just need the actual words now."

A CHUNK of words duly arrived in November 2003 at Leytonstone Tube Station (where many many ideas for songs seem to be arriving at the moment), at the same time as the words for "Girlfriend Alarmed" started coming in, but stopped pretty soon as that OTHER song came through. What words I had hung around for a couple of months, and were tinkered with SLIGHTLY, but weren't really worked out until the start of January, when I'd nearly finished recording the demo CD "Kazoo IV: The Silence Of The Kazoos". I'd decided to re-record "The Lesson Of The Smiths" and "Hibbett's Golden Rules Of Beer" in the same way as the other new songs, so thought I might as well try and finish off the one really outstanding song I did. I got a rough, rather CLUMSY, version of the words done, but then got stuck on the tune, as the original sounded, I realised, a bit too much like a song by "Plans & Apologies" (which I must have been listening to sometime in November I guess!). I'd just got my new AMP set up that night, and found that - HEY! - suddenly playing two chords VERY LOUDLY sounded GRATE! I nipped to the computer, wrote a drum program, then recorded the MUSIC and the next night ADJUSTED and MADE UP words as I went along to fit into the new song. PRESTO! ESPECIALLY groovy was fiddling about with my Delay Pedal and getting a) the GRATE and WEIRD backing vocals on the chorus and b) the intro, which goes "DALEKS DESTROY!" for no apparent reason. GRATE!

The Validators liked this song the best out of all the songs on the aforementioned Demo CD, and we ended up having a lengthy DEBATE about whether we should record the song for this EP, as certain Validators felt it should be saved for another single! In the end I promised to write something else as good at some point in the future, and we headed off to Kev's to record it. This all went very well, with the basic track ending up as an Added Funkiness version of the demo, it was only with the extra tracks that things got New And Exciting.

Emma came in for the evening to record all her vocals, with two seperate lots of Things To Sing for this song... unfortunately, upon listening to MY vocals, she realised that what she'd originally wanted to sing ("I hate City Centres") didn't actually make any sense, so we spent a joyful 30 minutes trying to think of something else. My best suggestion, I thought, was "differentiate city centres" which Mr Reverb described as "the least musical sentence I have ever heard." PAH. After much to-ing and fro-ing we settled on what you hear on the CD now, although this did lead to BIZARRE SCENES as three full grown adults had a conversation as follows:

ME: Let's do the ba-ba-ba's!
EMMA: Which ba-ba-ba's?
KEV: The ba-ba-bas?
ME: No, ba-ba-ba!
EMMA: Ba-ba-BA-ba?
KEV: Ba-ba-BA-ba, not ba-ba-ba.
ME: Ah! Ba-ba!

... and so on. After all this Emma THWACKED us with that GRATE bit at the end, although due to a misunderstanding, when I suggested having "say they all look the same" sung endlessly, Emma nearly passed out trying to sing it all in one go. Oops.

A week later it was Tom's turn - he was a bit worried about what to do, but this was all made easier when Kev Got Out The Lesley. This was VERY exciting, as he has a REAL PROPER Lesley Speaker, a GIGANTIC item of furniture guaranteed to make EVERYTHING sound GRATE. For once i was disappointed by how quickly a recording session went, as Tom made the AMAZING noises you hear today in pretty swift order, as Mr Reverb and I stood in the centre of the mixing room, MARVELLING at the stereo-licious sounds produced.

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