The 1997 EuroKong Tour was followed up in February 1998 by Amerikong. Momus, Gilles and Matt Jacobsen of Le Grand Magistery toured the US. This started in New York, where Momus’ press agency Girlie Action organised numerous interviews. They visited the World Trade Center, toured art galleries, and Momus recorded “As You Turn to Go” for the 6ths album Hyacinths and Thistles with Stephen Merritt (also of the Magnetic Fields). Momus had pre-Homeland-Security opinions on the US’ analogue phone system: “the Federal Bureau of Investigations wishes to survey the republic’s citizens and finds the privacy offered by digital networks obscurely dangerous”. The trio performed at the Fez club and were generally welcome in a US which found itself in the midst of accepting Bill Clinton’s sexual indiscretions. With Magnetic Fields they played at the University of Connecticut and at Harvard University. Momus found performing for students both comforting, in their acceptance, and slightly disorienting, as their “trust fund” escapism and debauchery seemed a reaction to the Protestant puritanism of parts of the US, whereas the music of Momus he describes as “Momus against Momus, against the internalised guilt and jealousy and self-hate (which) he has been taught is only normal and right”: which are hardly sentiments that match youthful rebellion.

During a stay in Atlanta, at the time of Momus’ birthday, the eye infection caused his right eye to frost over completely, and some time on the tour was spent in finding treatments. While in Chicago they met Cynthia Plaster-Caster, a legendary groupie and artist who famously took casts of musicians’ genitalia, including that of Jimi Hendrix. Three attempts to do the same with Momus were met with defeat as he could not maintain an aroused state in the circumstances, even with the help of a fluffer. The tour continued to Los Angeles, where Momus felt out of place and alienated. San Francisco seemed to suit him better as he got to “press his nose up” against the offices of Netscape and talk to Wired magazine. In San Francisco he also met a couple working in media and their very young son Noah. All of these events, influences and people wend their way through the next three albums, and his continued attempts to “break” America.

Following on from the futuristic vaudeville of Ping Pong, Momus became interested in the idea that we were now living in a new age in which culture and history were being fed onto the new technology of the internet, and being transformed, like “a sine wave after it’s been passed through the VCO filter on an analog synth”. When out shopping eclectically in Edinburgh, Japan or London, or touring the style districts of Tokyo, he saw art which combined the past and new technologies. He describes seeing girls who “dress like Marie Antoinette as a cyberpunk milkmaid”, and a theatre group at the Fringe “driving harpsichords around the stage like cars”, being intrigued by Edinburgh shops offering kilts based on a “huge database of family names”. He was purchasing old synth and moog albums from the 70s, and work by Jean Michel Jarre. He was listening to works like The Well-Tempered Synthesizer by Walter Carlos, which played classical pieces on synths of 1969. He recorded a song “The Symphonies of Beethoven” with Add N to (X), a London band known for raunchy lyrics and their use of classic instruments like the Omnichord and the Moog Rogue. The song is a pastiche of Beethoven and others, combined with an electro-pop style similar to Kraftwerk and other early synthpop. The fusion that was created he dubbed “Analog Baroque”, and a new album took shape.

The new album used a bass sound sampled from the Nintendo Gameboy, coupled with drums recorded from a home organ he found “near the Swiss border”. The keyboads were sampled harpsichords and ARPs. (being a company founded by Alan Robert Pearlman in 1969 which produced classic synths). The songs were composed as humorous airs, such as a minstrel or troubadour might play. The lyrics he intended to be short, witty and anecdotal, based on events which happened to him or which he related to others by email. He states an influence from Martial, the classical Roman poet and epigrammist, who said of his own book of poetry:

“All Rome is mad about my book:
It’s praised, they hum the lines, shops stock it,
It peeps from every hand and pocket.
There’s a man reading it! Just look –
He blushes, turns pale, reels, yawns, curses.
That’s what I’m after. Bravo, verses!”

With his short pieces on art, death and sex, and bitchy observations about people he knew, Momus hoped for the same reaction. This new sound and direction was important enough that Momus even announced a new record label to go with it – also called Analog Baroque. The new album would be the first release, and he talks about the label here. It is an attempt to create a “tribe of like-minded people” and to release albums which shun traditional rock conventions of bass, drums and guitar.

The album’s title became The Little Red Songbook. In 1905 an organisation called the Industrial Workers of the World was formed in Chicago, US. This was conceived as an international labour union related to both anarchist and socialist organisations and philosophies. Organisations with labour unions related to the IWW sometimes brought in the Salvation Army to play and drown out IWW speakers. To counteract this IWW members would also sing hymns and Christian melodies with altered lyrics. The songs they sang and new compositions were collected in a pamphlet which became “The Little Red Songbook“: a publication which is still extant and updated today. The songbook was influential on the American folk movement of the sixties and artists such as Pete Seeger and Woody Guthrie. The original songs include “Solidarity Forever” by Ralph Chaplin and many by prominent activist Joe Hill. His parody of Christian hymn “In the Sweet by-and-by” called “The Preacher and the Slave” gave us the phrase “pie in the sky”:

“You will eat by-and-by
In that glorious land above the sky
Work and pray, live on hay
You’ll get pie in the sky when you die (That’s a lie!”

The Little Red Songbook’s content was rich in atheism, sarcasm and bitter attacks on the views and politics of the middle and upper classes and industrial leaders. One song – “Hallelujah I’m a Bum” –  was a sarcastic riposte to those who thought the homeless were homeless on purpose, probably still relevant today, and covered by the New Christy Minstrels in the 1960s. A direct line of influence can be drawn from the savage witticism of these songs, through the folk movement of the 60s, to the work of Momus, and the lyrical content of his own “Little Red Songbook”.

“Why don’t you work like other folks do?
How the hell can I work when there’s no work to do?
Hallelujah, I’m a bum,
Hallelujah, bum again,
Hallelujah, give us a handout
To revive us again.
Oh, why don’t you save all the money you earn?
If I didn’t eat, I’d have money to burn.
Whenever I get all the money I earn,
The boss will be broke, and to work he must turn.
Oh, I like my boss, he’s a good friend of mine,
That’s why I am starving out on the bread line.
When springtime it comes, oh, won’t we have fun;
We’ll throw off our jobs, and go on the bum.”

In Momus’ album title, there is also an echo of “The Little Red Book“,  or “Quotations from Chairman Mao Tse-tung” which was published from 1964-1976 during the Cultural Revolution in China, and also published in the UK from 1967. Whether Momus saw himself as a cultural dictator is of course debatable, but during the Cultural Revolution not owning or not being able to quote from the book could lead to Chinese citizens being arrested. Mao would probably not agree with Momus’ method of artistic revolution through art, as he believed “A revolution is not a dinner party, or writing an essay, or painting a picture, or doing embroidery… A revolution is an insurrection, an act of violence by which one class overthrows another.”

Also, given the confessional nature of many of the songs, the album title is a slight play on the idea of a “little black book”, in English idiom a private journal full of secrets, or containing the contact details of romantic conquests. While confessional, many of the songs have exaggerated premises, and the outrageous nature of Momus’ private life almost becomes self-parodic.

This is a dangerous route to take. Anyone who has heard punk music of the 70s would attest that the moment it lost its force and became a joke was probably when it started to refer to itself as punk music, when there started to be songs ABOUT punk music. All music movements seem to lose their force when they start to eat their own tail in this way. Rave music was just music to rave to, for instance, as a secret and underground art form and event. Once the songs started to be ABOUT rave music, it meant that the phenomenon had passed into popular culture and therefore no longer had any force or power. It was swallowed up into the general discourse of the day and into popular culture and commerce. As Danny the drug dealer in the 1987 film Withnail and I (Directed by Bruce Robinson and set in 1969) declares of Flower Power and the youth culture of the 1960s: ” They’re selling hippie wigs in Woolworth’s, man. The greatest decade in the history of mankind is over… and as Presuming Ed here has so consistently pointed out, we have failed to paint it black”.

Any art form that becomes self-parodic is probably doomed: so in awareness of this Momus pre-empts any criticism by inviting good-natured mockery, of a type the internet would soon provide in plenty on sites like ilxor.com.

In short, the album includes a Karaoke Parody Competition. Within the CD booklet a statement is included:

“Use the instrumental tracks at the end of the album as karaoke backings, and sing your own parody of a Momus song with similar themes to the one you’ve chosen over the top. You don’t need a recording studio, just put the CD on in the background and tape your own voice over the top. Go OTT lyrically too! (It’s okay, we have a supply of analog baroque Parental Advisory stickers.) Send your Karaoke Parody on a cassette or DAT to (A Post Office box number).”

The statement goes on to say that the funniest, wittiest and most beautiful entries will be included on the next Momus album on Analog Baroque. It also states that the winners will waive all copyright and publishing rights to the songs. “Like Momus, you’re doing this for fun, creativity and glory, not money!” It is an extremely unusual proposition: one can hardly imagine U2 or Coldplay inviting such mockery to themselves. As I have suggested, this is probably pre-emptive, and as we will see from reviews, not without good reason.

26/10/1998

The cover of The Little Red Songbook declares several intentions. The red colour identifies the album title, mimics the actual “Little Red Songbook“, and signifies the various passions and hot bloodedness within. I have the UK edition, which does not contain either the track “Walter Carlos” or any of the three songs which replaced it in the US version, following its removal for reasons we will discuss later.

The cover utilises a font called Countdown – similar to the font used for the classic sci-fi film Rollerball and redolent of the futurism of the 1970s. This states Momus – The Little Red Songbook in allcaps and above an image of a Korg sythesizer, an MS-20 mini possibly. This is over a background of a red drape, curtain or blanket. There is also a faint line drawing of a Baroque composer version of Momus, complete with an eyepatch as he had starting wearing, but for some reason the image is flipped so it is on his left eye.

The same blanket covers the back cover, on which the artist and title are written in a gothic font in lower case, above the track listing in a sans-serif font in white. The back cover also has label info for Cherry Red, the distributor Pinnacle and the ANALOG 001 CD barcode. This is over a box containing reviews from L.A Weekly, The Village Voice, Rolling Stone and the San Francisco Bay Guardian – evidence of how well Girlie Action had promoted Momus during and after his tour, from which the reviews date. At the bottom right is the Analog Baroque logo: an orange rectangle on a darker rectangle with “analog baroque” in the Germanic, gothic font, and a very small image of a player.

The cover behind the disc itself has a baroque/steampunk futuristic looking Momusite composer, holding and playing a synth and with an exotic piece of headwear consisting of an eyepatch, earphone/speakers and a coat hanger arrangement leading up to a green cylinder on top of his head containing a red book suspended in fluid like a head in Futurama. This image would be used on the front cover of US and other releases of the album, with individual cut out letters for the artist and album title, a little like cut out newspaper letters, as in a punk cover. The CD itself has the red drape design, with the analog baroque logo in silver and the gothic lettering used lower case.

The CD booklet has a track listing in black sans-serif on the back, and internally in white sans-serif. All album lyrics are included along with images. “Fig 1. Filtration” shows various influences going through a filter to be changed at the other side i.e. Western Pop / Sine Wave to Japanese Pop and Synthesizer; Analog and ‘Gilt, Iron’ to Digital and ‘Guilt, Irony’. The lyrics are followed by the credits: Sleeve design is Momus, All “squibs” and songs composed and executed by Momus.
(A Squib is a short satirical piece). The album was recorded at the “Meat Market” again, as was Ping Pong. The list of thanks includes Matt Jacobsen, Add N to X (sic: misses the brackets), Gilles girlfriend Florence Manlik, 3D Corporation, Girlie Action, Kahimi, Shazna, Riha Aihara and Eric Swenson (multimedia whizz who would also go on to release an album on Analog Baroque). As discussed, the Karaoke Parody competition is introduced along with a list of available albums and a mail order phone number. The email address is still demon.co.uk/momus.

The booklet also includes an essay about Analog Baroque, which you can read here although I have described the general content at the start of this entry. There is a still taken from 2001: A Space Odyssey of the “room at the end of the ride” which the astronaut Bowman finds himself ensconced in at the end of the film, where he grows old before being reborn as the next stage of human evolution. The room has furnishings from various art movements and different centuries, and is an apt choice for an album which will mix influences from many musical eras, in an attempt to find a rebirth and evolutionary succession for popular electronic music.

Old Friend, New Flame
The concept is crystallised in the first track, a short and vindictive but witty anecdote about a party set to an electronic minstrel’s song. In the song, Momus takes a male friend to a party where his friend’s new, young, female lover is present, and Momus seduces her, destroying his friend. Whether this party actually happened doesn’t matter so much as that Momus – the character at least – is confessing to this type of behaviour.
For me, it could be a counterpart to the song “Our Mutual Friend” by The Divine Comedy, from the Absent Friends album of 2004, which tells a very similar tale but from the “friends” point of view: could it even be the same party or events being discussed? In the later song, the “friend” is discovered actually in bed, not in the kitchen, so it seems unlikely.

The music is inspired by an Open University programme about the publishing house of Christopher Plantin established in Antwerp in the 1560s. A harpsichord sample opens the song, playing chords around the first stanza vocal, which is spoken over it, and briefly describes the situation. Note the rhyme scheme: A,B,C,B. A sampled synth sound joins in, sounding like a medieval woodwind instrument, blaring a fanfare as an instrumental passage before the second stanza, which has a more classical sounding and softer woodwind sound over it. In this second part, Momus declares that his friend’s lover is “probably worth stealing”, giving us his rakish nature in a nutshell, and implying that this is not unusual behaviour for his character.

“I went with a friend of mine
I hadn’t seen in years
To a party
That would end in tears

He’d told me on the phone
His new lover was appealing
Beautiful and young
Probably worth stealing”

The drums kick in now, from the beatbox he recorded. The fanfare sound and beats continue over the next verse, which you will note drops the rhyme scheme. The last line, which we would expect to rhyme with “squeeze”, does not, forcing emphasis onto the word “somebody”, just to highlight that to the character of Momus we are hearing, the identify of the “lover” is irrelevant: it is just “somebody”, or “some body” that he can latch onto. Momus also lets it be known that his friend has “always been alone”: just highlighting what a cad he is to steal her. This use, as well, of “stealing” implies a viewpoint that women, or lovers, are possessions to be guarded and stolen. It is all very unreconstructed.

“I tingled to my bones
Watching my friend’s new squeeze
He’d always been alone
Now he had somebody”

After another instrumental break Momus makes his move, in the kitchen. “Bored by the disco sounds” is as much an expression of intent as anything else, the whole existence of the album and of “Analog Baroque” could be down to being “bored by the disco sounds”. The inclusion of magnetism as a feature of the story throws in a vaguely steam punk element as well. The rhyme scheme returns to normal for this part.

“Stuck by the fridge door
Bored by the disco sounds
I found magnetic letters
Started to push them around”

A fuller sound, more like a reed organ, plays the theme now along with the other instruments. There is an extended instrumental break before the story continues. The party must be rather unthrilling if the activity Momus describes actually “draws” people to him, turning him into one of the magnets he is playing with, and making the people whose lives he is toying with akin to the magnets he is “pushing around”. To emphasise this, the rhyme scheme changes again, to ABAB: and yes, this involves rhyming “me” with “me”, to set up a joke in the following stanza.

“My magnetic game
Seemed to draw people to me
My old friend’s new flame
Came tiptoeing over to me”

Again the theme is played by the instrumentation, more full and forceful in these interstitial spaces than in the stanzas themselves. A lower, rumbling sound indicates the presence of the evil one for the next two lines:

“Satan possessed my soul
As she stood watching me”

Then Momus spells out his intentions with the letters: this means that “me” is again rhymed with “me” but this time to comic effect and in a surprising way.

“I spelled out B L O
W space M E”

Again the breaking of the rhyme scheme in the next stanza means that lover is dissonant with shoulder throwing emphasis on the placing of her head there as the betrayal is complete. Momus seems to laugh a little as he relates the third line, “unfaithful wretch”, as he recalls how much fun that was.

“I saw her young eyes stretch
But my old friend’s new lover
Laid, the unfaithful wretch
Her head upon my shoulder”

The consequence of this is all coldly related, and it is almost as if the destruction of his friend was the point of the scheme all along, the possession of the girl only a bonus: the new flame used to burn the old friend. The act is done for no reason we are given, no enmity was previously evident between the two.

“I saw my friend nearby
Suddenly stone cold sober
No longer my friend
And ten years older”

The song finishes with a little comic flourish from the woodwind samples and harpsichord. This song absolutely exemplifies what Momus is aiming for with the album and with Analog Baroque. A short, squib like, comic piece outlining a sordid tale. He goes on in the next few songs to show the satiric possibilities of the form.

MC Escher
Maurits Cornelis Escher was a Dutch artist, born 1898 and died 1972, famous for lithographs, woodcuts and mezzotints which took their inspiration from mathematical forms and geometry. He had a special interest in “impossible figures”: two-dimensional representations of objects which could not exist in 3-D space, such as his famous never-ending staircases or spatially impossible buildings such as “Belvedere”. His work fascinates us partly because we are more used to the opposite concept: that three-dimensional objects cannot be represented accurately in lower dimensional space.

There is a book called Flatland by Edwin Abbott Abbott published in 1884 which posits the concept of a two-dimensional world, populated only by lines and polygons. When a three-dimensional shape enters the two dimensional world it can only be observed by two-dimensional beings as a cross-section. For instance, a sphere passing through the flat two-dimensional world would appear to its inhabitants as a point, growing to a circle which increases in diameter then decreases again until it is once more a point, then vanishes. A cube would appear suddenly as a square, remain as a square as the cube passes through, then suddenly disappear.
If a four-dimensional “sphere” (which is called a “glome”) were to move through our three-dimensional world, we would presumably see a point, then a small sphere which increases in diameter then decreases to a point and vanishes. If a four-dimensional cube (which is called a “tesseract”) passed through, we would see a cube suddenly appear, stay for some time then suddenly disappear.

If a barrier were between two points on a flat page, a two-dimensional denizen of the page could not move past the barrier, however in three dimensional space we can just hop over it. Equally, whereas we might be blocked by a brick wall, in four dimensional space we could “hop” over such an obstacle. Escher’s drawings attempt to show us representations of such movement in two-dimensional art, and to represent objects which might transcend dimensionality.

For Momus, the chief point of fascination seems to be the never ending staircase that Escher regularly drew, which goes round and round and whether you go up the stairs or down the stairs, you end up at the same place. This is coupled with the obvious word play around MC Escher’s name: MC also means “Master of Ceremonies”. Many rappers use the title “MC” to mean “Master of Ceremonies”, or “Mic Controller” or just to differentiate themselves as front man for the “DJ” in their group. Since their job is to introduce, hype up and deliver combative rap lyrics, MC rappers often – and especially at the time Momus was writing – exaggerate their abilities and their importance. Since every MC claims to be better than all the other MCs, and if we take them all to be telling the truth, then MCs are like the stairs on a MC Escher mezzotint – every stair is the top stair, but every stair is above and below every other stair – in a never-ending ladder of skill at MCing.

The song starts with the sound of finger snaps, a bass line snaking up and down like the stairs, a swing beat and keyboard playing fifth notes over an organ sound. A harpsichord drops in playing a main and repeated riff. Momus comes in singing the chorus with brass backing him and a cheery sound to proceedings, befitting an essentially lighthearted song. More beats kick in half way through the chorus.

“MC Escher
The impossible rapper
Ain’t nobody does it better
Under pressure
MC Escher
He’s so clever
Gives you pleasure
Forever”

For the verse the brass drops out and Momus half-talks, half-raps, explaining the basis of the song:

“The conventions of rap dictate that every MC who takes the mic
Claims to be the best, fills his set with hype
It’s OTT

But if we imagine a world where every MC really is badder and fresher
Than every other, it just gets madder and madder
One of those rooftop salmon ladders
Drawn by…”

Momus accompanies himself on backing vocals with occasional MC-ish noises: it’s a very catchy tune too.

“MC Escher
The impossible rapper
Ain’t nobody does it better
Under pressure
MC Escher
He’s so clever
Gives you pleasure
Forever”

The second verse lyric could be mocking the idea that the MCs, for all their swagger, actually do not progress, as they are already “the best”:

“So watch the water flow round and round
Without the need for pressure
This world of perpetual motion
Is just a beautiful illusion”

MC Escher
The impossible rapper
Ain’t nobody does it better
Under pressure
MC Escher
He’s so clever
Gives you pleasure
Forever”

The harpsichord carries on under the next verse, allowing the sounds to build:

“Karl Marx and Biz Markie would probably agree
Equality has yet to make much of a mark on the world of the MC”

Biz Markie is a rapper famous in the 1980s and 1990s. He was sued by Gilbert O’Sullivan for sampling “Alone Again (Naturally)” for his 1991 track “Alone Again“, leading to a landmark ruling forcing all sample sources to be cleared, and seriously damaging Biz Markie’s career. He released two further albums, one called All Samples Cleared, but did not return to the level of success he had previously enjoyed. That Momus refers obliquely to a career-ruining lawsuit at this point is of course, yet further foreshadowing.

The second line reiterates the theme of the song: all MCs are greater than all other MCs: so there can’t be any equality: except of course, they are all equally greater than each other. The choruses become shorter now toward the end of the song. “Boss” of course is a company which makes musical equipment, the Boss Dr range produced from 1980 had reached the SP202 sampler by 1998. The next verse references Boss and also compares the “MC” giving ladies pleasure to the “rise and fall and rise” of “the house of Escher”, a pun on the title of Edgar Allan Poe’s story “The Fall of the House of Usher”.

“Spin the turntable round and round
He’s got a Boss Dr Sample underground
He’s got a bag full of patterns to give the ladies pleasure
It’s the rise and fall and rise of the house of Escher”

Momus finally compares Escher’s work to the maze like tonality of Erik Satie and the labyrinthine work of Franz Kafka, perhaps conceptual relatives of Escher in different media.

“Ain’t nobody does it better

“Not MC Eric Satie or MC Franz Kafka
Gives you pleasure forever”

The song fades out over the last half minute. It should probably have faded in as well, to emphasise the “never ending staircase” aspect, but that would have been drifting perilously close to Limahl territory again. Momus could also have made use of an auditory illusion called the Shepard effect which mirrors the staircase illusion in sound, using several tones rising at the same time over a phrase but with the highest fading out and the lowest fading in, and the whole phrase being repeated, resulting in a “Shepard Tone” that seems to be ascending forever.

Another star ascending forever is Bob Dylan, the subject of the next tale.

Who is Mr Jones?
“Ballad of a Thin Man” is a song from Bob Dylan’s 1965 album Highway 61 Revisited.
It is cryptic song about a man called Mr. Jones who enters into various rooms and situations, barely grasping what is going on around him. He encounters “freaks” and unusual characters, recognising that something is happening but lacking the vision to explain it to himself.

“You walk into the room with your pencil in your hand
You see somebody naked and you say, “Who is that man?”
You try so hard but you don’t understand
Just what you will say when you get home
Because something is happening here but you don’t know what it is
Do you, Mr. Jones?”

It is generally believed that Mr. Jones represents music critics in general, possibly one in particular. Various people have been identified as Mr. Jones over the years, including a reporter called Jeffrey Jones who interviewed Dylan in 1965, but Dylan has not been drawn on a specific identity. Mr. Jones is probably a composite character, representing music critics and intellectuals of the establishment of the time who Dylan was clearly highly critical of:

“Ah, you’ve been with the professors and they’ve all liked your looks
With great lawyers you have discussed lepers and crooks
You’ve been through all of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s books
You’re very well-read, it’s well-known
But something is happening here and you don’t know what it is
Do you, Mr. Jones?”

A revolution was under way in 1965, in youth culture and across the United States, and many of those establishment figure and writers did not understand it. Dylan in this song is excoriating them for criticising “what they don’t understand”, although in the refrain “something is happening here and you don’t know what it is”, he seems to show some compassion for the bewildered Mr. Jones. After all, even Buffalo Springfield admitted that what was “happening here” was “not exactly clear” in their iconic anti-establishment anthem “For What It’s Worth” in 1967.

The then-journalist Nora Ephron and Susan Edmiston questioned Dylan about Mr. Jones in 1965, and he answered “He’s a real person. You know him, but not by that name… I saw him come into the room one night and he looked like a camel. He proceeded to put his eyes in his pocket. I asked this guy who he was and he said, ‘That’s Mr. Jones.’ Then I asked this cat, ‘Doesn’t he do anything but put his eyes in his pocket?’ And he told me, ‘He puts his nose on the ground.’ It’s all there, it’s a true story.” At a later press conference, asked the same dumb questions about Mr. Jones, he said “He’s a pinboy. He also wears suspenders.” A pinboy simply being a person employed to replace the bowling pins at the bottom of a bowling lane prior to automation.

Momus’ song has a stomping beat running through it, a brass sound playing a bass melody, with percussion on each beat. There are sampled vocals from a soul record below this. The main theme repeats through the verses with a harpsichord playing riffs on the main chords in the background.

“Bob Dylan at the height of his fame
Got asked the same question again and again
In a forest of microphones
‘Tell us, Bob, who really is Mr Jones?'”

This first verse tells us that Bob is surrounded by questioners, given the same question over and over again, by the same sort of people who inspired the character they are asking about. Momus goes on to paraphrase the responses Bob gave to the question over the years, with just enough of an inflection on his voice to bring Dylan’s voice to mind (especially on the phrase “a naked man and a geek”) without attempting an impression:

“Dylan replied: ‘He’s a pinboy, he also wears suspenders
It’s not so hard to picture him
In a room with three walls and a midget, a naked man and a geek
And I am the voice in his dream, speaking in his sleep'”

The song pauses with just the brass sound holding on over a gap, before moving onto the second verse. This repeats the initial stanza, mirroring the way in which Dylan was “asked the same question again and again”.

“Bob Dylan at the height of his fame
Got asked the same question again and again
In a forest of microphones
‘Tell us, Bob, who really is Mr Jones?'”

In an uncharacteristically coy way, Momus now makes it clear that Bob is only “reported” to have said the following:

“Dylan, probably bored to death
Is also reported to have said:
‘I saw him come into the room one night
He looked just like a camel
And proceeded to put his eyes into his pocket'”

Momus is describing these ramblings as Dylan, bored, confusing reporters and amusing himself. The final verse begins with the statement “He’s a real person, you know him” which he reportedly said, then moves onto Momus’ speculative addition:

He’s a real person, you know him
You don’t have to be so imaginative
The answer is blindingly obvious:
Mr Jones is a man who doesn’t know who Mr Jones is”

Since Dylan was almost certainly talking about music critics and academics lacking perspective and perception, many of his answers about who Mr. Jones was are addressed to candidates for the position, therefore Momus suggests that Mr. Jones is indeed a person who does not know who Mr. Jones is. His vocals are double tracked by himself for this refrain which is repeated as the instruments mostly fade out, leaving just Momus and the harpsichord to repeat the line one last time.

This is another paragon of the type of song Momus is aiming for, a short anecdotal squib, with an accompaniment mixing baroque and modern influences, and repetitive in the same way that Dylan’s questioning had become. Having given us a short, amusing story related to a celebrity Momus clearly respected, the next song is a direct attack on someone he clearly did not.

Harry K-Tel
Method Acting is a system of performance derived from the writings of Russian actor and stage director Konstantin Stanislavski, which encourages the performer to fully inhabit the character they are portraying, with complete emotional identification. Notable method actors have included Marlon Brando, Dustin Hoffman, Robert De Niro, Meryl Streep, Harvey Keitel and Daniel Day Lewis. As a performative mask method acting could be seen as a “front”, emotional costuming and make-up disguising a lack of real ability. In an article on imomus.dreamwidth.org Momus stated:

“The idea of charm, charisma and image being a dangerous and superficial distraction from substantive personal qualities like integrity, morality and depth is a familiar binary in western culture.”

Seeing exterior qualities as inferior to internal qualities could also be the reason for some aspects of misogyny and homophobia: “They use their ‘cosmetics’ and ‘wiles’ to charm and beguile us rather than winning us over with good conduct and consistent character”, as Momus presents the view. This could also be the reason, Momus suggests, for distrust of Japanese society, which somewhat reverses the idea and is more trusting of visual language in personal presentation. He describes it as: “A society where you apologize with a deep bow, but never have to prove that you’re ‘really’ sorry ‘deep down’. A society in which morals themselves really are just image, but where image isn’t denigrated but treated with the utmost respect.”

Although the idea of an image based society appeals to Momus, this song’s narrator has the deep mistrust of “image” that we seem to have in the West, although in this case that mistrust may be perfectly reasonable, as it is applied to a method actor who is hitting on his sister.

Incidentally, Momus’ younger sister is Emma Currie, who currently runs the production company Acting Up, which specialises in the delivery of Health and Safety training, has a gastro-pub in Edinburgh called The Little White Pig after her brother’s childhood nickname for her, and is an actress. She has an extensive acting CV including various UK tv shows.

K-Tel is a Canadian company which sells many types of product through infomercials and tv advertising. In the UK they are well known for various series of compilation albums released in the 1970s and 1980s of pop and classical music, including the Hooked on Classics series. Their image and reputation, in the UK at least, is for cheesy music and low quality merchandise.

This squib begins with a harpsichord playing staccato chords introducing Momus’ straightforward delivery of bile towards the title character. The first line is spoken without backing, then the harpsichord returns along with the keyboard playing sampled guitar sounds, which are reminiscent of the guitar you might hear in an old pornographic film, lending a sleazy underbelly to the song, a relatively modern sound to contrast with the baroque harpsichord. The first verse itself is softly spoken. The philosophy above is stated in terms of the method actor using his image, money and influence to win over girls without “denting” his front. His morality or lack of it is an irrelevance because his charisma, fame and wealth conceal his character with a glamour: a magic charm. The narrator has a low opinion of the women involved as well, seeing them as “sitting ducks”, either complicit in the deceit and seduced by the glamour, or too dumb to see through it.

“I hate your famous guts
I know girls are sitting ducks
I know you’ve got the bucks
But what gets me is you schmucks
Think you can hit on any girl in the world
Without denting your fronts”

Although only two minutes long, the song has several sections. After the first verse and with a splash the music slows down, Momus accompanying himself with low “aah” sounds and a harpsichord trill, and the beats drop out. On the phrase “gold-plated credit card charisma” a keyboard plays a fanfare, the triumphant display of the method actor, and there are further cymbal splashes to comically emphasise some of the words. Again the words are about image replacing genuine moral values, with charisma and money covering any emotional or physical damage done.

“As if morals themselves are simply image
Like you’ve got this gold-plated credit card charisma
To cover all the damage”

The song stops dead for a moment after this, before another section comes in which explains in more detail the reason for the narrator’s disdain for Harry. This section in addition to the harpsichord and beats has a synthesiser playing high, long notes in the background. The tones and intervals are reminiscent to me of the love theme from a Bond film, perhaps On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. This prettiness is to underlie and contrast with the slightly sleazy lyric. The narrator’s sister, perhaps an aspiring actress, met the method actor who having seduced her requested certain favours:

“Harry K-Tel the method actor once asked my sister to tweak
His tits while he jiggled and jangled his allegedly undersized cock

The backing vocal comes back in now, further harmonising to offset the content. The narrator’s sister may or may not have done what he asked, but at any rate followed up the event:

“I don’t think she complied (though maybe she lied)
But for the next three weeks
They had phone sex every morning between Scotland and New York”.

The song returns to the opening riff on the harpsichord as he declares again:

“I hate your famous guts”

The song almost pauses again with the keyboard left as the only instrument for a moment, before repeating the musical section above again in which the narrator imagines the scene on the far end of the phone line. It is beyond even Momus to describe the scene on his sister’s end. Presumably it was a Direct Line.

“How he jiggled his cock and tweaked his own nipples
While holding the telephone
Beggars the imagination, truly”

They did have such things as speaker phones at the time, you know. The keyboard comes in playing that little fanfare again, this time somewhat sarcastic as it describes not any kind of charm or success, but rather is accompaniment to a withering critique of Harry’s output:

“But would be a lot more interesting to watch
Than one of Harry’s movies”

The song ends abruptly with a final cymbal splash.

This is indeed a camp and vitriolic song, with a supposed disgust for the “front” shown by the method actor being exaggerated for comic effect. When asked in a comment on the DreamWidth article if the events in the song were in fact true, Momus said:
“Needless to say, a gentleman never reveals what his sister really did may or may not have done. But it’s worth pointing out that the disgust in that song is camped up for comic effect. From my current stance, I have nothing against consensual phone sex, or even morals themselves being ‘merely image’.”

So there you go. There’s enough distance and enough plausible deniability here to provide insurance against any danger of being sued for defamation. There is also the possibility of a “truth” defence, or indeed “honest opinion”, thanks to the inclusion of the phrase “I don’t think” and the word “maybe”.

Lucretia Borgia
Lucretia was the daughter of Pope Alexander VI, the sister of Cesare Borgia, she was the Governor of Spoleto and she was an alleged femme fatale of late fifteenth and early sixteenth century Italy who may have murdered various people. She seems to have been used primarily as a bargaining chip by her notorious family, who married her to various noblemen: the first, when his usefulness was over, would have been murdered by her family, except she warned him to flee. He then accused her of incest, and in the end the marriage was annulled. Her second marriage ended with the murder of her husband, possibly by her brother, and her third marriage ended when she died after childbirth. She had many affairs and was considered a beautiful woman. Lord Byron acquired a lock of her hair and considered her love letters to be “the prettiest love letters in the world”. She was clearly a dangerous woman to know or be with, and the Borgias were scandalous, rumoured to hold orgiastic parties and to murder their rivals. Lucretia was supposed to be a poisoner, dispensing death into her guests’ drinks from a hollow ring. Annoying her would probably not be a good idea.

As such, the song begins with a playful tinkling tune, before the GameBoy bass plays in the waltz time and the organ plays staccato chords, very much in a music hall style. Momus voice is light and airy, playing the part of Lucretia’s lover, or protégé, or possibly her third husband Alfonso I d’Este, who has been found having an affair with her best friend. Clearly the light hearted nature of his talk conceals terror as the meeting they are having with Lucretia may be their last.

“I’m sorry I fucked your best friend, Lucretia Borgia
Though we’re frankly surprised you’re appalled
We thought you’d be ecstatic
To see us so happy
Being your two closest friends and all”

A squelchy synth sound plays a comic riff between the verses. Concern shows about that hollow, poison filled ring. The Palazzo Pitti, or Pitti Palace, is a large Renaissance palace in Florence on the south side of the River Arno.

“We are not really that thirsty, Lucretia Borgia
We will not take two goblets of wine
We’d love to sip your chalice
But we’re due at the Pitti Palace
Maybe some other time”

The status of the narrator as friend or protégé seems confirmed by the next verse. A sinister little tune is played on the keyboard after the words “disappointed in me”, which I like to think as representing the fury behind Lucretia’s fixed smile at this point.

“I’m grateful for everything you did, Lucretia Borgia
And I hope you’re not disappointed in me
Your legendary parties for wealthy old hearties
Were the talk of all Tuscany”

The comic nature of the lyrics peaks in the next few lines, as Lucretia’s now blatant attempt to politely kill her guests must be directly denied by the narrator. “As henchmen go he’s all right” is very funny, reminiscent of the sort of humour you get in Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery (released 1997) which lampshades the tropes and cliches found in movies involving super villains.

“No I shall not take a walk with your friend Luigi
Although as henchmen go he’s all right
I won’t take that walk, and I don’t want to talk
Maybe some other night”

The comic keyboard riff plays again and the song pauses for a moment, before launching into the next verse, where the narrator pleads his case. If the Borgia’s motto was not officially “Might Makes Right”, it was certainly a philosophy that Pope Alexander VI and Cesare Borgia seemed to live by, practically inventing much of the mechanism of fear and back-stabbing intrigue that we see in Les Liaisons Dangereuses or the more realistically political scenes in Game of Thrones: Cesare’s adviser was Machiavelli.

“I don’t know why it didn’t work for us, Lucretia Borgia
It wasn’t your motto ‘Might makes right’
I didn’t mind your snobbery or your two charming hobbies
Vindictive murder and spite”

It is worth pointing out that Lucretia, who died at 39, seems to have been little more than a political pawn and baby-making machine for her family. Her reputation for incest, murder and spite may well be an invention of a society which despised the Borgias once it was fundamentally safe to do so. But that would be a much less interesting story for her. Things now get desperate for the narrator, as Lucretia “shows him the door” literally, which he knows leads to a death or torture chamber of some form.

“Don’t show me the door, Lucretia Borgia
It leads to the Arno, I know
It opens on a stair which leads to a tower
Where no-one must go”

There is an instrumental break now, with a humorous “wah wah” sound and buzzing leading to the narrator hurriedly and in a higher and higher pitch recounting her more lurid deeds:

“Your first marriage was anulled
Your second husband got killed
You slept with your father
And sucked your brother’s dick”

Many of the instrumental sounds drop out as the incest line is spoken, and even as he tries to reason with Lucretia, warbles with desperation as death comes for him at the end:

“But, hey, everybody needs to get a kick out of life
Lucretia what are you doing with that knife?”

The final line ends with a comic trill on the keyboard, and the tune kicks back in for a comic restatement before it ends, probably badly for her dinner guests. An amusing comic song, finding time to flirt with speculations on the nature of power, is it political, is it sexual, or does any of that matter if someone has a knife at your throat? Should we believe all we read about someone like Lucretia, or when it is laid out as a comic situation, can we see how ridiculous the myth is, how over time the truth has been layered in a silt of speculation?

How to Spot an Invert
It was 2003 before Section 28 of the Local Government Act 1988 was repealed in the entirety of the United Kingdom. This was legislation which stated a local authority “shall not intentionally promote homosexuality or publish material with the intention of promoting homosexuality” or “promote the teaching in any maintained school of the acceptability of homosexuality as a pretended family relationship”. This law gave some idea of how homosexuality was viewed in the UK by some areas of society, even into the 1990s, as debauched, unnatural, and a danger to children, especially following the HIV epidemic of the period. There remained in 1998 stereotypical, ridiculous, out-of-date images and myths about gay men, and this song plays with those images, that fear and the nonsense spoken.

However, Momus as an individual described himself as “sexually fairly heterosexual, but culturally and emotionally quite homosexual”. Since homosexuality as a culture necessarily identifies itself by what its members do in private, he found their culture a rather refreshing change to heterosexual culture which is more repressed about sexuality and does not discuss private matters in public. On “Song in Contravention” he described gay love as “the strongest love of all”, because of its need to break legal and social barriers and the abuse heaped on it over the centuries, but I feel it is also because this love is independent of procreative necessity, based purely on actual love, and cannot be a signifier of any societal norm or power structure. Heterosexual love is a tool of society to control families, a tool of religions to breed more believers, a symbol of Conservativism, of the state and of the self imposed prison of society.

There is a clichéd storyline you see often in television adverts, which will show a life story: a man gets insurance for his car, in which he meets his girlfriend, you see them buy a home, you see her now pregnant, then with a child, which grows older and then requires its own car and insurance: a circle of life story often used to indicate the permanent necessity of brand loyalty, of commerce and capitalism: a depressing indication that we are trapped on a wheel, ground into society: a literal statement that our purpose is purely to consume and procreate. Of course, these adverts show only heterosexual couples, because they are the grist to that mill, and the fact that gay couples can adopt does not fit the template the advertiser desires: there remains an ingrained bias towards heteronormality. For all these reasons, Momus identifies a move towards a queer outlook as an improvement, a move towards what he calls “homosociality”.

The song opens with a little flourish on the harpsichord, and Momus singing along: “invert” is a somewhat unflattering term sometimes used to describe homosexuals, insulting as it suggests their life and behaviour is “upside down” compared to others.

“How to spot an invert
Amongst the vertebrates:”

A beat comes in and is accompanied by the harpsichord, playing quite choppy chords on the left hand, and a very classical melody on the right. Momus lists stereotypical ways of identifying gay men (many of which may be quite true, of course). Helmut Lang is an Austrian fashion designer.

“Good grooming
A tidy bedroom
Never married
And working in the arts
A bitchy sense of humour
Inordinately colourful scarves
Loose gestures
A wardrobe full of Helmut Lang
A dangling limp wrist
A talent for interior design”

The following section is slower and outlines further monstrous behaviour. The second line is reminiscent to me of the character of Uncle Monty in Withnail and I, and his sensitive crimes in a punt with a chap called Norman in his youth. The Greeks were believed to have a very libertarian attitude to homosexuality, and to even see it as a superior form of love. How true this is is subject to debate, it seems the idea stems from the writing of Plato and others, and stories of the Sacred Band of Thebes, an army of 150 male couples, which became the core of the Theban army in the 4th Century B.C., an “Army of Lovers” being bonded by love as well as honour.

“He has a taste for Latin poetry of the Silver Age
Indulges privately on the heath with unknown youths
In Spartan sports
And ‘the unspeakable vice of the Greeks'”

The next section is quicker, changes key up from the first verse and has a rising melodic line. It halts on the word “interesting”, with chords emphasising how important that qualification is for Momus.

“Likes show tunes
Counts hairdressers amongst his closest friends
Is umbilically attached to his mother
He is careful to conceal at all times his real age
Is always florid, flamboyant, pale and interesting”

The choppy chords continue through the next section, as Momus comes to his main point: the male sex is due a number of improvements, and “inversion” may well be one of them, whether that is a sexual change, a social change or just an adaptation of his outlook.

“Too good to be true
But this could be you
The invert, our hero, is the male sex, Release 2.0″

And finally offers a solution: he pauses before the final words. This is to stress the two things he is implying: firstly, that you might be gay outside of your own self-knowledge – not necessarily in the sexual sense, but in some other sense of following a new, queer way of thinking; secondly that you might be lucky enough to upgrade to being gay, it may not be possible for everyone, some will be left behind.

“Upgrade today!
You too may be gay”

This brief description of the improvement that queerness could bring to masculinity may suffer from actually being too brief, there’s a lot to unpack when discussing an entire sexuality, more than can be addressed in two minutes. It does sound convincing though, having been a heterosexual male for many years, it is impossible not to feel that some kind of improvement is necessary.

Everyone I Have Ever Slept With
Tracey Emin, born in 1963, is a British artist, one of the loosely titled “Young British Artists” of the 1980s and 90s. She was contemporaneous with Damien Hirst and a friend of Georgina Starr, whom Momus had worked with. Her work is in many media; painting, photography, sculture and appliqué. In 1997 her work “Everyone I Have Ever Slept With 1963 – 1995“, purchased by Charles Saatchi, was part of the exhibition Sensation held at the Royal Academy in London, along with Marcus Harvey’s infamous portrait of child murderer Myra Hindley.

The work, also known as “The Tent” consisted of a tent appliquéd inside with the names of 102 people whom Emin had slept with during her life to that date. “Slept With” does not necessarily have a sexual context: the names included her family members and platonic friends, as well as two unnamed foetuses (Emin had two abortions). The names included her boyfriend (artist and musician Billy Childish), and of couse herself, always herself.

The tent was destroyed in 2004 in a fire at East London’s Momart warehouse, along with works by Damien Hirst, the Chapmans and Martin Moloney. The fire revealed a huge rift between those who create and appreciate modern art and those who do not. The tabloid newspapers spoke in derisory terms about the work which had been lost, suggesting that they could recreate the tent quite easily if needed, and that what had gone up in smoke was just rubbish. Emin spoke out against this attitude on the BBC’s breakfast show, saying that the negative reaction came from those who “don’t like contemporary art or aren’t educated about it..you don’t laugh at people’s loss on that kind of level and it’s absolutely lucky that no-one was hurt”.

There is indeed a massive gap between the art world and the general public, and there seems to be very little effort to address it. The “man in the street” does not understand the work, and certainly cannot understand why the work is considered so valuable, or why this culture should receive public funding. I am not aware of any successful attempts whatsoever to explain modern art to the general public. Art education is risible. Brian Eno, speaking at the Turner Prize in 1995, described the “vaporous and self-satisfied” atmosphere around the art world and discussion of the value of art. He asked why in the art world there is no “attempt to articulate any kind of usable paradigm for what it is doing”. While he accepts that artists should not have to explain their art, he wondered why there is no attempt to explain the purpose, aims and outcomes of what art does for the public, when science has largely achieved that. In a further piece, included in his diaries, he has the idea that if scientists were to explain what they were doing to alien observers, while mixing liquids in tubes, and observing the effects of actions, they would say they were trying to understand the world through observation and through reactions to their actions. If artists were to explain to aliens what they were doing, would it be very different?

Momus was an admirer of Emin’s work along with Starr’s, saying “These women are almost Outsider artists, people who create because a life without imagination simply isn’t worth living”. He also describes how she was asked by David Bowie to interview him for Raygun magazine. So at the time of this song Momus was part of the clique that she inhabited. For instance, he worked on Iain Forsyth and Jane Pollard’s publication Words & Pictures – Ultra-Paranoid (Extra-Spatial) Portable Art! – an art magazine/box of artifacts/event which ran for ten issues between 1994 and 1997, and both he and Emin contributed to the final exhibition.

By 2007 and the Venice Biennale however, he had less interest in her work, saying “Tracey has always been super-sincere, but now she seems to be getting respectable, serious and a little dull with it.”, and in 2012 was bored with the 90s generally, considering it to be in the “anxious interval”: events long enough ago to be embarrassing and uncool, but not long enough ago to become retro or nostalgia: saying “Some of my website writing from that era really disgusts me now. It’s like “dahlings, I went to a super art party, Tracey Emin was there, it was so glamourous”. (from an interview with therumpus.net)

The song begins with a martial drum beat and segues into a music hall beat and style. The harpsichord is as before the main instrument, tinkling behind Momus’ declarative lyrics and delivery. The song is in the style of an acceptance speech, he is listing all those who have contributed by sleeping with him. The song is delivered in a cheerful voice, with some cynicism behind it. Like a real acceptance speech, it lists those who have “helped with my career”, and cannot resist a sexual innuendo or two, as in “rising British stars”.

“I’d like to thank everyone
I have ever slept with
This award I’ve won
Is really yours
You helped with my career
Eight or nine a year
To me you’re the real rising British stars

I’d like to thank my seducers
And also my seduced
My producers
And the whole supporting cast
My principal photographer
That unprincipled pornographer
Without whom the whole thing would be lost”

The description of his sexual scene-stealing continues, with reference to “babies unborn” which refers here to the unused sperm he has onanistically destroyed, but could also be seen to refer to the unnamed foetuses in Emin’s actual work. Cecil B De Mille was a Hollywood director of the early 20th Century responsible for many epic films, often biblical stories.

“I’d like to thank everyone
I have ever slept with
It really was Cecil B De Mille
The billions of sperm
The babies unborn
You applied so much spermicide to kill”

Anyone familiar with Emin’s actual work would know what might be coming: an actual list of those that he has slept with:

“I’d like to thank everyone
I have ever slept with
Some of you are squirming out there
Hoping and praying
I won’t reveal your names
Don’t worry, we all know who you are”

A brass instrument sound joins in as he lists the following names, probably mostly fake or altered. For instance Nicki Kefalas could be Natasha Kefalonis? Sallie Popplewell is Sallie Fellowes? Not for us to say. “Slept with” of course, does not necessarily mean “had sex with”.

“So thank you Sallie Popplewell
And Rosemary Barber
Klee Hitchens
And Annalise Sinclair
Natasha Kefalonis
Angelika Adonis
Tracey Emin
And 37 more”

The next verse has a lovely little lyrical pun: “from the bottom of my heart, and the heart of my bottom”, which sounds like he must be insulting the people he is talking about, but is probably just a pun he could not resist. The last two lines make us think about what it is to use someone’s name or likeness in our own art: is it morally appropriate, or is it “rotten” to make other people the raw material for art? There is a consent issue for everyone who was named in Emin’s tent, but their names are taken from her mind, so is that consent really necessary? What is the “raw material” of the art: her mind, or the actions of those 102 individuals? Who owns it?

“I’d like to thank everyone
I have ever slept with
Thank you from the bottom of my heart
And from the heart of my bottom
I know it must be rotten
To provide the raw material for art”

There is an instrumental break, played on what sounds like a kazoo, before the next section: which describes a “tent in my brain”:

“I’d like to thank everyone
I have ever slept with
The casting directors and the fans
There’s a tent in my brain
Where I’ve embroidered all your names
I love you
And ‘Je ne regrette rien'”

The song ends abruptly after a final list, playfully including his mother and God with those he has slept alongside or inside:

“I’d like to thank everyone
I have ever slept with
Like an elephant, I never forgot
My make-up artist Pierre
My landscape gardener
My manager, my mother, and God”

The strength of this song is in the number of ways one could interpret it: it could be an endorsement of Emin’s work. It could be a criticism of her work, especially around the nature of consent in art. It could be a cynical look at the nepotistic nature of award ceremonies. It could be a cynical look at the way some people sleep their way to the top, or have to sleep their way to the top. At any rate, Momus certainly has an ambiguous relationship to celebrity, and fame: equally fascinated and critical.

Born to be Adored
“She was born to be the adored of poets, since poets require safety; someone who sits sewing, who says, “I hate, I love,” who is neither comfortable nor prosperous, but has some quality in accordance with the high but unemphatic beauty of pure style which those who create poetry so particularly admire.”: from Virginia Woolf’s The Waves, spoken of a beautiful young woman named Susan.

If Little Red Songbook has a fault, it is the danger that all these harpsichord led songs may blend into each other, providing little sonic variety. For this reason, perhaps, there are a few songs that break the stylistic mould. “Born to be Adored” has Momus extolling his own virtues, playing on the public image his albums provide of a louche womaniser, constantly able to seduce and satisfy the ladies. Like Susan, Momus is the darling of those who understand his inverted virtues.

The song opens with gentle electric piano, sampled, playing a lilting melody with vocal samples from old soul records playing along and through the song. Once the beat starts Momus half raps the lyrics, mimicking the boastful style of MCs, his vocal double tracked so he accompanies himself with spoken renditions of some of the lyrics. A fleshpot is any place of debauched living or hedonism: the “fleshpots of Araby” is a way of referring to those such locations in the Arab world, especially Egypt. Edward Gibbon was a member of Parliament and writer of the 18th Century most famous for his history of the Roman Empire, The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire – it is not actually called the “rise and fall of”, but “rise and fall” is used for its lascivious interpretations.

“I was created in the fleshpots of Araby
My mother was the Emperor’s secretary
My father, a notorious libertine
Escaped from Sodom and Gomorrah, the cities of the plain
You can read my family’s rise and fall in Gibbon
I was born to be adored by women”

A piano starts playing a one line melody, pretty, and a counterpoint to the more sleazy sounds from the soul samples. A violin sound also plays on the synth, underlying and working with the piano to create a sense of beauty, to make the sound more seductive. Since the first verse used the biblical reference to Sodom and Gomorrah, the biblical language is continued in describing the narrator’s family tree and the beautiful tribes he has implicitly fathered.

“Well Seth begat Clem and then Clem begat Ruth
And then Ruth begat me and all hell broke loose
The tribes all began to multiply and boom
And, looking at their kids, no-one knew from whom
The beautiful things kept springing
I was born to be adored by women”

The piano continues into the next verse, making a playful run down the scale as the narrator describes his mouth as an ashtray, beauty as so often accompanying unpleasant imagery. Interesting that he mentions a tally of 103, when compared to the 102 sleeping partners of Tracey Emin. The verse highlights his ability to seduce anyone he desires, including “mothers”, who he has singled out as a target on “His Majesty the Baby” previously. His love of life extends to every living creature: spiders, snakes, and even children on this occasion.

“My hair is long, distinguished, prematurely grey
I’ve got a mouth like Ernest Hemingway’s ashtray
I’ve fathered 103 illegitimate kids
I’ve never met a mother I couldn’t bed
I love children, spiders, snakes, and anything living
I was born to be adored by women”

The violin sound returns for the next stanza, as he explains his functionality as compared to “husbands”, explicitly stating that “husbands” are there for erecting garden furniture and providing stability, whereas  he is there to provide more exciting christmas presents, alluding to the festive period in his talk of milk chocolate, marzipan and Santa.

“Some guys can erect garden furniture
That must be what God invented husbands for
But if you need a milk chocolate in the shape of a man
If you need a chunk of marzipan the size of Taiwan
Look up the chimney, see what Santa’s bringing
I was born to be adored by women”

In the next verse the string sounds is also used to stab staccato chords in a pleasant accompaniment, again emphasising the seductive and “soft” nature of the song’s delivery. There is some of the word play that Momus uses so often “I’m worth the wait, the weight in gold”.

“Well I know I’m always late since my watch got sold
But I’m worth the wait, the weight in gold
After God made me, they broke the mold
And I’ve broken all the records with that old song
Bold girls are so fond of singing
I was born to be adored by women”

There is an instrumental break, with Momus vocalising over the samples and string sounds, along with some harpsichord sounds in the background. The beats drop out for the next verse, coming back in with the strings half way through. Momus compares himself to a cuckoo, who leaves his own offspring in someone else’s nest, and the skunk for some reason. “Chuck” the football king is a very American image: Momus would certainly ally himself against the jocks of US colleges and happily steal the beauty queens from them.

“Well my favourite bird is the cuckoo, punk
My favourite beast the funky skunk
My favourite colour is the emerald green
Chuck the football king goes when his beauty queen
Comes to me when she’s chucked him in
I was born to be adored by women”

Another instrumental section follows, with the harpsichord now more prominent and playing trills, again this is a comparison of the measured nature of the song and its instrumental component against the slow, seductive nature of the lyric and its deliverer. The last verse again plays with the images of him as seductive but not in any way perfect – driving a “dead beat Landrover” and quite honest about his infidelity – “there’s always one more river to go swim in”.

“What I don’t know about love technique
You could scribble in biro on the balls of your feet
I never wear underwear, I drive a dead beat Landrover
In my bare feet stark naked, there’s always one more river to go swim in
I was born to be adored by women”

The song ends with an electric piano chord, on a loop, fading out. This is a welcome change from the short, harpsichord led squibs we have had so far, a sample driven pastiche of macho, posturing MCs bragging about their conquests. “Born to be Adored by women” the narrator may be, but there is an underlying sense of desperation, a sense that perhaps that is all the narrator has.

Coming in a Girl’s Mouth
What the work of Momus demonstrates above all is this: there is no topic which is beneath, or above, the remit of the lyricist or artist to examine. The tension which is wrought by the clash of styles on this album can be best summed up in this song, which uses a baroque style and instrumentation to deliver a philosophical musing on that which is normally placed beneath consideration and entirely at odds with the musical genre. Baroque music would normally only be encountered by the public in historical documentaries or ghettoised on BBC Radio 3, strait-laced, boring, un-sullied by descriptions of sexual acts. The critic might consider Momus is merely aiming to shock with an opening line such as “What is the cultural meaning of coming in a girl’s mouth?”, suggesting they missed his opening essay quoting Martial:
“There’s a man reading it! Just look –
He blushes, turns pale, reels, yawns, curses.
That’s what I’m after. Bravo, verses!”

Sexual acts carry cultural weight, issues of dominance, consent and gender equality are inextricably tied into any relationship. Momus considers here what it is that a man is doing when he feels the desire to come in a girl’s mouth. Is it a different meaning and emphasis from coming in any other part of her? Is there a symbolism to it? Momus brings a religious solution to the question, comparing it to an act of baptism, a blessing from above, rather than a direct imposition of his own power.

The song opens with a comic riff on the harpsichord, a music hall opening. The first stanza has Momus considering the question he is asking with harpsichord accompaniment and a cowbell. He considers some of the reasons he might want to do this, to in some way “feed”, or defile the person? To test their loyalty or to use them for comic effect?

“What is the cultural meaning of coming in a girl’s mouth?
Do I wish to feed her or fill her mouth with filth?
Is it just to test whether she accepts my messiest mess
Or simply paint a funny milk moustache across her face?”

The second section speeds up the beat and the harpsichord accompaniment, adding a bell like synth sound and chords backing the “messianic” proclamations being made.
He suggests that the act is some kind of religious blessing, an initiation into his religion, but significantly suggests “someone greater than me shall come”: perhaps a man who brings more satisfying rituals for the girl.

“Or is there in this thrilling ritual something messianic
Some sort of baptism by sperm?
Like my cock is John the Baptist saying
‘One day someone greater than me shall come'”

The backing instruments drop out as he reaches the last line, comparing his sperm to a race being led to freedom (or more likely a tissue):
“Or some Moses who leads an entire nation across her tongue
To liberation”

The final lines are spoken with the harpsichord accompaniment, slow again, with a whirring noise in the background like the wind of liberation:

“That must be it… why else fill a girl’s mouth saltily full
With a fluid the consistency of honey, tapioca, and motor oil?”

The final lines imply considerable thought has gone into what liquids sperm most resembles.
Critics of Momus often point to this song as the epitome of what they do not like about his work, the suggestion that he writes “merely” to shock or to indulge schoolboy humour about sexual matters. As I pointed out above however, the purpose of songs like this is entirely to provoke, and to use an extreme example to point out that symbolism, semiotics and post-modernism are present in any topic you care to imagine. It is a strength of humanity that we can see deeper meanings in the most mundane activities. That is the basis of all creativity and art, and if we cannot direct those devices to our lower desires as well as our highest, we fail to map all that is human.

What Are You Wearing?
Another attempt to expand the sonic palette of the album comes with this version of a song written for Kahimi Karie and included on her album K.K.K.K.K., as was the song “The Symphonies of Beethoven” which appears later on this album. This version is delivered by Momus, half sung and half whispered, spoken closely into the microphone, a seductive and teasing monologue from the song’s narrator. They are flirtatious and seductive but the narrator is clearly in charge of their own destiny. This is another song loosely about empowerment: power over those who wish to find you attractive and power over your own insecurities and pain.It opens with a syncopated beat, ending with Momus whispering the first line as a question, as if asked to the narrator of the song. The answer comes with a funky slap guitar riff playing over it and a bell sound accompanying the second part of the verse.

“(What are you wearing?)
A little sweater, it’s irridescent
It’s got a geometric grid of little squares
My legs are bare”

The singer slows here and chords emphasise the invasive nature of the next part of the answer: 

“I will describe my underwear
It’s warm against my hair”

A harpsichord sound enters here playing arpeggios under the main melody, driving it forward: the narrator makes it clear that the questioner is not going to get anywhere near their underwear.

“Soft against my skin
But you can’t come in
Until the pink and yellow duck
That is printed on the front
Begins to smile”

The end of each major section is marked by a double timpani strike, the power behind the words being spoken. The brass riff played here is familiar in rock music, most recently used by Edwyn Collins on his single ‘The Magic Piper’. The second verse continues in the same way: the narrator describes the fashionable clothing and scent they are wearing, and the cute imagery on their clothes:

“(What are you wearing?)
I’ve got a hat on
My shirt is satin
It’s got a picture of a pony in a field
My hair is green today
I’m wearing see through Pierre Cardin
My scent is Paco by Rabanne”

The narrator is a girl carrying a water pistol, there is sexual imagery and innuendo in her description to the man questioning her “Your water pistol spilled”: someone aware of her attractiveness and uninterested in the consequences, even if “someone could get killed”:

“My hair is in a bun
My holster holds a gun
I filled it from a tap
My tummy sprang a drip
Your water pistol spilled
Be very careful, someone could get wet
Or someone could get killed”

The chorus, optimistic sounding, joyful even, as the narrator unveils their true strength, which is their control of their emotions, even the negative ones: she is “wearing (her) wound with pride”:

“And I’m wearing my heart on my sleeve
I am wearing my wound with pride”

The nakedness of their display of emotion is exemplified here, they are are “wearing a smile”, which suggests an outward masking of the more negative emotions, in order to display themselves on the catwalk, to follow fashion. They are on the catwalk, or in the strip club, similar spaces where for different but similar reasons bodies are displayed. The chorus has a great hook in the stop start nature of the lyrics.

“I am wearing a smile and nothing at all
Up on the catwalk
Down in the strip club
Up on the catwalk
Down in the strip club”

The difference between the two settings is shown by the comic sound effects Momus supplies for each locale: the Catwalk meows, the strip club growls.

“Catwalk (meow!)
Strip club (grrr!)”

Drums emphasise the movement down the catwalk and the narrator moves into a rap, again talking about their outward displays of fashion being a way of taking control over their body and “wearing” their emotional pain, almost as a fashion statement, and stating some of their influences in the process.Jeremy Scott is an American fashion designer, and creative lead at Moschino.Serge Comte is an artist who does use post-it notes for his art, creating a kind of moveable wallpaper.Is Anagram Sam a reference to the anagram solving game from the Commodore 64?Suicide is an American music duo of Alan Vega and Martin Rev, who played punk and synth music, with their most famous song perhaps being “Ghost Rider”.

“(What are you wearing?)
I bought a pair of shoes by Jeremy Scott
I threw away the wrapper and I threw away the box
I went to an opening in my new clothes
Serge Comte Post-It Notes
I used to be a hologram, Anagram Sam
I used to be a big Suicide fan
I used to have a wiggle, now I walk like a man
And where it’s at is where I am”

The song returns to the verse format and continues: the narrator is making clothes from curtains, again she describes her clothes in detail, but in reality she wants to take her clothes off and “leave it in a heap right here in the street”, but cannot because of her observer. In these descriptions of clothes made from post-it notes or from curtains, a casual listen could suggest that Momus is making fun of fashion or ridiculing its more bizarre forms, but in fact he is celebrating that outrageous nature, and the freedom it brings. He is championing the creativity of the narrator in using her clothes, or lack of clothes, to “wear her wounds”, to be emotionally naked through her clothing, in fact, he is trying to explain why some fashion is so outlandish, making the case for it as art.

“(What are you wearing?)
I made this skirt from
A groovy curtain
Somebody ripped out of a pretty bungalow
And in my knickers
There is a flower my mother sewed
My shirt is shiny like a toad
I’m wearing Heidi braids
And aviator shades
I favour flatter shoes
My sailor suit is blue
And if it weren’t for you
I’d take it off and leave it in a heap
Right here in the street”

After another chorus, the narrator raps again:
Hologram Sam is a song by Martin Luther Lennon from 1996, although he may not be referring to this. Of course, “Telegram Sam” is a song by glam rock icon Marc Bolan with T-Rex. The “walrus” is of course from “I am the Walrus” by the Beatles, more specifically by John Lennon. The narrator may mean that they are no longer an image someone has created, a thing to hang clothes on, but are themselves now. They are not the “walrus” anymore, they are just “John”. They also refer to their past promiscuity, and in the end of the rap hint at androgyny and pansexuality.

“I used be a telegram, Hologram Sam
I used to be the walrus, now I’m John
I used to be a wham bam thank you ma’am
I used to be the kitten of all Japan”
“I come from everywhere I have ever been
Every boy is a king and every girl is a queen
Every girl is a king and every boy is a queen
And where it’s at is where I am”

The song breaks down here to its rhythm only, as the narrator says “Call Me” to the observer, different beats kick in, building up to a climax and ending abruptly with the timpani sound.
A hugely popular song with Momus’ fans, thanks to the empowerment it seems to champion: the song’s narrator has broken away from a life as a clothes horse, as a “kitten” to be toyed with, to wear instead their emotional wounds as armour, and to use fashion as a statement of intent. Still, they finally give the person asking them what they are wearing their consent to call them, suggesting that they are still craving attention of some form.

The New Decameron
The Decameron (also known as “The Human Comedy”) is a set of novellas written by Giovanni Boccaccio, an Italian author of the 14th Century. It concerns a group of seven young women and three young men who are self-isolating in a villa in Florence at the time of the Black Death. To pass the time they tell stories, ranging from the erotic to the tragic and the comic. The collection of tales had an obvious influence on Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales and is a classic of the Italian language. The stories included the kind of savage wit and cynicism which Momus evidences on this album.
During the 1980s the queer community of the world were at risk from another plague: HIV and AIDS. The government of the UK published leaflets and ran advertising campaigns aimed at the three main at-risk groups: gay men, injecting drug-users and what they termed “fast-track” heterosexuals (principally prostitutes and their clients). The campaigns aimed to encourage the use of condoms and discourage the sharing of needles. For some, AIDS was “the gay plague” and some extreme viewpoints identified the disease as God’s judgement on the gay. The plague’s impact on the gay community was reflected in the work of its literary members.
During the 1980s Momus was a peripheral member of that community, especially a group of writers who called themselves “The Quick End”. Inspired by the writer and feminist Kathy Acker, who lived in London during this time, they included Michael Bracewell, Mark Edwards and Don Watson. These writers often met at Leighton House in Holland Park, London, the home of painter Frederic Leighton in the 19th century. An ornate and fantastic appearing house, with an Orientalist interior, inspired by Islam, featuring a Qa’a, a reception room common in affluent Islamic houses of the medieval period. Leighton House was used in filming the video for “Golden Brown” by the Stranglers, owing to its eastern appearance. Momus saw the use of this building as akin to the self-isolation of the Decameron, and performed today “The New Decameron” gains an added dimension thanks to Covid-19.
Another squib in the poisonous style of Alexander Pope, “The New Decameron” humorously describes the group and their battle against the plague. The instrumentation is again a harpsichord leading, with the melody and style being that of a middle ages minstrel song. In the first verse, each sung line is then echoed by a woodwind instrument. The percussion lends the style of a courtly dance. “Gay” is used for both its meanings in this verse, and the lines refer to the plague scything through the communities of outcasts.

“In a time of plague
We were young and gay
And while money reigned
Minorities were wiped out every day
But we had tailors, we were getting famous”

In the bridge, Momus identifies two major influences on the groups and pits the art of the group against the death that is coming for them:

“With the patronage of William Burroughs
And also Kathy Acker
Our pens would save the day”

The chorus is a stylised version of lines we recognise from every parody of a middle ages song, with echoes of Dexy’s Midnight Runners. “Gabba Gabba Hey” as a phrase seems to originate in the 1932 film Freaks directed by Todd Browning, used in a chant by a group of circus freaks to welcome an individual into their fold: “Gabba Gabba Hey” thus comes to mean: you are one of us. The phrase was appropriated by the band The Ramones in a song called “Pinhead” to indicate acceptance into their scene: “Singing ‘tirra lirra tirra lirra tirra lirra gabba gabba hey'”.
The second verse describes the Quick End in more detail. The line “architects who blow up their own buildings” comes from Michael Bracewell’s Missing Margate and represents the post-modern, post-novel experiments that the group worked on, inspired by the deconstructionist approach of Kathy Acker.

“And our heroes were
Nightclub entrepreneurs
Our novellas were
Metaphors and deconstructions
Architects
Who blow up their own buildings”

The second bridge identifies Reagan and Thatcher, the right-wingers who resided in power at the time, “while money reigned”, and acknowledges the impact of the plague on the group:

“While Reagan and Thatcher reigned
we got famous
Not all of us survived
As happens in time of plague
Singing ‘tirra lirra tirra lirra tirra lirra gabba gabba hey'”

The song breaks down now with a synth line bringing some menace to the story. The instrumentation returns for the final verse which compares their situation more precisely to the time of the Decameron. The idea of a “gilded time” contrasts with the idea of a “time of plague”: similarly in the 1980s the plague came at a time when many were getting rich.

“In a gilded time
When death was king
A group of authors began to write a new Decameron
Whose elegance bordered on the Florentine”

The story comes up to date as it approaches the 90s, the time when HIV slightly faded from the public consciousness. The final lines throw in the image of Kurt Cobain, who died not from plague but from his own hand. In performance of this song Momus would mime shooting himself and dropping to the stage as the song ends suddenly with him. 

“And when the 90s came
We were immune to plague
To every known strain
Then along came Kurt Cobain”

This is, grotesque imagery aside, a love song to a particular time and a particular literary movement, which Momus was on the edges of. By the 1990s he had transferred his interest to the visual arts, but would become a writer himself later on. His own AIDS test in the early 1990s proved negative, and  his personal relationship to the virus was explored on the album Timelord.

The Symphonies of Beethoven
The first track recorded for the album was originally written for Kahimi Karie and a version appears on her album K.K.K.K.K and features Add N to (X) as this does.
Momus describes how each of the symphonies of Beethoven makes him feel. Dr. Robert Moog is of course the creator of Moog synths, and Alex and his droogs are the gang from Anthony Burgess’ 1962 novel A Clockwork Orange via the film adaptation in 1971 directed by Stanley Kubrick and featuring Beethoven’s symphonies heavily, as Alex is a major fan of classical music. The film soundtrack featured synthesised versions of classical themes played by Wendy Carlos, original themes and classical pieces by Rossini and others. Walter Carlos transitioned to Wendy Carlos shortly after the film was released.
The verse of this song plays to a harpsichord theme based on Beethoven, with a stomping 4/4 beat throughout.

“To the first I’m dreaming
To the second screaming
To the third I’m falling into reverie extreme
To the fourth I’m swooning
To the fifth I’m gloomy
By the sixth see Dr Robert Moog
Entering my room with Alex and his Droogs”

The chorus combines a dance beat with a classical theme played on analog synth sounds, the entire theme of the album: the old themes and sounds renewed through modern textual filters:

“Let’s play the symphonies of Beethoven
Grooving in the nude with Alex and his Droogs
Let’s play the symphonies of Beethoven
Let’s get in the nude with Dr Robert Moog”

Beethoven’s music as hallucinogen is discussed here: images from the film A Clockwork Orange are woven into the text. Beethoven of course died before the tenth symphony was completed. For his 250th birthday in 2020 artificial intelligence, in a team brought together by Deutsche Telecom, is in the process of attempting to complete the tenth symphony. In 1988 composer Barry Cooper wrote a first movement from the sketches that Beethoven completed and this was performed by the Royal Philharmonic Society.

“To the sixth I’m cooing
In the seventh fooling around
To the eighth I’m doing things
I’ve never done before
I hallucinate in Nine
Under blood red lights, drinking blood red wine
And Alex will be mine
I’ll say it one more time
While Beethoven sits composing ten”

The surrealism of the imagery in the middle eight matches surrealism found in Kubrick’s movie, and in the imagery of his other works, and in the imagery used around synthesiser music of the 70s. The lyrics bring in ideas of technology, sex, and physical alteration which match the themes of Analog Baroque and could refer to Carlos. The casual reference to deafness refers of course to Beethoven’s own deafness.

“Tiny glass animals stand on my desk
Music will blow them away
I have a disease, I’m down on my knees
Wrapped up in bandages, weightless
Look at my face here at your waist
Through stereo wide angle lenses
Nude on my chair, combing my hair
Deaf in orange”

Naked in the Rain could be a reference to the chart song by Blue Pearl, a dance hit in 1990.

“I play the symphonies of Beethoven
Naked in the rain, time and time again
Let’s play the symphonies of Beethoven
Let’s get in the mood with Dr Robert Moog”

“Let’s play the symphonies of Beethoven
Grooving in the nude with Alex and his Droogs
Let’s play the symphonies of Beethoven
Let’s get in the mood…”

The phrase “clockwork orange” came from an eavesdropping Anthony Burgess acquired in a pub, from an elderly man who declared another to be “queer as a clockwork orange”, “queer” meaning mad. So it makes complete sense for the devil to perceive a clockwork orange as, in his eyes, “the last word in fashion”. Momus adds a final stanza in a quiet section to end the piece:

“I sent a postcard to hell
To wish the devil happy birthday
He replied with an orange mechanique
It’s apparently ‘le dernier mot de chic'”

This song is quite an ambitious attempt to relate the classicism and romanticism of Beethoven’s music to a modern idiom: to explain how it makes you feel, and relate that to the culture, pop culture and electronic scenes that exist now: because to paraphrase Johnny Rotten, Beethoven is someone who really turns us on. This song is also an explanation in a nutshell of analog baroque: what it is and how it works, and how we can buy into it.

Tragedy and Farce
Taking as its theme the quotation “(history repeats itself) the first time as tragedy, the second time as farce” from Karl Marx’s essay “The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Napoleon“, this is a song of lust and desire where the consummation of that lust and desire was somewhat lacking in satisfaction.

This is at heart a song about teenage lust, and how our desires and loves at that age seem incredibly important to us. When a girl rejects us at age 18 it seems like not only the end of our world, but the greatest injustice any human has ever suffered. Such heartbreak has led to great music, poetry and novel writing, but also to embarrassing diary entries and best forgotten poetry journals.

It begins with a bass hum, and a string section playing staccato in a minor key, as Momus sings the first line there is a dark harpsichord chord with a synth underneath, and after the first line a buzzing synth noise gliding downwards with three notes, like the sinking heart of the singer. The string sound behind it plays a funky little five note bridge into the second line of the verse, the analog to the arrangement’s baroque. After the second line the key changes, bringing us the sadness the narrator feels as he is rejected. He backs himself on the line “I cried for hours…” speaking in a low timbre, and the last line is spoken, like an 18 year old reciting love poetry at an open mic night.

“I longed for her when I was just 18
She was so pure to me I couldn’t even picture her nude
And when she told me she didn’t want to be my lover
I cried for hours up on Carlton Hill
While the sun set behind the unfinished monument”

The chorus has a highly dramatic baroque stylisation, arepeggios play on the woodwind sound and the harpsichord plays the interweaving melody. Momus’ voice is multi tracked to deliver a chorus of despair. The effect is to comically exaggerate the narrator’s teenage desolation.

“(Tragedy and farce)”

The second verse continues musically identical to the first, in this way matching the desolation of his rejection as a teenager with the physical rejection dealt to him by nature, as his penis is too large to fit into the lady when she finally surrenders to him. The first rejection was tragic, the second is overtly comic, and farcical, and to treat it as equally tragic in its framing, with the same music, uses hyperbole as a comic device.

“Ten years later at my sister’s wedding
Drunk on champagne in an upstairs room
She let me take off her all her clothes

I’d had to wait so long for that first embrace
From that miserable day in ’78
The first dry kiss
To this!

She invited me back to her empty place
Where the irony hit me like a slap in the face”

This second verse gives us the detail that he did achieve a “first dry kiss” on that “miserable day in ’78”, and one must wonder therefore what it was that prompted the girl in question to subsequently reject him, detail we do not get. The other notable point is that this places his sister’s wedding in 1988, which makes me wonder when exactly the shenanigans with “Harry K-Tel“, whoever he is, took place.

The chorus comes in now and Momus raps the next lines over it. This again places the comic images used into juxtaposition with the dramatically overblown music, and makes us laugh more at them. We are led to imagine the increasing desperation of the couple as they try to find some solution. They use Vaseline: brand name for petroleum jelly often used for lubrication. “Humpty Dumpty” is a nursery rhyme about an egg which falls from a wall and cannot be “put back together again”. Two points must arise from this verse: firstly, Momus is declaring his penis to be large enough to cause pain: this is a brave move given that he is writing about presumably real people who could object. Secondly, “we could still kiss” is just one of many things they could have done instead, and it seems odd that in the year of becoming the “Tender Pervert”, he couldn’t think of any.

“Either I was too big or she was too small
But there was no way on earth we would ever ball
Not even Vaseline and a lot of mutual pain
Could put Humpty Dumpty together again
Like a square peg forced into a round hole
This into that just wouldn’t go
Though of course
We could still kiss”

The song breaks down now, only the harpsichord accompanies Momus’ declaration of the quote that brought it birth:

“History plays the first time as tragedy, the second as farce”

This comic verse deals with the themes of teenage isolation and our reaction to it with good humour. Mixing quotations from Marx with decidely low-brow humour is one of the hallmarks of Momus in this period, and it works well here, as does the mix of baroque and modern instrumentation and baroque musical styles with slight modern touches.

Miss X, an Ex-Lover
If the purpose of these songs, as squibs, is to excoriate others, to exorcise feelings about people who have crossed the singer in his emotional life and musical career, this song seems to be the most pointed. Miss X is either a specific ex-lover or a composite character, representing various ex-lovers, at any rate, the song includes various points that would seem to directly identify individuals should they recognise themselves. At the end, even after pointing out the many flaws this “character” has, Momus admits that he misses her. This calls into question the very purpose of such songs: are the most aggressive and hateful songs of this nature really aimed at those the writer most desires and “misses”? Momus himself stays friends with his lovers, generally, he says as much on the documentaries about him “Man of Letters” and “Amongst Women Only”, but in this case “Miss X is now just an ex-lover” and not, presumably, a friend.

The song begins with a harpsichord playing chords which have echoes of a song yet to come – “Mistaken Memories of Medieval Manhattan“, which is included in a version on the album Folktronic. It proceeds in waltz time, the couple facing off against each other. The vocals come in straightaway and are accompanied by a tinkling metallic keyboard sound and a bass, playing an atonal accompaniment at odds with the formalism of the harpsichord and main melody, just as the two characters in the song are at odds.

“Miss X is now just an ex-lover
As time goes by it gets harder to remember why we split
As I recall the reasons were all small and stupid”

The song adds what seems to be a keyboard guitar sound, playing a funky little accompaniment, along with some bleeps and bloops, a modern addition to the baroque framework. Momus speaks the list of misdeeds Miss X was capable of. As in any relationship, some of the issues are minor, some are major, but in the heat of emotional attachment they all get mixed up together. We can get as annoyed about our partner’s inability to put the top back on the toothpaste tube as we do about their infidelities.

“Miss X was doing horse
Miss X wore shiny platform trainers
Miss X more or less moved into my house when I was working on getting famous”

The next line brings in a slow keyboard sound playing longer chords, making the prettiest background that can be mustered to lines about chlamydia, returning to the funkier sound as he describes the “pressure” put on him.

“Miss X gave me chlamydia then, when I’d been told by the doctor
Not to have sex for three weeks, put pressure on me to fuck her”

The music returns to the Miss X motif for the next few lines. Princess Diana died on 31st August 1997. This would make Miss X a rebound girlfriend after Shazna. The lines about his “limp dick” are interesting given the Cynthia Plaster Caster incident a few months later. It is also interesting how he criticises her for “working on getting famous” when he was doing the same thing: he admits his hypocrisy while attacking her methods.

“Miss X, lying beside me when Diana died, couldn’t give a shit
Miss X started calling me ‘cold fish’, ‘plank’ and ‘Mr Limp Dick’
Sex with Japanese pleased me more, I found them less voracious
Miss X meanwhile was fucking her way to the top, working on getting famous”

The song again slows down to describe the next issue with Miss X: she doesn’t want him as much as she wants her ex.

“The great love of Miss X’s life came back to town, she started to stalk him
There were other reasons I left Miss X, but I’ve forgotten” – He hasn’t forgotten.

After a few moments, we continue, and again Momus highlights how “trivial” the reasons were:

“Miss X is now just an ex-lover
As time goes by it gets harder to remember why we split
As I recall the reasons were all small and stupid”

Finally he admits why he is trivialising these issues, some of which are not really trivial, and the song stops:

“I miss her”.

We all miss those we once had a connection with, even when that connection was horrendously toxic. At the time this album came out, I had been in Poland about a year from September 1997, in a town called Ostrowiec Świętokrzyski, teaching English, and met someone I eventually married, which was a terrible mistake. But, at the end of the day, when all is said and done, and despite all the awful things she did, I must admit, sometimes, I would like to kill her.

Also at this time I was sort of seeing another girl in Poland, which doesn’t make me the good guy in this circumstance: my behaviour in Poland and afterwards was, to say the least, poor. However, that girl I am still friends with: the ex-wife, on the other hand, might be dead for all I know, and was genuinely a total nightmare. Momus, incidentally, talked to the girl who I eventually and unfortunately married on the internet, and asked her to meet him in London for a coffee when she was next in London, after I introduced her to his music and we found his website and email address. I don’t think she complied, though maybe she tried: he dodged a bullet anyway. He had then and still has a strong cult following in Poland, especially as there was always a strong cabaret influence there, and even a Cabaret Momus in Warsaw in the early 20th Century.

A White Oriental Flower
The penultimate song on the album moves away completely from the Analog Baroque sound, and aims for a poetic, Japanese style of music and language. It takes us visually into a secluded house, into a forest of cherry blossom and, perhaps, chrysanthemum, the white flower that stands for purity and nobility in Japanese culture. The sound uses psychological tricks and manoeuvres to bring us into a sense of longing and a space in which we might understand the transcendence that is grasped for by the narrator.

A synth fades in with a clean held chord, and a sound akin to a woodblock being struck trades notes with a piano playing chords, along with a synth sound which has an echo effect applied to it to make it sound as if it is metallic, a kokyu sound stretched out to its limits. The melody is plaintive, sitting within the pentatonic schemes favoured by Japanese music, the Hirajoshi, which utilises a set of tones from any given scale to obtain a particular sound we recognise at once as Japanese. Momus’ vocal is light, breathy, subdued. He speaks first of a lack of clarity in the life of one who is promiscuous, a state of being he has admitted to on the previous songs: a regret that although he can feel love and desire for just one person, that clarity fades and blurs into desire for others when he not proximate to his beloved.

“The life of someone promiscuous is unfocused, unclear
Forgetting the crisp morning sun
On the face of the young beloved”

Now a lower synth chord washes in, providing a depth to the sound that adds a cinematic feel: Momus’ double tracks his vocals here, repeating quietly what he has said, and also sings in the background, a choral sounding addition. The building up of tension is in these additions, the repeated chord pattern and the quietly delivered vocal, our expectation is for some explosive change, or resolution, as the narrator describes the tiny details that attract him to his beloved. The melody does alter, lifting where it fell before, but falling back again at the end.

“The lines of her eyebrows so sharply defined
Loving anyone else so far from his mind”

The girl he loves “is not unique”, no different from his other conquests, but in the clarity of morning seems to be, however as the day goes on and he finds others to love, he must do so, because he is promiscuous, addicted to the companionship of others and to sex. To emphasise this psychological change, the backing vocals and synth chords drop out as “morning’s gone” and the presence of the beloved is gone, along with the more emotive aspects of the musical backing.

“She is not unique, but seems so then
But after five, but after ten
When morning’s gone and won’t come back again
Then carpe diem”

As the narrator then describes watching his beloved sleep, the synths and backing vocals return, beautiful and fragile. A keyboard bass line is pushed forward on the third line, as the key phrase and song title is declared. To our ears, the idea of “creeping” into someone’s room to watch them sleep is the behaviour of someone who is obssessed, dangerous, abnormal. However as in much of Momus’ work, the musical backing aims to subvert our feelings, to make us empathise with the character. The point of his entry into her room is merely to watch her sleep, to be near her: his love overcomes his promiscuity in those moments alone. This is why the phrase “a white oriental flower” is adorned with the bass line run on the keyboard, the purity of the flowers is compared to the narrator’s normal drives. Momus knew a girl called Young Kim, she was the girlfriend of Malcolm McLaren, this may be the person he is speaking of, or just the origin of the name.

“One morning I crept into your room, Young Kim
And watched you sleep for an hour
Your face a white oriental flower
So vast and soft next to mine”

The full synth sound and vocals return, the emotive backing for the confession he has to give: her body does not belong to him, he knows this and does not want to try his hand. He describes her movements as she prepares to wake, comparing them to his trembling, aroused, but only in desire and not sexual satiation. The melody again shifts upwards into something descriptive of his emotion and love for her.

“Your body, which didn’t belong to me
Still not quite ready for rousing, moved lazily in rehearsal
While mine trembled violently in the sublime suspended animation
Of my unresolved arousal”

The song then achieves its own moment of transcendence, rather than the melody dropping down and into the structure that accompanied “when morning’s gone” the first time round, the lifted melody is repeated, with the synths and bass line pushed forward again, hoping to awake in the listener an echo of some similar feeling they may have had, some feeling of purity or transcendence they have experienced themselves: where you expect the emotion to subside, it rises, hoping to take you along with it. If you have ever slept alongside someone you wanted but could never have, if you have felt that it were better you never did, then you would understand the sentiments expressed here, with Momus paraphrasing a Rilke quotation:

“That hour took me back to something so pure
That hour was, for me, transcendental
To long and yet never possess
Is, as Rilke said better
The best”

The song does then resolve, with a little run in the bassline played on the synth, and ends. It is a truly beautiful song in both the sentiment, the melody and the way they work together to elicit a response from an attentive listener.

I Can See Japan
Nicholas Currie’s father, a well as working for the British Council, was an academic and for his PhD studied the Acquisition of Language in Children. Nick seems to have been a subject for his work, indeed one of his short stories was published when he was four or five years old as an example of childhood use of language. He also purchased expensive reel-to-reel tape recording equipment, German, presumably Uher machines on which to tape examples of children’s speech, including his son’s. This gave Nick access to high quality recording equipment at a young age. He also had; or more to the point was given; guitar, piano and violin lessons, which he hated and skipped. Despite this, he wrote songs at a very early age. Here we have “I Can See Japan”, recorded in 1968 at age 8, and included as a bonus track after half a minute of silence on “A White Oriental Flower”. It’s charming and cute. It begins with his father asking to hear “We Can See Japan” and Nick correcting him, then his father asking for “less noise on the piano and more… singing”: the kind of demand that led to XTC falling out with Todd Rundgren. It is charming that his father calls the piano part “noise” and needs to pause before deciding on the word “singing”. Any parent will understand.

The song was described by Nick as a ” little plonky thing” in his interview with chickfactor around this time, and it is a straightforward melody, with lyrics about Japan. He speaks the last line, which of course sounds very cute. There is a clear influence from contemporaneous pop in the lyric, and the early influence of Japan is notable as well. He sings the verse twice and ends by singing the title, with Eastern sounding notes used, so some attention to detail evident at this age.

“I can see Japan
I can see Japan
I can see the mountaintops
And I can see the villages
And I can see your images
And baby, best of all, I can see your love”

It is also clear from his tone of voice that Nick is quite reserved, not an extrovert as such, sounding almost shy in his delivery. Recording songs, being published in academic textbooks, these were things that the young Momus must have taken as normal. It gave him a literary and academic outlook that sustained into his songwriting as an adult.

Walter Carlos
The first US release of The Little Red Songbook included another track between “The New Decameron” and “The Symphonies of Beethoven“. As a tribute to the electronic music pioneer Walter Carlos, who rewrote Beethoven and other classical composers’ work for synthesisers and wrote musical scores for A Clockwork Orange and Tron, Momus wrote a song about them. Except that Walter Carlos no longer exists, having transitioned to Wendy Carlos in the early 1970s. Wendy felt compelled to continue to appear as Walter for several years afterwards, before “coming out” as transexual in the late 70s. From that point onwards, new albums and reissues bore the name Wendy Carlos, and Walter was erased as much as possible from history.

The song begins with harpsichord chords, played staccato and increasing in speed, as an introduction. The opening is sung by Momus with the harpsichord and a woodwind sound accompanying him, the tune is in the style of a classical hymn. He outlines the facts, as above, that Walter Carlos no longer exists.

“Walter Carlos no longer exists, he’s in Elysium
But let us imagine him in our space-time continuum”

A bass line starts and a toy box beat. The next section is in a pure baroque style, reminiscent of Carlos’ own work.

“Walter Carlos
International transsexual composer of that glorious epoch
The high analogue synthesizer baroque”

A pedal note comes in played on an organ, driving the story being told forward, adding what I must describe as sonic seasoning.

“He is now to be known as Wendy, he
Had a gender operation done
Just after making ‘Switched on Bach, Volume 1′”

The next section bounces along in 3/4, the melody also bouncing up and down, twisting down its own wormhole:

“And when travelling through time is possible
Wendy can enter a wormhole and go back to the future to marry Walter
A few baroque summers earlier
A couple of models of Moog back in time”

The next few lines are sung as a round, the lines swallowing themselves, an ouroboros snake eating itself, a bootstrap paradox, symbolic of the situation that is described. Glitchy electronic effects surround the vocals and emphasise the distorted nature of spacetime.

“Fine fine fine
In the summertime
Singing tra-la-la-la-la
And be fine in another time”

The song returns to the opening chords over which Momus sings, speeding up as the chords do. What he says about time travel is true if we are talking about a time travel device based around a generated wormhole, one could only travel between the ends of it, which would not extend back past its creation. Which is not to say that naturally occurring wormholes may not exist with one end further back in time than we are.

“Unfortunately Einstein informs us
That when time travel is finally possible
There will be no returning to periods previous to the point at which time travel
first became possible!”

And the final lines are over the hymn like tune used earlier in the song: Momus is here describing the “time travel” which Wendy Carlos has achieved, mixing the realms of the baroque with the futuristic realms of Moog and synth. He is also referring to his own experiments, here, with Analog Baroque.

“So like Walter Carlos until such time as its feasible,
we’ll have to restrict time travel to the realm of the musical.”

Wendy Carlos did not like this song. It was intended as a tribute, but it dead-names her, and by saying Wendy would marry Walter the song implies a desire to perform sexual acts with herself. Wendy did not want her earlier self to be brought up, and she may have felt that the song perpetuated public misconceptions of trans-sexuality, as somehow deviant or concerned primarily with the sex act rather than sexual identity. In general, if you can imagine being the subject of this song, it would certainly be quite confusing to interpret it:is it an attack, is it meant maliciously, is it meant as humour: what IS it for? It doesn’t come across as a tribute.

I can understand why Wendy Carlos was offended.On the other hand, Wendy then sued Momus – Nicholas Currie – for $22 million dollars. How this excessive sum was arrived at is difficult to ascertain. There is no way that a short song on a relatively obscure album and label by a relatively obscure artist could possibly cause that much damage to Wendy Carlos. Since Wendy’s previous identity was public knowledge it could not merely be on the grounds of dead-naming or “outing”, and if the content of the song was the main issue, then the Streisand effect would seem to apply: by initiating legal proceedings against Momus, the song was bound to be heard by more people than it would otherwise have been. Perhaps realising this, an out-of-court settlement was reached. This removed the threat of further legal proceedings from Momus, but left him and Le Grand Magistery with legal fees of $30,000. The unsold copies of the album were recalled and the album had to have the song removed from subsequent editions. Momus is also not allowed to discuss the matter.

The US version of the album thereafter had three extra tracks included to replace Walter Carlos. The UK version merely omits it. Of the three extra tracks, the most notable is the pointed “Welcome to my Show Trial”. Both versions of the album include karaoke versions of nine of the songs for people to use in their parodies, the results of which would be included in the next album. The original US version also included a karaoke version of “Walter Carlos”.The karaoke versions are:
Old Friend, New Flame
Tragedy and Farce
The New Decameron
Coming in a girl’s mouth
Miss X, an ex-lover
Harry K-Tel
Who is Mr Jones?
How to spot an invert
The Symphonies of Beethoven

Some Mistranslations
The Japanese are famous for “Engrish”: the mixed-up attempts to translate from Japanese to English or write in English which cause much amusement on the internet and have done so since the 1990s. There are also humourous results when translating from English to Japanese, if one transliterates the resulting work. Since Momus is famous in Japan, there have been various examples of this related to his work. In this song he talks about one example and relates it hyperbolically to a much more meaningful mistranslation.

The music that opens the song is a piano playing staccato chords backed by bass drum and bass guitar notes, a lounge music sound.

“The funny mistranslations the funny Japanese
Use to fill cd brochures appeal in the west
To the music lover’s sense of the surreal”

The example is played along with music approximating that in the original song, and Momus chuckles at the end:

“For example: “You trade our fear for euphoria”
From my song ‘King Solomon’s Song and Mine’
In Japan emerged a much more sinister line:
“You trade our veal for your foamy eye”
Huh-huh, that kills me”

Moving into a more serious statement of misunderstanding between the West and East, Momus adds a martial beat and a hint of “Battle Hymn of the Republic” behind the story:

“But some mistranslations are not so funny
When the U.S. ultimatum came at the end of World War II
The Japanese said: “We need some more time to consider what to do”
But Truman, who already knew what weapon he planned to use
Got the message, loud and clear, as: “We refuse!””

The Allied ultimatum threatened “prompt and utter destruction” if the Japanese did not surrender. The Japanese Prime Minister replied, essentially, “No Comment”, as he knew that despite what a sane Government might wish to do, the Japanese army would not accept the disarmament that the ultimatum would entail. Perhaps knowing this, the Prime Minister Kantaro Suzuki essentially said that the only response would be mokusatsu, the word which unfortunately could be translated as no comment, or silent contempt, or total refusal. The chosen translation may have caused the deaths of more than 170,000 people.

The song becomes quieter, returning to the initial sound, but more solemn, as it tells the story of Momus’ friend’s mother:

“My friend Fumiko’s mother was at school
She’d had the luck to break some rule
And got punished, banished to the cellar
She emerged to find her hometown, Hiroshima, vanished”

The “Battle Hymn” appears in ghostly form again, and the song ends on a discordant drum and cymbal crash. A song about misunderstandings and how they can be both comic and tragic, against a backdrop of a misunderstanding costing the artist $30,000.

The Ugly Sister
Momus, ultimately an international citizen, had by now lived in France and would later live in Japan, Germany and the United States. he was not particularly fond of the United Kingdom, especially England, although always a proud citizen of Scotland and the EU. Of course, England, Scotland and Wales are together “Great Britain”, the largest of the British Isles. The UK music scene had by now seemingly turned its back on him though, and culturally he felt rejected. So we get this short skit, a music hall song in a baroque style.

“If nations are like sisters who choose to specialize
Who leave neglected talents to the girls on either side
Who vie amongst themselves for the values to prize
Great Britain when America and France had revolutions
Decided she should specialize in ancient institutions
Leaving sex and art to the French
Leaving cash and power to the states”

Momus is quieter for the next couple of lines, some spite in the delivery: and a truth we dare not speak: we do not read any Shakespeare unless forced to.

“Leaving ‘Great’ in her name, but forgetting to be great
Which might explain why Shakespeare is still our greatest writer”

The music takes off in comic fashion after the next line, duck and raspberry sounds thrown at England as the singer runs in the opposite direction, ending suddenly. An especially poignant lyric now, given the UK decision to leave the European Union.

“And why Lord Byron and I thumbed our noses at the ugly sister and ran away”

As he shortly would, after completing Stars Forever and moving to the States for his next art project and album.

Welcome to My Show Trial
The third extra track is a very pointed swipe at censorship and presumably at the reason the track is here. We cannot know what transpired in court regarding Wendy Carlos’ suit, since the matter was settled out-of-court it seems unlikely that Nicholas Currie had the chance to speak to the jury in the way he suggests in the lyric. The song is a method of commenting on the case in the only way he legally can: distanced from it by being set in the UK, and the song could also be a comment on his reception in the UK.

It begins with a bass line and toybox drums which are reminiscent together of work from Eno’s Another Green World, suggestive of a minimalist aesthetic under pressure. “Welcome to my nightmare”, Momus intones, echoing Alice Cooper but with a different theatrical method. An accordion sound plays a repeating simple chord pattern around the key of D as he further intones “Welcome to my show trial”. Clearly he was of the opinion that he did not have a chance in the trial whatever it was he was actually accused of. “I could have been a traitor, I could have been a tailor, I could have been a waiter, I could have been a failure”, he speaks over the beat and bass, with harpsichord behind it. Talking of free will, he says he “chose to be a writer” (is it a choice or a calling?) and as all writers are traitors, here he is.

What does he mean by this: since writers are impelled to self-censor in an increasingly litigious world, and one increasingly ruled by the right wing and conservative “majority”, perhaps they are traitors to their actual intentions. Or perhaps he means that writers are perceived as traitors by ruling classes and the state, because they are freed from limitations of bureaucracy, and can write whatever they wish, transmit whatever they wish? Which is why, as so often before, the burning of books is not only often followed by the burning of people, but in that kind of state MUST be followed by the burning of people, because they are the authors of the books: all writers are traitors. It does not even matter what his identity is, “Call me Pam, call me Stan, call me Gran”.

For the next verse he takes a swipe at the United Kingdom’s lack of actual legislation related to freedom of expression: the pointlessness of searching for smut in the luggage of people arriving, when the truly worst thoughts are only in their heads, is what is pilloried here:

“It’s taking place in a nation with no written constitution
Let alone a guarantee of freedom of expression
While the customs men still rummage for smut through every incoming package
Like a parcel sent to Britain, my show trial was open and shut”

A bright keyboard sound pops up to highlight the chord changes from time to time. Momus plays in the next verse with ideas of poetry, of writing, and the link between nature and art: by getting “sillier and sillier” he may mean he is being more and more honest, becoming, therefore, more and more of a traitor in the State’s eyes.

“And the weather is getting clever, more clever than ever
And a spot is a spot, until it is a blot
I’m a poet, I know it, I’m a writer in the mirror
Every writer is a traitor, I’m getting sillier and sillier”

The chorus follows and when the verse returns it is accompanied by a piano, as the song builds towards his defence in court, which the jury do not care to hear, as they go out to smoke.

“I’m feeling poorly, before the jury
They’re going to smoke a cigarette in the carpark
That shouldn’t matter, but I’ve just delivered my own defense
I was a spirited witness, I talked about the death of the nation”

A choral effect is added with Momus backing his own vocal. He lists what he talked about, stating that he does not possess duty, class, money or death.. yet: but those are what he must talk about, the terms of his trial. Another bass part joins in, the song builds as he builds his case.

“I spoke about duty, class, money, art, orgasm and death
I said “I possess none of the above, except, perhaps, for orgasm and art”
Therefore, I had nothing to lose”

Since he has nothing to lose, he talks about his own work and the general principles that he holds, the reason for his lyrical content: and ends by stating that to talk of such things is “forbidden by tacit understanding”. Again, by denying such things in his work he would be a traitor, and by revealing such things he is seen to be a traitor.

“I went on about ignoring the unwritten rules
Any suggestion that there’s idiocy in ordinary life
Any hint that children might understand the facts about love
Any notion of normality might not be so ideal
What women think of men and what men really feel about women
In a penetrating x-ray of the soul, revelations of the secrets of professionals in guilds
These things are forbidden by tacit understanding”

The easiest way to deny the power of someone’s speech or opinion is to devalue it publicly, so he is called many names, he is called an idiot, all to stop him and silence him: but he talks about “you”: this could be his accuser, or the person listening to the song: in his songs he talks about being human, which often means talking about a specific human, which they may not always enjoy.

“Call me Stan
Call me the man
Call me an idiot
But I spoke about you”

Momus speaks about being beguiled, and quotes Shakespeare, our greatest English writer: “Full Fathom Five thy Father Lies” is a line from the Tempest, and is the beginning of a speech about the physical transformation of the dead father into something else, something strange and beautiful after death. (c.f. “The Cabriolet”) He then quotes a maxim beloved of English private schools, to be fair and to “play the game”: which means to accept one’s position in life, be that upper or lower class. It is similar to the phrase that inspired “The Animal that Desires” from Japan: “The nail that sticks out must be hammered in”.

“And so play the game
Be a good chap…
Loose talk costs lives
Keep it straight”

“Loose talk costs lives” is a reference to an old World War II poster and campaign, relating to a fear of foreign spies and intended to stop the populace talking about and leaking strategic information. “Keep it straight” probably relates to another private school fixation, the sport of Cricket, and keeping your bat straight, but of course also relates to not allowing any queerness in.

Momus instructs us not to be bought, or sold, or caught, and to live to be old: the ultimate crime of rock music. He tells us to deliver coal, gold or words: at any rate, to deliver something with our lives. He does not instruct to whom these deliveries should be made. He declares he is going to say anything: “you can say anything you like” he declares, and then outlines the choice that is behind everything he has done, as the music builds behind him:

“You can choose … to be respected, respectful, successful and bored,
or relevant, interesting and totally ignored”.

These lines are the keystone of Momus’ principles and those who agree with him are his fans. In art, in politics, in every conceivable field of endeavour, these lines are true. When for whatever reason the relevant and interesting are also the successful, then the treachery is complete, and the boredom sets in. Setting himself against the industry that wanted him to be respected, respectful and bored, was the turning point after all, to being happier in the position he had, a change recorded here in these chapters I am writing, from around 1990 onwards.

As Momus continues, comparing us to a summer’s day, the instruments start to fade out having reached the apotheosis outlined here. “I’m not a cigarette lighter”, he states accurately, “I’m not a trash can or a tincan, I am a fighter, and I am a writer”. Here he is quoting Gilbert O’Sullivan’s song “I’m a writer not a fighter“, which he sampled for “Right Hand Heart” on Don’t Stop the Night. As the final instruments leave, except the backing vocals, drum track and synth chords, he talks again:

“The verdict is guilty
they declared me a traitor
the sentence was hemlock
I’m taking it later”

It is the music industry, I believe, and society, that has declared him a traitor, and sentenced him to a classical punishment. His delivery, especially here, but throughout the song, is very reminiscent of Neil Tennant in tone, perhaps a comment on those who once branded him a kind of sub-Tennant.

“So this is how the story ends
Goodbye my Friends”.

The music stops: a mock death: and returns to echo the words “Welcome to my show trial” into a void.

Hidden away on US releases only as a bonus track, this may be the best Momus song of the period, and maybe of all time. It outlines the struggles with censorship and with the industry which he had during the 1980s and 1990s succinctly and intelligently, with lyrics which manage to be clever, literate and pointed. On the website DangerousMinds.Net Richard Metzger claims that Grant Morrison declared this his favourite Momus song. Which is praise indeed, given that one of Grant’s graphic novel characters – Professor Pyg – is based on a different Momus song: “Pygmalism“.

The legal fees from the Wendy Carlos suit threatened the future of Le Grand Magistery and Analog Baroque, but Matt Jacobsen suggested a solution which Momus took up. For his next album, he revived the idea of “patronage”, of writing songs to order. Since the costs were $30,000, he offered on his website and in the press to write a song about an individual or organisation in return for $1,000, and to put the resulting 30 compositions on the next album, to be entitled Stars Forever. This would be a double album, including the thirty songs, a recorded spoken piece about the album and the winning songs from the karaoke parody competition. This album will be covered in the next entry.

2 thoughts on “We’re frankly surprised you’re appalled… #20 The Little Red Songbook

  1. Such a strong run of albums to see out the 90s. It admittedly took me a long while to appreciate this one as it took my ears a while to adjust to the baroque theme (an experience I suspect many people have) but it all slotted into place eventually.
    Interesting note on What Are You Wearing is the post verse riff. Possibly best recognised these days as from The Velvet Underground’s 1967 song There She Goes Again, but dates back to at least 1962 on Marvin Gaye’s Hitch Hike. A good candidate for where Momus lifted it however may very well be Edwyn Collins’ 1997 song The Magic Piper (Of Love).

    Like

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