21
May 12

SAINT ETIENNE – “Popular”

FT154 comments • 9,280 views

Huge weepy thanks to Bob, Pete and Sarah for immortalising us in song. And thanks to commenters past and present for making it worth immortalising.

Comments

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  1. 61
    Erithian on 28 May 2012 #

    For anyone else who was going to the Palladium gig tonight, afraid it’s been postponed due to Sarah coming down with laryngitis. Get well soon Sarah.

  2. 62
    swanstep on 28 May 2012 #

    In other Popular news, the second track on Regina Spektor’s new album is ‘Oh, Marcello’. (I keed, I keed.)

  3. 63
    punctum on 28 May 2012 #

    Nice song, but alas nowt to do with me.

  4. 64
    byebyepride on 1 Jun 2012 #

    ” ‘Popular’ is apparently about a thirty-something getting over a relationship by visiting trendy wine bars – a relationship that, if the track’s character is anything to go by, must have been built solely upon a mutual enjoyment of Pilates to begin with.”

    unpleasantly hostile review at Fact.

  5. 65
    punctum on 1 Jun 2012 #

    Well it is “Fact” magazine – they probably didn’t like the fact (ho ho) that there are tunes on the album.

    Any thoughts on this morning’s Grauniad poll?

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/music/interactive/2012/may/31/best-no-1-singles-interactive

  6. 66
    swanstep on 1 Jun 2012 #

    That Fact reviewer needs to be to be told that Christgau is not an acceptable role model. Jesus.

    As for the the Guardian’s poll: so far, no Sinead for 1990, no Kate Bush for 1978, no Britney for 1998, no Gaga for 2009, are the obvious boneheaded calls by my lights.

  7. 67
    Tom on 1 Jun 2012 #

    They sent round a call for suggestions – I sent one per decade, and they almost all got commissioned (I went for Stand And Deliver for the 80s one, but they were never not going to pick Ghost Town).

    This was a bit of a surprise, since when I suggested “Swagger Jagger” it was in the sure – and as it turns out incorrect – knowledge that someone would pick “Someone Like You” so I wouldn’t actually have to write about it.

  8. 68
    Tom on 1 Jun 2012 #

    #66 (Britney is 99 in the UK btw – which would magnify yr anger given what is there!)

  9. 69
    punctum on 1 Jun 2012 #

    “boneheaded calls”

    what bit of the phrase “FAVOURITE number ones” do people not understand?

  10. 70
    punctum on 1 Jun 2012 #

    I note the Grauniad’s own heading says “best” – the curse of the (non) subs again *sigh*

  11. 71
    swanstep on 1 Jun 2012 #

    The Guardian’s list was officially called ‘Best No 1 singles’ and there was a claim of expertise made for the people that were asked to submit preferences, so it seems to me to be more than fair to talk about possible errors of omission and commission in this case, albeit appropriately qualified (‘by my lights’). Moreover, methodological choices played a big role in the poll (insisting on an evenly distributed one per year is a killer in Pop’s killer years, and no deduction of points, as it were, for reissues was another killer), so again plenty of room for someone to legitimately moan, or so I would have thought.

  12. 72
    Mark G on 1 Jun 2012 #

    plenty of room for someone to legitimately moan

  13. 73
    punctum on 1 Jun 2012 #

    Expressions like “possible errors of omission” and “appropriately qualified” have no place in pop writing. This is a list, not a GCSE Maths paper. “Methodological choices” and “Pop’s killer years” – well, I cannot argue with terms I do not understand. Don’t bother trying to explain them, you’ll only look silly.

    (btw “to legitimately moan” is a split infinitive)

  14. 74
    thefatgit on 1 Jun 2012 #

    It’s a “Daddy or chips” argument, innit?

  15. 75
    wichita lineman on 1 Jun 2012 #

    I didn’t know it was only going to be one song per year when I submitted my suggestions (hence they included Baby Jump, the only one that didn’t get commissioned). I wasn’t thinking of favourites, or bestest, just a bunch of no.1s I thought were interesting for one reason or another. I’d agree that it does seem one-off/novelty heavy – Toni Di Bart AND 3 of a Kind AND Lt Pidge etc. The little intro lines for each entry were written by subs (ie I DO understand why Here In My Heart was a no.1, just not why it hung around there for so long).

    As for the Fact review, it amusingly suggested Only Love Can Break Your Heart was a Saint Etienne original (I wish). This was later amended (not by the PRS, boo).

  16. 76
    swanstep on 1 Jun 2012 #

    @73, Punctum. How about you write how you wanna write, and I’ll write how I wanna write? I agree that ‘Pop’s Killer Years’ is a daft expression – I wish I hadn’t used it – but the idea that some years’ #1s are full of riches and some aren’t is uncontroversial surely.

    “Avoid splitting infinitives.” That’s the one rule that is likely to survive when all the rest of grammar has withered away. … Most of the best grammarians have recognized the split-infinitive rule for the flimflam that it is. H. W. Fowler described people who followed the rule as “bogey-haunted creatures … Whose aversion springs not from instinctive good taste, but from tame acceptance of the opinion of others.”
    —Geoffrey Nunberg, American linguist, The Way We Talk Now, 2001

  17. 77
    punctum on 5 Jun 2012 #

    #75: tbh I find people’s favourites, and the way they write about them, far more interesting than the usual dreary rote list some people seem to prefer where OF COURSE Sinead is the best #1 of 1990 (but WHY?) and OF COURSE Bo Rhap/Rising Sun/someone ring Ronan Keating to sing me out of my coma (had I not been persona non grata at the Guardian been asked to contribute I probably would have gone for “Life Is A Rollercoaster” for 2000 but can’t argue with “Bound 4 Da Reload”).

    I like the idea of “Space Oddity” and “The Model” sounding equally, or more, futuristic at the time of their reissue. Also Tim Jonze’s comparison of “We Are Young” to Arcade Fire is spot on and hadn’t occurred to me before. Lots to think about, which is the point.

    #76 – as my Moral Philosophy tutor told me, never say “surely”; it implies there is no alternative to your argument, furthermore suggests that argument is evidential fact rather than perspective. The “idea that some years’ #1s are full of riches and some aren’t” exists for political and demographic purposes; as demonstrated countless times here, the argument doesn’t stand up at all. The number one arena has always been a bazaar where tat jostles for space with art – and frequently one flows into the other – and doesn’t really have anything to do with year or age divisions.

    About split infinitives, (a) not all of us, or indeed any of us, are Gene Roddenberry, and (b) as Tony Oxley once told me, you have to learn the rules first so that you know how to break them.

  18. 78

    Commenting on the split infinitive will inevitably be tossing gasoline onto an electric heater, but my little bookshelf of professional styleguides basically confirms the line that wikipedia (currently) takes:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Split_infinitive#Current_views

    viz.
    i: that the habit is old
    ii: that if there is not strictly a rule per se there is EXTREMELY widespread belief in a rule
    iii: that the “rule” has little “logical” basis (insofar as this means anything) (essentially it means that english is not morphologically derived from latin, and it’s not logical to argue that it is)
    iv: that the “rule” was strongly enforced in the 19th century (with the effect that a practice from the middle ages that had declined was revived, and converted into an absolute)
    v: and that the best duty of the editor or sub-editor is to (a) avoid if possible; (b) deploy when unavoidable
    vi: hence pragmatism and tact are your guides, along with ears for rhythm and the subtleties of meaning-via-word-order

    Thus Fowler (writing in 1926); Partridge (writing in 1947); Gower (writing in 1948); the Cambridge Handbook to Copy-Editing (first pub.1975); and the Oxford Dictionary of English Grammar (1993).

    Gower probably explores the question best in the revised version of Plain Words: that he had formerly taken the pragmatic position (“best avoid by rewriting, though there is no actual rule: be careful you don’t distort the meaning if you do re-order,” in rough paraphrase), and a friend had pointed out he was being a massive coward. If the rebel position is “dispense with the rule”, and you choose to consider yourself a rebel, then DISPENSE WITH THE RULE.

    Given this exemplary line-up of big-name grammarians — and given the absence of of a genuine grammatical reason for its not being split — I’m tempted to suggest that the anti-splittists have always actually been the rebels, and that this prescription exists vox populi vox dei.

    In other words, I too am sat on the fence — and practically speaking I tend to rewrite, unless I really can’t see a way round it, or (much more unusually) the context is somehow enriched by the feel that comes with a split. (The poetic value of a rule being the effect of breaking it…)

  19. 79
    Alan not logged in on 5 Jun 2012 #

    my editorial rule was to go along with whatever causes the least friction, i.e. detract the least – where detraction would include “letters to the editor”. however applying such a nebulous rule on an internets would lead to a never-posting paralysis

  20. 80
    Ed on 6 Jun 2012 #

    #77 A thought: does the distinction between “favourite” and “best” even make any sense? How often do you find yourself saying: “This is not my favourite record, but it is the best”? If you do say that, what standard are you using to decide what is “best”? From that point of view, I can completely sympathise with the Guardian subs who used the two words interchangeably. And either way it’s a good list, as you say.

    #78 I always think wistfully about Raymond Chandler, who supposedly changed back an editor’s correction with the comment: “When I split an infinitive, goddamn it, I split it so it stays split.” Not many of us have the chops, or the nerve.

  21. 81
    Tom on 6 Jun 2012 #

    The distinction between “favourite” and “best” comes out in the reactions, I think. It’s fascinating how people read stuff about the process into the words – one tweet, for instance, was incredulous because “The Guardian has voted Cher Lloyd the best number one of 2011” – it’s hard to imagine the idea of a vote creeping in if “favourite” had been used, and actually it would be quite unusual to imagine a collective entity having a favourite.

    So there’s no distinction between F and B on an individual level maybe, but at a publication level differences start to emerge – a collective best need not be everyone’s favourite (or even ANYONE’S, though I think most publications would cheat to avoid that outcome)

  22. 82
    Mark G on 6 Jun 2012 #

    I dunno, an individual can objectively choose a ‘best’ and yet subjectively choose a ‘favourite’.

  23. 83
    Ed on 6 Jun 2012 #

    #81 Good point: put enough subjective opinions together, and they become objective.

  24. 84
    Weej on 6 Jun 2012 #

    From languagelog:
    “Every decent guide to grammar and usage on the market agrees that the split infinitive is grammatical and often preferably to all other alternatives. Look it up! Don’t take my word for it. Go to a library and take in your hand what appears to you to be a comprehensive, high-quality reference work on English usage. See what it says. There just aren’t any that insist the split infinitive is always ungrammatical and should never appear in writing.”
    http://itre.cis.upenn.edu/~myl/languagelog/archives/002054.html

  25. 85
    Ed on 6 Jun 2012 #

    #82 So how do you step outside yourself to choose a best “objectively”? When people say that, don’t they usually mean “this is what other people like” or “this is what I think I ought to like”?

    I suppose one way to draw a distinction would be when a song has particular personal associations – happy memories, whatever – that make you feel differently about it from how you would if you were approaching it for the first time. I guess you might want to distinguish between favourite and best because your reactions are bound up with your specific emotions and history, which inevitably most other people are not going to share.

    IIRC, though, not many writers on that Guardian list reach for those kinds of personal justifications for their choices.

  26. 86
    Mark G on 6 Jun 2012 #

    Well, it’s like saying you like “SwagJag” more than “Nevermind I’ll find” while ‘recognising’ that the latter is the better ‘piece of work’.

  27. 87
    Jimmy the Swede on 6 Jun 2012 #

    “A while back I was very low
    When this guy said I had to go
    Up town to Constitution Hill

    “There I found some people having fun
    Cheering the UK’s number one
    Oh boy, I felt such a thrill

    “All I want to talk about is Brenda, Brenda
    All I want to hear about is Bless Her, Bless Her
    One crown, one time, and she’s come back again
    And again
    And again
    And again

    “All I want to talk about is Lizzie, Lizzie
    All I want to hear about is Queenie, Queenie
    One crown, one time, and she’s come back again
    And again
    And again
    And again

    “There’s Chaz
    Camilla Parker-Bowles
    Here’s Kate
    And William in their Rolls
    Harry, the question of the team

    “The old Greek
    Perhaps he is a Dane
    Has gone and pissed
    Himself again
    Leaving once more
    The Mighty Queen

    “All I want to talk about is Brenda, Brenda
    All I want to hear about is Bless Her, Bless Her
    One crown, one time, and she’s come back again
    And again
    And again
    And again

    “All I want to talk about is Lizzie, Lizzie
    All I want to hear about is Queenie, Queenie
    One crown, one time, and she’s come back again
    And again
    And again
    And again…”

  28. 88
    punctum on 6 Jun 2012 #

    Jimmy the Swede’s comment easily the most interesting and entertaining one of this bunch. Otherwise, apropos Raymond Chandler, not everyone had the education he had (Dulwich College) as well as the guts, and part of my long-term mission is to set the question: “does the presence of ‘favourite’ require the existence of ‘best'”?

  29. 89
    Mark G on 6 Jun 2012 #

    Well, we need a poll, someplace (can’t think where..)

    “Which one of these is best?”

    Raindrops on roses
    whiskers on kittens
    Bright copper kettles
    warm woolen mittens
    Brown paper packages tied up with strings
    Cream colored ponies
    crisp apple strudels
    Doorbells
    sleigh bells
    schnitzel with noodles
    Wild geese that fly with a moon on their wings
    Girls in white dresses with blue satin sashes
    Snowflakes that stay on my nose and eyelashes
    Silver white winters that melt into springs
    (and, for the wilfully perverse:)
    Dog bites
    Bee stings
    Feeling sad

  30. 90
    Tom on 6 Jun 2012 #

    #86 I don’t think SLY is better though! I can see why people do but that’s not going to make me use the b-word about it.

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