SONGS ABOUT LAURENCE STEPHEN LOWRY
I like art. I’m not saying I am particularly cultured but you do tend to get a better type of person at a gallery opening. Namely those nice poeople who give you free glasses of wine. More importantly the self imortant babble of anyone at an opening always drowns out the tinny music someone decided to put on out of the tiniest of Bush Tape Players, so it is a happy respite from the usual aural attack. That said, there is always a down side – and that is songs about artists. Of which there are a surprising number. Vincent Van Gogh (a long time hero of mine for going the whole hog and ripping an ear off due to the terrible state of the Dutch Philharmonic) has one. Andy Warhol has that ridiculous number by Bowie. But it goes to show the general artistic favourite of the art wrold when the towering art genius who has had the most songs written about him, nay the most number ones, is a bloke who couldn’t draw people properly. And no I don’t mean Picasso.
Lowry painted “matchstalk men and matchstalk cats and dogs, he painted kids on the corner of the streets in the sparkling clogs” according to Brian and Michael’s incomprehensible 1978 number one. A song designed for the playground, with those hellions from St Winifred’s Girls School Choir doing the backing vocals, it misunderstood that most kids don’t want to sing songs about boring only Northern painters. Instead they link arms and sing “Lets play war,” and play kiss chase and the like. Brian and Michael’s artistic survey made proud boast of Lowry’s artistic talents, suggesting that “even the Mona Lisa takes a bow” which when you look at relative art prices and standing in the worlds galleries is absolute tosh. It is probably due to lousy songs like this that the Mona Lisa never smiled. Brian and Michael tried to follow up this hit with a song about Mondrian called “Straight lines and coloured squares” – but the rot had already set in and now they can be seen outside them factory gates, with a tin saying “will sing about Lowry for food”.
Lowry is obscure enough an artist to make one number one look impressive, but back further in the mists of time we get Status Quo’s song. Pictures Of Matchstick Men – whilst not as tediously biographically detailed as the Brian and Michael effort – managed to keep the same air of ennui by being – well a Status Quo song. The song is more about Francis Rossi being haunted by Lowry, and wherever he hides he sees his face – in the sun, under a pillow, on the toilet. Indeed to try and sum up quiet how awful this song is it is best to look at this quote from ice-cream heir Rossi himself about how he wrote it:
“I wrote it on the bog. I’d gone there, not for the usual reasons – having a crap and what have you – but to get away from the wife and mother-in-law. I used to go into this narrow frizzing toilet and sit there for hours, until they finally went out. I got three quarters of the song finished in that khazi. The rest I finished in the lounge.
If that isn’t the most rock’n'roll story you have ever read then, well you have probably read another. Not only was the song written on the toilet it was returned there spiritually by being covered by The Divine Comedy. It is enough to make you truly sorry for Lowry, who even now according to ‘Matchstalk Men’ “takes his brush and he waits, outside them pearly gates“. Not however to paint matchstalk men and matchstalk cats and dogs, but rather to wait for Brain, Michael and Status Quo to die so he can beat the shit out them.