18
May 15

ALL SAINTS – “Black Coffee”

Popular70 comments • 7,049 views

#876, 14th October 2000

saintscoffee All Saints’ final number one is their most oblique, their most grown-up, also their finest. The song barely glances at its title – a pair of words out of a hundred in the lyric – but the whole record is a glance or a quiet smile, a celebration of tiny satisfactions, and of finding yourself with someone who conjures them so easily. “Each moment is cool / freeze the moment”. It’s a song, most of it, about feeling contented – a rare subject for pop, which prefers to nose out conflict (the video finds some anyway, staging “Black Coffee” as a post-Matrix bullet time break-up drama). There are songs – cousins to this, like “I Say A Little Prayer” – that capture the way love makes the everyday blush with significance, but “Black Coffee” is after something more comfortable. A day with your lover, as casually sweet as all the other ones. Nothing’s perfect, but “Black Coffee”’s rippling, overlapping melody lines make even the quarrels sound blissful.

It’s a lovely record, two late 90s takes on pop meshing and peaking: All Saints’ idea of a British female harmony group, and William Orbit’s gorgeous dissolve of pop into ambient bubbles and flows. (Both now disappear: All Saints split, to largely unsuccessful ends; Orbit, jilted by his primary collaborator, stepped back from the charts.) The combination, as on “Pure Shores”, is irresistibly of its time: unlike that record, “Black Coffee” isn’t pure escapism. Around the edges of this playful song snaps another, one with a harder bite. The opening and breakdown of “Black Coffee” – crunching drums, radar synths – is like a more unforgiving world which our couple spend the mid-song cocooning themselves away from.

The snap and turn of those opening beats makes me think of catwalk photography; the video feels more like a magazine shoot than a relationship. Probably more than anyone since the early 80s, All Saints were a band who felt like they belonged in fashion, a style press imagining of what pop could be like. They always looked the part, but often the music strained too hard to live up to its references. Finally, with the Orbit collaborations, they got there, and “Black Coffee” is the greatest realisation of the All Saints concept – their most perfectly glossy exterior, and only warmth inside.

9

Comments

  1. 1
    Rory on 18 May 2015 #

    First listen. William Orbit was part of so much great music circa 1998-2000, wasn’t he? Love the coda.

    Never change, Wikipedia: “Production-wise, ‘Black Coffee’ incorporates an ambient tomfoolery developed by William Orbit, of which is combined with liquid techno qualities.”

    Apparently also a favourite of Neil Hannon’s.

  2. 2
    lonepilgrim on 18 May 2015 #

    to my ears there’s a hint indie in the melody and harmonies of the ‘I don’t wanna be’ section – one that seeks to emulate an imagined ’60s West Coast American rock. It’s aural catnip for me but I love the way that the song switches between different moods and melodies. If you’ve got to go, go out on a high

  3. 3
    Idris on 18 May 2015 #

    This song may have literally saved my life. On the long (6 hour) drive back from a family holiday on the south coast of NSW, my dad was beginning to nod off at the wheel. He’d taken breaks, had his coffee and a kit kat etc, but we were very stressful kids. We put on 2day FM and this song came on- and dad liked it! This sleepy, ambient, chill out track acted like literal black coffee and kept dad awake for the final stretch of the drive and we arrived home safely.

    For me, it’s an 8. Pure Shores is the All Saints 9. But it’s really great, and seems unjustly forgotten.

  4. 4
    Lazarus on 18 May 2015 #

    Oddly, I heard this on the radio just the other day, for the first time in many a year. It’s all the more enjoyable I think, precisely for not being over-exposed like ‘Never Ever’ has been. And the chorus reminds me very much of Saint Etienne, always a good thing.

  5. 5
    Phil on 18 May 2015 #

    I had no recollection of this song & was expecting to recognise it instantly. Actually I recognised the chorus instantly, but I don’t think I’d ever listened to it properly before – and that includes listening to the chorus. I think it’s amazing. That thing Orbit does with the beats – of having a double-time beat running throughout & just bringing it up in the mix when he wants to kick it up a bit – works superbly; the choruses achieve a weird combination of floaty bliss and jerkily urgent bopping. It must have been quite a floor-filler in its day. (And the coda just says “put this record on again”.) Even better than Pure Shores, I think – and I bought PS. Definite 9.

    The video is weird, though – both the song and the band’s cameos are wildly incongruous. I thought they were going to end by turning it round & putting the woman on top, but at the end the band are still doing their thing and she’s cowering behind the kitchen units. Whatever happened to girl power?

  6. 6
    Paulito on 18 May 2015 #

    To my ears, there’s a strong melancholic undercurrent throughout this song – a fatalistic sense (which is more than hinted at in the chorus) that the narrator’s bliss cannot last, and that her own insecurities may well be the undoing of the relationship. And, for me, that strain of melancholy and adult self-awareness is what elevates this very pretty song to the ranks of greatness. A definite 8, possibly a 9.

  7. 7
    Tom on 18 May 2015 #

    For me it sounds like acceptance of faults, rather than fatalism (I lean that way because the music’s so forgiving) – but either way, yes, adult self-awareness is right.

  8. 8
    wichitalineman on 18 May 2015 #

    I always think of contentment as something to fight, even in a relationship, to stop it slipping into inertia. But this makes a very good case for occasionally closing your eyes and thinking “You know what? This is pretty perfect.” It’s a beautiful record.

    The intro/outro – especially the outro – sounded bolted on to me at the time, as if a wing of the group was fighting for a new direction which never came. Now it sounds like a necessary counterbalance, as Tom points out. Brave, too, so Black Coffee is the mechanical grind of the everyday with an oasis at its heart, an Up On The Roof for the 2000s.

    It’s a song I wished I’d written the second I heard it (but I was too busy fighting contentment/inertia at the time to have come up with anything as sweet, straightforward, and melancholic).

    Oh, and I’ve always heard “freeze the moment” as “the weasel moment”. Thanks for clearing that up.

  9. 9
    swanstep on 18 May 2015 #

    William Orbit himself comments on the youtube vid. for this track as follows: “Recording the vocal harmonies on this one was pure joy. And the notes just poured out of my guitar, with such inspiration.”
    Anyhow, cracking track that may be very of its time but also feels relatively timeless. Less memorable than ‘Pure Shores’ but maybe even more pleasurable (those harmonies, that backing) when you’re actually listening to it. About the only objection I have to BC is that the underlying song has to rank behind at least the songbook standard with the same name and Squeeze’s ‘BC in Bed’. Still, this is tasteful, classy pop writing and recording of a very high order:
    8

  10. 10
    wichitalineman on 18 May 2015 #

    It was co-written by one of the richest women in the world. Thanks to the Evening Standard’s David Smyth for pointing this out: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kirsty_Bertarelli#cite_note-2

  11. 11
    Tom on 18 May 2015 #

    Such a great fact. Especially as it sounds like it was co-written by one of the richest women in the world. It would be a bit disappointing if her one great pop success was “Flava” or something.

  12. 12
    Mark G on 18 May 2015 #

    The music reminded me of a fair bit of Beth Orton’s “Superpinkymandy” album, obviously the producer is the same but the vocals get a better deal here.

    I was going to wonder if anyone else knew that obscure CD, I’m sure you must do..

  13. 13
    thefatgit on 18 May 2015 #

    Pretty much expected to be a fave amongst the Populistas, and who am I to disagree? Orbit provides all the requisite smoothed out blissed-out noises to complement the harmonies. Strangely enough, their final single was not this, but the eyebrow-raising hip-hop of “All Hooked Up” with the unforgettable “why’s this fool all up in my ass?”. Quite.

    I’m sort of OK with the feeling of contentment here. The suggestion put forward by those instant homilies you might find on the internet is that if you see only perfection in your partner, then it’s still infatuation. If you know your partner is less than perfect, but it matters not a jot, then it’s love. “Black Coffee” where imperfections are happily accepted with grace, suggests the latter. Even so, not wanting to change anything still smacks a little of resigned acceptance rather than outright confrontation. I couldn’t imagine the much-publicised Appleton/Gallagher partnership being so smooth. (9)

  14. 14
    Ed on 18 May 2015 #

    This is the All Saints bunny you were looking for.

    Tom and others have already anticipated much of what I had planned to say about this wonderful record, right down to the parallel with ‘I Say A Little Prayer’.

    One reason for the connection, of course, is ISALP’s line about “all through my coffee break time”, and it seems to me that although ‘Black Coffee’s title is sort-of incidental, it is also sort-of central. Coffee is a perfect metaphor for those “tiny satisfactions”: exhilarating but reassuring, everyday but special, bitter but delicious, subtly addictive.

    Interesting that coffee is used in that way in songs performed or written by women. For male songwriters, in the two examples I can think of, it is a symbol of domesticity being destroyed: by the man in Dylan’s ‘One More Cup of Coffee for the Road’; by the woman in George Jones’ ‘Good Year for the Roses’.

    For more, see my forthcoming book: ‘One More Cup of Coffee: caffeine, gender roles and the social construction of relationships in popular song in the second half of the 20th Century’.

    One day I guess I should listen properly to Blur’s ‘Coffee and TV’ to see if it fits my thesis.

  15. 15
    Izzy on 18 May 2015 #

    ‘Back for Good’ fits your thesis as well.

    I thought I didn’t know this song, but of course I do. It does sound lovely, but I’m not quite as taken as most here. I like the mood, but (entirely appropriately I suppose) it isn’t hitting many emotional peaks or troughs – they could do with ramping up the melancholy a tad. The bookends actually are very useful for breaking the record out of its comfort zone- nice as it is, without that bit of dissonance it risks passing unnoticed. I’d go for a (7) I think.

    It really is reminiscent of Saint Etienne, especially one of my very favourites: Shower Scene from Finisterre, which does serve up that melancholy. I’d always put the bloopy rhythm down to a kind of cottonwool Warp influence, but having read this thread I wonder if the typically Orbit break at 1:08 here is the real direct ancestor.

  16. 16
    Ed on 18 May 2015 #

    Oh, and I agree about the video: a bizarre attempt to turn a song about contentment into a song about conflict.

    The only way I can reconcile myself to it is to think of it as the song’s mirror image, the shadow of misery lurking somewhere even amidst the greatest happiness. Like one of those memento mori skulls in a renaissance painting.

  17. 17
    Tom on 18 May 2015 #

    It feels very much as if they had the idea to do a bullet time mirror smashing scene, and the budget to do one, but not the song. And the song lost.

  18. 18
    Ed on 18 May 2015 #

    @15 ‘Back For Good’ does fit, you’re right! I didn’t know that.

    Although the line is so similar, it makes me wonder if Gary Barlow borrowed it from George Jones, presumably via the Elvis Costello version.

  19. 19
    Mark G on 18 May 2015 #

    There’s clouds in my coffee, but she poured it only halfway, and before I even argue, I’ve drunk my coffee, and you’ve sipped your tea.

    No sugar sugar, thanks.

  20. 20
    Chelovek na lune on 19 May 2015 #

    Yeah, this is classy, and high quality, portrait of contentment, as everyone says, pleasingly – as one feels it has been rather overlooked compared with other All Saints No 1s. Very smooth and of its time; polished without the polish seeping the life from it. 8 or 9. Only “War of Nerves” rivals its attempts to claim the crown of All Saints singles.

    #14, #15 “A Lover Sings” by Billy Bragg more or less does, too, albeit the domesticity being destroyed marks the start of the relationship, not the end. – although it was never going to be a stable or entirely satisfactory one..

  21. 21
    mapman132 on 19 May 2015 #

    I’ve been greatly anticipating this one for the past three months. Considering my reaction to “Pure Shores” and the fact that many on the PS thread were saying “Black Coffee” was even better, I was half-expecting some sort of quasi-religious experience. Did I get it? Unsurprisingly, no. Nothing ever lives up to that sort of anticipation. But….

    Having listened to BC first two weeks ago, and multiple times in the past couple days, I can say it’s grown on me. Not as good as PS, but at least an 8 that I could stretch to 9. One thing that threw me initially is it sounds like two songs in one: the sort-of-rapping intro/outro/middle section, and the main melody. The outro especially threw me: it sounds like the song’s going for a typical fade out, and then that starts in the final minute. Can’t decide which way I would prefer. Also, seemed like a strange choice of song title, although it makes a little more sense after reading through this thread.

    Finally, it’s interesting the way people are getting a melancholy vibe here, because I’m getting it too. But I wonder if I’m feeling it differently. I think my melancholia stems from wishing someone would sing something beautiful like this to me.

  22. 22
    DanH on 19 May 2015 #

    Ooh ooh ooh, I can come out of the woodworks now!

    I like this song a lot, more so than the still-great Pure Shores. Of course, I’m also in the “Baby Love” > “WDOLG” and the “ADAAOTN” > “You Really Got Me,” for what that’s worth. The harmonies get at me too, esp. “take….everything out on/YOU”

    I’m surprised to hear this being about contentment. It always struck me as a morning after a fight, when time has passed and there’s been time to think about what you said and what your lover said. It’s a resigned feeling, I can detect melancholy like Mapman does. I misheard “freeze the moment” too…knowing that lyric might alter my thoughts.

    8

  23. 23
    wichitalineman on 19 May 2015 #

    “Weasel moment”: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vV9UUPNe5nM

  24. 24
    Phil on 19 May 2015 #

    Interesting the way the chorus picks up on the self-reproach of Never Ever – she’s definitely the snake in this garden, or else (more positively) her lack of self-belief is.

    Speaking of gardens, just noticed that the guy in the video ends up throwing handfuls of leaves in the air, while the woman is last seen not (as I thought) in the corner of the kitchen but behind a boxy structure with grass growing out of it – some sort of urban raised bed, presumably. Greenery all round. What does it all mean?

    #14 – The Leiber and Stoller song Where’s the Girl? is another coffee/break-up song (“Where’s the girl who used to fix me my coffee and butter up my toast?”). But Coffee and TV, like its (for me) superior blueprint You’re So Great, is basically about drying out. Which I think is different again.

    Tea, tea and coffee
    Helps to start the day
    Tea, tea and coffee
    Shaking all the way
    City’s alive – a surprise, so am I –
    Tea, tea and coffee
    Get no sleep today…

  25. 25
    Steve Mannion on 19 May 2015 #

    To join a couple of threads here – “Sunday morning I’m waking up, can’t even focus on a coffee cup…” – Beth Orton on the Chems ‘Where Do I Begin?’

  26. 26
    Shiny Dave, logged out on 19 May 2015 #

    I got this mixed up with Pure Shores when commenting on the latter – thought that was the one with the waiting/anticipating rhyme. Knocked it down from a 9 to an 8, quite unfairly.

    I stand by both of these being a 9 and for that rhyme to be worth -1, I just penalised the wrong song. It stands out so much because so much else is so good in this song – it’s like how my current phone’s white plastic sides stand out amongst the gorgeous metal body when it wouldn’t be a huge deal in less impressive surroundings.

    Both are magnificent pop productions from Orbit, and this song probably is slightly the better either side of the opening/closing section which ends with that rhyme. The sort of song there isn’t enough of.

  27. 27
    Ed on 19 May 2015 #

    @26 Yes, there’s a nicely enigmatic little twist of intertextuality in the “beach” and “shore” references in Black Coffee.

    Another reason to think of them as a linked pair of songs, and to get them mixed up.

    @24 Now I’ve read the lyrics to Coffee and TV, it seems like an answer record to Country House, where Graham Coxon can sympathise with the impulses that make burned-out rockers retreat from their hedonistic lifestyles. Not sure where that fits in my thesis, to be honest. Might have to make it an appendix.

  28. 28
    thefatgit on 19 May 2015 #

    “Tea’s gone cold…” oh, wait!

  29. 29
    James BC on 19 May 2015 #

    I can’t be the only person who never got this one. It’s too floaty and tends to fade from my memory soon after I hear it, or even while I’m still listening. Perhaps it could become a favourite with repeated listens, but who has the time?

    For me the title also works against it. Normally I’m in favour of non-obvious titles – I love Ash – but this song is already struggling for a hook. The title is a chance to highlight a part of the song that will stick in the mind – to manufacture or signpost a hook that might otherwise be missed – so to waste it on verse lyrics, however important thematically, seems like a misstep in this case.

  30. 30
    Susanna on 19 May 2015 #

    This is a great song and I agree with the general consensus – a 9 for me too. I have just watched the video for the first time in ages, and while I agree with other commenters that it seems to contradict the mood of the song, I think that’s the point of it. It’s highlighting certain sections of the lyrics – ‘freeze the moment’ obviously, but also: ‘I wouldn’t want to take anything out on you/though I know I do/ every time I fall’. The fighting couple seem to be playing out a scenario of taking things out on each other. And thus the moment that gets frozen may not necessarily be a good one. I quite like the contrast of the complacency and contentment of the lyrics and the harshness of the video, but I can see why others might find it jarring.

  31. 31
    weej on 19 May 2015 #

    Silly video aside, this is indeed quite a bit better than I remembered. Kirsty Bertarelli’s story is erm, interesting too – crowned Miss UK aged 17, marries a Swiss Billionaire and Americas Cup champion, writes a song about how chuffed she is about everything, gives it to All Saints, and here we are…

    As for Coffee & Domesticity, how about Dusty Springfield’s Just A Little Loving? Coffee & TV is according to the deathless prose of Wikipedia “about his struggle from alcoholism, and how he would unwind by watching television over a cup of coffee instead”

  32. 32
    ace inhibitor on 20 May 2015 #

    Ed – Tricky’s ‘Black Coffee’ fits your thesis with a vengeance (assuming he wrote the words, its one that Martina T-B sings): ‘feel so lonely haven’t slept a wink / I walk the floor and watch the door / and in between I drink black coffee / love’s a hand-me down brew’, and so on. All floating on a ‘Pills & Soap’ sample for that added sense of dread.

  33. 33
    swanstep on 20 May 2015 #

    @Ace. That’s just the songbook standard, first recorded by Sarah Vaughan, and (looking this up now) music by Sonny Burke, lyrics by Paul Francis Webster (who did lyrics for ‘Somewhere My Love’ and many other film songs – won three Oscars apparently).

  34. 34
    will on 20 May 2015 #

    I’m completely amazed by the high praise this has been getting.

    It’s ok, decent enough but all a bit stop-start and the opening part, yes, sounds bolted-on and doesn’t really fit. Then there are Orbit’s trademark production touches – those globules of keyboard, which were lapsing into cliche by this point. I remember feeling distinctly underwhelmed at the time, disappointed even, after the sublime Pure Shores. 6

  35. 35
    AMZ1981 on 20 May 2015 #

    I must admit that at the time I viewed this as a slipstream number one and an attempt to photocopy Pure Shores. Reading the comments so far suggests that this song had something I missed. Bottom line for me is that I didn’t find it interesting then and I don’t now.

    The All Saints story doesn’t quite finish here; a number seven hit followed prior to their first split and a comeback single got to number three in 2006 (possibly the best performance by a reformed pop act, Take That excepted). Between the two the Appleton sisters are nearly bunnied with Fantasy.

    All Saints have been described as East 17 to the Spice Girls’ Take That. It’s a rather unfair parrallel for all concerned but there are similarities. For me All Saints were like East 17 in that they were a fairly second division act who occasionally struck gold with the right song at the right time.

  36. 36
    Phil on 20 May 2015 #

    The opening and closing sections do sound bolted-on, but I think in a good way; very much like that dream mechanism where you sometimes “wake up” out of a nightmare into a good dream (or, I suppose, like passing out in grim reality & drifting into a good dream, although in my experience grim reality tends to lead to grim dreams). Returning to the jarring, unsettling opening at the end makes sense in this context – as well as making you want to put the record on again (he says, showing his age).

    But what I really wanted to say is that the opening/closing section is a modified ska beat. Using Xs for beats, / for the main beat in the bar, – for silence and | for bar lines, most of the song is a busy, shuffling 4/4 with backbeats, with the same pattern in every bar
    X x / x | X x / x | X x / x |…
    Something very different happens in the opening & closing section:
    X – / x | x / – – |
    Dropping it on the one, as you do, but then going for the two in the second bar – and repeat. Contrasting with the body of the song it initially sounds hideously undanceable – and at the start of the song it sounds more like an intruder alarm than a dance beat – but it’s actually an old ska pattern. You can also hear it here (another song which reverts to a steadier 4/4 for the verses).

  37. 37
    Andrew on 20 May 2015 #

    #35 I hadn’t ever noticed how ‘Rock Steady’ was the biggest chart hit of the pop comeback crop (apart from Take That’s handful of bunnies), but you are quite right:

    Backstreet Boys – no.8 (twice), 2005
    Spice Girls – no.11, 2007
    Boyzone – no.5, 2008
    New Kids on the Block – no.34, 2008
    Wet Wet Wet – no.10, 2008
    East 17 – a few songs that wouldn’t trouble the top 100, 2011-12
    Blue – no.16, 2011
    Steps – no.82, 2012
    McBusted (McFly and Busted supergroup) – no.12, 2014

    There is one act who did out-perform All Saints with their comeback, and that’s Girls Aloud with ‘Something New’, reaching no.2 in 2012. I suppose it depends on how you interpret their ‘hiatus’; they hadn’t really split. Then again, neither had the Spice Girls, officially, nor the Backstreet Boys.

  38. 38
    Steve Mannion on 20 May 2015 #

    Liked ‘Rock Steady’ but its follow up ‘Chick Fit’ even more – too bad it failed to chart and the revival fizzled out right there.

  39. 39
    ace inhibitor on 20 May 2015 #

    thanks swanstep@33 – did not know that. and there was me thinking it was a typical wired/paranoid tricky lyric. the original is a very lovely thing – the costello sample does add something very doomy to it

  40. 40
    Mark G on 20 May 2015 #

    If you count the comeback crop as being an actual reformation where the band actually did go away and do something else post split; there are a few that managed hits as big as previous, but how many make it past three?

    Of the former, you have yer Echo/Bunnymen, Blondie, um who else?

  41. 41
    Steve Williams on 20 May 2015 #

    “Before Take That and the cafetiere, was Boy George and instant coffee – before that the Rolling Stones and espresso – and in the beginning, Lonnie Donegan and Camp Coffee. That’s Pop & Coffee: A History of their Association, tonight at 9 on Fab FM.”
    http://www.dirtyfeed.org/2013/10/smashie-and-nicey-the-end-of-an-era/

    Nice to hear Chick Fit get a mention there, because I really liked it but it was never actually released because they’d been dropped. I remember seeing a weird half-complete video for it on Popworld.

    And of course All Saints Top 40 Singles was a category in the final of Pointless the other week. Just the two pointless answers, War Of Nerves and All Hooked Up. Amazed Rock Steady got any points!

  42. 42
    Steve Mannion on 20 May 2015 #

    I thought the poor performance of ‘Chick Fit’ was the reason for the drop but I guess it was the actual album sales (bold risk calling it ‘Studio 1’ though). ‘War Of Nerves’ still my favourite single of theirs. ‘All Hooked Up’ certainly seems the most forgettable.

  43. 43
    Paulito on 20 May 2015 #

    I’m invited in for coffee and I give the dog a bone…

  44. 44
    Phil on 20 May 2015 #

    Naah, that’s not actual coffee. Or (given the way the narrative goes) it is, but only because he’s out of luck.

  45. 45
    wichitalineman on 20 May 2015 #

    Gordon Lightfoot’s Second Cup Of Coffee:

    “I’m on my second cup of coffee and I still can’t face the day
    I’m thinking of the lady who got lost along the way
    And if I don’t stop this trembling hand from reaching for the phone
    I’ll be reachin’ for the bottle, Lord, before this day is done.”

    And there’s Donovan’s Young Girl Blues from 1966, about being home alone on a Saturday night, with its vogueish French pronunciation of coffee:

    “Cafe on, milk gone, such a sad light and fading.
    Yourself you touch, but not too much. You hear it’s degrading.”

    So that’s what the sixties were like.

  46. 46
    Erithian on 20 May 2015 #

    “Today we’ll sit here drinking coffee in your incident room” – Hippychick, Soho. Love that song if only for rhyming “motorbike” and “miners’ strike”.

  47. 47
    Kinitawowi on 21 May 2015 #

    “You told me you don’t love me / Over a cup of coffee / And I just have to look away” – Garbage

    “Toast is burned, and your coffee’s cold / And you leave all the post ’cause it’s nothing but bills again” – yeah

    Coffee is one of those things that’s so mundane that I usually find specific references pointing to either stagnation or boredom, a life that’s somehow petering out; what else is there, if all there is to highlight is the mundane? Such is Black Coffee’s hidden edge; the insecurity of the hot and cold frozen moments, the little “wouldn’t wanna take everything out on you / though I know I do” niggle, the “beach walking” / “until you see the shore” skirting the line in the sand of beaches as venues for romance as well as being frontiers; and suddenly that reprised first verse at the end is framing the whole thing as a breakup – at the very least, I’m certainly not seeing enough here to say it’s a song about contentment.

    Still a brilliant song though, possibly precisely because it runs that dividing line so effectively. Can’t argue with Tom’s 9, but I’d still rather kick back and listen to Pure Shores.

  48. 48
    mark g on 21 May 2015 #

    Yep, classic example of the unfollowable hit. And yet, I bought the album and found their first single in a record shop in Berlin. Nothing bad, but.

  49. 49
    Phil on 21 May 2015 #

    Ooh – “and now my coffee’s cold and I’m getting told that I’ve got to get back to work”. Stagnant mundanity, (lost) contentment and a break-up (unspecified) – if there’d been a hangover reference in there as well Rod would have had the set.

  50. 50
    The Arn on 21 May 2015 #

    The sun comes up
    I think about you
    The coffee cup
    I think about you…

    Sondheim, though I’m guessing most of us would be familiar with it at all via the Liza Minnelli/PSB version.
    Again, coffee as an indication of mundanity and routine. There’s Mike and the Mechanics’ Another Cup of Coffee too.

    Or there’s R.E.M.’s ‘I’ll settle for a cup of coffee but you know what I really need’ from ‘I Don’t Sleep I Dream’. Again, it’s ordinary… someone so obsessed they just want to spend time with the other person, even if it’s just talking.

    Coffee basically gets a really bad deal from pop doesn’t it?

  51. 51
    Phil on 21 May 2015 #

    “Baby, instant soup doesn’t really grab me today,
    I need something more sub, stub, sub, substantial –
    A can of beans, some black eyed peas, some Nescafe on ice,
    A candy bar, a falling star or a reading from Dr Seuss”

    We might need to start another category for that one.

  52. 52
    Steve Mannion on 21 May 2015 #

    And from Fuzzbox’s…deathless ‘Pink Sunshine’:

    “Gun metal sunrise sees you ragged round the edge
    you turn around both of them sleep away
    coffee and toast-you’re back from the dead”

    NB googled, only that last line may be accurate

  53. 53
    Kinitawowi on 21 May 2015 #

    The coffee and toast combination in particular seems oddly popular…

    “If you come back to my house
    I’ll make some coffee and some toast”

    Thank you James, for what might be the most uninspiring invitation ever.

  54. 54
    Ophir Zemer on 21 May 2015 #

    Put another log in the fire for me, I’ve made some breakfast and coffee

  55. 55
    Brendan F on 21 May 2015 #

    the lip ring on a half filled cup of coffee that you poured and didn’t drink – Good Year for the Roses

  56. 56
    wichitalineman on 21 May 2015 #

    I thought the original conversation upthread was about coffee as a signifier of break-ups, bad news and misery – as in Good Year For The Roses or Mike & the Mechanics’ Another Cup Of Coffee (great song).

    If it’s about hot beverages in pop generally, I’ve always admired Roy Harper’s Another Day for its incredibly mundane opening line (“The kettle’s on, the sun has gone, another day”), used as the prelude to an uncomfortable meeting between former lovers who still fancy each other.

    (Even though he is offered “Tibetan tea on a flower tray” rather than coffee).

  57. 57
    Phil on 21 May 2015 #

    I think we identified four main groups of coffee-related songs – coffee seems to symbolise the mundane & everyday in three of them, but the mundane is variously associated with contentment (this one), stagnation (the St Etienne one) and break-up (GYFTR). The fourth group are basically about sobering up. Then there’s The Sidewinder… which is about God knows what.

    Incidentally, Stephin Merritt appears never to have mentioned coffee in a song, If a search on Stephinsongs is to be believed.

  58. 58

    The earliest coffee-related song i’ve so far found via google is the 1928 “You’re the Cream in My Coffee” (music Ray Henderson, lyrics Buddy G. DeSylva, Lew Brown) from the Broadway musical Hold Everything! I seriously doubt it is the first — I just haven’t thought of a quick way of hunting such things down.

  59. 59

    No wait, the earliest song i’ve so far found via google to mention coffee is stephen foster’s angelina baker (1850): “She can’t do hard work because she is not stout/She bakes her biscuits every day, and pours the coffee out/CHORUS: Angeline the baker, her age is 43/I bought her candy by the peck, and she won’t marry me

  60. 60
    Stevie T on 21 May 2015 #

    1734: https://youtu.be/YC5KpmK6oOs

    If I can’t drink
    my bowl of coffee three times daily,
    then in my torment I will shrivel up
    like a piece of roast goat.

  61. 61
    Mark G on 21 May 2015 #

    #56 funnily enough, I’d nominate Kate Bush and Peter Gabriel’s performance of “Another Day” as the most miserable duet of modern times. Entirely in context, of course.

  62. 62
    lonepilgrim on 21 May 2015 #

    not sure what category ‘Starfish and coffee’ by Prince falls into

  63. 63
    innit on 21 May 2015 #

    As usual Natalie Appleton’s vocal talents are ignored. she makes the song.

  64. 64
    Paulito on 21 May 2015 #

    In ‘Is She Really Going Out With Him’, Joe Jackson’s reference to this ubiquitous beverage helps to conjure a scene of everyday frustration. Joe’s coffee slowly cools at his side, neglected, as he gawps incredulously out his window at passing lovelies and their Neanderthal consorts.

  65. 65
    Chelovek na lune on 22 May 2015 #

    “I had some dreams, they were clouds in my coffee”

  66. 66
    ace inhibitor on 22 May 2015 #

    “I drank a jar full of coffee, and I took some of these!”

  67. 67
    Phil on 22 May 2015 #

    From what I know of MES’s lifestyle, that is a celebration of the mundane and everyday.

  68. 68
    Ophir Zemer on 22 May 2015 #

    There’s too much caffeine in your bloodstream and a lack of real spice in your life

  69. 69
    Tom McKennan on 12 Mar 2016 #

    The Guardian is advertising an interview on the All Saints reunion describing them as ‘pop rebels’. (annoyingly I can’t find it to link) Needless to say there are scores of old punks spitting feathers at the description but for all that it did strike me as odd: It’s not a label I’d ever have stuck on them. Was rebellion part of the package with All Saints? Grown-up, classy sophistication surely? I was never a fan so I’m quite prepared to imagine I’ve missed something.

  70. 70
    Gareth Parker on 31 May 2021 #

    Really like Pure Shores, but not keen on this at all I’m afraid. Monotonous and at over 4 3/4 minutes way too long in my opinion. Sorry, but a 3/10 here.

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