500 Songs: Why Do Fools Fall in Love?

The new episode of A History of Rock Music in 500 Songs is now up. It’s on Frankie Lymon and the Teenagers, and what happens when you get signed to a Mafia-owned company before you even hit puberty. (Spoiler: nothing good).
Also, for Patreon backers, there’s a backer-only ten-minute bonus on “Space Guitar” by Johnny “Guitar” Watson.

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Three New Podcasts

This is a day late, but there’s so much new podcast material here that you’ll be sick of my voice if you aren’t already.

The new episode of A History of Rock Music in 500 Songs is up. This one’s on “Tutti Frutti” by Little Richard, and how what started as a song about anal sex ended up being a rock and roll standard.

I’ve also started doing ten-minute extra episodes of the podcast for Patreon backers. Today’s expands on the discussion of the “dirty blues” in the main podcast with some more examples, notably “Rotten Cocksuckers Ball” by the Clovers.

And finally, I’ve guested on Jaffa Cake Jukebox, in which Tilt and Gary of the Sitcom Club play records and talk about them. I talked with them about the charts for 18 January 1957, which featured absolutely no sex of any variety (apart from some shagging on down at the union hall) and so is probably the safest for work of these three.

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On Telling

As I started to write this a while back, there were council elections going on in much of England and Wales. Tomorrow, there will be another set of elections, as we vote in European elections for what will hopefully not be the last time. And so there’s a good chance that as you go to vote you’ll be confronted by someone wearing a rosette with the logo of one or other political party, asking for your name and address. You might, understandably, wonder why they want that information, and what it is they’re doing.

As someone who has been that person with the rosette on many, many, occasions, I know that a lot of people are suspicious, or even angry, so I thought I’d do a brief explanation of what it is these people, called tellers, are actually doing.

First, and most important, they don’t want to know how you voted, and they’re not trying to persuade you to vote for them. In fact, while the rules for what tellers can do vary from local authority to local authority, most of them are banned from talking to you before you vote. (I say “most of them” because the guidance given is always to listen to what the poll workers say, and different poll workers give you different rules).

No, what they’re trying to do is save both you and their parties some time.

You see, in Britain, and in other countries without compulsory voting, differential turnout is what wins elections. You need to make sure that your own voters are coming out to the polls, in higher numbers than your opponents, if you want to win. So what you do, is you spend most of the time in between elections getting as much data about the voters as you can. You knock on their doors and ask them how they’re going to vote — and if they’re not voting for you, you find out who they are voting for instead. You put out leaflets with surveys that people can fill in, and hope they send them back to you. You do everything, in short, to figure out who is likely to vote for you, who is likely to vote for your opponents, and how you can get the people in the first group to go out and vote.

So on polling day, if you live in a closely-fought ward or constituency, and if you have been identified by one of the parties as being likely to vote for them, you will find leaflets through your door at 5AM, followed by constant door-knocking from about nine in the morning through to nine PM, as they increasingly desperately try to get you out of the door to the polling station.

But of course, the parties don’t want to waste their time knocking on the doors of people who’ve already voted, so they use tellers.

What tellers do — all they do — is stand outside a polling station and ask you for your polling card number or your name and address. Then they give that to the team from their party — either on a piece of paper collected every couple of hours and entered into spreadsheets or, more recently, by using mobile apps that knock names and addresses directly off the knocking-up list.

If you were on that party’s list, you would no longer be bothered by their canvass teams trying to get you out to vote. And if you weren’t — well, it would make no difference to your life anyway, at all.

Now there are a couple of important things to note about this. The first is that you’re not giving the parties access to any information they won’t already have soon after. Every political party will get, shortly after the election, copies of the marked registers. Those will show them exactly who did and didn’t vote — not who they voted for, but whether they voted at all. They’ll use that information for the next round of elections, targeting likely voters before abstainers. You’re only allowing them to get that information a few days early.

It’s also the case that the people you’re talking to, at least, *will not* know what canvass data their party has on you. It is likely that they’re not going to be knocking on your door anyway — they’ll only be doing that with people who are confirmed as voters for their party, and given the number of parties standing for election it is unlikely that whichever one the teller is campaigning for will be the one you choose.

It’s also the case, and this is something that people might find hard to believe, that this is something where multiple parties will work together. On a busy election day, in a hotly-contested seat, you’ll occasionally find members of different parties telling outside the same polling station — I’ve had it happen myself. I’ve been a teller at polling stations where there have been me, a Labour teller, and a Conservative teller, all sat together and chatting (this was before the recent turn of the Conservative Party into batshittery — I strongly doubt you’ll find a Tory affable enough for this to work now). When that happens, you’ll take it in turns to ask the voters for their details, and share them with the other parties — it lightens the workload for all of you, and it means the voters aren’t being bothered by multiple people.

And this is the thing to remember about tellers when they approach you. Whatever party they’re from, they’re probably those members of that party who are most keen on doing their democratic duty. Different jobs on polling day attract different kinds of people, and tellers, for the most part, tend to be the ones who are most keen on working across party lines, the ones who are most interested in just getting people to vote, and in getting democracy working.

Political volunteers, of all parties, are for the most part people who are doing a lot of work for no reward other than the knowledge that they are making the world a slightly better place by their own lights. So don’t be scared of them, and don’t give them a hard time (unless they’re Brexit Party, in which case do what you like).

Anyway, I hope you get out and vote tomorrow — Ideally for the Lib Dems, if not then at least for a Remain party, and if you can’t bring yourself to do that, at least for a non-fascist. And when you do, be nice to the tellers. They’re trying to make your life easier.

This blog post was brought to you by the generosity of my backers on Patreon. Why not join them?

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500 Songs: “Mystery Train”


The new episode of A History of Rock Music in 500 Songs is now live! This one is on “Mystery Train” by Elvis Presley, and also involves geeks, unsolved murders, and contract negotiations.

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500 Songs: “I Got A Woman”


The new episode of “A History of Rock Music in 500 Songs” is up! Learn about “I Got A Woman” by Ray Charles, why Sammy Cahn would not have liked The Voice, and how what we now think of as “good singing” started by trying not to sound like Nat King Cole.

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New 500 Songs Episode — “Only You”

The new episode of A History of Rock Music in 500 Songs is now up! This one’s on “Only You”, how a group of six people called the Flamingos became an entirely different five people called the Platters, and fifty years of lawsuits.

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On the Euro Elections and “Vote-Splitting”

There is a take going round, from Remainer celebrities like Emma Kennedy, from journalists like Ian Dunt, and even from people who I’d expect to have more sense, that the European elections are a great missed opportunity for Remain parties to have come together as one big Remainer alliance, and then we would all have won everything and everything would be perfect. But instead, the Lib Dems and Greens and SNP and ChangeUK all insist on being separate political parties, almost as if they have policies *other* than remaining in the EU which they might want to implement at some point in the next five years, and so the Remain vote is split, and the Euro elections will be a disaster as a result.

Now, there is a *tiny* element of truth in that when it comes to ChangeUK — a “party” that has no platform, no profile, no membership, and no electoral history. They *are* doing little but taking votes away from the Lib Dems and Greens, and have very little likelihood of doing anything other than preventing more-established parties from gaining seats. I only hope that they take more votes away from the Conservatives (and ChangeUK are basically One-Nation Conservatives to the extent that they’re anything) than they do from decent, principled, parties, but I doubt it.

But leaving aside the Pro-Euro Conservative Party II: Centrist Boogaloo*, I don’t think this accusation holds any ground at all. And the reason is very simple, and it’s one that every single person who’s attacked the Remain parties for vote-splitting knows, but they’re pretending not to know because it makes them sad and it’s a hard problem that doesn’t admit of the kind of simple solution that starts “why don’t you just…” (as in “why don’t you just all stand as Remainer candidates?”).

That problem is, there are, for most people, going to be three parties standing in their area with remaining in the EU as a policy position (four in Scotland and Wales, where the Nationalist parties also want to remain in the EU). There are also, though, going to be four parties with leaving the EU as a policy position — Labour, the Conservatives, Fascist UKIP, and the Genteel-Racist Brexit Party.

So, by the commentariat’s logic, the Quitling vote will be split four ways, the Remainer vote will be split three in most places, so Remain parties should romp to victory, right?


Because no matter how much the Remainer commentariat may want it, the voters simply aren’t choosing to see the European elections as a plebiscite on leaving or remaining in the EU. Some are, no doubt — mostly the people who are going to vote for ChUK or one of the varieties of fascism — but most people will be voting on party lines, because of loyalty to their existing party, or because they consider leaving the EU less important than other policies, or because they’re unaware of the policy of the party they’re voting for, or any of a myriad other reasons.

We know this because in the 2017 General Election the overwhelming majority of Remain supporters didn’t vote for the Lib Dems or Greens — parties which supported remaining in the EU. Instead they voted for Labour, a Quitling party, whose manifesto clearly committed them to leaving the EU, and also to leaving the single market because they don’t want those foreigners coming over and taking our jobs. Some — a smaller but real number — also voted for the Conservatives.

Now, we can’t generalise from this as to what those people’s reasons actually were. Sometimes it will have been “to keep the other lot who are even worse out”. Sometimes it will have been because they care more about other policies than the policy on the EU. Many, many, Remain supporters seem to think (and who knows? They may even be right, though I doubt it) that while leaving the EU will be bad, it won’t be *that* bad, so it’s not worth making a fuss about. Others will have wanted to vote for a Remain party but found something about the ones standing in their area too offputting in other ways to support them.

But what that very, very, clearly shows is that there simply isn’t a bloc “Remain vote” of any size that will go out and vote in an election — as opposed to a referendum — purely on the lines of the parties’ attitudes to the EU.

Polling suggests that roughly sixty percent of people currently want to stay in the EU. Polling also suggests that roughly eighty percent of people plan to vote for parties that want to leave the EU. That’s not a problem caused by splitting the Remain vote, that’s a problem caused by remainers simply not seeing the issue as a particular priority.

And, of course, there’s the other fact that the different parties have different policies, and different priorities on subjects other than Brexit. This can be seen even in their names — the Liberal Democrats’ main priorities are liberalism and democracy, the Greens’ is the environment, and ChUK’s is Chuka Umunna’s ego.

And this is important. Because even if you accept — as I do — that Britain leaving the EU is the single most important political issue facing us, and the one that needs dealing with *right away*… well, it needs dealing with right away. But, one way or another (please God let this be true) the problem will be dealt with by the end of the year, and we’ll either be out of the EU (in which case who we elect for a very short time makes very little difference) or we’ll be staying in the EU, and the MEPs we elect will be dealing with other issues.

Now, the Greens and Lib Dems have fairly similar policies in most areas, as it happens, but they’re still distinct, and both parties should be maximising their own seats for that five year period *after* leaving the EU stops being an issue.

So fundamentally, what the Twitter celebrities are doing is blaming the political parties that are on their side for still being political parties, and ignoring the fact that the real problem here is that the voters don’t care about the same things the Twitter celebrities do. They want the electorate to be dissolved and replaced with one that will do what they say.

So anyway, the point is, if you’re a Remain voter, don’t be put off by talk of “vote splitting”. Vote for whichever of the Lib Dems, the Greens, the SNP, and Plaid is closest to your views, and don’t worry about vote splitting. If there is a remain vote, it’s no more split than the Quitling vote, and if there isn’t then there’s no point worrying.

(I don’t include the Chuka Party in the list of parties that might be closest to your views, as they literally have no policies at all yet other than having a second referendum, and they can’t be trusted on that given that the majority of their MPs voted for Article 50 to be invoked in 2016 and several of them argued vehemently against a second referendum for a long while after that. They’re opportunists, as well as many of them being racists and TERFs).

The only thing I would say is *if* you’re voting on EU lines, don’t vote for Labour in the hope that they’ll vote for anything other than leaving the EU, because your vote *will* be counted in support of leaving the EU. (If you want to leave the EU, or you don’t really care, or you don’t think your vote will make a difference, or you think other considerations matter more, then do what you want, obviously).

I hope you vote Lib Dem in the Euro elections — I certainly will be — but more than that I hope you vote for any party that represents your views, as while the system Great Britain uses for its European elections is horribly flawed (as I pointed out… God, ten years ago now, on this very blog. I am so old…) it is at least a little more representative in some ways than the Biggest Loser system we use for Westminster, and I’d hate to see people missing what may be their last chance at proper representation in Europe because they’ve been conned by someone who once had a bit part on Casualty saying “it would be nice if everyone was friends with each other, but they’re not, so we’re all going to lose”.

This blog post was brought to you by the generosity of my backers on Patreon, who back this blog and my podcast and books. Why not join them?

* In the original draft of this I used Chuka Umunna’s name here rather than the word “Centrist”, but at least one person took this as a racist reference to Umunna because of the proximity of his name and the word “boogaloo”. That interpretation had never occurred to me — it was a joke about weak sequels based on an old Internet meme about the title “Breakin’ II: Electric Boogaloo” — but I obviously don’t want my posts to contain even inadvertant racism, so I’ve changed that, and added this note for transparency. Sincere apologies to anyone offended.

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