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Home > Music

104 calories in a shit-induced daze

Shaun Pye

5 December 2003

My in-depth popular music knowledge is limited to two historical periods. 1982 -1989 (because when I was a teenager sitting alone in my bedroom writing D&D modules and attempting to prove Fermat’s Last Theorem, I had the radio on). And August 2001 to the present day (because I go to the gym).

Illustration by Vincent Vanoli Thus, while I can name at most three Nirvana songs – ‘Smells like Teen Spirit’, ‘Come as you are’ and ‘Lithium’ (?) – I know which member of S Club 7 sang which line of ‘Don’t stop movin’.’

This knowledge carries no value judgment. I’m sure the Happy Mondays (I can remember one song about melons but don’t recall the title) are objectively better than Blue. But I had no need to listen to playlist radio in the early ‘90s. Now, as in my pubescent years, I do.

It is physically impossible to exercise without listening to something. Try it and you will run a gruelling section of treadmill only to look down after a decent amount of sweat to see you’ve been at it for 25 seconds and burnt four calories. You have to lose yourself. For some people at my gym this can be via pure dance beat (Channel#9) for others the television (Channels#1-3). But I’ve tried thumping bass, Bargain Hunt and (in hope rather than expectation) BBC2’s Working Lunch and they don’t work. I need playlist radio.

I need to immerse myself in a story: an emotional journey which carries my conscious from the monotony of the StarTrac machine to a different fantastical dimension. A classic example: Enrique Iglesias’s breakthrough single ‘Hero’ (London’s Magic104.2 – Channel#7). Enrique doesn’t just sing that song; he lives it. He loves that girl, then the men beat him up for some reason in the video, and she thinks he’s dead. But he comes back at the end showing that his spirit and love haven’t been broken. It is he, not his attackers, who is the hero. It’s absolute crap but I looked down at the StarTrac display: four minutes and 42 calories in the blink of an eye.

So it comes to pass that my musical taste is at odds with every other aspect of my psyche. Why did I punch the air at the following sequence of modern-day classics?

Britney Spears’ ‘Overprotected’ (Capital FM98.2–Channel#5). Why won’t they let her do what she wants with her life? A1’s ‘Caught in the middle’ (London’s Heart106.2–Channel#8). Things could have been different, but now she’s gone. Bruce Hornsby and the Range’s ‘The way it is’ (Heart106.2).

Moving on so many levels: its message that we mustn’t fear change; the fact it used to be the end music of Grandstand when they did the tables; and as The Patman (DJ Patrick Sharpe) noted: “Surely the greatest rock pianist outside of Sir Elton John.” Amen to that. (‘The way it is’ (1986) brings up one point: it doesn’t have to be music post- August-2001 – it’s just that 95% of the time it is.)

I punched the air because I’ve just done nine minutes and 104 calories in a shit-induced daze. And then Busted’s ‘Sleeping with the light on’ comes on (Captial FM98.2) and I’m breaking personal bests.

When the World Cup was coming, almost any song could be bent to suit my needs. My heart would lift when I heard Daniel Bedingfield’s debut smash ‘Gotta get thru this’. Yes: England did have to get through this. ‘This’ being the group stage. Cue Michael Owen goal played in head – three minutes and 38 calories of my life I don’t remember running. S Club 7’s ‘You was perfect’; “You are all I need to get me through,” intoned Rachel. Yes, Steven Gerrard, you are all we need to get us through. Cue 70-yard Gerrard pass to a hungry Michael Owen. Four minutes and 50 calories.

Then of course Gerrard got injured, the World Cup started and three weeks later we lost. It was tough after that. I didn’t really care whether Beverley Knight Coulda, Woulda or even Shoulda. It took a real song – Adams’s seminal ‘Summer of ‘69’ or Winslet’s haunting ‘What if?’ – to get me in the zone.
I go today to the gym with a heavy heart. Yesterday Channel#8 was switched from London’s Heart106.2 to Radio 2. Now, while it has reinvented itself, no-one can run to the sound of Ken Bruce’s whimsy. It’s just too talky.

It recalls September 14th 2001. Foxy (DJ Neil Fox) was telling me to “turn the nearest person, doesn’t matter if they’re a stranger, hug them, tell them you love them, and together pray that our children won’t grow up in a world where hatred and religious differences…” I’m sorry. Too talky. I had to turn over to MTV. I’m trying to persuade them to put Virgin (105.8) on.

Then we’re in business.

Illustration by Vincent Vanoli

Comment on this article: letters@thefridaything.co.uk

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