Just a quickie tonight about a song I really rather like, James Sit Down. Now I’m not cool enough to have picked up the original release of this track back in 1989*, I stumbled across it via cooler friends when I got to Leeds University a year later and found out that the country had, totally unbeknownst to me and my rock-attuned ears been in the grip of a scene called baggy for a while now. Now always being one for a bit of a good bop when opportunity presents itself, I adjusted my ears and dived right in.
James were an unpromising lot from my point of view, being touted as ‘the new Smiths’ was never going to endear anyone to me, ever! They were vegetarians, that’s fine so am I, but they looked it to the point where I worried about their Vitamin B deficiencies and I’d have fed them steak. Now as everyone from South Wales knew, bands should make a bit of a sartorial effort and this invariably involved wearing leather trousers so tight they squeaked, cowboy boots, baring your chest, or on occasion your entire torso; James didn’t seem to buy into this aesthetic, they were all pulled baggy jumpers, baggy jeans and big blouses – clearly no-one had sat them down and told them the rules. They started off a bit folky too, but they got over that. But worst of all … worst of all … Tim Booth was celibate.
Like, duh! dude, Duh! To my cider addled mind this was surely the whole point of being in a band, any band, any type of band. I’m sure it wasn’t just Guns ‘n’ Roses, I’d be willing to bet that there are guys/gals out there in brass bands who just do it for the poontang / (male equivalent)**. Especially lead singers, they get 42.9% more than bassists (Lemmy excepted). I mean come on, the survival rate for bands is about the same for frog spawn, the reason there are millions of them is so some of them can survive the predations which claim 99% of them, make it through to open water and mate all they want to^. You find yourself the Alpha Male/Female in a herd by besting all the pretenders to your throne, or by toppling the upstarts you have a solemn duty to mate with the rest as often as you can in order to pass on your superior genetic qualities. Otherwise Darwinian principles will apply and we’ll be left with lame and inferior bands; probably. What was he thinking? It troubles me^^.
Oh yes, back to the music and stuff. Being the wild maverick of neurotically curated vinyl that I am, I listened to the B-side of Sit Down first; I know crazy, huh? who knows what I might do next, put a Pink Floyd LP three places over into the Pixies section? actually, no, the idea makes me physically sick! It would be in the wrong place! Sorry, sorry, music. First up we have the very forgettable ‘Tonight’, an up-tempo slightly jangly thing with too trebly a tone. Then we get the re-released studio version of ‘Sit Down’, itself a very good tune with some great passages, I like the way the band keep it all non-blustery and rocky, give Bono the same lyrics and you would have had a straight-faced earnest messaianic epic, James’ version is a lot groovier and floppier than that and eminently danceable, a rallying call for the outsiders, the sad, the mad and the ridiculous to rise up in solidarity TO THROW OF THE SHACKLES OF OPPRESSION, RIDICULE AND NORMALITY AND TAKE ACTION !!
That action by the way was, umm, sitting down.
And in student unions across the land that’s exactly what lots of annoying students did, they sat down on the dance floor in their droves, usually right in my way. Now I love a good bop about and my enthusiasm on the dance floor is in direct inverse proportion to my ability to control my feet. It got ugly, lots of hands got danced on in the Leeds area circa ’90-’92. At the time, whilst paying lip service to apologising I just thought, ‘Sod ’em, what do they expect!’. However, now that’s half a lifetime ago and I’m an older wiser man, a father too, I look back on it all and think, ‘Sod ’em, what did they expect!’
P.S – I couldn’t quite shoehorn it in above but the 9-minute version recorded live at the Manchester G-Mex, is brilliant, the rapt audience singing it by themselves for almost three minutes at the end in an epic act of communion.
*1989 being Faster Pussycat country in my book.
**am a bit hazy about what that might actually be and I’m far too gentlemanly to get all biological on you.
^pretty sure that’s frogs, or turtles, or eels, or manatees or something like that.
^^he appears to have got over himself by 1993’s ‘Laid’, one of the best and funniest songs about sex I can think of without getting off my behind and scanning the shelves.