Though we’re well aware that Blue Monday is a load of bollocks designed by a marketing man to make us buy things to cheer ourselves up, this particular Monday in January, far enough from those long-forgotten December days off and far enough from the next pay-day, still seems pretty bloody grim to us.
So to help out we’ve found a number of London-linked songs designed to make you even more gloomy than you already are, staring out the window at a world that’d do just fine without you. Catharsis often comes via music.
Nick Drake - Day Is Done
Looking back now it’s pretty clear that Nick Drake was not a happy man, though those around him evidently didn’t know how unwell he’d become before his possibly self-inflicted overdose in 1974. This is from his debut album, Five Leaves Left, recorded at the Sound Techniques studio in Chelsea in 1968. “Didn’t do the things you meant to do / Now there’s no time to start anew / Now the party’s through.” Downbeat stuff.
Placebo - Twenty Years
Never one for particularly chipper songs, Twenty Years is up there with this London band’s grimmer work. Fans of Placebo are of the type you might describe as ‘committed’ and the meaning behind the lyrics of this bonus track from a 2004 greatest hits collection have no doubt been pored over at length in various forums, but it’s unlikely this means anything positive: “There are twenty years to go / And many friends I hope / Though some may hold the rose, some hold the rope.”
The National - England
This doesn’t need much explanation; it’s basically just handy that these gloomy Americans have given us an opportunity to include one of their superb tracks thanks to these lyrics: “You must be somewhere in London / You must be loving your life in the rain / You must be somewhere in London / Walking every lane.” (Note: lyrics sites, and this video, seem to think the last two words are ‘Abbey Lane’, but we prefer it our way.) It doesn’t appear to be a particularly flattering song about England, but by God is it brilliant. From the band’s 2010 album High Violet.
The Clash - Card Cheat
This Mick Jones number from London Calling begins with the line “There's a solitary man crying, ‘Hold me.’” Although it seems to be upbeat enough if you ignore the lyrics, Card Cheat is the tale of a man who cheats at cards and gets shot for his troubles. It even mentions Crimea, just to make things even more depressing.
Elton John - Someone Saved My Life Tonight
Well we were hardly going to pick Candle in the sodding Wind and have the whole lot of you leaping out of windows. Ultimately this track from Elton’s 1975 album Captain Fantastic and the Brown Dirt Cowboy tells a positive tale, but it was hard won. The song is about a period in 1969 while the singer was living in Islington and engaged to be married to Linda Woodrow, during which he seriously contemplated suicide and was thankfully talked out of it by, among others, his friend ‘Long’ John Baldry. Just the sort of hope we all need on a day like this.
Ralph McTell - Streets of London
A bit obvious, but tricky to justify not including a song that McTell himself elected not to include on his debut album because it was too depressing. There’s no point picking out specific lyrics from this 1974 gem because the whole lot of them remind us all that everything sucks. But at least we’re in London while it does eh, silver lining and all that.
Billy Ocean - There'll Be Sad Songs (To Make You Cry)
There are so many reasons why this song makes us sad. It’s shit, for one thing. But also Billy’s magisterial get-up at 2:47 in this video — white shirt tucked into very, very high blue jeans, and coat over shoulder — reminds us just how long we’ve been waiting for a 1980s fashion revival. The time is again right for massive perms with inexplicable hair-bands, long white coats and silly hats. All right, sillier hats.
Ray Davies - I Go To Sleep
A particularly sad number from the Kinks frontman; a song for an absent lover with sorrow dripping from every lyric. Written in 1965, this track was never recorded as a Kinks song though eventually it found its way out as a bonus track on the 1998 reissue of Kinda Kinks, and it’s enough to make you want to curl up for a little weep.
Carter USM - The Final Comedown
Known for their scattergun lyrics and drum machine-fuelled mania, Carter USM threw everyone by deciding to end their 1991 album 30 Something with this miserable beauty. They also made hundreds of middle-aged men cry by playing it at their final ever gigs at the end of last year, and it’s the perfect way to end our wretched selection of gloomy tracks, not least because of the final line in the song. You’ll have to listen to see what we mean.
If for some reason you still need convincing that Blue Monday is not a 'thing', neuroscientist Dean Burnett has a rather good smile-inducing explanation about why it's tosh in the Guardian.