Thursday, 19 March 2015

Piss on the goons

Peter Gabriel or Blake Edmonds?
Tracks of My Years Pt.2
Peter Gabriel - Games Without Frontiers

This song will always remind me of boiled egg and soldiers for breakfast. I don't know why but my mother went on some kind of mission for me and my sister to go to school on an egg. God knows what my farts smelt like, they're bad enough when I don't have any eggs. Anyway, because Dave Lee Travis used to seemingly play this every day on the Radio 1 breakfast show at the that time we were having boiled eggs, the two will forever go hand-in-hand.
Again this another song that I can remember from my childhood that used to scare the wits out of me. David Rhodes' repetitive slide up the fretboard in there is one reason - completely unsettling. The vocal wasn't normal either. This man sounded like he was the modern day version of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang's childcatcher; watching children playing from afar while clearly formulating something in his mind. Hans plays with Lotte which gradually descends into Adolf and Enrico building and playing with a bonfire. My mum tried to keep me away from people who set bonfires (probably because my fellow egg-munching, pyromanical sister once tried to set fire to the garage, but that's another story), they were deemed to be naughty and no good would end up coming of them (she was right about one of them, as it turned out).
Sticking with the lyrics, I always thought that the opening lines to the song were "She, so popular" Who is she, and why is she so popular? I didn't know. And who is She? Lotte? Suki? Britt? Jane? Well, Jane did play with Willi, so it could be her (ho ho!). Turns out, of course that the opening line is "Jeux sans frontieres". Now I have a confession to make here, it wasn't until about ten years ago, when I bought Peter Gabriel 3 and looked at the lyric sheet that I found out what the lyrics actually were. Of course then it all makes sense! Jeux sans Frontieres was the French name for the television inter-city shitfest It's a Knockout! I'm not happy to report that it was only when I reached my mid-thirties that the lyrics all made perfect sense. You know, watching people play 'silly games' like the contestants in It's a Knockout*. And that all adds up to the song being an allegory on the foolish games politicians and leaders play with people's lives. Dur! Thick, aren't I?
I do remember, however, being struck how clever it was that the line "Whistling tunes..." was accompanied by actual whistling. I'm clearly quite easy to impress, especially as the next big hit to feature whistling was that bloody Wind of Change.
Anyway, it's a good job I never saw the accompanying video and single sleeve at the time as that would have had me hiding under the dining room table. Gabriel looks like a man possessed in the video, then there's that weird spinning three-headed doll thing and footage of a nuclear explosion. Christ. While Gabriel's melting head on the cover of the 7" would have had me having to have it placed upside down at all times. But having said that, his face does like like that of Blake Edmonds, a character in the Tiger comic at the time in a strip called Death Wish** which I lapped up every week. Little did I know at the time that less than a decade earlier this guy used to prance around with a flower on his head singing about farms, firemen, hogweeds and Green Shield stamps.

I think I may be giving the impression that I spent my whole childhood in a state of perpetual fear here. Don't worry, the next song I have lined up for this is what John Shuttleworth would call 'a fun track'.
All getting a bit prog, this blog, isn't it? Don't worry, I'm sure there'll be something on the TV to moan about soon enough.

*My parents knew someone who competed in IAKO when it came to Newark. He was dressed as a giant dog and had to find a bone in a haystack. We didn't go to the recording of it as Dad was too cheap to buy tickets. instead we went down the day before the recording, and gawped at Stuart Hall watching the set up and talking to the production team. Well, who knew...?
**Death Wish! In a kids' comic! Didn't think anything of a suicidal racing driver at the time of course. Clearly inspired by Niki Lauda, I guess.


Hawkfall said...

I love this song and have the single in that picture sleeve up there. It's the best Peter Gabriel - Kate Bush collaboration, better than No Self Control and more fun than the well-meaning but dull Don't Give Up.

There was a period in 1979 and 1980 when songs like this made the Top 10, where they duked it out with Madness, Blondie, Chic and Motorhead. Heady days.

Bright Ambassador said...

Pity you're not in the UK to see the Top of the Pops repeats, Mr Hawkfall. We've got to the period in 1980 where Games... is in the chart. And number one is Kenny Rogers. Iron Maiden were on last week too, along with Shakey.