7. Music: food of love

Posted on 18/01/2017

If music be the food of love’ wrote Shakespeare. And music and love have had a fine relationship over the millenia that music has been around. This relationship has intensified since the era of recorded music, and especially pop music began in the last century. But they produced some lovely love songs (‘Hey Jude’).

Despite it capacity for feeding love, the onset of pop music was regarded by the posher people with some disdain: Private Eye magazine, once seen as a revolutionary force but run by public schoolboys, used to refer to the ‘popular singing group the Turds’. This sneering referred to the Beatles, who were pushing back the boundaries of taste with things like John Lennon spending a week in a bed with Yoko Ono.

Here is his post-Beatles ‘Jealo0us Guy’


The boundaries of what can be put in a song have gone further out. ‘I feel love‘ by Donna Summer featured an orgasm, as did Serge Gainsbourg’s ‘Je T’aime’: two in that case as he recorded with Brigitte Bardot doing the noises off and then, when he had broken up with her, did the more famous version with Jane Birkin in the prone role.

Given my own, somewhat sideways, approach to songwriting, I have rather focussed on the literal meaning of food in songs. There are plenty of them. Food songs that I recall with especial joy are those of Fats Waller. He was a brilliant pianist, showman and songwriter.”Lounging at the Waldorf’ deals with snacks at a posh hotel.

At one point his friend asks for ‘chitlings’ (a pork dish) and Waller silinces him: ‘you in the Waldorf now’.  ‘Seafood Mama’ speaks for itself. He had a delightful wit and self mockery:‘with me most anything goes’ in relation to food.

Alice’s Restaurant, a 25 minute epic by Arlo Guthrie, son of the famous folk singer Woody, wrote his song about the draft in the Vietnam war, but its hook is Alice and her restaurant, who coooked a a ‘Thanksgiving Dinner that couldnt be beat’.

The Scrapple song by Robbie Fulks is an amusing discussion of a sort of pigmeat stew popular in Pennysylvania. It says that the area is not good for food (‘not fit for a collection plate’) and that ‘up near Philly they are not chefly men’ an adjective I have not met before.

Even when it not the food of love, food is still food and there’s plenty of it in music.

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