This list of songs is inspired by a list published by radio station, KEXP, from Seattle in 2010. For the most part, I will faithfully countdown from their list, from Song #500 to Song #1. So, when you see the song title listed as something like: “KEXP: Song #XXX”….it means that I am working off of the official KEXP list. If I post the song title as being: “KTOM: Song #xxx”….it means I have gone rogue and am inserting a song choice from my own personal list of tunes I really like. In either case, you are going to get to hear a great song and learn the story behind it. Finally, I am not a music critic nor a musician. I am a music fan and an armchair storyteller. Enough said! Let’s get on to today’s song.
KEXP: THe Top 500 Songs in Modern Music History.
Song #494: Step on by The Happy Mondays.
The Happy Mondays were part of the same music scene in Manchester, England that spawned the band, James, that we talked about in an earlier post. Manchester’s music scene revolved around an organization called Factory Records and a man who headed it called Tony Wilson. The first song I ever heard by The Happy Mondays was called “24 Hour Party People”. It was the title track from a soundtrack to a movie of the same name. As you may be able to deduce from the song’s title, it refers to the nature of how life was lived by those involved in the music scene of the late 80s/early 90s in “Madchester”, as it came to be known. The movie depicts a music scene filled in equal measure with debauchery, a complete lack of inhibitions and a thirst for the thrill of instant gratification. While there were lots of bands and musicians involved in the scene, the most notorious of them all were The Happy Mondays.
The Happy Mondays were lead by singer Shaun Ryder and his brother, Paul. There was a man named Bez whose job it was to dance menacingly onstage. A revolving cast of other musicians came and went over the years. The Happy Mondays were part of the Rave scene in Manchester. Rave Music was often played in combination with drug use to give a psychedelic effect during the Rave. The Happy Mondays were referred to as “a gang with guitars”. The lead singer was quoted as saying something to the effect that they never cared about fame and record sales. All that they ever wanted was to jam with each other in a room and have fun. And fun they did have. The drug use by the band is legendary. In fact, when I was searching for a video to pair with this post, I could not find one where the main guys in the band weren’t looped out of their minds while on stage. The one I will share even has a mid-song scuffle break out between the lead singer, Shaun and the “dancer”, Bez.
The Happy Mondays produced several solid pop songs such as “24 Hour Party People” and today’s selection, “Step On”. The piano work in this song is particularly noteworthy. Very peppy and tuneful. Despite the hedonistic nature of the times in which they found themselves, The Happy Mondays managed to carve out a respectable career. They haven’t sold millions of albums like most other groups on this Top 500 list but, they are here for another reason. The Happy Mondays are here, in my opinion, because they are most closely associated with a time in Manchester musical history that many people remember with absolute fondness. Like any drug high, the feeling of it at its’ peak is like no other. Reality is a cruel comedown in comparison. But, as we know, drug highs don’t last. Only the constant craving remains in its wake. Addiction is the real master of lives. In the comment section to one of the drug-fuelled live videos, there was the comment, “No one remembers the making of this video.” No truer words have been spoken about the reign of The Happy Mondays in Manchester. The memories of what Joy feels like remain, though. And so, I present, “Step On”…which is actually not a bad tune if you just listen to the music.
The link to the video for Step On by The Happy Mondays can be found here.
Thanks to KEXP for inspiring the writing of this post. The link to their website can be found here.
Believe it or not but, The Happy Mondays have an official website of their own. The link to it is here.