I somehow mistakenly fell into a job revolving around streetlights a few years ago. It is never a job I would have chosen for myself, and like prostitution and drug dealing it was never mentioned as a possible career path by guidance councillors at school but the modern world needs their streets to be brightly lit so they can see where they're going and feel safe. Or something. It means there's a job for people who never knew (and still don't) what they want to do with their lives. But it all sounds very un-rock 'n' roll, in fact it sounds boring as hell.
I used to try to not talk about it too much but since Jeremy Vine ousted me on national televison I thought maybe I should be more open about it; I do spend at least eight hours of every working day doing some kind of job revolving around them, so why not write a blog about them too? Possibly the most boring blog in the world.
When people listen to music there's certain words or terms in lyrics which will be instantly forgettable. Words that are in there to possibly portray a meaning in something, maybe to give the listener some kind of context, possibly just as filler. The kind of word that isn't really part of the main theme of the song but is there to add weight to the song as a whole or used as a comparision to something. A word/ thing that most people wouldn't pick up on, but then what if you work in the sector and you keep hearing an inordinate amount of streetlights being heard in lyrics? Fucking streetlights. You'd probably think you were going mad. That work was taking you over. You'd probably think that, that... well that you were a bit sick and should think of getting a job involving something that actually matters. Like people or terrepins.
Anyway, this had been creeping up on me for a few months, I'd found myself listening to songs and thinking 'did s/he just shout/sing streetlights in the middle of that lyric!?' I tried to forget about it and put it down to misheard lyrics and my mind playing tricks on me but when I went a gig at the Birds Nest and saw this amazing newish band called Waco (somewhere between Propagandhi and The Smith Street Band with bits of Black Sabbath, The Replacements, Kid Dynamite, Joyce Manor and Minor Threat chucked in too. Perhaps. Check them out for yourself here and tell me who they actually sound like.) play I could have sworn they were singing about streetlights in one of their songs. It was a bit much that work seemed to be impeding on my solo drinking sessions watching punk bands, if anywhere I would have thought that would always be my safe haven, my escape. But the band kind of blew me away and made me smile so I decided to get their EP and take it home for further investigation.
I hadn't been mistaken; on The Devil they sing "Lost in the middle of the night in the middle of the city/ There's a streetlight that never goes out when you're living here like me" Of course they weren't actually singing about streetlights; i'm not sure if anyone's written a song as an ode to street lights, I hope not or I'll buy their stuff and burn it. Anyway, I skipped through my iPod and stuck on some records and found other offenders that I'd suspected like Bangers ("I said my favouite colour now is the colour of streetlights/ she said she never could distinguish between my bad jokes and stupid lines" from the song Bad Jokes on Crazy Fucking Dreams), Hot Club De Paris ("In the shadows of a Friday night/ I walked into a brand new street light" from Everyeveryeverything on Drop It Till It Pops), The Hold Steady ("When he's holding then the streetlights/ seem an awful lot like spotlights" from Charlemagne in Sweatpants from Seperation Sunday) the truly awful Route 215 (it was a review copy from back in the waterintobeer days; some song about being "dimly lit", "licking clit" and being "well aroused" when "undoing a blouse" called Underneath A Streetlight from the album Shock 'Em Dead) or Zatopeks whose song Mechanised from new album About Bloody Time is kind of based on a Gogol quote about streetlights (or streetlamps anyhow). Get that album by the way if you like intelligent, catchy as hell, thought provoking pop punk. It's bloody beauty.
And then Against All Authority sing "What do you do when there's nowhere to go? Empty pools and punk rock shows/ anger that nobody knows and the sun goes down and the streetlights glow' on Silence is Golden But Duct Tape is Silver and The Lawrence Arms sing "A temple corroded, eviction pending/ embrace me, cold nights, grey sky, streetlight" on the First Eviction Notice and nomeansno sing "The day everything became nothing/ I was standing underneath a streetlight, wishing I'd had a cigarette" from The Day Everything Became Nothing or Samiam sing "See that sky flying by/ see the streetlights spin and blend/ proving it's not a fastest scar" from Sky Flying.
Where was all this coming from? Had anyone stood underneath a streetlight I had anything to do with and started writing a song? Maybe my job wasn't as boring as I thought, maybe streetlights are actually an inspiration to artists and poets the world over. Maybe I was actually helping to provide a public service rather than just sitting in a job that was created to create a job so that money could keep on circulating around the country and the government could point to reduced unemployment figures. Maybe it does matter.
The Velvet Underground (Venus in Furs), Buffalo Tom (Sunday Night), Belle and Sebastien (Waiting for the Moon to Rise), Van Morrison (In the Midnight), Arcade Fire (Une Annee Sans Lumiere), Hefner (Half a Life), Billy Bragg (Northern Industrial Town), Joni Mitchell (Underneath the Streetlight), MC5 (Shakin Street), Blondie (Out in the Streets) and Ice-T (Peel their Caps Back) are just some other musicians to have included streetlights as a (perhaps not so) vital element of their songs. A revelation I'm sure you'll agree. Even Journey talk of 'Streetlight people' on Don't Stop Beleivin' and Coolio sang "I'm the kinda G the little homies wanna be like/ On my knees in the night, sayin' prayers in the streetlight" on Gangstas Paradise and where would the nineties have been without that song?
And that makes streetlights cool, surely? Some validation for those eight hours a day would be kind of nice. But then, as much time as I spend there it's not that important... As always, thanks to all the bands above for the music, thanks for making life that bit more fun.