Want a playlist for your bonfire night party? Have at it. You’re welcome.
Whenever I need a song about something weirdly specific, They Might Be Giants are almost always able to deliver, because that’s just what they do. Their biggest hit is about a nightlight, sung from the nightlight’s point of view, for goodness sake.
You’re On Fire is about a person whose head literally combusts whenever they’re angry, told from the point of view of somebody who keeps pointing this fact out in an extremely annoying fashion, thus surely only making the situation worse.
The singer offers helpful advice like “Hey, how’s it going? Is that your car they’re towing? I’m pretty sure that’s your car” and “As I’m sure you’re aware, you’ve got one of those rare combustible heads.”
Also, the video has that nice lady guard off Orange is the New Black and some singing mince for extra TMBG Weirdness.
Gabby Hutchinson Crouch
Bruce Springsteen – I’m on Fire
Now I think Bruce is a sexy mo’ fo’ at the best of times, but on this he really does smoulder. Written in the early 80s during his Born in the USA sessions, this gorgeous, sensual number was apparently an off-the-cuff track cooked up in minutes when he was messing around on his guitar.
For me, it’s one of his best. What I love about this song is its god-damn hotness. It oozes with sexual desire thanks to The Boss’s sultry, almost whispering, vocals and enticing lyrics. I mean, “Tell me now baby is he good to you, and can he do to you the things that I do…” JESUS H CHRIST, Bruce!
The song teases and tantalises and you are almost expecting it to kick in and get rockier in classic Springsteen style, but it doesn’t: it keeps you seduced and wanting more – and reaching for the repeat button.
Kings of Leon – Sex on Fire
This is, without a doubt, the most accidentally funny song about being randy. Accompanied by an alluringly gritty guitar riff provided by some other lads in his family, hawt, sweaty Caleb Followill wails about the agony of arousal.
The problem is his choice of words just makes it sound like somebody in this intimate gathering is suffering from severe genital discomfort, perhaps brought on by chaffing or an infection that should’ve been seen to sooner. (It might even be a symptom of something more serious, so it’s definitely worth getting checked out, yeah?)
This is also a useful song to sing if your friend’s glasses are hot – “Wooooaaaah, your specs are on fire.”
The Birthday Party – Sonny’s Burning
Halloween’s for kids; Bonfire Night’s where the real mischief happens. And while The Birthday Party’s goth-disco stomper Release the Bats is good cobweb-shaking fun, light the touchpaper on this track from their 1983 EP The Bad Seed then run like hell.
From his opening shriek of “Hands up who wants to die!” Nick Cave is at his incandescent best here, snarling a tale of Sonny, whose brilliance shines “like some bright erotic star”. Lurking in Sonny’s shadow yet consumed by his glow, he’s plotting revenge: “Some day I think I’ll cut him down / But it can get so cold in here / And he gives off such an evil heat / Flame on!”
The other three are hardly lukewarm: despite his resemblance to a watery-eyed foundling dragged from a river, Rowland S Howard draws white-hot arcs with his guitar strings; Tracy Pew’s bass rumbles like a dyspeptic volcano and Mick Harvey’s drums are Satan’s cantering stead. (As a bonus, check out the video for their 1981 single Nick the Stripper: now that’s how to do a Bonfire Night party.)
Electric Six – Danger! High Voltage
It was a toss-up between this, Billy Joel’s 1989 history lesson We Didn’t Start the Fire and The Prodigy’s stone cold rave classic Fire.
On having a listen, there was no contest: the Detroit rockers’ bonkers disco-metal mash-up with added Jack White is a dancefloor scorcher and makes it onto pretty much every Noonan party playlist. Also, it’s from the LP, Fire. Double trouble.
In short, it’s an absolute fucking joy. A three-and-a-half-minute thrash pop party of battling yelps, fuzztone, horns and steamy saxual thrusting. It’s ridiculous. But sublimely so.
It also has one of the most hilarious/disturbing/arousing* videos possibly ever (it views as an unlikely mash-up between The Word and an episode of Agatha Christie’s Poirot), which I feel duty-bound to share with you. At least get to the moose.
*I’m joking. Though I do have that basque.**
**I’m joking. Though I do have that codpiece.***
***I’m joking. Though I do have that moose.
Kate Bush – Rocket’s Tail
No song will ever be more fireworkey. Just listen to Kate, backed by the Trio Bulgarka singing acapella until Dave Gilmour’s guitar bursts through. Listen to the subtle change in Kate’s vocals when without hesitation, like a folk fairy tale of enchantment, what was mocked is suddenly become: from “I saw only a stick on fire” to “was it me said you were crazy?” as she jumps off Waterloo Bridge dressed as a firework.
The Trio Bulgarka’s amazing vocals grow more prominent and behind them, Kate squawks and screams. You won’t need fireworks on 5 November. Just set fire to your backside and squawk along with Kate and the Trio. What larks.
Katy Perry – Firework
This may endanger any street cred I have (who am I kidding?! I have none!) but I love this song; a belter of an uplifting pop anthem, with soaring strings, lyrics that enthuse and enliven and other lyrics that make no sense (how can a plastic bag want to start again?).
The year this came out, I was newly single, just out of a six-year relationship, and had decided with this newfound freedom to follow my dreams and give acting and comedy a go. Katy’s words summed up how I didn’t want to hold back anymore: “There’s still a chance for you / cos there’s a spark in you [….] It’s always been inside of you / And now it’s time to let it through!”
I love singing it in my car, in the shower, even on a crowded train carriage (this has actually happened). Just a little listen puts a spring in my step of unbridled positivity and hopefulness. “Baby you’re a firework! Come on show ‘em what you’re worth!”
Just don’t take meteorology tips from her: “After a hurricane comes a rainbow.” Er, no. You’re thinking of rain. Rainbows come after rain. I know that doesn’t fit with the melody but still… Weather matters, especially to us Brits.
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