It’s been 20 years since Whigfield released Saturday Night, which isn’t really anything worth celebrating, but look, here we are.
I have vague memories of Saturday Night soundtracking primary school discos where all the kids would be spaced-out on Panda Pop and Golden Wonder crisps, trying in vain to do knee slides along splinter-ridden wooden floors, waiting for the end of the night where all the balloons that had been netted to the ceiling would cascade to the ground in the least surprising denouement to any event ever. Kids fucking love balloons.
As you get older your associations with Saturdays become, well, a little more grown up. It’s all kebabs at 1am and Chelsea Dagger in horrible indie nights and shots for a quid. Or, it’s staying in checking your phone every five minutes to see if something’s going on. These 5 Saturday songs showcase the whole gamut, and they’re all really great.
Sam Cooke – Another Saturday Night
This one’s one of those weepy weekend ones. “Another Saturday night and I ain’t got nobody” - oh Sam, poor Sam. Thankfully there’s some jaunty horns there to alleviate his malaise but anyway, when literal honey pours out of your mouth when you sing, you can’t be that glum, surely?
The Jam – Saturday’s Kids
If you thought Whigfield was a dated reference, give this a listen. Babycham, Woolworths, Cortinas, Capstan non-filters. I don’t know how many of these things exist anymore. Is Bracklesham Bay even a real place? Probably been rebranded now. “Proto-Brighton” or something. Anyway, Weller’s good as turning the minutiae of working classness into poetry, and this isn’t quite as subtle as, say, A Town Called Malice, but it’s funny and still pretty recognisable.
Tom Waits – The Heart of Saturday Night
Worth remembering that before Tom Waits literally started ingesting cigarettes by the packet, he had a sweet, almost crooner-like voice. You can hear it on his early records, Closing Time and The Heart of Saturday Night, from which this song comes. It’s obviously excellent, because Tom Waits is obviously excellent, there’s something quite tired and brooding about it, whilst remaining nostalgic and romantic. Best Saturday song for me.
Uncle Kracker – Nobody’s Sad on Saturday Night
God, just found out about this one, it’s so naff but sort of brilliant? Context: Uncle Kracker was Kid Rock’s man-on-the-decks-doing-the-scratchy-bits who then decided to reinvent himself as a pop-country singer. Follow Me was his big hit. This one is, I assume, from the same record. It’s a big country banger, with references to drinking Southern Comfort and wearing sunglasses and rodeos and John Cougar Mellencamp. It’s scoring HOUSE in Country Bingo, basically. Would be excellent at a wedding party around midnight, just before the Grease medley and just before your uncle gets kicked out for fighting.
Lil' Hardin Armstrong – Harlem On Saturday Night
Why does nobody write songs like this anymore? This kind of songwriting should have been handed down and nurtured, like some kind of artisanal process, like making a lathe or something. It’s incredible, whip-smart lyrics and just fantastic musicians doing their thing. Nice little dated reference to ‘cigarillos’ ‘n all, and called pubs ‘joints’ – that doesn’t happen anymore. There’s one bar at the Bricklayers Arms end of Old Kent Road called The Joint that advertises itself as a ‘hip place’ – anyway it has a yellow sign and looks a bit murdery. Give it a wide birth.
Here’s a few more ‘n all...