Here is this week’s playlist – songs picked by a reader from hundreds of suggestions on last week’s callout. Thanks for taking part. Read more about how our weekly series works at the end of the piece.
New York is a city of shadows, concrete mountains and canyons, street noise. But there are high-rise havens to be had. On the roof the air is clear and at night the stars put on a show. Our protagonist asks his baby to join him – to rendezvous – and in sharing a hidden paradise the Drifters’ Up on the Roof (Gerry Goffin and Carole King at their finest) starts this week’s playlist.
In the Rolling Stones’ Waiting on a Friend, Mick Jagger explains that for once he doesn’t need a lady. He doesn’t mind watching them go by and imagining their stories, their tales of men. Nor does he need the vices assembled in his thoughts; he’s relaxed and content to wait on the arrival of his expected friend. That’s all he needs.
Kraftwerk’s Trans-Europe Express is virtually an advert for the now defunct system. Hooking up major European cities, first-class travellers could “Rendez-vous auf den Champs Elysees / Verlass Paris am Morgen mit dem TEE”. In the band’s case they hit Vienna and make a quick turnaround to Düsseldorf to meet David Bowie and Iggy Pop. Fine for some.
Let’s face it, sometimes it’s best to cut out the waffle and get straight to the point. British electronic duo Basement Jaxx don’t mince words in their rather persistent call to Rendez-Vu: “I got you in my heart / I got you in my head / Let’s make a rendez-vu.”
Manu Chao, on the other hand, needs a ton of reassurance in his Le Rendez-Vous. The previous night’s assignation to see a French movie has left him feeling needy enough to press his date on her reaction. He has to know how much she enjoyed their night out, detail by detail.
Jarvis Cocker, who has a way with words, claims everything in Pulp’s Disco 2000 is true except for the woodchip wallpaper. It’s the story of his childhood friendship with Deborah Bone. Deborah was popular with the boys, and though he was crazy about her, he was doomed only to be her friend. So he had the idea of suggesting they meet again in the year 2000 so they could see each other as adults, and hopefully dredge up some adult emotions. He even nominated a time and a place. She died aged 51, but Cocker did sing their song at her 50th birthday party.
Mike Skinner, another wordsmith, spins a cautionary tale in the Streets’ It’s Too Late. Despite his deep feelings for his girl, Skinner’s protagonist lacks the motivation to arrive at their rendezvous at the designated time. Repeatedly, he comes up with lame excuses about having to see a mate or a dealer. He has a conscience about this behaviour and eventually resolves to be more reliable. But the day he turns up on time, new leaf turned – she’s not there.
Like many an old blues song, John Lee Hooker and Canned Heat’s Meet Me in the Bottom has been recorded dozens of times by dozens of artists. Each recording has produced slight variations on the musical and lyrical themes. But the core of the song has always been maintained: we have a man on the run, scared for his life. Whether facing a lynch mob or a posse, he has to move quickly, so fast that he flees barefoot. He’ll be hiding down in the bottom, he says, where his woman will bring him his boots and shoes.
A junk-sick “white boy” is forced by his need to traipse up to Harlem and wait for a dealer to turn up in the Velvet Underground’s I’m Waiting for the Man. “He’s never early, he’s always late / First thing you learn is you always got to wait.” Harassed by suspicious locals, he has to stay rooted to the spot until his man turns up. He is taken to a room full of strangers, scores, goes home, gets grief from his wife, then looks forward to doing it all again the next day.
Another kind of illicit rendezvous lies at the heart of Frank Zappa’s Willie the Pimp. A thumbnail sketch of a player at the centre of Hollywood’s Lido Hotel maelstrom, Willie (Captain Beefheart) barks his wares and arranges meetings between besuited businessmen and his waiting floozies.
Is this about dogging? For me Richard Hawley’s Down in the Woods conjures up images of Lynx-lacquered lorry-drivers lasciviously looking on as string-vested accountants take their wives in the glare of headlamps across a hot bonnet. Well, at least their bottoms are kept warm.
In deeply immoral mode, Clarence Carter, in his Slip Away, beseeches a presumably married woman to slip out of the house without her husband knowing she’s gone. He wants to take her to a place where they’re both unknown. Sometimes the most beautiful music tells the wickedest of tales.
Speaking of which, the protagonist in the Incredible String Band’s Saturday Maybe makes Alfie Elkins look like the Archbishop of Canterbury. A typical back-door man, his squalid assignation is related in monochrome images as he explains it’s just a quickie before her husband gets back from the boozer. He suggests a rendezvous, though is uncertain what day that might be. Then he asks her not to cry because she’ll freak out the baby!
The next theme will be announced at 8pm (GMT) on Thursday 8 February. You will have until 11pm on Monday 12 February to submit nominations.
Here is a reminder of some of the guidelines for readers recommend: