Readers recommend playlist: songs about hedonism

A playlist in the pursuit of pleasure, with Pet Shop Boys, Magnetic Fields and Lionel Richie all joining the party

Here is this week’s playlist of songs picked by a reader from your suggestions, after last week’s callout. Read more about how our weekly Readers recommend series works at the end of the piece.

There were two prime considerations for inclusion on the list this week. It occurred to me early on that while there were plenty of lyrics suggested which simply referenced drink, drugs or general over-consumption, it would be more appropriate if a song contained some sort of exhortation to indulge in such excess. It took slightly longer for the penny to drop that given this week’s topic, I didn’t need to spend as much time as usual worrying about whether anyone other than me would enjoy the selections.

This realisation lets me kick off the playlist with a personal favourite, disregarding the ethical dilemma of whether to overlook the potentially controversial practice of “guru-pandering”. I didn’t find it to be a dilemma at all, quite the reverse, so share in the anticipation of Blackberry Smoke, who, with working week over, have crammed their icebox with beer and tequila and are heading out on the road in search of enjoyment on Good One Comin’ On.

The playlist on YouTube.

Strong drink and skinny dipping is one thing – well, two things – but the Pet Shop Boys have an even more lavish spectacle in prospect with The Sodom and Gomorrah Show:

It’s got everything you need for your complete
Entertainment and instruction
Sun, sex, sin, divine intervention,
Death and destruction
The Sodom and Gomorrah show

Now, while there’s a place for a big-budget affair, the determined hedonist must persist even when fiscally constrained. “Let’s have a party though the money’s all spent” say Dean and Jean in Hey Jean Hey Dean. Upbeat encouragement, that’s the key.

In what also seems to be a relatively frugal evening, Tove Lo informs us on Habits (Stay High):

I eat my dinner in the bath tub
Then I go to sex clubs
Watching freaky people
Getting it on

Nothing wrong with dipping a toe in the water, as it were. Which brings us to Little Feat. They may have a solution to the lifestyle funding problem, pawning their watches to “lose it all” at the Spanish Moon:

There’s whiskey, and bad cocaine
Poison get you just the same
And if that don’t kill you soon
The women will down at the Spanish Moon

Oddly enough, the very type of act I’d expect to be playing at the Spanish Moon was also suggested – Orchestra Harlow. “A funky, grinding slice of big band latin/salsa groove from the Fania legends...” says nilpferd, nominating Freak Off for its “lyrical euphemisms, plenty of groaning, orgasmic horn stabs ... and a climactic playout with prolonged hand-clapping.” You’d definitely need a drink after that sort of performance.

Lack of self restraint can be fraught with danger, and decent stamina levels are key to getting through the proceedings, especially if, like Lionel Richie on All Night Long (All Night), you’re going to party, Karamu and fiesta forever.

As a point of interest, apparently Karamu is either a Swahili feast or a small tree from New Zealand, so there’s something to suit most tastes there ...

Next up, Let’s Pretend We’re Bunny Rabbits by the Magnetic Fields:

And when we’ve had a couple of beers
We’ll put on bunny suits
I long to nibble your ears
And do what bunnies do

In my top nomination of the week, reader maldoror46 says of that: “Sounds like my idea of a good time, anyway.”

This underlines that hedonism is as much about ticking a favourite box as relentlessly striving to tick every available box. If the latter course is preferred – a Rock’n’roll Lifestyle – then there have to be repercussions, warn Cake:

Ageing black leather and hospital bills
Tattoo removal and dozens of pills
Your liver pays dearly now for youthful magic moments
But rock on completely with some brand new components...

An echo of the effects of excess also appears in The Shy Retirer by Arab Strap.

Here, have you tried the blue ones
I hear he’s got some new ones
Sleep is not an option tonight

Reader Dougal describes this as “specialising in the seedy, despairing side of hedonism.” Indeed. And when you’re on that side, what you probably want – although might not need – is a fellow sybarite to banish thoughts of curtailing the festivities – Richmond Fontaine indulges with Let’s Hit One More Place:

Let’s hit one more place before we go home
Let’s go in when it’s dark and come out with the sun
I know we’ll be wrecked all day we’ll be broke and undone
But let’s hit one more place

In summary then, the risks of excessive pleasure-seeking include organ failure, poverty and eventual destruction. Is there any consequence that might dissuade the potential hedonist from such a path? Withdrawing car privileges – as the protagonist laments in the Beach BoysFun, Fun, Fun. That’s guaranteed to work.

New theme: how to join in

The new theme will be announced at 8pm (BST) on Thursday 11 May. You have until 11pm on Monday 15 May to submit nominations.

Here is a reminder of some of the guidelines for readers recommend:


Scott Blair

The GuardianTramp

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