We're not really fans of The Streets here, largely because we're automatically turned off by strong London accents in singing and that bit at the start of Has It Come To This?, which was after all the first we'd ever heard of Mike Skinner, put us right off. In fact so did the rest of that track, which made us appreciate all the more Neil Tennant's idea that he in fact was inventing English rap on West End Girls. It's fair to say, though, that The Hardest Way To Make An Easy Living is splitting opinion - is it pulling open the seedy underbelly of celebrity or reinforcing it? Who cares, really. We have been fascinated in many odd ways, however, by When You Wasn't Famous, not in the 'but who is it?' sense of everybody else, although the fact that nobody, not even the usual self-appointed committee of celebrity all-seers don't have a clue. Oddly, despite Skinner's appeals that it's based on truths, nobody seems to have made the connection between his statement that it's actually "all a bit of a piss-take" and the fact his last album was based on an extended fictional narrative. Hmm. But what is he actually trying to tell us beyond the fact that he's taken some drugs, possibly with famous girls? All lyrics copyright Mike Skinner and his publishers, probably. Oh, and we don't give a shit who it really is, so don't tell us.
See, the thing that’s got it all fucked up now is camera-phones. How the hell am I supposed to be able to do a line in front of complete strangers when I know they've all got cameras?
Diddums. Isn't this the reason why toilet seats came into Class A vogue? Are people popping their Nokias under the cubicle door? Of course this is the Skinner standard opening line scene-setter, here emblazoning in neon the words "YES, I AM THE FAMOUS THE STREETS, AND I HAVE TAKEN DRUGS. MMMMM."
When you're a famous boy it gets really easy to get girls
It's all so easy you get a bit spoilt
So when you try to pull a girl who is also famous too
It feels just like when you wasn't famous
So for those of you who've ever wondered why no celebrity goes out with anyone who isn't onscreen talent any more, it's because they desire the thrill of the chase, as evidently that's worked so well for Mike over his non-famous years. This is the whole thorny issue of groupies being brought out into the open possibly for the first time in a non-hair metal context. Hang on, is he telling us girls never tried to chat him up?
The celebrity pages in papers don't tell tales that are always to the line of the truth
Scansion is the enemy, evidently. 'Telling the truth' would have served equally well.
It’s 'til a line at which most likely you'll have the time or enough finance to sue
Which is why it's so frightening buying papers in the morning fearing the next Mike Skinner scoop
Cos I used to believe what I read, so now I know that others will believe that it's true
Mike Skinner Fearlessly Reveals The Truth About His Rise To Stardom II: not all celebrity gossip in the tabloids is true. Well, when Ian Hislop leaves Private Eye the job is surely his for the taking with insight like that. Also, what does that first line mean? Presumably the suggestion is nobody can be arsed to follow up each and every last word of a lie printed about them, which is fair enough, but half the message seems to have gone missing in the lyric editing process. Rhymers who namecheck themselves with their own real names - are there any beyond Skinner and Marshall Mathers?
But i realised with you the truth could be a whole lot worse than the flack
My whole life i never thought I'd see a pop star smoke crack
Score one for the 3am Girls! (not literally, that'd be a whole different celebrity drugs story) Skinner claims he hadn't anticipated that writing a single about a doomed celebrity fling which includes heavy drug references might have attracted any attention, which proves or disproves many things often thought about him. Does he mean this boastfully or regretfully? Was it actually him that planted that camera in Babyshambles' rehearsal studios? Well, that seems unlikely, but trust Skinner to write it into a song where most would go off-handed off the record in an interview.
And i must admit I was quite shocked with that thing you did with me on my back
With you on your back or onto your back? There's a distinction that needs making here.
But outside in the lobby I shouldn't have laughed when you slapped that man
What? Just randomly? Is this a man she knew or just some bloke? Hang on, is it Bjork? Yes, we know the reporter she attacked was a woman and it was in an airport, but run with the gag, would you.
When you're a famous boy...
You were so much fun I really got to like you more than you liked me, I really hoped that you'd stay
There's a clue in the first sentence as to why she didn't, we'd guess. Maybe there'll be an answer song in the style of Frankee, although that might just blow the gaff a little. Wait for Chris Moyles to have a brainwave.
Considering the amount of prang you'd done you looked amazing on CD:UK
The person who found STN in the week via a Google search for 'when you wasn't famous cat deeley' was clearly taking this line too laterally. Holly 'Goodbooks' Willoughby, who did present CD:UK for a bit before the revamp that saw it die its quiet death, cameos in the video at this point, but we'll assume she vaguely knows the director or something. What is prang in this context, by the way? The opening track on the album is called Pranging Out but 'prang' is an underused synonym for a crash, thus 'crashing out'. The drug allusions form themselves with that knowledge but it's probable he's merely trying to get a new colloquialism for some sort of hard drug usage going, like an illegality 'bouncebackability'.
You learn dances, do promo, cameras flashing, get in the van, zoom away
I wake up high, feel hung over and sorry for my doomed day
We'd guess most high class pop stars are ferried from class to TV studio by record company chartered people carriers, but no matter.
But I know I got a bit close to you and that you found it fucking boring
Whereas most potential candidates for the mystery girl are known for their outward going nature and ability to laugh at themselves. 'Boring' is perhaps another way of saying 'scary' here.
You taught me so much about how to deal with the fire I'd fallen in
Actually nobody seems entirely sure about how this line ends. We've gone with what a couple of sources agree on, but the way it's worded suggests more that she's tried to get him out of his depression/drug habit which as we know very much isn't the case. We initally heard it as '...with the far right fawning', which is an odd concept to throw into the middle of a leery love confessional (fair enough guess though, right? We can see polo shirted skinheads thinking they can emphasise with a crop-haired 'chav poet', and as the NF tried hard to align themselves with the Jamaican origined mixed race 2-Tone movement it's not impossible they could have pretended not to notice garage's origins in his case)
And what version of a rumour would be next day everyone's story of me
You taught me all the realities and to turn the page and ignore 'em
Suddenly we're being told that, despite having written a song boasting about their crack habit perhaps in subtle revenge for dumping him, Mike actually owes her one for dragging him into the realities of showbiz life. These two lines don't make a great deal of sense written down to us - we'd guess it's his coming to terms with not getting down about everything written about him (and yes, this is the same Streets who the Sun launched an active campaign about to get Dry Your Eyes to number one), but he seems more paranoid about this story getting out when it never did. Although the singer we shall call Primary Candidate A - you know who she is - has turned up in the margins of Skinner stories before, albeit not in a direct sense. But anyway.
When you're a famous boy...
Anyway, I had to rest my beer hat, delete my dealer's number and unroll my bank notes
Beer hat? Is that right? Is it a wide brimmed affair with a funnel attached to a straw?
And we were on borrowed time anyway what with the daily toilet papers not knowin’
Well, yeah, you're just taunting them now. Given the line before suggests Skinner was taking extreme actions to get off his various addictions, maybe the split should have been because she was, well, pranging in front of him.
And I knew that when the people who thought they knew you, when they found out I would've been mocked
Because it was Miss Clean and Mr Not Clean, yeah?
Which is ironic 'cos in reality standing next to you i look fucking soft
...ha ha, but that's what we all think of their relative status, eh? Eh? Eh? Booking home viit counsellers would be cheaper for her, Mike.
Whenever i see you on MTV I can’t stop my big wide smile
And past the 'children’s appeal' I see the darkness behind
Got it! It's Bonnie Prince Billy!
We both know the scratches on my back much better than the alludes and lies
That last bit doesn't sound right. It certainly doesn't figure with the idea that Mike knows the subject is listening and knowing as well as he does, as what are these 'alludes'?
I miss the bitchin' and shoutin' but I'm glad I got out in time
Aren't we all.