Rejection – the dismissal of an idea; the spurning of affection; the refusal to accept a situation; a rebuff; a cold-shoulder in place of a warm heart. Rejection causes strong emotions and reactions – for example the uniting of the RR community to reject the Grauniad’s proposed closure of our blog. And how many songs can there be about unrequited love? As thoughtballoons put it: “I never realized it before, but my entire phone playlist is about rejection.” Music often enables us to express thoughts and feelings that are too painful and personal to share in any other way. How else could Roots Manuva and Kathleen Ferrier ever find themselves in the same company?
Do you remember that girl at school? You know, that ugly one with the hair like Crystal-Tipps, who preferred climbing trees and jumping in puddles to wearing make-up and trendy clothes? Well, she ignored the peer pressure and grew up to be individual and beautiful, just like Hans Christian Andersen’s Ugly Duckling, rendered in song by Danny Kaye.
People may also be rejected because of their sexuality. Erasure put this beautifully in “Hideaway”, where parents reject their son because he is not what they expected – yet he still loves them, and they should be proud of him for having the courage to be himself. Will time heal the rift?
Elvis Presley knew about rejection too, after a spat with his girlfriend he wrote her an apology, but the letter just kept coming back marked “Return to Sender”. He resolved to take the letter to her himself, but we shall never know whether she rejected that apology too.
Keb’ Mo’ was frustrated when he discovered his lover was a fake – she had it all, including him, yet it wasn’t enough! As he said, “It’s a damn good thing we didn’t get too far” – at least he realized that he was well out of it; she was just a Perpetual Blues Machine.
It’s hard starting out in the music industry, as Sugar Loaf discovered, trying to get a deal with a swanky manager who kept putting them on hold. When they made it to the big time he came crawling and they had the satisfaction of rejecting him with his own words: “Don’t Call Us, We’ll Call You.”
Topical singer Phil Ochs stood up for the disadvantaged and those rejected by society. In “Here’s to the State of Mississippi” he rejects the state itself and the things it stands for; oppression; the Ku Klux Klan; police and religious corruption; the poisoning of young minds; saying: “Mississippi, find yourself another country to be part of.”
Archie Roach is an Australian musician. As a child, he was taken from his family and lived rough before becoming a successful singer and advocate for indigenous Australians. This powerful song, “Keep Your Handouts, Give Us Back Our Land” rejects the system of benefits for indigenous Australians and asks for what is rightfully theirs.
Shawn Phillips is through with mining, even though it’s in his blood. He worked hard and stood for the Union, but he can’t fight against the new machines and the poor pay and conditions. Scarred with a Coal Tattoo, he rejects his job and heads reluctantly down the road in search of another.
Wi’ Nae Wee Bairn Ye’ll Me Beget is based on the tale of two magicians, which was also nominated this week, by pairubu. The magicians shape-shift; he trying to win her, and she rejecting him. I like this version by Magnetic Fields because it updates the tale: “I’ll turn into a super-nova and burn up everything – Well, I’ll turn into a little black hole and you’ll turn into string.”
Sometimes rejection can be a good thing. It certainly was for Ian Hunter, who, tired of being scorned at the bus station by his first crush, the beautiful Irene Wilde, decided to go away and make something of himself. “At the time it seemed so sad, but it didn’t turn out bad, if you hadn’t messed me up I’d still be there.”
A woman scorned can be a dangerous thing, as Henry Lee found to his cost. While canoodling with his mistress, he explains that he can’t stay all night because he’s in love with someone else. She takes his rejection badly; runs him through with a penknife and dumps him in the well. As my dad used to say: “If you don’t want the goods, don’t mess them about.” Nick Cave and P J Harvey perform it perfectly.
“Lovers, are they worth it?” ask Poison Girls. I empathise entirely with this song. ‘You overfed my cat and re-arranged the furniture … things are better now that you don’t come around no more … I’m glad I’m all alone, I’ve got my grey days back again.”
The A List
Danny Kaye – The Ugly Duckling – BeltwayBandit
Erasure – Hideaway – severin
Elvis Presley – Return to Sender – BlackCombe
Keb’ Mo’ – Perpetual Blues Machine – Oldiebutgoodie
Sugar Loaf – Don’t Call Us We’ll Call You – SweetHomeAlabama
Phil Ochs – Here’s to the State of Mississippi – Casclc
Archie Roach – Keep Your Handouts … – tincanman
Shawn Phillips – Coal Tattoo – tfd
Magnetic Fields – Wi’ Nae Wee Bairn Ye’ll Me Beget – barbryn
Ian Hunter – Irene Wilde – funkbrother69
Nick Cave & P J Harvey – Henry Lee – Naguchi
Lovers, are they worth it? – Poison Girls – wyngatecarpenter
The B List (So hard to separate A & B, some great music this week)
Chicken Shack – I’d Rather Go Blind – Ravi Raman
Michael Jackson – Billie Jean – Fintan28
Al Stewart – Not the One – BeltwayBandit
Don McLean – Castles in the Air – bluepeter
Bill Withers – Ain’t No Sunshine – Naguchi
The Walkmen – The Rat – happyclapper
Mike Scott – Rare, Precious and Gone – TantankaYotanka
Kasey Chambers – Not Pretty Enough – deanofromoz
Raincoats – No Looking – pairubu
The Wedding Present – You Should Always Keep In Touch – saneshane
Jimi Hendrix & Curtis Knight – How Would You Feel – ShivSidecar
Roots Manuva – Hard Bastards – Shoegazer
The C List (following in the tradition of severin)
Morrissey – Satan Rejected My Soul – Beltway Bandit
Kate Miller-Heidke – Are You F*cking Kidding Me – deanofromoz
Two Nice Girls – Spent My Last $10 on Birth Control & Beer – Fintan28
Fascinating Aida – Ofsted – funkbrother69
Iris DeMent – God May Forgive You (But I Won’t) – Naguchi
Nouvelle Vague – Ever Fallen In Love – Oldiebutgoodie
Van Halen – You’re No Good – philipphilip99
P.O.D. – I Am – Ravi Raman
Seun Kuti & Fela’s Egypt 80 – Don’t Give That Shit To Me – Ravi Raman
Civil Wars – Billie Jean – severin
Ramones – I’m Against It – severin
Roy Wood – Miss Clarke and the Computer – ShivSidecar
Plan B – Ill Manors – Shoegazer
Robb Johnson – I Am Not At War – TatankaYotanka
Sting – I’m So Happy I Can’t Stop Crying – thoughtballoons
Otis Taylor – 3 Days and 3 Nights – tincanman
Betty Davis – Anti Lovesong – untergunther
Glasvegas – Daddy’s Gone – vanwolf
Peter & the Test Tube Babies – Blown Out Again – wyngatecarpenter
One that slipped under the radar (thanks to goneforeign):
Shamekia Copeland – Driving Out Of Nashville
Thanks to everyone – hope no one feels rejected – I’m off to lie down with a damp copy of The Guardian on my forehead (I might even get to read Saturday’s edition). Good luck thoughtballoons!
Image courtesy of 123rf.com