I almost fell off my computer chair last night. I was doing my usual trawl across the internet's likely spots for interesting free music when I spotted the phrase 'Headache For Michelle'. Now, unless you are a slightly oldish, socialist, punk with a penchant for feminist pop, that phrase won't mean an awful lot to you. However, it is redolent with meaning for me. You see, 'Headache For Michelle' is track 5 of 'Playing With A Different Sex', the debut album of Britain's greatest, and most sadly missed, post-punk band, the incomparable Au Pairs. Released in 1981, this album, with its wry take on gender relations and sexual politics and, most controversially, its castigation of the hypocritical British State's attitude to the torture of Irish republican prisoners, in the song 'Armagh', is truly one of the great lost classics. I have lost count of the number of times I've mentioned this band and this album in conversation, only to be met by blank incomprehending stares.
So, why was 'Headache For Michelle' suddenly cropping up on soundcloud? It seems that the experimental indie-rock band Magnetic Island (pictured), from Brooklyn, New York have recorded a cover of this classic song and posted it in their soundcloud page as a free download. Here's their take on it:
Headache For Michelle by Magnetic Island
And here's the Au Pairs' original:
The lyric, below, is indicative of the understandable paranoia of both the British left and illegal drug users and is subtly suggestive of the role of the state in encouraging drug use in deprived inner city areas (a common accusation of the time). The 'Malcolm' who we are informed is dead in the lyric is, of course, Malcolm Owen, the lead singer with The Ruts who died from a heroin overdose on 14 July 1980 at the age of 26.
Got a bad taste in my mouth,
I got a heavy heavy heavy heavy heavy head - won't go away.
I can't remember much about last night,
but I'm trying to regain a little self-control today.
I got out of my head, I got out of my head, I got out of my head..
I got out..
They are coming amongst amongst amongst amongst
and in between us.
They're tapping our phones, tapping our phones, tapping our phones
you can be sure they've seen us.
Are you working, are you working, are you working
for or with the state.
They're selling you smack at a slightly, slightly, slighty, slightly cheaper rate
'Cos you're not a threat when you're out of your head
and I'm gonna get out of my head
and it's better in bed - when you're out of your head
and Malcolm is dead - he got out of his heaaaad!
Out of his head..
They are closing down - communications
They're taking control - of our situations
The forces of control are gathering around our heads
(i'm gonna get out of my head..)
A wonderful, wonderful song and it gives me real pleasure to see it unearthed so unexpectedly by a new generation of musicians.
Magnetic Island have newly released their own debut album, which can be found on their bandcamp page. Two of the songs on it are available as free digital downloads, including track 1, 'Don't Need It Now', which I embed below for your listening pleasure.
Much of the band's other material is available free on bandcamp too, and I also suggest you check out their official website 'here'.