A spy, like a writer, lives outside the mainstream population. He steals his experience through bribes and reconstructs it.
It’s a dirty game, is espionage. And an extraordinary one - one in which we are all engaged at one time another. No? Just me then…
There’s nothing underhand or tricky about today’s six picks: no invisible ink, no dead drops, not even a pair of eye-holes cunningly cut into the page of a newspaper. No code to decypher, just six great songs about spies and their art. Relax: not one of them is the theme for the new James Bond film, Spectre, out later this month.
Pulp - I Spy
It may look to the untrained eye
I’m sitting on my arse all day
And I’m biding my time until I take you all on my Lords and Ladies
I will prevail, I cannot fail.
‘Cos I spy.
No-one does voyeur, no-one does perverted quite like Jarvis. No-one observes, no-one articulates the drama of the mundane, the exquisite agony of the every day with quite his precision.
The Spinto Band - Spy vs Spy
Spy Vs Spy was the name of a cold-war satire in cartoon form from the pages of MAD magazine. Later it became a 1980s computer game that pitched you against a rival spy in sometimes frantic, sometimes sly and underhand conflict in an attempt to collect items and escape a series of embassies before your opponent. It also crops up in the title of a Billy Bragg album (Life’s a riot with Spy Vs Spy) and here, in the title of this track from Nice and Nicely Done, a 2005 album by The Spinto Band.
Alberto Iglesias - George Smiley
The thing about Smiley is just how much he communicates even without talking all that much. It’s all in a look, a glance, and micro-expressions conveying nuanced understanding. Likewise, his theme, the opening to the 2011 film adaptation of John Le Carré’s tale of mole-hunting in “the circus”, treads softly but nonetheless builds incremental tension through subtly shifting shades.
Rory Gallagher - Philby
Now ain’t it strange that I feel like Philby
There’s a stranger in my soul
I’m lost in transit in a lonesome city
I can’t come in from the cold
I will come straight out with an open and honest confession here: until watching recent BBC documentary “The Irish Rock Story: A Tale of Two Cities” I knew nothing of Rory Gallagher. And why would I? Turns out he was only an immensely talented and influential guitarist who sold millions of albums…
Jennie Vee - Spying
Spying; another way of knowing
You know it gets me nowhere
You know it brings me nothing
But sad distractions
Playing bass for both Tamaryn and Courtney Love hasn’t stood in the way of Jennie Vee developing her own career. Her debut EP To Die Alone was released last September, followed by Never Let You Down and a cover of the Echo & The Bunnymen track Lips Like Sugar. Spying, produced by Snow Patrol’s Paul Wilson offers up another taste of her mixture of glam and grit: a sort of 80s inspired dream-pop-punk.
Carly Simon - Nobody Does it Better
Stop talking about American things, and let’s watch the best film ever made.
Alan Partridge may have questionable taste in many areas of his life, but he sure does know and like his James Bond. And just because you’ve recorded over The Spy Who Loved Me with America’s Strongest Man, it doesn’t mean you have to miss out on a frame by frame description of the opening sequence, and Alan’s own interpretation of Carly Simon’s 1977 hit.
Glang… glang-a-lang-a-lang-a-lang-a-lang-a-lang. Glang-a-lang, lang-a-lang-a-lang…
Stop getting Bond wrong!