Sometime in the 80s Peter Best turned to his Beatle pals and said “We should probably play ‘Yellow Submarine’ live more often.” Furiously, they turned on him and chucked him out the band. That’s why Zak Starkey became the Beatles’ drummer. Pop fact. Ten years later Art Garfunkel nervously mentioned to Paul Simonon that “the fans really like ‘You Can Call Me Al, Mate’, we should play it tonight.” Paul shrieked in his face “It’s not even your song, Fart. It’s. Not. Even. Your. Song,” and that’s why Art’s hair looks how it does and why Chevy Chase is the drummer on Graceland. Again: pop fact.
Another pop fact? Bands have exactly zero idea what their best songs are. Clue: it’s probably the ones that bought you your yachts and gold-plated tennis rackets. How we’ve got to 2017 and are still letting musicians choose the songs they want to play live blows my tiny mind. The sooner that acts with more than two albums agree that all set lists are decided by the fans prior to shows, the sooner all gigs will be a minimum of 88% better. No more ‘we’re gonna play the new album, then maybe some old stuff’. Your new album sucks. You suck. Stop sucking and play the hits. Obviously this’ll need to be weighted in favour of fans who were there from the start – you don’t want the come-latelies who only know the hits. You want the people who pretend not to like the hits but whose eyes light-up when that song from the Apple ad kicks in. Those are your purists. Those are the losers you can trust. You can trust me, friends.
Thank the myriad deities then for festival season, for the time when your favourite band isn’t sure everyone’s there for them. Terrified of surrendering even a modicum of their opulent lifestyle, they check their Spotify pages and make a pact with the devil to play the top five tracks in return for a new cattle ranch. That’s why Radiohead are contractually obliged* to play ‘Creep’ six times during festival season. Thom and the others ones hate ‘Creep’, but there’s absolutely zero Amnesiac in that top five and rules are rules. As Yorkey starts pretending to be a weirdo we pretend to be nonplussed but our souls fizz because they’re playing a song which isn’t actually good at all but is A Hit. “This one’s from In Rainbows” he’ll then mumble which, of course, is code for ‘Beer? Beer? Beer? Beer? Beer’.
Treasure these next few festival months of bands bending to our will and savour the hits. Come October I’ll get a Slack group together so we can let Rihanna know in advance that yes, we will need to hear ‘Umbrella’, thank you very much.
*possibly not a pop fact.
Dave Rowlinson is Deputy Editor at, erm, London In Stereo, and really wants The Flaming Lips to start playing ‘She Don’t Use Jelly’ again. On Twitter at @dave_rowlinson