To mark the first Prime Minister’s Questions of 2012, I thought it would be fun to do “song titles that are questions”. Some bands are particularly fond of them: the Smiths (What Difference Does It Make, How Soon Is Now), Pet Shop Boys (What Have I Done to Deserve This, How Can You Expect to be Taken Seriously, Was It Worth It), the Buzzcocks (What Do I Get, Ever Fallen in Love…, Why Can’t I Touch It). And when the Guardian did a similar thing six or seven years ago, they had, I’ve belatedly discovered, more than 600 suggestions… I haven’t used any of their final choices here.
It started because I was idly musing on how different PMQs would be if MPs actually asked short, sharp questions instead of dressing up statements or observations as Qs (eg “does the PM share my concern, does the PM agree with me, will the PM join me in condemning…. blah blah blah) which are frankly rather dull, and stand little chance of catching him off guard. Wouldn’t it be much more fun if someone just stood up and said “What Time is Love?” or “Where’s Captain Kirk?”
So, 15 songs – because there are 15 questions on the Order Paper for PMQs – with each one beginning with a different word. Many thanks to Andy Furlong for all his suggestions. And one more thing before we start – I’m discounting the technical matter of whether a song actually has a question mark in the title or not. If it sounds like a question, then it’s a question.
Loads to choose from: What’s Going On, What Do I Get, What Have You Done for Me Lately, What’s the Frequency Kenneth, What Time is Love, What Difference Does it Make… But seeing as it’s Prime Minister’s questions and we’re concerned with serious matters of state, we’re asking “What’s so funny ’bout peace love and understanding?”
How Soon is Now, How Can I be Sure, How Does It Feel (To Be the Mother of 1000 Dead), and a personal favourite from the Silver Jews -How Can I Love You (If You Won’t Lie Down)… The men in the Commons are overly fond of cricketing metaphors, so Howzat? by Sherbet, a classic piece of 1970s cheese, was in the running. But given the question posed to David Cameron by the One Show’s Matt Baker on what should have been safe sofa territory, I’ve gone for “How Do You Sleep?” And being me, I’ve gone for the Stone Roses song of that name, not the John Lennon one.
The Prime Minister might not know the answer to Where’s Captain Kirk, but when it comes to the closing line, Where’s Spock???, the answer is in the row behind, about ten or twelve people to the left, where the Rt Hon Member for Wokingham sits. Other suggestions, Where Did Our Love Go, Where Were You (the Mekons) and the Wasnotwas track, Where Did Your Heart Go (confession time – I prefer the Wham! cover version. It’s great.) Another strong contender was Where Do You Go to My Lovely, if only to laugh at Peter Sarstedt’s bearskin hairstyle and droopy moustache. But here’s the Dead Kennedys, with “Where Do Ya Draw the Line?”
4. “ARE… Friends Electric?” I was trying to find a good song beginning with When or Who (Who’ll Stop the Rain, Whodunit… and no, Who Are You or indeed anything by The Who doesnt count because I don’t like them). In the end I opted for this instead.
Mr Billy Bragg, “Which Side Are You On?” There’s a Ten Minute Rule Bill up in Parliament tomorrow, trying to ban trade union reps being paid out of public funds…
6. “HAVE… You Ever Seen the Rain?” I like the Creedence version, I like the REM version, and I like the Ramones version…
Do You Believe in Rapture (Sonic Youth), Do You Know the Way to San Jose, but, more importantly, “Do You Believe in the West World?”
8. “SHOULD… I Stay or Should I Go?” Had to be in there really.
9. “EVER… Fallen In Love With Someone (You Shouldn’t Have Fallen in Love With?” Ditto.
10. “WHY… Can’t You Be Nicer to Me?” The White Stripes. He’s a Tory, it’s the Nasty Party – deal with it!
11. “AIN’T… that Lovin’ You Baby”. This might not technically be a question, but I am on a mission and will not rest until people learn to love Thin White Rope. Here’s their cover of the Jimmy Reed classic.
12. “WILL You Still Love me Tomorrow?”
13. “DOES… This Mean You’re Moving On?” Airborne Toxic Event… one of Andy’s all-time favourites.
14. “CAN I Get a Witness?”
15. And finally “IF I Can Dream…” Technically the question might be the “Why” not the “If” but it’s Elvis, I adore him, and it would have been his birthday this week – and it’s actually a brilliant political anthem that’s about as far removed from the pettiness and silliness of Prime Minister’s Questions as you can get.