Listen to BBC political correspondent Chris Mason’s Brexit Megamix
After trying to make sense of the Brexit confusion, Chris Mason likes to turn on and tune out. The Macarena features…
by: Chris Mason
30 Apr 2019
Hard to avoid them in contemporary politics.
But these were the real thing.
Perched somewhere up in the branches of what I think are the London planes that line Millbank in the heart of the city, some squawking excitable things had somehow clocked it was nearly dawn.
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I had just stumbled out of the BBC’s Westminster newsroom. You know a late shift has gone on a bit when it is getting early by the time you’re out of the door. I was going to say it was the wrong side of three o’clock in the morning.
But come to think of it, I’m not sure there is a right side of that time once it’s getting close. This is the most extraordinary time in my lifetime to be a political correspondent. It is an extraordinary privilege to be covering it. But at silly o’clock, after another incredible day, there’s a more pressing question:
How to unwind?
You see, it turns out there is a reason evenings exist, a process over several hours of leaving work in the rear view mirror. Trying to do it at speed, to relax efficiently, is something of a contradiction in terms. And that is where music comes in. Well, among other things.
After all, you can’t beat a repeat of Road Wars, on a channel you have never heard of, as the rest of the country sleeps. The brilliant Mancunian commentary of Lee Boardman describing a “dodgy white van” as the driver “boots it away from the cops” is a brain-emptying joy. But let’s not get sidetracked.
I miss the nocturnal absurdity of Alex Lester on the radio, a dose of daftness and a collection of records to surprise, remind, discover, enjoy.
And so, instead, there is OJ Borg on Radio 2, with plenty of the above, and Simon Beale on Heart with – if I am lucky – plenty of fairly tacky Nineties songs to transport me back to my youth. But, glorious as it is, The Boo Radleys and Wake Up Boo! isn’t quite what I’m looking for in the small hours.
And the Macarena by Los Del Rio doesn’t help much either. So here we go then, the definitive antidote to “it’s all happening at Westminster and I need to take my mind off it for a bit”.
Have you ever come across The Staves? I first heard them when my wife put them on our wedding playlist five years ago and I tilted a sceptical ear towards the speaker.
You see, for a lover of tacky, middle-of-the-road pop, wholesome adventures into the musical undergrowth are approached with caution.
This trio of sisters from Watford don’t feature on Now albums or get played in the Co-op when I nip in for some milk.
But flick on In The Long Run and you encounter what strikes me as a peaceful, thoughtful, reflective song.
I am afraid I am such a philistine there is almost certainly a depth to the lyrics that has passed me by.
Yes, I’ve clocked the song’s title is something of a commentary on the longevity of the Brexit process, but it is its gentle tone that appeals.
I read somewhere recently that we stop discovering new music once we are 30 and something to do with our rapid neurological development as teenagers means the music of that era gets wired into our heads for good.
It is a vaguely depressing idea, being trapped listening to a never-ending loop tape of the familiar.
I try to convince myself, aged 39, I am arresting my tumble down that slippery slope. After all, who doesn’t love Pink’s Walk Me Home, which is everywhere at the moment?
But who am I kidding? What’s the next band I reach for amid the Brexit bedlam?
The very first one I ever saw in concert: Kula Shaker at the Manchester Apollo in 1997.
Again it is another peaceful one, to tempt slumber, Drop In The Sea. Nostalgia and gentleness, a powerful combo. But everything leads back to the daft.
Oh and dammit, I have just looked up this last beauty and it was released in 1992. That teenage nostalgia thing again.
But never mind that. Stick on the Barenaked Ladies’ If I had $1,000,000. Put it on right now. I promise it’ll make you smile. Any songwriter who can get a reference to a llama and an emu into the same sentence gets my vote.
Right, about time I got some sleep. Those tweets outside the bedroom window are getting louder.
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