Have you ever really *listened* to the lyrics of your favourite song?

If you have, do they make any sense? If they don’t, or even if there’s just room for confusion, then maybe the artist/s involved should expect to receive a letter soon: Derek and Dave Philpott are on the case and they’re determined to get these poor, muddled pop stars to confess that their acclaim-gathering hit songs make about as much sense as a chocolate teapot full of hot worms when examined in the cold light of a rainy day.

What’s it about?

D & D Philpott write letters to pop stars which take issue with or in some way engage with the lyrics from one or more of their chart topping songs. Imagine the most pedantic, nit-picking, uncool ‘dad’ character you can, muttering to himself about illogical impossibilities and musical nonsensicalities while his son listens to the latest chart-topping hit, and that’s the essence of this book. Except. It’s way better than that makes it sound because:

  1.  The rational questioning of the lyrics is framed by a delightfully random mixture of domestic mundanities, personal history, science and philosophy.
  2. Some of the stars write back. A surprising number of them in fact.
  3. When you know the references, it’s bloody funny.

And so we have the delightful experience of Mark Nevin from Fairground Attraction explaining the work of a highly regarded psycho-physicist on the subject of perfection, The Wurzels admitting that they actually use their combine harvester for ‘crusin’ round for crumpet’, and Martin Page from Starship insisting that it is perfectly possible to build a city out of rock and roll.

What’s it like?

Wonderfully funny. A smorgasbord of humorous trifles, best digested in small doses in order to retain their full comedic impact. If you know the lyrics being referenced, the effect of reading D & D’s comedic letters / postcards is akin to downing a shot of comedy: you will snort with laughter and this book may therefore be best read in private. This would, on second thoughts, have the added benefit of preventing you from feeling compelled to share the nuggets of comedic gold out loud to your poor listening partner, who may be trying very hard to do something else. I mean, how could you not immediately turn to your partner / friend / random stranger who happens to be sitting opposite you on the train and cry: ‘Listen!:

‘Dear The Eagles, This hotel is both a health hazard and utterly rubbish. Raw or undercooked meat (other than sushi or arguably, ‘blue steak’) is one thing, but for guests to be expected to kill the beast themselves with their steely cutlery at the dinner table is quite another. One can only hope that Alex Polizzi is alerted to this outrage as soon as possible.’

Or:

‘Dear Boy George, Please allow me to put your mind at rest. I do not. I both abhor violence and have nothing against you personally.’

Short postcards with no response are wonderfully humorous. Longer letters can sometimes feel a bit long and winding as D & D throw thirty unfamiliar song titles into the mix, but like all good pick and mix selections, if you mostly like what you get – as I certainly did – you’ll probably love the book as a whole.

Final thoughts

No pop stars were harmed in the making of this book. D & D Philpott (a pseudonym for two men who don’t want their exaggerated personas, as documented in this book, to be mistaken for their actual personalities) wrote to the musicians involved before sending the letters you read in this book. Any abuse featured tends to come from the artists themselves, rather than from the authors (“De-evolution is real and you are there on the frontline helping to prove it.” states Devo founder Gerard Casale) and although there’s a liberal smattering of bad language, there’s also some genuinely delightfully creative responses to the questions / criticisms posed by the Philpotts.

Of course, for the occasions when you don’t recognise the lyrics being discussed, there’s the wonder of the internet to help you remedy that deficit, meaning next time you browse this compendium of daft musicology, you’ll be ready to chuckle at even more serious misinterpretations of popular lyrics. Wonderful fun.

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‘Dear Mr Pop Star’,
Derek & Dave Philpott,
2018, Unbound, hardback ARC
Many thanks to the authors for giving me a free copy of this book in return for an honest and unbiased review.