In which I've never milked a cow or shot a mugger,

To be printed 28/01/10.



This morning, I had one of those moments of amazing coincidence. I came downstairs singing a song, a song I’d woken up with in my head, then mid-way through my rendition I turned on the radio to find it in the middle of the exact same song. At the exact part I was singing. It was like Radio 2 had finally cut out the middle man and started broadcasting live from my own brain.

But while you’re lying on the floor, aghast at colossal intricacy of the universe, I ought to admit that it would have been a more amazing moment, really, if the song in question hadn’t been Journey’s Don’t Stop Believing. Which of course is not only in my head, but perpetually on a loop in the communal head of the nation. As anyone with ears will know, is now officially the Greatest Song Ever to Have Existed. 
One of the nicest things about the new shape of the music industry, where the internet is like a big ol’ Pick’n’Mix of potentially delicious discoveries, is moments like this, where one song will suddenly rise from the mists of the past and into everybody’s iTunes libraries. Sometimes it happens for no discernable reason, like when Total Eclipse of the Heart suddenly became THE song to sing in pub loos in 2007, but this time round there are several clear factors contributing to the track’s greatness.

Firstly: Glee. Ahhhh, Glee. The award-scooping musical high school sensation has high-kicked its way into our hearts and charts simultaneously, with the show’s cast recording of Don’t Stop Believing sitting smugly at number three this week. Secondly: Joe McElderry, who was refused permission to release the song. This therefore makes it a sort of anti-X-factor statement for polite people. Like Rage Against the Machine, but without the rage. With jazz hands.

And thirdly, the song starts with the words, “Just a small town girl…” Those are magic words. The sheer power of that phrase sets the tone from the off – this is a song about a journey (it’s also BY Journey, which makes it much easier to remember. Their follow-up releases ‘Leaves on the Line’ and ‘I Left my Heart at the Little Chef on the A24’ were less successful).

It’s a sentiment everyone can instantly recognise, particularly at the moment, because small town girls and boys are everywhere. They’re having a vogue. You can’t turn on the telly without encountering some reality TV whippersnapper, bleating, “I’m just a kid from a small town… I can’t believe it... This time last week I was up to my armpits in cow placenta, now I’m living the dream!” Even better if the inhabitants of the ‘small town’, Doris and Cletus and Toothless Bob, can get together to wave some banners and talk about how their Local Boy Done Good is the best thing to happen to Smalltownville since Daisy the prize Llama killed that skunk.

But what I want to know is this: do I count as a small town girl? With a 100,000-strong population, Worthing is not small. It is a large town. But “Just a large town girl…” as a punchy song opening really doesn’t have the same ring to it. The large town girl doesn’t need ‘Don’t Stop Believing’. She needs a decent parking space and access to a Tesco Express.

In fact I’m beginning to realise that as large-town inhabitants, we’re pretty much excluded from cultural referencing. Think of all the songs that have been written about cities. Then think of all the ones written about the countryside. Then try, if you will, to think of one written about a large town. Go on. Anything? “When you’re alone and life is making you lonely you can always go… to Durrington.”

I also frequently find myself in those conversations where people dual their urban and rural upbringings, and I have nothing to contribute. “Um. I’ve never shot a pheasant. Or been to a squat party with a transvestite. But y’know, we have a decent sized New Look… and a pier.”

So while we can all feel inspired by Don’t Stop Believing, I’m really holding out for a song about a girl from a large town, who knows an average amount about life, taking a medium-length journey, to fulfill a reasonably attainable dream. It can be called Findon Calling. Catch it live, on Lauren’s Brain FM.