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Blog: The Songs What Were Sung

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Now all one thousand gigs have been DONE we can start looking at what songers were actually played... or at least we can in SOME of them. For LO! as the first table today demonstrates, the amount of completed setlists is somewhat patchy to say the least.

Setlists per year

As we can see, there's huge gaps and entire years where I don't have any record of setlists at all, until we get to 89.36% completed in 2005 and then close to full completion after that. The reasons for the sparcity of setlists in the first couple of decades is easy to explain - obviously there WERE setlists but I didn't have a proper system for recording them until around 2005 (or possibly 2006). I do recall that when I DID set up a system - The Database Of ROCK - I spent AGES going back through old blogs trying to find occasions when I HAD listed the songs, and then also delving back into other records like old diaries and so on.

One particularly FRUITFUL avenue of archival setlist discovery has been TAPES. Back in the last century I LOVED recording gigs, and still have a box FULL of live recordings, most of which have the list of songs written out in BIRO on the side, and over the years I've dug these up and entered the details into The Database Of ROCK. The earliest one of those was a tape I made of The Masters Of Nothing's one and only professional gig, at The Gaslight Club in Peterborough on my 18th Birthday - yes, I became a ROCK PROFESSIONAL on the same day as I became an ADULT! As I recall we got paid in ACTUAL CA$H that night too, it was brillo!

Elsewhere I've relied on MEMORY (I know what song we played on my first ever gig, for instance) or odd diaries and notebooks, but that means there's no real consistency until the data suddenly picks up consistency in 2005, so for the purposes of the next few blogs I'm only going to look at setlists from that year onwards. It's a shame, as I'd love to know how often Voon played She's A Spaceman, for instance, or how often we did Boom Shake The Room when it was a Recent Hit, but there's not a lot I can do about that BARRING the invention of time travel!

So, pending the intervention of THE DOCTOR, let's have a look at the Top 25 (ish) songs I've EVER (since 2005) played live!

Songs By Number Of Gigs
1The Lesson Of The Smiths363
2It Only Works Because You're here258
3The Peterborough All-Saints Wide Game Team (group B)256
4Easily Impressed249
5Hey Hey 16K213
6Boom Shake The Room189
7My Boss Was In An Indie Band Once159
8The Gay Train152
9Do The Indie Kid151
10Billy Jones Is Dead142
11Theme From Dinosaur Planet125
12We Did It Anyway124
13Being Happy Doesn't Make You Stupid122
1420 Things To Do Before You're 30121
15I Did A Gig In New York85
16A Little Bit81
17=Clubbing In The Week74
18=Don't, Darren, Don't74
19(You Make Me Feel) Soft Rock70
20I Come From The Fens66
21We Are The Giant Robots64
22The Theory Of A Dinosaur Planet60
23Dinosaurs Talk Like Pirates58
24=The Battle Of Peterborough57
24=Please Don't Eat Us57
24=Strangely Attractive57

No great surprise for the winner here - apart from a gap a few years ago I have played The Lesson Of The Smiths at almost every chance I've had, because a) it is GRATE and b) it pretty much ALWAYS goes down well. I first played it back in 2003 too, so it's had the full run of the study period to climb up to the top of the chart.

Similarly, I've played It Only Works Because You're here whenever I could too, as it is my FAVOURITE, hence it's been in TWO of mine and Steve's shows and in recent years I've even managed to get it into The Validators' live sets as well. By contrast The Peterborough All-Saints Wide Game Team (group B) hasn't made the LEAP into regular Validation or MUSICALS so is slightly lower down, despite being played in nearly EVERY solo gig I've done within this timeframe.

My first attempt to produce this table was slightly SKEWED by the aforesaid Musicals. I realised this when I saw that I Wish That I Was Normal was in my Top 20 most played songs. I was sure I'd never played it LIVE outside of performances of Hey Hey 16K: THE MUSICAL and on closer investigation it turned out that it was listed FOUR TIMES for each show due to REPISES. For this reason I re-did the MATH so it only counted how many gigs each song had appeared in, rather than how many times it had been played.

Towards the end of this list we can see that a whole bunch of Dinosaur Planet songs barge their way in, differentiated from each other by how many times EITHER I've tried them out in normal gigs OR Steve and I did them as part of our Comedy Show Attempts. This process continues with other shows, as songs get bunched together, and then there's a long long list of other songs - altogether, since 2005, I've played a grand total of 267 different songs in the LIVE ARENA, with 81 of them only being played once! I must admit I'm quite impressed with that STAT - I constantly worry that I'm just going and playing the same songs at every gig, but clearly I'm not!

It's noticeable that after 20 Things To Do Before You're 30 there's a sudden drop in number of gigs, from 121 for that song down to 85 for I Did A Gig In New York. I'm not sure what's going on there - the numbers go down at quite a steady rate up until that point, and then do so again afterwards, but it does at least give me a nice easy batch of 14 songs to use for today's final table - the top songs in order!

Songs Played Over 100 Times By Average Place In Setlist
SongAverage place in setlist
The Peterborough All-Saints Wide Game Team (group B)2.4669
The Gay Train3.7434
My Boss Was In An Indie Band Once4.0692
It Only Works Because You're here6.0775
Billy Jones Is Dead6.2800
Do The Indie Kid6.4570
Being Happy Doesn't Make You Stupid6.6475
Theme From Dinosaur Planet7.0936
Hey Hey 16K7.6367
The Lesson Of The Smiths7.7342
20 Things To Do Before You're 307.9504
Easily Impressed8.9416
Boom Shake The Room8.9897
We Did It Anyway12.0726

It's a statistically verifiable UBERSET! This looks pretty much exactly how I'd expect it to - The Peterborough All-Saints Wide Game Team (group B) is first because I almost always start with the one in my solo sets, and similarly we spent a long time kicking off Validators gigs with The Gay Train, while the final six songs are what I'd expect too, as I tend to put THE HIT at the start of the FINAL ACT, and for many many years every setlist would have "Smiths/Easily/BOOM" written at the end. In recent times however we've finished Validators sets with We Did It Anyway too, hence it's placing right at the end.

There are CAVEATS to all this of course, notably the fact that sets will vary greatly in length, so a song that finishes shorter sets may not have quite such a high average as one that comes in the middle of longer onea. This partly explains why Boom Shake The Room is the penultimate song in this list, despite INVARIABLY getting played as a final song or encore. It very rarely gets played at Validator gigs, however, so it's average place of 8.89 is lower than for We Did It Anyway, which is more likely to appear in (usually longer) Validators sets.

"But are Validators sets REALLY longer than solo ones?" you may ask. The answer to that question, and MANY MANY MORE will be heading your way tomorrow. Stat tuned, STATS FANS!

posted 9/2/2023 by MJ Hibbett

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