You can listen to this playlist via Spotify at http://ind.pn/gMUfJM
If You Wanna Be Happy (1963)
This No 1 hit offers the somewhat dubious advice to men that by marrying an ugly girl they will secure a lifetime of happiness, so eternally grateful she will be that you were able to look past her unfortunate visage. Apparently, she'll be so willing to please that even your meals will always be served on time. Despite its upbeat tempo and seemingly joyful spirit, playing this song on your wedding day should be avoided unless the bride is so dazzlingly beautiful that you are obviously being totally ironic. Or if she has a very good sense of humour indeed.
You Never Can Tell (1964)
The giant of rock'n'roll wrote this rather sweet paean to marrying young while he was incarcerated in 1962, before it went on to reach cult status in 1994 when John Travolta and Uma Thurman boogied down to it in Quentin Tarantino's Pulp Fiction. After the "teenage wedding", the couple go on to find work, prosperity, happiness and make a nice little life for each other, which, just as the old folks point out in the song, "Goes to show you never can tell".
The River (1981)
While everything might turn out peachy for Chuck Berry's teenage couple, Springsteen's adolescent lovers in "The River" aren't so fortunate. After his girlfriend gets pregnant, the narrator marries her when he turns 19, and he gets "a union card and a wedding coat" for his birthday. Far from a happy occasion for the young, poor couple, we're told there are: "No wedding day smiles/ No walk down the aisle/ No flowers/ No wedding dress". Burdened with responsibility and struggling to find work, our narrator is haunted by their carefree youth spent on the banks of the river, and he finds himself returning there, only now "the river is dry". Heartbreaking stuff.
The Dixie Cups
Chapel of Love (1964)
Originally written for The Ronettes, "Chapel of Love" was The Dixie Cups' biggest hit. Weddings were a constant theme in the music of the Sixties – the dream of the handsome prince sweeping a girl off her feet and the two of them disappearing into improbable quantities of lace and confetti were a recurring image. Rather sweet for a song co-written by Phil Spector, the trio harmonise to celebrate that "Today's the day we'll say 'I do'/ And we'll never be lonely anymore".
The White Stripes
Hotel Yorba (2001)
Taken from the duo's third album, White Blood Cells, this infectious, delightful two-minute blues-rock ditty follows a man who is trying to plan a future with his girl. Dreaming of getting "a little place down by the lake" he finally pleas to her, "Let's get married/ In a big cathedral by a priest/ Cos if I'm the man that you love the most/ You could say 'I do' at least". Famously, Jack and Meg White were actually married, although they insisted that they were siblings for a number of years to keep the focus on the music rather than their relationship. In fact, they had divorced a year before this track was released.
We've Only Just Begun (1970)
A celebration of a young couple who are just starting their lives together, so far there has just been "White lace and promises/ A kiss for luck". Whether you think the newlyweds are naïve in thinking that they have "so many roads to choose" or you find the song to be a beautiful homage to young love probably depends on age and experience. Whatever your feelings, in 1998 the song was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame, which honours recordings that are at least 25 years old and have "qualitative or historical significance".
Band of Gold (1970)
Opening with the lament, "Now that you're gone/ All that's left is a band of gold", Payne turned down the forlorn track when it was first offered to her. Luckily, she eventually reconsidered: the record went on to spend six weeks at No 1 in 1970. The song charts the demise of a marriage, starting with ominous beginnings when the newlyweds spend their first night together on their honeymoon in separate rooms. It has gone on to be covered many times, proving that getting your heart broken really is the perennial human experience.
(Today I Met) The Boy I'm Going to Marry (1963)
There's a simple, charming sentiment behind this Phil Spector-produced hit: girl meets boy, falls in love and instantly knows that they'll spend their lives together. "Today I met the boy I'm gonna marry/ The boy whose life and dreams and love I wanna share" croons the majestic Love, over Spector's signature Wall of Sound. Unlike Freda Payne's sad wedding ring that she is left with, Love receives "The band of gold I'd always dreamed I'd wear."
White Wedding (1982)
An Eighties rock classic, on release it was believed that the line "Hey little sister who is it you're with?" hinted that the somewhat menacing track was about Idol's own anger when his younger, unmarried sibling fell pregnant. Idol went on to rubbish the reports, claiming the song was nothing but fantasy. For those who find the track and the accompanying goth-tastic video just the wrong side of camp, Queens of the Stone Age do a fantastic stripped-down cover.
Ariel Pink's Haunted Graffiti
Mistaken Wedding (2010)
This trippy little number was released as a B-side to the band's single "Round and Round". The rather surreal accompanying video includes real-life footage of a wedding day, with the inimitable Ariel Pink himself superimposed onto the hotel reception, resembling some sort of unfortunate wedding singer, warbling along and smoking. We can only assume he was trying to sound like a drunk Elvis impersonator on purpose.
Wedding Bell Blues (1966)
Written from the perspective of a girl whose boyfriend, Bill, is yet to pop the question, she ponders, "Am I ever going to see my wedding day?" and includes the plea, "Come on and marry me, Bill!" Written at the age of 18, the phrase "wedding bell blues" was invented by Nyro and has gone on to become shorthand for anyone anxious over the prospect of marriage, lending itself to a number of book titles, films and television show episodes.
Modern Marriage (2006)
Although recorded as part of their 1998 album, This Is Hardcore, "Modern Marriage" didn't get released until 2006 when Pulp issued a deluxe edition bonus disc, which included this track that sees Jarvis Cocker attempt to create a new set of wedding vows more suited to the modern day. Over a slightly foreboding organ, the typically wry Cocker humorously replaces the traditional "Love, honour and obey" with a promise to "Never smoke all your stash if I happen to find it whilst tidying up. Which, let's face it, isn't likely." Who said romance was dead?
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