From The Desk Of Pete Astor: “Tango Uniform” (And The Phonetic Alphabet)

Pete Astor has been a staple of the British indie scene since the early ’80s, fronting a diverse number of outfits including the Loft, the Weather Prophets, the Wisdom Of Harry and Ellis Island Sound. He launched a solo career in 1990, as well, and is also a senior lecturer in music at the University of Westminster. Astor’s latest release is One For The Ghost (Tapete). He’ll be guest editing magnetmagazine.com all week, writing about the origins of these songs and how they relate to the LP’s theme of past and future, complete with illustrations he created with Susanne Ballhausen.

Astor: I’d been playing a show on a Saturday night and was getting the last train back to London. This involved a walk directly through the town centre. It was quite something; Joel Goodman’s iconic photograph tells it perfectly.

Walking through it all was strangely calming; we felt like ghosts, invisible. As we got to the station and were about to go through the barrier, we passed a couple of revellers who’s strayed away from the central Hieronymus Bosch scenes and were swaying around the station, looking for the right train. Two good-humoured policemen showed them the way as the two men tried to argue; as the two of them bounced through the barriers, I heard one of the policemen say, “Thank you gentlemen, time to Foxtrot Oskar.” Initially it didn’t make any sense, but after a while I realised they were using the phonetic alphabet. It was time for them to fuck off.

So when I came a came across someone referring to things having gone “Tango Uniform,” I looked it up. It was a phrase initially from the military: “tits up” (dead), all gone wrong; like the Vietnam-inspired SNAFU (Situation Normal All Fucked Up). So, it had to be the song where the final curtain’s about to come down.

Some amazing songwriting influences: