For centuries, drinking and music-making have been intertwined social activities. I've just been reading an article by historian Mark Hailwood about 17th Century drinking songs, and they were songs not only to be sung while you were drinking, but tended to be about drinking, too. And they weren't exhortations on sobriety.
Last Wednesday, though, this close connection between two widespread human pursuits became a problem. The Independent reported that research by boffins at Liverpool John Moores University had revealed that in 2011 18.5% of chart songs contained references to alcohol, up from a mere 2.1% 20 years previously.
I'm not sure why this has happened. Perhaps lyricists have got bored with writing about illicit drugs in thinly veiled terms. Or perhaps it reflects a changing culture – young people are drinking less, and as that has happened having a drink has become less habitual and more about special occasions and important life events. This would make drink, and certain kinds of drinks, pertinent subject-matter for song writers.
Clearly, more research is required (I'm available for hire). But instead, the researchers jump to the ridiculous conclusion that these songs are acting as a kind of advertising, urging our impressionable young folk to get more drunk than they otherwise would.
If they're right, song lyrics must be a pretty rubbish sort of ad medium, since (as I've already said, but it takes a long time to sink in with some) young people are drinking less. They are, in fact, driving a continuing decline in UK alcohol consumption, down another 3.3% in 2012 according to latest stats from the British Beer & Pub Association.
Several factors are at play, including the probability that young people can't afford to drink like they used to. There's also evidence that drinking, and drug-taking in general, is going out of fashion.
There's a contradiction, though, in that the Big Night Out continues to play an important role in young people's lives, as it has since young people were invented some time in the 1950s.
The researchers single out Katy Perry's song ‘Last Friday Night’ as a particularly execrable example. It's about going out, getting drunk and falling into all kinds of scrapes, condensed into one night for artistic purposes. Unabashed, Ms Perry determines to do it over again next Friday night.
Good songs reflect reality, and they are also an opportunity to reflect on reality. ‘Last Friday Night’ tells a truth about young lives, and provides a means of getting to grips with the inherent contradictions. We've all said “never again” and “gone and done it again”, as Andy Fairweather-Low wrote in Wide-Eyed and Legless (1975).