Ba Ba Ba Ba-Ba Ba Ba Ba*

*Now expanded to include La La La’s, Do-be-do-be-do’s, Na Na Na Na Na’s and all points in between.

Last weekend, being a bank holiday and all, I went to visit and stay at my parents.

The decision to visit had nothing to do with the fact my washing machine has died, that I can’t afford to buy a new one just yet, the nearest laundromat to my house is not especially near (particularly when one is as hampered as I am, movement-wise), and I had a whole load of lounge pants and T-shirts (and, disconcertingly, fewer underwear and socks) backed up and in need of a rinse. Since there isn’t a convenient river I can sit beside and bash my damp undercrackers with some rocks, and since my folks have a perfectly serviceable machine and dryer I could utililse, paying a visit seemed a sensible way to go. As a by-product of visiting, you understand.

Anyway, since I don’t drive (I can, but I don’t have a car, which complicates things somewhat: sitting in the road making “brrrrrm! brrrrrm!” noises doesn’t really cut it) and since public transport between mine and theirs is practically non-existent they offered to come and get me (and my washing). This suits all parties, as my Dad loves driving; after he was made redundant back in the early 90s, he set up a driving school and set about teaching all the young ‘uns in the area how to do it properly.

Including me.

Back home after finally graduating, we became each other’s guinea pig: me learning how to drive (I’d failed my test a few years earlier, taught by the only instructer who lived in our village) and him learning how to teach and not flip out at a pupil when they went the wrong way round a roundabout.

As it turned out, I was his first pupil to take their test; I passed and urged Dad to take out an advert in the local paper, announcing his 100% pass rate.

“I can’t do that,” he said at the time, “what if someone asks how many students I’ve got to test-taking level and I have to say: one?” You’ve already got them on the phone by then, was my reply: tell them, the worst that can happen is they hang up.

Anyway, he ran his driving school for a good ten years or so, very succesfully, without any further advice from me, until he retired, but none of this is relevant.

What is relevant is that as we drove back to their house, a song came on his car stereo which we both loved, which we sang along to, mostly in the wrong key. To my mind, it’s the US take on Sultans of Swing, with the action transposed from a pub in South London to a New Yawk piano bar, and with a bit of Tom Waits thrown in for good measure. If you don’t love this record than you probably need a medical intervention sharpish:

Billy Joel – Piano Man

You have to wait for the ba-ba-b-ba’s to arrive on this one, but trust me, when they hit, it’s worth the wait.

Is there any greater pleasure in life than singing along with your family to a perfect song? I don’t think so. Not even getting my washing done for free.

More soon.

Sunday Morning Coming Down

The wonderful Robbie Fulks is back with a new album, Bluegrass Vacation.

As the title suggests it’s a collection of entirely bluegrass songs, which means the banjos and fiddles take a tad more of a prominent place than in previous Fulks releases, as is evident from this, the opening track:

Robbie Fulks – One Glass of Whiskey

More soon.

Late Night Stargazing

Mention of Tom Waits in a post on Friday leads me to this little beauty tonight:

Tom Waits – I Hope That I Don’t Fall in Love With You

And, just in case you feel that, being sung by a man, this song isn’t inclusive enough for your taste, then here’s a version sung by a lady:

10,000 Maniacs – I Hope That I Don’t Fall In Love With You

Take your pick.

More soon.

Friday Night Music Club Vol 5.2

Well, hello. Nice of you to drop by. It’s Friday Night, fancy some tunes? Yes? Good stuff, I knew you wouldn’t let me down.

This week: the second week of the split down of the far too long, Volume 5. Running order tweaked a bit, a couple of songs which weren’t in the first one make an appearance, and there’s a definite 80s vibe about this one (once you get past the first five tunes, which are, in order: 70s, 60s, 70s, 90s, 00s.

I listened to this whilst waiting for a much delayed bus back from the hospital a few weeks ago, and, at the risk of appearing immodest, I bloody loved it. And I think you will too.

So let’e crack on shall we? Yes? YES!

Friday Night Music Club Vol 5.1

And, as is tradition, here’s your track-listing, and yes, this time I’ve even bothered to write some sleevenotes for you to tut over:

  1. The Stylistics – Sing Baby Sing

I’ve become a tad obsessed with The Stylistics recently. I’ve been trying to work out why. Is it the natty suits? The dance moves? That incomparible male falsetto? Could be. More likely is that this is just one of many Philly Soul records they put out that are just irresistable to these ears.

2. Sandie Shaw – Girl Don’t Come

Ah, Gawd bless Sandie. As it was Eurovision a couple of weeks ago, it seemed appropriate to slip one of her less-remembered tunes in. And you’ll find no smutty jokes about that song title here, you’ll have to make your own up, which I’m sure you’re more than capable of.

3. Blondie – Picture This

Suprisingly, given the ones which were to follow – like it was an aperitif, designed to whet the palate in anticipation of what was to come – this was the lead single from Blondie’s incredible Parallel Lines album. Anyone who heard this when it was released in August 1978 probably had no idea they were being lubed up for the pounding that was to follow. And anyone who doesn’t love that long-player must be dead – or, given that last analogy, at least a little sore – inside, I reckon. But what else is there to be said that hasn’t already been said about Blondie? Not much, so I’ll simply repeat some well-versed facts: Blondie were probably (as in “I haven’t checked”) the most commercially succcesful band to emerge from the New York punk/new wave scene, and that was in no small part due to Debbie Harry (before she insisted on being called Deborah) being sexy, coquettish and just downright cool. Girls wanted to be her, guys wanted to be with her.

4. Echobelly – I Can’t Imagine The World Without Me

This is just ruddy great. The band’s first of too few Top 40 hits, this scraped in at #39 in June 1994, which is criminal. And here we are, almost 30 years later and it still makes me want to bounce around the room and proclaim my undying love for Sonya Madan.

5. Girls Aloud – Wake Me Up

You can keep your Little Mix, your Saturdays and any other all-girl pop band that came after them: Girls Aloud may not have written their own tunes, but they sure as hell had some bangers in their repertiore. This one is not as well known as some of their others mega-hits, but damn right it’s worth revisiting.

6 Kim Wilde – Chequered Love

Nothing wiill shake me from my opinion that this, and not Kids in America, is her finest moment, I had the pleasure of meeting her once (CLANG!); she and her entourage came into the motorway restaurant I worked in when she was touring supporting some bloke called Michael Jacksonon his Bad tour of the UK. Not sure what happened to him. She had a burger and chips and an ice cream float. She was nice (swoons).

7. Animotion – Obsession

Yes, it’s a bit euro-pop. Actually, it’s a lot euro-pop. But that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s no good. Because it isn’t, it’s the opposite of no good, which I believe is commonly referred to as good. In fact, it’s better than just good, it’s a terrific tale of unrequited lust. Still with me? An over-looked 80s classic in my book. Mind you, there’s quite a few entries in that book.

8. Colonel Abrams – Trapped

Speaking of over-looked 80s classics…

9. Gorillaz – Dare

It’s hard to believe that Shaun William Ryder is now probably better known as “that sweary bloke from Celebrity Gogglebox” or “that sweary bloke from I’m a Celebrity…” than he is as one of the most pioneering lyricists and shambolic, shuffling lead singer of Happy Mondays and Black Grape fame. I think this record had a lot to do with his reinvention, projecting him into the psyche of a new group of fans, especially because, so the story goes, it was supposed to be called There but whenever Ryder tried to say the word, it came out as Dare, so the title was changed. I mean, how can somebody be as famous as he is without being able to pronounce such a basic word? And then I realise that Bez is almost, if not more, famous, and it all starts to make sense.

10. Hercules And Love Affair – Blind

Now let me make something perfectly clear: I did not enjoy the musical output of Antony and The Johnsons. Each to their own and all that, but Antony’s voice just wound me up, like fingernails down a chalkboard, made worse when I read reviews describing his vocal performances as innovative, ground-breaking blahblahblahblahblah. So, suffice it to say I did not have high expectations for this tune, on which he, just like Ryder in the last tune, provided guest vocals. Blimey, was I surprised. I love this, I think despite rather than because of Antony’s presence. It’s a total banger, right kids?

11. Van She – Kelly (Cut Copy Remix)

The original of this is a bit yacht rock but this 80s-upped remix definitely isn’t. It’s the second best (that I can think of, off the top of my head) Kelly in pop, and no, Kelly Jones from Stereoploddingphonics is not the best (Kelly Watch the Stars by Air is, of course). And this isn’t a million miles way from the uber-cool French duo, it’s just a bit more upbeat and contains more obvious retro synth-stabs. You’ll like it. No really, you will.

12. The Human League – Love Action (I Believe In Love)

Since we’ve gone all 80s-esque, we may as well have the real deal, so you can see just how well these all slot together. Philip, Susan and Joanne: national treasures in all but name.

13. Beth Ditto – Open Heart Surgery

Back to the 80s-homage gang, and I’ve included this one because there’s something about the bassline which reminds me of The Human League’s Don’t You Want Me. Can you spot it too?

14. Simian Mobile Disco – Audacity of Huge

Here’s some reviews of this, which I lifted from wiki:

Pitchfork called it “a limber, name-dropping, ear-catching body-mover, sleek and uncluttered and populist”.

Consequence of Sound stated that the lyrics were “hopelessly catchy non sequiturs”

NME (remember them?) felt that said “hopelessly catchy non sequiturs” were the only thing that made the song “listenable” (instead of “as annoying as stubbing your toe”)

The Quietus praised it as “amusingly bizarre” and “a pitch-perfect satire of the bling-bejewelled breast-beating so prevalent on [Kanye’s] 808s and Heartbreaks

This is why I would never have made it as a music journalist, as I wanted to be when I was in my late-teens: I have no idea whether any of those reviewers actually liked it or not (admittedly, I’ve not read the whole review, which usually gives a score at the end, which is a bit of a clue).

I’d never hit my required word target if all my reviews simply read: “An absolute beast of a record.” which this clearly is. And it features Chris Keating of Yeasayer on guest vocals, which I gather should be considered another point in its favour.

15. The Gossip – Standing In The Way Of Control (Soulwax Nite Version)

Yes, I know that there’s a strict “the same artiste shall not appear twice on the same playlist” rule in place. I haven’t broken the rule by including this. Yes, Beth Ditto was the lead signer with The Gossip, but that’s a very different beast to her flying solo. Anyway, I’ve not featured any of Soulwax’s awesome remixes for a while, so it seemed fitting to bring this week’s shenanigans to a close with one of theirs this week.

And that’s yer lot. Hope you enjoyed.

More soon.

Goodbye to a Major Influence

It’s been an up and down week.

On Wednesday, working from home, I stopped for lunch, put the TV on. Bargain Hunt. The reds and the blues merrily competed over some old tat in the background as I munched a sandwich and checked out my various social media feeds.

And then I heard a voice, a Welsh accent I recognised. The show was from Nottingham, and clearly filmed during lockdown, so these dulcet tones were most unexpected. I looked up from my phone to see an old buddy of mine being interviewed about the ancient trees in Sherwood Forest. Someone I had been close to many years ago, but had lost touch with. Someone I knew I was ‘friends’ with on Facebook.

Ian Major.

It was lovely to see him. He looked so well, happy, cheeky, gregarious. Just as I remembered him from twenty-odd years ago.

I found myself bursting with happiness at seeing my old mate, and vowed to get back in touch with him. To that end, this morning I logged onto Facebook, where we last had contact, but couldn’t find his name in my list of ‘friends’. Odd. I figured he’d probably closed his account, and began to ponder what other avenue I could explore to reconnect with him.

Facebook had the answer. Noting my search for him, I received an email suggesting Sherwood Forest Trust as a possible friend. Ordinarily I would ignore such news – I detest the stealth capitalism that is the algorithms and subsequent suggestions of what I might want to look at or buy based on what I’ve clicked on – but sensing it might lead me back to him, I clicked the link.

And found that he had died, in his sleep, unexpectedly, a little over a year ago.

Ah, fuck.

I was, once again, reminded that, cliched as it might sound, life’s too short.

At the risk of sounding all My Name Is Earl, you should always stay in touch with your friends, because one day it will be too late to rebuild that bridge.

The Wedding Present – You Should Always Keep In Touch With Your Friends

My friendship with Maj in the mid-90s was an important point in my life. We drank and danced together often. We skipped around an otherwise empty dancefloor in a Cardiff club to the sound of Underworld, laughing as we passed each other. I laughed when he told me he had heckled Julian Cope at a gig with the words: “Is it true you’re from Beddau?” He guided me when I first decided to shave my head (“No, you can probably take it down another notch and shave it a bit closer if you like. It’ll look fine. Want another beer?”). He introduced me to Father Ted by making me watch this episode that he had recorded on a VHS tape:

How can you not love someone who brings that into your life?

Thinking about it, in many ways, Maj was my prototype LlÅ·r, but without the illness that took LlÅ·r from us.

I left this message on Sherwood Forest Trust’s time-line:

I knew Maj back in his Cardiff days, the loveliest bloke one could ever hope to meet, always happy, funny and bouncy, up for everything and anything.. Saw him on (a repeat) of Bargain Hunt the other day, thought how well and happy he looked, and thought I’d reconnect with him here…only to find this devastatingly sad news. Proud to have called him a friend, gutted we lost touch. There’s a moral there, my friends. Love you Maj xx

It would be very easy to post a certain Morrissey song right now, but Maj would not appreciate being connected with his extreme views. So instead, here’s something from an album he bought me for my birthday one year. We never really did presents and birthdays, so for him to give me this was an unexpected and welcome bolt from the blue:

Supergrass – Moving

Belatedly, goodbye old buddy. So sorry we lost touch.

More soon.

Sunday Morning Coming Down

I’m always fascinated by records where the cover version is better known the original, and such is the case with this morning’s Country pick.

I think there would be little argument were I to say that Ring of Fire is Johnny Cash’s most famous record.

But he didn’t write it, oh no.

In fact, it was written by his eventual second wife June Carter Cash and Merle Kilgore, and was originally recorded as “(Love’s) Ring of Fire” by June’s sister Anita Carter on her 1963 album Sings Folk Songs Old and New:

Anita Carter – (Love’s) Ring of Fire

In 1999, June released Press On, which included her own take on the song. Out go the mariachi trumpets which characterise husband Johnny’s version, in comes an autoharp and fiddle:

June Carter Cash – Ring of Fire

Both rather wonderful takes on a much-loved song, no?

More soon.

Late Night Stargazing

In this, the longest running series that I post here, I feature songs which are suitable to be listened to late at night.

Of course, the type of tune one wants to hear in the wee small hours very much depends on what you’re doing at the time.

So whilst the main focus may be on quieter, more reflective, often acoustic songs, it does allow me the flexibility to play something a little more lively every now and again.

See, when I am ‘with drink’, I don’t get argumentative, agitated or violent. Instead, I tend to knock the volume dial up a couple of notches, and have a good sing-a-long, often to the likely annoyance of whoever I’m with at the time, and almost definitely to the annoyance of my neighbours.

Still, the house next to me is currently unoccupied, and whilst I haven’t touched a drop tonight, it would be rude not to take advantage of the opportunity.

Which leads me to Tina Turner.

I’ve never been her biggest fan, but I was genuinely saddened to learn of her passing this week. That said, I’m not going to write a long piece about her, as many others will have done so already, probably far better than I can manage. Also, I doubt I’d be able to avoid mentioning that The Best is one of those records that makes me change channels to escape it whenever it comes on the TV or radio. (See? Couldn’t stop myself.) Since it was one of her biggest, most-recognisable hits, practically her theme tune, it featured in pretty much every tribute to her passing that was aired. My TV remote batteries will need changing imminently.

Needless to say, I won’t be posting that song here tonight.

Of course, I don’t wish to speak ill of the dead. There are some records of hers that I really like. I actually bought her Private Dancer album back in the 80s; I love the title song (written, surprisingly, given the lyrical content, by Mark Knopfler), and I’m a bit partial to her version of Al Green’s Let’s Stay Together too. Not forgetting earlier belters like Nutbush City Limits and her version of Proud Mary. Tina could really belt them out.

But I’m not going to post any of them either.

Instead, perhaps predictably, a stone cold classic. It’s just a shame that she had to share performing credits with her wife-beating (then) husband (I’m not entirely clear what exactly he contributes here, much less why he gets top billing), and that it’s produced by a man who died in prison whilst serving time for murder. Strictly speaking, both of these facts should have lead to it being cancelled (you’ll note, for example, that I’m not posting anything by Rolf Harris, who’s death was also announced this week, and I love Two Little Boys. Wait…let me rephrase that…I have a soft spot for the song Two Little Boys, as, I would venture, most people do after seeing Spud’s heart-breaking rendition at Tommy’s wake in Trainspotting.)

But I digress. Tina saves this record. She makes it okay to like it and listen to it, because the world would be a sadder place if we were forbidden from hearing her frankly barn-storming, show-stopping vocals.

Turn the volume up and sing with her:

Ike & Tina Turner: River Deep – Mountain High

More soon.

Friday Night Music Club Vol 5.1

Long time readers may recall that when I first started preparing and posting these mixes, they were considerably longer than the round-about-an-hour ones I do now.

The change to shorter mixes came about after Swiss Adam of Bagging Area fame diplomatically suggested the mixes were too long, people don’t have time to engage for five or six hours at a time, and I think he was absolutely spot-on.

So, you’ll recall I revisited the previous mixes split them down and spiced them up a bit, making them shorter and closer to the requisite 60 minute mark. The only exception was Volume 3, which was posted on Christmas Day 2020, the covid Christmas that never was; I resolutely refused to include any Christmas songs at all in it, hence it being titled “Friday Night No Christmas Music Club”. I’ve never returned to split this one down, as it doesn’t really represent where we are today. Also, I don’t think any of us, particularly those who lost loved ones due to covid, want to be reminded of those days. I’ll never revisit that one, and have deleted the mix from my hard drive so that I can’t. In fact, unless anyone downloaded it from Soundcloud, it doesn’t exist anymore.

Anyway, whilst I was on hiatus, I was tidying up my iTunes and realised that I hadn’t revisted and broken down Vol 5. And so that’s what I’ll be posting for the next four weeks: Vol 5 split into 4 hour-long mixes, the running orders tweaked, some tunes dropped, and a whole load more added to make each one into a round-a-bout 60 minute mix.

So, this time around, 15 songs, one cover version, it’s a little bit 80s, a little bit rock, a little bit 90s and – brace yourself – at least three that were released after the year 2000.

Strap yourselves in for another trip down memory lane, and off we go:

Friday Night Music Club Vol 5.1

Here’s the tracklisting (which I didn’t include first time around) and, if I can think of anything interesting or amusing to say about them between now (Monday) and Friday, sleevenotes too:

  1. R.E.M. – Daysleeper
  2. David Bowie – Oh! You Pretty Things
  3. Johnny Cash – The Man Comes Around
  4. Madonna – Like A Prayer (Remix)
  5. Beats International – Dub Be Good To Me
  6. Chaka Khan – I Feel For You
  7. Black Grape – Reverend Black Grape
  8. The Chemical Brothers – The Darkness That You Fear
  9. The Darkness – One Way Ticket
  10. AC/DC – It’ s A Long Way To The Top (If You Wanna Rock’ N’ Roll)
  11. Kiss – I Was Made for Lovin’ You
  12. Puffy AmiYumi – Call Me What You Like
  13. Ash – Does Your Mother Know?
  14. The Vaccines – If You Wanna
  15. Arctic Monkeys – Teddy Picker

(Nope. Couldn’t think of anything interesting or amusing. Yellow cards to anyone who makes any “nothing new there” type comments.)

More soon.

Sunday Morning Coming Down

It’s about time I posted something by First Aid Kit that isn’t their stunningly beautiful Emmylou, a song which I don’t think I’ll ever tire of hearing.

So here’s a song which I love, despite it having been used in an advert (for a car, I think), which is something some of you will recall I’m not overly fond of.

First Aid Kit – My Silver Lining

More soon.

Late Night Stargazing

It may have escaped your attention, but there’s one of them there online petitions currently doing the rounds which doesn’t aim to change the world, it has far less lofty ambitons.

It’s asking that the BBC commisions a new series of a much-loved sitcom (rather than attempting to silence people who aren’t their employees from speaking their mind).

I speak, of course, of Early Doors.

Fresh from his success working with the much-missed Caroline Aherne on The Royle Family and Mrs Merton, Craig Cash teamed up with Phil Mealey to write this utterly charming, and very funny, sitcom, set in The Grapes, a pub in Stockport.

Cash and Mealey play Joe and Duffy, best mates and regulars at The Grapes. The show focuses on divorced pub landlord Ken, his potential relationship with barmaid Tanya, and his worries about his step-daughter Melanie, who is preparing to meet her real father. It features early career appearances by the likes of Maxine Peake and James McAvoy, and a wonderful performance by Mark Benton as temporary-traffic lights obsessed Eddie.

It only ran for two series, and itf feels real and true to life in the way that only Detectorists has managed since. Both series are currently available to watch on the BBC iPlayer. Go watch it and if you agree, go sign the petition, here. Not that I expect it to do any good, mind.

Anyway, I mention this because, just as Cash and Aherne chose an acoustic song by Oasis as the theme tune for The Royle Family, so Cash and Mealey chose one by Roddy Frame:

Roddy Frame – Small World

I had the great pleasure of hearing Roddy perform this the first time I went to Glastonbury. You’ll note I say ‘heard’ rather than ‘saw’: he was playing the Acoustic Tent, I got there too late to get into the rammed venue, so instead lay on the grass, soaking up the glorious sunlight, off my face on hash brownies which I had unwisely been left in charge of.

I’m fairly sure he sang it anyway…

More soon.