Sunday Morning Coming Down

Before I go any further, my apologies for the delayed response/approval/liking of some of the comments left here since I reappeared.

Ordinarily I would respond via the WordPress app on my phone, but there seems to be some sort of a glitch with that at the moment, immediately crashing whenver I try to open it. It’s probably been like that since the last update, but I’ve not had cause to use it for the past few weeks. Tonight is the first chance I’ve had to fire up my laptop and react to the comments, so sorry for the unintended radio silence.

Especially as my post about disappearing social media footprints seems to have touched a few nerves; it’s nice to know when something you write hits the target, slightly less so when you realise you may have inadvertently been responsible forreopening some old wounds.

I’ll try to reply to each of you who left comments about their own experiences when I can think of something which doesn’t sound mealy-mouthed or vacuous.

And to the couple of people who left comments for the first time this week: hello, and you’re very welcome here.

So for those of you who are new to my little corner of the internet, on a sunday moning (UK time) you should find a little gem of Country music here. Many of the same acts – Cash, Kristofferson, Pride – will appear here often, others less so.

This morning, a tune featuring a Country star who is perhaps better known than any other, accompanied by her former singing partner Porter Wagoner.

I’m a little bit behind watching the excellent series currently airing in the UK on BBC4 of a Friday Night, wittily entitled Country Music and produced by Ken Burns (or as it’s billed over here: Ken Burns Country Music which just sounds like Barbie’s old beau has a grudge), but I imagine Wagoner has got a mention, given that he was known as ‘Mr Grand Ole Opry’ and apparently racked up 81 hit singles between 1954 and 1983.

This is one of them, a cover of a Tom Paxton song which has been blessed with many interpretations over the years, performed with the little lady with a big heart, who he introduced to the world on his TV show in 1967, and who he released records with throughout the late 60s and early 70s, before she busted out (sorry I couldn’t resist) into fame in her own right.

Porter Wagoner and Dolly Parton – The Last Thing on My Mind

You’d think they’d be able to afford a red jumper each, wouldn’t you?

More soon.

Late Night Stargazing

5 things:

1: Whilst I’ve been away, and so so bored, I’ve listened to a lot of music.

2: I love Radiohead, but I have to admit I lost faith/track post Hail to the Thief. Which means that their Amnesiac album somehow managed to pass me by.

3: Every now and then in this slot, which traditionally features quieter, more introspective tunes, I like to throw something in which is, to egotistically quote myself from a previous post, a “glorious cacophany of noise”.

Radiohead – Cuttooth

4. And then I remembered why I love them so much.

5. More soon.

50 Ways To Prove I'm Rubbish #24

Oh lawdy, The Cramps.

How on earth did I manage to avoid them for so long?

I was aware of them, sure, but for some reason I always associated them with wrong ‘uns, scary looking blokes with geometric-defying buzz-cut flat-tops and Meteors tee-shirts.

Wrong, wrong, wrong, wrong, wrong.

Wrong.

Did I mention I was wrong? Well, I was.

The penny finally dropped about ten years ago, when somebody – forgive me, I forget who – posted something by them and I clicked on the link.

And I had one of those Where have this lot been all my life? moments.

Answer: they were there, I just wasn’t paying attention.

I mean, how could I have resisted the charms of a song with this title (from their utterly brilliant 1991 Look Mom, No Head album)?:

The Cramps – I Wanna Get In Your Pants

Since I finally discovered them, I’ve bought a lot of their stuff; whenever something pops up on my iPod shuffle, my usual shitty mood is lifted, and I find myself with a big grin on my face.

There’s no finer testament, in my book.

More soon.

Be Llŷrious

I really wanted to keep things upbeat on my return, but I can’t not mention this.

As I was going through the laborious task of unpacking today, listening to some tunes as I moved one box from one place to another, one song came on which reminded me of Llŷr. Not for any particular moment we had shared, but because when I posted it here, he sent me a text telling me how much he liked the tune in question, and we had a chat about it, via text.

So I went to my phone, hoping to read that conversation, only to find it only holds text chats back to a certain date: before that nothing.

And so I’ve lost that one last connection I had with my best friend.

Cheers for that, Apple.

Maybe it was on WhatsApp, I thought, and so I checked there, only to be greeted with lots of group messages which he had been part of, all ending with the words “Llŷr has left the conversation”.

And I realised that with death, so comes admin. I know that, because he wasn’t capable of responding, Llŷr’s parents had control of his phone for those last few months, but it had never occurred to me that they had to go through everything, shutting it down for the last time. Jesus, that must have been tough for them.

I’m not ashamed to tell you that I cried when I realised I had lost that last evidence of us, that final conversation never to be added to, but also about that which I had never considered before, the minutae of bereavement, the stuff that has to be done.

And so here I am, almost eleven months since he died, not doing what I should be, but weeping.

I knew grief was tough, but I didn’t realise just how tough, how never-fucking-ending it seems to be.

I don’t want to forget, I won’t forget, but sometimes remembering hurts.

*****

Update: since I posted this, I’ve learned that this deletion of history, this wiping of memory, is ‘what happens’. And it’s outrageous that – having been coerced and manipulated into a world where we communicate via the written word, text, email, Whatsapp, whatever – the last thread we have of people, that last interaction we cling on to, the thing we can look back on and remember and cherish, can just be deleted without thought, because an algorithm says so…well, my friends, that’s fucked up and I hope you never find yourself where we are now.

Who are these people who think they can dictate to me when I should stop grieving, at what point I should stop remembering deceased friends? Whoever they are, fuck ’em. I’m still sad, but now I’m sad and angry.

*****

Anyway (deep breaths): by way of a complete counterpoint to all I have just written, a relentlessly upbeat song that he loved, that we loved, despite (or, more probably, because of) its perceived cheesiness.

The last time I heard this being played in a public arena was at a friend’s wedding; we didn’t dance, but Llŷr and I did sit together and sing along.

It makes me smile when I hear it, because I remember. And I always will.

Mental As Anything – Live It Up

Miss you, dude.

More soon.

Got Your Big Plate, Jez?

Regular readers will know that at any possible opportunity, I will post something from the back catalogue of Alan Partridge Esq.

Usually, it’s this:

But I’m not posting that today. Oh, hang on…

No. For today, I want to start off by referencing my favourite episode of I’m Alan Partridge: Series 1, Episode 2, Alan Attraction, an episode which I think is probably the funniest of any sitcom ever.

Here’s how wiki explains the plot:

Without a second series of his programme, Alan is nearing bankruptcy and chooses to fire the staff at his company, Peartree Productions, rather than downsize his car. However, when the staff ask him if he has a second series, Alan panics, and tells them that he has been successful. While the staff prepare a party, and Jill, his flirtatious, chain-smoking, 50-year-old, divorced receptionist (Julia Deakin) goes out to buy some snacks, Alan tries to extricate himself by firing staff members for various “offences,” such as leaving an unwashed coffee cup on the table and rolling eyes. Whilst he locks himself in his boardroom, the staff leave. Jill returns, wondering where everyone has got to (he tells her they have gone to a spice museum) and the two go on a date to a nearby owl sanctuary, where Alan’s attempts at conversation bewilder Jill. In the evening, the two attend a Valentine’s Day dinner at the Travel Tavern, where Alan makes a fool of himself by badly singing “Close To You” by The Carpenters for her with the hired band, and Lynn attempts to sabotage Alan’s evening with the uncouth Jill. Alan and Jill go to his room. Alan attempts to have sex with Jill while providing a running commentary and attempts a discussion of the pedestrianisation of the Norwich city centre to delay ejaculating. Jill’s attempt at eroticism with chocolate mousse makes him angry so he ends his liaison with her. At the radio station that night, he announces on-air that he has sacked her.

There’s so many brilliant clips which stem from that.

Firstly, this:

And also this, for my money not just one of the finest comedy moments played out (almost) completely in the dark, but one of the finest comedy moments ever:

“Let battle commence!”

“Do you…er…like me doing that…? Shall I do it more quickly, or maintain the same speed…?…Shall I move on to the other one…?”

“That’s lovely…that’s first class…that…that is superb…ohh there you go..it’s all happening….”

“Jill, you know your onions….!”

“People need access to Diiixxxxons…..”

“Wheeeeeeeeeeeeelchairs!”

It’s all in blackout, but the genius is that we can all picture exactly what is happening, even if we’d rather not, thanks very much.

And why am I mentioning all of this, I hear you yawn?

Well, some of you may recall that several months ago I wrote about how I was going to have to temporarily vacate my flat whilst some subsidence-related structural work was done to it.

This has been rumbling along for over a year now, with no real end game in sight, but suddenly it’s all happening, and the day that I have to vacate my flat and be placed in temporary accommodation is today.

Back in April, the company charged with the task of rehousing me sent me a clutch of links to six apartments they had access to – three one bedroom, three two bedroom – and basically asked that I take my pick.

I would post a link to them now, but having tried to look at them whilst writing this post, I find that the link comes with one of those “site unsecure” warnings that people who click on dubious links will be familiar with, so I won’t bother. Maybe they can appear in the Comments if anyone’s really interested (which I doubt).

Suffice it to say that, frankly, the apartments looked amazing, and certainly better than my own flat.

I bit their hands off. “Any of those are fine!” I told them.

Before those flats were offered to me, I had some questions to ask of the insurance company, chiefly revolving around any extra costs I was going to incur whilst I was absent from my flat – if there’s no facility to cook, I will have to either eat out or get takeways, will I be reimbursed for this? And if there’s no laundry facilities in the apartment, will I be reimbursed for the cost of going to the laundrette? – but these were mostly answered by the apartments I was offered. All of them had a kitchen area, a dishwasher, a washing machine and a tumble dryer.

But all of the apartments were in central London and I live way out in the outskirts, in Zone 4, and I work even further out, in Zone 5. I get the bus to and from work, at a cost of £3.00 a day, but to travel from Zone 1 to Zone 5 and back every day would be considerably more expensive.

The Fatima Mansions – Only Losers Take The Bus

I bought that record on 12″, on the back of seeing this clip on the much missed SNUB TV:

But I digress.

So whilst I told the insurers that all of the apartments on offer were perfectly accceptable, I would need assurances that I would be reimbursed any additional commuting costs I might incur.

Sometimes I wish I had kept my mouth shut, for I have now been offered the considerably less salubrious, but much closer, surroundings of….a local Travelodge.

Time for me to rock this bad boy out:

and this tune:

The Big Dish – Where Do You Live?

At the time of writing, I am still in negotiations with the insurers about the internet access I get in such grand surroundings. According to the website, I get 30 minutes a day free or get charged £3.00 for 24 hours (or, as they try to big it up: “30 minutes FREE or £3 for 24 hours”); I pay a monthly fee to my broadband provider to have unlimited Wi-Fi, and so to my mind, they either reimburse me the cost I am paying to continue that (even though I can’t use it), or they agree to pay the £3.00 a day so I have the same whilst I’m re-accommodated.

And trust me: I work in insurance, I know exactly what I’m entitled to.

Anyway, what I’m building up to say is that until that’s sorted, things might be a little quiet round these parts. I’m trying to write as many posts as I can before the big day, but it may that be after today nothing happens around here until early December, when I’m currently rescheduled to return to my home.

So, more soon, I just don’t know when.

Sunday Morning Coming Down

When I last posted something by this morning’s artiste, I was less than complimentary about the film to which he had provided the title track.

Until that point, I had never heard of Sturgill Simpson, and if I’m honest, I had assumed he wasn’t a real Country performer. Rather, because I was so disappointed by the film in question, I thought he was some made-up dude, an extension of a joke the film director was making that I really didn’t understand.

Wrong!

The other day on Twitter, somebody that I follow (I can’t remember who, or I’d give credit) mentioned how great his new album Sound & Fury is. So I investigated, and it really, really is.

This isn’t from that album, it’s from 2016’s A Sailor’s Guide to Earth, and it’s a cover version, but bloody hell it’s good:

Sturgill Simpson – In Bloom

More soon.

Late Night Stargazing

Another repeat posting tonight – this is what was going to appear last week until I had a change of heart.

Oh, the ignomy of being bumped in favour or Embrace….

In fact I’ve posted this song more than once before, but boy oh boy is this a song which deserves a revisit.

Back in the early to mid 2000s, when Llŷr and I shared the flat of filth, we used to buy The Guardian every Saturday, not because of any political leanings (although we pretty much agreed on that too), but because of The Guide, a little booklet which came with the paper, and provided an overview of the week’s important cultural moments.

Specifically, we were both obsessed with Charlie Brooker’s Screen Burn column, where the man who is now perhaps best known for being the co-creator of Black Mirror (or for being married to former Blue Peter presenter Konnie Huq, depending on your own private obsessions) would provide scathing, savage dissections of whatever he had seen on TV that week. Whichever of us bought the paper had first dibs at reading it, would flick immediately to Brooker’s column, and then sit either openly guffawing or shuddering in giggles until the other gave in and asked that they read aloud what was making them laugh so much.

Every now again, sealed inside the same plastic bag The Guide came in, was a CD, and so it was that I we first came into possession of some songs by Nick Cave.

(Actually, as I’m writing this now I think that it might have been with The Observer. Doesn’t matter really, I don’t think. Point is, it was a freebie.)

I’d never really listened to Nick Cave at this point; I’d heard the records my brother had when we were in our teens, back when Cave was churning out much more gothic, and to these ears, unpleasant noise, and had decided he wasn’t for me.

But I was aware that his sound had matured over the years, and so we gave the CD a listen.

And heard what remains one of my favourite songs. Ever.

It was, I think, the first song on the CD, and I lost count of how many times we repeat played it, so blown away by it were we.

Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds – Into My Arms

And it still hits me every time. But now for different reasons.

Before Llŷr passed, whenever I heard that record, I would be astonished by its beauty, its intellectual and existential qualities counterpointing its simplicity.

But when I hear it now, all I can think of is that Saturday morning, when we sat with the sunlight streaming into our living room, silent as it played, followed by either one of us saying: “I think I need to hear that again.”

More soon.

Here I Am

My one great regret about writing this blog is that I no longer seem to be able to keep up with reading all that my blogging peers have written recently.

People I have shared flats with will testify that it used to be the case that once I got home from work, the first thing I would do would be to fire up my laptop (or PC as it was at the time), and check in on all my favourite folk, see what they’ve been up to and what they’ve been listening to.

But for the last couple of years, this routine has fallen by the wayside. Instead, every month or so – and often, not even that frequently – I’ll swoop by all those that I know, or who have commented here, or who contributed to The Chain back in the day, to catch up with what’s being going on with them. And hopefully pick up a few tips about tunes I don’t know about.

Over the last week, I’ve tried to rectify that, and found that many of my blogging buddies have been going through some hard times of late, and I feel terrible that until now I’ve not provided the same kind of support as they did to me, when I was taken ill last year, and then when I lost my best friend earlier this year.

Back before I started blogging, I didn’t realise the importance of leaving Comments on blogs I read, so I never left one. Not one.

But having been through some hard times myself and received such kind messages, I can tell you how much it means to know there are people out there – that I’ve never met and probably never will – who are decent, respectful and supportive. As one of my greatest allys has found recently, it’s so easy to forget in this world of online existence, where trolling and unpleasantness is often the norm, that there are far more nice, honourable people out there than there is the opposite.

This isn’t a pathetic plea for more comments here, this is an apology to all those who have commented and to whom I’ve not reciprocated until recently, when it’s way too late.

I wish I knew how to end this post. I’d love it to be something inspiring and uplifting, but I fear whatever I do will just come across as glib.

So I figured I’d embrace that. So here, by way of a truly shonky bit of clippage recorded so long ago that Tim Lovejoy still had hair (but was still an irritating twonk), is Alan Shearer doing what he does best: singing Labi Siffrie songs:

Hopefully ths won’t come across as pompous or self-important, but maybe it’s better way to sign off with a tune:

Adam Green & Binki Shapiro – Here I Am

More soon.

50 Ways to Prove I’m Rubbish #23

I’ll be honest, when I started writing this series, the plan was that they would culminate at or around my 50th birthday.

And here we are in November, over a month after my landmark moment, and I haven’t even got halfway yet.

In fact, I haven’t even written one in over a month.

This is entirely indicative of my inability to plan ahead: you would think that having hit upon the idea of writing 50 posts about 50 records I disliked when they were first released but which I now love, you would think I would then spend a little time considering what those 50 tunes would be.

Not this guy. Oh no.

“It’ll be fine,” I told myself , “they’ll just come to you,” .

And this slap-dash for no cash approach was proven to be true this week when watching the inspiration for many things I post here: the reruns of Top of the Pops on BBC4.

These repeats are now into 1988, and thankfully a period where less controversial Radio 1 DJs feature, so fewer editions have been wiped from the running order.

And specifically, to this song, which I remember thinking at the time was really rather dull, but now I see it for what it is: one of the finest soul records from the past 30+ years.

Put it this way (and I can think of no finer recommendation of any record): nowadays, when it comes on the radio I turn it up rather than down:

Womack & Womack – Teardrops

Actually, thinking about it, it might have been Love Wars that I really hated, but I was wrong about that too.

Anyway, more soon.

You Must Be Mad

Many of you will recall a sketch from The Fast Show called Jazz Club, where John Thompson, in a bowl haircut and a dodgy suit, would smoke woozy cigarettes and introduce the act with the word “Nice!” or “Great!” or…ah heck, here they all are:

I met John once, in a professional capacity. Back in the late 80s, around the time he was best known for being Fat Bob in Steve Coogan’s Paul Calf Video Diaries, he did a gig at our college, and I was charged with looking after him, making sure he got fed and watered, and then introducing him on stage. To this day, my Dad still refers to him as “Your mate…”.

Fewer of you, I suspect will recall the one-off Indie Club edition, this time hosted by Simon Day, who gave the featured band a thoroughly inaccurate intro:

In the late 1980s/early 1990s there were a lot of short-lived jingly jangly indie bands that I loved, and I’d count Bristol’s The Driscolls one of them.

They first came to my attention when my college buddy Keith became a little obsessed with Allie, a girl who said she was going out with the lead singer from the band.

I have no reason to doubt her, nor to question Keith’s taste, for she was a proper Indie chick of the time: bleach blond bobbed hair, bedecked in either paisley or polka dot outfits, Doc Martin boots. She used to come to the Indie Night I used to DJ, and I always sensed Keith’s seething rage that she would talk to me (asking for a certain record to be played, nothing more).

Anyway, here’s three tracks by the band that Allie’s boyfriend was in, all lifted from their eponymous 1989 six-track EP. All of these, but particularly the first one, would sit really sweetly in The Fast Show’s Indie Club

But stick with them, because I genuinely think that the third one is a lost late 80s Indie classic:

The Driscolls – Doctor Good and His Incredible Life Saving Soap

The Driscolls – Groovy Little Town

The Driscolls – You Must Be Mad

More soon. (Brian: you’ll love these.)

Sunday Morning Coming Down

It was my honorary Little Sister Hel’s birthday last week, and I couldn’t think of anything to post that was appropriate.

And then I remembered the last night when she and I shared a flat together.

When it became very clear that Hel and Neil were becoming a serious couple, I told Hel that she shouldn’t feel bad about moving out of the flat and leaving me behind, that she had to put her happiness first and foremost, that there would be no hard feeling from me when she did so.

You won’t be surprised to learn that we spent that final night getting horribly drunk together; still less surprised to find out that I had prepared a four hour long playlist to soundtrack the night; and probably even less surprised to learn that I ended the night passed out on the bathroom floor, having necked one (pint of) White Russian too many.

Anyway, this was the first song on the playlist, and as I recall as it began Hel turned to me and said: “Oh God, I’m going to cry all night,aren’t I?”

Yes probably, but don’t worry, I’ll be having a kip in the toilet, so no-one will know.

Kris Kristofferson – For The Good Times

More soon.

Late Night Stargazing

A repeat posting, but it’s been a couple of years since this song appeared, so I’m sure you’ll forgive me for what I’m about to do.

As I began writing today, I was disturbed by the amount of fireworks I could hear going off in my locality. It hadn’t occured to me that this was the closest Saturday to November 5th, when bonfires and fireworks and explosives are considered perfectly acceptable.

Anyway, this is not a band I care much for, although as I mentioned when I last posted this song, I do have a soft spot for their debut album.

In my opinion it’s good to have an open mind, and to be able to concede that you like something buried in a band or artiste’s back catalogue, especially when the general consensus is that you should either hate or never admit in public to liking anything by them. There’s no such thing as a guilty pleasure (although I might be stretching that to a point tonight…).

Here’s….oh gosh, I’m really going to do this, aren’t I….here’s a really good – not great, but good – record by Embrace:

Embrace – Fireworks

More soon.

Do The Wrong Thing

One year ago tomorrow, I was admitted to hospital. This led to some posts where I tried to wring as much humour as I could from the sitution. This, combined with my more recent story about how I accidentally exposed my arse in a local convenience store, and as the dark nights are drawing in, led me to decide to share some more embarassing moments from the file marked “Oh, Jeremy…”

As a bit of a back-story by way of an introduction: years ago, when I still lived in Cardiff, I was out one night with a now ex-girlfriend and her friends. She was off dancing, and one of her friends shuffled along the seats towards me.

“Can I just say that you seem really nice, we all really like you and approve of you being with XXXX…” – I was quite pleased and surprised by this, for we all know that the hardest thing about a burgeoning relationship is convincing your new partner’s closest friends that you’re not an utter scumbag “…but,” she continued, “you’re your age and single, never married, no kids, so I guess what I want to know…”

It dawned on me, too late that, that wasn’t really going to be one of those “Gosh you’re so great” conversations, she was going somewhere with it and that somewhere involved a question I probably wasn’t going to like very much. I glanced around for an escape route, but found none.

“….is,” she continued, “what exactly is wrong with you….?”

“Well, if I knew that…” I said, allowing the sentence to tail off mysteriously, to become a semi-sentence, punctuating it with a shrug and a bemused smile.

I was pretty pleased with the way I dodged that particular bullet, having turned her question into a rhetorical one without her having any say in the matter. Then, just to let her know that particular thread could be pulled at no further, I quickly stood and added, “It’s my round, what are you drinking?”

Truth be told, I did know how that sentence ended. I knew what “that” was. It was my propensity to say or do something so ludicrously inappropriate as to ensure a second date would definitely not happen.

So. Here we go. Mum, Dad: here come the reasons there have been no grandchildren from my branch of the family tree.

Episode one (of too many).

I am out with some friends in Cardiff. They’re people I know pretty well, because they work and drink in my local pub; when they were working then I was generally sitting at the bar chatting to them, and often when they finished their shift they would join me. Let’s say that we gravitated towards each other, found the company perfectly agreeable, and so it went on.

The upshot of this is that I didn’t really know the people on the peripherals, the ones who only came into their orbit every now and then.

And so it was that I found myself in a different bar with these pub friends and a couple of other people that I didn’t know at all, but who, social chameleon that I am, I got on with.

As it happens, I was getting on with one lady in particular, who I quite fancied, and I thought I was getting reciprocal good vibes back from. I’ll not divulge her name, not for any ‘protecting the innocent’ reason, but because this many years after the event, I simply can’t remember it. Which sounds outrageous, but it isn’t: I’m pretty sure my brain has blocked me from recalling it, just in case.

So we’re sitting chatting, getting on very well, and all my friends are doing that thing where they flash you knowing looks from out of her line of vision every now and again.

We do the whole chit-chat thing – Are you from round here? What do you do for a living? Any brothers/sisters? You know the kind of thing – and this lady offers me these words in response to one of those questions:

“I’m a police officer.”

Now I thought I did quite a good job of disguising the startled look on my face, but she picked up on it.

“Don’t worry, I haven’t got my tazer gun with me tonight!” she breezed cheerily.

I afforded a smile, because that wasn’t what I was thinking. No, what I was thinking was that I must be carful not to inadvertently use any uncomplimentary references to the police as being The Pigs, The Filth, The Scum, or whatever.

Not that they are terms I would use under normal circumstances, but when you find yourself in a situation where you really shouldn’t say something, in my experience the temptation to do the exact opposite becomes almost irrisistable.

Tourette’s Syndrome is a condition with many levels, one of which is the inability to resist saying the most inappropriate thing in moments of social awkwardness. Often I think I have a much milder version, where the inappropriate thing pops into my head, but I just about manage to stop myself from blurting it out.

And resist I did; on this occasion I disguised my condition by telling her she certainly didn’t look like a police officer – meant as a compliment, and, I think, taken as one – but asked if it was okay to imagine her in the uniform. Flirting, I think it’s called, if a little over the line marked “Cheesy”. Ok, along way over.

This large slice of fromage didn’t deter her, and we chatted on for quite a while, to the point where we were practically separate from the rest of the group, not engaging with them at all, just engrossed in each other. We became such a satellite of the main group that we started up our own round of drinks, just me and her.

After a while, I had to excuse myself and visit the Gents. And that’s where things began to unravel.

I may have mentioned this before, but when I reach a certain level of pissed-ness – and I’ve always figured it was my body’s way of telling me to slow down – I sneeze.

Thirteen times.

In a row.

And my sneezes are not your discreet a-tish-oo-s but a loud blunderbus of an expulsion

I had made it known to some of my buddies that this is something that happens to me, hoping to generate some sympathy by embellishing it with the phrase “allergic to alcohol”, but instead their reaction was often to start betting on how many times I would sneeze this time.

On one night out, with a different group of friends, a sneezing fit commenced and they started putting money down. When the sneezes fizzled out after five or six, a pepper shaker was commandeered by whoever had bet on 13 being the winning number, and a line was chopped out on the table in front of me, which I duly snorted.

To no effect.

Except the next morning, I woke up with a woozy head, wondering why my nose felt like it was on fire.

But not this time, for this time I was in the Gents when the sneeze-fit struck. So I should be okay, right? Just stay in there until the phase had passed.

Except….one of the sneezes was so head-joltingly violent, that my glasses flew off and smashed on the floor.

I picked them up and, in between the involuntary spasms which continued, I examined them. Nope, they were beyond temporary repair.

I returned to a slightly blurrier bar, and to my seat. The young lady to whom I had provided such irresistably engaging company before my visit noticed the difference in my appearance, and asked what had happened to my glasses. I explained and we laughed it off. Result, thought I. Hurdle succesfully negotiated.

And then she asked me this: “And do I still look good without your glasses on?”

And before I had chance to properly engage my brain, I heard myself say the following words:

“Oh no. You still look like a pig to me.”

We all left the bar shortly afterwards; in the interim we didn’t exchange a single word, and I don’t really think I can put that down to her not fancying me without my glasses on.

I never saw her again, even when I got a new pair of glasses.

The Lemonheads (feat. Liv Tyler) – Hey, That’s No Way To Say Goodbye

Sadly, more soon.

Just Use One Finger

I don’t know what it is – the sheer simplicity of it, or the audacity to be able to carry it off – but whilst I of course admire those who are proficient at their instrument of choice, so too do I love a tune where the performer obstinantly sticks to playing just one note, or as close to it as is possible.

Give me Pete Shelley shouting “Tricky guitar solo!” as he launches into the three note epic that is the guitar break in What Do I Get? over the tedious teeth-grinding fret-wank of, say, Yngwie Malmsteen (his name was lodged in my noggin for some reason; I had to look him up, so its fine for you to do the same, but I think my description of his talents is pretty accurate so you don’t really need to) any day of the week.

A case in point: I bloody love this, partly because it’s a much over-looked, cracking bit of indie pop, but mostly because whoever it is that’s playing the keyboard refuses to involve anything other than the most basic number of keys:

The Soup Dragons – Head Gone Astray

More soon.

Sunday Morning Coming Down

Regular readers may recall that my very lovely and generous group of friends gave me a whole hunka credits at Ticketmaster for my birthday, and I’m pleased to announce I’m slowly, steadily, chipping away at that monumental total.

So far, I’ve bought tickets for two gigs, and annoyingly missed out on one: The Pretenders are supporting Suede at a one-off gig at the Shepherd’s Bush Empire in November, which is a dream line-up for me – but I wasn’t quick enough out of the blocks to get a ticket.

Instead, I have bought tickets for two gigs: one – and I know this will irk at least one of my blogging buddies – is for The Wonder Stuff, at the same venue, in December.

Now, I’ll be honest, under normal circumstances I would not consider going to see them, since they haven’t released anything of any worth since 1993, but they’re peforming both their debut album The Eight Legged Groove Machine (which I love and holds many happy memories for me) and the follow-up Hup (which I’m less fond of, but it’s not as bad as their next album, Never Loved Elvis, which I actively dislike and which thankfully is not getting an airing at said gig.) As long as they don’t start putting violins all over the performance of the first album, then I’m sure to have a great night.

But why am I wanging on about The Wonder Stuff here, where a Country record traditionally lives, I hear you yawn.

Well, because the other gig I’ve bought a ticket for is to go see Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds at the O2 next May, which I’m sure you’ll agree is much cooler.

So, to mark that, here’s one man in black – Johnny Cash – covering another – Nick Cave – on the third of his peerless American Recordings albums.

It was Llŷr who first played this to me, part of a DJ set by Erol Alkan – I think (I’m pretty sure, but I’ve never tracked a copy down, and when I asked Alkan via Twitter his response was an equally vague “I think I did….”). At the time I wasn’t familiar with the Cave version, and the lyrical content stunned and blew me away. It was my first step on the road to discovering the immense body of work that Nick Cave has created, some of which will be cropping up on these pages again pretty soon.

Johnny Cash – The Mercy Seat

More soon.

Keeping It Peel

I deserve to have my blogging wings clipped, for yet again I have missed the anniversary of the great man’s sad passing.

There’s very few famous people, and even fewer Radio 1 DJs, whose sudden departure from this mortal coil has stunned and upset me as when I got the news fifteen years (and one day – clip me!) ago that John Peel had died.

Just like people know where they were when JFK was assasinated, I remember where I was when I heard the news. It’s not exciting or unusual, for I was sitting at my desk in the office where I worked. But I also remember a Mexican wave of muttering shock and sadness heading towards me, rolling over and engulfing me as I heard the words “John Peel’s died”. I clicked Google open and there it was, confirmed.

I had to go out for some air. And probably (actually, definitely) a cigarette.

I don’t understand why it is that the good ones, the ones who make our lives richer, are taken from us sooner than they should have been. The last few years has been littered with them: Victoria Wood, Prince, Caroline Aherne, Bowie…this list could go on and on and on. As do those we could do without: Johnson, Gove, Rees-Mogg, Farage, Morrissey – why are they still here and the honourable, decent ones are not?

Anyway, I’ve had this up my sleeve for a while; it’s not a record that I physically own, because the only person who did own it was Peel himself.

But…oh, why don’t I let the great man explain it himself?

Half Man Half Biscuit – A Legend in My Time

More soon.

Claps, Clicks & Whistles #21

I’ll be honest, I have been devoid of inspiration for a while, hence the sporadic posts.

But here’s something which popped up on my iPlayer earlier yesterday, as I rode the bus into work, which practically made me yelp with excitement.

Which drew some funny looks from fellow travellers, but I think the majority of them are getting used to my strangled emissions by now.

Anyway, here’s a tune which further endorses my theory that any song which contains either hand-claps, finger-clicks or…um…lippy whistles is almost always a magnificently cheerful one:

Super Furry Animals – Play It Cool

And if that doesn’t get your weekend off to a cracking start, then nothing will.

More soon.

Billy’s Uncle

For my sins, given how badly they’ve played so far this season, I’m off to watch Tottenham in the Champions League.

Ordinarily, a football related post would most appropriately be accomanied by a tune by Half Man Half Biscuit, who have a wealth of footie-related references spattered all over their back catalogue.

But not today.

For tonight’s opponents – Red Star Belgrade – bring one particular song to mind, and a rhyming couplet which I’ve not been able to get out of my head since I got a DM on Twitter from my old mate Richie asking me if I wanted to go.

This one:

Billy Bragg – Sexuality

More soon.

Late Night Stargazing

As I write this, it is the morning of UK politics’ “Super Saturday”, as MPs meet to – briefly – discuss and vote on the latest Withdrawal Agreement to leave the EU.

I mention this because a) at time of writing I have no idea what the outcome is, b) I have a nasty feeling the result is going to be anything but Super, and c) which means there may well be a Super-sized hole which needs filling.

I love this song, from the tinkly-piano led sing-a-long parts to the moments of maudlin strings and brass to where the fuzzy guitar kicks in and then fades out again. And repeat.

It’s not the most well-known SFA song, but it’s a beauty:

Super Furry Animals – Atomik Lust

More soon.

I’m Not Too Keen on Mondays

Morning!

Call Cornershop whatever you like, but you can never accuse them of not being experimental.

Mention their name to most people, and their eyes will glaze over, as they recall their Fatboy remix of Brimful of Asha, chanting that “everyone needs a bosom for a pillow”.

Or maybe an earlier incarnation when, via their Lock Stock and Double Barrell EP, they urged their brethren to “Shut up shop/Get on the streets and fight!/The powers that be!”

I think it’s fairly safe to say, nobody expected them to release an album of easy-listening re-recordings of their 1994 album Hold On It Hurts.

But they did, and this is on it, and it’s chuffing great:

Cornershop – You Always Said My Language Would Get Me into Trouble (Version)

More soon.

Sunday Morning Coming Down

This morning, one of the oddest, most wonderfully curious Country records ever made, which I can’t actually believe I haven’t posted before:

Bobbie Gentry – Ode to Billy Joe

Just brilliant, even if I have no idea what has actually happened in the storyline, other than somebody gets a frog put down their back, somebody else asks for some biscuits to be passed to him, and still somebody else either jumps or gets thrown into a river which I can’t spell.

More soon.

Saturday Night at the Movies

I went to watch Joker.

Just as Yesterday was not the sort of film I would go and see, so the same applies here. I’m just not into that whole cartoon superhero world. I couldn’t give a monkeys what happens at the end of Avengers Endoscopy or whatever the last one was called. Until Deadpool 2 came along, I hadn’t visited my local fleapit to watch a comic-book inspired movie since way back in 1978 when I went to see Christopher Reeve as Superman. You know, when I was a kid.

Actually, I did go and see Logan, the last/latest in the Wolverine franchise. Thought it was okay. Nothing special, just okay.

And the reason for going to see that, and now Joker, was because my interest has been piqued by the fact that these films seem to be stepping away from the world where our caped hero battles and inevitably triumphs over the bad guy, and stepping into darker terrain, where the darkness and a credible back story take precedence over Biff! Bang! Pow!’s.

The Creation – Biff Bang Pow!

I’d read a lot about Joker in advance, and was aware that it has divided audiences, some thinking it to be brilliant, others believing it over long and self-indulgent. Joaquin Phoenix plays the lead character, so I was expecting the latter – has he made a good film since Walk the Line? I’m struggling to think of one.

I mentioned to someone at work that I was going to see it, and he grunted that he wasn’t interested, considering it “a rip-off of Heath Ledger”. I was tempted to point out that if they were going to try and cash-in on Ledger’s Oscar winning performance then they probably wouldn’t have waited the eleven years since The Dark Knight to do it. Rather, I thought the reverse to be true: leaving it so long to try and stop comparisons being made was probably the idea. And besides, I’m sure had they been able to cast Ledger in Joker, then they would have, but I gather his agent has stopped sending him to auditions.

Mind you, this is the same work colleague who, apropos of nothing asked me earlier the same day “Why do they give ugly birds a pleasant personality?”

My response was: “Welcome to the 1970s!”

He came back at me with: “Bloody PC, you can’t say anything anymore”.

“No,” I replied, “it’s nothing to do with political correctness, it’s just most people prefer not to say offensive things anymore. And that sentence had at least three offensive things in it.”

He laughed.

“Go on then,” I ventured, despite myself. “What’s the punchline?”

“There isn’t one!” he exclaimed, still laughing.

“Jesus, that was the punchline?” I exasperatedly sighed.

I digress, but not without reason. Being funny is difficult. Being a stand up comedian even more so. We’ll come onto this later.

Regardless of my work colleague’s sage (by which I mean outdated) words, I booked a seat and then read something which mentioned the name of the director – Todd Phillips; not a name which immediately rang any bells, so I popped to imDb to see what else had his name attached to it. The list almost made me unbook my ticket: Old School, The Hangover (Part I, II and – Jesus wept, they made three of them?? – III), Project X…the signs were not good.

But I decided to give it a go. Mostly so I had something to write about here. I suffer for my art, see.

Here is a spoiler-free synopsis: Phoenix plays Archie Fleck, a man who by day earns his crust dressing as a clown and performing wacky moves to promote local stores, by night he looks after his housebound mother, and fantasizes about appearing on his favourite late night chat show, hosted by Murray Frankling (Robert De Niro).

Here, if I may interject the plot spoiling for a moment, was one of the things which impressed me in the film: I had read how, when writing the script, Phillips had been inspired by the films of Martin Scorcese, and this reference to 1983’s The King of Comedy was not wasted on these eyes and ears. It wasn’t overplayed, it was just there, hiding in plain sight for all those relatively well versed in cinema history.

Back to the plot: we see how Fleck’s life unravels: he is beaten up by kids whilst working; his analyst has to end their sessions due to governmental cuts, and with them go his medication; he loses his job.

Added to this, you are aware that there is a blurring of the lines between reality and Fleck’s hallucinatory imaginigs. At first this is clear from him envisaging how he is picked from the studio audience at one of Frankling’s shows, whilst he is in fact watching the show at home with his mother, but as the the film progresses, one becomes less sure about what is real and what is in Fleck’s head.

This culminates in the film’s denouement, where he is invited to appear on Frankling’s chat show, only you’re not entirely clear whether or not that’s true or not. Until you are very sure.

But all of this confusion does lead to one really good, Sixth Sense-esque “Oh, so that‘s not real either!” moment, which I won’t ruin for you.

As for the bits where he is trying to do stand-up, well there’s only really one scene, and much has been made of the fact that one of the two jokes he tells has been stolen from elsewhere. I certainly heard Bob Monkhouse tell it (at least) once. And that’s probably the point: his first (self-written) joke gets no laughs, his second is stolen, a guaranteed ice-breaker which gets a similar reaction. It’s all part of his life, and even his aspirational life, unravelling.

The one thing that bugged me about it was this: there is a lot of emphasis on the fact that Fleck has mental health issues, as does, it transpires, his mother. And that is what is painted as being the issue, that people with such problems are an often violent concern. And that simply isn’t true. But maybe I’m reading too much into it.

It’a not terribly clear exactly when the film is set; there is a scene where a Charlie Chaplin film is being played, but then to counter that answerphones exist. But it doesn’t really matter when it’s set, because there’s a message here, one which comments on mob culture jumping onto the actions of one deranged figurehead, blindly following them despite their obvious-to-everyone-else flaws. The target of the rioting protestors just happens to be the wealthy, and in particular the Wayne family are, literally, in the cross-hairs: it’s pretty well handled – you don’t really notice the surname until one particular scene – but the link between Fleck and his soon-to-be adversary has its roots explained, even if we don’t get to the point where they’re actually locking horns here.

Overall, I came away from the cinema having rather enjoyed it; I embraced the darkness and I think I like it, to misquote Katy Perry.

Which leads me on to the soundtrack. To be honest I found most of the original music annoying, sounding like a light aircraft hoving into earshot and out again.

But as for the other tunes used? Well, I was particularly impressed by the juxtaposition of these two tunes seamlessly segue waying into each other, and thereby highlighting the difference between light and dark:

Herb Alpert & The Tijuana Brass – Tijuana Taxi

Cream – White Room

(R.I.P. Ginger)

NB: I’m pretty sure that’s the Herb Alpert track that is used, but curiously I can find no mention of it in any OST searches.

Which leads me on to a certain song which pops up in the film, and some criticism it has received in the redtops in the past week or so.

The song in question is Rock and Roll (Parts One and Two) by Gary Glitter, and already you can sense quite why the sensationalism.

For the inclusion of said song in the film had the usual papers – The Sun, The Daily Mail, etc etc etc – frothing at the mouth because convicted paedophile Glitter would earn (a lot of) royalties from its use.

Now. I’m not about to start trying to defend a child molester, but there’s someone else to be considered here, namely Mike Leander, or, more accurately, since he’s dead, the estate of Mike Leander.

See, Leander co-wrote that song with Glitter, and I’ll wager since Glitter got put away, his family haven’t made a single penny out of his efforts for the past twenty years or so, such has been the blanket refusal to play any of their records.

Plus, nobody seemed to give a monkey’s when this record, which samples heavily from the same tune, was a smash hit back in the late 1980s:

The Timelords – Doctorin’ The Tardis

I’ve tried really hard to find out whether either got a writing credit and/or any royalties from that, with no luck, but since it plays such a major part in the track I imagine they got something out of it.

They certainly did for this one, since both Glitter and Leander have co-writer credits on it:

Oasis – Hello

Funny, I don’t remember a peep from the tabloids about either of those at the time.

It’s almost like they were looking for something this week to deflect attention away from Brexit, backstop alternatives, Boris and the American former pole dancer he’s alleged to have had an affair with and – more importantly – ensured (again, allegedly) public funding was funnelled into her company as she obtained clearance to go on some overseas business trips with Johnson, despite having permission blocked previously, to distract our attention.

Yup, I can crowbar an anti-Brexit comment into pretty much anything.

See.You thought I’d do something utterly predictable like posting The Steve Miller Band’s The Joker, didn’t you?

Credit me with at least trying to post the unobvious, won’t you?

The Beat – Tears of a Clown

Oopsies!

Anyway. Joker. I liked it. Go see.

More soon.

Disappointed

I mentioned in passing last weekend that I’d be attempting buy tickets for next year’s Glastonbury festival.

Having already tried and failed to buy the coach tickets which went on sale on Thursday, I was not confident of securing any amongst the scrum that is the Sunday morning when general tickets go on sale.

With over 1.2 million other people trying to buy tickets at the same time, you won’t be surprised to learn I was not succesful.

Ho hum.

Theaudience – A Pessimist is Never Disappointed

More soon.

This Is Pop! #13

Been meaning to post these tunes for a while, and recently I was given an excuse to do so.

On my birthday weekend, Hel had lovingly compiled a playlist of songs that she knew I loved, or which reminded her of me, or more specifically, reminded her of me making an arse of myself to.

Sometime after we were done with trying to explaining to our puzzled friends quite why we both love Bardo’s One Step Further, a tune by today’s popster popped up, and I was suitably impressed that she had remembered how much I like this artiste.

I first heard about her (the artiste, not Hel) via those age-old pages of the NME, back in the days before it went tabloid, and then free-hand out, and then digital only.

Specifically, I was sitting at a train station, reading said music paper, on my way up from Cardiff to visit some friends who lived in the sleepy but cheesy outpost that was Caerphilly.

And there, amongst all the emo-centric rhetoric was an article about a Norwegian singer who has released this incredible – they said (they were right) – album called Anniemal.

I was immediately intrigued, sought the album out and, it will come to no surprise to you since I’m writing about it, I bloody loved it.

Here’s the song Hel chose for the playlist:

Annie – Chewing Gum

I was rather surpised by this choice for the playlist, partly because I didn’t think Hel would remember my love for this Nordic popstrelle, but also because (without wishing to sound ungrateful for a truly wonderful trip down memory lane) if she was going to pick one tune by Annie – and Hel understands the rule of “only one song by each artist” on a playlist more than anyone I know – I would have assumed it would be this one:

Annie – I Know UR Girlfriend Hates Me

I’m not complaining – they’re both total bangerz.

More soon.

The Cassingle Life

Following on from yesterday’s post, here’s a song that I bought on a now defunkt format: the cassingle.

I should make things clear: I didn’t buy this record on this format through choice, but because it was reduced in the bargain bin in Cardiff’s Our Price, which is also now defunkt.

A defunkt format from a defunkt store seems a pretty good place to start this series, I think.

I really love this record, from it’s blistering guitar riff to Hutchence’s zip-bursting vocal, most of which appears to be delivered through a megaphone. It’s a rip-snorting romp through all that’s great about pop music.

It’s probably the record that made me reassess my previously held (wrong) opinion about the Kick album, but it’s surprising – to me, anyway – how few people seem to know this tune. It’s one that seems to have somehow slipped under the radar.

Recently, Alexis Sayle sagely observed that Austerity is the idea that the 2008 financial crash was caused by Wolverhampton having too many libraries.

As we all know, libraries give us power. And this record, wisely, suggests that we don’t burn the libraries ’til we’ve read all the books.

Listen, learn, love:

INXS – Heaven Sent

More soon.

50 Ways to Prove I’m Rubbish #22

I remember where I was when I first heard today’s band, if not this particular record.

It was in a mate’s bedroom, I was probably 15 or 16 and he played me something off their Listen Like Thieves album, but bookended by some stuff by Tangerine Dream.

I remember actively disliking Tangerine Dream, and I think that rubbed off on to today’s band.

There’s no other reason why I wouldn’t have turned a complete blind eye to the utter brilliance that is the Kick album, the follow up to Listen Like Thieves; I just had it in my head that I didn’t like them.

Fast forward a couple of years, and there’s me and my mate John driving into town. He’s done a mixtape, this is on it, he sings along wildly and is utterly baffled – and rightly so – by my lack of participation. “Don’t like it,” I shrug.

Time is not only a great healer, it’s also a great eroder of barriers, and so it was that a few years later, I had to admit that Kick is bloody great album, and this is one of the greatest singles from the 1980s.

I’ve posted this song before, about a year ago. Hopefully this time it won’t remind you of a tube being forced up Little Jez.

I’ve spoiled that, haven’t I?

Ho hum.

INXS – New Sensation

More soon.

Late Night Stargazing (Be Llŷrious edition)

I had a wonderful weekend last weekend, celebrating my 50th, away with my bestest friends in a magnificent Georgian (?) house in v posh Chichester.

The weather was generally quite shitty, but that was okay, because we could just stay indoors, eat wonderful food, drink (a lot of) marvellous drinks (at around 2am on the Saturday night/Sunday morning a cocktail got created in my name, though I have no idea what went into it (pretty much whatever was left from the previous two nights of drinking, I guess), but it was bloody lovely), playing some great tunes, and just chilling out and getting away from it all for a weekend. It was pretty much perfect.

On the Saturday night, as we all sat around the dinner table, there was cake, and Stevie Wonder’s Happy Birthday was sung at/for me and then there were presents (which, given my buddies were already paying my share of the cost of accommodation, and refused to let me contribute towards any food or booze which was bought were most unexpected).

Hel said a few words about how important to her I’d been when I moved to London, describing me as the older brother she never had, and I did well to hold back the tears at that point. Regular readers will know that I often refer to her younger brother, Llŷr, as my little brother, so that really hit home.

You always hope that the things you do and say might have a positive effect on your friends and family, and it was really, really lovely to get that affirmation, even more so that she was happy and proud to say it all in front of our friends.

And of course, she mentioned Llŷr, how could she not? “If he were here today, I’m sure he’d be sitting there and affectionately calling you a daft twat” she said.

For my sins, I interrupted. Not exactly a heckle, but….

“No,” I interjected. “He’d have been saying ‘Oh Jeremy…‘”

That’s my proper name, of course, and “Oh Jeremy…” became Llŷr’s catchphrase, whenever I made a bad joke, or a Dad joke, or said something that just went a little bit too far, there it was. Withering but warmhearted.

I know! It’s hard to believe he’d ever have cause to say it, right?

And then the presents were handed to me: a couple of Quo albums on vinyl, which amazingly I didn’t already own, but which allowed me to *ahem* show off my extensive knowledge of all things double denimed and boogie-worthy (one of them was their 1976 Live! album – which I’m listening to as I write this – and (after explaining who he was) I recited Bob Young’s introductory words from said record. I’m so tempted to do it again now, but you will assume I’m just writing down words I’m listening to); £200 worth of credit on Ticketmaster (which prompted the following reaction: “How much??? Oh you daft bastards. You didn’t need to do that, you’ve already spent enough on me! (But thank you).”)

And then a small but sturdy green cardboard box. Inside, a miniature bottle of Jägermeister (a nod to when Hel and I used to do a lot of Jägerbombs, back in the day) and then there, wrapped up in a load of tissue paper, was a shotglass with two words and three dots engraved on it:

How perfect is that? It was like a Derren Brown trick: moments earlier I’d proposed those words as a fitting memory of Llŷr, and then there they were, already engraved into one of my presents.

I dutifully poured the Jägermeister into the shotglass and downed it.

And then it was time for me to speak.

I’d been thinking about this moment for a few days, knew roughly what I wanted to say, decided it wasn’t a formal enough event for me to have cue cards, decided against starting by saying “Unaccustomed as I am…”, and that I would just go for it.

After I’d finished, my mate Gareth who was sitting next to me said “Were you winging that?”

“Kinda…” I said.

“It was incredible” he kindly added, before giving me a massive hug.

Gareth is a journalist (a good, nice one, not one who writes for the horrid red-tops), and has previously said encouraging, approving things about what I write here, so to get further validation from someone who writes words professionally meant a lot.

Were it not for his, and others, kind words, then I wouldn’t do what I’m about to do now.

So indulge me for a few moments folks, for this is, pretty much, how my speech went:

“The idea of doing something to mark my 50th first came about around a year ago as I was laying in a hospital bed. Hel was visiting me, and the topic came up. At the time, I didn’t fully appreciate how unwell I was. I wasn’t really all that bothered about doing anything, but as it dawned on me just how close I had come to not being here – and with other things that have happened since – I came to realise that life’s too short, and reaching a landmark birthday probably needed some kind of celebration.

Also, in February, my old mate Jon Ballard, who sadly couldn’t make it here tonight, practically insisted I did something. So you can blame him if you’ve had a rotten time.

Of course, since I don’t have a single original idea in my head, the idea was completely stolen from when we all went away for Ian’s 40th, so props are due there.

And since I am absolutely rubbish at organising stuff, I handed all responsibility over to you guys. Until about a fortnight ago, I knew nothing about what you’d arranged, and even then, all I found out was where I had to buy a train ticket to.

So before I go any further, thank you for sorting out what has been a truly wonderful weekend. Half the fun has been in not knowing what was going on, so thank you all for keeping it secret before the big reveal. I think we’d all agree, this venue is simply magnificent, way beyond what I had expected.

When I moved to London, just over 11 years ago, it was a big deal for me. Things weren’t exactly going well for me at the time – and didn’t for a good while after – and it was a big wrench to be moving even further away from my beloved Cardiff, where I’d lived for twenty years or so.

I’d met you all before, most of initially you at parties at Hilldrop, or in bars either side of parties at Hilldrop but did I know you all? Not really. But you guys made me feel so welcome, made me feel part of your little gang so effortlessly, so naturally, like I’d known you all forever, and got me through the tough times…it was a big help to me. So thank you, all of you.

Of course, there’s a couple of you – Caroline, Emma – who weren’t on the scene when I moved here. I hope we’ve all managed to welcome you into our group in the same way as everyone welcomed me in.

But as I look around this table, I’m reminded that, were it not for one person, I wouldn’t know a single one of you.

And that person isn’t here tonight.

So I can’t let this moment pass without adding to something Hel just said.

There isn’t an ounce of me that doesn’t wish my best friend Llŷr was here to help me celebrate, and I know you all feel the same way too.

So. I’m assuming you’ve all got a drink? In which case, can I ask that you all raise a glass with me, and toast the man who isn’t here: To absent friends, and to Llŷr.”

The Concretes – Miss You

More soon. Really soon.

Ba Ba Ba Ba-Ba Ba Ba Ba

Okay, so there’s been a couple of weeks of not very much happening round these parts, whilst I got all old and decrepit and…erm…oh yes! forgetful and stuff, time to get the show back on the road.

Did you ever instinctively do something, and then, when you’d had a moment to pause, reflect and analyse, realised it didn’t exactly show you in a good light?

It happened to me a couple of weeks ago, when me and my old mate Richie went to a gig at The 100 Club. (I will get round to writing something about the gig itself at some point, I promise. Like you care.)

Anyway, knowing there were four acts on that night, at least three of which we wanted to see, we arrived at the venue at 7pm, the advertised doors time, only to be met by a shaven headed doorman, fag in gob, who told us in no uncertain terms that the doors would not be opening until 7:30 and we should form an orderly queue on the pavement if we knew what was good for us.

There was one other bloke waiting, so we insisted he stood at the front of the line, Richie and I behind him. Shortly afterwards we were joined by another couple: he was clearly a bit of a muso and wanted everyone to know it. His wife (I assume) asked who it was they were going to see, and he replied “The Chesterfields. They released an album called Kettle in the 1980s which I have the original pressing of on vinyl”.

I leaned into Richie and whispered “Yeh, like it ever got a second pressing…” Richie giggled.

As we waited it became clear that she was much more interested in popping into the Boots store next door and reporting back on where they keep the tissues than in going to a gig.

7:30 came and went, and eventually we were allowed in. If you’ve never been to The 100 Club, it’s a wonderfully grubby venue, steeped in counter culture and musical history. There’s a reason why on I, Ludicrous‘ magnificent Preposterous Tales Ken refers to seeing the Sex Pistols play there. Put it this way: Richie slipped off to the Gents and came back, marvelling that they were “a work of art”. He even took a photo (thankfully nobody else was in there, or there may have been trouble):

There’s so many questions here: why does one toilet have a lid but the other doesn’t? Is it okay to leave the seat up in the Gents? And most importantly, does that partially obscured bit of graffiti at the top say Borrowed Time or Borrowed Tim? I really hope it’s the latter.

Inside the main venue, there is a bar at each end of the room, with the stage in between. It’s one of those glorious stages which are only about knee-high, so you can get really close to the act. On this occasion, to the right is a set of DJ decks, and then a few tables and chairs have been set out, either side of the stage.

Richie heads to the bar, I grab a table over to the left of the stage. Shortly after Richie arrives with the beers, the couple from the queue, predictably, come and sit on the table to our left, which is slightly in front of us.

Between acts, there is a DJ (hence the decks) who plays a dazzling array of much loved and much forgotten jangly indie classics from the era from whence the bands had come to see had founded there reputation. We get some Orange Juice, some early Wedding Present, and this:

The June Brides – Every Conversation

Ok, so technically it’s Na Na Na’s rather than Ba Ba Ba’s: I’m expanding the catchment area, that ok with you?

And then it happens.

A song comes on, and I see the bloke from the couple on the next table get his phone out and try to Shazam it.

For those unfamiliar with the app, imagine that you’re out and about, hear a tune you like but don’t know what it is and don’t want to betray your ignorance by asking somebody. Shazam is an app where you can play it a short snippet of a song and it will (usually) tell you who/what it is. Old school readers may remember, before smart phones and apps became a thing, you could type 2580 into your phone, hold it up, and get a text telling you what you were listening to.

But, as The 100 Club is subterranean, the guy’s phone couldn’t connect.

I know what this song is, I thought. I can help.

And so I leant – no, more accurately, lunged – across Richie, and tapped the bloke on his arm.

“Are you trying to work out what this is?” I asked, pointing upwards in what is the universally accepted hand signal for “this thing what we can hear”.

“Yes,” he replied, “but I can’t Shazam it.”

“Shazam won’t help you with this, my friend” I said, “but I can.” You know, like how people in adverts for stain removers talk.

For a moment, I imagined myself in a tight spandex suit and cape, swooping in to assist a befuddled musical inquisitor with their fruitless quest. “I am Obscure Tune Man and only I can assist you in your quest to identify jingly jangly guitar tunes from the late 1980s which nobody bought at the time!”

“It’s…”

The Brilliant Corners – Brian Rix

“Ah yes,” said the gent, “The Brilliant Corners! Of course! Thank you, I saw them back in 1988 or 89….”

Course you did mate. (That’s preposterous.)

And as I sat back in my chair, I realised just how needy I had just made myself look, so keen to show off, so desperate to bestow my knowledge on others.

How rather pathetic I looked.

Anyway, welcome to my blog.

More soon.

Sunday Morning Coming Down (Be Llŷrious edition)

Of course, there was one person who I would give anything to have been celebrating my birthday with me this weekend: my recently passed best friend, Llŷr.

And today he is especially prominent in my thoughts because it was exactly one year ago today that I last saw him.

Discharged from hospital for the final time, he was back at his parents’ home, under their care, with a district nurse or two popping in to help where they could. Palliative care, they call it.

Me and three of the chaps that I spent my birthday weekend with drove down to Wales to visit him. All laddish jokes and cameraderie on the way down, I’m not sure any one of us said a single word for a good hour in the car on the way home.

As we left, I hugged him, told him I’d be back soon. I don’t think any of us thought that would be the last time we would see him, least of all me: but finding myself hospitalised a few weeks later with my own health issues, that was the end of the line for me.

A few years earlier, after he’d been discharged from hospital for the second or third time, he told me he had bought me a present, as a thank you for ensuring he’d got to hospital at all. Of course, I told him he shouldn’t have. Of course, he told me to take it. Of course, I didn’t argue.

That present was the Johnny Cash boxset Unearthed, a collection of out-takes and highlights from the recording sessions which led to his phenomenal American Recordings series.

It’s one of my most cherished possessions. More so now than when he gave it to me.

Llŷr was a massive fan of Neil Young (Llŷr was a massive fan of a lot of things), so it seems appropriate that I post this track today.

In memory.

Johnny Cash – Heart of Gold

More soon.

50 Not Out

You can insert your own joke about that being a better score than most of the England Cricket Team managed over the summer here, if you like, but I’m not going there.

No.

For when I was a young man at college, so monumental was my nicotine and Snakebite consumption, a fellow student bet me that I would be dead by the age of 30.

Well, open up your wallet Paul, wherever you are, and cough up some dosh, for I’ve only gone and smashed that. For today I reach the grand old age of 50.

And what am I doing to mark this momentous occasion? Well, celebrations began last Saturday when my old mate Richie and I went to a gig together – more of this later.

Tomorrow, I’ll be heading off to Destination Unknown to a holiday home booked by some of my chums for a long weekend of…well, drinking, probably. I know nothing about what lies in store for me – I only had the town revealed to me last weekend – but I have received some texts making subtle enquiries such as “What’s your favourite type of crisp?”, and “If you could only drink one kind of cider, what would it be?” and, perhaps most worryingly, “In your opinion, what are the best Status Quo/Chas’n’Dave songs to sing-a-long to?”

I know I’ve made that sound like I’m not looking forward to it, but I really am. I don’t get to see my bunch of buddies anywhere near as often as I like, and I know they’ll be pulling out all the stops to make sure the weekend goes with a bang.

As for the big day itself, well, I’ll be going to work and trying to cover up as many of the corners I’ve cut recently and hope that nobody notices or complains before I’m back in work next week.

I’m writing this on Thursday night, but I’m pretty sure that my transition from late-40s to early-50s will go pretty much like this:

Heck, that’s how I feel most Monday mornings.

I’m sure you don’t need telling that clip is from 1981’s still-brilliant-after-all-these-years An American Werewolf in London. I mean, even if you’ve never seen the film you could probably work it out because it’s written right there for you.

But don’t trust your eyes too much, because it also claims that the legendary first transformation scene is soundtracked by Creedence Clearwater Revival’s Bad Moon Rising, which it isn’t.

Regular readers will know that particular song has a special meaning for me, because that was the record that UK Pop Picers put at No 1 in the Hit Parade on the day I was born, 50 years ago today. And they will know this, because I’ve posted it pretty much every year on this day since I started writing this blog.

Still, managed to pad it out a bit this time, eh?

Creedence Clearwater Revival – Bad Moon Rising

By the way, I’ve never really decided whether I should consider it ironic or prophetic that was the best selling single in the UK on the day I made my first appearance. Perhaps it’s not for me to comment.

Anyway, as I’ll be away this weekend, there probably won’t be much in the way of activity on here until I get home, unless I manage to get my shizz together and write some things in advance. Don’t hold your breath though.

There will be more, soon, however.

Sunday Morning Coming Down

Following on from last week’s Flying Burrito Brothers post, I fancied posting something by The Byrds this week.

One particular song, in fact.

But sadly, The Byrds original version isn’t a particularly Country version, and I know how it irks some folks if I dare to post a non-Country record here on a Sunday morning.

So instead, from his 1978 album Sleeper Wherever I Fall album, is a man with a name like a disgraced police officer:

Bobby Bare – I’ll Feel A Whole Lot Better

It may not be as great as the original, but it is unquestionably a Country record. Look, he’s even wearing a cowboy hat on the sleeve.

Or, maybe Juice Newton (whose name sounds like an instruction to squeeze Isaac until his pips pop) who covered it on her 1985 album Old Flames tickles your fancy this morning:

Juice Newton – Feel a Whole Lot Better

Which means that I can also justifiably post this, for the sake of comparison:

The Byrds – I’ll Feel a Whole Lot Better

I’ll save Dinosaur Jr.’s version for another day.

Right, now I can go back to bed, a slightly happier man.

More soon.

Late Night Stargazing

For my money, the bulk of great records the Manic Street Preachers have made come from the Richie Edwards years, and then for an album or three afterwards.

Like this one, the opening track from 1998’s This Is My Truth Tell Me Yours. OK, it’s not as great as Motorcycle Emptiness – very little is -but it’s not half bad:

Manic Street Preachers – The Everlasting

More soon.

I’m Not Too Keen on Mondays

Another album I picked up recently, was a compilation of tunes from which samples had been ripped to make…um..other tunes.

Entitled Sample This! The Foundation of Modern Classics it’s packed with great tracks, about half of which I’d never heard of before.

Including this morning’s tune, which put such a dumb smile on my face when I heard it, I figured it was just right for this series.

Apparently, so the sleeve notes tell me, this features in M/A/R/R/S’ ground-breaking sample-a-thon Pump Up The Volume, but I can’t say I’ve ever noticed it before. I’ll have to dig out my copy and give my memory a refresh.

George Kranz – Din Daa Daa

Sing a long everybody – and just in case you don’t know the words, here they are, in all their glory:

Bah! Bah! Bah! Bah!
Bah! zoom zoom
Bah! zoom zoom
Bah! zoom zoom
Bah! zoom zoom
(Bah!) Din Daa Daa, Doe Doe Doe
(Bah!) Din Daa Daa, Doe Doe
(Bah!) Din Daa Daa, Doe Doe Doe
(Bah!) Din Daa Daa, Doe Doe
(Bah!) Din Daa Daa, Doe Doe Doe
(Bah!) Din Daa Daa, Doe Doe
(Bah!) Din Daa Daa, Doe Doe Doe
(Bah!) Din Daa Daa, Bo Dum Dum Day Doe
(Bah!) Din Daa Daa, Doe Doe Doe
(Bah!) Din Daa Daa, Doe Doe
(Bah!) Din Daa Daa, Doe Doe Doe
(Bah!) Din Daa Daa, Bo Dum Dum Day Doe
On Stoe, On Stoe
On On On On On, Stoe

Bah! Bump Bump Bump Bump Bay Doe
Bah! Bump Bump Bump Bump Bay Doe
Bah! Bump Bump Bump Bump Bay Doe
Bah! Bump Bump Bump Bump Bay Doe
Bah! Bump Bump Bump Bump Bay Doe
Bah! Bump Bump Bump Bump Bay Doe
Bah! Bump Bump Bump Bump Bay Doe
Bah! Bump Bump Bump Bump Bay Doe
Bah! Bump Bump Bump Bump Bay Doe
Bah! Bump Bump Bump Bump Bay Doe
Bah! Bump Bump Bump Bump Bay Doe
Bah! Bump Bump Bump Bump Bay Doe
Bah! Bump Bump Bump Bump Bay Doe
Bah! Bump Bump Bump Bump Bay Doe
Bah! Bump Bump Bump Bump Bay Doe
Bah! Bump Bump Bump Bump Bay Doe

Din Daa Daa, Doe Doe Doe
(Bah!) Din Daa Daa, Doe Doe
(Bah!) Din Daa Daa, Doe Doe Doe
(Bah!) Din Daa Daa, Doe Doe

Din Daa Daa, D’Doom Da Doom
Doom Doom Doom Doom Doom Blah!

Doom Da Doom, Doom Da Doom
D’Doom D’Doom, Doom Doom

Rrratatatatatatata
Rrratatatatdadadadoom

Doom Doom Doom Doom Doom Doom Blah!
Doom Doo Doo Blash!

Pee Da Puppa, Pee Da Puppa
Pee Da Puppa, Pee Da Puppa
Pee Da Puppa, Pee Da Puppa
Pee Da Puppa, Pee Da Puppa
Pee Da Puppa, Pee Da Puppa
Pee Da Puppa, Pee Da Puppa

Din Doan Doan
Din Doan Doan

Bot Da Down, D’ Doom
Do Doom, Do Doom
Di Doom, Do Doom
Do Doom, Do Doom

Doom Da Doom Da Doom Doom Da Da Doom

Ratatatatatatata tah!

Doom Doom Doom Blah!
Blah! Blah! Blah! Blah! Blah!

Butta! Butta! Butta! Butta!
Butta! Butta! Butta! Butta!

Bound Da Bound Bound
Da Doom Doom Blah!
Blah Blah Blah Blah
Dat Down Do Do Blah

Posh! Posh! Posh! Posh! Posh! Posh!
Posh! Posh! Posh! Posh! Posh! Posh!
Sh Ah!
Bah!

They really don’t write ’em like that anymore, do they?

More soon.

N.E.W. R.E.M.

Okay, not technically new, but definitely previously unreleased.

With all proceeds going to directly to the Mercy Corps’ emergency response efforts in the Bahamas following the battering that the north-west islands endured at the hands of Hurricane Dorian, which caused widespread destruction and left 76,000 people homeless, Fascinating is available to stream for free on the band’s Bandcamp page, or you can purchase it for a minimum of $2.00 (at the time of writing that’s £1.60).

The song first appeared on the original master of 2001’s Reveal but was cut at the last minute (amazingly Chorus & The Ring kept its place), and was re-recorded for 2004’s Around The Sun album, but it was deemed not to fit there either. Many will know that Around The Sun is generally considered to be their worst record, so you can maybe find some hope in that.

And Fascinating is really lovely, and would have provided a much-needed boost to either of those albums.

You should give it a listen (and preferably buy it too):

R.E.M. – Fascinating

More soon.

Sunday Morning Coming Down

A late switch of songs this morning.

All week, I had been planning to post some Merle Haggard, but listening to The Jayhawks tune I posted last night, I suddenly found myself in the mood for some Flying Burrito Brothers instead.

Which leads me to this song, instead.

Released in 1976, Gram Parsons posthumous album Sleepless Nights (formally credited to Gram Parsons/The Flyring Burrito Brothers) is a collection of songs recorded in 1970 (when he was part of The FBBs), and in 1973, as part of his sessions recordings for the Grievous Angel LP (when he wasn’t). Nine of the twelve tracks feature The FBB’s, and today’s pick is one of them.

Written by Merle Haggard, it first appeared on his 1968 album of the same name; Haggard penned it as a tribute to Jimmy “Rabbit” Kendrick, a fellow inmate at San Quentin prison, who devised an escape plan and invited Haggard to join him. However, they both agreed it would be best that Merle stayed in stir, “Rabbit” escaped but was re-captured two weeks later, and was ultimately executed for the murder of a state trooper. I love a story with a happy ending.

Happy because were it not for that unfortunate sequence of events, we might not have had Merle Haggard, and we may not have had his frankly staggering body of work, not least including this one:

The Flying Burrito Brothers – Sing Me Back Home

More soon.

Late Night Stargazing

The Jayhawks are one of those bands who I know of, but no very little by.

So when I recently stumbled across a copy of their 2018 album Back Roads and Abandoned Motels, I snaffled it up, and it’s blooming wonderful, enough to move them pretty high up on my list of bands I must invest more in.

Here’s a track from said album, and it’s absolutely gorgeous:

The Jayhawks – Carry You to Safety

More soon.

50 Ways To Prove I’m Rubbish #21

Time for another band that I absolutely adore now, but back in 1985, when they were causing a proper stink by playing 15 minute long sets with their backs to the audience, around the time that their debut album came out, I absolutely hated them.

Often in this series, I struggle to pinpoint exactly what it was about a band or artist that I didn’t like then but do love now; often I can blame my blinkered “it’s got no guitars on it” viewpoint, but more often than not I have to shrug my shoulders and accept it was because…well…I’m a bit rubbish.

Today’s tune poses no such problems, however, as I can easily point to the exact reason I refused to like this band back in the mid-80s: sibling rivalry, which given that the band features two brothers is a tad on the ironic side.

My brother adored The Jesus & Mary Chain, but as far as I could see they were just two dour Scotsmen with a propensity for playing their guitars a bit too close to their amps and thereby generating a wall of unwelcome squealing feedback.

Talk about missing the point.

However, it was around this time that my brother and I, after years of fighting, and smashing anything we could get our hands on across each others’ back – snooker cues, violins (no one could accuse us of not being middle class) – started to decide we quite liked each other after all.

We went to the local pub one night, for his birthday – I think it was his 19th, which would make me 17 (shhh! don’t tell the landlord), and we came away at the end of the night, properly lubricated (ok, that sounds wrong…) and announcing that we had decided the other “was alright really.”

Shortly afterwards, I was commandeered by my brother and his mates Rob and Phil to join their pool team. I’m not sure how they had become the representatives of a pub in this respect, but somehow they had, and on the occasions when their normal fourth player wasn’t available, I was brought in.

In case you think I was a ringer, you’re sadly mistaken. I haven’t played in years, but back then I was pretty good. However, I don’t think I won a single game, and can recall with a shudder at least one game where I tried an outlandish shot only to accidentally pot the black and thus lose the game.

Anyway, roaring along the back roads around the villages we lived in (Rob and Phil lived in a different one to the two of us), heading to a nearby pub to shoot some pool, a compilation tape of all things goth would inevitably be played.

I should stress that none of us considered The Jesus & Mary Chain to be goths; however, their look – black drainpipe jeans, black winkle-picker shoes, black leather jackets, the occasional black and white spotted shirt, black shades – perfectly embodied the look my pool partners were rocking at the time. You can imagine the looks they all got when they turned up at a sleepy backwater pub, asked to be pointed in the direction of the pool table before announcing they were there to pot their balls, drink their beer and (totally fail) to seduce their women.

Those inter-pub crazy car journeys have stayed in my head ever since, partly because of the amount of times we nearly crashed, but mostly because it was then that I realised just how special The Jesus & Mary Chain were.

I didn’t buy myself a copy of Psychocandy until a few years later, but I did go out and buy the follow up album, Darklands, pretty much on the day of release.

For that reason, Darklands remains my J&MC album, but I have to admit that, great as it is, it’s nowhere near as magnificent as Psychocandy is.

So here’s one from that wonderful debut album; it’s one of my favourites but it’s a real short one that often gets overlooked in favour of the more famous tracks:

The Jesus & Mary Chain – Taste of Cindy

More soon.

9/11

I try not to dwell on bad things that have happened, but the events of September 11th 2001 should ever be forgotten.

I’ve been guilty of it myself; on many of the years since that fateful day, I’ve not made the connection between the date and the event until very late at night.

But not this year.

I’ve posted this before, a long time ago, but it’s a beautiful collaboration between Mark Knopfler and Emmylou Harris, written from the perspective of someone trapped in one of the Towers, making their last ever phone call to a loved one.

Mark Knopfler and Emmylou Harris – If This Is Goodbye

More soon.

I’m Not Too Keen on Mondays

Sometimes you don’t need something upbeat or dancy or cheerful or happy to get you going on a Monday morning.

Sometimes you just need something fecking loud.

Here’s Motörhead:

Motörhead – Iron Fist

(Today’s picture is brought to you by World of Leather.)

More soon.

*Takes ear plugs out*

I said: More soon.

Sunday Morning Coming Down

This morning, a song from a film I’ve never seen.

Heartworn Highways is a documentary, shot at the end of 1975 and the start of 1976 which, according to wikipedia “…covers singer-songwriters whose songs are more traditional to early folk and country music instead of following in the tradition of the previous generation. Some of film’s featured performers are Guy Clark, Townes Van Zandt, Steve Earle, David Allan Coe, Rodney Crowell, Gamble Rogers, Steve Young, and The Charlie Daniels Band.”

Some of those folks have popped up on these pages before, but here’s a debut appearance for Gamble Rogers, with a song which features in the movie:

Gamble Rogers – The Black Label Blues

More soon.

Late Night Stargazing

Last night I travelled south of the river to see The Flaming Lips play at the Brixton Academy (which officially has mobile phone network in the name, but not in my head, nor anybody else I know who has ever been there).

Needless to say, they were magnificent, and (if I can be bothered) I’ll write a review of it later in the week.

Until then, here’s the song they finished with, as they always do (I think); probably their most-loved song, a glorious philosophical musing on life, death, love, optimism and existentialism:

The Flaming Lips – Do You Realize??

More soon.

Rant O’Clock

You may have missed this, but last week UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson insisted that “…Melton Mowbray pork pies, which are sold in Thailand and in Iceland, are currently unable to enter the US market because of, I don’t know, some sort of Food and Drug Administration restriction.”

The thing is, Melton Mowbray pork pies are not sold in Thailand and Iceland, as confirmed by The Melton Mowbray Pork Pie Association, who probably know what they’re talking about.

The pie currently holds EU protected status, which means that only 10 manufacturers can legitimately claim to produce the most famous of pork pies. Ironically, this protected status will, in all likelihood, be lost if the UK leaves the EU without a deal, leaving the door open for any number of non-UK manufacturers to claim they are the real purveyors of pastry products whilst actually making piss poor parodies of the pork pie, and thereby increase the risk of job losses within our own proud ground pork industry.

“Why are you talking about pork pies, Jez?” I hear you ask. I bet you’re thinking it’s just an excuse to post this:

Well, you’d be wrong.

It’s because, deliciously, Johnson had been caught telling pork pies about pork pies.

Question: How can you tell when Boris Johnson is telling a lie?

Answer: His lips are moving.

As I write this, our undemocratically elected Prime Minister Boris Johnson (remember when Brexit was all about standing up to those pesky, supposedly undemocratically elected EU ministers?) has stepped out of No 10 to make an annoucement, which had widely been expected to be that he was calling an election.

Of course, he said the opposite, and that he really, really doesn’t want to have an election. No: what he wants is to either be able to negotiate a new deal for Brexit with the EU, or failing that, to leave on October 31st without a deal.

That would be a different deal to the one which he voted in favour of at the third time of asking, by the way.

I think what he wants is a little more complicated than that, though.

What I don’t think he wants is to go down in the history books as the Prime Minister who took the UK out of the EU without a deal, because deep down he knows just how catastrophic that would be for our economy.

And how do we know that a No Deal Brexit is going to be catastrophic? Because today the Goverment launched its campaign to get us all ready to leave the EU at the end of October. It’s called Get Ready for Brexit and is reportedly costing the taxpayer around £100 million. That’s roughly double what the National Lottery spends on advertising in a whole year. Call me a cynic, but you don’t spend that kind of money on something which is going to be as great as leaving the EU was described to us as being in the build-up to the referendum.

The Housemartins – People Get Ready

For example: you’ll recall how former Brexit Minister Dominic Raab was derided for failing to understand the importance of the Dover-Calais crossing? Well, his replacement, Steve Barclay doesn’t seem to be that clued-up either: just last week he tweeted this:

Good idea Steve! Best to do it now, with two months left until the deadline, rather than, say, at any other time in the last three years!

It’s not just the Dover-Calais border which is going to be problematic post-Brexit, of course. The main bone of contention, of course, remains the Irish border, where the back-stop is written into the Withdrawal Agreement which Theresa May failed to get through Parliament on three not-very-different-really occasions: Johnson wants it scrapped, but the EU insist that there must be something in place to maintain the integrity of the Republic of Ireland, who will not be leaving the EU anytime soon

The Sunshine Underground – Borders

Johnson insists that he has several viable alternatives up his sleeve – I actually saw one (not credited to Johnson, I must admit) which suggested that the Republic of Ireland should temporarily give up its EU status so that no border checks are required, like the problem was all their making – and he told EU leaders as much when he did a flying visit last week, along with his attendance at the G7 summit. Their unified response was: “Okay, let’s hear them then”. Given that most of these have already been suggested, and dismissed as unworkable, I think we can understand their scepticism.

Nothing has been forthcoming as yet.

So what we have here is the biggest game of chicken you can imagine; Boris doesn’t want us to leave on No Deal, but he believes that to have any kind of leverage with the EU, he has to make them think that we are prepared to walk away without a deal, and that as a result they will make concessions. It’s a case of who’s going to blink first.

But it isn’t simply a case of staring down the EU, for there is – at last – some cross-party unity in trying to prevent the UK leaving the EU without a deal, and there can be little doubt that blocking them was the reason that Boris got the consent from Her Maj last week to close down (prorogue) Parliament in an effort to shut down any opposition to the UK leaving the EU without a deal.

Don’t forget, that after the recent by-election in Brecon, the Conservative Party has a majority of just one, so he cannot afford any dissention amongst the ranks.

Obviously he didn’t say that was the reason for doing it (although he inadvertently alluded to it a day or so afterwards), because to openly admit it would be accepting that, having banged the drum in the build-up to the EU Referendum in 2016, citing “taking back control” of our sovereign Parliament as one of the main reasons for leaving, it would be rather inconsistent to then close Parliament to prevent it doing the job he claimed he wanted it to do.

It was interesting to note that certain Conservative MPs – Gove, Rudd, Javid, Hancock, Leadsom, Truss, Morgan – who, in the race to become leader of the Tory party, or since, had all been quite out-spoken against and critical about the idea of proroguing Parliament, now, satisfactorily bribed with positions within the Cabinet, were suddenly unavailable to do any press interviews.

I do love someone who uses pop records to make a point. It’ll never catch on though.

What I think Johnson massively underestimated was the outrage which prorogueing Parliament provoked across the country, and the determination of those MPs who wish to prevent No Deal are. For just because Parliament isn’t sitting, there is nothing preventing them from meeting elsewhere, which is exactly what I have read they are doing, the resourceful little scamps.

Over the weekend, there were whispers and rumours that any Conservative MP who rebelled against the Goverment by voting against them would have the whip withdrawn; in other words in the event of an election, they would not be permitted to stand as Conservative MPs. Instead, they would be replaced by a candidate who is fully on board with the party’s position.

And this tells us a lot. It reminds us that all of this has never really been about the EU, that’s just the backdrop against which all of this has been played. It’s never really been about curtailing immigration either, as there’s been nothing stopping us doing so for years had the inclination been there – certainly nothing the EU is insisting on anyway – our governments simply haven’t bothered to implement the rules which the EU have introduced. It hasn’t even been about dodging the EU laws to close tax-avoiding loop holes, although that’s certainly a benefit the likes of Jacob Rees Mogg would enjoy.

No, all of this has been about the survival of the Conservative Party, firstly in the face of the challenge from UKIP which led to then-Prime Minister David Cameron (who, allegedly, also had a somewhat unsavoury relationship with pork), and now it is about the challenge from the party which has replaced UKIP, The Brexit Party, led by the same (self-appointed, undemocratically elected to the position of party leader) foe, Nigel Farage.

It’s not just the EU that Boris is trying to out-stare: it’s the whole of the British electorate, or, more specifically, those who are likely to switch from voting Tory to Brexit Party. He needs them to think that his position on the EU is the same if not stronger than theirs, which he hopes will nix any allegiance swapping ideas those pesky pensioners might be having.

And that’s why I think we’re probably going to have an election before the 31st October, whilst Johnson can still maintain the facade that he wants No Deal, and whilst he can point the finger elsewhere: he’s told us he doesn’t want an election and now, if the cross-party conglomerate are succesful in blocking No Deal before Parliament closes, then the finger can be pointed squarely at them.

Whatever happens next, the sad thing is that it’s too late to put all of the division, the hatred, the racism which Brexit has unquestionably stirred up back in the box.

Blondie – Island of Lost Souls

The Adventures – Broken Land

More soon. Undoubtedly.