How To Do a Cover Version

In 1978, ABBA released their second single from the inspirationally-titled ABBA: The Album album; as with so many records the Swedish quartet released around the time, it went to #1 in the UK charts:

ABBA – Take a Chance On Me

14 years later, Erasure released a 4-track EP called ABBA-esque; whilst the EP contained three other covers (Lay All Your Love on Me, SOS, and Voulez-Vous), it was their version of Take A Chance… which attracted the lion’s share of airplay, not least because of the gloriously camp video which accompanied it:

The EP romped to #1 in the UK, the band’s first single to do so, and stayed there for a five week stretch.

Erasure – Take a Chance On Me

But you know that’s not really where I’m going with this, right?

For that’s not the greatest version of that song, oh no.

The greatest version – for entirely different reasons – was never released as a single anywhere in the world.

It first aired on BBC2 in the UK on 30th September 1994, as part of an ABBA medley, sung by an ABBA-obsessed chat-show host, duetting with a guest, with the musical accompanyment provided by a soon-to-be-sacked-and-then-begrudgingly-reinstated conductor and his band with an ever changing name.

Complete with introduction, here’s one of the funniest of oh-so-many funny moments given to us by Steve Coogan as Alan Partridge:

Alan Partridge, Gina Langland, Glenn Ponder & Ferrari – ABBA Medley

You’re welcome.

More soon.

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Sunday Morning Coming Down

This morning I was going to return to look at some more of those “song titles which could only appear in Country records” which I’ve previously dabbled in, but then I stumbled upon today’s chosen tune.

Written by Bobby Braddock and Curly Putman, who also co-wrote such Country greats like Tammy Wynette’s D-I-V-O-R-C-E and George Jones’ He Stopped Loving Her Today – Putnam also wrote Green, Green Grass of Home, so you get some idea of the pedigree we’re dealing with here – this doesn’t quite fit the category, but it does have a mighty fine pun in the title nonetheless:

The Statler Brothers – You Can’t Have Your Kate And Edith, Too

More soon.

Late Night Stargazing

A couple of years ago, I submitted a question to Only Connect, the stupendously difficult BBC quiz where teams compete to find the connection between four seemingly random clues.

Here are the four things I suggested:

  1. Subtract
  2. Management
  3. Black Jacks
  4. Master Kraft

The answer, of course, is that they are all acts who spell their names by removing all the vowels, changing the occasional consonant for a similar sounding one, and making all of the remaining letters in capitals.

The question didn’t get selected – perhaps I should have suggested it for the missing vowel round instead – and apparently I’m not allowed to tweet Victoria Coren-Mitchell about it, or anything else for that matter, anymore.

So anyway, here’s a tune by the first of those acts, SBTRKT, featuring 2017 Mercury Prize winner Sampha on vocals:

SBTRKT (feat. Sampha) – Hold On

More soon.

50 Ways To Prove I’m Rubbish #19

This morning, another song from the file marked “Why Didn’t I Buy This?”

Seriously, this was a huge hit, and a breath of fresh in the UK charts, where it clambered up to #3. Recent re-runs of Top of the Pops reminded me of just how often it appeared on the show back in 1987.

And yet, and despite me liking it, I didn’t buy it at the time. I soon rectified the absence of any Proclaimers records from my record collection, buying the next single, Make My Heart Fly followed shortly afterwards by their magnificent debut album, This Is The Story.

It’s one of those head-scratchers. I can’t think of a single reason why I didn’t buy it at the time, and yet there it still isn’t nestling amongst my vinyl collection.

It still sounds bloody great, mind, perfect Saturday morning fodder:

The Proclaimers – Letter From America

More soon.

This Next Song is Dirty

There’s very little I enjoy in life more than a good double entrendre, especially in the lyrical form.

Anything which gets me parping like Finbarr is a good thing in my book:

This song, I think, is the King of saying one thing but meaning another:

The Bellamy Brothers – If I Said You Had a Beautiful Body

Relax, ladies, they’re married. Probably to each other.

But there’s one hidden in here too, dear readers. Can you spot it?

The Bluetones – Bluetonic

You can? Then progress on to the next level of smut.

More soon.

Claps, Clicks & Whistles #20

Blimey, it’s been a while since I wrote one of these!

For those of you who don’t recall the thrust of this series, or those who have only started frequenting these pages in the not unsizeable gap that is since March 2018, here’s the giste: I have a theory, and that theory is that any song which features either handclaps, finger-clicks or whistles can only be fantastic (and generally upbeat) records. This series sets out to test this theory.

So far, I have been 100% correct, but then I do have the slight advantage of being the content provider/writer/editor.

So I’ll keep it brief, for this artiste needs no introduction whatsoever:

Prince – I Could Never Take The Place Of Your Man

More soon.

Sunday Morning Coming Down

A bit of a rehash this morning.

I first posted all of the songs in today’s post back in 2015. It attracted zero comments at the time so I think I can get away with it.

So, first up is this, the opening track from their gorgeous She Hangs Brightly album, the gorgeousness due in no small part to the smouldering vocal of Hope Sandoval:

Mazzy Star – Halah

Is there a voice more perfectly gorgeous in the whole wide world than Hope Sandoval’s? I think not. If only there was a way I could contrast it with, say, a grizzly Glaswegian.

Oh wait, there is…

The Jesus & Mary Chain – Sometimes Always

(Sort of original) content alert: here’s J&MC and Hope performing that song on the David Letterman show. The quality is shonky to say the least, but it’s worth a watch, if for no other reason than the tongue-in-cheek conversation between Letterman and musical director Paul Shaffer:

Now I’ve always loved that record – in fact, I think that the album it’s from, Stoned & Dethroned is one of the most under-rated albums I’ve ever heard, let alone owned – but I have always thought Sometimes Always was, lyrically, just a rehash of this:

The Beautiful South – A Little Time

I await the tide of outraged comments with interest.

More soon.

Late Night Stargazing

Tonight, a song which is exactly the same age as me.

Released as a double A-side (with Come Together on the flip) on October 6th 1969, it made it’s first appearance on the iconically-sleeved Abbey Road album, which was released on 26th September 1969.

And like me, it’s a classy vintage.

But seriously, it’s often very easy to over look the contribution which George Harrison made to the canon of great songs by The Beatles. And this is right up there in my book as one of the band’s finest, most beautiful moments:

The Beatles – Something

P.S. Put some shoes on Paul, you’ll be starting all sorts of rumours if you’re not careful.

More soon.

United

With apologies to the lower leagues who kicked off seven days ago, this weekend the 2019/2020 English football season kicks off with the return of the Premier League, or The Premiership, or whatever we’re supposed to call it these days. (I much preferred it when the top division was called League 1, rather than that moniker being attributed to the third division as it is now, but nobody asked me at the time, so my opinion means diddly squat here.)

I can sense a collective sigh as you read that this is a football-related post and think I’m about to bang on about my beloved Spurs again. Well rest easy, I’m not.

Even if you have an aversion to all things football, you will be aware that there exists a local bragging rights hostility between certain teams: Glasgow’s Celtic and Rangers; Liverpool and Everton, Tottenham and…um…um…what are they called again…? Oh yes: Arsenal.

But it is to the north west that I’m turning my attention today, where it’s safe to say there is little-to-no love lost between Manchesters United and City.

Again, even the most disinterested in football will know that, until relatively recently, it was United who were the more successful team, dominating the English game through much of the 1990s and pretty much all of the 2000s. More recently, the tide has turned, with City winning the Premiership back in 2011/12, 2013/14, 2017/18 and 2018/19 along with some other silverware we don’t need to dwell on.

This change in fortune was in no small part due to a take over in September 2008 by the Abu Dhabi United Group, followed by massive investment in the squad, the manager, and a brand spanking new stadium.

Here’s the stadium:

Looks lovely, doesn’t it?

Don’t worry, this isn’t about to descend into accusations of City having “bought” the Premiership. A mere £1.3 billion has been ploughed into the club since 2008, which is nothing really. For a start, it’s £0.1 billion more than the government is planning on spending on informing us how we can survive the “sunny uplands” of a No Deal Brexit, for example, but perhaps it’s best we don’t go there (just yet).

Rather, look at the name of the stadium.

For although it is officially called The City of Manchester Stadium, as is the trend these days, naming rights were sold off, meaning it’s The Etihad Stadium.

Most of us will recognise the word Etihad from the United Arab Emirates airline. But those of you curious as to the meaning of the word will be rather amused by this, I think. See this, from the Manchester Evening News, which I suspect was written by a giggling incredulously United fan:

In other words, Manchester City’s home ground is called the United Stadium. Which, given the rivalry between the two clubs, you have to admit is pretty funny (unless you’re a City fan, I imagine).

I feel a song coming on:

Pete and The Pirates – United

More soon.

Be Llyrious

When we lived together, before compiling a playlist was a thing, Llŷr and I would often make each other mix-tapes, and later mix CDs, a habitually eclectic mix of stuff we knew the other would like, or already owned but sounded good in the context of the playlist, or wanted to introduce the other one to.

We would take it in turns: I’d do one for him, a week or so later I’d get one back, and so on. There was no one-upmanship going on here, no “Don’t you know this???”, more a mutally respectful “You probably know this, but if not, you’ll like it, I think.”

Often, one of us putting a song on a mix CD would induce the other into putting a different song by the same artiste on the reply CD. It was our way of saying, “Yeh, I know them, that one’s pretty good, but have you heard this…?”

By way of an example, one day I put this on a mix CD, pretty much the only song I knew by the group at the time:

And he came back with this, which I later found out was the very next track on their eponymously titled album, which I didn’t have at the time:

Fountains of Wayne – Sink to the Bottom

Okay dude, you won that one.

More soon.

50 Ways to Prove I’m Rubbish #18

Today, not just a single, but an album.

Now, I must profess I wasn’t that late into cottoning on to how great this record is; I recall liking a couple of the singles from this album at the time, but the money was not to be parted from my pocket (not when there were old Quo records which simply needed to be bought, anyway.)

By the time of the second album, Easy Pieces, released a year after today’s subject, I’d given in; I bought the first single from the album on 12″, and then when a mate said he had the album and didn’t like it (the fool) I bought that off him too. Best £2 I ever spent.

For some reason that I don’t quite understand, I’ve never fully got behind Lloyd Cole’s solo career – everything I’ve heard, or owned, by him I’ve really liked; maybe it’s that thrust of youth and discovery that can never be bettered – but for me his first album (with The Commotions) is an absolute jewel.

A friend of mine went to see Cole play recently; back at the office, my first question was: “Did he play anything off Rattlesnakes?”

It’s such an important album for me. Here was a lyricist who seemed wordy, intelligent, bookish, and who made references to people who seemed within my grasp. Whilst Morrissey may have introduced me to Oscar Wilde, Keats & Yeats and Shelagh Delaney, Lloyd Cole made me aware of people like Eve Marie Saint, Greta Garbot, Truman Capote and Simone de Beauvior.

I was only a year or so late buying this album, an album which I would still say is one of my favourite records ever, but a year or so late is enough to qualify for this series.

It’s really tough picking my favourite songs from this wonderful, wonderful album, because frankly I could just post the whole album.

But I’ll give it a go, here’s six from it. Most of you will know them; if you don’t, what are you doing reading this? Go buy it (or stream it or whatever you young people do these days):

Lloyd Cole & The Commotions – Perfect Skin

Lloyd Cole & The Commotions – Speedboat

Lloyd Cole & The Commotions – Rattlesnakes

Lloyd Cole & The Commotions – Forest Fire

Lloyd Cole & The Commotions – 2CV

Lloyd Cole & The Commotions – Four Flights Up

Lloyd Cole & The Commotions – Are You Ready To Be Heartbroken?

More soon.

Sunday Morning Coming Down

I was quite saddened to read yesterday that Sheryl Crow has announced that her current album, Threads, will be her last.

If they weren’t already converts, anyone who managed to catch her recent Glastonbury performance can only have been persuaded of Crow’s pedigree.

Personally, I’ve been a fan ever since I first heard today’s tune, another delve into my days as serial cassingle purchaser. It’s a joyous devil-may-care tale of daytime barfly drinking, with pithy observations on life, men, and the life in men:

More soon.

Late Night Stargazing

Yes, I have been a bit quiet so far this weekend, haven’t I?

I’ll explain; until very recently, I had used free anti-virus software on my trusty laptop, but had noticed it was running decidedly slowly.

I would download the software on a month’s free trial, let that month run out then move onto the next one. You know, because I’m tight.

Whenever I ran a scan using whichever program I had on my laptop at the time, it would tell me it had identified some issues, but to resolve them would involve me stumping up and paying a subscription fee.

Sod that.

Eventually, a couple of weeks ago, I gave in, and purchased and downloaded one which had been recommended to me. I ran some scans and it definitely did the trick: my CD burner suddenly started working for this first time in many months, for a start.

And it’s a good job it had, because when I logged on last weekend, ready to type my usual slew of awesome weekend posts, I found that it had run a routine scan. Good stuff, I thought, this is the kind of thing I expect once I pay for something.

Moreover, it had decided to free up some space on my hard drive by removing any files which had not been used in X amount of time.

It would be at this point, had this been a conversation between me and my laptop (and I should stress that I do not talk to my laptop anymore than I talk to say, my fridge, or my microwave – and besides, who wants a talking laptop? It’s got far more on me than I have on it, the little rat) then it would be right here that a concerned look would cross my face and I’d say: “Rrrrrrrrright…so what have you done, exactly…..?”

And what it had done exactly was to wipe any mp3 which hadn’t been played recently on iTunes.

The problem is that I rarely use my iTunes, other than as a way of getting mp3s from my laptop onto my iPod, so there’s an awful lot of stuff which hasn’t been played on there recently.

I’ve lost a lot. I mean A LOT. My iTunes has 27,394 mp3s on it, and I reckon I’ve probably lost about 60% of those.

Plus, and some of you who I had contacted for assistance with tracking down suggestions will know this, I had been planning on (admittedly, for some time now) bringing back The Chain (I’d even started working on the next edition; no honestly, I had – look there it is in my Drafts folder!). But alas, all of the nominated songs which I had sourced or had kindly donated have also now gone.

So much of today has been spent trying to assess what has been lost and then setting about trying to source new copies of them.

That and reviewing the settings on my anti-virus software so that I don’t have to go through the whole sodding process again next time it runs a scan.

Anyway, this is one of the songs which, thankfully, survived. A cover version, yes, some might even say it’s a cover version of a cover version.

But this is my favourite version from one of my favourite albums; I could listen to Natalie Merchant singing binary code rather than words and I’d still be indecently aroused by her voice:

10,000 Maniacs – Because The Night (Live)

More soon (hopefully).

I’m Not Too Keen on Mondays

Seems an age has passed since I last wrote one of these, so I’ll kick-start Monday morning blues bashing again with a song absolutely guaranteed to put a spring in your step and a smile on your face:

Plastic Bertrand – Ça Plane Pour Moi

And as a bonus, here’s Sonic Youth faithfully covering the very same song on a punk/New Wave covers album that I really should post a load more from some time:

Sonic Youth – Ça Plane Pour Moi

Take yer pick, they’re both ace.

Happy Monday!

More soon.

Saturday Night Coming Up

Last time I posted a Breezeblock mix, it seemed to get a pretty good reaction, so here’s another one.

Much more laid-back than the last one, and sadly not one of his amazing Northern Soul mixes which I used to have a couple of but can no longer find, but no worse for it, this is Andy Smith of Portishead fame; I’ll let Mary Anne Hobbs do the official intro:

Andy Smith – Breezeblock Mix 22/06/98

More soon.

How To Do a Cover Version

More from the file marked “Bloody Hell, is that a cover version?”.

To reiterate my previous argument: if you’re going to cover a song, there’s no point in faithfully reproducing the original. Make it your own, so that people assume you wrote it.

Or, ideally, pick a song which very few people will know, which makes the whole assumption thing a whole lot easier.

A case in point:

When Deep Purple disbanded for the first time, guitarist Richie Blackmore went on to form Rainbow, which disappointingly was not a tribute to Zippy, George, Bungle, Geoffrey, Rod, Jane & Freddy.

One of their earliest (and let’s face it, latest too) hits was this absolute belter, which I love even though the title brings out the Grammar Nazi in me:

Rainbow – Since You Been Gone

I bloody love that tune.

But it’s a cover version, something I was oblivious to until fairly recently. Here’s the original by the much-less-well known Head East, who have somwhat, erm, dubious taste when it comes to photos on record sleeves:

Head East – Since You Been Gone

Head East were a bunch of Illinois Uni friends, so perhaps it’s understandable they didn’t get the concent of the word You’ve.

Mental note to self: now that wacky haircut in a suit Boris Johnson is our Prime Minister, I’m not really in a position to take the piss out of Americans for having wacky haircut in a suit Donald J Trump as President. Still, at least we didn’t actually vote for Boris, but then again, the popular vote in the States was not for the cheesburger-munching, Coke-swilling, racist, philandering, law-breaking buffoon either….Must …stop…too…many…comparisons….

But, to get things back on track, here’s my favourite, somewhat unexpected, cover of that song, which is by former lead singer of The Runaways, Cherie Currie, who decided to rope in her sister Marie. You can consider that an odd thing to do, or revel in the fact they made the title grammatically correct, or just enjoy this, which sounds like Heart playing in someone’s garage:

Cherie & Marie Currie – Since You’ve Been Gone

If I ever find that single in a Marie Curie charity store, my life is complete.

More soon.

Be Llyrious

When Llŷr was first admitted and then detained in hospital, I knew boredom would soon take a hold. So I went and bought him one of them there hand-held Nintendo gaming things to help him while away the hours.

He was really happy when I gave it to him; when I visited the next day, less so.

“The nurse confiscated it,” he told me. “Apparently playing it increases the likelihood of me having another seizure.”

Ah well. The best laid plans, and all that.

“You could bring my mp3 player in though…?” he suggested/asked.

I was half surprised that he didn’t already have it, joined at the hip as they had seemed to be.

You’ll note that I don’t say iPod there, as Llŷr refused to accept, as I had meekly submitted, that via Apple Inc. was the best way to listen to music on the go. What Llŷr had was most definitely not an iPod.

I brought it in for him the next day, and before we’d even got through the formalities, he was greedily popping the earphones in.

“Jez, you have to hear this album,” he said, not proffering me an earphone so I could share in his delight.

Even then, in hospital and just diagnosed with cancer, he couldn’t switch off.

Later, he would regale me about the time he saw them at the Reading Festival, in a tent full of delirious fans, but I can’t quite recall if that was before or after he got ill. Probably after.

‘This lot’ were Arcade Fire, and the album in question was Funeral.

And now, whenever I hear them, or specifically anything from that album, I think of him.

Arcade Fire – Rebellion (Lies)

More soon.

This Ends Badly

It’s been a busy month for me in terms of cinema going.

Not content with going to see Yesterday (which I liked, despite myself) and Midsommar (which I’m still not sure about, but since it still plays heavy on my mind I figure I must have enjoyed) I visited the local multiplex on a further two occasions this month.

Firstly, to watch Jaws, a film which I wasn’t old enough to go and see when it first came out in 1975, but which I genuinely think is one of the greatest films ever made.

Seeing it for the first time on the big sceen was an incredible experience, and if it’s showing in a flea-pit near you (and I have no idea what prompted my local place to show it), I’d urge you to go see. Sure, you know (I assume) what happens and how it all pans out, but it’s still a masterpiece.

Unlike the fourth film I saw this month, which has to go down as one of the worst films I ever saw.

All the signs were good for The Dead Don’t Die: it’s directed by indie-flick darling Jim Jarmusch (I thought I’d seen more of his films, but a casual post cinema attendance at his body of work reminds me I’ve only seen Night on Earth (which I have to admit I only watched because Beatrice Dalle is in it) and Broken Flowers (which I have to admit I only watched because Bill Murray’s in it) – there’s a different reason for me wanting to watch both of these actors which I imagine I don’t need to spell out) and, as I settled down to watch, huge tub of popcorn nestling against my hefty bosom, I was encouraged.

Check this cast list out and tell me you wouldn’t want to go and see a film that features this lot: Bill Murray, Adam Driver, Chloë Sevigny, Tom Waits, Steve Buscemi, Danny Glover, Rosie Perez, Selena Gomez, Tilda Swinton, even Iggy Pop is there.

Impressive, no?

Here’s the trailer:

And here’s the plot, as described by imdb:

The peaceful town of Centerville finds itself battling a zombie horde as the dead start rising from their graves.

There’s a reason for that being so brief, and I think it’s from the old school of thinking that if you can’t say anything nice then don’t say anything.

Sod that.

The Dead Don’t Die is slow, poorly acted (every one seems to not only be calling in their performance, but laying in a reposed position when they do so), has Tilda Swinton doing an odd Scottish accent for no apparent reason at all (other than that she can), offers no suspense whatsoever, has one of the oddest meta-jokes at the heart of it, and fails to utilise any of the talents of any of the actors involved.

For example i): Tom Waits is in it, but as a hermit recluse, cut off from society, living in a nearby forest. Which sounds like perfect casting. But all he does is swear at Bill Murray at the start of the film and then occasionally provide commentary as he watches the plot unfold through a pair of binoculars.

For example ii): Iggy Pop is in it, as a zombie. He looks healthier than he does in real life. Here is a seam of comedy rich for mining, I thought. But no: two scenes, and the acting talents of Mr Pop, such as they are, are dispensed with.

And then there’s this weird meta-joke which pops up every now and again (spoiler alert, as this is the best thing about the film, and even this isn’t great): Adam Driver seems to know a lot more than his character should. He keeps saying “Well this will end badly” like he’s trying to get a new catchphrase to stick.

When the title song – which features a lot – pops up for what seems like the billionth time in the first twenty minutes (and continues to do so throughout the movie) as Murray and Driver cruise sedately round the neighbourhood, Murray muses as to why it sounds so familiar. Driver’s response: “Because it’s the theme tune.”

Here it is:

Sturgill Simpson – The Dead Don’t Die

Double spoiler alert – and I alert you to this because if you are going to see this film (and I really wouldn’t if I were you), it seems to be central – this doesn’t get questioned or even mentioned again until, with a merciful twenty minutes or so to go Driver once more says “Well, this will end badly” and is finally challenged by Murray about how he knows that. His response is – look away if you don’t want to spoil the one good thing about the film – that he knows it will end badly as he has read the whole script. Murray, it transpires, has only been provided with the scenes he is in.

And then both of them are in it until exactly the same point, which ruins that joke, such as it was in the first place.

In case you haven’t got the drift yet: don’t go see.

More soon.

50 Ways To Prove I’m Rubbish #17

Confession time.

During his oh-too-short life, I never bought a record by Prince.

Actually, that’s not quite true, as I did buy Hits 1 & 2, but I’m not sure that excludes me from criticism.

And, many years after it came out, I did pick up Cream on CD single.

But still…

It’s at this point that I have to give props to my brother, who at least bothered to buy the Purple Rain soundtrack.

But me? Nah. Despite a seemingly never-ending glittering array of incredible records by the Purple One, my pocket money remained in my pocket.

What was I thinking? I have no excuse.

On the plus side, that means I have a lot to choose from now.

But I figured nothing demonstrated my folly better than the first record that I remember hearing by Prince, and which I somehow elected not to buy, despite it’s undeniably cool sleeve:

Prince & The Revolution – When Doves Cry

More soon.

Sunday Morning Coming Down

I worry sometimes that maybe I focus a little too much on the old guard, the classic Country artists in this series.

I also worry that I don’t post many female Country artists either.

So, today is a “two birds, one stone” scenario.

Here’s something by the really rather quite wonderful Molly Tuttle to even things out a little:

Molly Tuttle – Take the Journey

More soon.

Late Night Stargazing

Having posted something by The Aliens last week, one of the acts which rose from the ashes of The Beta Band, I thought it only right I posted something by Steve Mason, former member of the same band.

This is from his fourth solo album and I think this song is the closest he has got to sounding like The Beta Band’s finest moments:

Steve Mason – About The Light

And here’s the song that reminds me of; if you only know one Beta Band tune this is the one to know. And if you’ve seen High Fidelity (and I imagine you all have) you will know it intimately:

The Beta Band – Dry The Rain

Two fairly dull anecdotes: firstly, one night when Hel and I still shared a flat, her feller, and now husband, Neil came round. I mention Neil every now and then, mostly in the context of us finding we both love certain Dire Straits and Kris Kristofferson records and aren’t ashamed to announce it to the world. So I think it only right to point out that he doesn’t only like those (he’s a massive Mogwai fan, for a start, a band I’ve never really got to grips with, which I’m told is because I’ve never seen them live); on this particular evening I threw a playlist on that I’d made, and it included this song. Neil looked at me in something approaching wonder and said: “Have you put The Beta Band on this playlist?”

Yes, yes I had.

More male bonding inevitably followed.

Second dull anecdote: when I finally graduated, I spent a year back home, living with the folks, working in a motorway restaurant, trying to work out what I would do next, waiting for something to happen. My Dad had opened an account with a certain online retailer named after a river, and I ordered two CDs from them: the first two CDs I ever bought online.

The first was The Beta Band’s majestic The 3 EPs; the second was Lank Haired Girl to Bearded Boy by It’s Jo and Danny. If ever there was a twee indie sounding album title and band name combo, that’s it (and that’s what first attracted me to it, truth be told).

Anyway, I think I’ve posted this before, but in any event this is the opening track from said album, and it’s bloody great:

It’s Jo and Danny – Solar Plexus

Listen to that. It’s bloody great.

More soon.

How To Do A Cover Version

I’ve made two points when writing these posts before.

Firstly, that the version you hear first is, generally, the one that you love the most, and

Secondly, and perhaps less contentiously, if you can do a cover version which so obliterates the original as to make people assume your recording is the first, then you’ve won.

So today’s post was prompted by BBC4 and it’s Top of the Pops repeats (essential viewing at Dubious Taste Mansions) moving into 1988.

Whenever a new year is moved into, it is usually book-ended by an hour long show which focuses on the happenings of the new year, and features songs which were massive back in the day.

Such was the case here, as the series eased even further ahead of me and my futile “records I bought in order” musings.

Unsurprisingly this record came up, which I didn’t buy at the time and have no regrets whatsoever in that regard:

Yazz and the Plastic Population – The Only Way Is Up

Unsurprising, because it was an absolute smash hit and simply could not be ignored when talking about the hits of the year.

But did you know that it’s a cover version?

Nope, thought not.

Here’s the original, from 1980:

Otis Clay – The Only Way Is Up

You’re welcome.

More soon.

An Updated List

Time to dive, for the first time, I think, into my collection of cassingles.

I first came into ownership of this song as the b-side to their wonderful Pretend We’re Dead single, which I picked up on a trip to London from some basement record store I stumbled across.

The song gained greater traction when it was used in Oliver Stone’s 1994 filming of Quentin Tarantino’s screenplay Natural Born Killers.

I’ve always thought it sad that the song doesn’t specifically name all those who would, back in the day, have made the list.

But I can safely say to all of the following people (in no particular order)…:

Donald Trump

Boris Johnson

Jeremy Hunt

Jeffrey Epstein

Nigel Farage

Aaron Banks

Richard Tice

Isabel Oakeshott

Anne Widdicombe

Michael Gove

Nadine Dorries

Jacob Rees-Mogg

Morrissey

Chris Martin

….Congratulations, you made my:

L7 – Shitlist

Apologies if I’ve missed any obvious candidates out.

And, since it’s a quite splendid call to arms/comment on political apathy, here’s the A-side too:

L7 – Pretend That We’re Dead

More soon.

50 Ways To Prove I’m Rubbish #16

Generally, I can come up with a good excuse why I didn’t buy a particular record “back in the day”.

No such luck with today’s choice, I’m afraid.

For I thought this was a brilliant pop single back in 1984, and nothing has happened in the intervening 35 (ouch!) years to make me change my mind.

And yet, back then, my pocket money remained, inexplicably, just that: money in my pocket.

I don’t need to say any more, other than to shrug my shoulders and point to the title of this post:

Laura Branigan – Self Control

More soon.

Sunday Morning Coming Down

A little while ago, I noted how I rarely posted any songs by Willie Nelson as a solo artist here, instead featuring duets or collaborations.

Time to rectify that a little more with this absolute belter from 1974’s Phases and Stages album:

Willie Nelson – Bloody Mary Morning

Let’s be honest, we’ve all had mornings like that, right guys? Right…?

More soon.

Midsommar Madness

I went to the cinema again this week.

I know! Twice in (a little over) a week! And by the time you read this, I’ll have been again. This could be the first month where my Unlimited Card has actually given me value for money!

Last week, I went to see Yesterday, the new Richard Curtis rom-com, directed by Danny Boyle, this year’s “feel good hit of the summer”.

The film I went to watch on Thursday evening could not be further from a feel good movie.

Here’s the plot: Dina and Christian are a couple on the edge of separating. In fact, were it not for the fact that Dina is having a very hard time indeed dealing with her bi-polar sister, then Christian probably would have ended the relationship long ago.

And then tragedy strikes Dina’s family, and suddenly her sister is no longer a problem. And neither are her parents. This is all in the first ten minutes, mind. A message is being sent by director Ari Aster: if you think this is a grim way to start a film, just you wait.

Christian and his college pals Josh, Mark and Pelle are planning on travelling to Sweden, to Hålsingland, the commune where Pelle was raised, to take part in a festival which only comes around once every 90 years. Each has their own reason for going: Josh is writing a thesis on pagan rituals, Mark wants to meet Swedish chicks, and Christian just wants to get two things: away from Dina and his shit together. But following the tragedy, he invites Dina to join them, much to the horror of Josh and Mark, and the creepy joy of Pelle.

Here’s the trailer:

The film moves, appropriately enough for a film set in Scandinavia, at a glacial pace, but that’s not to say it’s ever dull or that you find yourself wishing something would happen, because you know that when it does, it’s going to be gruesome.

For from the moment the group arrive at the camp and meet their fellow festival goers, you just know that something bad is just around the corner. They take natural hallucenogenic drugs within minutes of arriving, and the film moves into a suitably ephemeral dream-like state; these are not like any herbal highs I ever tried, for they make plant, flower and tree life come alive, you can see them breathe. It’s trippy beyond belief; on more than one occasion I found myself blinking, rubbing my eyes and thinking: did that flower just exhale?

And that’s the contrast at the heart of the movie: the everlasting sunshine on gorgeous green fields, all beautifully shot, the setting for some seriously unsettling shit.

The gang meet a young English couple, Connie and Simon, who may as well have the words “won’t last the whole film” tattooed on their foreheads, and then the festivities begin, and it all gets watch-through-the-gaps-in-your-fingers weird.

It reminded me of two films: 2017’s brilliant Get Out and the original 1973 Edward Woodward version of The Wicker Man; both seemed ground-breaking in the horror genre and Midsommar seems cut from the same cloth. And the reason for that is that in all three, all the way through, there’s a brooding sense of forboding, that something is bubbling just beneath the surface, that all is not quite what it seems, that something is not quite right here and, above all, that something utterly grim is about to happen.

And it does. Oh boy, oh boy, it does.

A large part of that feeling is down to the musical score, composed by Bobby Krlic (aka the Haxan Cloak); it’s always there, it seems, emphasising the beauty and horror as it unfolds, which, now I write it down, I realise is exactly what a musical score is supposed to do.

It’s minimal and then it’s complicated. In some places it drones, in others it soars; drums are rattled and pipes are blown, it’s eerily beautiful. Imagine Brian Eno in full-on ambient mode, but instead of any electronic musical equipment at his fingertips, he has a bunch of twigs, some harps, violins and a bunch of humming and howling Nordic nutters. (I’m no Eno afficionado, so I wouldn’t be in the slightest bit surprised to find out he has a whole back-catalogue of that kind of stuff that I’m blissfully unaware of.)

Actually, don’t take that as an accurate comparison at all, have a listen for yourself, but don’t expect to have a smile on your face after listening to these. They’re all exquisitely beautiful, bright yet dark, just like the film:

The House That Hårga Built

The Blessing

Gassed

Chorus of Sirens

Fire Temple

I came out of the cinema, a bit dazed and unsure what I’d just watched.

Did I like it? And if I did, is it okay that I liked it?

I think so, on both scores.

Put it this way: I haven’t really stopped thinking about it since, which I guess is a good sign.

Go see it. But not if you’re squeamish or of an even slightly nervous disposition.

More soon.

50 Ways To I’m Rubbish #15

You’d think that the bulk of the record I regret not buying, once I’d reached the age when regularly buying records has become “my thing”, would be from the early days, that’s the early to mid-80s in my book, when I hadn’t really found my musical feet, so to speak.

In 1989, I began DJ’ing at college, which sounds like an absolute dream job, and in many ways it was. But in one way it wasn’t.

Because for a couple of years I had a budget from the Student Union coffers to spend on nothing but records. Problem was, I didn’t get to keep them. Well, not officially, anyway.

Which means for that short period of time, there are swathes of records which under normal circumstances I (probably) would have bought for myself, but which I actually bought to live in the DJ booth.

Including this one, which I still think is bloody magnificent record:

Dream Warriors – My Definition of a Boombastic Jazz Style

Welcome to the weekend.

More soon.

How To Do A Cover Version

Is it strictly speaking a cover version if you co-wrote it?

Ah, what the heck.

Last weekend I got a text from Hel at a most unseemly time of day:

It may have taken me nigh on twelve hours to reply (I WAS ASLEEP) in my usual candid manner, but she was bang on, as she often is.

Here you go:

Johnny Marr – Bigmouth Strikes Again (Glastonbury 2019)

More soon.

Sunday Morning Coming Down

I’ve posted this one before, a long time ago, but there was a documentary on BBC4 on Friday night which reminded me how great and ground-breaking Charley Pride was back in his pomp.

This is perhaps his most famous song, and it’s a master-class of Country music misery and defiance, telling as it does the story of a guy losing a girl to what she thinks is a better life:

Charley Pride – Crystal Chandeliers

More soon.

Saturday Night Coming Up

Before she became the 6Music stalwart she now, deservedly, is Mary Anne Hobbs used to host a late night show of electronic music on Radio 1 called The Breezeblock.

One of the features of the show was a DJ coming in to provide a mix of around 30 minutes or so. Many DJs and producers passed through this hallowed turf: I’ve got Breezeblock mixes by the likes of FC Kahuna, Tiga, Boom Bip, The Avalanches, Lemon Jelly, Super Furry Animals and Andy Smith knocking around which might feature at some point if anyone’s interested.

But first up, this, possibly my favourite DJ mix ever, by DJ Downfall:

DJ Downfall – Breezeblock Mix

If ever there was something I post which I would urge you to listen to, it’s this. How can anyone not love a mix which starts off with Mark King from Level 42 explaining how he plays bass (with his £1 million pound thumb) and ends with the Muppets’ Statler & Waldorf, taking in Justin Timberlake, Man to Man Meets Man Parrish, The Postal Service and, if I’m not mistaken, the movie Mean Girls en route?

Seriously, listen to this and make your life instantly better.

You’re welcome.

More soon.

Last Weekend/Yesterday

It’s been a funny week for me, listening-wise.

Ordinarily, I would go about my business with my iPod on shuffle, listening to whatever it decided to feed my ears.

But this week, three things happened which made me focus in on three particular acts for a while.

Phase One, and the most short-lived of the three, Kylie at Glastonbury.

In a set only spoiled by the appearance of Chris Martin and the denegration of the majority of Can’t Get You Out Of My Head into an unnecessarily-acoustic version of the mega-hit. To these eyes, Martin always looks like the sort of person who has trouble controlling his saliva, and has to keep sucking it in before it spills out of the corners of his big shit-eating grin. Nobody wants to hear a mostly acoustic version of Can’t Get You Out Of My Head just so he can strum along to it; we want to hear it in all its full-on banger glory, without the interjection of a man who thinks it’s perfectly acceptable to name his children after fruit.

I say “spoiled”, but that’s not quite true. Nick Cave was there too, to accompany Ms Minogue on Where the Wild Roses Grow. I’d seen a lot of summaries of Kylie’s career in advance of her appearance on the Pyramid Stage, all of them, it seemed, bemoaning this particular period of her career as being the least succesful and therefore dullest. I beg to differ: it was around this time that Kylie suddenly got interesting in my book.

And when I say “spoiled” I don’t mean that Nick Cave spoiled it, because of course he didn’t. But if you can conjure up Nick Cave and Chris Martin, then surely La Minogue could have also cajoled Jason Donovan into joining her to duet on Especially For You? I mean, it’s not like he isn’t in the country. It would have made the inevitable airing of the song almost bearable.

Truth be told, I got a little emotional during Kylie’s set, especially when she did her speech about why wasn’t able to headline the Sunday night as planned back in 2005. See, I was there that year, and while Basement Jaxx proved to be a thoroughly enjoyable replacement, I’d have much rather have seen Kylie. Plus, the merest mention of someone beating cancer these days sets me right off, for reasons regular readers will be fully aware of.

Anyway, here’s Kylie and Nick performing that song:

Kylie Minogue & Nick Cave – Where The Wild Roses Grow

Phase Two: The Cure, headlining the Pyramid Stage on Sunday night.

I thought they were incredible, even though much of the first hour of their set was comprised of songs from their Disintegration album which I know I’m supposed to love, admire and respect as their masterpiece, but to be honest I’ve always found it to be just a bit too gloomy for my taste. Controversial, I know.

But that last half hour or so, when they just started belting out the hits, was magnificent; their Greatest Hits album Standing on a Beach, was a massive part of my indie-music education when I was a teenager, and I found myself, not for the first time that weekend, rueing the fact that I wasn’t there to witness it in person.

Now, I’ve not managed to find a decent clip of a song from the set I like enough to post yet, so you’ll just have to make do with the non-live version of this, which was a real highlight of their set for me:

The Cure – The Caterpillar

But there can be no doubt what the absolute highlight of the weekend was. Until last weekend, I had no idea who Dave was (other than a TV channel renowned for showing episodes of QI and Top Gear on repeat ad infinitum, or the name Trigger incorrectly calls Rodney throughout Only Fools and Horses), and only slightly more of an idea who Thiago Silva is.

I definitely had no idea who Alex Mann was. But I do now (plenty of effing and jeffing in this, by the way):

Phase Three: having spent the whole of the week listening to nothing but Kylie and The Cure on my daily commute, I went to the cinema on Thursday evening…and here’s some words I never thought I’d type…to voluntarily watch a Richard Curtis rom-com.

Let me get my disclaimer in really quickly: Yesterday is also directed by Danny Boyle, who I love and would watch anything he’s been involved in. He’s responsible for some of my favourite films ever (Trainspotting, Shallow Grave, 28 Days Later to name just three) along with the opening ceremony of the 2012 London Olympics (remember 2012, when we were proud to be British, rather than embarrased as we are now by Brexit MEP morons turning their backs on Beethoven?)

Don’t get me started.

But I’ll take any excuse to post that glorious opening ceremony, thank you very much:

And so I weighed it up: did my love of Boyle outweigh my distaste of Curtis? Yes it did.

You’ll be aware by now of the premise of Yesterday, but just in case you’ve been living under a rock for the past few weeks as Boyle, Curtis and leading man Himesh Patel have done the promotional circuit, here’s the trailer:

Here’s the plot: Jack Malik (Patel) is a struggling musician, stranded in Suffolk, who when cycling home one night is hit by a bus at exactly the same moment as the whole world experiences a power cut. When he wakes in a hospital bed, he slowly realises that, for some unexplained reason, The Beatles and their entire back catalogue have been expunged from everyone else in the world’s memory. Only he can remember the songs, which puts him in a bit of a dilemma: does he start performing the songs and claiming them as his own – indeed, can he even remember all of the words? – or does he…erm…let it be. He chooses the former, or course (it’s be a really dull film if he didn’t) and is promptly propelled to super stardom. But who are the two people who seem to know his secret? (Well, it’s the criminally under-used Sarah Lancashire and Justin Edwards, as it goes.)

I have to admit I rather enjoyed Yesterday, despite it’s many flaws. The cast is really good, and it’s practically a Who’s Who of current British comedy acting talent, as you would probably expect from a Curtis movie.

And once you get past the gag that is people not knowing any Beatles’ songs and consequentially mis-naming them, there are a few funny jokes, one at the expense of Oasis, another at the expense of Coldplay, another still at the expense of Ed Sheeran. (I’m doing it a disservice here: I laughed more than three times.)

Ah, yes. Ed Sheeran. I’m not a fan, suffice it to say. But his involvement here does make perfect sense plot-wise. It’s just…well, he’s in it quite a lot, as himself. And James Corden also makes a cameo appearance, also as himself, and again this does make sense: he’s a successful British actor with a chat-show in the US, so he will be recognised on both sides of the pond. It’s just I’d rather not spend my time and money looking at or hearing either of them, thank you very much.

That said, there’s a couple of clunkers: dotted throughout the film, Jack mentions something which also got wiped from the collective conscious during the power outage, and the inference is that they are in some way therefore linked to collective amnesia about The Beatles. To extrapolate: if The Beatles don’t exist, then nor can these things. But the things in question are cigarettes (and, other than a mention of having ‘a smoke’ in A Day In The Life, I can’t think of any other reason for this) and Coca Cola (perhaps the biggest clunker, this seems to have been excluded simply so that a Coke/Cocaine joke can be ham-fistedly crowbarred in.) I mean, The Beatles didn’t write Lola, wherein perhaps the most famous Coca/Cherry Cola reference resides.

And if the idea is that as well as The Beatles disappearing, so anything linked to or based on them must also not exist, then there’s a reference to Cilla Black which makes no sense, given that she was discovered by The Beatles at Liverpool’s Cavern Club.

What the film does have – apart from a surprise, uncredited appearance by Boyle-stalwart Robert Carlyle – is the songs, and it’s really quite lovely that these were recorded with Patel performing them, and not in a totally reworked kind of way as (I understand, I haven’t seen it) happens in the recent Elton John biopic Rocketman.

No, these versions are remarkably faithful to the originals, and includes one absolute belter, for the live version of Help! is rattlingly good:

Jack Malik – Help! (Live At Pier Hotel)

Over all, I rather enjoyed it, despite myself. There are no surprises here: it’s a Richard Curtis rom-com, we all know how it ends before it even begins, but it’s enjoyable enough. Perhaps wait until it starts cropping up on ITV2 rather than forking out to go see it in the cinema, though.

Ok, to round things off and tie up all the loose ends, here’s Paul McCartney’s headlining set from Glastobury 2004. I had the pleasure of being at this, although I’ll admit I only watched him because…well, how often do you get to watch an actual Beatle play live? Turned out to be one of the finest gigs I ever saw, which really shouldn’t come as any great surprise:

Paul McCartney – Live at Glastonbury 2004

There’s a bit of an oddity about that, in that the opening song (Jet) appears twice at the start, which I’m sure many of you will assume is just an excuse to post this:

I’d skip to around the 5 minute mark if I were you.

The second occasion Jet appears over-writes the actual song in the set, which just so happens to be one of my favourite Beatles songs ever, from my favourite Beatles album ever. You can keep your Sgt. Pepper, give me Revolver any day of the week.

The Beatles – Got To Get You Into My Life

That should keep you busy for a while.

More soon, and all that (you need is love).

Sunday Morning Coming Down

Time for something by The Gentle Giant of Country, the late, great Don Williams.

I’ve had this song knocking around my head all week, and I’m really not sure why.

This is actually a cover of a wonderful old R&B tune by Brook Benton. Don’s version is very different, and no less wonderful for it:

Don Williams – The Ties That Bind

More soon.

Be Llyrious

One of the first posts I wrote in memory of my recently deceased best buddy Llŷr was one recalling the time in 2015 when we went to Glastonbury together, and sat getting drenched watching Mary J Blige on the Pyramid Stage.

Truth be told, I have at least a hundred memories of Glastonbury and Llŷr. I simply cannot think of the greatest festival in the world without thinking of him, the two are utterly inseperable.

So this weekend has been tough for me, and doubtless for everyone else who knew the boy wonder.

That’s one of the reasons I’m not there this year. See, every year that I went to Glastonbury, it was with Llŷr – and often his sister Hel – at my side, and I wasn’t sure I would be ready to attend again without him, so soon after he passed. Not that I think that will get any easier as the years pass; when I next lug my festival paraphanalia through the gates, collect my wrist-band and Grauniad-sponsored weekend guide, I know I’ll be looking round for him.

The other reason, of course, is that I didn’t get a ticket.

At the reception after his memorial service (note: not a wake), Hel and I were waiting to be served at a fairly packed bar. In front of us was a bunch of Llŷr’s work colleagues, Cardiff girls doing what Cardiff girls do really well: getting some shots in. Suddenly – mostly because they recognised Hel as being Llŷr’s sister, but partly, I think, because we happened to be in their vicinity – a shot of I know-not-what was thrust into each of our hands. We of course dutifully necked them, it would have been rude not to do so.

One of the girls in the group, Hannah, asked what our names were, and after I’d told her mine she stared, open-mouthed.

“Oh my God,” she said, “You’re Jez! He fucking loved you! He was always talking about you!”

Not for the first nor for the last time that day, I forced a smile and held back a tear.

“You’re a lot older than I thought you were,” she continued. “He never told me you were old.”

Holding back the tears suddenly became a lot easier, as my shoulders shuddered in laughter.

Anyway, Hannah had been to Glastonbury with Llŷr on at least one of the occasions when I hadn’t managed to get a ticket; neither of us were going this year, so we made a pledge that we’d do our darndest to go in 2020, and if we managed to get tickets, we would make it Llŷr’s Farewell Tour.

Where am I going with this? Oh yes….

In 2003, Llŷr and I and a whole bunch of friends – there was around ten of us, I think – went to our first Glastonbury. The headliners on the Pyramid Stage that year were R.E.M. on the Friday night, Radiohead on the Saturday, and Moby on the Sunday.

None of us watched Moby (Doves were playing on The Other Stage, so of course that’s where most of us were), the group was split between R.E.M. on the Pyramid or Primal Scream on The Other Stage (you can probably guess where my affiliations lay), but – and if memory serves me correctly, it was the only time this happened over the whole weekend – we all saw Radiohead together.

A couple of weeks later, back at home in at the flat of filth in Cardiff, Llŷr burst into the living room, triumphantly brandishing a CD he had just burnt off.

And on it, scrawled in marker pen, were the words: Radiohead Glasto 03.

“Here you go, dude,” he said as he thrust it into my hands.

And here you go, dudes:

Radiohead – Glasto 03

More soon.

How (Not?) To Do A Cover Version

I’m a little torn about whether this is a good or a bad cover version.

The problem is that both versions are by the same person.

In 1986, Billy Bragg released this as the second single from his “difficult” (but brilliant) third album, Talking with the Taxman about Poetry:

Billy Bragg – Greetings to the New Brunette

But then later – and I must confess, I’ve been trying to establish where this version first appeared, with no success (it probably tells me on the album on which it appears that I own a copy of, but as all my CDs are currently boxed away I can’t be arsed with digging it out) – he re-recorded it with a full band, and whilst he was at it, he re-titled it too:

Billy Bragg – Shirley

See, it’s not a terrible version, and in many ways I think it benefits from the full band treatment.

But here’s two reasons why the original is better:

  1. It has Johnny Marr playing guitar on it, and
  2. It has Kirsty MacColl doing backing vocals on it.

I rest my case.

More soon.

Apropos of Nothing

On his BBC 6Music breakfast show, Shaun Keaveny used to have a spot called Earworms. He may well still do it since he moved to an afternoon slot, I have no idea since I’m at work then and don’t have chance to listen to it.

The basic idea was this: listeners would get in touch to suggest a record which had inexpicably become lodged into their brains.

It always struck me as being a bit of a falsehood, and that people would use it as an excuse to request a song they liked, wanted to hear, and to claim responsibility for its broadcast.

Maybe I’m just bitter, as he never played any of my suggestions.

I mention this because for the last couple of days, I’ve had this ace bit of power-pop banging around in my hippocampus. I know not why. Maybe I’m psychically connecting with somebody.

Jellyfish – The King is Half-Undressed

More soon.

It Really Fell Apart

I must say that I was slightly torn about posting a Moby tune earlier today; had it not been for Mark Lanegan’s involvement then I probably wouldn’t have.

Why’s that, I don’t hear you wonder?

Well…Moby recently released a memoir called “When It Fell Apart.” I haven’t read it. But I’ve seen enough from it to have formed an opinion.

No, not an opinion.

I’ll explain. In said tome, Moby claims to have been romantically involved with (13 years his junior) movie star Natalie Portman.

Now to me, and I know she has been in many fine films since, Ms Portman will forever be Mathilda, the teenage protegee of hitman Leon in the 1994 film of the same name – and therefore not somebody that I particularly want to think about as being romantically involved with anybody.

And, to a degree, she agrees, for after Moby had released his memoir she went on record as saying: “I was surprised to hear that he characterized the very short time that I knew him as dating because my recollection is a much older man being creepy with me.”

On balance, I think I prefer (if prefer is the right word) her account.

But that potential union of Moby and Portman – and, trust me, I do not mean to make light of a predatory musician abusing his status, because that’s how it looks to me – reminded me of this band.

I could never decide whether this was the greatest band name or the worst:

Natalie Portman’s Shaved Head – Me + Yr Daughter

I think perhaps the answer to that is that shortly after the release of that album, the band changed their name to Brite Futures, which is definitely rubbish.

More soon.

Saturday Night Coming Up

Hands up who’s enjoying the Conservative Party electoral contest?

Ah, yes, I appreciate asking such a question is much the same as asking this:

See, putting aside the inevitable conclusion that Boris Johnson is going to be our next Prime Minister – although events over the past couple of days may (I think it unlikely, given the right wing reaction to the Mark Field incident) change things a little – it’s been the X-Factor for people who are interested in politics.

It’s the audition round! And welcome to the stage Esther McVey! She has an interesting back story in that nicest woman on UK TV (if you ignore the stuff about her tax arrangements) Lorraine Kelly hates her.

Desperate to get throught to the judges houses, all of the other candidates appeal to the common, oh-so common, working classes by divulging stories about their previous drug useage, the message being that they’re just ordinary people, sure they’ve done stuff they regret, but they’ve faced up to and beaten their problems.

Dominic Raab: admitted to taking cannabis as a student. To be fair, he probably didn’t realise it had maybe been imported through Dover, since as Minister for Brexit he “did not quite understand” the UK’s reliance on Dover as a trade route.

Rory Stewart: confessed that at a wedding in Afghanistan he had smoked opium (that’s heroin, to the likes of you and me). Which explains why he thought he was holding a phone in those videos he kept posting;

Matt Hancock: didn’t admit it, but sources close to him revealed he had tried cannabis “a few times as a student”;

Popular inadvertant rhyming slang Jeremy Hunt: “thinks” he had a cannabis lassi when he went back-packing through India. (N.B. “Thinks??” And what the effing eff is a lassi?)

Andrea Leadsom: advised that she had smoked cannabis at university. I was a bit disappointed by this, as I was looking forward to hearing about her being in a K-Hole on a family (she’s got children, you know!) day out at Cadbury World. Alas it was not to be.

Michael Gove: admitted to taking cocaine on “numerous occasions” when he was a journalist. If ever there was an anti-drugs advert waiting to be made, it’s that if you take drugs you too could end up just as awful as Gove with an awful wife who writes vile bile in the awful Daily Mail.

And then there’s Boris.

Now, I know you’ll find this hard to believe, but Boris hasn’t been entirely consistent in his answers on this front. I know, that’s not like him, right?

In a 2005 edition of Have I Got News For You he said: “I think I was once given cocaine, but I sneezed and so it did not go up my nose. In fact, I may have been doing icing sugar.”

Boris seems to have got himself all mixed up with Woody Allen in Annie Hall, which given both of their questionable sexual morals, perhaps shouldn’t be such a surprise:

But then in 2007, inexplicably and totally out of character for him to contradict himself, Johnson admitted to taking cocaine and cannabis at university but that they “achieved no pharmacological, psychotropic or any other effect on me whatsoever”.

Oh Boris, Boris, Boris. There’s only two explanations for that; either you’re too stupid to work out how to smoke or snort, or you spout so much bullshit it’s impossible to tell druggy Johnson from the straight one. I’m not sure which is worse.

But I digress, because I sense some of you may be wondering why I’m banging on about the Conservative Party leadership process in a series where I traditionally tell a clubbing related story.

And the answer is this: I’ve always felt a little conflicted about writing these posts, partly because I do not wish to be seen to be encouraging or endorsing recreational drug use – which is a dangerous and often dumb thing to do – but mostly because I was concerned about any legal ramifications which might arise from my stories.

But now I think, what the hell: if leading Tory MPs, including the next Prime Minister, can admit to taking illegal substances in the past with no consequences, then all I have to do is screw over the NHS and make sure a totally innocent UK citizen remains in a prison in Iran and I’ll be fine.

I’ll work on that.

In the meantime, a tune which will forever remind me of my clubbing mate Dum-Dum. Whilst I was still popping pills like Smarties, he decided he didn’t need them anymore, which is entirely admirable.

But.

On occasion, about an hour after I’d dropped, as we danced next to each other, Dum-Dum would look enviously at me and ask if I was coming up yet. Invariably the answer was a resounding “yes”.

And then about half an hour later, he would crumble and ask if I had any spares.

Time for a tune which at first listen seems to be about how great recreational drugs are, but closer listening reveals it to be the complete opposite:

Green Velvet – La La Land

Can I be Prime Minister now please?

More soon.

Completely and Utterly

Other than a couple of people being rather kind about my shirt, this has been a pretty great week.

Before I go any further, I should stress that I am not sponsored by the app I’m about to big up. Although, I’d be willing to listen to offers, obviously.

I have the Songkick app on my phone. For those of you unfamiliar with it – and I would imagine most of you use it, so I’m probably just talking to myself now – it’s an app which scans your phone for all of your music, and then whenever an artiste that you have songs by announces a gig in your area, it tells you. You can then buy tickets through the app, or it will guide you to reputable websites that are selling them.

On Thursday lunchtime, I got an alert from Songkick which genuinely made me rub my eyes in disbelief. This one:

Whu-what???

As far as I knew, until I got that alert, The Chesterfields had split way back in 1989.

Ok, I imagine many of you are shrugging your shoulders and saying “Who?” right now.

But I knew of at least one person who’d be interested: my old mate Richie.

Richie has popped up quite a lot on these pages recently, indeed it was he who first introduced me to this band back in 1988.

I sent him a DM on Twitter, asking what he was doing on September 20th. When he said he was doing nothing, I broke the news to him and told him I would sort tickets come payday. But Richie, wisely, wouldn’t wait and a few minutes later he sent me a message telling me he’d bought us tickets, and that this was my 50th birthday present.

What a guy.

Moments later still, giddy with excitement, he announced the news to some indifference to the world of Twitter:

He never swears. He must be excited.

And here’s why: back in his bedroom when we were at sixth form together Richie introduced me to the world of jingly jangly indie pop. I’ve mentioned this before: in one afternoon he made me fall in love with The Smiths, The Wedding Present, Billy Bragg, and The Chesterfields.

Of those, it was The Chesterfields who we felt were “ours”. Nobody else seemed to know them, despite me including them on pretty much every mixtape I lovingly compiled for our sixth form common room thereafter – partly because I bloody loved them, but also because their songs were generally super-short and therefore just perfect for squeezing on to the end of one side of a C90.

Their seminal debut album is called Kettle and, if you love jingly-jangly late-80s guitar pop I’d imagine you’re already familiar with it, but if not, then here’s some of my favourite songs from it (I’ve omitted their most well-known (the term is relative) track Ask Johnny Dee as it’s featured a couple of times here before):

The Chesterfields – Nose Out of Joint

The Chesterfields – Two Girls and a Treehouse

The Chesterfields – Shame About the Rain

The Chesterfields – Everything a Boy Could Ever Need

The Chesterfields – Kiss Me Stupid

The Chesterfields – Thumb

The Chesterfields – The Boy Who Sold His Suitcase

The Chesterfields – Completely and Utterly

I’ll be honest, I could easily have posted the whole album – there’s even an Orange Juice cover on there, a gentle nod to their influences – but where’s the fun in laying everything out on a plate for you? I’m such a tease.

A few years later, I was browsing the racks of a record shop in Haverfordwest, west Wales when I stumbled upon a copy of their second album, Crocodile Tears. I say ‘second album’, technically it’s their third, for there was a compilation of singles and B-sides – Westward Ho! – released in between the two, but compilations don’t count as proper albums in my book – they’re a taster, an appetite whetter, an introduction point.

Of course, I snaffled it up; the sound is more polished but there’s still plenty of pop gems to be found there.

The opening track (the first one posted in this next batch) must have really struck a chord with me, bemoaning as it does the trend of the time of using classic records in jeans adverts. It contains the wonderful rhyming couplet “Instead of peace and revolution, we’ve got AIDS and Whitney Houston”. Anyone who has ever read one of my S.S.O.S. (Stop Spoiling Our Songs) posts will realise I have not one ounce of originality in me.

The Chesterfields – Lunchtime for the Wild Youth

The Chesterfields – Alison Wait

The Chesterfields – When It All Comes Down

The Chesterfields – Let It Go

The Chesterfields – Twintown

The Chesterfields – Goodbye Goodbye

Such was there development and their knack for writing catchy, witty, pithy pop tunes, they should have gone on to be massive, or have at least one bloody hit, but alas no. The time for clever jangly guitar pop had passed. One more album followed, and then that was it.

Earlier this morning, I returned to the Songkick app to update my status with regards to this gig. You have the option to mark the gig in question to show you are either Interested or Going.

And only then did I notice who the support acts are: Rodney Allen (who was briefly a member of The Chesterfields before jumping ship to join the Blue Aeroplanes) and…it was at this point I had to catch my breath…The Waltones.

Again, a shrug of indifference from most of you, I imagine, but The Waltones have popped up a few times on these pages, and I usually mention that they are responsible for a song which is one of my favourite pop songs ever, but which I’ve never posted (I don’t think).

Until now.

The Waltones – She Looks Right Through Me

Like Richie, I am giddy with excitement.

I’ll try not to turn into one of those annoying people who countdown to an event by announcing how many sleeps it is til it happens, but I can’t promise anything.

More soon.

Team Jolly & Jocular

Looking back at the old posts I linked to in that last post, I was reminded of a couple of things.

Firstly, that I said I was going to let my DJ tutor “Jolly” Jim know I’d written about him, which I did, via Facebook. Until I checked back, I had completely forgotten that Jim was kind enough to a) share the link with his friends, family and nodding acquaintances on Facebook, and b) leave a comment for me confirming all that I had said was true.

Secondly, I mentioned in said post that there were a couple of other records which, whenever I hear them, I am reminded of my Jolly comrade.

But before I get into that, I also mentioned that I ended up in a band with Jim, and in the spirit of full disclosure, I should also mention that Daints – who featured in that last post – was also in the band. In fact, I would have to concede it was he who brought the band together.

More of this soon, but for now, the two other songs which remind me of Jim (who turned 51 this week – I think it’s important that I note those rare beasts who are actually older than me).

Firstly, more skanking wonderfulness:

Fishbone – Ma and Pa

And secondly, this, which not only reminds me of Jim (it turns out I mentioned all of this before, here) but also of the much missed blog which went by the same moniker; Robster, I hope you’re well mate.

Cardiacs – Is This The Life

Ask me to name my ten favourite records ever, and that’s right up there in contention.

Happy belated birthday, Jim. And cheers.

More soon.

50 Ways to Prove I’m Rubbish #12

Mention of my DJ’ing days in my last post reminded me of today’s tune.

Long-term readers may recall that back in 2016 I wrote about how I came to start DJ’ing at college, you can read it here (links re-upped, as always).

The event of baggy and Madchester quite literally saved my DJ’ing career and the Indie night I played every other Tuesday night.

For despite mine and my fellow DJ Danny’s grandiose plans to rejuvenate the Indie night – we got it rebranded from the awful Funk Off to the slightly less awful (but only slightly, mind you) Intensity – attendances were dwindling to the point where the night itself was threatened with the axe.

And then Madchester happened, and we were reborn. If you wanted to hear this achingly cool new music, then we were the only DJ’s playing it (in the mid-Glamorgan area).

But, I must confess, we were pretty slow out of the blocks, and owed a huge debt to some of our regulars.

Initially, Danny and I were pretty much oblivious to this new music trend – I blame Danny, he was waaaaaay cooler that I was – and we only played something from the scene when it was dragged into our attention.

Actually, that’s not strictly true: we were playing early tracks by bands like The Charlatans, Inspiral Carpets and The Stone Roses, but to my ears there’s one band who were the real flag-wavers of the scene, and we had not a clue about them.

In a desperate attempt to entice punters in, we made it known that if you brought records in and told us what to play from them we would. If I were to try and spin it, I’d say that we were the first truly interactive DJ’s (but then I remember that DJ’s had been doing this for a long time, as evidenced here, in one of my first ever posts. Links also re-upped, though I don’t anticipate anyone will listen to them. Although, were I to tell you that Bob Stanley (of St Etienne fame) retweeted the link to that post back in 2014 maybe you will be a bit more tempted.

This led to some interesting moments; somebody brought in The Boo Radleys’ Ichabod and I and asked us to play a particular track, which we were happy to do, only to find that the record didn’t tell you which was Side 1 and which was Side 2, so I have no idea whether we played the right tune or not.

But specifically, two young chimps from Nottingham came up to us one night, and introduced themselves as Peaty and Daints – they were both called Andrew so everyone referred to them by their surname to avoid confusion.

And they asked us if we had anything by the Happy Mondays.

Which we didn’t.

So we told them, as we always did, to bring something in by them next time and we’d play it.

And they did.

And so, two weeks later we played a track (Kuff Dam, I think, or maybe Tart Tart) from Squirrel and G-Man Twenty Four Hour Party People Carn’t Smile (White Out). Danny and I looked on bemused as Daints and Peaty performed what we later recognised as Bez impressions on the otherwise deserted dancefloor.

Danny and I caught on fairly soon afterwards, but it’s a massive moment of professional and personal regret that I didn’t spot at the time how immense this record is:

Happy Mondays – Twenty Four Party People

Frankly, you know you’ve made it when Half Man Half Biscuit write a song which references you:

Half Man Half Biscuit – 24 Hour Garage People

I love having Peel pop up on my iPod every now and then, generally introducing HFHB, or more usually, as he does there, utterly messing up.

Recently, I’ve been in touch with Daints, who I haven’t seen since I went to visit him in Nottingham back in 2000. It was lovely to catch up with him, and if all pans out as I hope, there will be something quite unique posted here soon….

By which I mean: more soon.

Strings on Sunday

Back in February 2018, I posted some classical music – Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture, in case you’re interested – in what could probably be construed as a rather desperate attempt to appear more culturally sophisticated than I really am.

Well, here I am with the follow-up.

Accompanied by some really quite stunning footage, here’s Sibelius’ incredible Finlandia:

Sibelius – Finlandia

More soon.

50 Ways To Prove I’m Rubbish #11

I can’t put this one off any longer.

I really was very late to succumb to the charms of The Smiths.

In fact, I only just caught them before their little bubble burst and *pooft* they were gone.

The first record by The Smiths that I bought was 1987’s Sheila Take a Bow, and it was probably the most important record I ever bought in my life.

For it was only then that I nailed my colours to the mast. I thought I loved the Quo – and I did love them, I really did, and still do (to a point) – but The Smiths were the first band who I loved that I felt actually meant something.

I mentioned in a post earlier this week, that it was my (now) 50 year old buddy Richard, who I met at sixth form, who opened my eyes to The Smiths, when he played me There is a Light That Never Goes Out in his bedroom one day. The next day, I went out and bought The World Won’t Listen, and my world changed.

It was one of those moments when you look back at a band’s previous singles and wonder how on earth you had managed to so grossly misjudge them.

Of course, How Soon Is Now? is a masterpiece! How did I not notice how wonderful William, It Was Really Nothing was at the time? How had I heard Heaven Knows I’m Miserable Now and not seen past the gladioli and faux misery to embrace the gloriously juxtapositioned upbeat guitar work and the fact that here was a band singing to me and about me?

The epiphany could have come slightly earlier, I suppose, when my cousin played me Panic, video recorded off Top of the Pops. I chose to ignore her.

Ho hum.

In the late 1980s, I did something I’d never done before and never did again: I bought a record advertised in the ads at the back of the NME. Wrote a cheque and posted it off to some anonymous PO Box.

Sure, it was a US import version rather than the UK original on the Rough Trade label, but by then it was a record I simply had to own.

This one:

The Smiths – This Charming Man

And the reason I paid (quite a lot) for that US import was because back then, in the late 1980s, before the advent of the internet where I could have just downloaded them, before all the reissuing, repackaging, repackaging (not a typo, a reference; you’ll get it, I think) had happened, this was the only way to own these two magnificent songs, which were not on any album at the time:

The Smiths – Jeane

The Smiths – Wonderful Woman

NB: My mother’s name is Jean. Put these two song titles together, knock off an ‘e’ (not a clubbing reference on this occasion) and although at the time I was a rebellious, obnoxious twat of a teenager, that’s her described.

Happy Father’s Day, Mum. (You won’t like any of these songs.)

More soon.

Sunday Morning Coming Down

Not a Country song this morning, so I look forward to the complaining comments.

Not that you have anything to complain about when I’m giving you instead one of the finest, most important folk records ever recorded instead.

My Dad owned this on 7″ when I was a kid. It was, I think, the first song I ever heard that made me actually think.

Pete Seeger – Little Boxes [Live]

Happy Father’s Day.

More soon.

Heresy

Before I start this, I must declare an interest: many years ago, back when I was Entertainments Officer at college, we booked and I met Jo Brand. This would have been at the end of the 1980s/start of the 1990s, long before she was the national treasure she is now. She was utterly lovely, and went out into a room full of rugby top wearing neanderthals and totally owned it.

Anyway, Jo has been in the spotlight this week. In case you missed it, I’ll summarise the important points.

Earlier this week, the BBC aired a pre-recorded comedy programme on Radio 4 called Heresy. Brand was a guest on it, and during the course of the show, Brand said this:

“Certain unpleasant characters are being thrown to the fore and they’re very, very easy to hate and I’m kind of thinking, why bother with a milkshake when you could get some battery acid?

Cue social media melt down.

Here’s Piers Morgan, who of course had to throw his twat hat into the ring:

Probably because she’s not a BBC employee, Piers. It’s not complicated.

And of course Nigel Farage had to have his say too:

Yes. Yes I can, Nigel. Except I don’t have to imagine it, for you said this:

Just in case you can’t listen to that, that’s Nigel Farage saying that he would “don khakis” and “pick up a rifle” to defend Brexit.

There’s a difference between the two courses voiced. Brand: permanently scarred; Farage: shot dead. You can decide which is the more final of the two.

What I find most astounding is that the same people who are now apoleptic with rage at Brand’s comments are the same people who only weeks ago were defending UKIP candidate Carl Benjamin’s rape tweets at Labour MP Jess Phillips as “just a joke”.

You see, context is everything, and Brand’s comments have been taken right out of it.

Let’s compare and contrast, shall we?

Farage’s comments (above) were at a political gathering of like-minded souls. Let’s put aside for a moment Farage’s previous comments about the Brexit vote having been won “without a shot having been fired”. Similarly, both his comments were made after one of his supporters quite literally shot a Labour MP in the face.

But it is, of course, hard to incite people to do what has already happened.

There was – and trust me, I’ve looked – no meaningful criticism from the right after Farage’s comments.

Now let’s look at Brand’s comments. First up, she’s a comedian, she’s not a politician. Ergo: things she says are not (always) meant to be taken seriously.

Secondly, and this was not reported as far as I have managed to find, after she had said “… why bother with a milkshake when you could get some battery acid?” she went on to say “Obviously I’m not suggesting anyone actually does this.”

Thirdly, again, context is everything. Brand’s comments were made in the context of a comedy show. Farage’s were made in the context of a political meeting. You understand the difference, right?

And fourthly, and I think most importantly, Brand was appearing on a show called Heresy. In case you’ve never heard it – and you should, Victoria Coren-Mitchell is the host, and if you ever need a stamp of quailty, Property of VC-M branded on the rump is as good as it gets – the premise of the show is that panellists “commit heresy” by defending an unpleasant or unpopular point of view.

And that’s what Brand was doing. Appearing on a panel show and playing along in the spirit intended.

So what Farage and Morgan et al are saying – along with all the other people who have never heard the programme or the quote in question – is that Brand should be punished (and make no mistake, the police were involved before realising how stupid this is) for answering a question on a comedy panel show in the manner she was contractually required to.

Sigh.

Jog on.

James – Say Something

More soon.

Be Llyrious

Sometimes it’s the simplest, stupidest things which spark a memory.

And whenever I hear this song, in my opinion the greatest record to air-drum to, I’m transported back to the flat Llŷr and I used to share.

And there he is, proudly sitting on the sofa, massive grin on his face, air-drumming along to this, as I sat opposite on my recovered chair with a washing up bowl for a seat, desperately trying, flailing and failing, to do it with as much style and accuracy as he did (I never got the hang of imaginary tom-toms).

Queens of the Stone Age – No One Knows

There’s two reasons I think that’s not only a great record, but also a great record to air-drum along to: Dave Grohl (who actually plays drums on it) and Llŷr (who didn’t but would have made a pretty darned good fist of it, I reckon).

More soon.