New Mood on Monday

It’s next week again.

And so to get your week off to a cheery start, here’s something which relentlessly upbeat but at the same time impossible not to like:

Outkast – Hey Ya!

I had thought that the type of Polaroid camera famously referenced in the song was now, in the age of digital photography, where everyone has a camera on there phone, obsolete. But I was surprised to learn when researching this (Yes! Research! For this!) that they are still widely available on the market, and not just as second-hand, nostalgic collector’s items on ebay.

For those of you unfamiliar with them, this is what they look like:

Nice and pocket-sized, right?

Anyone who was around in the late-70s/early 80s will remember them. The idea was that, rather than have to dash off to Snappy Snaps to get your photos developed, this camera would print them off as and when you took them.

When it emerged from the camera, the photo would be blank, but after a few moments the photo appeared. Users often would shake the photos as they developed, in an effort to speed the process up.

However, in the wake of Hey Ya! Polaroid released an official statement:

“[The image] never touches air, so shaking or waving has no effect. In fact, shaking or waving can actually damage the image. Rapid movement during development can cause portions of the film to separate prematurely, or can cause ‘blobs’ in the picture.”

Killjoys.

More soon.

Sunday Morning Coming Down

Something new(ish) this morning, from Victoria Bailey.

This is what her own website says about her debut album, Jesus, Red Wine & Patsy Cline: “…a whiskey-smooth concoction of crisp guitars, silky fiddle, and radiant pedal steel that expertly glides beneath Bailey’s magnetic, California sun-kissed soprano. Bailey’s full-length label debut – a nine-song collection featuring eight originals and one cover [Johnny Cash’s Tennessee] – paints stunning vignettes spanning from adrenaline-rushing love at first sight and down-and-out heartache, to treasuring country music’s indelible roots, and the wavering journey of resilience when chasing one’s dreams.”

With an album title which namechecks Cline, and which contains a (pretty good) Cash cover, you can guess her influences and where she’s aiming for. To my mind, she sounds a lot like Arkansas Traveller-era Michelle Shocked and that’s a good thing (at least I think so, and when I last posted something from said Shocked album it seemed to get a good reaction).

Have a listen for yourself:

One to keep an eye on, I think.

More soon.

Late Night Stargazing

Tonight, a song by a band I may never have heard of, were it not for writing this blog.

Back in the 37th edition of The Chain, The Swede from Unthought of, though, somehow nominated a record by Bell X1, who I had never heard of at the time. The song he chose, Snakes and Snakes, was so far up my alley, so to speak, that I investigated further, obtaining a copy of their 2003 album Music in Mouth.

I was not disappointed, and neither will you be when you listen to this absolute beauty:

More soon.

How To Do A Cover Version

The rules I have in my head as to what does and what does not constitute a good cover version exist only in my head, are completely arbitrary, and subject to change.

It’s my game, I’ll do what I like with it.

For example, I’m fairly sure that I’ve previously argued on these pages that there’s no point in just making a cover which sounds exactly like the original. If you want everyone to know you really like a particular song or artiste, just make sure you bring it up in an interview sometime, don’t bother us with a dutifully faithful replication.

And yet…

Glastonbury 2004, I think. Our sizeable gang has landed in what became our usual rendez-vous position at the Pyramid Stage: right at the back, top of the slope, near the First Aid tent. We hadn’t planned on this being our staging post, but this is where, attending for the very first time the year before, we had ended up at the start of the first day, so it just became “our spot”. Plus, one of our group, Mark, was really tall, so this made him even easier to pick out in a crowd.

(I’m reminded of comedian, actor and human beanpole Steven Merchant relating a story about how once, as a much younger man, he had found himself standing with some friends in a similar crowd. As he stood, he noticed a couple of very pretty girls looking in his direction. Eventually, they approached him.

“Excuse me,” they said.

“Hello,” he thought. “I could be ‘in’ here.”

“Hi,” he said, as casually as he could muster.

“Are you going to be here for a while?” they asked.

Oh, yes, you bet I am,” he thought.

“Yeh, I think so,” he replied, coolly. “Why do you ask?”

“Oh,” the girls replied, “me and my friends have just decided that if we got separated, we’d meet up near you, but if you’re going to move, we need to think of something else.”)

But I digress. On this Saturday afternoon, most of our group had gone a-wandering, and just Hel and I remained at base camp. We sat, people watching in between acts, the sound system booming out an advertisement for a clean water charity the festival was supporting that year, followed by You Only Get What You Give by The New Radicals.

These two seemed to be on a continuous loop, so when a different song came on, it caught both of our attentions. The song was a couple of lines in, when I let out a satisfied sigh.

“Ahh, I love this record,” I said.

“Me too”, Hel replied. A moment passed before a confused look played across her face. “But I can’t remember who sings it.”

Another couple more lines passed. “Me neither,” I conceded.

And then it came to me.

“Tracey Ullman!” I squealed.

“Yes!” Hel agreed, “Tracey Ullman!! Of course!!”

We rested back on our laurels.

A few more moments passed before I sat bolt upright again.

“Is it heck Tracey Ullman!” I exclaimed. “It’s Kirsty MacColl!!”

“Oh, God, yes!” Hel agreed, “Kirsty MacColl!! Of course!!”

“Let’s never speak of this error again,” suggested Hel.

“Agreed,” I said.

With my fingers crossed.

More soon.

Sunday Morning Coming Down

I’m guessing by this point you know all that there is to know about Merle Haggard, and so I can just post one of his many great records with no further explanation required.

I’ve chosen this tune because I reckon with the current lockdown restrictions, this is pretty much how most people are feeling right now. Apart from Hel and Neil, I didn’t physically meet any of my friends in 2020, and I can’t wait for the day that changes.

More soon.

Late Night Stargazing

I’ve been meaning to post this for ages.

Many years ago, back when I was at Uni, I knew a guy called Alex.

He was a skinny lad with a Tim Burgess bowl hair-cut (he’d probably prefer me to refer to it as Pooh Sticks hair-cut), a dazzling array of T-shirts promoting bands you’ve never heard of, and a pair of skinny drainpipe jeans. He was an Indie Kid, and he loved his jingly-jangly guitar pop like nobody else I knew.

I got to know him because he shared a house with my friends Daints and Louise; Daints was the singer and sort-of-guitarist in the band I was in, Louise his partner and writer of the lyrics of at least one of the two original compositions we played in said band.

In my final year, Friday nights became “round at Daints and Louise’s” nights; I would rock up with a four-pack of beer and a packet of cigarettes (having told my girlfriend at the time that I had quit the latter); we would sit, drink, watch TV, listen to some tunes and, crucially as I remember it, play really quite aggressively competitive Tetris on the Gameboy. And yes, that really does date this.

There was much mutual respect between Alex and I, I think, for we both had a love of fairly obscure Indie jingly-janglers, and I remember telling him once how blown away I was with his knowledge of the genre, and he returned the compliment: “No, you’ve got loads of cool stuff that I don’t have.” I was chuffed to bits with that, even if it may have been a false platitude.

I mention this now for three reasons: firstly, to reinstate my credentials, in case those of you new to these pages happen to think, having listened to the Not Christmas mix I posted, that I’m all about the Spice Girls and Bryan Adams. I’m not, but there’s nothing wrong with liking either of those acts, although I would encourage you to maybe broaden your horizons a bit. You don’t want to end up on a TV quiz show, and when asked what categories you’re hoping don’t come up, give the answer “Music”, for that just implies your life is devoid of any of the pleasures music brings. (The exception is of course Only Connect, where 9 times out of 10 the music question is an absolute stinker, although this should be weighed against the fact that you will have met Victoria Coren-Mitchell and I would be forever jealous.)

Secondly I mention this as a platform for tonight’s song.

Chatting to Alex one Friday evening, he happened to mention that he was a fan of American Music Club. I assumed he was talking about some society he had joined, where members gather, listen to and murmur appreciatively about, well, American Music.

Fast forward to the next holiday: I am back home in Peterborough, and queuing up to purchase something or other in Andy’s Records, when I spy they have a little display on the counter of CD singles they think are worth your time/money – a bit like how chewing gum and other grabbable munchies are placed near the till at your local supermarket. Impulse buys, they call them.

Ordinarily, I’m primed to ignore this sort of thing. If they’re having to advertise it, my logic says, then they’ve obviously bought in an optimistically large amount of copies and are having problems shifting them. Ergo: probably not very good.

But on this occasion, the name of one of the bands jumped out at me: American Music Club. A penny dropped, a light bulb came on. Alex was not bragging about some secret society he had joined at all, he was giving me a steer to a little-known band (at the time) he thought I’d like.

And the title of the single was just deliciously intriguing.

This was thirty years ago, so I imagine many of you will know this record by now anyway. For the rest of you: prepare yourself for a right treat. This is neither jingly nor jangly but it is absolutely magnificent:

And thirdly because I see that this was released in 1993, a year after I graduated. I’ve not seen or heard from Alex since then, so I’ve never had chance to thank him for deliberately yet accidentally bringing this record into my life. So, on the off-chance you’re reading this: thank you so, so much Alex!

More soon.

Rant

I had hoped I’d last slightly longer than the second weekend of the year without having a rant, but events this week haven’t exactly worked out that way.

Let’s start with the events in America this week. I don’t think there can be many of us who weren’t shocked at the scenes from Washington DC, when a mob of Trump supporters stormed the US Capitol in an effort to overthrow the legitimate result of the Presidential election in November, as it was being verified.

Shocked, yes, but surprised? Honestly, not really. This has been building up since before the election. You’ll doubtless recall this exchange in one of the Presidential debates, when Trump was asked to condemn white supremacists and militia groups, specifically The Proud Boys. This was his response:

No criticism of them, just “Stand back and stand by.”

Post-election, when he wasn’t playing golf, attempting to get the election result overturned by the Courts (and having each of the 60 attempts thrown out on the grounds that no evidence had been submitted to support his claims), or watching Rudy Giuliani’s paint-job run at a particularly hot press conference (presumably the heat coming from a nearby sex shop), he was sending out further dog-whistles via his now-suspended Twitter account:

Twitter was a fascinating place to be on Wednesday/Thursday, not only watching the whole thing as it happened, not for the righteous outrage and indignation that bubbled and boiled, but for the concerted effort from many to identify those who had participated in the storming of the buildings and to pass that information on to the law enforcement agencies (presumably not the same ones who assisted the mob with access to the building, that is).

At the same time, many right-wingers tried to claim the attack was totally spontaneous and not pre-planned and that Trump had nothing to do with it. Oh yeh? Then how comes they’d printed up their own merchandise?

And that’s not even the cheap, unofficial shite you usually find spread out on the pavements when you leave a gig (ah…gigs…remember them?). No, that is your bona fide, 100% authentic mail-order MAGA merch, right there.

And this one even turned up with what, in the hands of your average honest-as-the- day-is-long electrician is merely a bunch of cable ties, but in this scenario can only have been brought for one purpose: to restrain and tether people:

Spontaneous, my arse.

Luckily, identifying many of them did not prove too arduous a task since, for as one would perhaps expect from such a baying mob, many of them wunt too cleverest.

If I was running a course on how to start a revolution, then Day 1 Lesson 1 of Revolutionary School would go something like this:

1. Keep your identity secret when trying to over-throw the government, at least until you have gained power.

But no. For a start, as devout Trump-followers, and thus by definition the hard-of-thinking, most of them were also Covid-deniers, and so refused to wear face masks.

If that wasn’t dumb enough, many decided to take pictures of themselves in various poses within the Capitol Building, and then post the snaps on their own social media, which were of course, open to the public to view.

And have a look at this one man tribute to the film Deliverance:

This one is so smart that he’s wearing his work lanyard. Needless to say, his now former employers were none too impressed:

It would appear that this knuckle-dragger was part of The Proud Boys, the group that Trump told to “Stand back and stand by.” Here’s a group shot of some of the leading lights taken on the day:

I mean, if I’d paid good money to see a Village People tribute act, and this is what waltzed out on stage, I think I might suggest storming the parapets too. Just saying.

Incidentally, is it just me or doesn’t the name The Proud Boys sound just a little bit….camp? Like a dance troupe of buff but exceedingly gay male strippers, dripping in baby oil? No? Just me then.

And then there’s this chap, who provided perhaps one of the most famous images from the day:

Now I don’t know about you, but I think that Robbie Savage should be free to do whatever he likes with his down-time. In fact, anything that keeps him away from “commentating” or football punditry in general is to be encouraged and is absolutely fine by me.

He may have less than two weeks to go until he has to begrudgingly hand over power to Biden, but there has to be consequences to Trump for his part in all of this. Hopefully he’ll end up wearing a boiler suit the same colour as his skin, but I can see a scenario where he gets off scot-free, and it’s one floated by Television’s Richard Osman on The Late Leg a few weeks ago. And it runs like this: Vice President Mike Pence relieves Trump of his duties for the final stage of his presidency, and in that time issues a pardon to him, in the same way as we have seen Trump issue pardons to all of his imprisoned cohorts over the past few weeks.

Thankfully, Pence – presumably with one eye on the next election – does appear to be distancing himself from Trump over the past couple of days, so maybe I’m being a little pessimistic.

What’s absolutely stark here is the difference between Trump’s handling of the BLM protests – call in the National Guard and the armed forces, shoot them – and his refusal to do the same when his buddies were doing the same when democracy itself was under threat. Hmm. I wonder white that might be….

Anyway, time for a tune, and I’ll start off by making the same joke as I did when I last posted this tune back in 2017: I wish it had the letters “Im” at the start of the song title, and then this would be perfect:

But it doesn’t, so it’s not.

See, the problem with most of the songs I have about uprisings or revolutions is this: they’re generally performed from the perspective of those rising up, with whom we, the listener, have empathy. So, not especially appropriate to post now.

And then I thought of this, a record more angry than any other, which builds and builds into a furious explosion about the antics when in power of Romanian leader Nicolae CeauÈ™escu. I’m not going to draw too many parallels, but….this is magnificent in it’s fury and outraged anger, which should, frankly, be our default position right now:

*****

What all of this does bring into question is the matter of freedom of speech, and the platforms afforded to those who invoke it.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s great that – finally – various social media providers, such as Twitter, Facebook and their ilk have decided to ban Trump, The Proud Boys, QAnon and many others from their platforms in the wake of this week’s events.

However, it happened far too late. This should have been done years ago, in which case we may not have even had Trump as President. But the revenue streams brought to those providers were too great to resist, and so these people have been allowed a place to spew their bile in the name of balance.

Nowhere is this more obvious than with the BBC. The problem the BBC has is that, publicly funded body as it is, it is obliged to appear impartial. So for every view point that they wish to give some airtime to, they have to provide an equivalent amount of airtime to somebody who wishes to present a counter argument.

It’s the reason why, say, during a by-election, they may focus on the main parties, but then have to list all of the other candidates from other parties, standing in the same constituency.

The problem is that where one position is sound, knowledgeable and appropriately given a platform, but where the opposite position is half-baked and usually wrong, both voices have to be allowed to be heard, no matter how ill-informed or – and I hate to use this term, but it has entered the common vernacular – Fake News it may be.

(NB: as a general rule of thumb, when somebody uses the phrase “Fake News” as an argument against something they disagree with, you can immediately discount them from the conversation, because they are clearly an idiot. It’s like when online arguments liken someone’s stance to Hitler.)

This topic reared its ugly head this week when YouTube removed from its platform all of the content from Talk Radio, on the grounds that many of the clips were promoting Covid as a hoax, or anti-lockdown/mask propaganda. The BBC’s flagship current affairs programme, Newsnight, invited voices from either side of the fence on to the show to discuss the topic. This is how it went:

Twitter, as you would expect, was ablaze after that was broadcast. Many of those in my liberal bubble were bemoaning that Young had been given a platform at all, whilst you only have to read the comments on YouTube under that clip to see that many thought Young came out the better in that exchange, even though it was proven in that clip that his own position had changed from one previously expressed.

Here’s what I think: I don’t like or agree with what the likes of Young, Hartley-Brewer, Burchill and (God help us) Hopkins say, but if you refuse them the platform to talk their horse-shit, then this will only serve to feed the bottom-feeders, who simply seem incapable of rational thought and blindly seek out conspiracy theories.

Moreover, it adds fuel to the fire for those who claim they have been “cancelled”.

If “cancelled” isn’t the new word of the year according to the Oxford English Dictionary, then I’ll buy a hat and eat it*. It means ‘to be ignored’, or, more specifically, ‘to be prevented from airing your views’.

So the way forward is surely to allow these dunderheads one shot to present their argument and whatever evidence they have to support it. And then, to meticulously dissect everything they say so that their position is exposed as flawed. You then no longer have to invite them on to your show, or give them column inches, because their views have been discredited. End of story.

“We’ve listened to you once. You said nothing of any substance. We’re not listening to you again. Good bye”.

Take Suzanne Moore. I can’t profess that I followed her story all that closely, but I gather she is a former Guardian journalist, who was sacked quit her job because her views on trans matters did not chime with those of her employers.

The reason she came to my attention was because she was suddenly appeared everywhere, complaining that she had been “cancelled”.

Which she hadn’t been, because if she had, then I’d never have heard of her.

What had actually happened was that one platform listened, published, gave voice to her views, decided they thought she was talking utter codswallop, and decided not to be associated with her anymore.

And that’s what The Mail Online is there for: to hoover up all of the dislodged, jilted rhetoric, and publish it all in one place where we all know that everything that appears on its pages is bullshit, and that anyone who ever reads it or comments on it can be safely ignored.

I had a similar conversation with somebody at work recently. We get on very well, and often enjoy a good laugh and a conversation with each other. But in one conversation towards the end of last year, Trump’s name came up. I can’t remember precisely how, or why, the orange coloured one made an appearance, but he did and I made a disparaging comment about him. My colleague chastised me:

“Oi!”, he said (he literally did, I didn’t think anyone outside of The Beano said “Oi!” anymore). “Don’t go slagging Trump off!”

The schoolboy within me wanted to snigger at the proximity of the words ‘Trump’ and ‘off’, but I resisted. Composing myself, I retorted:

“What, you’re a fan are you?”

“Yes I am,” came the proud, chest-puffing reply.

“You’ll be telling me you think Brexit’s a good idea next”, I quipped, a comment which was met with a stony silence.

And so he was added to the list of people I know that there’s just no point in discussing politics with.

Here’s Stewart Lee, to further illustrate my point:

Stewart Lee – Cab Driver

On the matter of Covid, the Government has finally introduced some rules about people coming into the country. They come into force next week; basically anyone arriving on our shores now has to provide documentation to prove that they had a Covid test within 72 hours of travelling, and that the test was negative.

This is good news, right? Of course it is.

But it’s January 2021.Why wasn’t this done in March 2020? The UK is an island, and therefore is almost uniquely placed (apart from other islands) to control who comes in to our country, and thereby potentially reduce the risk of further Covid-carriers coming into the country.

I haven’t seen it yet, but if it hasn’t been already appeared then it’s only a matter of time before it is posited that EU Regulations prevented us from doing this earlier. And that, dear reader, is horse shit.

We’ve always had control of our borders, we have just chosen not to enforce it because it was too costly.

When the mutant strain of Covid was identified in the UK in December, several EU countries – but, crucially, not all of them – decided that they would not allow flights from the UK to land in their territories. Not all of the EU, some/most of them. A perfect illustration, if you will, that we had control of our borders when we were in the EU, and that anyone who says that we didn’t is flat out lying to you.

In unrelated news, here’s a picture of Nigel Farage having a pint.

Often, finding an appropriate picture is difficult. But go to Google Images, type in the words “Nigel Farage pint” and see how many results you get.

Lots, right?

He’s quite determined that you accept his image as an ordinary man who likes a pint, isn’t he? Odd that, isn’t it?

*****

Anyway, Brexit. I seem to have stumbled upon it, so I may as well finish off with it.

It’s happened now, hasn’t it? And contrary to everything I thought would happen, Boris managed to get a deal with the EU. And, much as I didn’t want to leave, getting a deal with the EU is much better than not getting a deal with the EU, and us crashing out with No Deal and having to trade under WTO terms. So I’m sort of happy – happy that the worst case scenario isn’t going to happen, but still angry that the next “best” thing is.

The problem is that to get a deal with the EU, Boris pretty much had to agree to all of their stipulations, and give up ours. He didn’t negotiate a great deal, as promised, he capitulated rather than be branded the PM who forced us into a No Deal/WTO situation.

“We hold all the cards…”….”We’re not planning for No Deal because we’re going to get a good deal….”…”The deal is oven ready”…blah blah blah. Such was the rhetoric before and after the referendum and now them chickens are coming home to roost.

Chickens is probably not the best analogy here, maybe fish is more appropriate.

For this week, our proud UK fishermen have found that to export their daily catch to the EU is not as easy as promised. Indeed, many of them are finding that by the time they have completed all of the documentation required to allow them to export to the EU, then them fish ain’t as fresh as promised and nobody wants to buy them.

The flip side of this is that I have read many examples of companies within the EU who have seen the amount of red tape and bureaucracy now required to export goods to the UK, weighed that up against the amount of profit they will make, and decided: nah. Actually, they probably gave a Gallic shrug. They can export elsewhere and make more money with less form-filling in.

Still, as long as (Remainer) Liz Truss is opening those pork markets:

But then there’s the cheese problem:

What this fails to acknowledge is that many of those cheesy products she refers to had EU Protected Status. This meant that you could not, for example, make Stilton Cheese – the King of all Cheeses – and call it Stilton Cheese unless you were making it in the home of the Stilton Cheese, Melton Mowbray in Leicestershire (not Cambridgeshire where the village of Stilton is. Long story, which I’ll explain sometime. Maybe.)

Now, we are no longer in the EU, and so those EU Protected Status tags have been removed from our yummy products, meaning that anyone, anywhere can now make mouldy old delicious cheese and call it Stilton. And so now, they no longer need to import it from us.

The flipside is that we can now produce our equivalent of EU products, such as Brie. Hurrah! And then you taste Lymeswold and think…it’s not as good, is it?

Too late! Brie producers in the EU have no intention or need to sell to the UK, because their protected status market is too good, and the paperwork to do so is too time-consuming.

And nobody wants to buy our Brie-replicant, because they have a deal with France which means they can buy as much of the authentic runniness as they like, complete with its valuable EU protected status.

We’re nine days in, and already our supply and demand chains are being throttled by the deal Boris signed off.

It’s not Boris’ fault though. This was always and forever how it was going to be.

And we’re now signed into this for the long-haul: various aspects of the Trade Agreement will be reviewed every five years, at which point they may be removed but, on the balance of probabilities, will be extended. Meaning we’re just as tied in as we were before, only now we have no say whatsoever, no voice at the table, and with more red tape and bureaucracy – the very things Brexit was supposed to bring us escape from.

Well done, 52%. Give yourselves a pat on the back, you fricking legends.

Personally, I’m looking forward to the day when they have to announce that the Covid vaccine can no longer be imported. Which will be down to those pesky EU rules (which we’ve agreed to).

The other good thing, of course, is that for the past nine days, £350 million pounds per day has been pumped back into the NHS, just as was promised in the referendum. Right? No……?

Anyway, what I mean to say is this: everything is just fine. No need to worry.

More soon.

*No, I won’t.

New Mood on Monday

It is Monday, isn’t it?

Phew. Good. I haven’t completely lost the plot then.

And not only is it Monday, it’s the first Monday of the year. And for many of us, the first day back at work if not since before Christmas, then before New Year’s Day.

So the day calls for a truly uplifting tune, guaranteed to put you in a good mood as you stumble from your bed to greet the day:

More soon.

Sunday Morning Coming Down

This morning, a tune I heard for the first time on Thursday, because I had forgotten to turn off Radio 2 after the Pop Master quiz had finished.

It describes a “be who you wanna be/do what you like” ethic I admire, so long as that doesn’t include the Covidiots who still think it’s fine to wander round without masks on, passing whatever they may have onto anyone they may come within 2 metres of:

More soon.