For those that are interested – and once again, I thank you all for your kind messages of support – I thought it about time I gave you a health update.
But first, a little background for the non-regular, non-long-term readers.
Back in 2018, I had a psoriasis flare-up which resulted in me being admitted to hospital, after it was found I had a pulmonary embolism (a blood clot) in my left lung, and pneumonia in my right (amongst other things). Should you wish to, you can read (or remind yourself) of my time in the Royal Free Hospital in London starting here.
If this ever happens again, I was told upon discharge, don’t bother with your GP, just go straight to A&E.
And so, when my psoriasis ‘went nuclear’ again at the end of last year, that’s exactly what I did. Twice.
I’ll (probably) go into this in waaaay too much detail another time, but suffice it say that I wasn’t admitted to hospital, I was given some anti-biotics and sent home, where, unable to look after, I eventually went to stay with my parents.
Now. Other than visiting at Christmas/Easter/birthdays, I’ve not lived with my parents for longer than a couple of days since I left home at the sweet and tender age of 18. Can you imagine having to do it now, at your age? Thought not.
I don’t think I’m speaking out of turn when I say that whilst it was lovely – and needed – to have that family touchstone, at times we all found my stay there rather trying, especially my mother who already cares for my father, and who suddenly found herself saddled with another invalid (no offence, Dad) to clean up after.
I’m here to tell you that she was amazing, and I could not have asked for more, infuriating as I probably was. And yes, I have told her so.
But come January, I had decided that it was about time that I struck out on my own to continue my recovery. And that meant going home and seeing how I coped fending for myself.
I’m happy to report that there is progress – of which I’ll update you some other time – but I don’t think that would have happened – not yet, anyway – without me coming home and, crucially, without the care and assistance my folks gave me when I was staying with them.
This morning’s tune has been in my head as a restart for this series for a while, even though I’ve been home for a few weeks now. I hope it doesn’t come across as disrespectful: it’s meant with love, thanks and gratitude to my parents for the help they gave me, even though it may sound like a relief to be away from them (which it kinda is, but I’m pretty sure they feel the same way):
Today is the fourth anniversary of the passing of my best friend and honorary little brother, Llŷr, and as regular readers will know this series is where I share a memory about him. It’s my way of keeping him alive, I guess.
Whilst I’ve been off work unwell for the past couple of months, I’ve taken full advantage of all the various streaming services I subscribe to, and recently embarked on watching a Channel 4 comedy drama which so reminds me of Llŷr, that it almost became the subject of this post, until I checked back and saw that this time last year I also wrote about some TV shows we both loved, so I figured I’d save it for another time.
So instead, a music- based reminiscence, and I suppose I should start by explaining why there is a picture of an aubergine (or egg-plant, as our American friends inexplicably call it) at the top of this post. Truth be told, whenever I see a picture of the purple fruit, I think of Llŷr, and not for the reason you mucky emoji-obsessed folks are currently imagining. I should clarify immediately, but I’m not going to; all will become clear.
When Llŷr and I first began sharing a flat, we both knew the other was a massive popular culture nerd obsessive, and that the favoured emphasis was most defintely on music. My chunky stereo – turntable, 5 CD, non-DAB radio, twin tape deck – got positioned in the living room, along with my extensive CD collection, since Llŷr had, of course, called ‘shotgun’ on the larger of the two bedrooms, and there simply wasn’t the room for them all in mine. Not if I planned on having a bed in there too.
Llŷr’s vinyl collection lived in the lounge too albeit in a much more prominent position. Because vinyl looks cooler than CDs.
Flat-sharing meant that we now had unlimited time to peruse each other’s hoarded stashes, as I often did with great envy. I occasionally got the feeling that mine was viewed with a bit of a chuckle, and a rueful shake of the head – not neccesarily of disapproval, more disappointment when I owned records by certain acts, but perhaps not the right records by them.
A case in point:
“You’ve got some Dire Straits albums…”, Llŷr once said to me, not in an accusatory manner, more quizzical. He’s right, I have, and I’d previously owned more on vinyl, but I’d left these with my father when he expressed an interest several years earlier and I’d decided they didn’t quite project the cool indie-kid image I had cultivated at Uni.
“I have indeed,” I confirmed, nonchalantly. “And….?”
“No, no, nothing…I’m just disappointed you don’t have the one tune by them I like.”
It transpired that it wasn’t the actual song he liked. but the video which accompanied it, which consisted of a load of US sporting bloopers, the equivalent of those you would find playing alongside the closing credits on late 70s/early 80s Burt Reynolds’ films like Smokey & The Bandit and The Cannonball Run.
And not an aubergine in sight yet, no matter what you think of Knopfler’s headband.
One day, his opening gambit was “I see you have a Cud CD single….”.
“I have indeed,” I confirmed, nonchalantly. “And….?”
And that’s why I miss him so much; the unconditional acceptance of any of the less conventional (or, rather, in the case of Dire Straits, too conventional) records in my collection, and the desire to expand my horizons by nudging me in the direction of something else I might like.
Plus, I bet those Burt blooper reels were somewhere in his taped-from-TV video collection.
Don’t worry: on brand as it may be, I’m not really going to have my first proper post in months feature a track by The Frantic Four.
In fact, I’d prefer if you didn’t think of this as a proper post at all.
I’ll explain: I’m still signed off work, as I continue to suffer from the problems, pain, and loss of movement and strength in pretty much all of my joints as a result of my recent psoriasis flare-up, and this is most pronounced in my legs and hands.
I can only walk with the aid of either a walking stick or a frame; I struggle to open or grip things, and writing and typing is difficult and painful, to say the least.
So, no, this isn’t a a proper post. What this is, is rehab. I’m due to have my first consultation with a rheumatologist this Friday, but in the meantime I figured I needed to take matters into my own hands – literally – and start trying to do some of the things I’ve struggled with recently.
And so here we are.
The plan is to try and post a few short pieces here – probably relating to my progress – every now and then, in an effort to get myself back to something approaching normal (whatever that is).
This seemed appropriate to soundtrack my sort-of-return (and it’s a banger):
Once again, my apologies for the lack of posts recently.
I’ll spare you the gory details, but long-time readers will know that I suffer from psoriasis and that back in 2018 I was hospitalised when a flare-up in my condition led to me being diagnosed with something much more serious.
Recently, I’ve had a similar flare-up, this time affecting my hands, which started peeling then became cracked and split: I’ve literally not been able to type.
I’ve not ruled out it being serious again this time, so if I disappear offline again shortly, you’ll know why.
In the meantime, this: I knew that Johnny Cash had brilliantly covered Nick Cave’s The Mercy Seat but I had forgotten that the two of them duetted on this Hank Wiilams cover until it popped up on my iPod shuffle on the way into the office the other day:
Tonight, a tune I was inspired to post by one of the ones I included in Friday night’s Halloween mix.
I’d not listened to Bloc Party’s ‘Hunting for Witches’ – or anything by Bloc Party, for thst matter – for quite a long time, so I had forgotten there’s that bit at the start where it sounds like someone scanning an old radio.
And that reminded me of this tune, which I got on a free “Best of 2002” CD with Musik magazine back in…er….2002, which takes a similar bitty approach to the construction of a tune to the nth degree:
So much for my “no more themed mixes” rule – you didn’t really expect I’d be able to resist doing one for Halloween, did you?
See, there’s so many Halloweur/scary/monsters linked songs (and there’s a clue right there as to the identity o)f one that features this week), I could have made this one at least three times as long, had I been so inclined. But I managed to resist temptaion, and kept it to (just over) an hour – the trimmed ones can make their appearances next year. Or the year after. Or the year after that.
Truth be told, I’m not really a fan of Halloween. The only good thing about it, as far as I can see, is that I can legitimately keep my curtains closed and refuse to answer the door all weekend.
Anyway, here we go with what I hope is not an entirely predictable mix for you all to enjoy whilst stuffing your faces full of the candy you decided not to give to Trick or Treaters, or whilst you’re cleaning the smashed eggs off your front door having ignored them.
I’d recommend turning the lights off, drawing the curtains, lighting some candles and turning it up loud:
And here’s your track-listing and sleeve notes. Look away now if you like surprises!
John Murphy – In The House – In A Heartbeat
Or, the super spooky music from one of the best British horror movies from the last 20 years: Danny Boyle’s 28 Days Later. It beautifully encaspulates the peace and silence which pre-empts all the blood and gore and zombies in a loudQUIETloud kinda way. I don’t profess to be an expert of either band, but it does make me think of Mogwai and Godspeed You! Black Emperor.
In case you’ve never seen it, a) what on earth have you been doing? and b) here’s the trailer, which includes some of those iconic deserted London scenes which were breath-taking at the time (and still are):
The thing I love most about 28 Days Later is that for the first 2/3 of the film, you think it’s just another zombie movie, albeit majesticaly and creatively filmed. But when the last 1/3 kicks in, you realise that’s not what the film is about at all,,,
2. Bauhaus – Bela Lugosi’s Dead
From John to Pete Murphy. I could have filled this mix with goth classics, but in the end plumped for just the one. And if I’m lucky, I’ll have squeezed this in just before SWC completes his wonderfully entertaining countdown of the Top 20 Goth records over at No Badger Required and, since it hasn’t featured yet, I assume crowns this as #1.
This is as intense and moody as hell, slowly building from the intricate drum patterns which sound like flapping bats’ wings, through to the booming darkness of the lyrics: it’s one heck of a record.
Mr Lugosi was unavailable for comment. Because he’s dead.
3. David Bowie – Scary Monsters (And Super Creeps)
From the album with the same name, the first after his notoriously influential, but commercially unsuccesful, Berlin trilogy. Apparently, this return to a more commerical sound (!) was inspired by his loathing of Gary Numan, who was viewed as a Bowie rip-off.
4. The Automatic – Monster
A remix of this almost appeared in a recent Friday Night mix, but got dropped at the last minute. Which is lucky, because it’s ideal for this one.
I’ve never actually read an interview with this Cardiff based band to confirm it – Wiki says the lyrics were “…a metaphor for the monster that comes out when people are intoxicated…” – but I definitely heard that it was about when all the boys from the Valleys would descend on the capital city of a Saturday night and cause absolute mayhem.
5. Peaches – Trick or Treat
Extraordinarily for a record by Peaches, I don’t think this contains any actual swears. Sure, there’s innuendo a-plenty – at least that’s what I assume her mention of never going to bed without a piece of raw meat is, anyway. Probably best I slap one of these on it anyway, to be on the safe side:
6. Radiohead – Bodysnatchers
Included for two reasons: i) when I was a kid, the movie Invasion of the Bodysnatchers (the remake, with Donald Sutherland) absolutely scared the crap out of me, and ii) because it’s one of the many tunes where Thom Yorke sounds in tortured pain, which seems appropriate somehow.
7. Miley Cyrus – I Get So Scared
If you’ve not yet succumbed to the charms of Miss Cyrus, then may I direct you to the album this is lifted from, Мiley Cyrus And Her Dead Petz, described in various quarters as experimental, psychedelic, psychedelic pop and space pop, which will come as less of a surprise when you learn that Wayne Coyne and the boys from The Flaming Lips were massive influences on the creative process and feature on the record too. Seriously: check it out. It absolutely changed my perception of her.
Anyway, there’s no need to be scared, Miley; here’s….
8. Bobby ”Boris” Picket & The Crypt Kickers – Monster Mash
Predictable? You betcha. It’s still great though, 50 years since it was first released.
9. Bloc Party – Hunting for Witches
I don’t have much to say about this one, other than it’s obvious why it’s here and it sounds like…well, like Bloc Party.
Actually, I would say that hunting for witches sounds like a very bad idea indeed. I mean, what are you going to do if you catch one? End up in a disappointing sitcom?
10. Queens Of The Stone Age – Burn The Witch
Ah yes, that’s always an option, I guess.
11. Spinnerette – All Babes Are Wolves
The placing of this, by the former Mrs Josh Homme, is entirely coincidental. Honest. It does provide a rather nice segue into tunes about wolves, mind. Plus, it’s a terrific record, in a quite-a-bit-like-Hole kinda way; a record which was largely and unjustly mostly overlooked when it was released in 2009 and deserves to be revisited.
12. TV On The Radio – Wolf Like Me
Neil! Neil! I remembered it all by myself!
13. Ozzy Osbourne – Bark At The Moon
Another from the ‘entirely predictable/I couldn’t resist’ pile.
Included for two reasons: i) I don’t think, and I’m open to correction, any other single to make the UK chart has the word spewing in it; I’m certain no others have He finds his heaven spewing from the mouth of hell, and ii) these are preceded by perhaps the most ludicrously misplaced Ooh yeah baby! ever committed to vinyl.
Genius, in a bat-biting, ant-snorting kind of way.
14. Super Furry Animals – Let the Wolves Howl at the Moon
Time for a breather before the glorious finale, and it seemed appropriate to follow up a record where the lead singer dressed up as a werewolf (a furry animal, no less) on the cover of Bark at the Moon, with a song by the Super Furry Animals, who aren’t adverse to dressing up as big furry animals themselves, singing about how we should just let Ozzy get on with it. Sort of.
15. Echo & The Bunnymen – The Killing Moon
Not just the last record from the ‘entirely predictable/I couldn’t resist’ pile, but the last record in this mix.
And I need say no more about it than this: magnificent.
Apologies for the absence of any posts for over a week; contrary to popular belief, I wasn’t busy trying to rustle up 100 supportive Tory MPs, rather I was away this weekend and didn’t have time to write anything before I set off on Friday morning.
I actually spent the weekend meeting up with my old group of friends, some of whom I’ve not seen since before lockdown, in a massive house in East Sussex.
The venue was amazing: set in what seemed to be endless acres of land, with a swimming pool, a tennis court (not that I used either), enough rooms that all the kids could attend and play with each other without disturbing the adults unduly, a massive open-plan kitchen/dining area with bluetooth speakers set into the ceiling – a perfect place for drinking and dancing to take place. Suffice it to say, we had a really great weekend.
The reason we were meeting up? It was to celebrate the first from the gang to join me in the 50+ club. They shall remain nameless, since I’m fairly sure they wouldn’t want their age to be announced here.
Because of the magnificence of the venue, I’ve had just one song on my mind all weekend to post on my return:
That was, of course, the single which won the Blur vs Oasis battle to top the UK singles chart in 1995. It was up against Oasis’s Roll With It, a song which earned the band the nickname Quoasis, which briefly made them a little more appealing to me.
But let’s me honest, neither of them were the finest moment in either band’s career.
I’m sure I’ve said it before on these pages, but I never really bought into the idea that you had to pick one or the other, that allegiance had to be shown, that it was forbidden for anyone to like both.
As it happens, I bought both singles on the week of release, possibly trying to get a reaction out of the girl working at Our Price in Cardiff. I refused to be pigeon-holed, although it may be telling that I bought each in a different format: Blur on CD single, Oasis on cass-single.
It’s about time, I think, that I posted something else by the late, great John Prine. It’s Prine Time, if you will.
This is the closing track from 1980’s Storm Windows album, when he was rocking an air-brushed Dave Grohl meets David Crosby look. The record which saw Prine returning to a more Country sound, following the absolute slating his previous album, 1979’s Pink Cadillac, received at the hands of the critics:
After declaring on here a couple of week’s ago that there would no longer be themes to these mixes, I found that on the first completion of this week’s mix, that’s exactly what I’d gone and done. You’ll probably guess from the first couple of tunes, and then another couple later on, this was going to one which featured nothing but pop records
So having painted myself into a bit of a corner, I had to U-turn faster than Liz Truss’ car in Autopilot mode; fortuitously, me dropping a load of pop songs from a mix and sticking a whole load more in their place doesn’t have the effect of crashing the economy. Again.
Because this week’s has been subject to several revisions, I’ve not had time to write any sleeve notes again. I’m sure you’ll learn to live with that.
So, here you go: 18 songs, 63 1/2 minutes of partly poppy fun: