I’m Not Too Keen on Mondays

Morning!

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

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

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

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

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

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

More soon.

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Sunday Morning Coming Down

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

Bobbie Gentry – Ode to Billy Joe

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

More soon.

Saturday Night at the Movies

I went to watch Joker.

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

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

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

The Creation – Biff Bang Pow!

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

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

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

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

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

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

He laughed.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Herb Alpert & The Tijuana Brass – Tijuana Taxi

Cream – White Room

(R.I.P. Ginger)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Timelords – Doctorin’ The Tardis

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

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

Oasis – Hello

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

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

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

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

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

The Beat – Tears of a Clown

Oopsies!

Anyway. Joker. I liked it. Go see.

More soon.

Disappointed

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

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

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

Ho hum.

Theaudience – A Pessimist is Never Disappointed

More soon.

This Is Pop! #13

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here’s the song Hel chose for the playlist:

Annie – Chewing Gum

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

Annie – I Know UR Girlfriend Hates Me

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

More soon.

The Cassingle Life

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Listen, learn, love:

INXS – Heaven Sent

More soon.

50 Ways to Prove I’m Rubbish #22

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I’ve spoiled that, haven’t I?

Ho hum.

INXS – New Sensation

More soon.

Late Night Stargazing (Be Llŷrious edition)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And then it was time for me to speak.

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

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

“Kinda…” I said.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And that person isn’t here tonight.

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

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

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

The Concretes – Miss You

More soon. Really soon.

Ba Ba Ba Ba-Ba Ba Ba Ba

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The June Brides – Every Conversation

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

And then it happens.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“It’s…”

The Brilliant Corners – Brian Rix

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

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

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

How rather pathetic I looked.

Anyway, welcome to my blog.

More soon.

Sunday Morning Coming Down (Be Llŷrious edition)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

In memory.

Johnny Cash – Heart of Gold

More soon.

50 Not Out

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

No.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Creedence Clearwater Revival – Bad Moon Rising

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

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

There will be more, soon, however.

Sunday Morning Coming Down

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

One particular song, in fact.

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

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

Bobby Bare – I’ll Feel A Whole Lot Better

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

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

Juice Newton – Feel a Whole Lot Better

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

The Byrds – I’ll Feel a Whole Lot Better

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

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

More soon.

Late Night Stargazing

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

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

Manic Street Preachers – The Everlasting

More soon.

I’m Not Too Keen on Mondays

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

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

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

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

George Kranz – Din Daa Daa

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

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

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

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

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

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

Rrratatatatatatata
Rrratatatatdadadadoom

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

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

Din Doan Doan
Din Doan Doan

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

Doom Da Doom Da Doom Doom Da Da Doom

Ratatatatatatata tah!

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

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

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

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

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

More soon.

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

Okay, not technically new, but definitely previously unreleased.

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

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

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

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

R.E.M. – Fascinating

More soon.

Sunday Morning Coming Down

A late switch of songs this morning.

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

Which leads me to this song, instead.

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

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

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

The Flying Burrito Brothers – Sing Me Back Home

More soon.

Late Night Stargazing

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

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

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

The Jayhawks – Carry You to Safety

More soon.

50 Ways To Prove I’m Rubbish #21

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

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

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

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

Talk about missing the point.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Jesus & Mary Chain – Taste of Cindy

More soon.

9/11

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

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

But not this year.

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

Mark Knopfler and Emmylou Harris – If This Is Goodbye

More soon.

I’m Not Too Keen on Mondays

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

Sometimes you just need something fecking loud.

Here’s Motörhead:

Motörhead – Iron Fist

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

More soon.

*Takes ear plugs out*

I said: More soon.

Sunday Morning Coming Down

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

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

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

Gamble Rogers – The Black Label Blues

More soon.

Late Night Stargazing

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

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

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

The Flaming Lips – Do You Realize??

More soon.

Rant O’Clock

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

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

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

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

Well, you’d be wrong.

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

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

Answer: His lips are moving.

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Housemartins – People Get Ready

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

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

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

The Sunshine Underground – Borders

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

Nothing has been forthcoming as yet.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Blondie – Island of Lost Souls

The Adventures – Broken Land

More soon. Undoubtedly.

I’m Not Too Keen on Mondays

Pretty sure I won’t be the first in the blogging world to post this tune this month, and I imagine any radio DJ worth their salt will already have given it a spin, but hey, what the heck: it’s a stone cold classic and just what’s needed to get yo’ groove on of a Monday morning:

Earth Wind & Fire – September

More soon.

Test Match Special

Ok, in the spirit of transparency, I’m only posting this so that I don’t have to bother searching for the link to the footage next time I fancy watching this. Which will probably be in about ten minutes.

For last Sunday saw probably the greatest conclusion to an Ashes Test Match in history. Scrub that: the greatest conclusion to any Test Match in history, but made just that bit sweeter because it was against “the old enemy”.

Needing to reach a record-breaking score of 359 in the second innings, and after having been bowled out for a frankly rather pathetic 67 in the first innings, things didn’t look promising for England.

Step forward the BBC Sports Personality of the Year 2019 (surely…?), Ben Stokes:

Once you get past Sherbet’s Howzat, there aren’t that many songs about cricket.

Thank goodness, then, for The Divine Comedy‘s Neil Hannon and his side project, The Duckworth Lewis Method (the name of which I’m not even going to attempt to explain):

The Duckworth Lewis Method – Test Match Special

More soon.

Sunday Morning Coming Down

It’s official, I’m rubbish.

When you start blogging, the two things you are obliged to remember and commemorate are:

  1. John Peel’s birthday
  2. The date on which John Peel died.

On 30th August, John Peel would have been 80.

And I missed it.

But sharing a birthday would have been Kitty Wells, who would have turned 100.

So you’ll forgive me for posting something by Kitty, because her back catalogue far outweighs anything Peel released (and I know he won’t mind me saying it):

Kitty Wells – I Heard The Juke Box Playing

More soon.

Late Night Stargazing

The thing with having to listen to/reassess all of your music as you re-upload it onto your laptop is this: you suddenly hear songs which you haven’t heard for a long time:

Take tonight’s selection: I really hate the title track from this album, but I understand said song is one of this band’s most loved.

They’re both produced by Brian Eno, though, so I figure tonight’s choice is more in keeping with his ambient heritage; it’s sparse, it’s beautiful and it’s worthy of note.

James – Out to Get You

The opening track to a million break-up mix-tapes.

More soon.

Saturday Night at the Movies

It’s ok, I’m not ill or back in hospital or anything…I just decided to take a few days off from writing the usual tosh I come up with here.

But what a few days….the Ashes glory (for now)…Parliament getting itself all prorogued…and I went to the cinema.

I imagine all of the above will get further mentions at some point over the coming days (OK, I plan to mention them all), but for now I’ll focus on the latter.

On Thursday evening I had my first IMAX experience. I know, I know, about time. Truth be told, I didn’t plan on having this one; regular readers will now that I have one of those “Pay monthly, see as many films as you like” set ups, which I rarely take advantage of as much as I could because…well, it may be prepaid but that shouldn’t mean I feel obliged to go watch something with Gerard Butler in it, ta very much. (see also my other pet hates: Keifer Sutherland and Julia Roberts)

And so, on Tuesday, as there is a film out at the moment that I really wanted to see, I cranked up the movie theatre app I use, checked out the times, cursed that there wasn’t a showing starting post-work any earlier than 19:30 hours, bit the bullet and pressed “Book Seats”.

After selecting my seat of choice (aisle seat, towards the back), I was surprised to see it wanted to charge me £4.20 for the privilege of seeing the film in question.

Huh?

I cancelled the purchase, and tried a different film. No additional charge. And it was then that the penny dropped (all four hundred and twenty of them), that I was being charged extra because the film was being shown on the IMAX screen.

Ordinarily, I would have then waited until the film went over to boring old standard screenings, but I figured that I really wanted to see this one, so I’d stump up.

At work on Thursday, I mentioned to the chap who sits next to me at work – a film buff, I didn’t just collar him – that I was going to see the film in question. He pointed out the length to me (stop it!) and I told him it was just over 2 hours, which was fine. A quick check confirmatory check in iMDB clarified that it was actually 2 hours and 40 minutes.

A visit to the local supermarket to stock up on munchies was going to be required.

So, in case you haven’t worked it out yet, the film I went to see was Quentin Tarantino’s ninth film (or eighth, if you count Kill Bill Parts 1 and 2 as one film, which I don’t), Once Upon a Time…in Hollywood.

Now, I love Tarantino films, but I had realised I hadn’t actually been to the cinema to see one since Jackie Brown back in 1997.

And I’ve still not seen his last film, The Hateful Eight, at all, despite it having been in My List on Netflix for at least a year now. Well, I’ve seen the first twenty minutes or so, before I got bored as nothing had happened, bar Jennifer Jason Leigh getting punched in the face a couple of the times, which didn’t really float my boat, if I’m honest.

I’d read nothing but good reviews of QT’s latest offering though, so I figured it was about time I reacquainted myself with his works. I read an article which ranked his other films, and I was shocked to see that on said list Reservior Dogs and Pulp Fiction weren’t #1 and #2. (I’ve searched for the article again in advance of writing this, to confirm what was, but I can’t find it and can’t remember what they chose as #1, but whatever it was, they were wrong: how can any review of Tarantino’s films not conclude that those two films are his finest (interchangeable positions, I must admit)…?

So I watched Reservoir Dogs again last weekend, and it still stands up. There were a couple of things I noticed this time around – and it’s great I can watch a film which I first saw back in the early 1990s, have watched many times since, and still notice new things about it now – is the sound. Set predominantly in a disused warehouse as it is, I loved the echoey speech, and that you can hear better what someone is saying the closer the camera gets to him (they’re all “hims”, there are no female characters in Reservoir Dogs, we’ll come on to that later); also the many scenes where several conversations are taking place and you can focus in on any one of them, dip in and out, and yet nobody is trampling on anyone else’s lines.

Recently, I’d posited to a couple of people – my brother, some people at work – that people of a certain age must be really confused by adverts for motor insurance which feature Harvey Keitel dressed only in a tuxedo, a dodgy tache and a Noo Yoik accent. To folks of my generation, it’s clear: he’s reprising his role as Mr Wolf, the Mafia fixer from Pulp Fiction, only now he sees an insurance-related issue and he fixes that. But anyone who hasn’t seen Pulp Fiction must be looking at those ads thinking: “Who’s this guy? Why is he dressed like that, and why does he like his coffee with lots of cream and lots of sugar?”

Take my parents (please!). They have never seen a Tarantino film, and that’s fine because I don’t think many of them are the sort of film they would enjoy. My brother and I discussed letting them watch one: it can’t be Reservoir Dogs, as my father can’t stand the sight of blood, and there’s a lot of it in that one. And in pretty much all of them. Except Pulp Fiction. I mean, there’s a bit in Pulp Fiction, but not lots. Not main-character-shot-in-the-stomach-in-the-second-scene-and-left-to-bleed-out-on-a-ramp-in-a-disused-warehouse-for-the-rest-of-the-film-while-somebody-else-gets-their-ear-cut-off amount of blood, but there’s a bit.

Someone else I mentioned this to said: “What about the whole Zed and the anal rape scene?” I shrugged; they may wince, but I reckon they’ll be alright with that.

Mum, Dad: our Christmas viewing is sorted.

There is very little blood split in Once Upon A Time…In Hollywood, and I’m not sure if it’s wrong for me to wish there was.

Ok, so avoiding any spoilers, here’s the plot: it’s 1969 (a bloody good year) and Rick Dalton (Leonardo DiCaprio) is a fading TV star, forever filming pilots which never get picked up, or making one-off appearances in other people’s shows, playing the baddie, and getting his ass royally whupped.

Throughout life he is accompanied by Cliff Booth (Brad Pitt) – note, not Clint Boon, or that would have been a very different film – his stuntman, although it soon becomes perfectly obvious that Booth no longer gets any fall guy work, he is essentially Dalton’s driver, his go-fer, his rent-a-buddy.

This is made clear by a scene which has no purpose whatsoever, except to show that Booth will indeed climb up on to a roof to repair Dalton’s TV aerial, and in the process take his shirt off.

Dalton is approached by a new agent, Marvin Shwarz (Al Pacino), who thinks Dalton would be perfect for the burdgeoning spaghetti Western scene in Italy, and wants him to fly out and give it a try.

Dalton fears this is a sign that he is washed-up, and so takes a part in another Western, desperate to prove his acting chops. Which he does, and then takes the Itaian lira anyway.

And that takes up pretty much all of the first two hours.

Mixed up with that is the incidental news that Dalton lives in a prefab just outside the walls of director Roman Polanski’s gated apartment, where he lives with his young wife Sharon Tate.

Now, anyone of my age probably knows how this pans out. Any moment now, a character called Charles Manson will appear and this could get interesting. And sure enough, there he is, goofing up to the Polanski residence, ostensibly looking for a couple of the Wilson Beach Boys.

And that’s the last we see of Manson.

But we’ll shy away from that for a moment, and concentrate on Sharon Tate, played by Margot Robbie. Quite simply: she’s not in it enough. She has three big scenes:

  1. She arrives at a party and dances. This scene is only there so that Steve McQueen, played by Damian Lewis… (?!?!), can explain to us/his associate/us the relationship between Tate/Polanski/Jay Sebring (Tate’s ex).

2. She visits a movie theatre which is showing a movie she is in with Dean Martin, and asks the cashier if she can come in for free as she’s in the film;

3. The end scene, which I won’t spoil for you.

Sure, she pops up in the film every now and then, generally greeting people with a hug, but Robbie is criminally underused. The scene where she watches herself on screen in the cinema (sorry, a spoiler: she gets let in) is an absolute joy; she giggles and nervously looks around to assess the audience’s reaction, before relaxing, kicking her shoes off, and putting her feet on the backs of the seat in front.

Robbie absolutely nails the few scenes she’s in, and she should have been in more. But that’s the problem with Tarantino films: he ain’t that great at writing female characters.

Those first two hours really could have been edited down and still explain the Dalton/Booth dynamic and give Robbie more to do, but hey ho, what do I know, I’m not a millionaire film director.

And that’s another issue with Tarantino: given carte blanche, nobody is reigning him in. That’s why Kill Bill is spread over two parts and that’s why Once Upon A Time… could have been cut to around the two hour mark and nobody would have complained. I hear rumours that there is a nine-hour version which I won’t be watching.

The other truly great scene is when Pitt’s character (Booth) picks up an underage hitch-hiker and gives her a lift to where she squats with her Family, on a disused film-lot where Booth used to work, and knows the guy who still owns it.

It’s a genuinely tense 20-30 or so minutes (or so it seemed) as it becomes apparant that he has wandered into the home of The Family, the group which Charles Manson assembled around him, and for a while there’s a brooding feeling that something is about to happen – and since this is a Tarantino film, it probably ain’t gonna be too pretty.

No spoilers.

If you follow Tarantino films – and if you do then you’ve probably already seen this, so I won’t be spoiling it for you – I’d place Once Upon A Time… in the same bracket as his WWII flick Inglorious Basterds in that it’s an historical film based in reality, where rather than show how things did pan out he posits an alternative reality where what we know happens doesn’t. And while the alternative is, in typical Tarantino style, quite brutal and unpleasant, I’m not sure it’s any less pleasant than what actually happened.

And then there’s the music.

I’ve written before about how songs used in films can almost become an additional character.

Nowadays, if you hear the George Baker Selection’s Little Green Bag or Stealers Wheel’s Stuck in the Middle With You, chances are you’ll be reminded of Reservoir Dogs.

Similarly, hear Dick Dale and His Del-Tones’ Misirlou or Dusty Springfield’s Son Of A Preacher Man or even Urge Overkill’s version of the Neil Diamond gem Girl, You’ll Be A Woman Soon or Chuck Berry’s You Never Can Tell and if you’ve seen Pulp Fiction then the scenes they appear in become your immediate frame of reference.

And although Once Upon A Time… has a great soundtrack the same won’t happen. It sounds kinda forced to me, like knowing the commercial possibilities of a Tarantino-soundtrack, he tries to cram as much in as possible. But none of the songs really latch on, take hold, in the film in the way that they were allowed to in his older movies. The songs are clearly a soundtrack, rather than an integral part of of the movie as they were back in the …Dogs and …Fiction days.

What I mean is this: on the Reservoir Dogs soundtrack, dead-pan, existenstial one-liner comedy God Steven Wright plays the DJ, and it’s brilliant. There’s the same on the Once Upon A Time… soundtrack (and I know, I bought it before I saw the film) only now it’s not Wright it’s just a radio jock, and thus half of the appeal is broken. And in the film, not one song is given enough time or space to take hold, to really get a grip in the way that they’d been allowed to in his older films, so whilst the songs are still great, they become forgettable in the context.

In twenty years time, I won’t be hearing Deep Purple’s Hush and saying: “Oh yeh, this is the bit in the film where they drive around for a bit and then park.”

These songs are all in the film, are all brilliant, but literally blink (or whatever the not-listening equivalent is) and you’ll miss them:

Roy Head & The Traits – Treat Her Right

Deep Purple – Hush

Paul Revere & the Raiders – Hungry

Buchanan Brothers – Son of a Lovin’ Man

José Feliciano – California Dreamin’

Neil Diamond – Brother Love’s Traveling Salvation Show

In summary: I liked, but it was a bit long and the ending (after the bloody ending) sucked.

More soon.

Late Night Stargazing

At work the other day, somebody mentioned that they were trvelling down to Bristol over the weekend to visit their family.

I happened to mention that Bristol has a terrific nightlife scene, and that when I lived in Cardiff I would often make the short journey to go to the odd gig or two.

In particular, I recalled seeing Idlewild doing an acoustic set at the Trinity Centre, a converted church, and then a little while later going to see Isobel Campbell and Mark Lanegan at the same venue.

To my surprise, the latter two names drew blank looks.

“You know,” I cajoled, “Mark Lanegan of Screaming Trees, Queens of the Stone Age and…erm…Mark Lanegan fame?”

The same stone faces gazed back at me.

“And Isobel Campbell…used to be in Belle & Sebastian….?”

Nothing. Zip. Nada.

“Commonly described as the modern day Nancy Sinatra & Lee Hazlewood ….? No….?”

I despaired.

Here. This. Them:

Isobel Campbell & Mark Lanegan – Honey Child What Can I Do?

The Hazlewood/Sinatra comparison is justified, and one which they embraced; when I saw them in Bristol and sometime later in Cardiff, they did a cover of this H&S classic:

Nancy Sinatra & Lee Hazlewood – Sand

More soon.

Be Llyrious

In the spirit of full disclosure, today’s tune is not a song which Llŷr or I ever had any real affection for, as far as I know.

I mean, we both appreciated that it’s a classic folk song, but it would never trouble any list of our favourite 100 records.

This one:

Ralph McTell – Streets of London

As you may have gathered, Llŷr and I went to many, many, oh-so-many gigs together. Beforehand, we would often discuss which songs from the act in question we most wanted to hear.

We never planned to do this, but after we did it once, we did it every time.

For when one of those desired songs got played, after the applause had died down, one of us would shout “Streets of London!”, and then the other would do the same, slightly more angrily, followed by the other, and so on, until we collapsed in fits of giggles.

Confused?

We both loved the sketch show Big Train, and in particular this, just shy of a minute and a half of utter comedy genius:

Big Train – Ralph McTell sings Streets of London…again!

Still makes me laugh, that, and I must have watched it hundreds of times by now. And heard it even more; I have the audio of it on my iPod so it crops up every now and then – and in case you hadn’t realised and want to do the same, there’s a link to download an mp3 of it right there for you. (Ditto the Partridge post from a couple of days ago). I’d heartily recommend having things which make you laugh unexpectedly pop into your ears from time to time.

You’re welcome.

(Miss you, dude.)

More soon.

Ba Ba Ba Ba-Ba Ba Ba Ba

I’ve posted this before, way back in 2016, so I’m pretty sure you’ve all forgotten about it by now.

The first time I heard this was on Now That’s What I Call Summer, a double album I picked up purely so I would have some summer songs to put on the mix-tapes I used to compile for play in the sixth form common room.

Little did I know that over thirty years later, this would still be one of my favourite summer tunes ever:

Barracudas – Summer Fun!

Just gloriously dumb and care-free.

More soon.

A Ripping Yarn

And so, at almost exactly the same moment as my last post appeared, where I celebrated a Bank Holiday weekend of freedom by featuring a song called Breakout, my own personal irony-o-meter hit peak readings as I suffered a rather embarrasing Breakout of my own.

I’ll explain.

Once a week, I will try to get into the office by 8am, which means I can leave at 4pm (rather than 5pm) if I choose to. Generally this will fall on a Friday, for there’s no finer work-related feeling than an early finish on a Friday afternoon, especially when you don’t have to be back in the office again until Tuesday morning.

And so, my plan for the weekend began to take shape; I would hop on a bus down to the supermarket close to my flat, stock up on booze, and head home again, ready to have a Friday night tipple to assist with the composing of some words for y’all to chow down on.

What I had failed to take into account was just how bloody hot it was yesterday (and is apparently set to be for the rest of the weekend). On public transport is an unforgiving place to be when it’s hot, and despite positioning myself on the top deck at the epicentre of where all the moving air from the open windows would converge, within minutes every pore seemed to be expelling more moisture than I thought it physically possible for one body to have retained.

To add to this, the bus etiquette of some of my fellow travellers was annoying me before my arse had even touched the seat. Despite there only being about five people, including myself, on the upper floor of the bus, two people were sitting in seats either side of the aisle, but having a really loud conversation with each other. Look: if you want to talk to each other, sit next to each other so the rest of us don’t have to listen, will you?

And then the bus driver kept getting messages from HQ that he must even out the flow of bus traffic by waiting at the next stop – even though nobody was getting on or off – which did very little for any hopes I had of being cooled down by a breeze whooshing its way down the bus.

By the time I got to my stop, I was dripping with sweat and frankly in a foul, not even slightly weekend-ish, mood.

There’s a convenience store across the road from the bus stop, so I decided to pop in and get something cold to drink. Picking out a bottle of water from the fridge – something I could quaff down in one go without fear of inciting the heartburn horror I often suffer from – I got to the till, and reached into my pocket to pull out the collection of coins I had amassed.

And as I did so, I felt one fall to the floor. I glanced down: a 5p. Sod it, I’m not worried about that. I handed over the correct money for my beverage and turned to leave, unscrewing the bottle top as I did so.

When I was stopped in my tracks by a voice: “Excuse me!”

I turned back, to see an elderly couple beckoning me back.

“You dropped some money!”

“Oh, it’s just 5p,” I said, “thank you but don’t worry about it.”

“No,” said the lady member of the couple, “you dropped this too.”

She was pointing towards her foot; I looked and next to it was a 20 pence piece.

Ordinarily, I wouldn’t have bothered with that either, but since she had gone to all of the effort of protecting it by standing over it, and then calling me back, I figured the least I could do was show some gratitude.

“Oh, thank you,” I said, as I knelt to pick it up.

But there was a problem.

Thursday night in Dubious Taste Mansions had been a particularly exciting one, for it had included me cutting my fingernails. Oh yes, ladies and gentlemen, the life of a blogger is one non-stop rollercoaster ride of fun sometimes.

The thing about fingernails is this: you don’t realise how useful they are for picking things like 20 pence pieces up from a shop floor until you find yourself faced with such a situation the day after you’ve cut them and suddenly find yourself completely incapable of performing what on the face of things should be a very simple task.

For devoid of cuticle, the coin resisted my grip, and eventually skittled underneath a shelf of crisps. Yes, it would have been more poetic had it been a shelf containing nothing but Skittles, but this is life, and sometimes life isn’t poetic.

Sometimes life is an absolute bastard.

“Oh terrific,” I said as the coin slid out of view.

It would be at this point that I would normally have shrugged and given up, but the little old lady was having none of it. I straightened and looked at her, and she had this quizzical, eyebrow arched, expectant look on her face. She had taken the time to protect my 20p and by God she wasn’t leaving until it and I had been happily reunited.

And so I went to kneel on the floor, better placed to grope under the shelving unit for my coinage, but as I went down all I could hear was the sound of stitches popping and fabric ripping. Suddenly I felt like I was in my own Carry On film: this was my bra-popping-off-an-exercising-Barbara-Windsor-in-Carry-on-Camping-moment.

I stood up immediately, my face now redding through embarrasment rather than heat.

“And now I’ve ripped the arse out of my trousers” I announced to the elderly couple, the cashiers, and the queue of people waiting to be served.

Surely to God we can end this now, I thought, but she was having none of it. For little old lady, at least 30 years my senior, effortlessly got down on her hands and knees, reached under the shelf, produced the coin, stood and handed it to me with the words: “I think we know what you’ll be putting this towards.”

I thanked her, and shuffled out of the shop. Fortuitously, I had my shoulder bag with me, which I always have slung at Hooky’s Bass levels, so I was able to position it over my exposed, sweaty backside as I hurried home to change into something else, something that didn’t make me look like Paul Rutherford out of Frankie Goes to Hollywood in his arseless chaps.

And all the way home, every person I passed, seemed to be laughing, and they’re laughing at me.

I tried to think of an appropriate song. I couldn’t come up with better than this:

The Waterboys – The Whole of the Moon

Yeh, go on, laugh it up.

Welcome to the weekend.

More soon.

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.

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.

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.