Podcasts. They’re bloody everywhere, aren’t they? Everyone (except me) seems to have one or have been on one.
It’s a real minefield trying to find a consistently good one; I’ve lost count of the amount I’ve stumbled across, listened to the one which caught my interest, then got very bored with all of the rest from the same people.
Well, there’s a new(ish) one on the block, which I can heartily recommend: Game Changing. In each episode, a different musician/producer engages in a conversation with producer Chris Sheldon (Biffy Clyro, Foo Fighters) and musician/writer/all round lovely bloke Tim Thornton (Fink) about a moment in their career when things changed for them.
I should, at this point, declare an interest: I know Tim is an all round lovely bloke because he’s a friend of mine, the only publised author I know (of, according to The Guardian “…the indiest book of all time” The Alternative Hero, and Death of an Unsigned Band and Felix Romsey’s Afterparty), and definitely the only writer and musician I actually know with their own Wikipedia page.
Anyway, no harm in giving a mate a totally un-needed plug, especially when the plug in question is for something which I genuinely enjoy and would (probably) listen to even if it wasn’t co-hosted by a buddy.
Sure, it occasionally veers of into technical territory which means nothing to me, but when that happens I figure it’s for a reason: to either make me learn something or, more probably and less intentionally, to remind me why my college band never made it big. And in any event, our charming hosts are always on hand to reel the conversation back in again.
Subjects so far have been interesting and varied: Flood, Field Music and Gil Norton to name but three (the Flood one is especially great). After listening to each of these I have immediately gone and bought some of the records mentioned, which I guess is as high a recommendation I can give. Very little makes me actually spend actual money.
You can listen to Game Changing on all of your usual podcast providers, but, since I’m not posting any music today, broaden your horizons by listening to some blokes entertainingly chatting via these here links to the podcast world’s big hitters:
And by way of utter contrast, from twenty years later, a song about having to break away from getting it on to make sure your partner is fully appreciating the effort you have put into the soundtrack to your getting jigginess:
The other day I fell down a YouTube wormhole after someone posted a clip of this duo on Twitter.
We’ve all done this, I suspect: watched one clip on YouTube, followed by whatever it decides to play next, and then the next one, and then the next one, and then you notice something in the sidebar and you watch that, and it reminds you of something else which you search for and Hallelujah! There it is! And so on and so on and etcetera and so on until you suddenly realise an hour or so has passed, and you were supposed to be writing The Chain supposed to be going to the shops, but you won’t make it there before they close and anyway it’s raining and wow I’d forgotten all about this and so on….
If you never saw Flight of the Conchords, you missed an absolute treat. As far as I know it has never appeared on any of them there streaming services, your Netflix, or that one who continue to give Clarkson money for a reason I’ll never quite get my head around, or that Apple one where everything is brilliant, apparently.
So, for the uninitiated, just as The Housemartins (who featured here last week) used to refer to themselves as “The fourth best band in Hull”, so Flight of the Conchords were “New Zealand’s fourth most popular guitar-based digi-bongo acapella-rap-funk-comedy folk duo”.
First there was the comedy duo of the same name, comprised of Bret McKenzie and Jemaine Clement, then there was a BBC radio series, narrated by Rob Bryden, which – if you’re in the UK, I imagine – you can still hear on the BBC Sounds app (annoyingly inferior to the old radio iPlayer as it is) or you can listen to the first episode (the rest are there too) here. In it, the two luckless folksters try to make it big in London, aided and abetted, but mostly hindered, by their gloriously inept manager, Murray, played by Rhys Darby.
Then there were two HBO TV series, the first of which which aired in 2007. These lifted much of the plot, and a lot of the songs, from the radio series, but this time set the…erm, I hesitate to call it this…action in New York.
There have been two albums released off the back of the two TV series, the first is compulsory listening, the less so; let’s say that they got the tricky third album syndrome an album early, which given that they were also writing a comedy series in which said songs would feature, is hardly surprising.
Anyway, there is much to love about Flight of the Conchords, and particularly their first album. Sadly, I can’t play my favourite song by them in this series, as it clocks in at a self-indulgent 4:05; you’ll therefore have to wait to hear me waxing lyrical about the time I played it straight after a Jay-Z tune and it sounded magnificent. I love a good juxtaposition, me.
Although I managed to miss a couple of the earlier episodes, I did catch most of the excellent Country Music documentary series produced by Ken Burns which has been aired on BBC4 recently.
Specifically, episode 5 (“The Sons and Daughters of America (1964-1968)”) and 6 (“Will the Circle Be Unbroken? (1968-1972)” because they focussed on some of the mainstays of these pages: Johnny Cash, Charley Pride, Kris Kristofferson – and trust me, there’s very few finer pleasures than a friend (hello!) sending you a message to say they were watching one of these episodes and they were reminded of you – and The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band’s 1972 album Will The Circle Be Unbroken.
It’s an album which has cropped up several times on these pages before, but oddly I’ve never posted the title track, a county standard, written by A.P. Carter, made famous by The Carter Family, but performed here like it never has been before, by this collective of many of the living (at the time)’s version:
If I were the type who did karaoke, which I’m not, then this would probably be my song. Lord knows I’ve irritated several neighbours and even more flatmates by drunkenly bellowing along to it at 4am enough times.
A disclaimer: it is not my fault that I’m writing this. Blame my old mate Dum Dum, who sent me a DM on Twitter on New Year’s Eve, reminding me to “stay off the fish fingers”. All will become clear.
A second disclaimer: this particular anecdote involves me imbibing not only industrious quantities of alcohol, but also ridiculous amount of Class A narcotics. I’m not proud of this, and I write this not to boast, but because there’s a fairly funny story here. Please don’t think it’s a good idea to do something similar, or that taking drugs immediately makes you Peter Ustinov – or, worse, me – with a smoking jacket packed full of brilliant anecdotes: you might end up dead instead of having a funny story to relate. I got lucky, that’s all.
A third disclaimer: both Dum Dum and I (and I assume the other protagonist in this story too) are changed men these days. We’d never indulge in the sort of behaviour you’re about to read about these days.
We’re both too old for a start.
Plus, Dum Dum is married with a kid and so has responsibilities which prevent him from engaging in this sort of thing.
And me? Well, since I moved to London I no longer have the same sort of connections I had back in Cardiff, and so can no longer gain access to the sort of stuff mentioned herein. But my history tells me that whilst I might preach about how bad drugs are, I haven’t actually learned a sodding thing, and given the chance, I probably would.
The last time I hooked up with Dum Dum was at a friend’s wedding. We were sat at the same table, me next to his wife, who I had only met once before, at their wedding a year or so earlier. I didn’t think that she knew much of Dum Dum’s clubbing past, so I decided not to mention any of that, as I didn’t want to cause any tension. Dum Dum, however, had other ideas, asking me to ‘tell that story about that time when….’ almost as soon as our arses hit the chairs (because I’m Peter Ustinov…you got that, right?).
And now he’s sending me DMs mentioning it, so I figure Dum Dum wants this story to be out there, and I’m happy to oblige, so here we go.
Last warning: if ever there was a cautionary tale about how drugs can properly fuck you up – for a night at the very least, I have no idea what long term damage they may have done to my…um…my….er…memory (!) – then this is it.
One New Year’s Eve, I decided I was going to have a post-pub house party. My flat-mate at the time had gone away to party it up elsewhere, so I had no concerns about disturbing, or even inviting, him. (He would have been essential company had he not had other plans.)
Dum Dum had always wanted to DJ at a house party, so he turned up in the afternoon with his decks, which we set up in one corner of the living room; we placed a standard lamp close to the decks so he could see what he was doing without having the big light on. We also decided that we wanted people to be up and dancing, so to generate a bit more dancefloor space, he helped me move the TV set out of the living room and into my flatmate’s bedroom, well out of the way.
And then we hit the pub.
The pub, back in those days, was the sadly-no-longer and much missed (I imagine: I miss it and I don’t live in Cardiff anymore) Tut’n’Shive on City Road.
The Tut was a truly glorious if grubby pub, spread over four levels: the ground floor, where the bar lived; the second level, a couple of tables and a juke box; third level which housed a massive screen for those who wanted to watch sport, and then a fourth floor which had three pool tables. Perfect.
We commandeered a table on the third level – the table of choice, the table everyone who drank there regularly wanted, the table of Kings. If you ever drank in the Tut, you know which table I mean.
And we drank and drank and then drank some more. Although something in my head tells me that Dum Dum didn’t drink that much because he wanted to DJ with a clear head.
That night I bumped into a girl I had known for many years, and drunkenly – politely – chatting to her she challenged me (because I must have been that drunk and slurry): “Oh, Jez, I bet you can’t even remember where you know me from, can you?”
My brother will attest that I’m pretty good at remembering “stuff” (I’m in charge of it in my family), so I was delighted to be able to respond: “Of course! We were at college at the same time, knew who each other was but didn’t really know each other, you were on [my girlfriend at the time]’s course, and then you and your boyfriend/husband/whatever he is used to come into the video shop I ran in Canton….”
“Oh shit, you do remember!” she said. (Ask me what her name was now and I have no clue, of course.)
Eventually, it came to chucking out time, time to head back to my flat to continue the night’s festivities. Whereupon we hit the first snag of the night: other than the gang we were drinking with – about six people – we hadn’t actually got round to inviting anybody. Knew-Her-From-College-Girl and her partner had wisely vacated the place, and so we just made loud noises to anyone left in the pub that they would be welcome back at mine.
And so about ten people, including me and Dum Dum, stumbled into my flat via the off licence; he began dropping some choons, I began dropping Class A’s and attempting to be the charming host. Most of the people left after they had polished off the very little booze I had to offer, disinterested (wisely) as they were in the exceedingly dubious pills and powder which were available.
Within an hour, there was just three of us left: Dum Dum, me and a chap who, for legal reasons, I had better change the name of. Let’s call him Matt. I know loads of Matt’s in Cardiff, it could be any one of them. It isn’t any of them (or is it?).
Dum Dum remained on the straight and narrow, and so Matt and I set about the other goodies I had procured.
The night progressed with Matt and I sitting next to each other on the sofa, zonked, not saying much, listening to Dum Dum’s records of choice, knocking back all of the ‘naughty naughty, very naughty’ stuff.
“Jez, Jez!” I was disturbed from a wonky zone by Matt nudging me in the ribs. “Who’s that bloke there?”
My eyes struggled into focus.
“That bloke there….talking to Dum Dum.”
I squinted. There wasn’t anyone talking to Dum Dum.
“Matt, there’s nobody there. It’s the lamp. It’s tall and thin and about the height of a person but it’s definitely just a lamp.”
“Oh….there’s really nobody else there?”
“Oh. Shit. Sorry.”
This should have been a warning.
But no. We decided that we weren’t quite messed up enough, so we carried on.
And then it happened.
Suddenly I shouted “C!” in the direction of where the telly used to live.
Matt looked at me even more disjointedly than he was able to look at anything else.
I furrowed my brow and looked back at him, baffled that he needed to ask.
“C” I repeated.
“The answer’s C.”
“The answer. To the question. On ‘Who Wants To Be a Millionaire?’ It’s C. If they phone a friend then they’re a fucking idiot. It’s C, knobhead!”
“Jez. There’s no telly there. What are you talking about?”
A further pause as I realised that not only was I hallucinating, I was hallucinating about Chris Tarrant.
I slumped back into the sofa.
“S’alright. I thought a lamp was a person a while ago.”
More silence between us, as Dum Dum continued to play some choice bangers (I assume).
“Jez, there’s no telly.”
“I know this one. It’s B!“
“Jez: There. Is. No. Telly.”
Time passed. I know not how much. Suddenly, my throat was dry. I needed a drink.
Although I had told the few party attendees that I had little to offer them, I did have a bottle of Jack Daniels stashed away. One of those with some coke and ice would do the lubractive trick.
“I need a drink,” I announced slurred as I labouriously clamboured to my feet. “Gonna make myself a Jack and coke. You want one?”
Matt stirred from whatever zone he was in. “Yes. Jack and coke. Yes. Please yes. Um, I mean: yes please.”
I went to the kitchen, and opened the freezer to get some ice. Ice was a good idea.
Some more time passed. I don’t know how much. But long enough for a search party to be sent out for me, for the next thing I knew, Dum Dum was at my elbow.
“Jez mate…what are you doing…?”
Snapped out of my stupor by a voice, I replied: “Making me and my friend Matt a Jack and coke. With ice.”
“Matt’s gone home,” said Dum Dum, “I’m playing records to an empty room, you’ve been in here for ages and you don’t seem to be making a JD and coke at all. I’m not sure what you’re doing….”
The kitchen woozily came into focus. He was right. Whatever I thought I was doing, it definitely wasn’t making a JD and coke.
Rather, what I had done was this: on arriving in the kitchen, I had opened the freezer to retrieve the ice, but instead I had taken a packet of fish fingers out and placed the contents in two lines across the kitchen work surface. And then I had stood, for a really long time, admiring my handiwork, slightly adjusting my breadrumbed buddies every now and again, making sure the lines were straight and that they were the same distance apart.
“Shall we just have some water…?” Dum Dum suggested.
“That’d be nice. Do we have any ice?”
“Shut up Jez.”
Kids: don’t do drugs. They’re not big, nor are they clever.
Now, to an appropriate tune. Sadly, I have no idea what Dum Dum played that night, but it occured to me that:
You might find yourself imagining a standard lamp is an uninvited guest.
Or you might find yourself answering questions on an imaginary game show.
Or you might find yourself arranging breadcrumb-coated fish products in a pleasing pattern.
Or you might find yourself wondering if those are discarded lines from a draft version of this:
To Scotland! And a band who I own the princely sum of one record by, and of whom I know very little.
Here’s what I do know: their 2017 album, In Memory Of – the aformentioned one album I own by them – is ace, and this song, the opening track from said album, lazy comparison as it is, reminds me of Franz Ferdinand in full swing, which is in no way a bad thing.
I have posted this before, here, just a couple of YouTube links back then, since my philosophy was, still is, not to post downloadable links for new bands, but I figure enough time has passed to allow me to recommend this lot again and post a proper link now:
Mental note to self: if you’re going to start a new series, best not to do it just before Christmas, New Year and when the January Blues kick in.
To make up for that, three songs for the price of one, all by the same band, all instrumentals, one of which encouraged me to play my guitar faster and more janglier than I had before, and at least two of which persuaded me to liberate my Dad’s harmonica, learn to play both songs on it, and then manage to lose it somewhere. I don’t know where. If I did then it wouldn’t be lost, would it?
First up, this from their much loved debut album, it’s only The (ruddy) Housemartins:
“Apropos of nothing, I thought of you the other evening Jez, when Marc Riley played Quo’s ‘Down Down’ on his 6Music show – it sounded utterly, breathtakingly fantastic coming out of the radio.”
Well, yes, that’s because it’s an utterly, breathtakingly fantastic record.
I’ve written before about how Riley and I share a philosophy: if a record’s great then it’s great, irrespective of who it’s by. Although that post was in reference to Britney Spears’ Toxic, which you can probably expect to turn up here some time soon.
See, I know most of you all turn your noses up whenever I mention The Quo, but I bet you all revere John Peel, and Down Down was one of the singles he kept in his trusty box of 7″, as evidenced here (35 minutes in, if you don’t believe me):
I’d recommend you watch all of that, by the way. If you’re not in bits when The Fall/The Undertones/Peel’s death pops up, then I’m not sure you’re human.
Personally, I can’t think of a finer way to start the week than with this, the album version, around a minute and a half longer than the single version that you know and probably hate.
Even then it fades out and you get the impression that The Frantic Four probably just kept on chugging along for a good few hours after the tape had stopped capturing it:
On February 17th, 1969, Johnny Cash and Bob Dylan booked themselves into the CBS Studios in Nashville, Tennessee and recorded a session which didn’t see the light of day until many years later.
Referred to as The Nashville Sessions, the duo recorded versions of each others songs, along with a few country standards, and the occasional cover version, none of which, as far as I can ascertain, have ever got an official release.
Here’s the two of them covering some cheeky young upstart called Elvis Presley’s debut single, itself a cover version but let’s not get into that just now:
Prompted by a tweet from Swiss Adam (auteur of all things Bagging Area-esque) on Friday, this, which is just gorgeous.
Follow Stipe’s lead vocal if you like – and why would you not want to, for it croaks and soars in equal measure – but the key to how beautifully brilliant this record is, I think, Berry and Mills’ sturdy, faithful backing vocals, which weave and wrap around Stipe’s lead like nothing I’ve heard before or since:
As I continue to work towards the return of The Chain, I’ve noticed there has been one positive aspect to me ploughing through all of the previous posts as I calculate everyone’s points total.
Ok, make that two positive things, because I’m having a right old time doing it, which partially explains why it’s taking a while.
Actually, make that three positive things, because scrolling through old posts is having a great effect on my viewing stats. I keep getting notifications from WordPress that “my stats are booming”: well, they’re not really are they? That’s me, that is.
OK, four positive things (or was this first positive thing? I’ve lost track), because I stumbled across this piece of brilliance, which made an appearance back in edition 24 of The Chain, and which I figured I’d share with you all once again. Y’know, whilst you wait.
So here you go – again: Joy Division “performing” Atmosphere. But not their Atmosphere; Russ Abbot’s Atmosphere:
Apologies for the lack of posts recently. There’s a couple of reasons, which you can read if you want, or skip onto the next paragraph if you don’t.
No, not this paragraph, the next one.
Ok, the one after next then, pedant.
Firstly, I always seem to get a case of the January blues, when I either can’t think of anything to write about, or just can’t be arsed to write something even when I can. It’s at this point that I’m always in awe of my blogging peers who manage to post something every day; I imagine you know who they are, but if not have a quick rummage around my sidebar (oo-er, Missus!) and you’ll spot them pretty quickly, and also, doubtless, be introduced to some tunes you never heard before but will, in all probability, adore. Secondly, (he says, being very careful not to start a new paragraph), winter TV has some incredible treats, and much of my time of a weekend (when I normally write) has been spent trying to catch up on some recorded stuff, some other stuff on Netflix, and generally wishing there was enough time in the day for me to watch everything my heart desires. I imagine you’ve watched most of them – Dracula; The Trial of Christine Keeler (both of which I’m in the middle of catching up on, so no spoilers please!) – plus I’ve inexplicably got rather engrossed in The Crown, which is something I never thought would happen. A nod though, to Deadwater Fell which started on Channel 4 last night and which I think I’m going to be moderately obsessed with for a while, so brilliant was it.
And – sod it, skip to the next paragraph – thirdly, I’ve been working on The Chain. Or more specifically, I had decided that on it’s return I would make the points I awarded actually mean something, so I have been going through all of the old posts and totting up who scored what, when and for what. It’s a slow process, hindered by the fact that I have to read every post to see where points were awarded and to whom, and I must say it has refreshed my memory and raised more than a few smiles, you funny clever bastards, you. I mention this just so you know it is coming soon, I haven’t given up on it yet, and if you want to make a suggestion for a song that links to Pulp’s Sorted For E’s& Whizz, you still can, by emailing me at firstname.lastname@example.org with the name of the song you want to suggest and a brief description of the link between the two songs.
Which brings me to this morning’s tunes.
As I’ve been scouring through all the old Chain posts, I couldn’t help but notice the tagline on this here blog. There it is, up in the left hand corner:
“A confessional trawl through my record buying history…where there’s no such thing as a Guilty Pleasure”
When I first started writing this blog back in – *checks notes* Jesus wept! – 2013, the plan was that I would write about every record I had ever bought, irrespective of how the Gods and Goddesses of Cool viewed those records, in the order that I bought them.
That last part has definitely fallen by the way side in the intervening years (although it does crop up every now and again, usually prompted by watching an old episode of Top of the Pops on BBC4), but it occured to me that I hadn’t posted anything for a while which most people consider to be a terrible record, but which I absolutely love.
For that is the definition of a Guilty Pleasure – a record which people look down on but which you (by which I mean me) has a lot of affection for. It’s not a philosophy I subscribe to, of course; there is no right or wrong when it comes to music because it’s subjective. I mean, even Coldplay have a couple of good songs in their back catalogue (there I’ve said it!).
Just because everyone else thinks a record stinks to high heaven is no reason for you to think the same, nor should you like a record or a group just because everyone else does.
On this last point, I am always reminded of my old mate Colin. I’ve written about him before in this context, but Colin hates The Beatles; not because he thinks they’re awful or that they didn’t make some of the most important pop records of the 20th century, but because he resents everyone else telling him that he should like them. He’s such a renegade, living as he does on the boundaries of society that is St Albans that he doesn’t like being told what he should or should not like. It’s a position I absolutely admire.
And so it seems only right that I should return with a record that most people think is,well, naff at best and just plain shit at worst. But a record which I love nonetheless, not least because it’s catchy as hell, but also because it’s a history lesson tied up in a four and half minute pop song. It’s both entertaining and educating, as The Lord Reith would have insisted.
Also, it supports my theory that any record which contains hand claps, finger clicks or…erm…mouth whistles is a happy record, sometimes irrespective of the lyrical content, as is the case with today’s tune, which is about (spoiler alert!) a mad shag-a-holic Russian monk, his rise to a position of influence and power, and his rather unpleasant, and unusual, murder:
And if that isn’t great enough to convince you, then check out Boney M super-dude Bobby’s dancing in this:
It’s hardly surprising he has to have a good sit down half way through, is it?
And just in case that’s not Guilty Pleasure enough for you, here’s a song which samples (a different song by) Boney M, which everyone I know treated like it was something unpleasant that they’d trodden in, but which I think is just brilliant:
The more astute amongst you will have noticed that my shtick these days is this: write about something, post a song which sort of links to the subject, to illustrate the point.
Looking back, I can see the birth of this idea comes from occasions when I felt totally inappropriate records were either played or suggested to be played.
Many UK folk will recall a series of adverts that Peter Kay did for a well known bitter, one of which dealt with this exact subject:
See, the art of avoiding the airing of an inappropriate song was something I was aware of from my mid-teens, and consequently I became if not obssessed, then hyper-aware, of when your intentions in playing a record could be misconstrued.
By way of example: I once was asked to do a mixtape for a friend, and in between me saying that I would, she had the misfortune to break up with her boyfriend.
Now, as any compulsive mixtape/playlist maker knows, the first draft is never the one that is gifted: there are many, many more drafts as you think of better records to include. But through all of the drafts, there was one song on the tape which I didn’t want to get rid off, because it’s a wonderful, wonderful record.
However, given recent developments, I worried that it might touch a nerve, and be considered a tad on the insensitive side.
So I figured I would ask Llŷr and his answer was this:
The song remained. No offence was taken (I think).
So where does this unfounded terror stem from?
Here: as a teenager I went to my cousin’s wedding. I was of roughly the same age as the bride’s younger brother, and so we sat together, me, him and one of his mates, when the latter announced to us that he wanted the DJ to play a certain record that he really liked.
Because he hadn’t thought about it.
And both my cousin and I tripped over each other in our efforts to stop him from approaching the DJ to ask for this, which we both told him was not a song that should be played at a wedding reception:
Well, I think we can all agree that 2019 can just fuck right off and not worry about the door hitting it’s arse on the way out.
It’s been a horrible way to end the decade (if you accept that 2019 is the last year of the decade, but let’s not get into that now): I lost my best friend in January and that loss has hung over me ever since – I’m dreading the anniversary more than his actual passing, I think – and I know that some of you also lost loved ones.
Plus there’s the whole now-inevitable Brexit debacle and five years of being governed by a bumbling buffoon, but again, you know my views, there’s no point in going over that again. I’ll leave the “I told you so’s” for another day.
I figured starting the new decade (if you accept that etc etc etc) with something positive would be a good idea, but I was struggling to think of something.
But then – and I think this is the only upside of having to unpack when I moved back into my flat – I found myself rediscovering lots of CDs that I hadn’t listened to in ages, and it is from one of those that tonight’s tune is lifted.
I’ve never been to The Big Chill festival; I have been to The Big Chill bar in King’s Cross though; a drunk Australian bloke in the Gents asked me if it was appropriate for him to go back out into the bar with his flaccid but admittedly impressive cock hanging out of his flies.
Him: “Hey mate! Mate! Would it be okay for me to go out there like this?”
Me: “Put it away mate. Nobody’s interested.” (Or intimidated. Much.)
If you ever wondered what happened to flashers, there’s your answer. They hang around in bars in Kings Cross, affecting Australian accents. There’s probably a very niche website devoted to such content. (I say ‘probably’: I haven’t found it yet, anyway.)
I suspect that he wanted me to gasp in awe and praise his girth, but I’ve seen one that big before, loads of times. I own a magnifying glass.
Anyway, turns out I own a Big Chill double CD I’d forgotten about, which includes this, which seems a rather lovely way to start the year:
Oh wait: I do have something else to say about this record.
20/20 vision is a common term for visual acuity, which Wiki describes thus:
Visual acuity commonly refers to the clarity of vision. Visual acuity is dependent on optical and neural factors, i.e., (i) the sharpness of the retinal focus within the eye, (ii) the health and functioning of the retina, and (iii) the sensitivity of the interpretative faculty of the brain.
Let’s try and remember that in 2020, especially the bit about “…the interpretative faculty of the brain“, eh? You know what I’m saying.
I’ve always loved New Year’s Eve more than I loved Christmas.
For me, the two events are very different beasts: Christmas is a time for family, New Year is a time for friends.
Over the past few years, going out on New Year’s Eve has happened less and less frequently, to the point where I know that tonight I will be home alone, having a wee drink or seven, and trying to avoid watching the bloody Hootenanny (which I’m sure is very entertaining, but – recorded in October – it’s the last bastion for lonely folks as the year ends, not something I care to admit to: I’m alone but not lonely, thanks very much).
I’m perfectly happy with this, by the way. I’m in my 50s now, but for much of my 40s I really couldn’t be arsed with going out on New Year’s Eve anymore anyway: it’s too expensive, you have to wait an age to get served at the bar, and generally there’s nowhere to sit (fellow over 40s will appreciate this more than anything else), all the good seats having been snaffled up hours ago by those annoyingly young people and their seemingly unlimited disposable income.
Since I moved to That London just over eleven years ago now, my NYE nights have been predominantly spent alone – one night out in Camden in my ‘Freshers’ year (really enjoyable, but bloody rammed), a couple of nights at friend’s house parties, a house party that Hel and I threw which I wrote about here and indeed here (which, Hel tells me, was ten years ago tonight, which it must be, as Hel is wrong even less frequently than me, if such a thing is possible).
Being at home alone on New Year’s Eve means there’s no peer pressure: I can go to bed whenever I want, drink as much or as little (yeah, right) as I want, and I don’t have to pretend to be impressed or excited by fireworks. Tonight, for example, I will be continuing to unpack following my recent decanting from my flat. (Yes, I have been back almost a month. No, I haven’t finished yet. I’ve had a bad back. And a cold. Not forgetting I am, essentially, a lazy sod.)
What I’m trying to say is that I quite like being at home on New Year’s Eve, and if you are too, then welcome. You’re really not alone.
Of course things were different when I was younger, and I would often be met with bemused looks from friends when I announced that I preferred going out on New Year’s Eve to going out at Christmas.
There’s a few reasons for that; firstly, New Year’s Eve is unburdened by any religious connotations. Secondly, many will have been lounging arojnd at home for a few days, and will emerge, batteries recharged, and frankly desperate to get away from their families. And thirdly, back then there was the promise of a midnight snog.
The occasions where I didn’t get lucky far outweighed those when I did, of course.
I hope this doesn’t come across as creepy or spark a #MeToo movement against my blog, for I was (I hope) always a perfect gentleman – but this song pretty much sums things up:
Okay, I know you’re probably all sick of hearing this song by now, but hear me out.
Since I started writing this blog, every year on the 18th December I’ve posted something in memory of the late great Kirsty MacColl, that being the anniversary of her sad, horrific, death.
But this year time got the better of me, and I didn’t get round to writing anything.
And so here we are, posting a song which I had largely tried to avoid posting, so obvious a choice is it, so synonymous with her name.
But ask me what my favourite Christmas pop single is, and this will be the first title to spill from my gob, probably showering you in mince pie detritus.
Plus, today is Shane MacGowan’s birthday, so there’s double the reason to mention it.
About twenty years or so ago, my parents, having retired, bought a plot of land in Ireland and built a home for themselves. I would visit every Christmas, and they would pick me up from the nearest airport or ferry terminal.
On the drive home, we’d have the radio on, and this song would be played more than any other song I have ever heard; it was like it was the National Anthem and every radio station was obliged to play it at least once an hour.
It got to the point where when the opening bars started, we would groan and skip to a different channel, waiting until it was inevitably played again, at which point we would restart the process.
A few weeks ago, during my enforced stay at a Travelodge, I popped to see my parents for the weekend (they have moved back to the UK). On the car journey back from the train station, it came on the radio and my Dad, instead of changing channels, turned it up.
He spotted my knowing look and simply said: “You can’t deny that it’s a good record, can you?”
So, with absolutely no apologies for posting something so obvious, here you go. Happy Christmas.
There aren’t many Christmas tunes about getting a train back to your family, so, since that is my preferred method of transport today (with a replacement bus or two tossed in for good measure) I’ll have to make do with this, glorious and kitsch as one would expect:
Oh so many Country artists have squeezed a Christmas album or two out in their time, where should the focus fall this year?
John Prine is a legend of Country music, and in 1994 he released A John Prine Christmas, an album dominated by Prine original compositions, but I’ve picked one of the few cover versions from it for today.
Originally recorded by Jimmy Boyd back in the 1950s, this has been covered more times, and more famously, by many others, but here’s Prine’s take:
On Tuesday, at work, we had a department conference, followed by a ‘Christmas’ meal (it was in a local Turkish restaurant, so whilst delicious, it wasn’t especially Christmassy) and then a few of us went for a pint afterwards.
At some point during the day, someone said something which caused a penny to drop: shit! It’s Christmas next week!!
Somehow, as I’ve got older, I’ve become a bit more organised. Christmas is always spent at my parents, so all I have to do is turn up with presents, and maybe some booze. The presents aspect I had locked down months ago, so I genuinely hadn’t realised how close the day was.
And so my first thought was not about what I needed to buy, but rather this: bloody hell, I haven’t posted any Christmas songs yet!
And, strictly speaking, that isn’t going to change now, because this isn’t really a Christmas song, but it does always make me feel kinda Christmassy, in a good-will-to-all-men kinda way:
A couple of weekends ago, I had the pleasure of an afternoon and evening in the company of my old mate Richie, conkers deep in all things Wedding Present.
For a start, we drove over to The Crouch End Picturehouse to watch Something Left Behind, the really rather wonderful documentary about the genesis of the band and the making of their still-great-after-all-these-years debut album George Best.
That was followed by a Q&A session with none other than Wedding Present main man David Lewis Gedge himself and the documentary’s director Andrew Jezard.
Then we hot-footed it over to Kentish Town to watch the band perform as part of the 30th anniversary celebrations of their second album Bizarro.
But more of this another time, for what I know you’re all thinking is this: Jez, we all know that George Best came out in 1987 and that you were super cool by then and bought it straightaway, so what are you doing banging on about The Wedding Present here, in your series where you talk about your failures, the songs you didn’t appreciate at the time?
Well as Richie and I stood supping our drinks, chatting and catching up, the interlude mixtape ringing in our ears, when today’s song came on.
“I love this record,” I said. “Hated it when it came out, mind.”
“You’re going to write about this, aren’t you?” Richie gently prodded.
“Probably,” I replied, “and if I do, then I’ll attribute to me anything amusing you might say about it now, of course.”
“But of course.”
Of course, today’s record also falls into that age-old category “it has no guitars on it” category, but I don’t think that’s the reason I failed to fall for it’s charms back then.
No: today’s record came out in May 1979, and I think I was probably just a bit too young to “get it”. I was 9 at the time, and frankly I was more interested in novelty pop records, Shakin’ Stevens and Boney M (I say that like they weren’t novelty pop acts) to be even remotely bothered with this.
At the time I was friends with a lad that I think must have moved away from the area shortly afterwards; certainly he didn’t go to the same secondary school as me and the rest my peers went to, and I never heard from him again.
His name was Steve Corrie, and for a summer holiday or two we spent our time riding around the local estate on our bikes. And when we weren’t doing that, he was telling me how amazing Gary Numan and Tubeway Army were, and I was looking at him blankly, utterly non-plussed.
A few years later, I had joined the ranks of Smash Hits readers; by now, apart from the odd duet with some bloke out of equally unfashionable Shakatak, the hits had dried up for Numan. He only got a mention in the pages of the Hits because he was a horrible Tory, who painted his face white, died his hair purple and wore purple lipstick, and had a pilot’s licence.
“He wasn’t even the most famous person with a pilot’s licence at the time; imagine being outdone by Noel Edmonds…!” Richie definitely didn’t say, he was too busy nodding sagely as I did.
Anyway, here’s the tune, and it is, to use what I believe is young person’s vernacular, an absolute banger:
Although it came along many, many years later, by which time my resistance had already thawed, this, an absolute staple of the last hour of a night out at Cardiff’s Cool House club night, definitely wore down any remaining barriers.
Tip: play this loud and, as the saying goes, dance like nobody’s looking:
Inspired by some of my blogging peers (Walter at A Few Good Times In My Life, Martin at New Amusements, Swiss Adam at Bagging Area and apologies to anyone else I may have missed) who every Monday post a long song, I thought I’d do something to compliment their work, by posting a short song every Tuesday.
So from here until I run out of songs to post (as is usual, I’ve not planned ahead so this may be a very, appropriately, short series) I’ll be posting songs which clock in at under two minutes.
And I can’t think of a finer way to kick the series off than this, one of the greatest record ever, partly because it’s so brief. It, like all the other songs in this series (I hope) does what it needs to do and then fucks off:
A reminder: that song, now recognised as being so pivotal, was only deemed worthy of being a B-Side.
And one more thing: whenever I hear this song, I think of me and Tony, sitting opposite each other, cross-legged on a table at a sixth form party, singing it with each other, regardless of what the DJ was playing at the time (which was undoubtedly shite).
Many years ago, Danny Baker had a late night chat show on BBC1. Y’know, back on one of the days they decided that they liked him.
There was one edition that I’ll always remember, but sadly can find no evidence of.
One of the guests was Jimmy Tarbuck. Another was Shane MacGowan.
MacGowan, at the peak of his drinking years – which I appreciate doesn’t narrow it down much – turned up so slurry and inebriated, you could hear members of the audience gasp, laugh, in incredulity, thinking this was some kind of comedy character, a spoof.
And Tarbuck stepped in, chastising the audience, telling them to be respectful for they were in the presence of genius.
And they were, because MacGowan wrote things like this:
I’ll level with you. I figure we all need a bit of a pick-me-up.
So: Yes, it’s back! Back! BACK!!!!!
Okay, so here’s two reasons this hasn’t happened for a while: for a start, my internet provider blocked me from accessing the thorougly disreputable sites I would usually trawl to find your suggestions. Also, even when I approached many of you to ask for the tunes you suggested last time out, I was devoid of inspiration, just couldn’t think of a single thing to say about any of them. And that’s nothing against the suggestions, which were uniformly magnificent, that’s on me.
I’ll make no promises about how frequently this will appear going forwards – as you all know (because I’ve taken every opportunity to mention it) it takes me a heck of a long time to write each of these, but it’s been over a two years since I last did one back in *checks notes* September 2017!! (Where the hell did that time go??), which is taking the piss a little bit – but I’ll try, I’ll try.
But first, some admin.
Over on the side-bar, you’ll see a link entitled The Chain – The Rules. These have been updated slightly from last time out, the chief change being that your suggestions should no longer be via the Comments section, but instead you should email them to me at dubioustaste26@gmail com
There’s three reasons for this
1. Often suggestions will feed off other suggestions, which leads us off on tangents (and, frankly, takes up more of my time). Not being able to see what others have suggested should stop that (but, I admit, might take some of the fun out of it. We’ll see. I’ll admit defeat/change if that seems to be the case. Bear with me whilst I tweak the format, basically.) If you have suggested something which has already been proposed, I’ll email you back to let you know, so you can have another go.
2. If I’m unable to locate the song in question, I can email you back to ask you for a copy.
3. It will force me to check that email address more often than I usually do, which, as regular reader Hal will confirm, I’m really quite rubbish at doing. (sorry Hal!)
But today, we’re wiping the slate clean.
From today, you can suggest whatever you like, without fear of it being eliminated for having appeared before. (By the way, just because it has featured before does not necessarily mean that I still have a copy!) The no repeat rule will kick in again after today though.
Nobody got the link, by the way, so there’s no points to share out.
And finally, it is with a heavy heart that I must acknowledge the elephant in the room. I don’t know how I missed it, but I only very recently, much, much too late to offer any meaningful condolences or support, learned of the sad passing of regular Chain contributor, Tim (The) Badger. His witty, insightful comments and brilliant suggestions will be much missed here. SWC: if you’re reading this, pick a couple in his name.
So, I’d like to dedicate this, the 44th edition of the Chain, to The Badger.
Ladies and gentlemen pur-lease: charge your glasses and scratch your heads to come up with your suggestions for songs which can be linked to Pulp’s Sorted for E’s & Wizz then email them with an explanation of the link to email@example.com and I’ll see you back here in a shortly while.
I’m going to use the word “You” a lot today. I don’t mean you. I mean You. Yes: You.
I’m one of those (North London) Lefties you hear about in the mostly right-wing press and media, the ones who sneer at the likes of Hugh Grant or Steve Coogan for daring to voice an opinion.
I’ve not always been a (North London) Leftie; for a while I was a Cambridgeshire Leftie, living in John Major’s constituency and arguing on the bus home from 6th Form; and then a South Wales Leftie, where frankly I didn’t stand out from the crowd all that much.
But always a Leftie. I’ve never voted Tory. Never have, never will.
I’m the sort of person who, the red tops would have you believe, lives in a bubble, divorced from the realities of modern life.
That may be true. (Narrator: It’s not true.)
But one thing I can say is that I lived in London for the two terms that Anthony Boris Pfeiffer Oxbowlake Jerusalem Wiffwaff Johnson somehow managed to gain consent to act as our Mayor. And I know what he is. I’ve told you before.
But let’s pretend You knew nothing of his past, of his being fired from two (three?) jobs for lying, of his agreeing to have a fellow journalist beaten up, of his – to use his vernacular – “spaffing up the wall” public funds on an unbuilt bridge, or an unusable water cannon.
Yesterday You all looked at Johnson and somehow, despite everything You saw and heard, You went and voted for him anyway.
You ignored his refusal to go head to head with Andrew Neil in an interview, and thought, “Yeh, that’s okay – why should he be scrutinsed in the same way that every other party leader has done? He’s just our Prime Minister, he doesn’t need to be held accountable. Leave him alone, he has funny hair!”
You ignored that he shrugged off the televised Leader’s Climate Conference, which he failed to attend, but sent his Dad instead, thinking that was an entirely reasonable thing to do. Oh, and rubber faced gimp mask Frodo Michael Gove, like that’s any better.
You ignored the allegations of improper conduct in public office with a lapdancer business woman.
You ignored the allegations of spousal abuse.
You ignored the lies about the number of hospitals he says he’ll build.
You ignored the lies about the number of additonal nurses that would fill them.
You ignored him not even knowing – or at least being prepared to admit, or even discuss – how many children he has.
You ignored him giving the “cut” signal to a semi-hostile radio interviewer asking a difficult question, forgetting it was also being filmed.
You ignored him wrestling a mobile phone from a journalist, pocketing it because it was showing a photograph of a child laying on coats in a hospital in Leeds.
You ignored his part in the Vote Leave law-breaking.
You ignored that bus.
You ignored the tossed-off-the-cuff racism and homophobia.
You ignored him blundering into the Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe affair and getting her sentence increased.
You ignored him hiding in a fridge, for fuck sake.
Did I miss anything? Probably. It’s a really long list.
And You thought: this man, he, who has been at the heart of Conservative politics for many years, their champion, who has with relentless relish sought out every dogturd, stepped in it and then waved it in our faces, this proven liar, full of bullshit and bluster, he is the man to lead us.
Well done You.
Do You remember when we laughed about how stupid Americans must be to vote in Trump? Something like that couldn’t happen here, could it. You said.
Except it just has.
So many people I know – my family, my friends, me – have had to rely on our wonderful NHS recently. I literally would not be here were it not for them. And they gave me almost 15 years with my now passed best friend, 15 years I will always cherish and be thankful for.
You saw the NHS on its knees, crying out for help, and You said: I like the bloke with the funny hair that knows some Latin.
And we all know what is likely to happen to the NHS now. Don’t pretend You don’t.
You had documents proving the NHS is up for sale in post-Brexit negotiations waved in Your face. You had Trump admitting it (and then denying it, but let’s not get into his consistency issues). And You ignored it.
I hope you and your families never get ill and need to rely on our beautiful NHS.
I hope none of them ever have to visit a food bank.
But of course, I can’t look away from Labour’s leadership either.
For had there been a credible alternative, I don’t think Johnson would be where he is this morning.
I’ve written about them here before; initially in glowing terms (though with a caveat: I made reference way back when he got elected as Party Leader that Corbyn could be as disasterous as Michael Foot – and so it has proved, only more so) and more recently relinquished my support for him.
Me? I’m doing (kinda) okay, but I work in the public sector, and I’ve seen jobs and budgets chipped away, jobs amalgamated, people let go. I saw a friend be told he had to take a (significant) pay cut to continue his work – do the same, but for less, or be off – and so he had to leave.
It might be me next. Nothing I can do it about it if it is. I’ll join the three-year waiting list for a council house, no bother.
It’s austerity, see? Cuts need to be made.
Meanwhile, here’s a £billion for the DUP to buy their compliance. Here’s £140m on an advertising campaign for a No Deal Brexit which hasn’t happened (yet).
But can we spend some money putting proper cladding on a tower block so that our brothers and sisters from ethnic minorities and/or poor people don’t burn to death? Or compensate the families of those who did? Of course not. Too busy deporting them in the Windrush scandal.
I’m angry I fell for Corbyn, back then.
I’m angry I saw the light (too) late.
I’m angry that the people who so desperately needed a lift will have another five years under the heel.
Because that’s what voting Tory is: a flagrant disregard for others. “I’m Alright Jack”, and sod the rest of you.
But one day, trust me, You will be angry too. You probably already have been, but didn’t realise it.
I voted Labour yesterday, but I didn’t vote for Corbyn. I voted Not Tory.
We’ve all known for a long time that this election was going to be a maelstrom of messed-up; the unreliable versus the unelectable.
Because that’s what Corbyn is. Unelectable. No more questions. No more doubt. No more debate. Get rid.
Had there been a better Leader of the Labour Party – Phillips, Starmer, Thornberry – last night would not have happened.
This day has been coming for a long time. It’s just such a shame it happened at exactly the point where the country most needed the opposite.
Before I go any further, my apologies for the delayed response/approval/liking of some of the comments left here since I reappeared.
Ordinarily I would respond via the WordPress app on my phone, but there seems to be some sort of a glitch with that at the moment, immediately crashing whenver I try to open it. It’s probably been like that since the last update, but I’ve not had cause to use it for the past few weeks. Tonight is the first chance I’ve had to fire up my laptop and react to the comments, so sorry for the unintended radio silence.
Especially as my post about disappearing social media footprints seems to have touched a few nerves; it’s nice to know when something you write hits the target, slightly less so when you realise you may have inadvertently been responsible forreopening some old wounds.
I’ll try to reply to each of you who left comments about their own experiences when I can think of something which doesn’t sound mealy-mouthed or vacuous.
And to the couple of people who left comments for the first time this week: hello, and you’re very welcome here.
So for those of you who are new to my little corner of the internet, on a sunday moning (UK time) you should find a little gem of Country music here. Many of the same acts – Cash, Kristofferson, Pride – will appear here often, others less so.
This morning, a tune featuring a Country star who is perhaps better known than any other, accompanied by her former singing partner Porter Wagoner.
I’m a little bit behind watching the excellent series currently airing in the UK on BBC4 of a Friday Night, wittily entitled Country Music and produced by Ken Burns (or as it’s billed over here: Ken Burns Country Music which just sounds like Barbie’s old beau has a grudge), but I imagine Wagoner has got a mention, given that he was known as ‘Mr Grand Ole Opry’ and apparently racked up 81 hit singles between 1954 and 1983.
This is one of them, a cover of a Tom Paxton song which has been blessed with many interpretations over the years, performed with the little lady with a big heart, who he introduced to the world on his TV show in 1967, and who he released records with throughout the late 60s and early 70s, before she busted out (sorry I couldn’t resist) into fame in her own right.
1: Whilst I’ve been away, and so so bored, I’ve listened to a lot of music.
2: I love Radiohead, but I have to admit I lost faith/track post Hail to the Thief. Which means that their Amnesiac album somehow managed to pass me by.
3: Every now and then in this slot, which traditionally features quieter, more introspective tunes, I like to throw something in which is, to egotistically quote myself from a previous post, a “glorious cacophany of noise”.
I really wanted to keep things upbeat on my return, but I can’t not mention this.
As I was going through the laborious task of unpacking today, listening to some tunes as I moved one box from one place to another, one song came on which reminded me of Llŷr. Not for any particular moment we had shared, but because when I posted it here, he sent me a text telling me how much he liked the tune in question, and we had a chat about it, via text.
So I went to my phone, hoping to read that conversation, only to find it only holds text chats back to a certain date: before that nothing.
And so I’ve lost that one last connection I had with my best friend.
Cheers for that, Apple.
Maybe it was on WhatsApp, I thought, and so I checked there, only to be greeted with lots of group messages which he had been part of, all ending with the words “Llŷr has left the conversation”.
And I realised that with death, so comes admin. I know that, because he wasn’t capable of responding, Llŷr’s parents had control of his phone for those last few months, but it had never occurred to me that they had to go through everything, shutting it down for the last time. Jesus, that must have been tough for them.
I’m not ashamed to tell you that I cried when I realised I had lost that last evidence of us, that final conversation never to be added to, but also about that which I had never considered before, the minutae of bereavement, the stuff that has to be done.
And so here I am, almost eleven months since he died, not doing what I should be, but weeping.
I knew grief was tough, but I didn’t realise just how tough, how never-fucking-ending it seems to be.
I don’t want to forget, I won’t forget, but sometimes remembering hurts.
Update: since I posted this, I’ve learned that this deletion of history, this wiping of memory, is ‘what happens’. And it’s outrageous that – having been coerced and manipulated into a world where we communicate via the written word, text, email, Whatsapp, whatever – the last thread we have of people, that last interaction we cling on to, the thing we can look back on and remember and cherish, can just be deleted without thought, because an algorithm says so…well, my friends, that’s fucked up and I hope you never find yourself where we are now.
Who are these people who think they can dictate to me when I should stop grieving, at what point I should stop remembering deceased friends? Whoever they are, fuck ’em. I’m still sad, but now I’m sad and angry.
Anyway (deep breaths): by way of a complete counterpoint to all I have just written, a relentlessly upbeat song that he loved, that we loved, despite (or, more probably, because of) its perceived cheesiness.
The last time I heard this being played in a public arena was at a friend’s wedding; we didn’t dance, but Llŷr and I did sit together and sing along.
It makes me smile when I hear it, because I remember. And I always will.
Regular readers will know that at any possible opportunity, I will post something from the back catalogue of Alan Partridge Esq.
Usually, it’s this:
But I’m not posting that today. Oh, hang on…
No. For today, I want to start off by referencing my favourite episode of I’m Alan Partridge: Series 1, Episode 2, Alan Attraction, an episode which I think is probably the funniest of any sitcom ever.
Here’s how wiki explains the plot:
Without a second series of his programme, Alan is nearing bankruptcy and chooses to fire the staff at his company, Peartree Productions, rather than downsize his car. However, when the staff ask him if he has a second series, Alan panics, and tells them that he has been successful. While the staff prepare a party, and Jill, his flirtatious, chain-smoking, 50-year-old, divorced receptionist (Julia Deakin) goes out to buy some snacks, Alan tries to extricate himself by firing staff members for various “offences,” such as leaving an unwashed coffee cup on the table and rolling eyes. Whilst he locks himself in his boardroom, the staff leave. Jill returns, wondering where everyone has got to (he tells her they have gone to a spice museum) and the two go on a date to a nearby owl sanctuary, where Alan’s attempts at conversation bewilder Jill. In the evening, the two attend a Valentine’s Day dinner at the Travel Tavern, where Alan makes a fool of himself by badly singing “Close To You” by The Carpenters for her with the hired band, and Lynn attempts to sabotage Alan’s evening with the uncouth Jill. Alan and Jill go to his room. Alan attempts to have sex with Jill while providing a running commentary and attempts a discussion of the pedestrianisation of the Norwich city centre to delay ejaculating. Jill’s attempt at eroticism with chocolate mousse makes him angry so he ends his liaison with her. At the radio station that night, he announces on-air that he has sacked her.
There’s so many brilliant clips which stem from that.
And also this, for my money not just one of the finest comedy moments played out (almost) completely in the dark, but one of the finest comedy moments ever:
“Let battle commence!”
“Do you…er…like me doing that…? Shall I do it more quickly, or maintain the same speed…?…Shall I move on to the other one…?”
“That’s lovely…that’s first class…that…that is superb…ohh there you go..it’s all happening….”
“Jill, you know your onions….!”
“People need access to Diiixxxxons…..”
It’s all in blackout, but the genius is that we can all picture exactly what is happening, even if we’d rather not, thanks very much.
And why am I mentioning all of this, I hear you yawn?
Well, some of you may recall that several months ago I wrote about how I was going to have to temporarily vacate my flat whilst some subsidence-related structural work was done to it.
This has been rumbling along for over a year now, with no real end game in sight, but suddenly it’s all happening, and the day that I have to vacate my flat and be placed in temporary accommodation is today.
Back in April, the company charged with the task of rehousing me sent me a clutch of links to six apartments they had access to – three one bedroom, three two bedroom – and basically asked that I take my pick.
I would post a link to them now, but having tried to look at them whilst writing this post, I find that the link comes with one of those “site unsecure” warnings that people who click on dubious links will be familiar with, so I won’t bother. Maybe they can appear in the Comments if anyone’s really interested (which I doubt).
Suffice it to say that, frankly, the apartments looked amazing, and certainly better than my own flat.
I bit their hands off. “Any of those are fine!” I told them.
Before those flats were offered to me, I had some questions to ask of the insurance company, chiefly revolving around any extra costs I was going to incur whilst I was absent from my flat – if there’s no facility to cook, I will have to either eat out or get takeways, will I be reimbursed for this? And if there’s no laundry facilities in the apartment, will I be reimbursed for the cost of going to the laundrette? – but these were mostly answered by the apartments I was offered. All of them had a kitchen area, a dishwasher, a washing machine and a tumble dryer.
But all of the apartments were in central London and I live way out in the outskirts, in Zone 4, and I work even further out, in Zone 5. I get the bus to and from work, at a cost of £3.00 a day, but to travel from Zone 1 to Zone 5 and back every day would be considerably more expensive.
At the time of writing, I am still in negotiations with the insurers about the internet access I get in such grand surroundings. According to the website, I get 30 minutes a day free or get charged £3.00 for 24 hours (or, as they try to big it up: “30 minutes FREE or £3 for 24 hours”); I pay a monthly fee to my broadband provider to have unlimited Wi-Fi, and so to my mind, they either reimburse me the cost I am paying to continue that (even though I can’t use it), or they agree to pay the £3.00 a day so I have the same whilst I’m re-accommodated.
And trust me: I work in insurance, I know exactly what I’m entitled to.
Anyway, what I’m building up to say is that until that’s sorted, things might be a little quiet round these parts. I’m trying to write as many posts as I can before the big day, but it may that be after today nothing happens around here until early December, when I’m currently rescheduled to return to my home.
When I last posted something by this morning’s artiste, I was less than complimentary about the film to which he had provided the title track.
Until that point, I had never heard of Sturgill Simpson, and if I’m honest, I had assumed he wasn’t a real Country performer. Rather, because I was so disappointed by the film in question, I thought he was some made-up dude, an extension of a joke the film director was making that I really didn’t understand.
The other day on Twitter, somebody that I follow (I can’t remember who, or I’d give credit) mentioned how great his new album Sound & Fury is. So I investigated, and it really, really is.
This isn’t from that album, it’s from 2016’s A Sailor’s Guide to Earth, and it’s a cover version, but bloody hell it’s good:
Another repeat posting tonight – this is what was going to appear last week until I had a change of heart.
Oh, the ignomy of being bumped in favour or Embrace….
In fact I’ve posted this song more than once before, but boy oh boy is this a song which deserves a revisit.
Back in the early to mid 2000s, when Llŷr and I shared the flat of filth, we used to buy The Guardian every Saturday, not because of any political leanings (although we pretty much agreed on that too), but because of The Guide, a little booklet which came with the paper, and provided an overview of the week’s important cultural moments.
Specifically, we were both obsessed with Charlie Brooker’s Screen Burn column, where the man who is now perhaps best known for being the co-creator of Black Mirror (or for being married to former Blue Peter presenter Konnie Huq, depending on your own private obsessions) would provide scathing, savage dissections of whatever he had seen on TV that week. Whichever of us bought the paper had first dibs at reading it, would flick immediately to Brooker’s column, and then sit either openly guffawing or shuddering in giggles until the other gave in and asked that they read aloud what was making them laugh so much.
Every now again, sealed inside the same plastic bag The Guide came in, was a CD, and so it was that I we first came into possession of some songs by Nick Cave.
(Actually, as I’m writing this now I think that it might have been with The Observer. Doesn’t matter really, I don’t think. Point is, it was a freebie.)
I’d never really listened to Nick Cave at this point; I’d heard the records my brother had when we were in our teens, back when Cave was churning out much more gothic, and to these ears, unpleasant noise, and had decided he wasn’t for me.
But I was aware that his sound had matured over the years, and so we gave the CD a listen.
And heard what remains one of my favourite songs. Ever.
It was, I think, the first song on the CD, and I lost count of how many times we repeat played it, so blown away by it were we.
And it still hits me every time. But now for different reasons.
Before Llŷr passed, whenever I heard that record, I would be astonished by its beauty, its intellectual and existential qualities counterpointing its simplicity.
But when I hear it now, all I can think of is that Saturday morning, when we sat with the sunlight streaming into our living room, silent as it played, followed by either one of us saying: “I think I need to hear that again.”
My one great regret about writing this blog is that I no longer seem to be able to keep up with reading all that my blogging peers have written recently.
People I have shared flats with will testify that it used to be the case that once I got home from work, the first thing I would do would be to fire up my laptop (or PC as it was at the time), and check in on all my favourite folk, see what they’ve been up to and what they’ve been listening to.
But for the last couple of years, this routine has fallen by the wayside. Instead, every month or so – and often, not even that frequently – I’ll swoop by all those that I know, or who have commented here, or who contributed to The Chain back in the day, to catch up with what’s being going on with them. And hopefully pick up a few tips about tunes I don’t know about.
Over the last week, I’ve tried to rectify that, and found that many of my blogging buddies have been going through some hard times of late, and I feel terrible that until now I’ve not provided the same kind of support as they did to me, when I was taken ill last year, and then when I lost my best friend earlier this year.
Back before I started blogging, I didn’t realise the importance of leaving Comments on blogs I read, so I never left one. Not one.
But having been through some hard times myself and received such kind messages, I can tell you how much it means to know there are people out there – that I’ve never met and probably never will – who are decent, respectful and supportive. As one of my greatest allys has found recently, it’s so easy to forget in this world of online existence, where trolling and unpleasantness is often the norm, that there are far more nice, honourable people out there than there is the opposite.
This isn’t a pathetic plea for more comments here, this is an apology to all those who have commented and to whom I’ve not reciprocated until recently, when it’s way too late.
I wish I knew how to end this post. I’d love it to be something inspiring and uplifting, but I fear whatever I do will just come across as glib.
So I figured I’d embrace that. So here, by way of a truly shonky bit of clippage recorded so long ago that Tim Lovejoy still had hair (but was still an irritating twonk), is Alan Shearer doing what he does best: singing Labi Siffrie songs:
Hopefully ths won’t come across as pompous or self-important, but maybe it’s better way to sign off with a tune:
I’ll be honest, when I started writing this series, the plan was that they would culminate at or around my 50th birthday.
And here we are in November, over a month after my landmark moment, and I haven’t even got halfway yet.
In fact, I haven’t even written one in over a month.
This is entirely indicative of my inability to plan ahead: you would think that having hit upon the idea of writing 50 posts about 50 records I disliked when they were first released but which I now love, you would think I would then spend a little time considering what those 50 tunes would be.
Not this guy. Oh no.
“It’ll be fine,” I told myself , “they’ll just come to you,” .
And this slap-dash for no cash approach was proven to be true this week when watching the inspiration for many things I post here: the reruns of Top of the Pops on BBC4.
These repeats are now into 1988, and thankfully a period where less controversial Radio 1 DJs feature, so fewer editions have been wiped from the running order.
And specifically, to this song, which I remember thinking at the time was really rather dull, but now I see it for what it is: one of the finest soul records from the past 30+ years.
Put it this way (and I can think of no finer recommendation of any record): nowadays, when it comes on the radio I turn it up rather than down:
Many of you will recall a sketch from The Fast Show called Jazz Club, where John Thompson, in a bowl haircut and a dodgy suit, would smoke woozy cigarettes and introduce the act with the word “Nice!” or “Great!” or…ah heck, here they all are:
I met John once, in a professional capacity. Back in the late 80s, around the time he was best known for being Fat Bob in Steve Coogan’s Paul Calf Video Diaries, he did a gig at our college, and I was charged with looking after him, making sure he got fed and watered, and then introducing him on stage. To this day, my Dad still refers to him as “Your mate…”.
Fewer of you, I suspect will recall the one-off Indie Club edition, this time hosted by Simon Day, who gave the featured band a thoroughly inaccurate intro:
In the late 1980s/early 1990s there were a lot of short-lived jingly jangly indie bands that I loved, and I’d count Bristol’s The Driscolls one of them.
They first came to my attention when my college buddy Keith became a little obsessed with Allie, a girl who said she was going out with the lead singer from the band.
I have no reason to doubt her, nor to question Keith’s taste, for she was a proper Indie chick of the time: bleach blond bobbed hair, bedecked in either paisley or polka dot outfits, Doc Martin boots. She used to come to the Indie Night I used to DJ, and I always sensed Keith’s seething rage that she would talk to me (asking for a certain record to be played, nothing more).
Anyway, here’s three tracks by the band that Allie’s boyfriend was in, all lifted from their eponymous 1989 six-track EP. All of these, but particularly the first one, would sit really sweetly in The Fast Show’s Indie Club
But stick with them, because I genuinely think that the third one is a lost late 80s Indie classic:
It was my honorary Little Sister Hel’s birthday last week, and I couldn’t think of anything to post that was appropriate.
And then I remembered the last night when she and I shared a flat together.
When it became very clear that Hel and Neil were becoming a serious couple, I told Hel that she shouldn’t feel bad about moving out of the flat and leaving me behind, that she had to put her happiness first and foremost, that there would be no hard feeling from me when she did so.
You won’t be surprised to learn that we spent that final night getting horribly drunk together; still less surprised to find out that I had prepared a four hour long playlist to soundtrack the night; and probably even less surprised to learn that I ended the night passed out on the bathroom floor, having necked one (pint of) White Russian too many.
Anyway, this was the first song on the playlist, and as I recall as it began Hel turned to me and said: “Oh God, I’m going to cry all night,aren’t I?”
Yes probably, but don’t worry, I’ll be having a kip in the toilet, so no-one will know.
A repeat posting, but it’s been a couple of years since this song appeared, so I’m sure you’ll forgive me for what I’m about to do.
As I began writing today, I was disturbed by the amount of fireworks I could hear going off in my locality. It hadn’t occured to me that this was the closest Saturday to November 5th, when bonfires and fireworks and explosives are considered perfectly acceptable.
Anyway, this is not a band I care much for, although as I mentioned when I last posted this song, I do have a soft spot for their debut album.
In my opinion it’s good to have an open mind, and to be able to concede that you like something buried in a band or artiste’s back catalogue, especially when the general consensus is that you should either hate or never admit in public to liking anything by them. There’s no such thing as a guilty pleasure (although I might be stretching that to a point tonight…).
Here’s….oh gosh, I’m really going to do this, aren’t I….here’s a really good – not great, but good – record by Embrace:
One year ago tomorrow, I was admitted to hospital. This led to some posts where I tried to wring as much humour as I could from the sitution. This, combined with my more recent story about how I accidentally exposed my arse in a local convenience store, and as the dark nights are drawing in, led me to decide to share some more embarassing moments from the file marked “Oh, Jeremy…”
As a bit of a back-story by way of an introduction: years ago, when I still lived in Cardiff, I was out one night with a now ex-girlfriend and her friends. She was off dancing, and one of her friends shuffled along the seats towards me.
“Can I just say that you seem really nice, we all really like you and approve of you being with XXXX…” – I was quite pleased and surprised by this, for we all know that the hardest thing about a burgeoning relationship is convincing your new partner’s closest friends that you’re not an utter scumbag “…but,” she continued, “you’re your age and single, never married, no kids, so I guess what I want to know…”
It dawned on me, too late that, that wasn’t really going to be one of those “Gosh you’re so great” conversations, she was going somewhere with it and that somewhere involved a question I probably wasn’t going to like very much. I glanced around for an escape route, but found none.
“….is,” she continued, “what exactly is wrong with you….?”
“Well, if I knew that…” I said, allowing the sentence to tail off mysteriously, to become a semi-sentence, punctuating it with a shrug and a bemused smile.
I was pretty pleased with the way I dodged that particular bullet, having turned her question into a rhetorical one without her having any say in the matter. Then, just to let her know that particular thread could be pulled at no further, I quickly stood and added, “It’s my round, what are you drinking?”
Truth be told, I did know how that sentence ended. I knew what “that” was. It was my propensity to say or do something so ludicrously inappropriate as to ensure a second date would definitely not happen.
So. Here we go. Mum, Dad: here come the reasons there have been no grandchildren from my branch of the family tree.
Episode one (of too many).
I am out with some friends in Cardiff. They’re people I know pretty well, because they work and drink in my local pub; when they were working then I was generally sitting at the bar chatting to them, and often when they finished their shift they would join me. Let’s say that we gravitated towards each other, found the company perfectly agreeable, and so it went on.
The upshot of this is that I didn’t really know the people on the peripherals, the ones who only came into their orbit every now and then.
And so it was that I found myself in a different bar with these pub friends and a couple of other people that I didn’t know at all, but who, social chameleon that I am, I got on with.
As it happens, I was getting on with one lady in particular, who I quite fancied, and I thought I was getting reciprocal good vibes back from. I’ll not divulge her name, not for any ‘protecting the innocent’ reason, but because this many years after the event, I simply can’t remember it. Which sounds outrageous, but it isn’t: I’m pretty sure my brain has blocked me from recalling it, just in case.
So we’re sitting chatting, getting on very well, and all my friends are doing that thing where they flash you knowing looks from out of her line of vision every now and again.
We do the whole chit-chat thing – Are you from round here? What do you do for a living? Any brothers/sisters? You know the kind of thing – and this lady offers me these words in response to one of those questions:
“I’m a police officer.”
Now I thought I did quite a good job of disguising the startled look on my face, but she picked up on it.
“Don’t worry, I haven’t got my tazer gun with me tonight!” she breezed cheerily.
I afforded a smile, because that wasn’t what I was thinking. No, what I was thinking was that I must be carful not to inadvertently use any uncomplimentary references to the police as being The Pigs, The Filth, The Scum, or whatever.
Not that they are terms I would use under normal circumstances, but when you find yourself in a situation where you really shouldn’t say something, in my experience the temptation to do the exact opposite becomes almost irrisistable.
Tourette’s Syndrome is a condition with many levels, one of which is the inability to resist saying the most inappropriate thing in moments of social awkwardness. Often I think I have a much milder version, where the inappropriate thing pops into my head, but I just about manage to stop myself from blurting it out.
And resist I did; on this occasion I disguised my condition by telling her she certainly didn’t look like a police officer – meant as a compliment, and, I think, taken as one – but asked if it was okay to imagine her in the uniform. Flirting, I think it’s called, if a little over the line marked “Cheesy”. Ok, along way over.
This large slice of fromage didn’t deter her, and we chatted on for quite a while, to the point where we were practically separate from the rest of the group, not engaging with them at all, just engrossed in each other. We became such a satellite of the main group that we started up our own round of drinks, just me and her.
After a while, I had to excuse myself and visit the Gents. And that’s where things began to unravel.
I may have mentioned this before, but when I reach a certain level of pissed-ness – and I’ve always figured it was my body’s way of telling me to slow down – I sneeze.
In a row.
And my sneezes are not your discreet a-tish-oo-s but a loud blunderbus of an expulsion
I had made it known to some of my buddies that this is something that happens to me, hoping to generate some sympathy by embellishing it with the phrase “allergic to alcohol”, but instead their reaction was often to start betting on how many times I would sneeze this time.
On one night out, with a different group of friends, a sneezing fit commenced and they started putting money down. When the sneezes fizzled out after five or six, a pepper shaker was commandeered by whoever had bet on 13 being the winning number, and a line was chopped out on the table in front of me, which I duly snorted.
To no effect.
Except the next morning, I woke up with a woozy head, wondering why my nose felt like it was on fire.
But not this time, for this time I was in the Gents when the sneeze-fit struck. So I should be okay, right? Just stay in there until the phase had passed.
Except….one of the sneezes was so head-joltingly violent, that my glasses flew off and smashed on the floor.
I picked them up and, in between the involuntary spasms which continued, I examined them. Nope, they were beyond temporary repair.
I returned to a slightly blurrier bar, and to my seat. The young lady to whom I had provided such irresistably engaging company before my visit noticed the difference in my appearance, and asked what had happened to my glasses. I explained and we laughed it off. Result, thought I. Hurdle succesfully negotiated.
And then she asked me this: “And do I still look good without your glasses on?”
And before I had chance to properly engage my brain, I heard myself say the following words:
“Oh no. You still look like a pig to me.”
We all left the bar shortly afterwards; in the interim we didn’t exchange a single word, and I don’t really think I can put that down to her not fancying me without my glasses on.
I never saw her again, even when I got a new pair of glasses.
I don’t know what it is – the sheer simplicity of it, or the audacity to be able to carry it off – but whilst I of course admire those who are proficient at their instrument of choice, so too do I love a tune where the performer obstinantly sticks to playing just one note, or as close to it as is possible.
Give me Pete Shelley shouting “Tricky guitar solo!” as he launches into the three note epic that is the guitar break in What Do I Get? over the tedious teeth-grinding fret-wank of, say, Yngwie Malmsteen (his name was lodged in my noggin for some reason; I had to look him up, so its fine for you to do the same, but I think my description of his talents is pretty accurate so you don’t really need to) any day of the week.
A case in point: I bloody love this, partly because it’s a much over-looked, cracking bit of indie pop, but mostly because whoever it is that’s playing the keyboard refuses to involve anything other than the most basic number of keys:
Regular readers may recall that my very lovely and generous group of friends gave me a whole hunka credits at Ticketmaster for my birthday, and I’m pleased to announce I’m slowly, steadily, chipping away at that monumental total.
So far, I’ve bought tickets for two gigs, and annoyingly missed out on one: The Pretenders are supporting Suede at a one-off gig at the Shepherd’s Bush Empire in November, which is a dream line-up for me – but I wasn’t quick enough out of the blocks to get a ticket.
Instead, I have bought tickets for two gigs: one – and I know this will irk at least one of my blogging buddies – is for The Wonder Stuff, at the same venue, in December.
Now, I’ll be honest, under normal circumstances I would not consider going to see them, since they haven’t released anything of any worth since 1993, but they’re peforming both their debut album The Eight Legged Groove Machine (which I love and holds many happy memories for me) and the follow-up Hup (which I’m less fond of, but it’s not as bad as their next album, Never Loved Elvis, which I actively dislike and which thankfully is not getting an airing at said gig.) As long as they don’t start putting violins all over the performance of the first album, then I’m sure to have a great night.
But why am I wanging on about The Wonder Stuff here, where a Country record traditionally lives, I hear you yawn.
Well, because the other gig I’ve bought a ticket for is to go see Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds at the O2 next May, which I’m sure you’ll agree is much cooler.
So, to mark that, here’s one man in black – Johnny Cash – covering another – Nick Cave – on the third of his peerless American Recordings albums.
It was Llŷr who first played this to me, part of a DJ set by Erol Alkan – I think (I’m pretty sure, but I’ve never tracked a copy down, and when I asked Alkan via Twitter his response was an equally vague “I think I did….”). At the time I wasn’t familiar with the Cave version, and the lyrical content stunned and blew me away. It was my first step on the road to discovering the immense body of work that Nick Cave has created, some of which will be cropping up on these pages again pretty soon.
I deserve to have my blogging wings clipped, for yet again I have missed the anniversary of the great man’s sad passing.
There’s very few famous people, and even fewer Radio 1 DJs, whose sudden departure from this mortal coil has stunned and upset me as when I got the news fifteen years (and one day – clip me!) ago that John Peel had died.
Just like people know where they were when JFK was assasinated, I remember where I was when I heard the news. It’s not exciting or unusual, for I was sitting at my desk in the office where I worked. But I also remember a Mexican wave of muttering shock and sadness heading towards me, rolling over and engulfing me as I heard the words “John Peel’s died”. I clicked Google open and there it was, confirmed.
I had to go out for some air. And probably (actually, definitely) a cigarette.
I don’t understand why it is that the good ones, the ones who make our lives richer, are taken from us sooner than they should have been. The last few years has been littered with them: Victoria Wood, Prince, Caroline Aherne, Bowie…this list could go on and on and on. As do those we could do without: Johnson, Gove, Rees-Mogg, Farage, Morrissey – why are they still here and the honourable, decent ones are not?
Anyway, I’ve had this up my sleeve for a while; it’s not a record that I physically own, because the only person who did own it was Peel himself.
But…oh, why don’t I let the great man explain it himself?