Name That Tune #1

Friends of mine will tell you I love a themed mix tape or CD.

In my old flat, we used to have what we (ok, I) liked to call The Friday Night Music Club. This would involve us¬†a) getting very drunk b) me shaving my head at some point c) listening to the latest CD mix I’d made (later, when I bought a sound system that allowed me to just plug my ipod in (other mp3 playing devices are available) these mixes got waaaay longer, and probably waaaaay more tedious for the listener) and d) ideally having a bit of a dance.

I’ve done mix tapes and CDs for friends and family all my life (but you already knew that, right?) but the¬†idea¬†here was to make a series of mix¬†CDs which, when played in sequence, you could play at a house party and which would keep the night bubbling along nicely.

Actually, this is something I’d already tried a few years earlier. Friends of mine used to have the most excellent parties at their flat on Hilldrop Road, usually with a DJ playing, but on one occasion the DJ – and for that matter, their decks – couldn’t make it. In their absence I prepared a set¬†of 11 CDs – about 15 hours – which, when played in sequence, took you from¬†aperitifs and welcomers, to “go on have a bit of a dance”, through to off your nut party anthems, and then back down¬†to sitting round talking nonsense about radishes¬†until 6am.

Anyway, back to the Friday Night Music Club. Occasionally I’d make a theme out of the whole thing (hey, if Bob Dylan can do a radio show using the same format, I can do a mix CD, okay?) or do more than one CD and spread the theme out (there was once 4 CD opus to a former flat mate which deserves a mention in passing)¬†but more often than not¬†the theme would occur to me in the middle of preparing it, and that’d be it…I’d be off….

So I figured I’d start doing something similar here: a themed mix you can do what you will with. And here’s the theme: songs with real people’s names in the title. Catchy, huh? Sounds like a round on Pointless. Ok, Name That Tune is better.

No further comment needed, here’s your opening track:

weezer-buddy-holly Buddy Holly by Weezer

Buy the album here

Watch the frankly rather wonderful video here

More to follow. Obvs.

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Girls, eh?

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As you may have noticed from some of the recent posts, girls were well on my horizon by now.¬†And there¬†was one thing my finely tuned adolescent brain had noticed about girls (well, actually there was a couple of things, but let’s not get all biological): they liked music.

No, that’s not strong enough a description. They REALLY liked music. But, inexplicably, very few of them (by which I mean none) were even vaguely enamoured by the chug-a-chug-a-chug-a-chug which characterised 99.9% of Quo’s output. No, these curious beasts¬†liked something called “pop music”.

As I’ve gotten older, I’ve reconnected with pop music (although, paradoxically I now feel too old and out of the loop – although every now and again (rarely), I’ll hear something those pesky young kids are up to and think “What’s that? It’s got a good beat...”)¬†A few years ago, a very good friend of mine (who I often describe as my little brother) reminded me that there’s nothing wrong with liking pop music and his message hit home. Okay, he was a 25 year old man buying a N*Sync album and that was what prompted the conversation, but that’s not the point. The point was, he had a point.

It’s odd; I don’t think I’m the type of person who is easily swayed in his musical opinion, yet as I think back when writing this guff that a couple of you are kind enough to read, I’m continually reminded how just about every reassessment I ever made of my musical tendencies has been shortly after¬†someone I respected the opinion of, be that older brother or best buddy, ¬†“had a word with me“. Wherever there’s a turn in direction, a change in taste, it’s been because someone played me something, or said something, which stopped me in my tracks, made me take stock and reassess,

There are countless examples (well, 3 or 4) to follow, but for now, here are some records I bought in the hope that girls might maybe notice me, maybe like me, maybe even let me have a look at those “funny bumps on her chest”, as my Dad once phrased it¬†in a misguided attempt to diffuse an awkward¬†situation¬†when we accidentally ended up watching a movie together where a young lady went sans blouson (and we all know how awkward that can be when you’re 13, right chaps?).

I can’t say I’m particularly fond¬†of either of these¬†artistes or these records, but I bought them, so here they are:

Duran Duran – The Wild Boys

Nik Kershaw – The Riddle

Seriously, does anyone know what these songs are actually about? The whole point of the Duran record seemed to be to strap Le Bon to a windmill in the video and see if you could drown him. (Unperturbed by the failure of this venture, a higher being than I tried again when his yacht “Drum of England” (I never had him down as a rollie smoker…) capsized.¬†That’s two lives down Simon “or should I say La Chat” Le Bon. I’m counting even if nobody else is.

As for Kershaw….well, cute as he apparently was (but not as yummy, so I’m told,¬†as JohnTaylorfromDuranDuran – a friend of mine (hello, you!) still refers to herself as “The Future Mrs John Taylor” which I’m sure delights her current beau), this record signified the start of¬†his slide into the bargain bin of life (or Woolies, if you’d prefer me to be a little more specific). Soon he’d be singing about a Spanish bloke chasing windmills and people would be seeking alternatives, asking “Where’s that¬†other bloke, y’know, with the wonky eye and the keytar,¬†had that bald chap dancing in chains with him?”. Sadly he was to become just as irrelevant around the same time.

Anyway, suffice to say, wasting my cash on these records had no effect whatsoever on my popularity, or lack of, with girls, who continued to treat me with an air of indifference usually only afforded to a visiting Belgian. Thank God I stopped short of wearing a snood.

Damn you Le Bon, Rhodes, Taylor, Taylor and Taylor!! And you Snood-Boy!

If only I’d listened to Rowlf (and Kermit)

How to Do a Cover Version (Part One)

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Ok,¬†time to turn this blog into something slightly different from my mission statement. I’ll still keep going with the embarrassing memoirs (I’m sure both of you regular readers are gripped), but in the meantime, I think I need to add a new element or two. This is purely to keep me interested, you understand.

So, I have this theory. About cover versions. Actually I have several theories about cover versions, and here they come:

1) There’s no point in doing a cover version unless you add something to it

2) A good cover version makes you seek out the original

3) The version you hear, know and become familiar with first is the one you love, no matter how good the original is.

(Does three count as several?)

Let me give you an example of the latter. In 1986, The Communards, a band comprised mostly of ex-Bronski Beat’s Jimi Somerville and now fully fledged man of the cloth Richard Coles, released a cover version which was, to use Top of the Pops vernacular, an absolute smasher.

The Communards take on Don’t Leave Me This Way, whichever way you look at it, is a total belter, and it’s a shame that they never really escaped the public perception of them being a covers band. They probably didn’t help themselves, mind, as their next big hit was another cover version, this: Goodbye, and so the die was cast. Bronski Beat, as I’m sure you know, delivered a few great singles (one of which was a cover), before Jimi jumped ship leaving the other two¬†flailing on the shores of Past-Their-Sell-by-Date-Bands-Whose-Talent-Has-Moved-On Island¬†(see also Haircut 100), pleading us to Hit That Perfect Beat (a song so bad, even I don’t own a copy of it).

Jimi¬†has one of the most unique voices in pop music, and it’s a shame that he seemed¬†determined to posit himself as¬†nothing more than a high-pitched walking karaoke bar.¬†Even when he went solo he covered this and this. Leave them alone, Jimi! (A very close friend of mine DJ’d at a private party once, dropped the original of the latter as his first tune, only¬†to be greeted with the phrase “Poof, are you?” by a pot-bellied beer chugger).

But I digress. I know there are older and better versions of Don’t Leave Me This Way out there, and I’ll leave you to seek them out for yourself,¬†but it’s The Communards version that always gets me. Memories, see? I was at sixth form when it came out, an important period for me, a time when I learned to love not just pop music but also slightly off the wall, non-chart-bothering songs too.

But there’s one person I admire and adore in pop who puts everyone else to shame when it comes to cover versions (and with non-chart-bothering songs, now I think about it): David Gedge and his band The Wedding Present. Now, I’m hoping Gedge’s is a name you’re familiar with, and I can hear my friends groan from here when I mention my love of The Weddoes (slightly quieter than when I mention Quo, but still…). Apart from Super Furry Animals (who, I’m sure you’ll agree are fucking awesome – see you at Brixton!), The Wedding Present are the band I’ve seen most often, and I would urge you to catch them at any possible opportunity.

Gedge has always been a fan of pop music and has turned in a remarkable string of cover versions, some of which I already knew the original of, but most of which made me go and check out the covered artist’s back catalogue.

Today’s post falls into the first category, one I, and you, know well, covered in the way that only the Wedding Present can:

Happy Birthday – Altered Images

Happy Birthday – The Wedding Present

Just to tie things up nicely, since they get a name check in the cover version, here’s the original of a¬† certain someone’s most famous song: a song so synonymous with them that most people don’t realise it’s a cover version. Now that’s how to do a cover version.

More soon.

Call McWhirter and Akabusi! I managed to get this lot into one post. Kitchen sink included. (Alt Title: Rudes)

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1983. I missed that year out, didn’t I? How could I skip over a year that gave us such amazing records as: Blue Monday, Double Dutch and Total Eclipse to name but a few? (I didn’t buy any of these, you’ll be utterly unsurprised to learn)

So¬†what was I buying? Well, apart from the entire Quo back catalogue (you’ll thank me for sparing you the detail), there was this: Cyndi, another in the “Oh, I also bought…” category

Yes, that is quite at odds with my other-wise completely Quo-centric purchases, isn’t it? I still love this record, despite the occasional no-hoper murdering it on the X-Factor (I’m one of those people who hates that show, but, until about 3 years ago, watched the auditions, just so I could laugh at people even less talented than I). I think it’s a wonderful record, sad,¬†poignant, evocative¬†and a gorgeous 80s ballad, a genre of which I’m not overly fond.

There is, of course, a darker, more erotically charged reason for buying this record: Girls.

I’d had crushes before, had fumbled my way through my first kiss, and really quite liked how that went (marginally better than badly, since you asked. That’s been my marker in later life). Little did I know that it would be…well, shall we just say, quite some time before my admiration of the lady form was reciprocated? But in the meantime, I had a master plan: buy records that girls might like, or if they didn’t, records which would show my sensitive side, and they would undoubtedly fall into my arms, or, failing that pants. (the guy from this week’s First Dates owes Rik some royalties for nicking his joke. I wish I could find a clip of it. I’ll come back to this. Needless to say, if you saw it (or Gogglebox transmitted on 13/03/15)¬†you’ll know what I mean)).

How could such a genius plan fail?

In the first couple of years at “big school”, my post bus-home hours were spent sitting round the back of¬†the local church with a mate and two girls (I’ll spare them the blushes of naming them, not that they’re ever likely to read this), all pretending we knew how to smoke properly and inhale and everything, whilst ignoring the extended game of kiss chase which was going on in the adjacent woods, played by younger kids, of whom we were of course utterly contemptuous. We would sit, chat, smoke cigarettes, all trying to look cool, whilst me and my mate tried to score sneaky looks down the girls’ tops, and then discuss how successful we’d been in the latter endeavour after they’d gone home for their tea. (Answer: not at all)

“Time After Time” was a record we discussed on one such afternoon. I professed my admiration for it, only to be met with “Yeh, it’s okay I suppose” and “I don’t think I know it”s.

Well, that didn’t exactly go to plan, then.

How I wish I grew up in today’s modern age! When all you have to do is send a picture of your genitals (copy right¬†Ashley Cole) to the lucky lady in question and jack’s your proverbial uncle

Actually no, I can see a fatal flaw in that too.

Give me old fashioned unrequited any day. (If you only click one link on here today, make sure it’s that one)

Weirdly, given that we were both busy rock posturing, leather-clad¬†leg and foot resting on pretend monitor (predominantly to this: Maiden!), Cyndi¬†Lauper proved to be one of the points where mine and my brother’s pop sensbilities crossed, as he bought the album, “She’s So Unusual”.¬† This wouldn’t be the last time this would happen, and I liked to think this was a sign that I was catching him up. Occasionally, I would sneak a listen to the album, skipping past the godawful theme tune to a million hen parties “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun”, a record so bad I can feel myself coming out in ulcers just at the mention of it, so you’ll forgive me for not posting a link to it.

There was, however,  one other song on it which caught my attention: She Bop

If you know the song, or if you just took the time to listen to it, then you’ll know why a 14 year old boy, obsessed with girls but finding himself utterly ignored by them, found the song appealing.. For some reason, and I can find nothing to support this theory, I always thought it was meant to be a response to, or at least a referential homage to, this record by a certain purple pantalooned professional purveyor of sauce: Nikki¬†(“Sauce” really lets down the alliteration of that bit, doesn’t it, Dear Reader? Any suggestions? After much chin-stroking, it was either that or Piccalilli, which didn’t seem quite right…)

The movie Purple Rain, the soundtrack from which that last one is taken (and which, to his eternal credit, I seem to remember my brother owning a copy of), is a formative memory for me. But, has there ever been a more contrived scene than the one where when Prince persuades Apollonia to take her top off and jump in a lake? Not that I was complaining, mind. Nor do I have any clue how that scene progresses the plot along. There was more of the film after that, you say?? Really??

And on that bombshell, as a certain¬†disgraced BBC presenter used to say (not that one…), Spot The Difference¬†(8 out of 11 right here), I’ll leave you with this. An ex-flatmate of mine (Hi, Hel!) and I used to play “Name the American” along to this, featuring Cyndi who is easy to spot, cos of the: Whoa! Whoa! Whoa! Whoa! Whoa!

And I still say Dylan sounds like Cartman on it.

Get yourself a Taste of Cindy (see how I crowbarred that in?) here: She’s So Unusual

And, since I promised you the kitchen sink in the title which I don’t have, and I’d quite like to avoid a¬†Trades Description Act¬†lawsuit, here’s the next best thing: Kitchens of Distinction

“Oh, I also Bought this too…” is a valid title. (Alt. Title: A post of two halves)

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Ok, so where now?

Well, you’ve probably noticed that the whole “everything I ever bought, in chronological order” has kind of gone out of the window recently. I would have stuck to it (no really, I would have) but the last two posts would have been about Status Quo and so would the next twenty, with the occasional “Oh I bought this too…” thrown in for good measure to break up the monotony. To say I was obsessed is an understatement. As an example: in a second or third year RE lesson, we were asked to write a piece about our heroes (I have no idea why. I think in an effort to draw¬†a comparison between our own “gods” and the “real” one, in the same way they try and crowbar God/Jesus into a current affairs topic on on Radio 2’s “Pause For Thought” slot). Anyway, my name was called out to read mine to the class, and as I stood up I heard a voice behind me hiss “Here we go, Status Quo…” And they were right; there followed five minutes of me making a case for Francis Rossi being the second best guitarist in the whole world ever,¬†only behind¬†to Jimi¬†Hendrix. Not a position I’d care to try and substantiate now, for since then I have heard this chap: The Boy Looked at Johnny More of him later. That’s what I believe is called a teaser.

So,I figure, let’s focus on the occasional “Oh I bought this too…”‘s which are much more interesting.

But before I do that, indulge me.

The first Quo album I physically paid for myself was 1978’s “If You Can’t Stand The Heat….” album. Breaking with my tradition of only buying records from supermarkets or newsagent outlets in sleepy commuter belt towns, this I actually bought in an actual record store.

Andy’s Records in Peterborough, I am reliably informed, is no longer there, and this makes me a little sad, as does the loss of any independent record store.

In those days, Peterborough¬†had a dividing line. There was the pedestrianised area of Bridge Street¬†where all of the main brand conglomerate shops were (Woolworths, M&S, WH Smiths…although I’ve just had a look on Google Maps and found that Woolies is now a TX Maxx…a sign of the times if ever I saw one) and on the other side of the A15 (which I think we used to call Bourges Boulevard, which sounds an incredibly grand name for a road in Peterborough) was a run of dilapidated old shops, including a furniture store on the corner, spread over three levels, which I remember rummaging through once and hearing this being played on the in-store sound system: Hernandez A song gayer than anything you will ever hear, sung by the least¬†convincing Kevin Keegan impersonator you will ever see, and utterly wonderful for it.

At the other end of the run of shops, was the first Indie Club I ever went to; a place called Viva La Rock! (terrible name, makes me think of Adam Ant in his decline years), but more of this later. And somewhere in between was Andy’s Records, a tiny little shop, all racks of vinyl shoehorned into a space the¬†size of a shoebox, and the place of my introduction to real record buying. Here it was that I bought Elkie Brooks “Pearls” album for my Mum for her birthday (I re-bought it for her on CD recently. She at least pretended to be pleased. And so she should be; she can listen to this as much as she likes now.)

Sometime in the late 80s, this run of decrepit shops was subject to a compulsory purchase order, and they all disappeared to make way for the least out of town supermarket¬†and car park ever.¬†But Andy’s Records survived, albeit, it seems, temporarily; it moved to the swanky side, onto the pedestrianised bit, where it sprawled over two floors, the basement being a glorious treasure trove of second hand stuff where I picked up some glorious oddities over the next few years. I’m not going to say “More of this later” as I seem to say that quite a lot. With good reason.

(Ahem. Adopts best David Attenborough “about-to-flirt-with-gorillas” voice) But it was here, in the darkest corners of Andy Records original location in Peterborough that I spent a good hour or so trying to decide which album from Quo’s incredibly long back catalogue I would buy first. Ultimately I decided upon the aforementioned title, and much as I’d like to say I chose it because it was¬†packed with hits (it wasn’t:¬†“Again and Again” reached No 13, and Accident Prone only managed No 36 (and no, sadly, I haven’t looked that up, both of those facts are stored in the section of my brain marked “Keep Out! Nerd Alert! Quo Chart Positions 1967 – 1982 are in here”)) but actually I picked it because it was the cheapest one there. Need a David Attenborough + gorilla +¬†“the production on that album is amazingl” connection? Now you have it.

I learned¬†a valuable lesson that day. An album is cheap for a reason. It’s because it’s shit. And “If You Can’t Stand The Heat…” is unquestionably not their finest hour. Here’s something which proves it: Linda Sexist male fantasy drivel. Need more? Ok: No 36 with a bullet. Ever so-slightly more ambiguous sexist male fantasy drivel. Seriously guys, I know it’s a cover version, but if you’re going to make a lame “woman as car” analogy, at least try and do it with some degree of nous and aplomb, like this: Autophilia

Ok, so that’s that out of the way. Let’s talk about something better, one of the “Oh, I also Bought This Too”‘s.

In 1984 I had no idea who Billy Bragg was, other than that he had written the next 7” single I bought and the subject of the remainder of this post; that he had, apparently, written an extra verse for this single release (see him live these days, and he will sing it and dedicate it to¬†Kirsty. See?: A Verse for Kirsty¬†And by the way, if you clicked that you’ll agree that if you can write a song where you don’t have to sing a word of the chorus and can leave the audience to it, you’re a genius. And, I love the look on the face of the guy singing “But they were only satellites”; it’s priceless. So earnest. Not me, but me 20 years ago); and that he stole the opening line from Paul Simon. Well, if you’re gonna nick it, you may as well nick it from a decent source.

As you, through no fault of your own, are now unable to go see Kirsty MacColl, you should go and see Billy Bragg. I guarantee (though not to the point of a refund) you will have a blast. I took my mate Colin – remember him, from the Beetles-post (still deliberately mis-spelt) – to see him for his 30th birthday, and I have never seen someone leave a gig with a bigger smile on his face. He was already a convert, mind. Billy Bragg wasn’t in Blade, for a start.

So here’s the wonderful, much-missed and unjustly killed Kirsty MacColl: A New England

Ah, feck it, here’s Billy’s ever-so-slightly less harmonic version: Barking

You could do a lot worse than go buy this Kirsty anthology: From Croydon to Cuba

Or you could throw some money onto this huge steaming pile of dung: If You Can’t Stand The Heat….

I know where the smart money is.