Late Night Stargazing

Time for some more late night Saturday into Sunday gorgeousness, and frankly they don’t come anymore gorgeous than tonight’s selection.

In the early 2000’s (is that what we refer to them as? I do so hate the phrase ‘The Noughties’) chill out compilation albums were dominating the charts, and it was on one such album that I first encountered tonight’s record.

Someone had left a copy of some Ibiza Chill-Out album or other laying around the office, so one night when I was working late I popped it into the battered old CD player which occupied a place close to my desk.

There were several songs which I could and probably will post here at some point, but there was one which simply took my breath away:

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Terry Callier – Love Theme From Spartacus (Zero 7 Remix)

Blimming gorgeous that, innit?

More soon

How The Flipping Heck Did That Happen?

Or, as I believe you youngsters say, “Like WTF?”.

BBC4 are currently re-airing some of the few remaining editions of Top of The Pops from 1981 which weren’t hosted by convicted or dead paedophiles, and earlier today I was catching up with a couple of the programmes I’d recently recorded. (I don’t Sky+. I object to Sky. I don’t see why I should give any of my money to Jerry Hall unless I can absolutely help it).

Anyway, a song came on which I quite liked, had never heard before, and so I made a note to track it down sometime.

This evening, as I prepared my evening meal (Chippy chips!) with my mp3 player on shuffle, the very same song came on. Turns out I already owned it and had no idea. Which bodes well for me writing about every record I ever bought, in the order I bought them.

This is the song in question:

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Susan Fassbender РTwilight Caf̩

And while I’m in a Fassbender kinda mood (I’m always up for a little bending of fass), here’s a similarly monikered chap from the soundtrack to the 2015 movie “Frank”, which as I’m sure you know is based on the lovely and brilliant Jon Ronson’s brief stint as keyboard player with the legend that was Frank Sidebottom:

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The Soronprfbs & Michael Fassbender – I Love You All (Radio Mix)

Which I can categorically tell you sounds fuck all like Frank Sidebottom. You know it doesn’t, it really, really doesn’t.

By way of contrast, since it’s Saturday and therefore a football day, here, from the anti-ID card compilation album “Bananas!” released in 1989 is some of your actual Frank (and a very much uncredited but prominent Little Frank):

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Frank Sidebottom – Football Medley

I bought this album back in the day, not because I particularly objected to the introduction of ID cards (though I did) but mostly because it has a few absolute corkers on it, including one which will forever feature in any Top 10 favourite records ever(!) list I’m ever asked to create.

Anyway, if you’d like to read up on the circumstances that prompted this compilation album coming into being, then I’d suggest going here: Bananas!

More soon.

1985 And All That

And so, finally, to the Norway trip.

You’ll remember that I had taken a break from this thread whilst I located and then perused the diary that I kept during the two weeks I attended the school’s Canoe Club trip to Norway.

Well, I’ve done that now, and I have to report that there really isn’t much of any great interest or amusement that I can reproduce here.

However, in the run up to our trip, when I wasn’t busy getting arrested for shoplifting, several of us impressionable young men had become rather excited by the prospect of visiting a Scandinavian country, particularly because of the reputation this area of Europe had for producing gorgeous women.

And so one day, about a week before we were due to catch the ferry, Pete (still not his real name, but I suppose I have to stick with it now) and I found ourselves in conversation about how best to capitalise on the situation.

What do we know about Norwegian girls?, we thought.

About as much as we knew about English ones, we concluded. Not much.

Except…except…of course! It seemed so obvious! If what we had heard was true, everyone in Norway was blonde. Which meant that Norwegian girls must like blond guys. What Norwegian girls clearly wanted was more of the same.

Neither I nor Pete was blond, so we deduced that if we wanted to maximise our chances of pulling whilst we were away, we needed to do something about our hair colour.

And so to the local chemist we ventured, where we purchased what seemed to be the simplest way of lightening our follicles – a bottle of Sun-In.

For the uninitiated, this was hair dye in a spray form, a small white bottle which claimed to alter the tone of one’s hair with just a few squirts and a bit of a comb through.

Which would have been fine, if that had been all that we did. The bottle and packaging contained no information as to how long after administering the first squirt’n’comb application one had to wait before results could be seen.

And so, when I wasn’t immediately rendered a scorching blond within five minutes of the first go, fuelled by impatience and no small measure of frustration of one sort or another (ahem), I decided that I hadn’t added enough, and went again.

And when that didn’t seem to work, I concluded that I must have the sort of hair which was particularly resilient to this particular form of hair dye, and went again.

And again.

And again.

And again.

Until the bottle was empty.

The next morning I awoke to find my hair had not turned blond.

It had turned orange.

Which leads me to the next song, which didn’t get released until 1997, and which I didn’t buy until a year or so later. However, it seems particularly appropriate here, so you can have it early.

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David Devant & His Spirit Wife – Ginger

I am now bald. I’m sure this cannot be a coincidence.

More soon.

Apropos of Nothing

Well, as usual, not quite nothing.

After that last post, I think we could all use a little palate cleansing.

So, here’s the song which inspired the pun that clever old Morrissey made:

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Sandie Shaw – Heaven Knows I’m Missing Him Now

You can tell a lot of time and effort went into creating that sleeve, can’t you?

More soon.

How Not to Do a Cover Version

I’m not picking on The Beautiful South in this thread, honestly.

I loved The Housemartins, and had a similar affection for The Beautiful South, buying all of their early albums (I will wax lyrical about them when the time comes) and arguing with pretty much everyone I know that they’re not as awful as they think; pretty much everyone I know curls a lip at the mere mention of their name.

For a start, I think Paul Heaton is one of the best lyricists that Britain has produced in the last 30 years, and has one of the most astounding voices I’ve ever heard to go with it. And, as I will demonstrate at a later date, musically The Beautiful South always seemed to me to be going where The Housemartins, had they survived, were heading anyway.

But when you release an album of reworked cover versions, and one of them is so shit you don’t include it on the album but elect to tuck it away on what used to be known as a B-side of a single that nobody bought anyway, then I’m afraid it needs to be pointed out.

The cover version:

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The Beautiful South – Heaven Knows I’m Miserable Now

And the as perfect as can be original:

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The Smiths – Heaven Knows I’m Miserable Now

More soon.

How to Do a Cover Version

If today’s first lesson was to camp it up and go uber-gay, then when the song you choose to cover is already both of those things you only have one option:

Be arch, too.

And maybe throw in a Broadway choir for good measure.

Or, to put it another way: be the Pet Shop Boys.

The original:

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Village People – Go West

The cover:

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Pet Shop Boys – Go West

And as a reminder of just how brilliant Pet Shop Boys are, here’s the video too. You’re welcome.

More soon. Obvs.

Same Title, Different Song

Today, two songs which couldn’t be at further ends of the musical spectrum if they tried.

Firstly, from her disco-y going into diva-y period, and written and produced by the legends that are Nile Rogers and Bernard Edwards of Chic fame (and you can tell):

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Diana Ross – Upside Down

In the mid-90s, I was moonlighting selling (official) merchandise at gigs at St David’s Hall in Cardiff, and worked the night that Diana Ross played there. I was quite excited, knowing that in essence I was going to get paid to watch a Motown legend, or at the very least (depending on where I was told to stand) see most of her performance.

I found out that I was manning the counter right at the back of the main hall, behind all of the seating areas, which meant that whilst I wouldn’t see her, I would be able to hear her. Generally though, people tend not to stop watching a gig to go and buy a t-shirt, so I was free to wander into the arena itself whist she was on to catch a glimpse.

Sorry to report she was dull as the proverbial dishwater. Just bland and clearly going through the motions. Disinterested. If I’d paid upwards of £60 to see her that night, as many had, I’d have been leading a lynch-mob to the box office, pitchfork in one hand, flaming torch in the other, demanding a refund.

This was, of course, a real shame. Ms Ross is one of those pop stars that has been around forever; like her or loathe her she is the wallpaper soundtrack to a lot of people’s lives.

By contrast, the next band growled onto the music scene in the first half of the 1980s, seemingly causing havoc wherever they popped up, dividing opinion as they went.

I first became aware of them through my by-now-fully-fledged goth of a brother. However, when I first heard them, I thought they were utter shite. This was in no small part to the fact that, at that age, it simply wasn’t the done thing to like the same music as one of your siblings.

At the time, I was still buying Smash Hits, and the only time they got a mention in those hallowed pages was when one of their singles – I forget which – was reviewed by that well known music critic Suzanne Tully – I think – aka Michelle Fowler from EastEnders. She hated whichever of their early singles it was that she reviewed with a passion, slagging off not only the song, but their name, pronouncing it – and again, I’m going from memory here – “vile”.

At this time, of course, mine and my brother’s musical tastes were as disparate as they would ever be, and I would take every opportunity to point out what an utter cock he was for listening to this stuff. No finer example can I think of than when one of their singles entered the charts at Number 20, rose to Number 13 the next week, returned to Number 20 the following week, before plummeting out of the charts again. I found this hilarious, constantly goading him about his new favourite band’s inability to either have a Top 10 hit or remain in the charts for a month. These things were important to me back then; he, wisely of course, couldn’t have given a flying fuck about the charts.

But then two things happened, and while I can categorically say when one of them took place, the other my fuzzy memory has some difficulty in placing in my time line.

  1. The incident that I’m not sure exactly when it happened took place one summer. My brother, along with his mates Rob and Phil (of ‘Third Light’ “fame”), had somehow managed to become the sole representatives of a pool team for some local pub or another, and on more than one occasion they asked me to join them to play to make up the numbers (sign of a misspent youth and all that, I used to play a pretty mean game of pool, provided I wasn’t too plastered). The first time they asked me, it was an away game, and Rob drove us there, with this band blaring from the in-car tape deck. “Actually”, I remember thinking, “this lot are pretty fucking cool!” (the band, not the three of them).
  2. In July 1986, this appeared on the cover of Smash Hits:

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A little while ago, I bought a load of back copies of Smash Hits and the NME that I had bought when they came out, each indicative of a crucial period in my musical history(Smash Hits: mid-80s; NME: late 80s – mid 90s), and this was one of the copies I received. I keep them all in a magazine rack in the toilet in case any discerning guest visits and want to have some pop history to read while they take a dump.

Anyway, as I say, I can’t remember which happened first, but at some point the switch flicked, and I suddenly “got” them. A turning point, for sure.

Here’s some identically titled Spector-esque melodies drenched in exquisite feedback:

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The Jesus and Mary Chain – Upside Down

More soon.