Friday Night Music Club

The other thing about having a day off on a Friday is that I have more time to put together a few songs for your Friday night delectation. Which you would think¬†means an improvement in quality, in the tunes if not the writing. I’ll leave it to you to decide if that’s the case or not.

At the very least, it’ll be delivered earlier than usual.

After last week’s poptastic disco post, we’re heading back into slightly louder indie territory for this week’s selection. Oh, and a theme towards the end. Of course.

So, first up, the second song I ever heard by one of my favourite ever bands, and still sounding fresh as a daisy:

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87. Super Furry Animals – God! Show Me Magic

Now to a band that I managed to catch twice last year, and have written about on these pages before. When I last waxed lyrical about them, I mentioned I have a semi-amusing story to tell, which I would save for the actual “A History of Dubious Taste” thread. That still holds, you’re getting nowt out of me now. (I realise I may be building this up a bit too much, of course. Calm down. Note the words “semi-amusing”. They have been chosen for a reason.)

Anyway, from their “Play” EP, for me, this is one of their finest moments:

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88. Ride – Like A Day Dream

(Happy Birthday Neil)

Something a little more recent now, and when I say recent, this is my definition, so I mean released two years ago. From Worthing, in Sussex, here’s some:

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89. Royal Blood – Little Monster

And whilst I’m attempting to at least appear vaguely hip and current, here’s another one from way back in the midst of time (i.e. 2014):

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90. The Black Keys – Fever

Okay, time to take you back, and to a psychobilly group that had one hit, this one, back in 1983.

King Kurt came to my attention via the Personal File of lead singer Gary “The Smeg” Clayton in Smash Hits, where I’m sure they referred to him as Smeggy, but I can find nothing to corroborate this, so maybe I’m wrong. It’s been known to happen.

The Personal File in Smash Hits was usually a half-page feature and was a telephone interview, which gave the interviewer (usually, if memory serves, the late, great and much missed Tom Hibbert) the advantage of not having to be too concerned about any awkwardness his questions might cause. Hibbert was the master of this format; he would start by asking a few standards (Name, Date of Birth), move into obviously teen-pop magazine territory (First Crush?) then ask something so off-the-wall as to make the interviewee think the article was going to be just fluff at best.

As an example, having done the above, he asked Neil Tennant of Pet Shop Boys “Does your mother play golf?”, quickly followed by “What kind of underwear are you wearing?” (Note – this is not a question to be asked in any other context. I’ve got in a lot of trouble that way.) With the interviewee now suitably relaxed, Hibbert would go in for the kill. Again, from his Neil Tennant interview: “What does Chris do in Pet Shop Boys?” and¬†“Why does he always look¬†so moody?” – to be fair, the questions everyone had always wanted to ask – and so deliciously skewered is Tennant, so caught off guard, he provided the following answers, respectively: “He tends to write the songs’ ‘hooks'” and “Because he is moody…’sulky’ is a better word…When he found out we were Number One all he could do was complain that we had to do Top of the Pops again.”

Anyway, dragging myself back from the tangent, there was one of these about Gary “The Smeg” Clayton/Smeggy, about which I can remember nothing other than that I thought his name was funny, but then I was a 14 year old boy at the time.

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91. King Kurt – Destination Zululand (Humdiddlededumhoowahayha)

Onwards now to 1994, and a blast of Inspiral Carpets, who were derided by many when they were at their peak, and even more so when they attempted a come-back. Unfairly so, I think:¬†in my book they were a great and consistent singles band. In December last year, my little group of friends met up, as we do every year, in the Dublin Castle in Camden for our annual drink-and-plough-pound-coins-into-the-juke-box-a-thon. There will always be a bit of a drunken sing-a-long, always, as I think I may have mentioned before, to “Fairytale of New York”, but last¬†year also to the Inspiral’s “This Is How It Feels”. Y’know, cos it’s such a cheery Christmas song. One of my happiest moments of 2015, as it goes.

Anyway, here, from their “Devil Hopping” album, is this:

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92. Inspiral Carpets – I Want You (featuring Mark E. Smith)

Back in the early 1990s, Top of the Pops had a policy that, were you lucky enough to appear on the show, you had to perform the vocals live. This led, most infamously, to Kurt Cobain performing “Smells Like Teen Spirit” as if he were a 45rpm being played at 33rpm (and yes, I appreciate that some of my younger readers will have no idea what rpm means. Google it.)

It also gave rise to, as far as I’m aware, the only ever appearance on Top of the Pops by The Fall’s Mark E. Smith. It’s worth a watch, if only to see him getting the words wrong and forgetting where he is supposed to come in,¬†cackling into the mic when he gets it wrong, despite frequently (and obviously) checking the words on a crumpled piece of paper, whilst Inspirals singer Tom Hingley gamely ploughs on with his bits.

If for nothing else, we should all be eternally grateful to Inspiral Carpets for giving us this.

All of which has got me in a Fall kinda mood, so here’s my favourite record by the ramshackle Mancunian growlers:

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93. The Fall – Dead Beat Descendant

As with many bands I figured I needed to know more about, I bought their “45 84 89”¬†singles compilation when I was younger. I have to confess, there was much that I didn’t get at the time. But there were also several tracks I loved, some of which I knew were cover versions, one of which I only found out very recently was one. So let’s start there:

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94. The Other Half – Mr. Pharmacist

Next, this:

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95. R Dean Taylor -There a Ghost in My House

Somewhere in the back of my head is the factoid that R Dean Taylor was the only white singer to release a single on the Tamla Motown label, but I’ve found nothing online to support this. What I have found is that he was signed as both a writer and performer for the label, and even played on Motown classics “Standing In the Shadows of Love,” and “Reach Out” (even it was only the tambourine he played).

Finally this week, a band that, I’m relieved to say, needs¬†no introduction or¬†further comment:

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96. The Kinks – Victoria

That’ll do for now.

More soon.

Something New…ish

One of the great things about having a day off in the week, is I get to listen to 6music and pick up on a load of new stuff I’ve never heard before.

Like Telegram, for example.

Not a name that I’ve some across before, unless immediately followed by the name Sam.

I’m not going to post a download for this – or for any new music that I might mention here, for that matter – but you should get your laughing gear round this:

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Telegram – Taffy Come Home

A Glam Gorky’s, anybody?

More soon.

I Can’t Get No Sleep

At work yesterday, I received an email from my boss. Nothing unusual about that, I receive plenty of emails from my boss every day. Generally they are in a “Can you explain to me why on earth you’ve done this please?” vein, or “You filled this form in incorrectly again, I’ve amended it for you this time but next time I’ll just send it back to you” or, more frequently “Are you here yet?”

Anyway, today’s missive was a little different, reminding me that I needed to use up any annual leave that I had left before the end of the financial year, so by the end of March.

This, I decided, was basically her way of saying I deserve a day off.

So, I checked and found I had a little over one day left to take, and the idea of a long weekend popped into my head. I asked, she agreed, and I suddenly found myself with three days away from the office, and absolutely nothing of any consequence to fill them with. (Except to talk to you discerning folks, obviously.)

Bliss.

On my return home I decided to make some vague plans of what I hoped to achieve over the coming long weekend. After an hour or so of head-scratching, I had come up with three things:

  1. Write something, or some things, here
  2. It’s the 4th round of the FA Cup this weekend. I could go and watch one of the matches happening locally
  3. I could just slob out and¬†catch up on all of the TV programmes and movies I’ve recorded (I think I’ve finally cracked the whole “not calling it taped anymore” thing) in the past few months.

Of these:

  1. Is a given
  2. Having checked the fixtures list, I find that my lot (the mighty Tottenham Hotspur, in case I haven’t made that perfectly obvious in previous posts) are playing away to Colchester Utd on Saturday lunchtime, and the game is being shown on BT Sport (can I have a free year’s subscription now I’ve mentioned you please…?), so I will doubtless rise from my pit in time to watch that instead, assuming I can stay awake through the utterly tedious commentary of Owen/Savage/Hoddle (Ok, I guess not…)
  3. The undisputed winner.

So, this evening I finally got round to watching the rather excellent “Moon”, directed by formally monikered Zowie (and son of recently-deceased-you-know-who) Duncan Jones.

After it had finished, I checked to make sure the alarm clock was¬†definitely not set (this I felt compelled to double-check a further four times – OCD? Moi? – prompted by the voice in my head whispering “Did you cancel the alarm?” just as my eyes were closing. Grrr.)

Finally, I drifted off, before waking up at 1am, a full six and a half hours before I would have been getting up to go to work.

I’ve suffered intermittently from insomnia for many years now. There is little in everyday modern life that I find more of a downer than not being able to sleep. I love sleep, as anyone who has ever had the pleasure of sharing a flat, or a bed, with me will attest.

Insomnia is¬†worse when you have to work the next day, of course. You feel every muscle in your body gradually tighten as the minutes tick by, until you’re just a thrashing grizzly bear, too tense to nod off, terrified of now falling asleep, missing your alarm and being late for work. Finally, you come to the conclusion that you may as well give in, get up and go get breakfast. And the next thing you know, it’s ten minutes later, your alarm is going off and you realise those interim ten minutes were the full extent of the shut-eye you’re going to get, and you feel worse than had you had none at all.

Alternatively, with a long weekend of nothing spanning before me like a virgin autobahn, unsullied by the chaffing of rubber on tarmacadam, I know my body clock is going to be all messed up for the rest of the weekend, and I will spend the majority of it now trying to get that back on track.

As I lay¬†in bed tonight, tossing and turning and tossing some more (oh, c’mon…grow up…), an appropriate song has become lodged in my brain, and it occurs to me as I write this, that this is the second time in as many posts that I’ve mentioned a song which, to misquote Kylie, I can’t get out of my head.

I’m sure you are all familiar with earworms. Wikipedia describes them as “a catchy piece of music that continually repeats through a person’s mind”. If I take that definition as 100% accurate, then the ‘The “In” Crowd’ from my last post, and the one that is currently buzzing in my bonce, fit the bill.

(As an aside, have you noticed¬†recently that people seem to be treating Wikipedia as a more credible reference tool than in the recent past? I mean, you wouldn’t want to include it as a reference point in a thesis or dissertation, but the general feeling nowadays is, I think, that it’s a perfectly viable one-stop shop of popular culture clarification.

Two examples for you: a few years ago, I was chatting to a work colleague about Gordon Brown, and I happened to mention that he was blind in his left eye. My colleague didn’t believe me, so I Googled it, and sent him the link to Brown’s Wikipedia page which confirmed it. “You can’t rely on that,” he scoffed, “it’s Wikipedia”.

To an extent, I could see where he was coming from, which leads me to¬†the second example. One of the funniest things I have ever read online was on Wikipedia, and before I tell you about it, for legal reasons I should make it very clear that none of the ‘facts’ from that article that I’m about to mention are in any way true (if Jon Holmes can get away with publishing a whole book of mostly untrue rock and pop myths (called “Status Quo and the Kangaroo” in case you’re interested) and get away with it by adding that disclaimer, so can I).

On a page entitled “Arranged Marriages”, the following words were written:

“The marriage of celebrities Cheryl and Ashley Cole is an example of an arranged marriage, for Cheryl is a racist and Ashley is a homosexual”

Brilliant, even if, and I really can’t stress this enough, it is completely untrue. Which it is. Obviously.)

Anyway, I digress. Earworms.

Personally, I don’t think that definition (you know, that one from Wikipedia. Seems ages since I wrote that now, doesn’t it?) quite goes far enough; there are at least two other factors which, to my mind,¬†produce the classic earworm.

Firstly, I think it must be a song which you haven’t heard for quite some time. Secondly. there must be no sensible reason that you can put your finger on to explain why the song is stuck in your cranium.

Every weekday, the 6music breakfast show has a slot dedicated to this phenomenon, inviting listeners to get in touch to request the song which is bugging them, and then at around 7:55am, Shaun Keaveny picks one to play to bring the first hour of his show to a close. To his credit, I think Keaveny gets the “I have no idea why I am thinking of this song” aspect of the true earworm.¬†In the build-up to the day’s selection he will read out some of the other suggestions;¬†often some are accompanied by an explanation as to why they have become lodged, but these are rarely selected. No commentary is provided for the ones that make the cut.

Here are the last couple of weeks’ worth of selections.¬†Where I can, I have offered plausible¬†rational explanations for the song being stuck in the listener’s brain.

Elton John &¬†Kiki Dee – “Don’t Go Breaking My Heart”¬†(Listener has just lost a bet about Elton’s first solo number one single)

George Michael – “Freedom! 90”¬†(Listener recently passed driving test…oh, c’mon, that could’ve been a LOT worse…)

The Wedding Present – “My Favourite Dress” (Why wouldn’t this be forever on a loop in anyone’s head? Alternating with “Kennedy”, obviously)¬†

TLC – “No Scrubs” (Listener has Wiki’d Gordon Brown and stumbled upon Lisa “Left-Eye” Lopes)

Blancmange – “The Day Before You Came”¬†No complaints here. To be featured again soon.

Tears For Fears – “Shout” (Listener has recently seen Richard Ayoade’s uncanny impression)

Camera Obscura – “Lloyd, I’m Ready To Be Heartbroken” (Listener is probably Lloyd Cole attempting to get the “Call” song from the “Call/Response” combo played”)

Peter Gabriel – “Big Time” (Listener has been watching ‘Brian Pern: 45 Years of Prog and Roll’)

Elvis Presley -“If I Can Dream” (Listener has caught this unknown up-and- coming whippersnapper at an open mic night in Dalston)

The Smiths – “There Is A Light That Never Goes Out” ¬†(Why wouldn’t this be forever on a loop in anyone’s head? Alternating with “My Favourite Dress” and “Kennedy”, obviously)¬†

Paul McCartney & Michael Jackson – “Say Say Say” (Selected by a listener who has just inadvertently sold the publishing rights for their entire back catalogue to an ex-friend)

Fleetwood Mac – “You Make Loving Fun” (Listener wants you to know they went to one of the recent gigs, and you didn’t)

Steely Dan – “Reeling in the Years” (Listener has recently stumbled across a copy of the DVD of ‘Rob Bryden’s Annually Retentive” in a charity shop somewhere. ¬£1.99 and worth every penny.)

Oh, and just so we’re clear: his appearance in that clip is the only time Bill Cosby will feature here.

Now look back at that list. I reckon maybe 70% of the records would not normally feature on a 6Music playlist, and would be more at home on Magic.fm.

Which makes me wonder.

Is the earworm section of 6music’s breakfast show not just the listeners saying “I like cool stuff, but I also like this”? Seeking justification in their choice of cheesy tune by getting it¬†played on the coolest radio station? Vindicated by a Smiths record played on either side? By having it buried among more credible songs?

I hope so. For that’s exactly what I want¬†to do here: reclaim records previously deemed uncool or unfashionable, and make it okay to listen to them again. Those pre-cool records you bought are not shit, or embarrassing – they deserve a second chance.

There is no such thing as a Guilty Pleasure.

About 20 years ago, I was working in Boots the Chemist in Cardiff. The only time I ever, truly, had an earworm that I could not rationalise happened there, and it was this:

With the benefit of hindsight: I was wearing a sash bearing the legend “Happy To Help” at the time, and offering advice on the Tights, Tampons and Panty Liners aisles,¬†so I think we can explain that song’s significance away fairly easily.

And so, having mentioned insomnia (ages ago, remember?)¬†and titling this post “I Can’t Get No Sleep”, there’s only one place for me to go to wrap this up, right?

And, it’s not where you think I’m going:

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Men At Work – Overkill

More soon.