The Chain #22

Evening Chain Gang!

So, so much to get through this week, so I’ll assume you all know what we do here, and will dive straight in.

Last week’s records was “Inbetweener” by Sleeper, and the suggestions for records that link to that came in thick and fast. Now, I know I swore off fiddling around with the order last week, but as it turned out, this week there were several suggestions which followed similar themes so I thought I’d try to group those together, interspersed with the remaining ones.

And so to kick things off this week, here’s The Swede from Unthought of, though, somehow which just happened to be the first one I received:

“Louise Wener of Sleeper published an autobiography in 2010 entitled ‘Different For Girls’. ‘It’s Different For Girls’ is the title of a rather splendid Joe Jackson song.”

It most certainly is, and you need proof, here you are:

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Joe Jackson – It’s Different For Girls

Wener’s post-Sleeper career has largely been based upon her writing skills; not only has she written that aforementioned autobiography, but she’s written several works of fiction too. Which made me think of this record, which contains my favourite mop-top guitar riff:

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The Beatles – Paperback Writer

Having hit on the novel idea (see what I did there?) of featuring songs about authors, this one sprang to mind:

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Morrissey – Reader Meet Author

Don’t worry, it’s not all bout me this week! But “Reader Meet Author” leads us nicely on to SWC from When You Can’t Remember Anything‘s first nomination of the day:

“I once got stuck in a lift with Louise Wener AND the keyboardist from The Wannadies. There is no link here unless you want to post ‘Hit’ by The Wannadies, in all of its two minute brilliance?”

Of course I want to post that! It was going to feature in a future unrelated post, but I’m not adverse to posting the same song more than once, and I can always postpone that one:

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The Wannadies – Hit

Moving further away from Wener’s writing prowess and SWC’s stalker tendencies (I’m sure he’ll claim it was a work-related incident, though), here’s Charity Chic from Charity Chic Music:

“A sleeper is a train that transports you through the night – if you were to get a Midnight Train to Georgia like Gladys Knight and the Pips, chances are it would be a sleeper.”

Can’t fault your logic, there CC:

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Gladys Knight & The Pips – Midnight Train to Georgia

Whenever I hear the name Gladys Knight & The Pips, I always think of Geordie adult comic Viz, to the snappily titled “The Viz Book of Crap Jokes: A Pitiful Array of Poor Quality Jokes from the pages of Viz” which I used to own but which seems to have got mislaid on one of my many house-moves over the years, and particularly to this, which young folks who’ve never had to use a public phone probably won’t understand:

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Now, can we all give a warm Chain Gang welcome to the first of many new contributors who’ve been in touch this week. Here, from his frankly quite wonderful blog Is This The Life? is The Robster:

“I was going to suggest It’s Different For Girls until Swede beat me to it. So instead I thought about Louise’s first novel ‘Goodnight Steve McQueen’ which led me to the Prefab Sprout album ‘Steve McQueen’. But I never liked Prefab Sprout (a heretical remark in some quarters, but I stand by it) [In which case, we’ll skip playing anything by them – Chain Ed]. “There was also a book she wrote called ‘Just For One Day’ about Britpop which is as good an excuse as you could ask for to include some Bowie.”

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David Bowie – Heroes

The Robster continues: “Then I went down the sleeping route: Sleep by Godspeed You! Black Emperor would be a good one, but you probably don’t want to post a 23-minute instrumental, do you?”

Challenge accepted!

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Godspeed You! Black Emperor – Sleep

“So I ended up plumping for The Dreaming by Kate Bush. ‘Cause you dream when you sleep, right?” he concludes.

And quite a lot of the time when I’m awake, if I’m perfectly honest.

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Kate Bush – The Dreaming

Okay folks, brace yourselves. It’s become a bit of a tradition here on The Chain that we feature at least one cringe-worthy song every week. Not because we necessarily like it, but because…well, did you ever hear that quote, which I had always thought was attributed to mountaineer Chris Bonnington, that goes “Q: Why do you want to climb that mountain? A: Because it’s there.”? (A quick internet search tells me that it was actually first said by George Mallory, an English schoolteacher and mountaineer, born 1886, died 1924 trying to errm….climb Mount Everest. Not so smug now, eh, Mallory, old bean?) I digress – it’s the same principal here. So, babylotti, why did you recommend this record? Because you could. Or, as you put it:

“Inbetweener conjures one song up for me immediately. It’s that excruciating dance scene in the Inbetweeners film where they ‘move’ across the dancefloor to ‘We No Speak Americano’ that’s my suggestion, right there. Sorry.

No need to apologise, babylotti!

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Yolanda Be Cool – We No Speak Americano (Radio Edit)

And just in case you don’t know the scene babylotti is referring to:

Which leads us rather neatly on to the next suggestion, and can we have a warm Chain Gang welcome to The Beard, who does not appear to be the biggest fan of the show which gave us such phrases as “Bus Stop Wankers!”, “Bum-der” and “Clunge” (I advertently described a cheesecake at a recent party as “looking a bit clungey”, not realising what that meant until the words were already out there. I am free to host the Great British Bake Off, in case anyone on C4 is interested).

Anyway, here’s The Beard’s suggestion:

“The plural of Inbetweener is Inbetweeners. The Inbetweeners was a mildly-amusing-but-quickly-lost-its-charm comedy. One of the protagonists was called Jay. A more famous Jay is Jam Master Jay. ‘Here We Go (Live At The Funhouse)’ by his band, Run DMC, is ridiculously good.”

It certainly is:

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Run DMC – Here We Go (Live At The Funhouse)

Since we’re on a rap/hip-hop vibe, here’s Rol from My Top Ten:

“Literal link again: the only song I have in my collection with Sleeper in the title is Nightbus Sleepers by Dan le Sac Vs. Scroobius Pip. Not usually my bag, musically, but I love Scroobius Pip’s rambling rhymes”.

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Dan Le Sac vs. Scroobius Pip – Nightbus Sleepers

Seems a bit quiet around here without George this week, doesn’t it? Time to rectify that, with more of his Tottenham Hotspur links:

“Sleeper is a film by Woody Allen. Dave Allen was in the Gang of Four, leading to Dave Mackay of Tottenham Hotspur (their finest ever midfielder), leading to Andy Mackay of Roxy Music, and Ladytron.”

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Roxy Music – Ladytron

Time to welcome back Alyson from What’s It All About, Alfie?

“At the risk of looking as if I am stalking George by copying everything he comes up with (it’s all a coincidence honestly) [I knew it! You might call it stalking, we call it spying! – Chain Ed] my first thought was also that Woody Allen was in a film called Sleeper with one-time partner Diane Keaton, but we all know that Woody also had a long-term relationship with Mia Farrow. [Phew! I wondered where you might be going with that for a moment there. I was dusting off the word ‘allegedly’ ready for quick insertion – Legal Ed] Now Mia was once married to Frank Sinatra so I could go down that route but instead, in the interests of championing the Guilty Pleasure tagline yet again, I will go down another route. Ms Farrow starred in the excellent film Rosemary’s Baby and back in 1970 Edison Lighthouse did really well with Love Grows (Where My Rosemary Goes) – I think the brackets are important!”

Anyone whose services as the resident pop nerdo boffin in pub quiz team will know how invaluable knowing where the brackets go in a pop song title is. My favourite one that catches people out is Heaven 17’s “…(And That’s No Lie)” which you’ll note quite literally has no words that aren’t in brackets.

Anyway, here’s 1970s not Guilty at all Pleasure:

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Edison Lighthouse – Love Grows (Where My Rosemary Goes)

Time for a warm welcome to the third of our new contributors this week, which comes from within Alyson’s sleeper cell humble abode:

Don’t know if my other half is allowed to join in but out of interest his suggestion probably falls into the Guilty Pleasure category also and it’s The Gambler by Kenny Rogers – The opening few lines being relevant to a) Sleeper trains b) Being too tired to sleep c) Railway lines are laid on sleepers.”

Tick, tick, tick, as The Hives once said, as did the nit nurse at my Junior School (although The Hives also added the word “Boom!”).

I’ve digressed again. Here’s King Kenny (no, not that one. Or that one. This one):

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Kenny Rogers – The Gambler

If you didn’t catch Kenny Rogers’ Sunday Afternoon Legends slot at Glastonbury back in 2013, you can see it here. Well worth a look, in my book.

Anyway, before I forget, a warm Chain Gang welcome to Alyson’s other half, Jamie.

Now, as they say, for something completely different, and to my final suggestion for this week. “Inbetweener” comes from Sleeper’s debut album, “Smart”. Smart is a word which has several different meanings: Well dressed (The Great Gog will expand on this in a moment); to be in pain (as in “Ouch, that smarts a bit”), or to be clever.

If you’re the opposite of clever, then you could easily be described as intellectually-challenged, or just plain stupid. That’s S-T-U-P-I-D:

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Sultans of Ping F.C. – Stupid Kid

Since I’ve just mentioned him, here’s The Great Gog:

“One can be said to be smart if one is wearing one’s Sunday best. Off the top of my head, the only song I can think of that references Sunday best is The Icicle Works’ “Who Do You Want For Your Love”, in its second line. And it’s a particular favourite of mine.”

Not one I was overly familiar with before getting your suggestion (I really don’t know how this one passed me by, to be honest), but it’s fast becoming one of mine too:

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The Icicle Works – Who Do You Want For Your Love?

A suggestion which coaxed The Swede back for a second stab:

“I’ve now got Elvis Costello’s ‘Sunday’s Best’ as an earworm, a song that’s as relevant today as it was in 1979, if not more so. It also contains the line ‘
Sleepy towns and sleeper trains
.’, so can be designated a double-linker!”…

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Elvis Costello & The Attractions – Sunday’s Best

…which in turn caused ructions with The Great Gog’s working day:

“Whilst staring at an increasingly confusing spreadsheet at work, I’ve just remembered that Madness’ “Our House” makes mention of Sunday best. Needless to say, it is currently ear-worming…”

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Madness – Our House

Right, hold on chaps. Seems it’s you guys that are digressing now. Quick, we need another suggestion to break us out of this Chain Reaction.

Up to the plate steps Badger, also from When You Can’t Remember Anything:

“I was once in the audience of Jools Holland, it was a Hootenanny special (filmed in August) but one of the acts there was Audioweb who performed their minor hit ‘Sleeper’ – they had more chart success with their ragga indie version of ‘Bankrobber’.”

As it’s a Clash cover, let’s dedicate this one to George:

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Audioweb – Bankrobber

“As my obligatory second option”, Badger continues,”another song on the debut Sleeper album was ‘Lady Love Your Countryside’ which was a slight piss-take of supposed political rebels S*M*A*S*H and their ‘feminist anthem’ ‘Lady Love Your C___’ who actually turned out to be posho college boys. Either way ‘I Want to (Kill Somebody)’ was a great three minutes of Tory baiting”:

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S*M*A*S*H* – (I Want to) Kill Somebody

Now, since Audioweb have been mentioned, here’s Swiss Adam from Bagging Area:

“Sleeper was a song by mid 90s Manchester dub/rock/electronic and Audioweb, an actually pretty good piece of mid 90s music. The 12″ came with not 1, but 2, Andrew Weatherall mixes.”

Now these are mixes which I did not own. But fear not, I thought: Swiss is renowned for being a bit of a Weatherall nut, so I figured I’d just pop over to his blog, type Audioweb into the Search function, and get them from him, only to be met with the following message when I did:

“No posts matching the query: audioweb”

Gah!

Anyway, I managed to track down the following two mixes. I’ve no idea if one, or the other, or both for that matter, are in any way Weatherall related (although they both sound pretty similar to these ears…)

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Audioweb – Sleeper (Emissions No. 5)

Audioweb – Sleeper (Sleepless In Balham)

Okay, time for Comment Showboat of the week, which undoubtedly goes to Dirk from sexyloser. I’d get comfy, if I were you:

“A ‘sleeper’ these days is of course not only a person, who, like you and me do, goes to bed in the evening and, well, sleeps. No, a sleeper is a spy planted in advance for future use, but not currently active (not necessarily a terrorist, back in the golden days of the cold war we just had spies, you know, for younger readers, all harmless stuff!). This may be hard to believe, but fear not: there is a movie which might shows it all: ‘Salt’. In it, Angelina Jolie plays Evelyn Salt, who is accused of being a Russian sleeper agent and goes on the run to try to clear her name.

Now, as you might or might not know, Angelina Jolie announced that she and Brad Pitt go ‘different ways’ from now on, a divorce will come soon, I’m afraid. Very sorry to hear this, and I would just l.o.v.e. to help Angelina in those difficult times of misery, but I fear that Mrs Loser would have severe objections against my noble offerings. So, Angelina, the only advice I can give you currently, is to see your future positively and to sing along loudly to Huey ‘Piano’ Smith & His Clowns’ ‘Free, Single And Disengaged’: a neat song indeed and, coincidently , my tip for this week’s ‘Chain’.

Ah, well 
”

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Huey ‘Piano’ Smith & His Clowns – Free, Single and Disengaged

PS – Angelina, if you’re reading this, there is no current Mrs Jez, and you seem exactly the sort of headcase that some of my ex-girlfriends were clearly readying me for. Call me, maybe?

Sticking with the Cold War/Spy angle, here’s Alex G from We Will Have Salad:

“OK, other people have done railways and spies. So let’s combine the two, and what springs to my mind is James Bond getting into a bit of a scuffle in “From Russia With Love”. As it happens, I have a soft spot for Matt Monro, so let’s hear him singing the title song from said movie.”

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Matt Monro – From Russia With Love

You’d have to be pretty annoyed if you were Matt Monro. Your most famous record (as far as I know, feel free to provide alternatives) and you don’t even get to feature on the sleeve. Such is life.

Now a warm Chain Gang welcome back to Kay, who continues the theme:

“Sleeper made me think of a sleeper cell – cold war, John Le Carre novels, Russia etc 
.then Russia made me think of Babushka by Kate Bush”:

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Kate Bush – Babooshka

Which just leaves us with George’s second suggestion, and for what I think is for the fourth time on the trot, it’s related to Tottenham Hotspur:

“In Sleeper, the singer was Louise Wener. Louise was/is the name of a pop-singer who is married to footballer Jamie Redknapp, son of former Tottenham Hotspur manager Harry Redknapp, who signed Dutch footballer Rafael van der Vaart. And speaking of things Dutch leads to prog-flute band Focus, and their song House of the King. a splendid pop prog song with flute-ing and hand-clapping.”

My knowledge of Focus, I thought, began and ended with “Hocus Pocus”, until I heard this and recognised it as the theme tune to Steve Coogan’s BBC comedy series “Saxondale”, so truly thanks for pointing me in its direction (don’t let the word “prog” put you off, George is right, this really is splendid):

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Focus – House Of The King

And that’s it for another week. Of course, none of us guessed the official link to the official record, which I’ll have to concede is a better link than usual, if still not a patch on any of ours:

“…From Sleeper – part of an earring – to a hit from Dutch band Golden Earring…”:

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22. Golden Earring – Radar Love

(Relax ladies: all of the members of Focus and Golden Earring are either married or dead).

So: let’s be having your nominations for records which link to “Radar Love” by Golden Earring”, along with your explanation of how you got to it, via the Comments section below, in time for me to source and write this by the same time next week.

See you then, Chainies!

(More soon)

My Back Story

Two posts on a Monday? Must be my birthday or something.

First, thank you for all the birthday wishes and messages. I wonder, at what point I have to stop referring to myself as being in my mid-forties and admit I’m now in my late forties. I reckon I have another year of mid-forties-ness left.

Now then. To business.

I’m not a fan of The X-Factor and shows of that ilk, partly because they tend to generate such bloody awful records, partly because they seem to serve no other function than to line Simon Cowell’s pockets even more than is really necessary, but also they seem to me to be exploitative. As an audience we are encouraged to laugh at those members of the public at the audition stage who have delusions of talent, whilst those who progress to later rounds are expected to have had some terrible personal tragedy befallen them prior to auditioning on the show, and which every ounce of emotion is wrung from this “back story”.

Having said that, I quite literally have a back story which I and my family are reminded of on my birthday every year, and this is it.

So here’s the thing. I wasn’t born under normal circumstances.

My mother suffers from high blood pressure. When she was pregnant with me, six weeks before her due date, she went for a check up and found that her blood pressure was off the scale. The experts (I know, we’re all sick of experts, right?) concluded that something was wrong and that I needed to be gotten out asap.

They were right. For when I was born, I was found to have a condition called myelomeningocele.

In case you don’t know what that is (and I wouldn’t have done if I hadn’t looked it up), myelomeningocele is a defect of the backbone and spinal cord, where, before birth, the baby’s backbone, spinal cord and the structure they float in don’t form or close normally. It’s a form – the most serious form, so the internet tells me – of spina bifida.

In my case, the tissue which should have been around my spinal cord had not melded properly, and was sticking out of my back.

Now, obviously I don’t recall any of this, so I am going by my parents’ retelling of the story, and I have run this by them for accuracy.

My Dad tells me that, freshly plucked from the womb, he and I were bundled into an ambulance outside Kettering General Hospital, where I had been born, and which had absolutely no facilities to deal with my condition. Westminster Children’s Hospital in London was where I needed to be.

The ambulance driver got to the car park exit, stopped at the junction and called back to my Dad “Any idea which way it is to London?”. “Turn left”, Dad replied. And so we set off.

When we got to London (and apparently we had a police escort to get us through the traffic – beat that, James Corden and your “Call me Mr Green Light” nonsense!) a decision had to be made: operate or leave me as I was. My Dad had to decide what happened next.

Bear in mind this was 1969, when mobile phones, the internet, Skype and the like didn’t exist. He couldn’t consult with my Mum, who was in a completely different city, in quite a lot of discomfort herself and not exactly able to get to a phone to chat about it.

In layperson’s terms, the operation seemed straight-forward enough: sever the spinal tissue, and then stitch me back up again.

As far as I know, my Dad is not a gambling man. But here’s the decision he was faced with, laid out in brutal honesty.

a) Leave me as I was, and have a seriously disabled child to care for, for the rest of my life, or

b) Operate, but with no guarantee about the outcome of the operation.

Ah, the possible outcomes. It could go, Dad was advised, one of three ways, and the doctors had absolutely no idea which was the more likely:

  1. the spinal tissue is cut, with no repercussions;
  2. the spinal tissue is cut, but if it had any nerves in it – and the only way to find out was to cut it and see what happened – then I would have been paralysed from the neck down, permanently;
  3. I die.

It seems to me that my parents went through very different types of pain and mental anguish that day. My Dad had to make the decision, and wasn’t able to consult with my Mum. Mum, on the other hand, could have no part in the decision, and didn’t know what was going on down in That There London.

So decision time. Stick, or twist?

When I’ve talked to Dad about this he tells me that when the options and possible outcomes were put to him, his thought was “Well, we’ve come all this way, I suppose you’d better operate”, which makes it sound like he was on a gameshow and he’d just been asked whether or not he wanted to go for the Star Prize. That’s when he doesn’t try to tell me that he flipped a coin to decide, that is.

Twist.

Because it was just hours since I’d been born, and because of the third possible outcome, the hospital’s resident priest was summoned to christen me. You know, just in case.

Operation time.

I got lucky.

As it happened, because I had been born six weeks prematurely, the nerves had not yet formed in the tissue.

I should stress that I’m fine now. Apart from a scar between my shoulder blades, you wouldn’t know about all of this. For this, I feel incredibly lucky.

I say you wouldn’t know about this, but many of my friends do, because I have often amused myself by telling this story to them when they were at their most susceptible: late at night, after a drink and maybe “a smoke”. Generally it would be met with disbelieving guffaws, at which point I would lift up my t-shirt to expose the scar, at which point the guffaws would change to exclamations of disbelief along the lines of “Whoa dude!”

This tune seems appropriate. Maybe I’ll sing it if I ever go on The X-Factor:

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AC/DC – Back In Black

More soon.

Happy Birthday (to me)

It’s my birthday today.

When you’re birthday is a) on a Monday, and b) two days before pay-day, it’s hard to work up much enthusiasm.

And, let’s not go into the whole “how old I am” shebang, please.

If you really want to know, then I’ll let you do the donkey work, by just saying that this was the No. 1 single in the UK when I was born:

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Creedence Clearwater Revival – Bad Moon Rising

Read into that what you will.

More soon.

How to Do a Cover Version

I was going to suggest this tune for The Chain this week, but decided that it needs a post all of its own.

I mentioned a little while ago that I listen to a lot of comedy shows on the BBC iPlayer, and specifically name-checked the David Mitchell hosted “The Unbelievable Truth”.

Another one that I particularly enjoy is “Dilemma”, hosted by newly anointed Queen of Having Some Professional Integrity, Sue Perkins.

On “Dilemma”, panellists are posed various awkward scenarios that they have to not only explain what they would do, but justify it too. Like tequila followed by a shot of chilli vinegar, it’s better than I just made that sound, trust me.

For example (and if they don’t use this in the next series, I’ll be annoyed): the TV show you co-host has just been sold to a rival channel. Going with it means you will get paid a lot more than you do now. Do you follow the money, or do you stay put?  (I don’t watch that Bake Off show, and never will, but gosh wasn’t it  heartening to see Mel, Sue and Mary Berry electing not to jump ship when the BBC lost the rights to air it the other week? For a fleeting moment, we all realised that some people might just be as nice in real life as we hoped.)

By the way, I find myself unable to pronounce Sue Perkins’ name as Sue Perkins since an appearance she once made on Have I Got News For You. She was on Paul Merton’s team and Merton, who was trying to quit smoking at the time, complained that he had been partnered with someone called Superkings. And so, to me, whenever I say her name out loud, it’s Superkings rather than Sue Perkins.

Anyhoo, the theme tune to “Dilemma” is this tune by Sleeper, who are the point of reference in this week’s Chain:

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Sleeper – What Do I Do Now?

That got covered by no less a musical God then Elvis Costello on his album with The Attractions, “All This Useless Beauty” – and when Elvis decides he’s going to re-work a tune, boy oh boy he does just that.

If you’re familiar with the original, but have never heard Costello’s version, then I urge you to listen to this. Actually, even if you don’t know the original, you should listen to this. To my mind, it’s one of the greatest cover versions ever. There, I’ve said it.

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Elvis Costello & The Attractions – What Do I Do Now?

See? Stripped back, you realise how great some of those lyrics are: “Riding her perfume downstairs…make-up like glue…spent the whole of Sunday sticking you together” – all wonderful words that are properly fleshed out in Costello’s version.

If ever there was a cover version that defined this “How To Do…” corner of the internet, then it’s that. I may as well pack up and go home now.

I’ll be back, briefly, tomorrow (Monday) – out of character, I know, for me to post on a Monday, but you’ll see why – and then I’ll meet you all back here on Wednesday for some more Chain Gang shenanigans. Assuming that I can locate the many, many suggestions I’ve received this week. (That’s not a complaint, by the way.)

More soon.

Name That Tune

Now the ticker tape parade of me reaching 400 posts has subsided, back to normality.

In my first year at college, every other Tuesday was spent in the Student Union’s nightclub/venue, “Shafts” (the college was in a South Wales mining community, in case you think there’s some innuendo to be found there) at the fortnightly Indie night, wittily called Funk Off.

The night had two resident DJ’s, Jim and Chris. Chris was rumoured to be a bit of a headcase, apparently carrying a knife with him when he DJ’d. Jim was a nice enough, bloke, who ended up playing bass in the band I was in a year or so later, and who I’m still in semi-regular contact with on Facebook (and who will be sent this post in the hope I haven’t offended him).

However, it was not, it’s fair to say, a well attended event, barely scraping fifty attendees on most weeks. We didn’t really mind this, as it meant that we could ask for any record we liked, and Jim and Chris would generally oblige, as it meant that at least someone would go onto the dancefloor.

My mate Danny Sweeney and I would often sit predicting what record would be played next. “Okay, so The Wonder Stuff are on now, bet they play Pop Will Eat Itself next…yup, there it is”. We, of course, thought we could do better.

So at the end of our first year, Danny and I approached the Social Secretary, a chap called Ken, and asked if we could maybe, y’know if it wasn’t too much trouble, totally fine if not, have a go at DJ’ing the Indie Night.

As it happened, Jim and Chris had, I think, decided they’d had enough of DJ’ing, and were ready to stand down from their post, although I have some dim recollection that Chris had been kicked off his course and Jim didn’t want to carry on without him.

And so Ken, and the Entertainments Manager Phil, agreed to giving us a go, and dates and times were sorted out when we could be trained up.

The DJ booth was a place of wonder to me the first time I entered it. There were two Technics decks with the channels unit/mixing desk positioned in between them, all facing out onto the dancefloor, and with two crates of albums and 12″ singles housed underneath. Next to that was the light controls, which could be pre-programmed (by which I mean, buttons pressed making each individual light whirr into life) or you could operate them manually (by pressing a button, etc etc etc). Next, a video player, monitor, computer and keyboard; “Shafts” had several screens positioned around it, and you could mix between vinyl and videos, as well as using the computer to write messages for the crowd to read. Back in 1989, this was pretty high-tech stuff.

Finally, embedded into the back surface was a tray containing a couple of thousand 7″ singles, which we would scour through before the set began, pulling up any we thought we might play that night.

I had my training session and was left alone to practice for a couple of hours or so. It seemed pretty straight-forwards, and my happiness at having conquered it was topped by being asked to turn up for the next week’s “Funk Off” where I would DJ with Jim. Danny would DJ at the next one after that and then, when term started again in September, the night was to be ours.

So, Tuesday night rolled around, and I strolled up, with a bag of vinyl that I hadn’t spotted in the racks when I had my training session, and which I thoroughly intended to play.

Jim was already there, and was programming our names into the computer. Screen One: Welcome to Funk Off. Screen Two: Your DJs: Jolly Jim and…

“We need to give you a name”, said Jim.

“Is Jez not sufficient?” I replied.

“No. You need something alliterative to go with it. Something that isn’t ‘Jolly’, because that’s mine.”

So for that first night, and never again, we were billed as “Your DJs: Jolly Jim and Jocular Jez”.

Harumph.

“You’ve brought some records”, said Jolly Jim. “Let’s have a look.”

Jocular Jez was reluctant.

“It’s fine,” Jolly Jim reassured me, “as long as you haven’t brought anything as fey and ball-less as Talulah Gosh, of course.”

You can guess what happened next, dear readers.

Yes, the first 12″ he pulled from my bag (okay, that sounds ruder than I meant it to) was none other than this:

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Talulah Gosh – Talulah Gosh

Cue: awkward silence and a raised eyebrow in my direction.

I didn’t dare to play it, after that look. But Jim dropped a tune which I don’t think I’ve heard before or since, a proper ace skanking hornblast of a record, which fits here too:

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The Larks – Billy Graham’s Going to Heaven

There’s a couple of tunes buried away in my back catalogue of records that I love, that I think have enhanced my life (for the better), and which I can directly attribute to Jolly Jim, and this is most definitely one of them. The others will surface sooner or later, rest assured.

Cheers Jim!

More soon.

Not Suitable for Weddings, Parties, Bar Mitzvahs, etc.

My erstwhile DJ’ing partner Hel has secured herself a gig next weekend at a friend of her sister’s wedding. I am surplus to requirements, which is fine. No, really. I can pop my nose back into joint any time.

We were discussing it last night, and in particular this thoroughly modern trend of the bride and groom asking the wedding attendees to request records for the DJ to play in advance of the night.

In case it sounds like I’m talking nonsense, here’s what used to happen: DJ would be booked, DJ would turn up, DJ would be asked throughout the night for various tunes, DJ would lie and say one of the following two things about any request they didn’t want to play : “Oh, I’m really sorry, I didn’t bring that out with me tonight”, or “I’ll try and squeeze that one in but I’ve already got a lot to try and get through here”.

There was one wedding that we played where two girls kept coming up and asking us for awful, awful records:

Girls: “Do you have any Olly Murs?”

Me: “No.”

Girls: “Do you have any One Direction?”

Me: “No.”

Girls: “Have you actually brought any records with you?”

Me: “Yes, just not shit ones.”

Girls: “What about Westlife? Have you get any Westlife?”

Me: “No, and even if we did, we wouldn’t play it. Now, take the hint and fuck off, will you?”

What happens nowadays is this: after agreeing to DJ such an event, you are presented with a list of songs which the attendees have suggested, which you are expected to have, and which you therefore have no excuse for not playing.

Which presents a conundrum: what if someone – a much loved aunt, or recently bereaved sibling, for example – suggests something which you really don’t think is appropriate to play, but which it may be demanded of you to do so, irrespective of what your professional integrity tells you?

Let me give you two examples. Many, many years ago, one of my many, many cousins got married. I was drinking with her brother, who was closer to my age, and one of his mates, who decided he was going to ask the DJ to play a record which he really liked. That record was Pat Benetar’s “Love is a Battlefield” (which obviously dates this anecdote). I tried to explain to him that wasn’t really a song which was appropriate for a wedding, but he didn’t take any notice. He approached the DJ, put in his request and came back to us.

“Is he going to play it?” we nervously asked.

“I think so,” came the reply, “he said he’d try to squeeze it in, but he’s already got a lot to try and get through.”

More recently, Hel and I were DJ’ing at a friend’s wedding. Our friend, a former flatmate, was marrying a city banker type, a lovely bloke  who doesn’t fit the stereotype of your normal city banker type, in that he isn’t an absolute cock, and who we had spent many an enjoyable night in the company of. Hel wanted to play Kanye West’s “Gold Digger”. She took a lot of persuading that, great crowd-pleasing record that it is, it wasn’t exactly appropriate in the context of the gig we were playing.

Anyway, I digress. For the forthcoming wedding, Hel had been presented with a list of 200 songs which people had requested, and amongst them was Led Zeppelin’s “Whole Lotta Love”.

Now I think there are few amongst us who would argue that “Whole Lotta Love” isn’t a great record. But a wedding disco appropriate record? We were not so sure. I’m thinking specifically of the breakdown, where Robert Plant basically makes sex noises for a while. It’s the wedding, not honeymoon you’re supposed to be sound-tracking, after all.

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Led Zeppelin – Whole Lotta Love

My solution? Play this:

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C.C.S. – Whole Lotta Love

You’re welcome.

More soon.

Sunday Morning Coming Down

This, apparently, is my 400th post. Best I make it a good one, eh?

A couple of weeks ago, I posted Linda Ronstadt’s version of “Different Drum”, which prompted Rol to comment on how he had (sort of) come to know the song through The Lemonheads version.

Which reminded me of another song I first heard because of the same band, a tune they covered on their 1990 album “Lovey”.

This one, by the late, great, Gram Parsons:

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Gram Parsons – Brass Buttons

Just gorgeous.

400 up. A good, if brief one. Mission accomplished.

More soon.

Late Night Stargazing

When I lived in Cardiff, I spent a good chunk of my twenty years there living in the Roath and Cathays areas. My Sunday mornings would often be spent wandering up to Albany Road, and trawling through the Reduced to Clear section in the now defunct Woolworths.

There were other records stores in the area, but none that opened on a Sunday; there was a Cash Converter across the road, which had a massive collection of CDs, mostly crappy magazine free giveaways, which, if you went there at the right time (namely a week or two into term, when the students had decided to sell their CDs for booze, just before Christmas, when the students had sold what was left of their CD collection for more booze and possibly a Christmas present or two, or just after Christmas, when students had sold ill-judged received presents for…oh, you get the picture) then you could monopolise on their “10 CDs for ÂŁ10” deal.

Neither Woolworths or Cash Converters were the most creditable place to buy records from; those awards go to D’Vinyl Records, which was just around the corner on Death Junction and one which to this day I have no idea what it was called other than “Record Shop”. I’m not going to go into this now, as new friend to Dubious Taste, The Robster, describes it perfectly here.

I can only corroborate Robster’s description of it as being 100% accurate, and it was there that I would make my pilgrimage on a Saturday afternoon.

But Sunday’s were different, for on Sunday’s Woolworths was pretty much the only shop that was open.

One particular Sunday, I stumbled across a compilation CD, with an awful name and an awful sleeve. It was called “Mad For It”, so I can probably place this as being in the mid-90s. The sleeve had a picture of a herd of cows on it, which made me wonder if this contained some long-lost Inspirals tune. Obviously, I bought it.

It didn’t have anything even vaguely Inspiral-ish about it, needless to say.

What it did have, though, was two CDs. Released on Telstar records- who I had assumed had died in the 1970s, along with Ronco products – the first CD was crammed with your standard Britpop-y types: there’s Ash, there’s Sleeper, there’s Suede, whilst the second CD was filled with more “dancier” numbers: your Prodigy, your Leftfield, your Underworld etc etc.

This was a time when I was still resistant to dance music, obstinately refusing to listen to it due to the absence of guitars, but clearly something had piqued my interest. In fact, I think I must have bought this because I was intrigued by some of the more obscure – to me – tracks on the dance CD. And when I listened to it back in my bedroom, it seemed to me that it got darker and more interesting the further it went on.

One of those darker songs came on my iPod as I was travelling home from a very enjoyable evening over at the closing night of Dalston’s Street Feast tonight with my good buddies Hel, Neil and Ian, where I have drunk and eaten quite a lot (food highlight: the arepas, a Venezualan cornbread stuffed with beef and a whole lot of other yumminess; drinking highlight: tequila shots washed down with a chilli vinegar, which now I write this, sounds revolting, but whoa! did they work! All of them).

Anyway, this is the tune, which I think is the first instrumental I’ve ever posted here:

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Nightmares On Wax – Nights Interlude

More soon.

How to Do a Cover Version

I’m around a month early for posting something (else) about John Peel, but on yesterday’s The Chain post, Swiss Adam nominated and justified the inclusion of Dinosaur Jr’s “Freak Scene”, by mentioning their cover of The Cure’s “Just Like Heaven”, which in turn led me to this: a most out of character Thursday night post.

When The Cure’s version came out, I was just finding my feet in the world of what was then called Indie music, and they, like my other heroes of the time The Smiths, perfectly bridged that gap between chart music and a whole world which was becoming much more interesting and alluring.

For my money, The Cure were at their Indie pop best around that time, with some of their singles being the most chart-friendly songs they would release, but still managing to retain that quirky weirdness that had marked them out previously to people far wiser and on-the-ball than me.

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The Cure – Just Like Heaven

By the time I first heard Dinosaur Jr’s version of “Just Like Heaven” they had already crossed my radar, for I’d seen the video for “Freak Scene” on BBC2’s weekday alternative music show “SNUB TV”, had dug a little deeper, and so I pretty much knew roughly what to expect.

“SNUB TV”, which seemed to kind of morph into “Rapido” before our very eyes,  was essential viewing for me and a few of my mates during my first two terms at college, when we were all living on campus in the halls or residence. I was the only one who had a colour TV, and we would all pile into my box-room and fight for a bit of arse-space on my single bed to watch it. (It was the most action my bed ever saw.) For the year or so that it aired, “SNUB TV” was one of my two main sources for discovering new music.

The other was of course John Peel.

Demi-God that he was to us, Peel also had a bit of a reputation for accidentally playing songs at the wrong speed, to such an extent that there was a posthumous compilation album featuring some of his favourite tracks entitled “John Peel – Right Time Wrong Speed”. It was this that just made him all the more endearing, I think.

It was on one of his shows that I first heard Dinosaur Jr.’s version, my ears perking up as he announced it. But it was not the speed of the record which perplexed him on this occasion – it was the brevity of it, and specifically, the way it unexpectedly crashes to an end. The record was followed by about ten seconds of dead air, followed by Peel emitting one of those little snorts he used to do when embarrased or amused, and saying something along the lines of “Well, that finished rather abruptly”.

He has a point. When I started DJing, I used to love playing this version, because I coud sense the crowd expecting me to make the same mistake and mess it up. But I would already have the next tune ready and cued, my finger hovering over the Start button on the Technics decks, ready to kick in the next tune at exactly the right moment, in exactly the way that Peel had so bumblingly not managed to do.

And everytime I timed it right, I’d hear Peel’s voice saying “Well, that finished rather abruptly”. And I still do everytime I hear it now, almost thirty years later.

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Dinosaur Jr. – Just Like Heaven

Well, that finished rather abruptly.

Cheers, John.

More soon.

The Chain #21

Well, it seems to be Wednesday evening again, and that can only mean one thing: I must remember to put my bins out. Oh, and host this week’s edition of The Chain.

You’ll recall we ended last week with The Cure’s “In Between Days”, and I invited you good folks to come up with songs which you can link to that record. The aim is, of course, in no particular order a) to showboat a little in your logic and song selection; b) to pick something which will cause a little debate in the Comments, be it about how great or how awful your choice is (never forgetting that, here, there’s no such thing as a Guilty Pleasure, hence recent inclusions from Busted, Chesney Hawkes, and PJ & Duncan, and you’re not necessarily saying that you like your own suggestion anyway), and c) trying to guess what the next record in the official BBC The Chain series, as featured originally on Radcliffe & Maconie’s Radio 2 show, which now airs on 6 Music.

After last week’s attempts to jiggle about with the running order, which frankly left me dazed, confused, and worried that I’d missed somebody out, I’m settling for an easy life this week, and resorting back to the tried and tested method of simply posting the suggestions as they were received.

So, first out of the traps this week was Rol from the My Top Ten blog, who was noticeable in his absence last week:

“Because I missed last week’s I thought I’d get in early this week
 but now I’m spoilt for choice?

The Go-Betweens?

Inbetweener by Sleeper?

Torn Between Two Lovers?

Between The Wars?

Between My Legs by Rufus W.?

Walk Between The Raindrops?

All tempting, but


Ultrasound – Between Two Rivers, from their 2012 album Play For Today. It’s lovely, it starts with a nice bit of a brass, and they’re about to release their third album any day now.

That’s my suggestion for this week.”

Now, I normally have a bit of a moan about being snowed under with suggestions, about how I might have to cap the amount of suggestions per person (I hope you all note that I’ve still not enforced that rule) but since Rol had mentioned so many potential links, and as he hadn’t proffered anything last week, I figured I’d be magnanimous and ask if he wanted to nominate a second. But there was no swaying him. Fair enough.

Here’s Ultrasound then:

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Ultrasound – Between Two Rivers

Be terrible if any of those Rol elected not to formally submit as a suggestion turned out to be the right one, wouldn’t it? (That’s my way of injecting a little suspense into proceedings).

Next up, here’s The Great Gog:

“In between days comes night. For some reason at this point Steely Dan’s “Night By Night” sprang to mind, and that’s a bit of an ear-worm of mine, so the rest of you can have a listen, too.”

Thanks GG, will do!

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Steely Dan – Night By Night

The next couple of suggestions I received were from babylotti:

“I’m going to link to ‘Days’, by The Kinks.”

Now that, I would suggest, is the complete opposite of Comment Showboating.

So here’s a factoid to make up for it: when Days was originally released, both the single sleeve and record label referred to the title as being “Day’s”:

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The Kinks – Days

See?

But wait! I stand corrected! Babylotti isn’t done yet:

“Ray Davies from the Kinks famously was seeing Chrissie Hynde for most of the 80s. Chrissie obviously being the mainstay of The Pretenders and I shall nominate their song called Back on the Chain Gang
”

I can’t really resist posting that one, for what I would hope are fairly obvious reasons:

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The Pretenders – Back on the Chain Gang

See that? That’s our theme tune, that is.

Time to welcome back the Badger from When You Can’t Remember Anything now, who rather presciently says:

“Right this won’t be the answer but
”In Between Days” used to be my ringtone when Mrs B phoned me. About a month ago I replaced that with ‘Digeridoo’ by Aphex Twin.”

You’re not wrong, Badger: that’s not the right answer. But since my knowledge of Aphex Twin pretty much begins and ends with “Windowlicker” and “Come to Daddy” I’m more than happy to oblige:

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Aphex Twin – Digeridoo

Time was, having just posted a tune which predominantly features a didgeridoo, I’d be able to make a really bad “Can you tell what it is yet?” gag, but alas no more. That particular comedic avenue has ended up the same way as the Animal Hospital: closed.

“Or” Badger continues, “Robert Smith formed a Cure off shoot called The Glove. Which links back to Hand in Glove by The Smiths.”

Badger knows from previous posts that a very simple way to make sure I raise no objections to a suggestion – not that I ever would, unless there is absolutely no link back to the source record – is to nominate something by one of my favourite bands ever, about whom I would never make any crass comments.

So with that in mind, here’s a picture of a man’s arse:

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The Smiths – Hand In Glove

You know that saying about how you have to wait ages for certain things to turn up – buses, or policemen, say – and then two turn up at once? Well add to that list “writers of the When You Can’t Remember Anything blog”.

Or to put it another way, here’s SWC:

“The follow up single to In Between Days was Close to Me that featured on the album Head on the Door. The first two words of which is the name of a very fine Jesus & Mary Chain track.”

This perplexed me at first, as I wasn’t aware of any Mary Chain single called “Close To”. But then the penny dropped, and such was my embarrassment at my own stupidity that I’m not going to get all pedantic and point out the album’s called The Head On the Door. And anyway, this is the first time we’ve featured one of their songs here on The Chain, so I’m not going to begrudge it. I mean, the words “Head” and “On” are still there, right?

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The Jesus & Mary Chain – Head On

SWC isn’t done yet though. Oh no.

“Or if you want cheese. Lol Tolhurst was once in The Cure. Lol is an expression for laughing. As is LMFAO. And they are Sexy, and They Know It.”

sexy-and-i-know-it-single-1LMFAO – Sexy and I Know It

Often on The Chain, I have to go searching the corners of the internet to track down copies of some of the songs suggested. I wish this had been one of them. But no, tucked away in the darkest corner of my external hard-drive, there it nestled.

Let’s move on shall we? There’s nothing to see here.

Here’s George:

“Linking Cure to Medicine, and Medicine Head’s first single His Guiding Hand, a song that The Swede will surely approve of, and a song rated by John Peel as one of the finest songs ever recorded.”

Indeed he did; in 2005 there was a Channel 4 documentary entitled “John Peel’s Record Box”, which focussed on a small, private collection of 143 singles representing some of his personal favourites, which Peel stored in a private wooden box. (It should be noted at this point, that said box contained no records by his most beloved band, The Fall: he kept them in a separate box).

You can watch the whole documentary here:

Needless to say from George’s introduction, His Guiding Hand” was in there. As is Status Quo’s “Down Down”. Just sayin’.

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Medicine Head – His Guiding Hand

Since we’re on the matter of John Peel, many of you will be aware that we’re fast approaching October 25th, the anniversary of his death, and a day where all those musically interested souls who owe such a debt to Peel try do something to honour his legacy. If you’d like to keep abreast of what events are going on, I’d recommend you a) visit the excellent Keeping It Peel blog, and b) follow @keepingitpeel on Twitter.

Anyway, I digress. Here comes Charity Chic, who decides to dip into that list of potential songs which Rol gave us right at the start:

“As Rol correctly points out there could be a link to Between the Wars by Billy Bragg…”

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Billy Bragg – Between The Wars

“…Kirsty MacColl brilliantly covered Days which babylotti mentions above. She also covered Billy Bragg’s New England so that would be nice”

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Kirsty MacColl – A New England

And you lot have clearly caught me in a good mood this week, because here’s a little extra treat for you. Lifted from one of those Radio 1 Live Lounge things (I think, I can’t actually remember where I got this from), but which as far as I know has never been commercially released (hence the less than pristeen sound quality and absence of a proper sleeve) is Kirsty and Billy performing an acoustic version:

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Kirsty MacColl & Billy Bragg – A New England (acoustic)

Moving on, but not quite so swiftly as we did to escape LMFAO, here’s Swiss Adam from Bagging Area:

“The Cure’s Just Like Heaven was memorably covered by Dinosaur Jr. Whose own song “Freak Scene” is one of the best songs ever recorded.”

He’s right you know. It really is:

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Dinosaur Jr. – Freak Scene

Here’s Alyson from What’s It All About, Alfie? who is definitely not a spy:

“If you feel unwell you probably want to find a Cure so will head Down To The Doctors where he/she will make you Feel Good again. Yes it’s Dr Feelgood with Down At The Doctors from me this week.”

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 Dr. Feelgood – Down At The Doctors

Heads up, George is back:

“I have a chain involving Tottenham Hotspur
”

Regular readers will now they’re my team, and Badger’s too, so in a week when we lost our opening game in the Champions League and then lost our main striker for an as yet undetermined period of time through injury, I was a little reluctant to invite George to expand on this.

I need not have worried:

“OK. Robert Smith of The Cure to Tottenham Hotspur footballer (of the 1960/1 double team) Bobby Smith. Tottenham Hotspur play at White Hart Lane (or used to) (Still do, mostly – Sports Ed), and Clay Hart was a country singer whose most famous song begins with these awesome lines “In a broken down apartment house lay a woman in labour
said by the grace of god I’ll have this child with the help of a neighbour”! Spring, by Clay Hart. Only in country music do you get such fabulous lyrics.”

And that, dear readers, is how to do Comment Showboating:

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Clay Hart – Spring

And that just leaves us with one suggestion, and this week that comes from The Swede from Unthought of, though, somehow:

“For my suggestion this week I’m going down the knob-twiddling route once again. David M. Allen co-produced a string of Cure albums, including ‘The Head on the Door’ from which ‘In Between Days’ is taken. Among Allen’s many other production credits is my favourite (and a criminally overlooked) Psychedelic Furs LP, ‘Book of Days’, from which I’ll choose ‘Torch’.”

You can’t beat a bit of know-twiddling in my book (innuendo very much intended), and it’s the type of link that doesn’t appear often enough here.

Anyway, here’s The Psychedelic Furs

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The Psychedelic Furs – Torch

And that concludes all of your suggestions for another week and I’m afraid none of you guessed what the record was in The (official) Chain. But before I reveal all, here’s my two suggestions, and I went down the same route as Alyson and George (with his first suggestion) did, going from The Cure to another word for a cure being a remedy, which led first to this, where Keith and the boys have got not just the poison, but the remedy too, which is one of those Good News/Bad News scenarios:

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The Prodigy – Poison

…which in turn led me to…(don’t worry, I’m not about to go all “Every Rose Has Its Thorn” or “Unskinny Bop” on you. They can keep for another day)…this:

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The Black Crowes – Remedy

Literally not heard that in years, and bloody great it still sounds too.

And so, to the official record and Rol, you are going to kick yourself, as are you CC for picking out the wrong one from his list of semi-suggestions. For the next record in the BBC Chain was chosen following this suggestion:

“… From ‘In Between Days’ to ‘Inbetween-er’
”

Ah well, never mind chaps, eh?

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21. Sleeper – Inbetweener

And that’s that for another week. So please submit your suggestions for songs which you can link to “Inbetweener” by Sleeper, along with your reasoning for the connection, via the Comments section down below.

I’ve got one already, unless one of you lot go and nick it first.

See you next week!

(More soon).