No Such Thing as a Guilty Pleasure

Today, I broke a record.

In the last week, I’ve had more hits on my blog than in any previous week.

I’m not really a man for statistics, probably because I quoted Mark Twain’s “There are lies, damned lies and statistics” to prove a point so many times when I was writing scholarly essays at the end of the 1980s, I now believe none of them.

So, let me say from the get go: I anticipate that this post will bring a record low in views or downloads.

For whilst Swiss Adam over at Bagging Area was off watching Peter Hook on Friday, a week earlier I was watching Status Quo play an Acquostic gig (that’s their awful pun, not mine) at the Union Chapel in Islington.

As you may know, Quo released an album of acoustic versions of some of their songs at the back end of 2014, and it was an unexpected smash hit. The problem with unexpected smash hits is that record labels tend to want a follow up, and Quo – reluctantly, so they say – are obliging (there’s an Aquoustic Volume II coming soon).

The other problem is that, because they weren’t expecting it to be such a hit, they pretty much shot their bolt with the first album, and included versions of all the big hits: “Rockin’ All Over The World”, “Whatever You Want”, “Down, Down” etc etc etc – so where to go next?

To my mind, the first album had focussed a little too much on the famous songs, including songs which didn’t really benefit from acoustic make-overs, so I was particularly excited by the idea of them unearthing further songs from their back catalogue and giving them the acoustic treatment. For me, early album tracks, like “Claudie” from 1973’s “Hello!” album, which they revisited on the first acoustic album, had been a triumph, so I was hoping for more of the same.

So, much as I loved the gig and it’s compact, snug surroundings, I was a little disappointed that they only played two songs from the new album. A misjudgement on their part, I think: this was a strongly partisan crowd who would have known whatever they wanted (see what I did there?) to pluck out and perform.

The two songs in question were “That’s a Fact”, the original being on 1976’s “Blue For You” album, and “Hold You Back” from 1977’s “Rockin’ All Over the World” album, and it’s the latter that I want to focus on here.

Hold You Back” has always been a live favourite, and on Friday night it prompted the audience to get up on their feet and have a bit of a dance. Have you tried dancing in a pew? It’s not easy.

Like much from the first acoustic album, “Hold You Back” benefits from a revisit and revamp, turning it into – and I now this will sound odd – the Scottish reel it always wanted to be. Here’s someone’s hand held footage of it, taken from a far better vantage point than I managed to secure:

There was, however, an elephant in the room: the absence of original member Rick Parfitt.

Rick has had more than his fair share of health problems recently, and I read this weekend that, because of them, he has probably played his last ever gig.

There was a notable absence of songs that Parfitt performed the lead vocal on at the gig, hence, to my disappointment, there was no “Mystery Song”. If ever a greater song was born from someone putting a couple of teaspoons of speed into someone else’s tea, I’m yet to hear it. To my mind, it’s the greatest song in their back catalogue, and I know I’m not alone in thinking that

Luckily, they have Andy Bown in their ranks, a talented multi-instrumentalist in his own rights, with a pre-Quo history (yes, such a time exists) to make others pale into insignificance, and it was he that stepped up to sing “Whatever You Want” (which he co-wrote with Parfitt).

Anyway, you can find various hand-held clips of the Union Chapel gig on You Tube if you so desire. Here, though, is their recent gig for Radio 2 at Hyde Park, which is essentially the same set, just played to a lot more people:

And here is an mp3 of them playing “Hold You Back” at the same gig (with apologies for the Radio 2 i-dent at the start, not that I expect any of you to listen to it…)

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Status Quo – Hold You Back (Radio 2 Live in Hyde Park 2016)

I await the obligatory “Oh dear” comment.

More soon.

Name That Tune

Ok, so it’s been a while since I did one of these. Admittedly, I’ve been struggling to come up with songs which mentioned famous people – not singers, that’s Charity Chic‘s patch – in their song titles to post here.

And then my beloved iPod gave me today’s song, which doesn’t have any famous people in the title at all (unless the title refers to Piers Morgan, which I wouldn’t want to rule out), but does name-check an Oscar winning actress and one of them there intellectual types that Michael Gove says we’re all fed up with.

Looking back, I can see this record as a stepping stone to me adoring bands like The Smiths, who I didn’t fully appreciate until their time was almost done. Bands who referenced intellects and authors; as my youthful thirst for intellectual stimulation expanded, so I began to listen to records which at the very least pointed me in the right direction. But by now, I wanted something a little less ham-fisted than The Police’s reference to “the old man in that book by Nabakov” on “Don’t Stand So Close To Me”, and Lloyd Cole and The Commotions seemed to be able to provide everything that I needed.

“Rattlesnakes”, for that is the record I’m talking about, references  French writer, intellectual, existentialist philosopher, political activist, feminist and social theorist Simone de Beauvoir. As I realise that paragraph above makes me look a little wanky, I should stress I have never read anything by Nabakov or de Beauvoir, but at least I knew who they were, and aged 16 that seemed to be enough somehow.

Similarly, it makes mention of Eve Marie Saint in “On The Waterfront”, a film she won an Oscar for (Best Supporting Actress), and a film I’ve never got round to watching. But I know she’s in it.

My life is full of these little bits of half-knowledge. When I was younger, I watched “Apocalypse Now” and found it was based on “Heart of Darkness” by Joseph Conrad, which I rushed out and bought. And there it still sits, thirty-odd years later, unread and dusty on my book shelves.

What I’m trying to say is: I’m a pretty handy person to have on your pub quiz team.

When you’re a teenager, struggling to work out who you are, to assume your own identity, you clutch and grab at these things. To my mind, it didn’t matter that I’d never read de Beauvior or Conrad, or never seen Marie Saint act; what mattered was that I knew who they were, which many of my peers did not.

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Lloyd Cole & The Commotions – Rattlesnakes

What’s spectacular about that record, is that as well as referencing a fixed point in cinema, there’s something cinematic about the record itself: you can picture Jodie, looking like Eve Marie Saint in “On The Waterfront”, speeding down the freeway, trying her luck with the traffic police. David Lynch directing, I think.

I didn’t buy the “Rattlesnakes” single or the album when they came out, but I remember my mate Paul having the album, and loving this song, along with “Perfect Skin”,  and “Are You Ready To Be Heartbroken?” from it. Of course, when I finally got round to buying the album, I realised that every song on it is utter perfection.

If you already own the Rattlesnakes album, I would hope the mere mention of it would entice you back to listen to it again. Just writing this has made me do so.

And since I mentioned “Are You Ready To Be Heartbroken?”, here it is:

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Lloyd Cole & The Commotions – Are You Ready To Be Heartbroken?

Since I’m posting that, I may as well post a bloody wonderful record which references Mr Cole and that song (CC: sorry if I’ve nicked this one off your toes!!):

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Camera Obscura – Lloyd, I’m Ready To Be Heartbroken

More soon.

Sunday Morning Coming Down

When I’m not doing this, or binge-watching shows on Netflix, or, y’know, working, I spend a lot of my time listening to comedy shows on the BBC radio iPlayer, one of my favourite shows being “The Unbelievable Truth”, a panel show hosted by David Mitchell.

The premise of the show is that each panellist delivers a short lecture which is entirely false, save for five pieces of true information, which they must try to smuggle past their opponents, cunningly disguised amongst the lies.

A recently re-broadcast show announced – spoiler alert – the fact that a 1992 US report, entitled “The Effect of Country Music on Suicide”, demonstrated that cities with a higher than average country music radio market share had higher suicide rates, independent of other factors such as poverty, divorce rates or gun availability.

It’s possible that the subject matter is one of the causes of this phenomenon, and the show went on to cite the following country song titles as examples: “If I’d Shot You When I Wanted To, I’d Be Out By Now”, “You’re the Reason Our Kids Are So Ugly”, “My Wife Ran Off With My Best Friend and I Sure Do Miss Him” and “I Still Miss You, Baby, But My Aim’s Getting Better”.

In my search to corroborate that all of those really are titles of country records (they are), I stumbled across a few more which tickled me: “How Can I Miss You If You Won’t Go Away?”, “I’d Rather Have A Bottle In Front Of Me Than A Frontal Lobotomy”, and “I’m So Miserable Without You It’s Like Having You Here”.

If you listened to the Kershaw session version of “Paintball’s Coming Home” by Half Man Half Biscuit that I posted yesterday (and if you didn’t, you really should), you’ll have noticed that it started with a version of a completely different song, which has a great title, if not as great as some of those.

This one, in fact:

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Eddy Arnold – I’m Throwing Rice (At The Girl I Love)

More soon.

Late Night Stargazing

I’d imagine that if you said asked people what the word “Kahuna” most reminds them of, I’d wager that many would name a (pulp) fictional burger from Quentin Tarantino’s masterpiece:

Others might point to a couple of DJs who released their only album of original material, “Machine Says Yes”, back in 2002, under the name FC Kahuna, and it is to them that we’re turning to for tonight’s bit of late night mellowness.

FC Kahuna are mostly known for their big beat tunes, but this is far, far from that sound. Bleepy without being irritating, a slightly vocodered female vocal; it’s sparse, pulsating, gorgeous  :

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FC Kahuna – Hayling

More soon.