Sunday Morning Coming Down

In 2015, Tom Jones, aged 75, released his 41st studio album “Long Lost Suitcase”.

In recent years, his role on The Voice UK aside, Jones has been striving to return to his musical roots, his credibility (rightly) dented by such hits as “Sex Bomb”.

Which reminds me: I found myself in Cardiff one night when he happened to be playing, at Cardiff Castle I think. I was heading towards The Hog’s Head, a bar (that used to be) alongside the Owain Glyndŵr, and found the square outside packed with women of a certain age, all drinking and getting their knickers ready to throw at him. I picked my way through the throng, but ultimately found my passage blocked by a very, very large lady with her sizeable back to me.

“Excuse me…” I said, tapping on her shoulder.

She turned to face me, and I saw that she had the word “Sex” written in lipstick on one cheek, and “Bomb” on the other.

“You’ve not heard of the Trades Description Act, I assume?” I said (under my breath, obviously), before ducking smartly into the bar.

Ever since he’s stopped dying his hair and proclaiming that he thought he was “gonna dance now”, Jones has started making bluesy, soul records again; now he lets his voice do the talking, if that isn’t a weird thing to say.

And here, he tackles one that’s a little bit Country:


Tom Jones – Why Don’t You Love Me Like You Used to Do?

Short, but sweet.

More soon.

Late Night Stargazing

I seem to have featured Isobel Campbell in her Belle & Sebastian and The Gentle Waves incarnations here recently, so I may as well go for the hat-trick and feature a track from something from what is arguably her most successful phase: her union with gravel-voiced croaker, former Screaming Tree and Queen of the Stone Age, Mark Lanegan.

I has the great pleasure in seeing the duo play twice, once at the gorgeous Colston Hall in Bristol, once at Cardiff’s now sadly defunct and, I hear, derelict ‘The Point’, a converted church which became a staple venue for me around 2003; I saw not only Campbell & Lanegan there, but also Los Campesinos! and, of course, Super Furry Animals (and probably loads more that will come to me after I’ve finished writing this).

This is the opening track from “Ballad of the Broken Seas”, their first album of three, together. In my book, it’s by far the best of the three, earning the pair comparisons with Nancy Sinatra & Lee Hazlewood (Campbell & Lanegan used to so a version of “Summer Wine” live, which doubtless added fuel to the fire):


Isobel Campbell & Mark Lanegan – Deus Ibi Est

There will be some more soon, but you knew that already, right?


The Scottish Trip

The Six Nations recommences today, and now that Wales v England has happened, things get a lot easier for me.

See, as an Englishman who lived in Wales for twenty years, my allegiances are always torn when it comes to matches between the two; although it’s almost ten years now since I lived there, I still love the land of valleys and song, and I want them to win every time they play, but I can’t quite stretch that to include when they play England.

For the first few years that I lived in South Wales, I was always terrified of being identified as an Englishman when the two teams faced each other. I really need not have worried, at least not when it came to the rugby crowd; the only time I got any hassle for being English was whilst either watching England play football in a bar (and specifically, the 1996 Euro Semi Final against Germany), or immediately after a Wales v Holland football match when I just happened to be in the vicinity of the stadium. But I can look to one event which made me realise that I wasn’t going to get the living crap beaten out of me by a Welsh rugby fan for having the wrong accent.

In the mid-1990s, I was making excellent use of my degree by working as the manager of a video shop in Cardiff, about five minutes walk away from Cardiff Arms Park; I would invariably work on a Saturday, including match days, and we would watch the crowds flowing past the shop window on the way to and from the stadium.

On one occasion, I was there with Matt, a student who worked the occasional weekend. After the game, the crowds slowly began to drift by, and you could tell who had won by their demeanour and drunkenness. This Saturday, England had won, so I decided to keep a low profile.

One of our regular customers came in, obviously under orders from his other half to pick up a film on his way home to watch that evening. He was a giant of man, mulletted, wearing the Welsh shirt with pride and not a few suspicions stains. He was also quite ridiculously pissed, swaying as he stood trying to focus on the new releases.

Finally he made his selection, wobbled up to the counter at which point Matt piped up: “Been to the game, have we mate?”

The bloke looked at him. “Yerrrr…”

“Perhaps you’d like to discuss the result with this Englishman here?” Matt suggested, gesturing towards me and stepping sharply out of the way.

The drunk guy stared at me, a puzzled look on his face, and I felt my blood turn cold. There was no doubt that even though he was drunk and there was a counter in between us, if he took against me I’d had it.

Instead, he held his hand out. A trap, I thought. If I shake that, he’ll pull me over the counter and cave my head in. His hand remained outstretched and unshaken for what seemed an age. In the end, I could ignore it no longer, and I offered my hand in return.

“Fair play,” he said as we shook hands, “your boys outplayed us.”

I don’t think I’ve ever seen Matt look so disappointed.

Years later, when I had stumbled into the line of work I’m in now, many of the blokes in the office would travel to see some of the away games, specifically the ones against Ireland or Scotland. They would often ask me to join them, but I always declined. By this time I had adopted a policy of feigning indifference to the whole sport; I found that meant I was spared the ribbing that English colleagues got whenever Wales were triumphant.

They would return regaling me of stories drunkenness and singing, not entirely unlike this, which, since many of them will be travelling up to Scotland this weekend, deserves an airing:


Max Boyce – The Scottish Trip

Have a great weekend, whatever the score, boys.

More soon.

This is Pop #4

I’ve spent the past couple of evenings binge-watching “Search Party” on All 4, the online streaming service of the UK’s Channel 4.

In case you’ve not watched it yet (and I recommend that you do), it’s a ten part dark comedy series set in Brooklyn (the suburb of New York, not the Beckham) following Dory, who learns of the disappearance of her school friend Chantal, becoming obsessed with finding her, dragging boyfriend Drew, and friends Elliot and Portia into her efforts to track her down.

There’ll be no spoilers here, but suffice it to say that the conclusion ties things up in exactly the way that most TV shows don’t.

It’s a lot better than I just made that sound, trust me. For a start, referring to having binge-watched it is not entirely correct, since each episode only lasts a little over twenty minutes, you can plough through the whole lot in one evening if you put your mind to it. Oh, and a word to All 4: if you can remember what shows I’ve watched, and where I’ve got to in a series I’m watching, then it shouldn’t be too much of a stretch to remember that I’m over 16 after you’ve asked me once and not ask me again before every episode. And anyway, has anyone ever been asked that question when they’ve been under the specified age and thought “Ah well, that’s me out then”? (This isn’t a rhetorical question; I was way above the age of eighteen when a situation first arose where I was asked to confirm my age before watching something online, but that’s…erm…another story…)

Ahem. Anyway. in Episode 3, at an all night vigil for the missing girl, an a capella group perform a version of today’s song, with results guaranteed to make you cringe:


Kelly Clarkson – Since U Been Gone

Clarkson, of course, was the winner of the first ever series of American Idol, which should mean that I hate this, but I don’t. In fact, the only thing I don’t like is the spelling of the title. For a start: you’re not Prince, you’re not even Slade, so let’s have less of this “U” nonsense. And it should be You’ve, in any event.

Anyway, “Since U Been Gone”, if I really must call it that, was originally written with Pink in mind, but she rejected it, the fool, whilst Hilary Duff declined it as she couldn’t hit the high notes. It’s yet another song of positivity (aren’t they all in this thread?), an expression of relief by a woman escaping from a troubled relationship, something which is demonstrated not just in the lyrics, but in the way the song just explodes at the chorus.

I walked into a bar once when I was living in Cardiff, to find my friend and former flatmate Llyr involved in a heated discussion with Jamie, a guy we knew, who was attempting to ridicule him for having voiced the controversial opinion that he liked this record.

“No,” I remember Llyr saying, “just because I like something that you don’t, doesn’t make you right and me wrong. In fact, from my point of view, it’s completely the other way round.” Or put another way, Llyr wasn’t wrong for liking it, and Jamie wasn’t wrong for disagreeing, a notion which should ring a few bells with some of you.

So this one’s for you, Llyr.

More soon.

Claps, Clicks & Whistles #4

Quite often I’ve mentioned on these pages how the idea of which song to write about has come to me serendipitously. This is, of course, slightly disingenuous of me; for whilst I do have my iPod constantly on shuffle, I don’t really believe that it’s fate that a certain song has come to my attention; often, as with the songs on this thread, my ears are attuned to any song which might contain either handclaps, finger clicks or whistles.

It is true to say that every now and then I will hear a song which contains one of the above that I had either not noticed before, or, as with today’s tune, where I’d forgotten that it did, possibly because they don’t surface until the record has almost finished.

Last weekend I was watching a BBC4 show featuring performances of bands which had female members, and there, almost at the end of the show, came this, which I’m going to assume you need no further introduction to (especially as this song featured recently on The Chain, and as another song by the same band will feature in this week’s once WordPress/my laptop has decided that it likes the idea of me inserting links to mp3s again).

Here’s Elastica:


Elastica – Connection

That is all.

More soon.

I Am the Mouth

The issues with posting mp3 links which caused me a problem with this week’s “This is Pop” thread seem to have reappeared, so this weeks’ edition of “The Chain” is going to be delayed, I’m afraid. It sorted itself out last time, so “The Chain” will appear soon enough. In the meantime, to fill the void, I’ve already written all of this week’s posts, so I’ll start posting them a little early.

There’s much to love about The Charlatans, so it’s slightly odd that more often than not the tune by them that gets played out is their first Top 10 single “The Only One I Know” from way back in 1990, or their biggest hits, both from 1996, “One to Another” and “North Country Boy”.

It’s the song which they always close their live set with which gets the thumbs up from me; originally released as a single in 1991, this is the US version which popped on the B-Side of “Weirdo” a year later:


The Charlatans – Sproston Green (US Version)


More soon.

Late Night Stargazing

So, I got a ticket to see Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds in September. A seat up in the Gods, but nevertheless, a seat. I’m excited already.

I can’t justify posting two consecutive Nick Cave songs on this thread (actually, I could if I really put my mind to it), so instead, here’s a song I mentioned in passing a couple of weeks ago, which Mr Cave covered, along with the gentleman singing it here:


The Pogues – Rainy Night in Soho

More soon.

How to Do a Cover Version

An often overlooked classic for you today.

This only managed to get to No. 32 in the UK charts back in 1982, and proved to be pretty much the final swansong of a band who it can be argued to have been one of the most succesful ever.

Subsequently, it’s achieved some much belated recognition; in 2010 on a show entitled “The Nation’s Favourite ABBA Song”, where viewers of ITV were invited to vote for, erm, their favourite ABBA song, this came third, proof that ITV viewers are idiots for only placing it there and not higher.


ABBA – The Day Before You Came

Ostensibly, this is simply a song where Agnetha recounts the events of her drab life on the day before “You” came into her life, but there’s something more to it than that. What is never made clear is whether the arrival of “You” is a good or a bad thing, but there’s a gloomy atmosphere here, a pervading sense of foreboding that makes you think maybe everything is not about to go well, that she rues the day that “You” arrived in her life.

In 1984, Blancmange released their cover version and ironically it also proved to be their last Top 40 UK hit. It’s a slightly more uptempo version, but no less sinister sounding for it, Neil Arthur’s deep vocals adding a different weight to the mournful tone of the song. And quite why they felt the need to change the author of the book read by the singer from Marilyn French to Barbara Cartland is beyond me. Perhaps they didn’t think anyone would know who Marilyn French was, but I think her inclusion in the original to be significant, since she mostly wrote feminist text.

Still it’s almost as wonderful as the original:


Blancmange – The Day Before You Came

More soon.

A History of Dubious Taste – 1986

Recently I have posted the following two assertions:

  1. That it annoyed me that the reruns of Top of the Pops currently airing of BBC4 weren’t being shown in the concurrent week as they had been originally broadcast, and
  2. That I had made a New Year’s Resolution to get on top of the thread which this blog was originally created for: to go through every record I had bought, in sequence.

You can imagine, therefore, how irritated I am with myself that here we are, over halfway through February 2017, and I still haven’t written a single post about records I bought in 1986 and so I’m already out of sync with my younger self, 31 years ago.

I don’t really like just posting a song and saying: “And then I bought this….”, I like there to be a story to tell, a bon mots to drop about why I bought it, what was going on in my life – but sometimes that’s all there is to it. I just bought it because it’s ace.

For example, in January 1986, I bought this, a record I still adore today, and strictly speaking should have featured in my sporadic “How To Do A Cover Version” thread by now:


The Damned – Eloise

I mean, I could tell you (again, I’m sure I must have mentioned it before, it’s one of the first things I mention to practically anyone I meet for the first time…) about the time I sang karaoke with Captain Sensible (CLANG!!!!), but since I can’t actually remember what song we sang, the anecdote pretty much ends there.

Anyway, hopefully this should start me back on track.

By which I mean, of course: more soon.