Over the weekend, BBC4 showed this, a program that lasted just 4:12, showing the footage taken in 1953 and 1983 of the train journey from London to Brighton, which, as any commuter using Southern Rail will confirm takes considerably longer than four minutes twelve seconds to complete.
What I thought was odd, was that they chose to show this, rather than the third edition, which also showed the journey as filmed in 2013:
If you’ve watched both of those, you’ll have noticed the addition of a different soundtrack, and the music they selected – “Star Guitar” by The Chemical Brothers – is very appropriate.
I have posted this before, but it’s always great to re-watch this, the promotional video for “Star Guitar”, directed by Michel Gondry, of “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind” fame, where the view from a train window is perfectly synced to fit the beats and blips of the song:
And here’s the extended version of the same tune; next time you’re on a train journey you can pop this on, look out the window and curse that life just isn’t kind enough for your own journey to the music:
If you’ve been lucky enough to watch Rich Hall’s Countrier Than You (which I see is back up on the BBC iPlayer, so I assume it’s been broadcast again without me noticing) then you’ll know that the boundary lines between folk and country music are blurred at the best of times.
A while ago, my brother and I converged on our parents’ house; after dinner he got out his iPad and, using his iTunes streaming subscription as the database, we played an impromptu game of The Chain. The iPad got passed round the table, and the lucky holder got to choose what record we heard next.
At some point, my brother played a song by this morning’s band, perhaps their most famous record, certainly their most commercially successful one. He looked genuinely wounded when I said he could have chosen something better by them.
In America, this would be classed as either Country, Folk or Bluegrass, but here in the UK we sniffily call this lot a bunch of crusties. Which shouldn’t detract from the fact that this, and a couple of other songs they did, are rather fine:
So, whilst I was off work this week, I found myself watching/snoozing through an awful lot of TV. Here’s a short list:
Storyville: Death on The Staircase on the BBC iPlayer. A courtroom documentary along the lines of Netflix’ Making of a Murderer that, at the risk of a spoiler, had me reaching for Google the moment the eighth and final part finished.
Homes Under The Hammer. I cannot top Dave Gorman’s summation of this:
3. Atypical on Netflix. The story of an American teenager on the autism spectrum who decides it’s time he gets himself a girlfriend. Take home message: Jennifer Jason Leigh has still got it going on.
4. Gameshows Impossible and Tenable. Take home message: a lot of people are idiots.
5. Flog It! I mention this only because I am 99.9% sure that in one episode, filmed in Swansea’s Margam Park, Gruff Rhys from the ever wondrous Super Furry Animals wanders into the crowd watching an evaluation of a porcelain pig. I’ll be revisiting it on the iPlayer later and trying to upload it to Twitter at some point to see if anyone else agrees.
5. Love & Mercy on Netflix. This is a film which attempts to chart the recording of The Beach Boys’ seminal Pet Sounds album, Brian Wilson’s subsequent nervous breakdown (all shown in flashback), which is juxtaposed with the 1980s, when Wilson is under the guardianship of Dr Eugene Landy.
Generally, it works. Paul Dano, who plays the 60s Brian is phenomenal, as is Paul Giamatti as Landy.
But there’s a problem, and it pains me to say it. For the problem is John Cusack.
Now, I love Cusack, and I would say that 99.8% of the time, he can do no wrong (the 00.2% is deducted for his pronunciation of The Beta Band in “High Fidelity“). However, in Love & Mercy he plays the 80s Brian Wilson, and great as he is, I couldn’t get past the fact that this was Cusack, playing Brian Wilson, who he looks absolutely sod-all like.
Maybe you can suspend disbelief better than I can. If so, good on you. Fill your boots.
What I was totally on board with, however, was the Beach Boys songs which got an airing, not least this, probably my favourite song of theirs, and since it’s a Bank Holiday weekend here in the UK, with what appears to rather nice weather ahead of us, I think we can blow the dust off one more time:
I wish I could post (again) Adam Buxton’s shredding of The Beach Boys’ performance of “Barbara Ann” on Later…. here, but alas it has been taken down from all platforms. If you ever stumble across it, brace yourself: I went to see Adam earlier this year and he showed it in its entirety; I laughed so hard at it that I nearly slid out of my chair (which is no mean feat for a fat old git like me).
A couple of weeks ago, in my occasional series where I feature compilation albums I picked up when I was a teenager making mix-tapes to please my peers in the sixth form common room, I featured an album called “Take The Subway To Your Suburb” which included, amongst a host of jingly-jangly indie-popsters, some proto-Pop Will Eat Itself, when they were still in their grebo mode.
Today’s vinyl selection is by a band who slotted into the same scene, but unlike the Poppies, they failed to move with the times, released one album (on Dave Balfe and Andy Ross’ Food Records, better known for fathering early Blur releases, amongst others) but were dropped by the label in 1989. They did release a further album, which I’ve never heard, but lack of commercial success meant their days were numbered.
I saw this lot once, in my first year of college, before I got involved in the Entertainments Committee (you should not take it from that that I wouldn’t have booked them when I did get involved); they were pretty good, good enough to make we wait until the end of their set before going to the Gents. High praise indeed.
As I entered the Gents, there was Keith, my housemate, washing his hands at the sink, which meant that Allie, a girl from Bristol who wore polka dot skirts that he was moderately obsessed with, was in the venue somewhere.
“What did you think of them lot?” he asked (he was from Yorkshire, hence the poor grammar).
I positioned myself at the urinal, my back to the rest of the room.
“Yeh, I thought they were alright,” I said. “Though I have reservations about any band that has a song called ‘I Don’t Want That Pint Of Blood’.”
At which point, the lead singer of the band crashed out of one of the cubicles.
“That’s not what it’s fucking called,” he slurred at me, pulled his leather jacket down taut, assumed rock star status and strutted out to meet his slightly more approving (and female) public.
And he was right, it’s not.
I may have misheard one of them, but they had some great song titles tucked under their belts.
Here’s some tunes from that Food release album I mentioned earlier:
Apologies it’s been a bit quiet round these parts this week; as many of you will have gathered from my post on Monday morning I’ve been a bit under the weather this week, and had to take a couple of days off work to get over the dreaded lurgy I’d been struck down with.
No, not man flu, before you all start, but I’ll spare you the details.
Anyway, although I was at home for a couple of days I didn’t really feel like writing anything. And then, of course, there is the small matter of my boss reading this.
Now Kay is really supportive and encouraging of what I do here – barely a week goes by when she doesn’t ask me when I’m going to get round to writing her favourite of my many anecdotes (I’ll do it soon. alright??) – but since I was off work sick, and since my work is essentially sitting in front of a computer writing stuff, I didn’t think it was a very smart idea to write anything here. A return to work meeting which includes me saying: “Yes, Kay, I have been too unwell to come to work, but on a brighter note I have written a weeks’ worth of blog posts, including an epic edition of The Chain” is only going to lead to uncomfortable questions being asked and P45s being hastily inked.
But, before we get this show back on the road, I did want to thank those of you who took the time to wish me a speedy recovery, they were all very much appreciated.
I’m dedicating that to a friend of mine who used to be a member of the Gene fan club (she doesn’t know that I know that), and, if all goes as it should, is about to become deservedly famous and successful in her chosen field. You know who you are. I could not be prouder of you.
And if you liked that tune, go buy some Gene records. You could do worse than seek out either their “Olympian” or “Drawn To The Deep End” albums, both of which are magnificent.
And since we’re here: if you’ve contributed a suggestion to this week’s edition of The Chain, then my apologies as I’ve been laid up all weekend so I’ve not got back to any of you about songs which I’m going to have to disqualify (and there are some, I’m afraid), or songs which I’ve not been able to find (there’s a couple of those too). I’ll do that tonight, so please either look out for a response to your Comment/Suggestion (or, in a couple of places, if I have your email address, I’ll pop you an email) this evening.
Oh, and as the source song is “Echo Beach”, we’re a little heavy on songs by Echo & The Bunnymen, so if I do have to tell you that your song is disqualified, please try not to suggest anymore songs by them!
When I posted the Sandie Shaw track “Heaven Knows I’m Missing Him Now” in The Chain this week, I made reference to a track by The Smiths.
That track was, of course, “Heaven Knows I’m Miserable Now”. Can you see what Morrissey, a massive fan of 60s female pop like Shaw, did there?
It would be too easy for me to post another song by The Smiths in this series, so instead, a song by an act who’s never featured here before, who I forever link to that song by The Smiths for two reasons.
Firstly, the lyrical content. Here’s the lyrics to “Heaven Knows I’m Miserable Now”:
“I was happy in the haze of a drunken hour But heaven knows I’m miserable now I was looking for a job, and then I found a job And heaven knows I’m miserable now
In my life Why do I give valuable time To people who don’t care if I live or die
Two lovers entwined pass me by And heaven knows I’m miserable now I was looking for a job, and then I found a job And heaven knows I’m miserable now
In my life Why do I give valuable time To people who don’t care if I live or die
What she asked of me at the end of the day Caligula would have blushed “You’ve been in the house too long” she said And I naturally fled
In my life Why do I smile At people who I’d much rather kick in the eye
I was happy in the haze of a drunken hour But heaven knows I’m miserable now “You’ve been in the house too long” she said And I naturally fled
In my life Why do I give valuable time To people who don’t care if I live or die.”
Which, as you will see shortly, has much in common with today’s song.
The second reason is because in 1987, The Smiths were the subject of a full episode of arts program The South Bank Show. The programme, after Melvyn Bragg has nasalled his way through the introduction, begins not with a Smiths song, but with today’s choice, which then segues into “This Charming Man”.
You can watch the whole program, split over seven parts, on YouTube, should you be so inclined (that link should allow you to watch them in sequence).
That show has special memories for me; in 1987 I was in the upper sixth form, and in the process of applying to go to college. One application required that I submitted a critique of a recent television program, and it was The Smiths’ edition of The South Bank Show that I wrote about.
On the strength of that, I was invited to an interview at the college in question, which I managed to make a right royal cock-up of, which I’ll go into another day.
So here’s the song in question, a more straight-forward lyric than the saucy innuendo-laden ones the singer is better known for:
Now, I know when I started this series, I said I would try to avoid just posting stuff from MTV’s behemoth “Unplugged” series, but sometimes I have to go there, because the some of the songs posted are just too darn good to ignore.
Such is the case with Eric Clapton’s appearance on the show.
I know it’s not exactly cool to like Clapton, but as regular readers will have noticed, that’s not a factor I really ever take into consideration when posting stuff here.
See, Clapton’s “Unplugged” album is pretty much perfect, featuring not only acoustic versions of some of his better known tracks, but also a whole host of covers of old folk and blues records which have influenced him. And, of course, it’s technically quite breath-taking.
So I’m going to widen this series out to include not only artists performing acoustic versions of their own records, but acoustic versions of other people’s songs, because, frankly, some of these are just too good to miss out on a technicality.
Here, then, is Slowhand performing a version of perhaps his best known song (although he didn’t record it under his own name originally, and, sadly, he forgoes the extended piano heavy play-out from the original album here) and one originally by Jesse Fuller.