Ba Ba Ba Ba-Ba Ba Ba Ba

Regular readers will recall that I used to write a series called “Claps, Clicks & Whistles”, which featured songs that included one or more of those three elements.

I say used to, it’s not dead, just…I haven’t thought of anything to write in the series for a while.

When I got bored of writing earlier this year, part of my back-to-work plan was that I’d not be quite so regimented about when I would post, I’d just dip into any particular series whenever I fancied doing so. Keep you all on your toes, so to speak. So y’know, watch this space.

Anyway, the original point of “Claps, Clicks & Whistles”, was that I thought that any song featured any of those elements was likely to be a cheery little number. And it occurred to me over the weekend that there’s a fourth category here, which I’m going to pretend I thought of ages ago but didn’t include because it would have meant the title didn’t scan so well.

And so here we are. Looking at songs which feature either the lead singer or, more often, the backing singer(s), launching into a chorus of Ba Ba Ba Ba Ba’s.

I don’t think there’s anything more joyous in pop records, except maybe the aforementioned claps, clicks or whistles, or possibly the key change in any record by either Westlife or Boyzone, because when that happens you know it’s nearly over. And I think this might just edge it.

Here’s an example: Julian Cope back in The Teardrop Explodes days, launching into a chorus of ba ba ba’s, interspersed with some whoa-whoa-whoas to the tune of “As Tears Go By”:

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The Teardrop Explodes – Passionate Friend

Just glorious.

I already know I’m going to regret calling this series “Ba Ba Ba Ba-Ba Ba Ba Ba”, by the way. Tune in next time to see where the hyphen will feature.

More soon.

Mock the Weak

Back in 1983, when I was at secondary school, there was a General Election.

To provide some context, the Conservatives under Margaret Thatcher had swept to power in 1979. Labour were led by Michael Foot, portrayed by the press as a scruffy ultra-left threat to national security Communist (sound familiar?). The Social Democratic Party (SDP) had formed in 1981, but had not yet established itself as the third main party; that would take a rebranding or two before the name Liberal Democrats finally stuck.

The Falklands War Conflict had finished. Unemployment was high, but about to get higher. The Miners’ Strike was on the horizon.

My school, deep in the Tory homeland of Cambridgeshire (John Major was our MP, which gives you some idea) decided that they would hold a mock election, and my year was designated the year who would form the political parties to battle it out.

And so it was that one day in our English class (we didn’t have¬†a Politics class), we were randomly split into groups, asked to decide which political party we were going to be, and instructed to prepare a manifesto and speech which we would have to present to the rest of the year, who would then vote.

We could act as one of the established parties, in which case our manifesto had to accurately represent that of the party we were emulating. Or, we could make up our own party, party name, manifesto and speech.

The class were separated out into groups of four people, and it soon became very apparent in my group of wallflowers that the person who would have to stand up and make the speech was going to be me. Which led me to insist on complete artistic control, that I would have the final say over which party we were to represent, what was in our manifesto, and what we were going to say in our speech.

The other three in my group realised this was a perfect opportunity for them to do absolutely nothing, so basically left me to it. All they had to do was stand on stage behind me as I made my speech, look supportive, and remind me not to speak too fast.

And so, I decided we would be an all-new party, and wrote a manifesto and speech which was basically a satire of the Conservative Party’s. I can remember very little of it now; however,¬†since I wasn’t particularly politically engaged back then, at the age¬†of 13,¬† I¬†banked on very few of my year-mates having either watched or remembered¬†BBC sketch show ‘Not The Nine O’clock News’, pinched a few gags from that and padded it out with a few of my own in the¬†same vein. The only (stolen) joke I used that I can recall was one¬†about increasing the age one had to be to receive a pension, and axing benefits for the disabled, because it made sense to attack those who were unable or unlikely¬†to fight back. All strangely prescient in these days of Universal Credit, it seems.

On the day of the actual general election, my year trooped into the school hall, where each “party leader” took it¬†in turns to stand behind the lectern and deliver their¬†speech.

When it was my turn, I was terrified. I’d had to talk to large rooms full of people¬† before (at junior school, I was often given the role of Narrator in the school play because I could read), but never before (with one notable exception, which I’ll tell you about sometime) had I read out something I had written myself, even if much of it was plagiarised. My eyes never left¬†my A4 pad. I read at a frantic speed.¬†My fellow party members were lined up behind me. One of them, Robbie Watson, leant forwards and hissed “Slow down, mate” in my ear. I slowed down. And managed to get some laughs from the audience.

I left the stage, glowing with pride, back appreciatively slapped by my comrades.

We came second, losing by a handful of votes. To¬†the Conservatives, of course. I’m used to it by now.

But whilst I can’t recall much of the detail of the manifesto or speech, I’ve never forgotten the name I came up with for¬†my pretend political party: the Northern Irish Political Party to Lead the English.

Or, the N.I.P.P.L.E. Party, for short.

I imagine you can work out why I was reminded of that this week.

Here’s a song:

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R.E.M. – World Leader Pretend (Live “Tourfilm” Version)

Dear Theresa. Can I have my ¬£1 billion now please? I promise to support you.¬†Except on the occasions when I don’t want to.

More soon.

Sunday Morning Coming Down

Back to some country this morning, and a follow-on tune to the post I did a couple of weeks ago about the reality TV show “Gone to Pot: American Road Trip”.

The link will become obvious, not least because it’s Willie Nelson again.

And this track also features Kris Kristofferson, Jamey Johnson and….Snoop Dogg:

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Willie Nelson – Roll Me Up And Smoke Me When I Die (with Snoop Dogg, Kris Kristofferson & Jamey Johnson)

More soon.

Late Night Stargazing

I’ve no idea how it is that I’ve never featured anything by The Knife before.

Probably because I have absolutely no idea how to describe them.

The best I can manage is this: occasionally odd, often stunning.

Here’s a track from their quite magnificent album 2006 album “Silent Shout”:

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The Knife – We Share Our Mother’s Health

More soon.

A History of Dubious Taste ‚Äď 1986

I honestly can’t recall what caused me to buy this album back in 1986.

It may have been that I heard something by this band on the John Peel show.

It may be that I’d heard the song of there’s which featured on the legendary C86 compilation album, which my brother owned.

Either way, it’s an album which I love to this day, by a band that I know invokes much love via the Comments section whenever I mention them.

Their sound may have become ever so slightly, almost imperceptibly, more polished over the years, but they’ve remained¬†instantly recognisable. You know when you’ve heard a song by Half Man Half Biscuit.

So here’s a selection of songs from the album in question, along with pictures to help younger readers get some idea of who the many celebrities name checked in them are.:

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Half Man Half Biscuit – Fuckin’ ‘Ell It’s Fred Titmus

 

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As featured:

Fred Titmus, England cricketer who lost four toes in a boating accident, and is still better than the absolute shower we’ve got playing in The Ashes at the moment.

 

Half Man Half Biscuit – 99% Of Gargoyles Look Like Bob Todd

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As featured:

Bob Todd, comedic actor, straight man to Spike Milligan and, more famously, Benny Hill.

 

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Lesley Judd, co-presenter of BBC flagship childrens show Blue Peter, from the classic line-up of Judd, Singleton, Noakes & Purves

 

 

 

 

Half Man Half Biscuit – Time Flies By (When You’re The Driver Of A Train)

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As featured: Pugh, Pugh, Barney McGrew, Cuthbert, Dibble and Grub, stars of animated TV show Trumpton. After the series ended, McGrew, Dibble and one of the Pugh boys made ends meet by stripping. (Are you sure about this? – Ed)

 

Half Man Half Biscuit – The Len Ganley Stance

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As featured: Len Ganley, bequiffed snooker referee and style icon.

 

 

 

 

Half Man Half Biscuit – I Love You Because (You Look Like Jim Reeves)

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As featured: Jim Reeves, American country singer known as Gentleman Jim

 

 

 

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Peggy Mount: English actor, probably best known for starring in sit-com “George & the Dragon” with Sid James. You can probably work out a) the basic plotline of every show, and b) which part she played.

 

 

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Arctic Roll, popular pudding in the 1970s. This post would have appeared a lot sooner had I not decided to go and buy one the moment I saw this picture.

 

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Shake n’ Vac, popular carpet freshener from the 1970s, when this advert set hearts a-racing:

 

 

and as covered by Snuff, here:

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Snuff – Shake n’ Vac

And finally:

Half Man Half Biscuit – Reflections In A Flat

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As featured:

Echo & the Bunnymen: Liverpudlian trench coat salesmen

 

 

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Ali Bongo: children’s entertainer, good at contortionism

 

 

 

 

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David Nixon: not as good as Ali Bongo

 

 

And I’m mightily relieved to have got through all of those, and realised I don’t appear to have pinched a single description from those presented on the back cover of the album, just about legible here:

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More soon.

I Can‚Äôt Help Myself

Time for some more gut reactions, songs which spring to mind whenever I hear a word, phrase¬†or a person’s name.

As discussed at way too much length last time out, many of these seem to stem from footballer’s names, and the first one this week is no exception.

Although I can’t really take credit (if that’s the right phrase…) for this one. I believe I heard it mentioned on an old TV show hosted by Frank Skinner and David Baddiel called “Fantasy Football League”.

One of them (Frank, I think) announved that whenever he heard the surname of German midfielder Torsten Frings, he always thought of this song. And since then, I have too:

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Nancy Sinatra & Dean Martin – Things…

They spent a lot of time, money and effort on that sleeve, didn’t they? I mean, they haven’t even bothered to fully crop Lee Hazlewood out of the photo of Nancy. Look:

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Anyway, next up, a record that I actually bought¬†on 7″ single back in 1986, for the sole purpose of putting it on a mix-tape to play in the sixth form common room (chucking a chart record on every now and then was my way of making sure any of the kids less cool than me (sense the ironic tone, by the way) wouldn’t complain that they didn’t know any of the songs being played. See how I suffered for my art?).

As with “Things…”,¬†I may be misappropriating the source, but¬†I have not¬†actually heard the title of this next¬†song since the day that Radio 1 (at the time) DJ Simon Mayo (I think)¬†substituted it for the words “Womens’ Underwear”. I

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Bon Jovi – Womens’ Underwear Livin’ On a Prayer

Which leads us nicely into, if not identical, then very similar territory. Last time out, I opened up the floor to any suggestions which you might have, and Charity Chic (of Charity Chic Music fame) proffered this:

“My surname is Boyd and my brother and I have been known to sing ‚ÄúThe Boyds are Back in Town‚ÄĚ on occasions (usually when alcohol has been consumed).”

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Thin Lizzy – The Boyds Boys Are Back In Town

I’ve got one of those too. In fact, I have two of them. These aren’t sung by my family and I, but at least once a year (on my birthday) this will spring to mind for one particular line contains a word which bears more than a passing resemblance to my surname (in fact, I’ve lost count of how many times people have thought it is my actual surname):

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The Beautiful South – Let Love Speak Up Itself

Now, I’m not about to reveal my surname here, I’d like to retain some degree of anonymity (although any of you that don’t know me personally but do follow me on Twitter will already know it), but this should give you a bit more of a clue:

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Fred Wedlock – Oldest Swinger in Town

Feel free to send any suggestions you might have (for songs to feature in this series, not for what my surname is) via the Comments section below.

More soon.

Strings on Sunday

Bored of the “Acoustic Afternoons” series, I’ve continued in my search for decent topics for a series with an alliterative title.

Found one!

To kick this series off, an orchestral re-working of what was already an wonderful single.

The Stealth Sonic Orchestra is a pseudonym of dance act Apollo 440, which, when you consider their own output (which I have a bit of a soft-spot for, as it goes, for reasons which are about to become clear) includes a version of the Lost in Space theme tune, and a track which samples Status Quo, makes this remix even more incredible.

This came out as an extra track on one of the singles from Manic Street Preachers’ break-through album, “Everything Must Go”, and, in case I haven’t eulogised about it enough already, let me add breath-taking and beautiful to the list of adjectives:

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Manic Street Preachers – Motorcycle Emptiness (Stealth Sonic Orchestra Remix)

More soon.

Sunday Morning Coming Down

A little while ago, I announced that this series would no longer exclusively feature Country records, but I would widen the net to feature other songs which seemed to have a Sunday morning kinda vibe about them.

Since then, I think that bar one song, the Country theme has continued.

Until now.

If you’re one of the people who were unhappy with my decision, you might want to look away now.

This is bloody great:

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Scott Bradlee’s Postmodern Jukebox¬† – Never Gonna Give You Up (feat. Gunhild Carling)

Backlash awaited.

More soon, in any event.

Late Night Stargazing

I think a little piece of me dies whenever I hear a song I love being used in an advert.

More so, when it’s turned into a cover version, performed by a breathy young lady, usually accompanied by either a ukulele or solo piano.

Tonight’s song does feature in an advert at the moment, and much as that makes my heart feel heavy, at least it attempts to use it in an upbeat way.

The original is a gospel-backed jaw-dropper, but this mix is even better.

I first heard it on the way to a wedding. My friends Colin, Llyr and I were driving from Cardiff to Hay-on-Wye, and both Llyr and I had prepared mix-tapes to listen to en route.

We stopped at Llyr’s parents’ house in Brecon on the way, so that he could collect a suit from his Dad to wear to the ceremony.

Colin and I remained in the car when he went in, his mix-tape still playing on the car stereo.

And this song came on; at a certain point – and you’ll know which point that is when you hear it – both of us stared in surprise at the cassette player.

“Blimey,” said Colin, “I wasn’t expecting that.”

Me neither.

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Blur – Tender (Cornelius Remix)

Shortly afterwards, we were invited in. Llyr’s dad misheard my name, and thought it was Des. This gets mentioned whenever we meet these days, which is not as often as I’d like.

More soon.