Late Night Stargazing

Apologies for the abruptness, but this is going to be my last post for a while.

Shortly after I wrote that last post, I received some devastating news yesterday which has totally left me in bits.

Please don’t message me on here, I won’t reply. It’s not appropriate for me to go into detail here.

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Energy 52 –¬† CafeŐĀ Del Mar ’98 [Original Mix]

Dude: If you’re reading this,¬†love you, will see you soon.

Same Title, Different Song

Did you ever have one of those conversations where you suddenly felt very old?

Let me give you an example.

Shortly after I started working for an insurance company in Cardiff, about 20 years ago now, I found myself as an Acting Team Leader on the Teleclaims section; “Acting” because the actual Team Leader had gone on long term sick, and they didn’t want to actually promote me in her absence because that would have meant paying me more.

The Teleclaims section was the first point of contact should you ever need to make a claim. Or, if you wanted to find out what was going on with your claim. In the latter case, it was an unwritten rule that you should never bother the person actually dealing with the claim. I was rather good at this; I’d have a quick read of the file whilst the caller was on hold, then call the handler, ask them if I was right about where I thought the claim was at, then reassure them I wasn’t going to put the caller through, I’d get rid of them myself. 9 times out of 10¬† I’d be successful, and I quickly got myself a reputation as “the bloke who never makes handlers talk to customers.” My popularity burgeoned.

It was for this reason, I think, that I found the title of Acting Team Leader foisted upon me. But now my job had changed; now I spent most of my time shouting at people to answer the phones rather than actually answering them myself, or, quite often, taking complaint calls and politely explaining to the caller why they were wrong.

See, I’m not really management material. But on the occasions when I’ve found myself in vaguely managerial positions throughout my working life, I’ve been a firm believer in leading by example. Don’t ask others to do things you aren’t prepared to do yourself, is my motto. In fact, one job I did ended rather abruptly, shortly after I confronted a manager who had told me to “Do as I say, not as I do,” and I¬†told him he was a¬†twat.

So when I was an Assistant Supervisor at Boots (check me out with all my not-quite-boss credentials), I felt awkward telling other people slightly further down the food chain than I to jump on the tills when it was busy, so I’d often do it myself. Then there could be no arguments when I did tell someone to do it. Plus, I got to have a nice sit down.

Anyway, back to the insurance company. It’s busy, and I decide to answer a few calls, one of which involves a policyholder whose name is Paul Newman.

Call completed, I, of course, cannot resist making a comment about having just spoken to Paul Newman to the folks around me. Not a particularly funny comment, I’ll grant you (although that was definitely the intent) but one which I thought would gain a reaction from somebody.

Instead, I was met with blank looks.

“Y’know. Paul Newman.”

More blank looks.

“The actor. The very famous actor,” I semi-pleaded.

A bale of hay blows through.

“Makes salad dressing…..?” I offered.

A wave of recognition.

And that’s how you know when you’re getting old. When somebody you know for doing the main thing they’re famous for is known by young people for doing something less significant. I now refer to it as “having a Paul Newman moment.”

To apply this to a musical setting: a few years later, I’m still working for the same company, but I’ve progressed. I now deal with potentially expensive claims, where people (say that) they’ve been¬†injured in an accident with someone we insure. I find myself sitting next to a lad who has been transferred from a different office. Usual in-between work banter occurs, and it transpires we have a lot in common in terms of musical taste. (Later nights out would reveal that he also rather liked taking pills; needless to say, we got on very well. Also needless to say, for the very same reason, I’m not going to mention his real name.)

Steve. Let’s call him Steve.

In one of our we-really-should-be-working-but-nobody’s-checking-what-we’re-doing chats,¬†Steve revealed that he really liked The Automatic, a somewhat perfunctory Welsh indie band, best remembered for their single Monster. Credit where credit’s due, though: our conversation took place before they’d had any hits (if indeed their hit count extends into plurals). But he had one gripe with the band: he hated the additional vocals which Alex Pennie often provided, finding them obtrusive and annoying.

“A bit like Einar from The Sugarcubes, then?” I offered.

Cue the blank looks from “Steve”.

“You know. Einar. From the Sugarcubes.”

More blank looks.

“Used to pop up in the middle of every Sugarcubes song, and just start shouting pseudo-avant garde nonsense?”

Is it me, or is it getting warm in here?

Turns out, in musical terms, you know you’re old when you know the name of somebody in The Sugarcubes who wasn’t Bjork. And some of their records.

Like this one:

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The Sugarcubes – Hit

And, making a second appearance in as many posts, here’s a different song with the same title:

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The Wannadies – Hit

And just to tie things up neatly, here’s a song by The Automatic which isn’t Monster and which isn’t¬†the best example of a song which features Pennie’s irritating backing vocals. It is, however,¬†a song about a sandwich shop in Cardiff, and I rather like it for that at least:¬†R-1056600-1188654629_jpeg

The Automatic – Raoul

More soon (football permitting).

Obligatory Football Post #1

A few weeks ago, I decided I needed to get my arse in gear and start writing a bit more frequently on here.

But then, the bloody World Cup started, and that put the knackers on that idea.

I’ve¬†avoided¬†mentioning it for three reasons: firstly, I didn’t want to jinx England, secondly, because if you want to learn about football and music then you’d be much better off going and visiting Webby over at Football and Music, and thirdly, because I’ve been a bit too busy watching matches to actually bother writing anything.

So I’m not going to mention it. Much. Hardly at all in fact. Although the fact that I’ve given this post a number drops a fairly heavy hint that may not be true.

Anyway, as I was on the way to work yesterday, today’s song popped up on my iPod and I was reminded how I first heard it way back in 1996, when it featured on this compilation album I bought, which boasts the prestigious subtitle of being the Official Album of Euro ’96.

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If the links to¬†that particular football tournament didn’t already alert you to the album’s mid-nineties-ness, then a cursory¬†look¬†at that list of acts making an appearance on it would probably allow you to making a reasonably educated¬†guess as to when it came out.

But on closer inspection to the track listing, once you get passed the contributions made by the above named, then there isn’t much which jogged my memory. In fact, there’s several songs I have no recollection of ever hearing before.

Usually when that happens, with an album I own, it’s for the simple reason that the songs in question aren’t much cop, and I suspect that’s the case here. I’ll give it a listen again over the coming week or so, so that you don’t have to. Public Service Blogging. You’re welcome.¬†If there’s anything good on there we’ll come back to it. If you never hear it being mentioned again, you’ll know why.

In the meantime, here’s the song which reminded me of the album in question, which still sounds ace today:

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The Wannadies – Might Be Stars

And yes, I was going to call this my Obligatory Goal Post, but decided it didn’t really work. Quality control, see?

More soon.

Sunday Morning Coming Down

It’s Father’s Day today here in the UK, and so I thought I’d post a Dad-related Country song this morning.

Turns out that all the ones I could think of are sings about Dads who are either absent, alcoholic, dead, or all three.

Since my Dad is none of these things (at least, he wasn’t last time I checked), I thought instead I’d post a song by a Country act I know because of my Dad, which given that 99.9% of the songs I post in this series have come to my attention the same way, doesn’t exactly make today’s post anything out of the ordinary.

The Statler Brothers are not all brothers (two of them were) and none of them were called Statler. They had originally performed under the name The Kingsmen but when another band with the same name had a hit in 1963 with Louie Louie they decided they needed to change their name. They settled on Statler after seeing the name on a pack of tissues in a hotel room.

Apart from the other times I’ve posted songs by them, you may recognise them as Johnny Cash’s backing vocalists, which they started doing in 1964 and carried on until the early 1970s. You can hear them on his At San Quentin album, for example, and they get a name check on Closing Medley from that record.

Anyway, here’s a tune by them:

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The Statler Brothers – Do You Remember These?

And to make this a little more Father’s Day friendly: in 2007, Grandstaff – who were Wil and Langdon Reid, the sons of actual Statler Brothers Don and Harold – recorded this as a tribute:

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Grandstaff – The Statler Brothers Song

More soon.

S.S.O.S. (Stop Spoiling Our Songs)

Given how much TV adverts get on my tits, I’m not sure how it turns out that it’s been over three months since I wrote one of these.

There’s much to despise about adverts in my book, and doubtless I’ll probably cover some of the other things I hate over the coming months because, let’s be honest, with the World Cup starting today, I’m going to be watching a much larger proportion of¬†the commercial channels than usual for the next few weeks, so they’re bound to wind me up enough to feel the need to vent my spleen here.

But for now, I’ll return to my usual gripe: the use of records I love to sell stuff, especially when the stuff being sold has absolutely sod all to do with the song, which inevitably has¬†every last drop of credibility squeezed from it as a result.

I don’t really subscribe to the Bill Hicks You do a commercial, you’re off the artistic roll call forever” train of thought:

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Bill Hicks – Artistic Roll Call

To my mind,¬†a¬†spot on the shelf-life of celebrity is a precarious, self-employed¬†one:¬†they never know quite how long they’re going to be there, or how demeaning¬†their fall from grace is going to be, so I have no issue with those lucky enough to be in the position where they’re¬†offered money¬†to endorse a product, or do a voice-over, adding some notes to their pension fund and taking the corporate coinage. It doesn’t mean I’m going to rush out and buy whatever¬†they’re selling –¬†in fact, it’s more likely to make me more determined not to –¬†but I have no problem with them doing it.

That said, when a record is crowbarred into an advert where it has no business in being, just to add a veneer of credibility, that’s when I get annoyed.

Chanel. If you’re not the biggest fragrance and fashion house in the world, then you’re certainly in the top three.¬†Your status, reputation and class has been built up for over one hundred years. Getting Steve McQueen (not that one) to direct your latest advert for men’s fragrance is fitting: he’s a class act, and so are you.

So why the need to use this as the soundtrack to the advert?

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David Bowie – Starman

I could maybe understand it if it had some relevance to the product in question. It’s a men’s fragrance, so there’s a man in the advert – tick! – but as for the ‘star’ part…well in a 60 second advert, there is one shot, lasting no more than one second, which features a starry sky, and that’s about five seconds before it ends.

You get the impression that the Chanel Marketing Department commissioned McQueen to shoot the ad, and then when he presented it to him, they told him what they wanted the music to be, so he had to crowbar a star reference in to give its use some weight.

What I’m trying to say is this: Bowie is dead. There’s no need to tarnish his memory by using his songs to sell stuff. You’re better than that, Chanel.

More soon.

And there’s no need for anyone to suggest the advert which features a certain New Order tune for a future post – that’s very high on the list indeed.

Sunday Morning Coming Down

It was Nancy Sinatra’s 78th birthday on Friday, which makes this morning’s choice a remarkably simple one.

There’ve been many different versions of this over the years, but if I had to pick a favourite, it’d be Nancy & Lee’s version I’d have to plump for.

Yes, even above Johnny & June’s.

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Nancy Sinatra & Lee Hazlewood – Jackson

More soon.

An Anniversary Gift For You

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Yes, I know this is where you expect to find yourself a bit of Country music, but this morning, something a little different. (Sunday Morning Coming Down will be along shortly, fret not.)

You see, somehow, I appear to have reached a landmark. This is my 1000th post. So, I figure you deserve my best anecdote as a reward for having stuck with me this long.

It’s all downhill from here, by the way.

Deep breath. Here goes:

We had a Christmas works do last year.

It’s something we haven’t really done at all in my time in my current job: mixing socially.

A few of us had met up at the end of September to mark one work colleague getting some sort of auditing qualification which I neither understand nor aspire to. She seemed happy enough to have achieved it, and we all had a really good night. The success of that led others to decide to organise something similar for Christmas.

And so it was that we descended on a local pub one Thursday night. I found myself holding court over a group of work colleagues, mostly women, (when they weren’t pushing ice cubes down my back, which I nonchalantly retrieved and plinked into my drink), dropping anecdotes, taking the piss out of them and myself, generally being the¬†entertaining old soak you know and love.

A few days later, I was sat at my desk at work, when within my earshot Kay (my boss) and one of the other bosses were discussing¬†how enjoyable the night had been, how Kay and I had been the last¬†man and woman standing – we stayed until the ungodly hour of almost-chucking out time – which means that in their eyes we¬†are now confirmed alcoholics. I tried not to earwig, stayed focussed on my monitor, but couldn’t ignore it when Kay said “Yeh, he’s not a bad drinking companion. Tells a pretty good yarn, too.”

I looked up, all innocent. “Who, me?”

Yes, you, they chorused.

So, here’s a pretty good yarn. Everybody I know already knows this story, but it’s the one I’m most often asked to write up here, and I’ve always resisted. Until today. But since this is my 1000th post, now seems as good a time as any.

The first time I ever told this story, and was made aware of its comic potential was back in the mid 1990s. I’d just started working for Boots the Chemist, and had to attend one of those induction/team building sessions that new employers feel obliged to make you go on.

As an ice-breaker, we were invited to tell the rest of the group our most embarrassing moment. There was the usual parade of people trying to avoid the gaze of Pat, my boss and the lady charged with presiding over proceedings. (I used to refer to her as Auntie Pat, which she hated and would often tell me not to call her it. I meant it as a term of endearment, but she didn’t seem to take it that way. Make of that what you will.)

After a few minutes of awkward silence,¬†I thought, “Ah well, I have a pretty funny¬†one”, and put my hand up to volunteer.

After I’d finished, and the laughs died down, Auntie Pat said: “I’m not sure anyone’s going to be able to beat that….”

They couldn’t. They didn’t.

I’ve told this story many times since. All of my friends know it. I told it to my Dad one Christmas a few years ago, when there was just me and him sitting up into the wee small hours, drinking, chewing the fat. “You have to tell your mother that one…” he howled. And the next day, when I did, she said “You have to tell (insert name of aunt or uncle here) that one…” Now, barely a Christmas or a family gathering goes by when I don’t end up telling this story, so you may as well hear it too.

Have I built this up enough yet?

I’ve told this story many times, but I’ve never written it. I hope this works out okay, but I can’t promise anything. That’s what’s known as a disclaimer.

Let me set the scene. It’s 1987, and I’m at Sixth Form. My fellow Sixth-Formers¬†decide a night out is needed, but an activity of choice cannot be agreed on. The boys all want to go to the pub, get drunk and try to get off with the girls. The girls, sensibly, (bar a couple of notable exceptions) want none of that, preferring to go to the cinema to see what is now universally recognised (by straight men) as being the worst film ever made: Dirty Dancing.

A compromise is reached: we’d all go to the pub, have a couple of beers, and then go to the cinema to watch Patrick Swayze do his thang.

And so to The Red Lion on Peterborough’s Cathedral Square we ventured, a bar which had two very important qualities:

  1. A juke box and two pool tables, and, even more importantly
  2. It was renowned at the time for being a tad on the lax side when it came to asking for ID.

After a few hours of pint quaffing, we¬†trotted off¬†to the cinema. At that time, there were two in the mighty pantheon that¬†is¬†Peterborough: an Odeon and an ABC, both close to each other, but I’d be lying if I told you I could remember which of them had the dubious distinction of¬†showing Dirty Dancing.

What is important to note here though is that cinemas in the late 1980s were a very different beast to cinemas now. Cinemas had two or three screens at the most; the term “multiplex” simply didn’t exist.

We all make our way into the screen showing the Dancing film. As the Pearl & Dean adverts roll…

…I’m mildly aware that I need to pee, but I figure I can control myself.

The film starts. It’s terrible, obviously. The urge to visit the Gents¬†becomes a little more urgent. I look at my watch and decide I can hold it in a little longer.

After an hour or so seems to have passed, I check my watch again. Oh. It’s ten minutes later, and my bladder now feels full enough to burst. There’s nothing for it, I decide: I’m going to have to go to the gents and miss the thrillingly complex and layered build up that you’ll no doubt be aware occurs in Dirty Dancing.

I’ve ended up sitting towards the rear left of the theatre; there’s no exit behind me to the left, so I now have to make my way along the line of people sitting to my right as I head towards the door.

“Sorry…excuse me…was that your foot, I’m so sorry….sorry, excuse me, sorry…”

I stumble to the end of the row, and make it to the door. On going through it, I find myself in an annex, confronted with three more doors.

I feel a little like this (although dressed slightly differently, but only slightly, mind):

One has the word “Ladies” written on it, so I exclude that from my enquiries.

The other two have no writing on them at all. But it’s okay, I reason to myself, because I can remember walking through one of them to get into the theatre, which means the other one¬†had to¬†be the Gents, but the sign must have fallen off. You know, like they do.

All I need to do, therefore, is remember which door one is the one that I have already been through.

The sensible thing to do at this point would be to open one of the other two doors, or both if necessary, to establish what was on the other side.

I did not do the sensible thing.

Instead, I decided that as the door marked “Ladies” was the one to the left, then the door to the foyer must be the one to right, with the door to the Gents’ being in the middle, next to the Ladies’.

Now, gentleman readers, it is at this juncture that I require some support, for what I am about to say demands a frankly incredible suspension of belief.

You’ve been in a similar situation, I’m sure, where the desperate, overwhelming need to pee coupled with the certainty of the proximity of a place to pee leads you to begin to unbuckle, unbutton or unzip in advance of sight of the actual target, right?

We’ve all done that, haven’t we?

Actually, I¬†know I’m not alone here. A chap I knew when I lived in Cardiff described the exact same thing when he recounted how odd it is that the need to pee when drunk dramatically increases the moment he got his front door key out of his pocket, like his bladder had decided that keys out = home, or near enough that nobody’s going to object. He even had a name for it: “Premature Drunk Piss Excitement”, which, if you’ll excuse the phrase, doesn’t¬†exactly roll off the tongue, but I’ve never managed to improve on it.

So, not just me then.

On this occasion, however:

I force my way through the door that I have determined is 100%, definitely, no two ways about it, the door to the gents. Unzipped and ready for action.

Only to find that the door in question does not lead to the sanctuary of a urinal.

It lead to the concessions stand.

And specifically, I am standing behind the hot dog stand. With Little Jez out and ready for action.

Luckily I manage to clench, but I see a girl dressed in the cinema’s livery turn towards me, her lip curled up¬†in disgust and horror.

And then, as I desperately attempt to tuck everything away again and head for the door, I hear the voice of the bloke she is serving, who was trying to buy a hot dog.

“Not that one thanks, love.¬†I’d like a¬†full-size one. Plenty of mustard, please.”

Appropriate song alert:

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Led Zeppelin – Hot Dog

Oh, the shame.

Drinking buddies will now testify that I now seem to have developed a system where the desperate need to pee is avoided quite simply, by¬†visiting the toilet¬†almost¬†every ten minutes after the second pint as kicked in. The correct medical term for this is not “I’ve broken the seal”, or “The taps are on now”, or “Captain Slackbladder”; no,¬†it is called “Being Nearly Fifty.”

Anyway, enjoy your breakfast.

More soon.

Late Night Stargazing

I’m not really a fan of the whole Marvel/DC Comics movie franchise, but a month or so ago, I caught the trailer for Deadpool 2, thought it looked really funny and half-remembered a lot of people on Twitter¬†banging on about how brilliant the first one was.

A week or so later, as I scrolled lethargically through the choices on Netflix I saw that the first one had serendipitously been added, so I gave it a go. And bloody loved it.

So this week I popped along to my local multiplex to watch the sequel, and loved it even more. As well as being action-packed as you’d expect, it’s incredibly arch, funny, often knowingly so, quite sweary, and with plenty of popular culture references thrown in to keep you on your toes. There’s also plenty of “breaking¬†the fourth wall” moments, when Deadpool addresses the audience directly as the action unfolds at the same time. Think Miranda dressed sort of like Spiderman but wise-cracking like Bruce Willis in the Die Hard movies rather than just falling over and you’re somewhere close.

You¬†don’t¬†need to have seen any of the other Marvel or DC Comics movies – although I probably had a few references to them soar over my head – and you don’t necessarily need to have seen the first Deadpool movie to enjoy the second, but I’d say¬†there are enough peripheral characters in both to probably make it worth investing the time in doing so.

And the soundtrack is bloody marvellous too, and tonight’s track appears at one of the few quiet moments in the film (which contains a simply quite wonderful pop culture reference which I won’t spoil here):

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a-ha – Take on Me (MTV Unplugged – Summer Solstice)

More soon.

Sunday Morning Coming Down

I’ve mentioned Charley Pride before, of course.

Ex-Army, ex-professional baseball pitcher, the military and sporting world’s loss was very much country music’s gain.

This is from an album my Dad had a copy of when I was a kid, and which I recently got hold of a copy of for myself. By which I mean, there’ll be more from this another time.

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Charley Pride – Able Bodied Man

More soon.