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 –  Café Del Mar ’98 [Original Mix]

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

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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.