When The Clock Strikes

In all honesty, I’d intended to post something else by now, but my efforts have been somewhat hampered by me apparently losing the cable which connects my external hard drive (where 99.9% of my music is stored) to my laptop.

Correction: not apparently, actually.

So until the new one I have ordered has arrived (at which point, I will doubtless locate the missing one) I’ll just have to make do and track down the song(s) I wish to post.

Starting with tonight’s choices.

(I mention all of this purely so that you realise the lengths I’ve gone to so that I might post something tonight. I truly suffer for my art.)

Several years ago, when Hel and I shared a flat, we threw a New Year’s Eve party. I’ve written about this before, here, should you care to revisit it. For hopefully obvious reasons, I’ve not refreshed the mp3 links. (By the way, if ever you want me to do so, just leave a comment on the relevant page and I’ll sort it as soon as I am able to.)

Our living room had been transformed, with netting Christmas lights on every wall, flashing away to such an extent that one party pooper, at around 21:00, asked if I could stop them flashing as he was getting a headache. Oh yes, my friends know how to party alright.

All of the sofas had been pushed back to create a dancefloor, and I’d installed a glitter ball underneath the main light in the room. It didn’t revolve, but it did catch the light from the Christmas lights and reflect them back out. It looked pretty good, I thought.

Against the back wall was my vinyl and CD collection, and in the middle of them I’d bought and placed a (very cheap) set of CD decks, with a rudimentary cross-fader, which I’d rigged up to play through my fairly decent speakers. The idea was that I’d DJ most of the night, but anyone else could have a go if they liked, and they could see what music was available to them before they did so.

Other than sorting out a few “must play” tunes, I don’t usually sort out what I’m going to play in advance, preferring to play it by ear: see what goes down well, then try and find something similar to keep the mood going. But being New Year’s Eve, I had planned what I was going to play at midnight: I’d decided we needed something which included a clock striking, which I would time to happen at midnight.

I had landed on these, the first as the last record before midnight….:

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Daft Punk – One More Time

…which I’d then let run on for a few seconds to the next track on the album:

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Daft Punk – Aerodynamic

…which I’d cut off after the chimes and, after a moment or two of silence to allow those who wanted to cheer and/or snog their other halves, go into this:

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Stardust – Music Sounds Better With You (Radio Edit)

Pretty good, right?

But then, early doors, one of my mates approached me and told me he’d sussed out what I’d be playing at midnight. He was wrong, of course, but when he told me what he thought I’d play, I had to agree that his idea bested mine.

This:

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Orbital – Chime

As it happened, I played none of them, for at midnight I was far too busy being offended by a (friend of a friend) guest who told me that:

a) all of the music I owned was shit, then

b) that I was really old (which wasn’t inaccurate, strictly speaking, but it’s not something one should ever tell the host), and who then

c) proceeded to hide my Beastie Boys anthology CD to prevent me from playing anything from it.

For the record, I would have played Sabotage at some point,but since I’ve posted that at least twice before, here’s the back-up plan tune:

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Beastie Boys – Sure Shot

More soon.

Oh, and Happy New Year to you all.

R.I.P Rick

As well as marking Kirsty MacColl’s death earlier in the month, there’s one other person who I always mark the passing of, with the same song every year.

By which I mean: you know what’s coming, don’t bother reading on if this offends.

2016 was a year when we lost oh so many of our popular culture heroes: David Bowie, Prince, Victroia Wood.

But I’d be lying if I didn’t say that the one I was most upset about was my childhood idol, Rick Parfitt.

So, with absolutely no apologies at all, here’s Quo’s one and only Christmas song:

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Status Quo – It’s Christmas Time

That’s probably me over and out until the New Year, so let me take this opportunity to wish everyone who stumbles onto my pages a very Merry Christmas.

Oh, and more soon, obviously.

A Surprise Discharge

There’s not much more to tell you about my time in hospital, or rather there’s very little left that I can wring a bit of humour and/or a tune or two out of. So I’m going to rattle through the rest of the incidents of note and wrap things up.

Firstly, there’s something I omitted to tell you; in between the nurse’s call to my folks and them walking in on me mid-grease, there is some news as to what exactly I’m still doing there.

The nursing staff remain concerned about my vomiting episode. It is thought that I may have a tear ‘somewhere’ which has led to any liquid I’ve consumed to fall into places not intended to store liquid (you’ll let me know if I get too technical, won’t you?). I am to remain on a water only diet for the time being.

Added to that, and more definitively, on a couple of occasions, it has been observed that I get short of breath rather easily. Test results are now back in and I am told I have a pulmonary embolism, which is a blood-clot on my (left) lung to you and me. As a result, I am placed on a oxygen mask, which makes talking to my parents when they visit rather difficult.

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Radiohead – My Iron Lung

For the record, I am not placed on an iron lung, but this post needs breaking up a little bit and I can’t think of any other songs which are even vaguely appropriate.

Although, maybe this:

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The Sweet – Love is Like Oxygen

or perhaps..

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JJ72 – Oxygen

In other news, in a conversation with one of the consultants, I am told that my “sepsis is now under control”. This is a condition which has never been mentioned before and doesn’t crop up again; I assume at the time it is to do with the alarm over my blood tests which first led me to hospital, but it is also omitted from my discharge report.

However, a little research tells me that sepsis is not necessarily, as I thought, a blood problem, it’s a serious complication of an infection, which, if untreated, can lead to multiple organ failure and death. Not so funny anymore, right?

Symptoms of sepsis include:

– a high temperature

– chills and shivering

– fast heartbeat

– fast breathing

…all of which I have presented with or complained about at some point during my admission and stay in hospital.

Although it’s not specifically mentioned in my discharge papers, it seems pretty clear to me that the alarm the hospital showed when they got my blood tests back just before I was admitted was because I probably had sepsis due to the pulmonary embolism.

(After I’m discharged, I go to stay with my parents for a week or so, to convalesce. During that time, various family members visit me, including an aunt who for many years was a nurse, and whose opinion is gratefully received. She reads my discharge papers, and mentions that it was a pulmonary embolism that killed my grandmother. Later, she sends me a message where she mentions me having had a “near-death experience.” I show it to my mother, and flippantly comment that she’s exaggerating things a tad. “No,” says my mother, “I don’t think you realise how serious things were.” Having done the research, I get it now.)

No clever song for this bit, so you can let it sink in just as I did.

Oh ok, maybe one:

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The Housemartins – Think For A Minute

For the rest of the week,  friends visit: Hel, Kay and Ian on Monday; Richie on Tuesday, Jo on Wednesday. It’s absolutely love to see them, to know friends are true friends concerned for my well-being (that’s not to sound like I’m dissing those who didn’t visit; I got texts from everyone who knew I was in hospital asking how I’m doing and wishing me well). I am snowed under with fruit, magazines, books and an ipod charger.

This last thing is essential as by Monday evening I’ve decided that the in-house entertainment leaves a lot to be desired. There is a television in my room, attached to one of those moveable crane-arms. But here’s the thing: you can only watch the terrestial channels (which is fair enough, I suppose a Sky subscription is a little too much to ask of a cash-strapped NHS), and you can only watch those between 7am and midday.

My morning routine now includes being woken and the lubed up, catching the end of the BBC’s Breakfast show (I’m ill, but not so ill that I’d choose to watch Piers Morgan on ITV), followed by a progam about celebrities tracing family members who fought in the First World War, followed by Homes Under The Hammer (seriously: what is former Manchester United striker Dion Dublin doing on that show?), followed by the first fifteen minutes of some sort of ‘criminals caught on CCTV’ show, hosted by short-arse slaphead do-gooder Dom Littlewood, and then the screen is filled with a message asking me to purchase credits if I wish to keep watching.

I pay my TV licence, and I pay my National Insurance contributions, so I feel a little put out by this demand. I decide I’m not sufficiently obsessed with Bargain Hunt or Flog It! to pay for (what I consider to be) a third time for the privilege of watching them. Thankfully, the radio is free, but none of the digital channels are provided as options. No 6Music then. I end up listening to Radio 2 from mid-day onwards, to idiots calling in to Jeremy Vine, and then Steve Wright, who I find hasn’t changed since the last time I listened to his show, around thirty years ago on the bus home from sixth form (this is not a recommendation).

Alarmingly, repeated exposure means I find myself quite liking the new Michael Buble single. Ipod it is then.

Over the course of the week, I have some physiotherapy, designed to help me walk better again. This is more because I have been laid up and have not actually used my legs for days, rather than addressing the pain, loss of strength and grip in both my hands. But still, on the second session, I progress from standing and walking from my bed to the door, to completing a circuit of the hosiptal floor.

Rem Murmur demos

R.E.M. – We Walk

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Helen Shapiro – Walkin’ Back to Happiness

On the Wednesday morning, I go to have a scan on my left arm, to see whether or not I have a blood clot there too. As I am wheeled out of my room, my physiotherapist happens to stroll by. He tells me that he probably won’t come to see me again today (as we had arranged) but he would definitely be back before I am discharged. He gives me the impression this is not going to be soon, that there’s no real rush, and that I’ll be here until the weekend at least.

Back in my room, I’m visited by a consultant who rather sheepishly tells me that they may have lost the results of the biopsies they did the week before. I think she is expecting me to kick off, but it’s not in my nature.

“Ah well, these things happen,” I say. “So you’ll need to do them again, I suppose?”

She looks at me, somewhat surprised.

“If we can’t find them, yes. We have got somebody going through all of the results trying to find them, though. I must say,” she adds,”you’re taking this very well.”

“Well, what’s the point in getting angry about it?” I reason. “It’s not going to make the results magic themselves back into existence. It’s an admin error, as far as I’m concerned, and I’m always blaming admin for things going missing at work, so I can’t really complain when I’m on the receiving end, can I?”

But the following day, before I can have any more physiotherapy, or find out whether my biopsy results have been located, I am told I am to be discharged. Given everything that has been said or alluded to previously, this comes as a bit of a surprise. But several hours later, after a lot of paperwork is completed (the discharge report lists not just the pulmonary embolism and the vomiting event, but also tells me I had pneumonia in my right lung. As far as I can recall, this is the first time this has been mentioned during my stay. I am given a load of medication and creams and strict instructions about how to use at least one of them, and then I am waiting outside for a taxi.

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Simon & Garfunkel – Homeward Bound

And that’s it.

But.

I can’t leave it hanging there, so let’s rewind a few days.

It’s just after my first session that my physiotherapist suggests the catheter should be removed so that I can build my strength up by actually having to get out of bed to go to the toilet. The day before, I had summoned the nurse and advised her that having not had a bowel movement of the solid variety for several days, the urge was now not quite overhwelming or urgent, but certainly imminent. She provides me with a bedpan, offers to help me position myself upon it (“No thanks!”) and then leaves me to my own devices.

I climb on board.

Have you ever tried to use a bed-pan? It’s really difficult. For although you know that everything is in place to catch whatever emerges, your mind remains resolute.

“You learned a long time ago”, it says, “that having a shit in your bed really isn’t the done thing.” I’m not Spud from Trainspotting, for God’s sake. I have control.

And so my body resists, and I have to ease myself back off the bed-pan and admit defeat, mission unaccomplished, .

The next day the catheter is removed. Just so you know, it hurt more coming out that it did going in. Ouchies.

And the combination of these two events (the failure to crap, and the begrudging knowledge that I now have to get up to pee) leaves me with a song in my head, the title of which explains my thought process now I have to actually get up to perfom my daily ablutions in a normal way:

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Slim Whitman – I’ll Never Pass This Way Again

More soon.

Remembering Kirsty

The 18th day of December, and the 18th anniversary of the day we were robbed of one of Britain’s greatest musical talents.

I mark her passing every year, and never do I struggle to choose a song to play in her honour.

This year: the lead single from her brilliant Kite album, a single I bought on 12″ on the day of it’s release simply because I knew that it was Kirsty and therefore it was bound to brilliant. Almost twenty years later, my opinion hasn’t changed.

She never let me down – and the lyrics (sadly) are just as prescient and relevant today as they were back in 1989  when she dropped this absolute pearler:

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Kirsty MacColl – Free World

More soon.

Thank You For The Opportunity

It’s a big weekend on the BBC, what with the final of that dancing competition and the annual Sports Personality of the Year Awards.

But there’s one other series finale happening tonight: the conclusion of the 14th series of The Apprentice.

It’s a show I’ve watched for many years now, introduced to and hooked on it by my old flatmate Llyr.

For those of you unfamiliar with the concept: sixteen business people compete through a series of tasks for a £250,00 investment in their business. Each week, ineptitude is exposed and (at least) one is “fired” from the show.

As with my post earlier about Paul Heaton and The Beautiful South, I’m very aware that it’s a show which divides opinion, and that many consider it to be a tired format, ready to be put out to grass.

But.

This series has been really funny, especially the interview episode which aired this week.

The interview episode, the penultimate one, is always a highlight, as the remaining five candidates are grilled on their business plans, their performances up until now, their characteristics, and, frankly, anything else which is of relevance.

This year’s interview episode threw up a truly great piece of TV as last standing guy Daniel floundered under the interrogation of Mike Soutar, giving us, as @benjamincutting said on Twitter: “The best 52 seconds of TV in 2018” (link posted with Ben’s kind permission):

When each applicant is “fired” it has become tradition for them to shuffle out of the boardroom, thanking everyone for “the opportunity”.

It’s something that always irked me; why thank them? They’ve given you nothing in return for your efforts! Why not go out with a screaming tirade against them, rather than saving the soliloquy about what they’re missing out on for the taxi ride home?

But.

Several years ago, I was offered a position at a firm of solicitors based in Cheltenham. They predominantly made claims against insurance companies and, having worked for one for almost ten years, I had pitched my interview schtick in the “I know how to get their money” camp. I got the job, and spent just shy of three months commuting from Cardiff every day.

Just before my three-month probation was up, I was chatting to the CEO of the company, who gave me the nod that I was going to pass my probation and that maybe I should think about moving more locally to save me having to commute every day. I duly did, signing a six-month rental agreement on a flat within walking distance of the office.

And then, one Monday morning around three weeks later, I was called into the office by the main partner of the firm who told me that things “weren’t going to work out”, that they’d had many other ex-insurance employees and it was always the same, and that they’d have to “let me go.”

What was particularly galling about this was that he was the one who had interviewed me, had hired me on the basis of my insurance background and experience, and now was firing me for exactly the same reason!

But what annoyed me even more was that instead of pointing this out to him, I meekly shook his hand and heard myself say: “Thank you for the opportunity.”

There’s only one song to post:

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Pet Shop Boys – Opportunities (Let’s Make Lots Of Money)

More soon.

Sunday Morning Coming Down

This morning, back to one of those songs which has a title which you would only find in country music (and, I know I’ve committed some fashion atrocities in my time, but there’s also nowhere else you’d find a jacket quite like Conway is wearing – matched with a white turtle-neck! – on the album cover):

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Loretta Lynn & Conway Twitty – You’re the Reason Our Kids are Ugly

More soon.

Late Night Stargazing

More TV music documentary-inspired loveliness tonight.

The other night Channel 4  showed an absolutely fascinating portrayal of Paul Heaton, main man of The Housemartins, The Beautiful South and…er…Paul Heaton & Jacqui Abbot.

Broadcast to coincide with the recent release of Heaton’s best of album, the self-deprecatingly titled The Last King of Pop, there’s some wonderful moments in it, including Norman Cook shock when he finds out that he’s won an Ivor Novello award and Heaton hasn’t.

The documentary shows Heaton in an honest, reflective, often self-critical mode, confessing that:

  • sometimes he had missed the mark with some of his lyrics, chiefly on 36d
  • that when Jacqui quit The Beautiful South to have kids, he could have done more to help her and allow her to keep performing
  • he has battled with alcohol in the past
  • that he should have called time on The Beautiful South six or seven years before he finally did.

I’m with him on the first point (and you could happily add Perfect 10 to that too), and the last; I lost interest in them after their fifth studio album, 1998’s Quench. They soldiered on without my support for a further four albums and eight years.

I’m aware that The Beautiful South are one of those bands who divide opinion; I love a lot of their earlier stuff, but the majority of my friends would recoil in horror when they spotted them in my CD collection.

But give this a listen; a single from 1994, a poignant tale of a couple who still love each other after being together for many years. It’s just lovely.

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The Beautiful South – Prettiest Eyes

Ahhhhhh……

If you’re in the UK, you can watch the documentary on 4OD, or by clicking here (for a limited period).

More soon.

Saturday Night Coming Up

Alright, not strictly speaking on a Saturday night, nor were any of the participants involved “coming up”. (Honest.)

I know that I mention her a lot, to the point where she would probably be justified in getting a restraining order, by I’ve spent many, many, oh-so-many great nights out with my buddy and former flatmate Hel.

That said, I have never seen her so happy as she was on Friday 26th November, 2010.

For this was the night that we went to see Primal Scream at Alexandra Palace on the opening night of their Screamadelica anniversary tour .

Specifically, her happiness exploded when they played this super-long, super-wonderful version of Come Together.

Even more specifically, it happened at the moment when it became clear from the ripped off Suspicious Minds guitar riff that they were going to incorporate the Terry Farley – I expect to be corrected on this – (single) version (around 5:45 if you can’t be bothered to listen to it all, though you should).

This is ripped from the official DVD release, so the sound quality is a little fuzzy in places…but still…it’s magnificent:

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Primal Scream – Come Together (Live at Alexandra Palace 26.11.2010)

More soon.

The ‘Miss You’ Nights Are The Longest

Other than the obvious health issues, the thing which has annoyed me most about my current condition is the amount of nights out that I’ve missed.

It was my office Christmas night out this week, and despite assurances from Kay that senior management had said it was okay for me to go, I didn’t think it appropriate for someone who hasn’t been to work since late October and who’s been signed off work until early January to attend it.

More than that, my group of best buddies here in London traditionally have a night out every year, where we drink, sing and occsionally dance. This annual event used to be held in The Dublin Castle in Cardiff (ooops!) Camden, but over the past couple of years has moved to The Effra in Brixton. Despite the appearance I may have given by writing lots of posts on here in the past couple of weeks, I’m by no means fully recovered yet (I’ll explain in one of my hospital-related posts shortly) and just not up to it (note: as opposed to up for it, which I definitely am), and so I’ll sadly be missing out this year. Guys, girls: I love you all, and hope you have a blast without me, implausible as that may seem.

But much as I love my friends, even worse than that is missing a load of gigs I had tickets for.

For a start, a few months ago, before I was taken ill, my longest serving (30+ years and still going strong) friend Richie got in touch to see if I fancied going to see Johnny Marr at The Roundhouse. I’d seen Johnny a few years ago at Brixton Academy and loved every minute of it, so I of course agreed. Richie bought tickets, but around a week before the gig, reality kicked in and, extremely reluctantly,I had to let him know my attendance was not going to be possible.

This, lifted from a 6Music performace back in 2014, seems appropriate to post:

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“What do you mean, you’re not coming?”

Johnny Marr – Still Ill (BBC 6 Music)

When Richie bought the tickets for Johnny, rather than paying him for them, I suggested a gig which I’d pay for. That gig happens tonight in Islington’s O2 Academy, and is long-time beloved of us both The Wedding Present, performing their 1988 album Tommy. Again, I had to let Richie know at the weekend that I couldn’t go, but, nice guy that I am, I insisted that was no reason for him and +1 not to go, so I forwarded the tickets on to him this week. Richie: Merry Christmas – I hope they get to you in time, and if so, that you have ruddy swell old time.

Tommy, according to Wikipedia, is a compilation album “gathering the band’s first four singles, their B-sides and selected tracks from two early radio sessions.”

It includes this piece of majestic anguish:

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Galling as it is is missing out on those two gigs, they pale into comparison with my not being able to go a three-night stand at Camden’s Electric Ballroom by Teenage Fanclub.

The gigs had been arranged in support of the release of the remastered versions of the albums they released…well, this explains it nicely:

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To make matter worse, it turned out that the gigs woud also mark the end of original member and significant song-writer Gerard Love’s involvement with the band. So, here’s a Love-penned tune from each of those remastered albums:

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Teenage Fanclub – Star Sign (Remastered)

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Teenage Fanclub – Commercial Alternative (Remastered)

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Teenage Fanclub – Don’t Look Back (Remastered)

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Teenage Fanclub – Take the Long Way Round (Remastered)

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Teenage Fanclub – I Need Direction (Remastered)

Gutted.

If you’d like to read a review of the Glasgow gigs from this tour, I’d thoroughly recommend visiting the ever-wonderful Plain or Pan. It made me sick, not just about what I’d missed out on, but how well written it is, neither of which should have surprised me in the slightest.

More soon.

S.S.O.S (Stop Spoiling Our Songs)

Some of you may be wondering what has happened to some of my rants which used to feature here.

I mean, I haven’t mentioned Brexit for ages have I? No need really, it’s all going so predictably swimmingly.

Don’t fret, my illness and hospital stay hasn’t knocked the ire out of me.

No, these days I prefer to reserve my grumpiness for more tricky targets.

For example: Christmas adverts. And the tunes contained therein.

Jeeeeezus, where to start?

To be honest, I can’t really get angry about those which use Christmas records to promote their wares. That seems fair enough.

But there’s a few this year which have taken non-Christmas songs and appropriated them for their own misgotten gains. This is a trend started, I think, by the suits behind the annual John Lewis Christmas campaign, with much success – if creating what I believe has to be called “a storm” on social media can be considered a success. Will there be a man on the moon with a telescope this year? And what song will be used? Questions which demand an answer up until around about mid-November each year when the advert first airs, and we can all let out a collective sigh of relief and relax again.

This year they have employed the servies of one Reginald Dwight and his first ever hit, Your Song (and, I notice quite a few of his other hits in orbital ads – Elton: you have lots of songs and you’re embarking on a last ever tour, we get it already). I’m not saying that implying that Mama Dwight bought Eton his first piano from John Lewis is a cynical attempt to a) claim some part in his success, and b) generate a few sales in the process, but I read somewhere (I wish I could remember where, it would make my disapproval so much more justifiable, but then we are living in a post-truth world, right?) that until this year John Lewis have never sold pianos. Make of that what you will.

As I say, there’s others out there. One supermarket chain has decided to use Fleetwood Mac’s Go Your Own Way as the background to their view of a harmonious family scenario. The moment I saw the advert, I thought: “Why are they using that???”

It’s a bit like when Donald Trump ‘adopted’ (without his permission) Bruce Springsteen’s Born in the USA in his 2016 election campaign, despite the lyrics actually being the antithesis of his Make America Great Again slogan.

Let’s be clear: Go Your Own Way features on the Rumours album – an album which is very well known for being a ‘break-up’ record, in that the band had split from the coupled into individuals who now actively disliked each other. Each song contained therein is a moment of a breakdown captured.

Only if you buy into the idea that Christmas with the family is something to be endured rather than enjoyed (in which case: have a fun festive time, Scrooge McDuck), is this an appropriate song to soundtrack your advert.

Unless the message is: “Here’s your Christmas dinner, now isn’t it time you were fucking off and leaving us to quaff the Baileys?”, which seems rather an odd position to take, thank you very much Mr (or Mrs) Food Chain.

Time to reclaim it:

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Fleetwood Mac – Go Your Own Way

More soon.

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