Saturday Night Coming Up

Hands up who’s enjoying the Conservative Party electoral contest?

Ah, yes, I appreciate asking such a question is much the same as asking this:

See, putting aside the inevitable conclusion that Boris Johnson is going to be our next Prime Minister – although events over the past couple of days may (I think it unlikely, given the right wing reaction to the Mark Field incident) change things a little – it’s been the X-Factor for people who are interested in politics.

It’s the audition round! And welcome to the stage Esther McVey! She has an interesting back story in that nicest woman on UK TV (if you ignore the stuff about her tax arrangements) Lorraine Kelly hates her.

Desperate to get throught to the judges houses, all of the other candidates appeal to the common, oh-so common, working classes by divulging stories about their previous drug useage, the message being that they’re just ordinary people, sure they’ve done stuff they regret, but they’ve faced up to and beaten their problems.

Dominic Raab: admitted to taking cannabis as a student. To be fair, he probably didn’t realise it had maybe been imported through Dover, since as Minister for Brexit he “did not quite understand” the UK’s reliance on Dover as a trade route.

Rory Stewart: confessed that at a wedding in Afghanistan he had smoked opium (that’s heroin, to the likes of you and me). Which explains why he thought he was holding a phone in those videos he kept posting;

Matt Hancock: didn’t admit it, but sources close to him revealed he had tried cannabis “a few times as a student”;

Popular inadvertant rhyming slang Jeremy Hunt: “thinks” he had a cannabis lassi when he went back-packing through India. (N.B. “Thinks??” And what the effing eff is a lassi?)

Andrea Leadsom: advised that she had smoked cannabis at university. I was a bit disappointed by this, as I was looking forward to hearing about her being in a K-Hole on a family (she’s got children, you know!) day out at Cadbury World. Alas it was not to be.

Michael Gove: admitted to taking cocaine on “numerous occasions” when he was a journalist. If ever there was an anti-drugs advert waiting to be made, it’s that if you take drugs you too could end up just as awful as Gove with an awful wife who writes vile bile in the awful Daily Mail.

And then there’s Boris.

Now, I know you’ll find this hard to believe, but Boris hasn’t been entirely consistent in his answers on this front. I know, that’s not like him, right?

In a 2005 edition of Have I Got News For You he said: “I think I was once given cocaine, but I sneezed and so it did not go up my nose. In fact, I may have been doing icing sugar.”

Boris seems to have got himself all mixed up with Woody Allen in Annie Hall, which given both of their questionable sexual morals, perhaps shouldn’t be such a surprise:

But then in 2007, inexplicably and totally out of character for him to contradict himself, Johnson admitted to taking cocaine and cannabis at university but that they “achieved no pharmacological, psychotropic or any other effect on me whatsoever”.

Oh Boris, Boris, Boris. There’s only two explanations for that; either you’re too stupid to work out how to smoke or snort, or you spout so much bullshit it’s impossible to tell druggy Johnson from the straight one. I’m not sure which is worse.

But I digress, because I sense some of you may be wondering why I’m banging on about the Conservative Party leadership process in a series where I traditionally tell a clubbing related story.

And the answer is this: I’ve always felt a little conflicted about writing these posts, partly because I do not wish to be seen to be encouraging or endorsing recreational drug use – which is a dangerous and often dumb thing to do – but mostly because I was concerned about any legal ramifications which might arise from my stories.

But now I think, what the hell: if leading Tory MPs, including the next Prime Minister, can admit to taking illegal substances in the past with no consequences, then all I have to do is screw over the NHS and make sure a totally innocent UK citizen remains in a prison in Iran and I’ll be fine.

I’ll work on that.

In the meantime, a tune which will forever remind me of my clubbing mate Dum-Dum. Whilst I was still popping pills like Smarties, he decided he didn’t need them anymore, which is entirely admirable.

But.

On occasion, about an hour after I’d dropped, as we danced next to each other, Dum-Dum would look enviously at me and ask if I was coming up yet. Invariably the answer was a resounding “yes”.

And then about half an hour later, he would crumble and ask if I had any spares.

Time for a tune which at first listen seems to be about how great recreational drugs are, but closer listening reveals it to be the complete opposite:

Green Velvet – La La Land

Can I be Prime Minister now please?

More soon.

Completely and Utterly

Other than a couple of people being rather kind about my shirt, this has been a pretty great week.

Before I go any further, I should stress that I am not sponsored by the app I’m about to big up. Although, I’d be willing to listen to offers, obviously.

I have the Songkick app on my phone. For those of you unfamiliar with it – and I would imagine most of you use it, so I’m probably just talking to myself now – it’s an app which scans your phone for all of your music, and then whenever an artiste that you have songs by announces a gig in your area, it tells you. You can then buy tickets through the app, or it will guide you to reputable websites that are selling them.

On Thursday lunchtime, I got an alert from Songkick which genuinely made me rub my eyes in disbelief. This one:

Whu-what???

As far as I knew, until I got that alert, The Chesterfields had split way back in 1989.

Ok, I imagine many of you are shrugging your shoulders and saying “Who?” right now.

But I knew of at least one person who’d be interested: my old mate Richie.

Richie has popped up quite a lot on these pages recently, indeed it was he who first introduced me to this band back in 1988.

I sent him a DM on Twitter, asking what he was doing on September 20th. When he said he was doing nothing, I broke the news to him and told him I would sort tickets come payday. But Richie, wisely, wouldn’t wait and a few minutes later he sent me a message telling me he’d bought us tickets, and that this was my 50th birthday present.

What a guy.

Moments later still, giddy with excitement, he announced the news to some indifference to the world of Twitter:

He never swears. He must be excited.

And here’s why: back in his bedroom when we were at sixth form together Richie introduced me to the world of jingly jangly indie pop. I’ve mentioned this before: in one afternoon he made me fall in love with The Smiths, The Wedding Present, Billy Bragg, and The Chesterfields.

Of those, it was The Chesterfields who we felt were “ours”. Nobody else seemed to know them, despite me including them on pretty much every mixtape I lovingly compiled for our sixth form common room thereafter – partly because I bloody loved them, but also because their songs were generally super-short and therefore just perfect for squeezing on to the end of one side of a C90.

Their seminal debut album is called Kettle and, if you love jingly-jangly late-80s guitar pop I’d imagine you’re already familiar with it, but if not, then here’s some of my favourite songs from it (I’ve omitted their most well-known (the term is relative) track Ask Johnny Dee as it’s featured a couple of times here before):

The Chesterfields – Nose Out of Joint

The Chesterfields – Two Girls and a Treehouse

The Chesterfields – Shame About the Rain

The Chesterfields – Everything a Boy Could Ever Need

The Chesterfields – Kiss Me Stupid

The Chesterfields – Thumb

The Chesterfields – The Boy Who Sold His Suitcase

The Chesterfields – Completely and Utterly

I’ll be honest, I could easily have posted the whole album – there’s even an Orange Juice cover on there, a gentle nod to their influences – but where’s the fun in laying everything out on a plate for you? I’m such a tease.

A few years later, I was browsing the racks of a record shop in Haverfordwest, west Wales when I stumbled upon a copy of their second album, Crocodile Tears. I say ‘second album’, technically it’s their third, for there was a compilation of singles and B-sides – Westward Ho! – released in between the two, but compilations don’t count as proper albums in my book – they’re a taster, an appetite whetter, an introduction point.

Of course, I snaffled it up; the sound is more polished but there’s still plenty of pop gems to be found there.

The opening track (the first one posted in this next batch) must have really struck a chord with me, bemoaning as it does the trend of the time of using classic records in jeans adverts. It contains the wonderful rhyming couplet “Instead of peace and revolution, we’ve got AIDS and Whitney Houston”. Anyone who has ever read one of my S.S.O.S. (Stop Spoiling Our Songs) posts will realise I have not one ounce of originality in me.

The Chesterfields – Lunchtime for the Wild Youth

The Chesterfields – Alison Wait

The Chesterfields – When It All Comes Down

The Chesterfields – Let It Go

The Chesterfields – Twintown

The Chesterfields – Goodbye Goodbye

Such was there development and their knack for writing catchy, witty, pithy pop tunes, they should have gone on to be massive, or have at least one bloody hit, but alas no. The time for clever jangly guitar pop had passed. One more album followed, and then that was it.

Earlier this morning, I returned to the Songkick app to update my status with regards to this gig. You have the option to mark the gig in question to show you are either Interested or Going.

And only then did I notice who the support acts are: Rodney Allen (who was briefly a member of The Chesterfields before jumping ship to join the Blue Aeroplanes) and…it was at this point I had to catch my breath…The Waltones.

Again, a shrug of indifference from most of you, I imagine, but The Waltones have popped up a few times on these pages, and I usually mention that they are responsible for a song which is one of my favourite pop songs ever, but which I’ve never posted (I don’t think).

Until now.

The Waltones – She Looks Right Through Me

Like Richie, I am giddy with excitement.

I’ll try not to turn into one of those annoying people who countdown to an event by announcing how many sleeps it is til it happens, but I can’t promise anything.

More soon.

Team Jolly & Jocular

Looking back at the old posts I linked to in that last post, I was reminded of a couple of things.

Firstly, that I said I was going to let my DJ tutor “Jolly” Jim know I’d written about him, which I did, via Facebook. Until I checked back, I had completely forgotten that Jim was kind enough to a) share the link with his friends, family and nodding acquaintances on Facebook, and b) leave a comment for me confirming all that I had said was true.

Secondly, I mentioned in said post that there were a couple of other records which, whenever I hear them, I am reminded of my Jolly comrade.

But before I get into that, I also mentioned that I ended up in a band with Jim, and in the spirit of full disclosure, I should also mention that Daints – who featured in that last post – was also in the band. In fact, I would have to concede it was he who brought the band together.

More of this soon, but for now, the two other songs which remind me of Jim (who turned 51 this week – I think it’s important that I note those rare beasts who are actually older than me).

Firstly, more skanking wonderfulness:

Fishbone – Ma and Pa

And secondly, this, which not only reminds me of Jim (it turns out I mentioned all of this before, here) but also of the much missed blog which went by the same moniker; Robster, I hope you’re well mate.

Cardiacs – Is This The Life

Ask me to name my ten favourite records ever, and that’s right up there in contention.

Happy belated birthday, Jim. And cheers.

More soon.

50 Ways to Prove I’m Rubbish #12

Mention of my DJ’ing days in my last post reminded me of today’s tune.

Long-term readers may recall that back in 2016 I wrote about how I came to start DJ’ing at college, you can read it here (links re-upped, as always).

The event of baggy and Madchester quite literally saved my DJ’ing career and the Indie night I played every other Tuesday night.

For despite mine and my fellow DJ Danny’s grandiose plans to rejuvenate the Indie night – we got it rebranded from the awful Funk Off to the slightly less awful (but only slightly, mind you) Intensity – attendances were dwindling to the point where the night itself was threatened with the axe.

And then Madchester happened, and we were reborn. If you wanted to hear this achingly cool new music, then we were the only DJ’s playing it (in the mid-Glamorgan area).

But, I must confess, we were pretty slow out of the blocks, and owed a huge debt to some of our regulars.

Initially, Danny and I were pretty much oblivious to this new music trend – I blame Danny, he was waaaaaay cooler that I was – and we only played something from the scene when it was dragged into our attention.

Actually, that’s not strictly true: we were playing early tracks by bands like The Charlatans, Inspiral Carpets and The Stone Roses, but to my ears there’s one band who were the real flag-wavers of the scene, and we had not a clue about them.

In a desperate attempt to entice punters in, we made it known that if you brought records in and told us what to play from them we would. If I were to try and spin it, I’d say that we were the first truly interactive DJ’s (but then I remember that DJ’s had been doing this for a long time, as evidenced here, in one of my first ever posts. Links also re-upped, though I don’t anticipate anyone will listen to them. Although, were I to tell you that Bob Stanley (of St Etienne fame) retweeted the link to that post back in 2014 maybe you will be a bit more tempted.

This led to some interesting moments; somebody brought in The Boo Radleys’ Ichabod and I and asked us to play a particular track, which we were happy to do, only to find that the record didn’t tell you which was Side 1 and which was Side 2, so I have no idea whether we played the right tune or not.

But specifically, two young chimps from Nottingham came up to us one night, and introduced themselves as Peaty and Daints – they were both called Andrew so everyone referred to them by their surname to avoid confusion.

And they asked us if we had anything by the Happy Mondays.

Which we didn’t.

So we told them, as we always did, to bring something in by them next time and we’d play it.

And they did.

And so, two weeks later we played a track (Kuff Dam, I think, or maybe Tart Tart) from Squirrel and G-Man Twenty Four Hour Party People Carn’t Smile (White Out). Danny and I looked on bemused as Daints and Peaty performed what we later recognised as Bez impressions on the otherwise deserted dancefloor.

Danny and I caught on fairly soon afterwards, but it’s a massive moment of professional and personal regret that I didn’t spot at the time how immense this record is:

Happy Mondays – Twenty Four Party People

Frankly, you know you’ve made it when Half Man Half Biscuit write a song which references you:

Half Man Half Biscuit – 24 Hour Garage People

I love having Peel pop up on my iPod every now and then, generally introducing HFHB, or more usually, as he does there, utterly messing up.

Recently, I’ve been in touch with Daints, who I haven’t seen since I went to visit him in Nottingham back in 2000. It was lovely to catch up with him, and if all pans out as I hope, there will be something quite unique posted here soon….

By which I mean: more soon.

Dedicated Follower of Fashion

I would not say that I am in any way a stylish or fashionable person.

I long since passed the point where I felt the need to dress trendily; you get to a certain age and to do so just looks a little needy, a man in denial, desperately trying to cling onto youth.

Looking back, I can only really think of my college days as a being a time when I did make an effort in that direction; back then, when I first started, my uniform was a tatty old cardigan, ripped jeans, a band t-shirt, two ear-rings in one ear (I did briefly have both pierced, oblivious to the “fact” that “meant something”) – a yin and yang stud and a CND dangler – and if that wasn’t pretentious enough, a black cloth cap, for which I still blame it’s permanence on my bonce for my lack of hair now.

I looked like an identi-kit student, up until late 1989, when I started DJ’ing. Initially, doing the fortnightly Indie night meant my code of dress didn’t need to change.

And then Madchester happened, and I had to jump on that groovy train and look the part. And so I started wearing a hoodie underneath a pair of big baggy flared dungarees, which I would wear with one strap coquettishly unhooked over my shoulder.

I went home one holiday, and hooked up with an old buddy, who took a long look at me before saying: “You always did manage to take a look and make it your own.” At the time, I took this as a compliment and was immensely pleased; however looking back I now see the coded message contained therein was actually: “Christ, what a state.”

Thankfully, very little photographic evidence exists of me back then.

Anyway, as bloke about to hit 50, I don’t expect anybody to comment on what I wear anymore, for I dress as inconspicuosly normally as possible.

But at work yesterday, two people came up to me independently of each other and told me that they liked the shirt I was wearing. And for a moment, I wondered if this too was their way of saying “You look a right dick in that shirt.” However, they seemed genuine enough, and so I decided to treat both comments as people being genuinely complimentary.

And of course, you know how my brain is wired, I immediately thought of these two songs, which jostled for pole position in my head until I could listen to them on the way home.

The first is, I think, my favourite record by The Kinks:

…and this, I think my favourite song by Haircut 100 (it’s not up against an awful lot of competition, to be fair):

Haircut 100 – Favourite Shirts (Boy Meets Girl)

Welcome to the weekend.

More soon.