Tuesday Short Song

And so to the weekly question I find myself grappling with every week when I come to write this post: to theme tune or not to theme tune?

Nah, not this week.

Instead, some RAWK!, and the first single from the band’s second album, produced by Josh Homme, who also appears in the video, along with Dave Grohl and Jack Black:

Eagles of Death Metal – I Want You So Hard (Boy’s Bad News)

Unusually, the album version is shorter than the single version; I was going to prove this by posting the video too, but there are a couple of sequences where young ladies’ clothes are blown off by the electric guitar playing of band frontman Jesse Hughes. It’s all a bit Benny Hill, nobody needs to see that, I thought. Although, to be fair, Hughes’ fretwork does also blow the clothes of pretty much everyone in the video, including Homme and Black too.

So instead, here’s a half-naked Jack Black performing his very graceful Quarantine Dance, which should keep you happy for the time being:

More soon.

Be Llŷrious

Whilst I’m trying to stay positive and upbeat – at here, at least – in the face of all that’s going on (global pandemics, parents in hospital, not being able to go out in the annoyingly glorious good weather), today was always going to be a difficult day for me and my friends.

Because today would have been Llŷr’s birthday, and so he’s on my mind even more so than usual.

I mean, I still think about him every day; sometimes, accidentally, I manage to forget he’s gone, or my brain tricks me into thinking he hasn’t, and then it hits me again when I remember, usually brought on by watching something on TV which sparks the memory.

Yesterday I sat and watched all of the second series of Ricky Gervais’s Netflix sitcom After Life, which probably wasn’t the smartest move, dealing as it does with the aftermath of Gervais’ character’s wife death from cancer.

It has it’s funny moments, although as with much of his comedy, it relies rather too much on trying to be shocking, or the use of the c-bomb. Some of the dialogue is a bit clunky, topics launched into with no build-up or introduction. But every now and then there are some truly heart-wrenching and spot-on observations about death, loss and bereavement that I found myself holding back at least one massive blub per episode.

One thing which I did like about it was the casting of two characters in particular, one a returning character from series one, the other newly introduced this series. I’ll not give any spoilers, but the two actors in question appeared in a sitcom as neighbours back in the 80s, where they flirted a lot despite one being married, and much to to her husband’s paranoid dismay. To reveal which sitcom I’m referring to would in itself be a spoiler, so I won’t, but if you’re a fan of British comedy then I’m pretty sure you’ll know what/who I’m talking about.

That 80s sitcom was one of Llŷr’s favourites; he bought the box-set and I would often walk into the living room and find him doubled-up on the sofa in a fit of giggles watching it.

The Office, the series which shot Gervais to fame, first aired when we were living in the flat of filth, and I remember us tuning in to watch it. Later, it was revealed that many people had watched it not realising it was a sitcom, but we knew what we were buying into.

When I wrote the post just after Llŷr had passed, I mentioned the mass of videos containing clips and full shows he had recorded; there was one show which was probably buried amongst it, but which I’d never seen or even heard of before, not until one day when we were visiting our friend Mark and the show came up in conversation. The next thing I knew we were watching hours of the stuff that Mark had on tape.

I speak of Sky Star Search, a TV talent show hosted by Keith Chegwin (thankfully fully clothed), and judged by a rolling list of UK celebrities from the 80s and earlier: Cleo Rocos, Melvyn Hayes, Sheila Ferguson, Stan Boardman, Rusty Lee, Derek Nimmo, Bernard Manning, Paul King…

You get the idea of the calibre of the show, I think, from that roll-call. As for the contestants who appeared: imagine the early rounds of The X-Factor and Britain’s Got Talent, the rounds where the truly terrible appear. And then imagine the contestants who were too awful to even make that round.

Actually, don’t just imagine: here’s some clips showing the standard of the contestants (and judges) who appeared:

…not forgetting this absolute classic, which for a while you watch and wonder if this is a Tommy Cooper riff, the awful magician act made funny:

And then those classic words:

“Robert, do you want a hand?”

“They’ve tied it too tight….”

A few months ago, was just after the anniversary of his passing, Mark and I were having a text conversation about Llŷr, part of which, with Mark’s permission, is here:

Mark and Llŷr DJ’d together once, in a bar the salubrious Splott area of Cardiff. It was a birthday party of someone Mark knew, I think. But it was in a bar, so I got there early enough to sneakily grab a table and get drunk offer moral support.

Here’s two of the records that I remember them playing that night; I’m not 100% sure who played which, but I could have a pretty good guess.

There was this, a favourite of mine and Llŷr’s (and probably Mark’s too; he came to see SFA a few times with us), often posted on these pages, complete with end-of-bridge to air-drum along to:

Super Furry Animals – Slow Life

And then there was this, which I didn’t know at all at the time:

The Postal Service – Such Great Heights

There’s a good chunk of that song which gets me every time, now, since he passed even more so than when he was still alive. I’ll leave you with the bits I mean:

And I have to speculate
That God Himself did make
Us into corresponding shapes
Like puzzle pieces from the clay

And true, it may seem like a stretch
But it’s thoughts like this that catch
My troubled head when you’re away
And when I am missing you to death

And when you are out there on the road
For several weeks of shows
And when you scan the radio
I hope this song will guide you home.

They will see us waving from such great heights
“Come down now!”, they’ll say.
But everything looks perfect from far away
“Come down now!” but we’ll stay

Happy birthday, dude.

More soon.

Sunday Morning Coming Down

Before I go any further, I’d like to thank all of you who were kind enough to leave birthday and get well soon wishes to my Dad on Thursday. He’s asked me to pass on his thanks too, and described it as “…all a bit overwhelming, to be honest”.

As I write this, he’s still in hospital, although we’re hoping that he’ll be discharged if not today, then soon.

In the meantime, another song from the rich mine that is “Songs Which Can Only Be Country Records”.

It’s very important that I say a few things about today’s choice: firstly, released in 1965, today’s tune bucks the trend slightly in this category in that the title doesn’t quite reveal the full story, not in the same way as the previously featured You’re The Reason Our Kids Are Ugly, and How Can I Miss You When You Won’t Go Away? do. In an ideal world, it would have the next words in the song after the title – It’s Like Having You Around – included within the title. Put them in brackets if you like, Billy, but don’t give us half a joke title, man!

Secondly, don’t be fooled by the title, it’s quite the jaunty little number.

Thirdly, whether you elect to refer to today’s selection with or without those five extra words, my decision to post this today should in no way be inferred as any comment as to how my parents have been for the past week.

Billy Walker – I’m So Miserable Without You

More soon.

Late Night Stargazing

I’ve don’t really understand tribalism in music.

By which I mean announcing that you like this type of music but not that type. It’s never made any sense to me: why write off a whole music genre when there might, just might, be one or two records lurking in there that will float your boat?

The whole point of music is that’s it’s subjective, that no two people like exactly the same records, that there may be overlaps on the Venn Diagram but no two circles are perfectly aligned.

So generally, when asked to pin my colours to the mast, I’m reluctant to, partly for the reason above, but also because I’m aware that the “only guitar-based records are good” policy I pursued when I was younger led me to missing out on so much.

Looking back, I was still wary of announcing my position in any dispute even back then, although that was probably more to do with trying to avoid looking an idiot in front of my peers than anything else.

For example: why do I have to choose between The Beatles and The Rolling Stones? I don’t like them equally, but to have to choose between the two just seemed ridiculous.

Similarly, in the 1990s at the height of Britpop you had to be either Blur or Oasis. “Why?” I would ask anyone who pressed me. And, on the rare occasion when an answer was proffered it was invariably something along the lines of they very lame: “Because you have to!”

Erm, no I don’t. I liked some Oasis records, but a heck of a lot more Blur records. But I wasn’t going to stop listening to or buying one or the other through some misguided notion of faithfulness.

One way you can tell which of the two band were better is by looking at the output of the main figures after the band’s split:

Oasis: Beady Eye; Noel Gallagher’s High-Flying Birds; Liam Gallagher.

No thanks.

And then look at just the output of Blur mainman Damon Albarn: Gorillaz; The Good, The Bad and The Queen; Mali Music; Monkey; Rocket Juice & The Moon.

And his much over-looked solo album from 2014; here’s the title track and it’s quite wonderful:

Damon Albarn – Everyday Robots

More soon.

Saturday Night Coming Up

Tonight, a tune which you’re more likely to remember from a later version.

That makes no sense. Allow me to clarify.

To me, this tune reminds me of the last hour in the main room at The Emporium in Cardiff:

Kings of Tomorrow (feat. Julie McKnight) – Finally

That tune got a new lease of life a few years later, when Tim Deluxe got his mucky hands on it and mashed it up with another total banger to make this:

Layo & Bushwacka! – Love Story [vs Finally]

Whenever I hear that record, I’m taken right back to The Emporium, where the vibrating wooden floor made that thundering bass go right through you….

Happy Days.

More soon.

That’s Livin’ Alright

Today, more new(ish) music (new to these ears anyway) which I’ve heard whilst working from home.

Jetta first received recognition in 2013 when her song “Feels Like Coming Home” was chosen as the soundtrack for the Google Zeitgeist 2013 – Year In Review (whatever that means) which gained more than 33 million views.

On no account should Jetta be confused with a certain model of car produced by Volkswagen: she is from Liverpool and comes in two and four-door saloon/sedan versions, and five-door wagon/estate versions – all as four or five seaters. Oh, hang on a minute…I see what’s happened here…

Ignore my rubbish jokes, and listen to this, which reminds me of SBTRKT and Little Dragon, both of whom you should also like if you have any sense:

More soon.

Happy Birthday

On Easter weekend, I mentioned how, because of “the lockdown” it would be odd that I wouldn’t be travelling to visit my parents, which my brother and I do pretty much every year, not for any religious reasons, more for it being a long weekend and, crucially, generally around the time of my Dad’s birthday.

You can keep your St George’s Day celebrations today, your William Shakespeare was born and (because he couldn’t handle his beer) also died on this day, for this year, today, is my Dad’s 80th birthday, which probably would have warranted a second visit.

Before lockdown, when pressed as to what he wanted to do to mark his milestone, he insisted that he didn’t want any fuss. Which was lucky, because he’s not going to get any this year – at least not via close contact with any of his family, anyway.

And that includes my Mum, because this year, he isn’t going to be spending his birthday at home. Oh no. He’s in hospital, recovering from an operation.

On Sunday, my Mum called. This is not a common occurance. (Actually, that’s not strictly true. My brother and I have set times on set days that we call them to have a weekly catch-up, and if you’re as much as five minutes late, your phone will start ringing as the enquiries as to why you haven’t called yet begin. “I took a little longer in the toilet than expected, Mum. Shall I take the phone in with me next time?”)

Anyway, Sunday is not my day to speak to them, so I feared something was wrong. And it transpired that as he was cooking his breakfast that morning, he had inexpicably fallen over. He couldn’t get up again by himself, and my Mum, who is probably about half the size of him and has just had a hip-replacement operation herself, couldn’t manage it either. An ambulance was called, and off he went to hospital where a diagnosis of an acute fracture of the femur was given.

I don’t know, some people will do anything to get out of the house during lockdown.

Unless he has made a miraculous recovery, that’s where he will remain throughout his birthday.

So since I won’t be able to see him to wish him a Happy Birthday – or rather, as happy a birthday as it’s possible to have laid up in a hospital bed – I thought I’d share a memory, which looking back now, probably had a lot to do with my obsession with music later in life.

Growing up, evening meals at our house during the week were always taken at the table in the kitchen, but often Saturday’s evening meal (if there was nothing on TV, in which case it was eaten off trays on our laps in the living room) and definitely Sunday lunch, were served in the dining room.

Which makes our house sound remarkably grand, but it wasn’t really. I mean, it was a decent sized gaff; not long after we moved in in the mid-70s we had a loft conversion done at the front and an extension built at the back, and it was in the latter that the dining room was situated.

Here’s a photo of the old place, which just so happens to be my brother and I’s favourite picture of Dad, fag in hand, leaning nonchanlantly against the back of what we think was his first ever company car (a Vauxhall Cavalier – there’s posh!):

Anyway, after we’d finished eating on a Saturday night, we’d remain sat around the table, picking records to play from his collection. It’s a tradition which remains to this day when the family meets up, although these days tunes are played via an iPhone and bluetooth speaker rather than from his hi-fi system.

Inevitably, since my brother and I were forbidden from bringing any of our records downstairs – he’s not daft, he’d heard enough Quo blaring from upstairs as I tried to play my guitar along whilst simultaneously trying to perfect my ‘foot-on-monitor-rock-god’ pose to know that he needed to subject himself to no more – the same records would get picked every week, to the point where, after a few weeks I started compiling a chart.

Because generally the same records got picked every week, it wasn’t the most exciting chart to read, I’ll grant you. There was no Beatles v The Stones, no Blur v Oasis.

But one rivalry did spark up, oddly between two records by the same artist.

And that was because Dad would always pick the same record by this artist, and, after a fashion, so would I.

You know when you were a kid and, if you had a sibling, you would both be charged with doing the washing and drying up every now and again? And how the one doing the washing-up would often lay down a challenge: “I bet I’ll finish first”? And the dryer-upper would rise to the challenge, hurriedly drying each pot, plate and pan, blissfully ignorant that the washer-up had to finish before the dryer-up because that’s the order that things get finished in? I say this like it’s a rhetorical question, but this definitely happened in our house, and no I wasn’t the one doing the washing-up.

The same principle applied here: having compiled the chart and established that Dad’s weekly selection was miles ahead, I started picking the same record every week, determined to catch him up, hoping that he would forget to play the resolute Number One. And of course, every week, after I’d played my choice, Dad – and he might let me think he’d forgotten for a record or two afterwards – would play his choice and I’d have a bit of a sulk and would vow to return the following week, surely to be triumphant when next we would joust.

When I mention the name of this artist, a couple of his best known records will spring to mind, and don’t get me wrong, they’re great, great records, but a bit…I dunno…’comedy’. The record I used to choose every week pretty much fell into this category, but the one Dad chose most certainly did not.

They’re both by an artist who is often cited as an influence by bands and musicians who came through in the late 50s and early 60s: as well as having an effect on the likes of The Beatles and Jimmy Page, in the 70s he released an album where his backing band comprised of Elton John, Ronnie Wood, Brian May and Ringo Starr. He later toured with Van Morrison, which displays far greater levels of tolerance than perhaps he had previously been credited. The Wedding Present have recorded a cover version of one of his songs. There’s doubtless many more who would cite him.

I speak, of course, of Lonnie Donegan, who I found out when researching this, died in my home town of Peterborough. It has that effect on people.

It’s a shame that he is mostly remembered for his ‘novelty’ records, for “My Old Man’s a Dustman” and “Does Your Chewing Gum Lose It’s Flavour on the Bedpost Overnight?” and this, the record which I chose every week:

Lonnie Donegan – Puttin’ On The Style

It’s a record which, now imbued with a a little more pop knowledge, reminds me of The Beach Boys “I Get Around”. That should be the other way round, of course.

Unlike this, my Dad’s choice which is neither novelty nor particularly skiffle, but whenever I hear it, makes me think of…well, Dad:

Lonnie Donegan – Seven Golden Daffodils

I don’t think he would argue too much if I said that was his favourite record.

And after today, annoyingly, it still remains top of the charts.

Dad: I know this might sound weird given where you are, but happy birthday. I’m so sorry that we can’t be with you today. When all of this is over, and you’re allowed home, and we’re allowed to visit, we’ll have a bloody good drink. Deal?

And if any of you are nice enough to want to wish him a happy birthday too, there’s always the Comments, and, rather than calling him Jez’s Dad, his name’s Den. That would be quite a lovely thing for you to do.

More soon.

How To Do A Cover Version

Lifted from her third album, 1986’s Control, Janet Jackson co-wrote this with producers Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis:

Janet Jackson – What Have You Done For Me Lately

At least so I thought; do you remember a few years ago, The Third Degree released a cover of Duffy’s Mercy, and it sounded so authentic many thought it was the original and Duffy’s version was a cover? Well, I was reminded of those records the other day when I heard this from the Dap-Dippin’ with… album:

Sharon Jones & The Dap-Kings – What Have You Done for Me Lately

I was sort of familiar with some of the late Miss Jones’ work (they have featured on these pages before), and if I’m not mistaken, the Dap-Kings also used to perform and record with Amy Winehouse, but somehow this particular gem had escaped me.

What I did know about Jones was that she had a reputation for producing barn-storming cover versions, and this is just one from her canon. For the sake of clarity, Dip-Dappin’ with… came out in 2002, so Jackson’s version is definitely the original.

Although, were he still around, Prince would apparently disagree with me…

More soon.

Tuesday Short Song

Apologies for the lack of a post yesterday; I could have sworn I wrote something over the weekend to feature in the usual I’m Not Too Keen on Mondays series, but apparently not. I think I decided after writing The Chain that I just couldn’t be bothered, which, given the supposed inspirational, motivational theme of the series is a tad ironic.

Anyway, I’ll try to combine the two, with this rollicking opening track from one of my favourite records ever. The title, however, may be a little inappropriate for these times, but since it clocks in at a mere 1:47 it’s perfect for here, and allows us to look forward to the day when we’re allowed out to have any kind of stroll at all, be it of the Rockin’ or just Plain variety.

The Lemonheads – Rockin’ Stroll

More soon.