2011 saw David Dondero release A Pre-Existing Condition, thirteen songs, nine of which were cover versions: amongst others there’s Lowell George’s Willin’, Elizabeth Cotton’s Freight Train, Neil Young’s Don’t Cry No Tears, and two by Charley Pride – Kiss an Angel Good Mornin’ and today’s selection.
Without question my favourite Pride song, Dondero does just enough to make it different from the original without ruining it:
The other reason I didn’t get The Chain finished this week was because on Wednesday night I stumbled upon a documentary that was really fantastic.
You know it was. It really, really was.
So fantastic, I watched it again on Thursday.
Being Frank: The Chris Sievey Story tells the story of one of the UK’s greatest, most innovative yet unknown entertainers, his school years and his struggle to make it as a pop star (unsuccesfully, by and large), the almost accidental discovery of an alter-ego who gradually took over his whole life and brought him fame and fortune, the almost inevitable slide into drink and drugs addiction, the redemption, and then the tragic end.
I speak, of course, of none other than Frank Sidebottom, and his creator Chris Sievey.
The film really is fantastic, including previously unseen footage (mostly of the grainy home video type), interspersed with interviews from friends, family, wives, girlfriends, children, fans (both famous, such as Ross Noble, John Cooper Clarke and Johnny Vegas, and non-famous, which seems only right) and former band members, including Mark Radcliffe and Jon Ronson. Speaking of Ronson, if you were as underwhelmed as I was with the 2014 adaptation of his book Frank into film, well this is the real deal.
Here’s the trailer:
There’s so many funny moments in the film: from Frank falling off a chair when interviewing Keith Chegwin, followed by an interview with the utterly bemused David Soul (“Nobody’s ever asked me questions like this before…..”), through introducing Bros, at the height of their fame, in front of 55,000 fans at Wembley Stadium, described by Frank like this: “Hands up if you like Matt? ‘Yehhh’, they all went. Hands up if you like Luke? ‘Yehhh’, they all went. Hands up if you like Bros? ‘Yehhh’, they all went. Hands up if you’ve got Betamax? Total silence in Wembley Stadium.” (What makes that even funnier is that a) it’s true,and b) he even breaks the comedy Rule of Three and it’s still funny.) through to his son Harvey relating how, at the height of his addiction issues, Chris kept asking him what he wanted for Christmas to which his son kept replying “All I want is you.” And this is what he found waiting for him on Christmas morning:
See, I can relate a couple of high moments from the film without fear of spoiling it, because there are just so many laugh-out-loud bits, spoilers don’t even come into play.
I wish I owned more records by Sievey, or The Freshies, or Frank even.
I own this, the most famous record by The Freshies, but only on digital:
That’s such a great pop record, I think it might actually be criminal that it wasn’t a bigger hit than it was(n’t) back in the day.
I own a few bits and bobbins by Frank, again mostly on digital, but a couple of tracks on vinyl compilation albums I picked up back in the day.
I am fortunate though in that I once met and worked with Frank.
Back in my college days, Frank had been instrumental in me getting voted to the unenviable, inevitably course-failing, position of Social Secretary/Entertainments Officer. He didn’t know he’d been instrumental, of course, but he featured in some of my promotional material.
Back in 1990, when standing for office within the Students Union, you were given an allocation of promotional material you were permitted to use. This was, to the best of my memory, a pack of A4 paper with which we could do what we pleased as long as it didn’t offend anyone. My mate Keith and I set about cutting photographs of people from newspapers (and NME), photocopying them and then adding a speech bubble with the subject of the photo saying something supportive about me.
So, we had one of Bez from the Happy Mondays, in full maracas and Bez-dance-flow, with a speech bubble saying “Vote Jez” and a caption: “Bez Sez Vote Jez for Ents Prez.” And so a slogan was born, and it appeared on all of my campaign material.
I wish I’d kept some of these, but from memory there was one of Rude Kid from Viz Magazine, simply saying “He’s the dog’s bollocks”, with the slogan underneath; one of an unknown boy, sitting in a classroom, the only one looking backwards at the camera in a class of children all studiously working, and his speech bubble read: “Pssst! Vote Jez! Pass it on!!”; and then there was one of Frank, bright blue eyes (or they would’ve been, had we had access to a colour photo-coper) looking out with a bubble simply saying: “He’s absolute bobbins!” and the Vote Jez for Ents Prez slogan splashed across the bottom of the poster.
And yes, we were aware that not all of the speech bubbles were actually terribly complimentary, but that was part of the joke as far as we were concerened.
As you know from previous posts, I won the election. Comfortably, but let’s not get into that *cough landslide*.
A few months later we learned that Frank wsa going on tour, and we were offered him for a pretty reasonable price. At the time, we’d started a comedy night at the Student’s Union, and had some success with up-and-coming (at the time) acts like Jack Dee, Jo Brand, Jim Tavare, Hattie Hayridge, John Thompson, Rob Newman.
So we booked Frank for the comedy night, and that was a mistake. Not that we booked him, but that we booked him as a comedy act, rather than as a musical act – the difference being that for the comedy nights, we filled the floor with tables and chairs, to create a comedy club atmosphere. And, watching the documentary, I realise that was not the right environment to watch a raucous Frank show, as we – and he – found out.
He went down like the proverbial sack of do-do. Utter silence from the floor after every gag.
Frank Sidebottom is definitely one of those acts that you either got and loved, or didn’t get and hated. And that night it seemed I was the only one laughing. Which, when you’ve been involved in booking them, and charging people to see, is not a good look.
In the year I did the job, it was the only time anyone ever asked for their money back. Two girls accosted me as soon as he went off stage. I refused, pointing out they’d stayed right until the end. Had they stormed out after ten minutes, they may have had a case. (I bumped into them in a pub ten years or so later. They said hello and asked if I remembered them, and were astounded that I did. I ended up buying them both a drink to shut them up.)
Anyway, here’s one of the songs I do own on vinyl by Frank. I’ve posted it before, ages ago (sorry!) and it features on a compilation album called Bananas! which I bought around 1989/90-ish.
The record was released to raise funds against the introduction of ID cards for football fans, and had this as the closing song. Given the impending start of the football again south of the border, it seems about right to post it again now (although please excuse my shonky cropping of the album sleeve):
Anyway, I imagine the documentary is on Sky’s catch-up streaming facility which I don’t have (it’s not appeared on NOWTV’s yet), so keep an eye out for it and watch it if you can. You’ll either love it or hate it.
If you’re reading this, it means I have failed you, dear reader.
Last week, I said I was hoping to have the next edition of The Chain ready for you this weekend, but alas time caught up with me. Hopefully next weekend instead…
Anyway, last weekend when I should have been writing The Chain, I was delighted to find that those repeats of 70s kids’ game show Runaround! I mentioned last weekend, was now on Talking Pictures on both Saturday and Sunday morning.
I missed whoever it was that featured on the Saturday edition (by which I mean, I saw them, had never heard of them, didn’t think much of them, and so didn’t bother making a note of who they were) but come Sunday morning’s edition: well, what a treat was awaiting us!
No studio performance this time, instead one of the most unintentionally funny videos I’ve seen since…oh, probably whenever I last saw this, back in 1980 when it first came out:
I mean, Rob Halford, bless him, is not the most intimidating bloke you’ve ever seen, no matter how many studded leather wristbands he might wear.
And who set the drum-kit up in the middle of a bank raid?
And who knew that explosives aren’t what’s needed to crack open a safe? Oh no, it’s two hairy blokes in spandex trousers wafting unplugged electric guitars in the general direction of the vault.
And was it just me that, on seeing the bit where the band climbed through the service windows, was reminded of the kitchen scenes in Jurassic Park, only where the real dinosaurs have been replaced by rock dinosaurs instead?
Ordinarily, once a year Brighton’s Concorde 2 venue plays host to At The Edge of The Sea, a three-day music festival curated by The Wedding Present’s main man David Gedge.
Sadly, due to the Covid crisis, this year’s event wasn’t able to take place.
Instead, we got the rebranded At The Edge of The Sofa, a virtual festival, hosted by Gedge from his living room.
This included the Locked Down and Stripped Back sessions, a selection of career-spanning live perfomances by the current Wedding Present line-up, all recorded seperately from their own boudoirs.
Without fail, they’re all just marvellous. Much as I like the newer stuff, it’s the older tracks which I have an unmoveable place in my heart, and so here’s three absolute corkers, all given yet another faultless rework:
You can stream both days of the virtual festival via the band’s YouTube page, here (subscription required) or, if you just want to watch Gedge and the Gang do their stuff, you can do so here. And I really can’t think of a reason why you wouldn’t want to.
I’d recommend you do, if for no other reason than to realise Gedge looks quite the silver fox now.
There is mention of these getting a commercial release at some point in the future, so watch this space.
Kirsty MacColl’s name has cropped up a couple of times on here recently, so it seems only right I should post something by her.
1981 was the first time she entered the UK Singles Chart in her own right, climbing to #14 with the wonderfully-titled, and just plain wonderful, There’s A Guy Works Down The Chip Shop Swears He’s Elvis.
The album it was lifted from, Desperate Character, as well as the hit version, included a very different version of the song, the sound switching from the rockabilly-pop of the single to a more countrified version, helpfully subtitled with an explanatory bracket:
Plonked on the sofa, I channel surfed until I happened upon a channel called Talking Pictures TV.
It was a channel I was aware of previously, having noted that it screened old films I thought I should watch, but had not gotten round to.
Anyway, last Saturday I was delighted to see they were showing old editions of 1970s kids TV show Runaround. Hosted by comedian Mike Reid (in pre-Frank Butcher days), I had forgotten that amongst all the jollity of annoying kids trying to answer questions, there was always a band.
And last week it was Jona Lewie, with Kirsty MacColl providing backing vocals on this. Sadly, I can’t find a link to the actual Runaround footage, but here’s the best I can do, Jona and Kirsty included:
Some of the subject matter has been a tad on the heavy side round here recently – (alleged) rape, the exam result travesty (now thankfully rectified), the asylum seeker “crisis”, my impending colonoscopy – so I figured today I’d just post something dumb and fun.
Before I do, a big thank you to all that got in touch with good luck messages about the procedure I underwent this week. As always, I was blown away by how many of you took the time to get in touch. You know me, I will be providing you with a post which provides a lot more detail than you probably wish to know at some point. I’ll try to make it obvious so that the more squeamish amongst you don’t read it.
I’m going to be spending much of this weekend writing the next part of The Chain, with a view to posting it next weekend, so if you haven’t submitted your suggestion yet, get a scoot on if you want it to be included. To refresh your memory, the source record is, God help us, Beautiful Day by U2: submit your suggestions via the Comments page here or, if you must, by email to email@example.com
This morning, though, a Chain-lite post: three songs linked by nothing other than their song title and this chap:
As mentioned in a recent post, I first became aware of the first band a few years before many others in the UK did, thanks to my brother returning from America with a copy of their 1983 Pyromania album for me. To the rest of the UK (except, presumably, the residents of Sheffield) they were ‘that band nobody over here has ever heard of, but are massive in America, apparently’.
By the time 1987 rolled around, they were now known as ‘that band nobody over here has ever heard of, but are massive in America, apparently, and have a one-armed drummer.’ For that four-year hiatus was due to drummer Rick Allen losing his left arm in a road traffic accident and, commendably, the rest of the band waited for him not only to complete his rehab, but also to invent a whole new drum system which allowed him to continue to play, minus one limb.
So this was their first single on their return, and whilst none of their previous singles has troubled the UK Top 40, this reached #6:
Little did we know they would go to release such preposterously-titled singles as Let’s Get Rocked! and Pour Some Sugar On Me….both of which test my “There’s no such thing as a Guilty Pleasure” philosophy to knicker-elastic twanging point. But love ’em I do. Sue me.
Fast forward a good few years. It is 2003 and I am at my first ever Glastonbury festival. Headlining the Pyramid Stage on the Friday night are my idols, R.E.M.
At this point, we are unaware of what an utter dogturd of a record 2004’s Around The Sun would turn out to be. The band play a blistering set with *gulp* some new songs they want to try out.
Look, I understand the reason that bands do this. The songs are a work in progress, and they want to gauge the audience reaction, and decide which ones need a little more work. The problem is, the audience reaction on hearing these new songs for the first time is generally polite applause, the underlying subtext being: Now play something we know. The band learns nothing from us. I begrudge bands doing this less if it happens at a gig where it is just them that are playing, to hardcore fans who who’ve paid to see them, but when they’re headlining a festival? C’mon, we just wanna hear the hits.
The set is mercifully free of much new stuff; there’s just Final Straw – which appears in the encore – and which makes the cut for the aforementioned Around The Sun album, and Animal, performed fourth on the night, and which is conspicuous by its absence from the forthcoming, not very good, album.
It does, however, get released as a single in 2004, in advance of the album it will not appear on. The British record-buying public is indifferent, shrugs, and it reaches #33.
I’m not saying it’s bad record, but it is, to these ears, the sound of a band floundering, trying to recapture past glories, and not quite managing it:
Thank Goodness for that “New Mix” (of a record which has never been released before)!
It is here that I expect The Robster to pop up and correct me by pointing out a different version appears on the 2003 compilation In Time: The Best of R.E.M. 1988–2003…
Anyway, moving on….
Thirdly, finally, this, a record I first heard on a 2012 mix album by Annie Mac called, wittily, Annie Mac Presents…
Yes, this is what I’ve been building up to, and yes, this is such a great record, all boinging basslines and sing-a-long chorus. Plus, it’s nice to hear from an act with a double I in their name. I can’t think of another. Except Piink Floyd and Iiron Maiden and they don’t count for obvious reasons (I’m convinced there’s a better joke in there somewhere, but I’m buggered if I can find it).
This week, a bit of culture to rouse you on a Monday morning.
And blimey, if this doesn’t get you out of bed, then nothing will.
(We’re putting aside the politics of the composer, Carl Orff here. Should you be so inclined, a quick search of t’internet will enlighten you as to why I’m not looking underneath that particular stone. Let’s just say they are questionable – and often contradictory and thus oft-discussed – at best…)
As for the music, well Wiki tells us that, composed in 1936, Carmina Burana is a “scenic cantata…part of Trionfi, a musical triptych that also includes Catulli Carmina and Trionfo di Afrodite.” But you knew that, right?
It’s better known on this side of the pond as “that tune from the ’70s Old Spice advert” where it was accompanied by breath-taking images of a bronzed, super-cool windurfing dude.
In the early-90s, my friend Carl and I used to earn a few extra quid flogging programmes at musical events at some of Cardiff’s larger venues. Consequently, we got to see lots of acts that we simply wouldn’t have paid to go and see, ranging from the diva Diana Ross, to the surprisingly enjoyable Take That, to the utterly excreable Chris de Burgh.
And one evening we both watched in admiration as whatever orchestra it was (forgive my memory) played Trionfi in full.