A phrase I used in Friday’s post led me to this morning’s upbeat post:
My first introduction to The Farm was via Sammy Rogers’ range of baggy tops on Brookside:
…so it was perhaps fitting that she featured in the video for this break-through single. However, she doesn’t, they plumped instead for the next best thing: the miserable sod from the Close, Harry Cross:
If I remember correctly, many moons ago, long-time reader George kindly sent me a few mp3s by this double act.
I can’t locate the email now, but I seem to recall him being rather disparaging about them, in a so-bad-they’re-good kinda way.
Well, this morning’s tune falls nicely into that “only in Country records” category we like to feature every now and again, so here’s Carl & Pearl Butler with a very sad song about how a guy learns that his girl is leaving him:
If ever there was a post which might polarise people, and which would see my readership figures dwindle, then it’s this one.
Yes, even more so than the one with a mix I posted recently which featured not just The Nolans, but also The Dooleys and Guys’n’Dolls. (I’ve listened to that again tonight, and bar a couple of skips caused by technical glitches when I was uploading it (not my mixing skills, honest!), I’m still pretty happy with it).
Anyway, once upon a time, over at the ever wonderous Charity Chic Music, there was a regular feature about whether a Dylan cover version was better than the original. I don’t think this one ever featured, but I could be wrong.
Now. Let me be clear: I am not saying I think this is better than the original Dylan version. It’s one of my favourite Dylan songs, so it’s unlikely I’d land on that conclusion.
What I would say is this: Mick Hucknall has a beautiful, soulful voice, and when he chooses to put it to good use – which is rare – the results are amazing. Sadly, when he wasn’t picking Martine McCutcheon’s vomit out of his horrid dreadlocks, he spent most of his time in Simply Red churning out bland soulless schlock.
Anyway: put aside your pre-conceived prejudices, and give this a listen. I think it’s rather great:
See? Fair play. The boy done good.
The only other time Mick Hucknall has brought me as much pleasure was in this, and he doesn’t even appear in this clip, as indeed he doesn’t in all the best clips involving Mick Hucknall:
Back to my occasional series where I feature a song which have some non-sensical half-lyrics somewhere in them this morning, be they the eponymous Ba Ba Ba’s, or maybe some La La La La’s, perhaps a sprinkling of Do-De-Do-Do’s, or if you’re really lucky some lesser spotted Bum-Titty-Bums,
Until yesterday, I’d never really noticed the use of such vernacular on this song, but, fully masked and latex-gloved up, waiting for the bus back from doing the weekly shop, it came on my iPod, and it caught my ear this time.
But it does beg the question: hands up who wants to hear some Jools Holland this morning? And I totally appreciate that for most of you, that’s going to invoke the same reaction as Rik asking:
But what if I were to tell you that Jools isn’t in Hootenanny mode….?
…and he’s not in Boogie-Woogie mode either..?
Here you go then: the album version of a truly great song by a band that almost prevented The Smiths from forming:
Around fifteen years ago, I was at a mate’s birthday party. There was a chap there wearing today’s artwork across his chest, on a t-shirt. I wandered over to him at one point during the knees-up, nodded at his top and said: “Nice tee, mate.”
He looked down, and then at me. “Thank you,” he said when he had decided I was not a threat to his safety.
“Amazing album, too,” I proffered.
He looked at me like I just said something in a foreign language, which it turned out I had.
“Album?” he said, and it was then I spotted his accent. European, probably Spanish, I thought.
“Yeh. Album. You know: a long player. 33 1/3. A record.”
He looked down again then back at me. “This is a record? I have not heard it.”
At the time, I found this incredible: how could he not have known he was wearing Primal Scream’s Screamadelica? How comes nobody had ever mentioned it to him before? And how comes he’d never heard the record, which was at least ten years old by then?
It occurred to me later what a UK-centric view it was that I had held; of course, in those pre-internet days there was no reason why someone living overseas would necessarily have heard a landmark record by a bunch of Scottish blokes whose previous output had veered between twee indie-pop and balls-out indie-rock before finally having their record utterly transformed by Andrew Weatherall (RIP).
Here’s what wiki has to say about the artwork, which as well as covering the Spanish chap’s chest, also now adorns my wall:
The album cover for Screamadelica was painted by Creation Records’ in-house artist Paul Cannell. Cannell was allegedly inspired by a damp water spot he’d seen on the Creation Records offices ceiling after taking LSD.
Which seems rather appropriate, when you think about it.
It’s difficult to describe the impact Screamadelica had on me back in 1991. Sure, I was already riding the Madchester groovy train by then, but this was something different. We first got a taste of things to come in February 1990, with the release of Loaded, and I didn’t know of anyone who didn’t adore that record at the time. Certainly I was surprised to learn it only got to #16 in the UK charts: back then, there was quite simply no getting away from it at the time, it was just everywhere. So we were positively moist with anticipation for the full album; when it finally dropped we knew we were being treated to something special, a whole new record remixed and reinterpreted, taking the band to newer sonic heights than frankly seemed beyond them, given their previous output (which, twee indie-pop/balls-out indie-rock fan as I was, I loved).
You’ve probably been watching, as I have, the re-runs of old Top of the Pops on BBC4 of a Friday night, and will have been just as entertained as I was when they popped upon it recently; entertained not just because of the song, but for the amateur attempts to mime, and for Bobby Gillespie trying to lip sync the few words he actually has to say (and bear in mind, this fades out before it even gets to the ‘Oh Yeah!’ bit, that everyone looks pleased as punch to get right in any indie disco throughout the land, that’s not many):
And yes: that is Ride’s Mark Gardner plinky-plonking away on the keyboards for no apparent reason, other than they needed to have a keyboard player and he was available. What’s odd is that Ride weren’t even on the show that week, so I do wonder if he was just hanging around the studios, begging someone to let him play with them.
Just in case you weren’t aware of the extent to which Andrew Weatherall (RIP) utterly transformed the band’s sound, here’s the song he was handed and asked to remix. He handed them back Loaded, almost entirely unrecognisable from its source. If you didn’t know it, you could be forgiven for thinking they were two completely separate tunes, unlinked in any way:
Although that featured as the B-Side to Loaded when it came out in 1990, it had already appeared on the Scream’s second album, Primal Scream, and if you need further evidence of just how vastly Weatherall (RIP) transformed them, here’s the lead single from the same album:
…and then compare still further back, with one of the singles from their debut album:
I love all those records, but you can’t tell me that Weatherall (RIP) didn’t transform them. For the better. As he did with pretty much every record he remixed or created.
Generally, I have an opinion on things. You might have noticed this.
This is in marked contrast to how I was in my younger days, when I would over analyse and not be able to make my mind up. When I was on the Student’s Union Executive, I was known for being the one person in the room who, when asked to vote on a matter, would say “But, I can see both sides of the argument…” before abstaining.
I mention this because I was listening to a record the other day – which I shan’t name here, because it will probably feature later on in this undoubtedly short-lived series – where the singer delivered a few lines in spoken word rather than doing what their supposed to do: sing.
And I wasn’t quite sure how I felt about it. In a way, I felt slightly cheated by it: why haven’t they sung that bit? Was it because they couldn’t find a good rhyme, or get it to scan properly? In which case, that’s an unfinished song you’ve got there.
Or perhaps, it occurred to me, there was an important message contained within the spoken passage, and the singer had delivered it in this way to make it standout. I decided, and you can call it the benefit of the doubt if you like, that this must be the case, even though on a second listen I wasn’t able to identify anything particularly profound therein.
No matter, it got me thinking about other songs which contained spoken rather than sung words, and this one sprang to mind. When you listen to it – and you will because it’s by Neon Neon, a collaboration between producer Boom Bip and Super Furry Animals’ frontman Gruff Rhys and is therefore ace – you will notice that this is a bouncy bit of 80s-esque pop with a Star Wars reference thrown in for good measure, but you might not notice the spoken part in question.
But focus in on the start of the second verse and there you should here some dialogue. Dialogue which just makes me grin whenever I hear this record.
This is the series where I feature The Guardian’s idea of the best UK #1s ever, and we see what I have to say about them.
I must say, I was rather taken aback by the positive response to the first post in this series. It may take a little while for me to find my feet with it, so bear with me.
So, here’s what The Guardian had to say about the record that they placed at #99 in their Greatest UK #1 Singles list:
By disavowing the hollow opulence and bloated scale of pop’s reigning class, Lordeaccidentally ushered in a brand new one: there would be no Billie Eilish if not for her conspiratorial incantations. While she weathered accusations of appropriation for disavowing hip-hop cliches in her obviously rap-influenced delivery, she ultimately echoed the genre’s own move towards unvarnished portrayals of teenage disaffection instigated by a parallel wave of SoundCloud upstarts. As much a generational bellwether as a pop classic.
I have no idea what much of that means.
Perhaps I should begin by declaring that I already know and love this record, but I had no idea that this had been a UK #1 until I read this, which just goes to show how out of touch I am.
But if you’re going to talk about people she has influenced, then I don’t think you have to look any further than current music journo darlings Christine & The Queens, who have clearly seen a Lorde live show or two. As for the music: well, firstly, this is one cool record, not just in its anti-establishment lyrics, but in its glacial pace, space and echoes; it just glides from start to finish, with Lorde twittering away like a wannabe (slightly less demented) Björk. Secondly, Royals was the name of the brand of cigarettes I used to smoke, which my friend Cath once, memorably referred to as “bus drivers’ fags”, so y’know, there’s that to consider too.
Put it this way: had someone presented me with a list of every UK #1 ever, and I had to pick my favourite 100 – and I think this is how I will judge things, going forwards – then this would be on my list, no question.
On Friday night, I received a Whatsapp message from my brother which read: “FYI this just came up in conversation, and I thought you might be interested in how long it is?”
Wash your minds out: we may be competitive, but not in that way, thank you very much.
Within the message was a link to this record:
If you ever find yourself in a conversation about who the most influential artists have been in the world of popular music, and the person you’re talking to offers the names The Beatles or The Rolling Stones, walk away, or enjoy belittling them, for they know nothing.
The Stones regularly cite old blues artists as influential, whilst The Beatles – and countless others around the same time – would name skiffle bands and artists, such as Lonnie Donegan.
Lonnie’s influence simply cannot be underestimated, if not in the musical style of those who adored him, but in the simple fact that he inspired so many to learn to play instruments. Skiffle in the 1950s was the same as Punk in the 1970s, it had its own DIY ethic, impacting on so many, guiding them to pick up, or even construct, their own rudimentary instruments. The (double) bass was a wooden box with a mop handle and a string attached, for Gawd’s sake. And Lonnie was at the forefront of this revolution.
In 1992, to mark 40 years of their publication, the NME released a triple CD where current (at the time) indie acts were asked to record a cover version of a #1 that meant something to them. It’s a bit of disappointment overall, to be honest, but one band stepped up to the plate to pay homage to Lonnie, and thankfully that band was The Wedding Present and when you hear this, everything I’ve just said will make sense. And in true Weddoes style, they rattle through it even faster than Lonnie did:
If that doesn’t persuade my Dad to listen to The Wedding Present, then nothing will.
The Country Music Awards happened this week, and were broadcast in the UK on BBC4.
I didn’t watch it, not for any vain “there’s nothing I can learn here” reasons, but more because I’m not really a fan of New Country and so I figured I probably wouldn’t enjoy it.
Also: I didn’t notice it was on until about ten minutes from the end.
But afterwards, they broadcast a couple of old shows: Country at the BBC and Country Queens at the BBC. Midway through the first, Glen Campbell strode onto the set of The Val Doonican Show (which, judging by the amount of clips which were from it, must have been the best place on UK TV to see Country artistes perform at the time), looking like a GI Joe doll with his trimmed beard, and launched into a pretty perfect version of this, which I must have posted here at some point, but not for a good few years.
As it’s such a belter, it will stand yet another airing:
I’ve always wanted to write a series about musical mondegreens, that is misheard lyrics. The most famous, perhaps, is Jimi Hendrix’s Purple Haze, where people mishear ‘Scuse me while I kiss the sky as ‘Scuse me while I kiss this guy.
I mention this now because Rhinestone Cowboy contains one which I misunderstood when I was a kid: I could never quite grasp why he might be getting awfuls coming over the phone, when in fact many years later I realised he was getting offers. By way of justification, I like to pretend that I actually predicted the rise of prank calls and trolling, but we all know that’s not true.
But what of Val Doonican? There was a run of four or five Country artists on Country at the BBC who were appearing on his show, which is perhaps a little bit strange given his own recorded output comprised mostly of laid-back, easy listening classics, and these two songs, both of which make me smile to this day, I think because whilst on the face of it these are both simplistic, ridiculous tales, the lyrical dexterity puts me in mind of another folk hero of mine, Jake Thackray: