Sunday Morning Coming Down

Well, I may as well carry on with the theme with this bit of ZZ Top-esque country boogie (which now I listen to it again, doesn’t sound anywhere near enough Country rock enough to qualify to appear here, but I’m here now so….):

More soon.

Late Night Stargazing

LlÅ·r and I were both big fans of the early 2000s electro-clash scene; Miss Kittin was at the forefront of the movement with her almost gothic minimalist delivery, be it with The Hacker (as here) or Goldenboy (to follow, another time).

This is brilliant, yet ever so slightly disturbing, and full of effing and jeffing:

More soon.

Saturday Night Coming Up

And so Daft Punk are no more.

This week social media exploded with grief at the announcement that cyborg-headed cheese-eating surrender monkeys French electro pioneers would no longer be recording together under the name Daft Punk.

Me? Much as I love them, I was neither surprised nor sad.

Unsurprised because, when you’ve had a hit a global smasheroo as 2013’s (Jesus, was it that long ago?) Get Lucky, where do you go? How can you follow that up?

Also, 2013’s Random Access Memories album had been eight years in the making, so we’re not exactly talking about a band renowned for the amount of tunes they released, even if every tune they released was magnificent.

In my clubbing days, the last hour or so would often be the most rewarding, with the resident DJ’s dropping a selection of absolute bangers as the crowd thinned out, often leaving just me and my mates and about twenty other people, all desperate to be the last one standing. And this was often one of them:

And sad? Well, also no – because now, just like when any manufactured boyband splits up, we’ll get to hear the solo projects of both Guy-Manuel de Homem-Christo and Thomas Bangalter (for it is they of whom we speak).

And we already know both are more than capable of producing stunning choons on their own. For sure, Bangalter knows a choon when he hears it, collaborating with DJ Falcon under the guise of Together, with a tune which sounds wonderful in a club at 3am when you’re off your face, but in the cold light of day, is maybe a tad overlong and repetitive:

Not forgetting Bangalter was also (partially) responsible for this slice of Gallic genius, along with DJ Alan Braxe and vocalist Benjamin Diamond, cousin of TV’s Gamesmaster host Dominik (Has this been checked? – Ed)

And, just in case you think I’m being unnecessarily disparaging or dismissive, then here’s their 2007 live album to show how much I loves them and you:

So: Daft Punk: probably not really gone, definitely not forgotten.

More soon.

No Such Thing As A Guilty Pleasure

Hello.

Before I go any further, many thanks to all that got in touch to wish me well after I mentioned last week that I was struggling. Sorry for the absence of responses or “likes” to the Comments, but, to compound my misery, I managed to lose my phone last weekend, so wasn’t getting the usual message alerts that the App provides. Coupled with that, I had decided that perhaps being chained to a laptop all day in my flat – my work one during the day, my own out of hours – probably wasn’t doing my mental health much good, so I made a conscious effort not to even turn my laptop on all week.

It seems to have worked, I feel better: not 100%, but getting there. But I didn’t want any of you kind enough to have sent me messages of support to think that they weren’t appreciated, because they definitely were, when I finally read them. So thank you all.

During my week of abstinence, it occurred to me that I haven’t really fulfilled the original remit of the blog for some time – “a confessional trawl through my record buying history…where there’s no such thing as guilty pleasure”– so I figured I should maybe redress that a bit.

As far as I’m concerned, a “guilty pleasure” is a particular song which some consider to be naff or embarrassing to admit to liking, or a song by an artist viewed in the same way. I’d like to say it’s a position that I’ve never subscribed to, but that wouldn’t be entirely true.

What I think would be a fairer description would be that when I first started buying records, they were what most would consider to be “guilty pleasures”, but I was too young to know or to care. As I moved into my teens, I developed a love of rock music, and, as I have documented far too often on these pages, of Status Quo in particular, with whom I was, no doubt about it, utterly obsessed.

As an illustration, just after I moved to London and started house-sharing with Hel, the topic of what our Mastermind specialist subject would be came up. Without hesitation, I selected “The singles of Status Quo, 1967 – 1987” and, as luck would have it, she owned a copy of the Guinness Book of Hit Singles, so she decided to test me.

Suffice it to say, by the end of her cross examination, she would have been perfectly entitled to ask me to move out again, so nerdily accurate were my answers.

I’m not suggesting my development is unique or unusual, by the way; we all had (un)healthy obsessions with singers or bands in our teenage years, didn’t we? Swap the words ‘Status Quo’ for the words ‘Duran Duran’ or ‘Prince’ or ‘Nik Kershaw’ or ‘Keith Harris and Orville’ and I’m sure many of you will find yourselves looking into the same mirror.

I also began to like and purchase more ‘charty’ records, but at the same time, aided by a membership of Britannia Music, I began to investigate older, more established artists, usually songs I’d heard on Radio 2, which was my parents’ radio station of choice. Terry Wogan has a lot to answer for, and I don’t just mean his version of The Floral Dance (a copy of which resided in our house, though I’m not sure anybody ever accepted responsibility for bringing it in to our home).

And so, aided by Wogan’s breakfast-time picks, and with easier access to purchasing records via Britannia Music, I started buying records by the likes of Buddy Holly, Eddie Cochran, Dusty Springfield, Little Richard, The Doors, Elvis Presley, The Kinks, and, inevitably, The Beatles – none of which my peers would have considered to be “cool” records to listen to, let alone own.

I’m not a fan of tribalism, and see no reason to swear allegiance to one band over another, but if absolutely pressed, I’d pick Blur over Oasis, and The Beatles over The Rolling Stones every time. Contentious, I know. But I’ve bought many records by all four over the years, and I’ve never understood why you had to be “for” one and “against” the other. They’ve all released songs which are, at best, great: why deny yourself the pleasure of listening to songs by the act you’re not supposed to like? It makes absolutely no sense to me.

Anyway, by the time I arrived at 6th Form, where I properly immersed myself in what was then called “indie” music, I had a fair old collection of vinyl building up at home. Any trip into Town would only be considered successfully completed when I returned home with a clutch of new vinyl purchases tucked under my arm, sleeve notes read greedily on the bus home. At home I’d head straight for the record player, brushing past my mother, who would, without fail, roll her eyes and mutter something about money burning a hole in my pocket.

There was a battered old stereo in the 6th Form Common room, which I soon commandeered, compiling a new mixtape every couple of days or so, an evening spent, headphones on, hunched over the pause button on my Dad’s far superior midi stereo system, but only when I’d completed my homework *coughs* honest.

And because of all of those purchases, I was able to provide a new mix-tape with a revolving roster of current hits, mixed in with the classics, along with some new indie band who I was tipping for great things, much as I try to do with the occasional mix I post here. I wish I’d kept some of them.

All that changed when I went to college. Here was a chance to reinvent oneself, to create an identity, and I went for “indie kid circa 1988” big time. I would only buy records considered to be cool, and I would dress like (I thought) an indie kid should. Thankfully very few photos exist, but for a couple of years my uniform would always include a tatty cardigan, a band T-shirt, a pair of baseball boots, jeans (obviously) and – get this – a black cap. By 1990 the cap had all but disappeared, as I started wearing hoodies and – yikes – a pair of dungarees, as my (indie) DJ’ing activities increased at the same time as Madchester (which I embraced) and acid house (which, regrettably, I did not) exploded.

And so it was for several years (the record buying, not the dress sense), I would only buy what I thought were “cool” “indie” records, and, as I’ve written here many times, it wasn’t until I met my now no-longer-with-us best friend/little brother/kindred spirit LlÅ·r that I was reminded that it doesn’t matter whether anybody else likes what you like. Plough your own furrow, like what you like and be happy. And so I learned to love pop music and all things naff again.

Where am I going with all of this? Well, last night I watched a concert by an artist that I bought records by back when I was a teenager, who has, I think, never been considered cool, always considered a guilty pleasure, or at the very least someone liked by the “older generation”, which I have to admit I’m now part of, in the eyes of those pesky nowadays teenagers, at least.

The show was recorded over two nights in New York’s Shea Stadium back in 2008, just before it was demolished, was broadcast on Sky Arts, and is available to stream on NOWTV (although you really have to look for it); it’s 2 hours 21 minutes of fantastic showmanship, incredible technical musicianship, the occasional guest appearance (in order of descending impressiveness: Tony Bennet, Paul McCartney, John Mayer, Garth Brooks) and the most amazing percussionist in Crystal Taliefero (introduced to the crowd as “…on percussion…and on vocals…and on saxophone…and harmonica…and guitar…and everything else on the fricking stage, you name it”) – even if you don’t like the headline act’s music, it’s worth watching just for her: she looks gorgeous and cool as fuck, with a fantastic afro and unbridled energy. She’s amazing, even if you don’t think Billy Joel is.

And that’s who I’m talking about: Billy Joel. Never in his career has he been considered “cool”, but nevertheless some of his songs used to pop up on my 6th form mixtapes, and many of his songs are not skipped over when they pop up on shuffle now.

To this day, I will defend this as being a truly great pop single (and I know it was, because LlÅ·r agreed with me):

Personally, I’ve always loved this one too, delivering a message which I must have absorbed somewhere along the line:

I think it’s the steadfast refusal to call it “Rock’n’Roll” that holds part of the appeal for me there.

Sadly, neither of these get performed in the aforementioned Shea Stadium gig, but then neither does Uptown Girl, which, given it was his last UK #1 and it’s awful (as is any song which Westlife feels worthy of a cover) is both a surprise and a blessed relief.

Although, this would perhaps be one of my few criticisms of the show: not enough of the hits. Early doors, Joel feels the need to explain that he’s about to perform an album track, and which album it’s from. But given that the crowd, all baying Noo Yawker Karens, more concerned with being seen to be there than actually enjoying the night or, heaven forbid, being fans, don’t seem to recognise any of the songs until he starts singing, missing the very obvious signature piano-flourish which identifies each of his songs, perhaps that doesn’t matter so much. To be honest, it was kind of nice to hear some songs I’d either not heard in ages or had never heard before – but in my book, for this sort of massive gig, it should be: play the hits, keep the bums off the seats.

Not that all of Joel’s hits are booty-shakers, of course. This single, which I adore, gets an outing:

What I love about that song is that it can be interpreted in two very opposite ways: one, a rather lovely description of the woman he loves and why he loves her, or two, a list of the things that really annoy him about his partner, which borders on the misogynistic (I prefer the first explanation, by the way – but just listen to some of those lyrics, there’s some venom there).

This absolute belter does get an airing, and if you can’t empathise with the lead character on this record then I’m not sure you’ve lived. You certainly haven’t met some of the people I have:

Last one, and it’s his signature tune, where he assumes the persona of a guy playing piano in a bar, a job he actually did before he got famous, an authenticity which Tom Waits can only hope for. This is, rightly, hailed as a masterpiece of bar-room observation and storytelling, even if he does look like every midwife’s almost-sufficiently-dilated nightmare on the album sleeve:

Joel is the consummate performer, perhaps at his best when perched on a piano stool. He knows how to work a crowd, how to stir YOO ESS AYY patriotism in a non-jingoistic way. Although, he does strap on a guitar for We Didn’t Start The Fire, and manages to look like David Brent trying to emulate Pete Townsend’s whirlwind style of playing.

He is, like it or not, America’s Elton John, but without the extravagant clothing, the coke habit, the hair transplant. Plus, he writes all his songs, not just half of them, which makes him…I dunno…better….?

I’m not sure if looking like a red-faced sweaty bloodhound about to explode like a hotdog in a microwave, as he does through much of the Shea Stadium show, is a preferable look, mind.

So, to summarise: I’m feeling better and I like Billy Joel. Join me.

More soon.

Ba Ba Ba Ba-Ba Ba Ba Ba

And so, emboldened by one of the acts who featured on BBC4’s One Hit Wonders show which aired (again) on Friday night, I wonder how I’ve managed to miss this in my series of songs where banal lyrics appear.

I always found this a somewhat menacing act, a German skinhead monotones the lyrics, seemingly disassociated from it and society. He looked the kind of bored psychopath you would not wish to meet in a dark alleyway, and frankly the TOTP audience’s unfettered acceptance of them did not fill me with confidence:

More soon.

New Mood on Monday

As you may have gathered by the lack of posts recently, I’ve been struggling for a while with the general apathy I usually feel around this time of year.

I mentioned recently that I’d not been feeling myself (stop sniggering at the back!) for a while, and after I’d been off work for a week, my GP signed me off for a further week, prescribed me Amoxillin (for a chest infection) and instructed me to have a Covid test (which came back as negative).

For a good few weeks though, I’ve just felt lethargic and apathetic, I can’t be bothered with doing anything, including writing stuff here. The two weeks I was off work, I spent most of the time in bed sleeping or snoozing in front of the television. A colleague pointed out to me that these are classic symptoms of depression.

And he’s right, but I don’t think that’s where I am. I’ve written before about how I have experienced and suffered bouts of depression, but how I feel now doesn’t feel as I did then. Not that there’s a uniform pattern for such things, of course.

But what I can do is to get back to normal, and try to raise everyone’s spirits – including my own – by posting a relentlessly cheery song of a Monday morning which will make you smile no matter how down you or I might feel.

And there’s no better feel-good record than Shonen Knife covering The Carpenters, from the wonderful If I Were A Carpenter tribute album:

See? Happier already.

More soon.

Sunday Morning Coming Down

BBC4 is, I hear, under attack in the same way that BBC 6Music was a few years ago.

To me, BBC4 is an absolute treat on a Friday night. For Friday night is music night, and from 19:00 onwards we are given a whole load of music documentaries through to the early hours of Saturday which make the channel worthy of retaining in itself.

As an aside, on the same channel the other day, I found myself fixated with one of those “no verbal commentary” shows, where a camera had been strapped to various animals (a turtle, a cheetah) so we could see what they see as they go about their daily lives. It was absolutely mesmerising, and would have a home on no other channel as far as I can see.

Friday just gone began as it always does, with a couple of old Top of the Pops repeats. They’ve got up to 1990, so the chances of any of the discredited hosts are no longer likely to make an appearance, so we’re getting unfettered nostalgia.

This has it’s downside, of course: we’ve had to sit through two weeks of Bombalurina – a collaboration between Timmy Mallet and Andrew Lloyd Webber – stinking out the No #1 slot, but what has been interesting is to see Deee-Lite’s Groove is in the Heart sneaking up the charts with The Steve Miller Band’s The Joker right behind it – and we know how that ends – along with a reasonable sized dollop of the rave culture which was taking over at the time, coupled with the promise of more baggy/Madchester type tunes, with the mention of The Farm’s Groovy Train debuting at #40 this week. Tune in next week, pop pickers! (If you’re on Twitter, I can heartily recommend following @TOTPFacts who tweets info about the acts on each repeated show.)

Anyway, after that was a program featuring performances by One Hit Wonders.

To me, that phrase means this: an act who had one hit in the UK, and that is all. It does not include acts who had one very big hit, and then one very small hit. They have had two hits, in my book.

Cue the credits and a caption comes up which reads: “Welcome to the wonderful world of the one-hit wonder, featuring performances of songs that are an artist’s single significant chart moment.”

Well, that’s pretty clear.

But by the second song – Where Do You Go To (My Lovely) by Peter Sarstedt – the criteria seems has softened, as a caption came up which reads: “Although many only remember this Number 1 hit, the follow-up Frozen Orange also went Top 10.”

Hang on a minute! Forgive me for being a pedant, but if he had two Top 10 hits, then he’s not a One Hit Wonder, is he?

So perhaps we need to adopt a formula which decides what is and what is not considered a hit. At which point, I’ll hand you over to Dave Gorman to clarify this (the bit I’m talking about happens at around 07:05, but the whole thing is such a well constructed thing of beauty, I won’t begrudge you watching all 45 minutes of it, as I have, many times):

And so it continued: The Simon Park Orchestra – one hit, check! You’re in.

Kung Fu Fighting by Carl Douglas. Apart from a re-release of Kung Fu Fighting in 1998, which reached #08, he had hits in 1974 with Dance The Kung Fu (#35) and Run Back in 1977 (#25). So, not a One Hit Wonder.

Streets of London by Ralph McTell. Yes, it reached #2 in 1974, but Dreams of You reached #36 in 1975. So, not a OneHit Wonder.

Yeh, you know I can’t resist posting this:

Next up: Uptown Top Ranking by Althia & Donna. No other UK hits, check! You’re in!

Next: Pop Muzic by M. Apart from Pop Muzic resurfacing in 1989 and hitting #15, the band also had a #33 hit in 1979. So, not a One Hit Wonder.

Next: Scotland’s favourite, Kelly Marie and her utterly wonderful (no, I mean that) Feels Like I’m In Love. Turns out Kelly had hits in 1980 (Loving Just For Fun – #21) and in 1981 (Hot Love = #22). So, not a One Hit Wonder.

I could go on through the rest of the programme, but you get the giste.

What I’d much rather do is draw your attention to a genuine One Hit Wonder by a band who never had another UK hit, and that band is Pussycat, who I remember having a #1 hit in 1976, which I loved then and love now, and who I never heard of again. A perfect example of a One Hit Wonder:

Imagine my despair, having written and researched all of that to find out they had a follow up hit in 1976, Smile, which reached #24 and my whole argument is shot to pieces.

Bugger.

I may never recover from this.

I do still love Mississippi though; before he got acquainted with the joys of streaming, every year or so I used to compile a mix CD for my Dad of country tunes I remembered from when I was a kid.

“Why do you keep putting this on there?” he asked me once as we listened to it.

Because it’s a great, forgotten record, even if they did have more than one hit, that’s why.

More soon.

Late Night Stargazing

It’s funny how you remember little landmarks in your life; tonight’s tune comes from the first CD that I ever bought online. Not the first CD I ever bought, mind: the first CD I bought online.

Because it is more renowned for the spectacular Dry The Rain, The Beta Band’s 3 EPs – which, you’ll be surprised to learn, features all of the tracks from their first 3 EPs – the other tracks are often overlooked.

I really like this one (and pretty much all of the others on it too):

More soon.

Saturday Night Coming Up

Tonight, a tune which will always remind me of my old mate Dum-Dum.

Not his real name, obviously.

He, I and some others went to see Jon Carter play at Cardiff’s Emporium back in the day; he dropped this towards the end of the set and the place went wild.

There’s something about being described a “a sinner” in a club which is very appealing. A group mentality: we’re all together, we’re all sinners, and we’re all fine with that.

It was one of ‘those’ moments where it felt good to be alive, good to be out clubbing and, probably crucially, good to be absolutely off our nuts. This should not be considered an endorsement of all things Class A.

A few days later, Dum-Dum dropped a CD round at mine, which had this tune on it.

At the time, sample rights (you’ll recognise the problematic sample) had not been ironed out, so it didn’t get an official release, but as I researched it (!) now, it seems those issues must have been straightened out for there it was, on a label and everything.

More soon.

Rant

When politicians try to be funny, chances are they’re trying to distract you from something they’d rather you didn’t see. They’d much rather you cringe with embarrassment – or God help you, laugh – than ask serious questions of them.

So, with the number of Coronavirus casualties approaching the 120,00 mark, but with the roll-out of the vaccines seemingly beginning to have an effect, the last thing that the Government wants is for us to either remember how badly they have handled the virus for the past twelve months, or start focussing on the utterly shitty deal they agreed to Get Brexit Done.

Which led to this recent, particularly excruciating exchange in the House of Commons:

The question mentions Weetabix so many times, I did wonder if this was like that time Chris Packham tried to crowbar as many Smiths references into his Springwatch links:

…a trick he repeated with Cure songs:

But I digress. The asking of the Weetabix question in itself raised so many questions: for one, where has this apparently nationwide discussion, about whether baked beans should be eaten with Weetabix, been (pun not intended) taking place? Do you know anyone who has even considered eating the two together, let alone anyone who has decided to let their bizarre breakfast proclivities become known to anyone other than themselves?

To be clear, baked beans have no place in the same bowl as Weetabix. Fruit? Yoghurt? Milk? All fine. But baked beans: no. They belong in just two positions at breakfast time: either on toast, or as part of a great British full breakfast, preferably next to the sausages which are, of course, acting as a dam to keep them away from the eggs.

The second question that clip raises is why this MP is asking the question in the House of Commons at all. Well, the MP in question is Phillip Hollobone (stop sniggering at the back, please), Conservative Member of Parliament for Kettering since 2005. The Weetabix factory is within his constituency, and is a massive employer, so it’s good that he’s raising the profile of one of the businesses within the area he represents. Let’s have a look at some of the other things he has voted for and against.

In March 2015, following an expenses scandal relating to the former peer Lord Hanningfield (he was convicted of false accounting and sent to prison) Hollobone was one of just 4 MPs who voted against a Bill to increase the powers of the House of Lords to penalise peers who had broken the law and expel the worst offenders.

In January 2016, the Labour Party unsuccessfully proposed an amendment in Parliament that would have required private landlords to make their homes “fit for human habitation”. Hollobone was one of 72 Conservative MPs who voted against the amendment but who also – coincidentally, I’m sure – personally derived an income from renting out property.

The Conservative Government position was that they believed homes should be fit for human habitation but did not want to pass the new law that would explicitly require it.

Heaven forbid they should introduce laws which might make a large section of the population’s life just a teensy bit more bearable, just in case it might cost them a few quid.

In March 2018, he joined three other Conservative backbench MPs in filibustering for three-and-a-half hours to prevent a bill by Green Party MP Caroline Lucas, which aimed to reverse private sector involvement in the NHS, being heard. Lucas was left with just 17 minutes to present her bill, which was subsequently shelved without a vote.

Now, why would anyone wish to prevent a bill aimed at preventing the glorious NHS from falling into the hands of the private sector being heard….?

So don’t be fooled by Hollobone’s attempt at introducing a bit of levity to proceedings; he has nobody but his own best interests at heart. Which makes me wonder: why raise this utterly fatuous topic at all?

Well, I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but things haven’t exactly been going swimmingly since the Brexit deal was done. What many businesses are finding is that, contrary to PM Johnson et al‘s assurances that post-deal trading with the EU would continue almost exactly as it did when we were in the EU, what is actually happening is that many companies are now so bound up in red tape and paperwork that their businesses are grinding to a halt.

It’s very tempting to turn your back on the fishing community, tell them they got what they deserved by voting Leave, and that had they just dug a little deeper rather than accepting the bullshit, bluster and rhetoric, they perhaps would have voted differently. But not here. These people deserve our sympathy, not our chiding. Blame the people who lied, not those who believed the lies.

Unless we’re talking about that scarecrow that owns Wetherspoons, who can just suck it up (with apologies to his employees).

The other sector currently facing red-tape issues post-Brexit are musicians. The paperwork now involved in a UK band wishing to tour and perform in the EU has multiplied excessively, and needs to be completed for every border they wish to cross. It turns out that the EU offered exemptions to the UK for UK acts wishing to tour within the EU, but this offer was declined by the UK negotiating team, in favour of striking a deal for the fisheries, who they also, ultimately, sold down the river.

With the advent of streaming, many bands find that the most lucrative way for them to earn money these days is by touring and performing live. Obviously, with Covid-related travel restrictions in place it is hard to gauge the worth to the UK economy, but, as a marker, in 2018 the UK music industry was worth £5.2 billion to the UK economy. That would probably be even more if Take That paid their taxes.

Obviously, many of the losses the industry have incurred over the past twelve months are Covid-related – I have tickets for gigs which I’ve lost count of the amount of times have now been bumped or cancelled – but the prospect of their earnings being curbed post-Covid doesn’t bode well.

£5.2 billion to an already faltering economy is priceless. I mean, just think how much of that Dido Harding and the rest of the Tory cronies could be awarded by way of untendered contracts. I feel for them, I really do.

Anyway, the upshot of this is that many examples have emerged where businesses have been advised by the Government that the best way for them to continue to trade with the EU as they did pre-Brexit is to relocate their business to an EU country. This includes the financial industry, who we were so desperate to keep, above and beyond anything else.

I can’t help but wonder if similar advice has been given to Weetabix, and that a deal was struck that they wouldn’t go public with this on the condition that Hollobone raised the profile of the wheaty biscuit manufacturer by asking a question in Parliament. I have nothing to substantiate this, I’m just thinking out loud.

The third question is: is Jacob Rees Mogg so posh that he doesn’t even know that it’s Beans Means Heinz, not Heinz Means Beans? Whoever crafted, if that’s the right words, his response to the Weetabix question did, however, get the first part of the advertising slogan right by quoting this: “A million housewives every day pick up a can of beans and say…”

Which leads me to a record which I was reminded of when I first heard that exchange:

Any excuse, right?

The problem I have with Rees Mogg, apart from the obvious, is that he’s ruined a song for me. And it’s not even his fault. Well, it is, kind of, for being such a posh ghoul, but what I mean is that it’s not his fault that any appearance of his which crosses my radar makes me think of this description of him:

More soon.