Sunday Morning Coming Down

It’s not the first, it won’t be the last, but an album that has just come out which features people covering Kris Kristofferson songs.

It’s a rather fine piece of work, demonstrating the universality of Kristofferson’s compositions, featuring as it does covers ranging from Dean Martin (Just the Other Side of Nowhere) to Isaac Hayes (the titular For the Good Times).

What makes For The Good Times – The Songs of Kris Kristofferson different is that amongst all the cover versions, there stands KK, performing The Taker; presumably it’s the compiler’s favourite and nobody had covered it.

King of all included, in my opinion, is this rather fine bluegrass version of the song from which the title of this series is pinched:

Bobby Osborne & the Rocky Top X-Press – Sunday Morning Coming Down

I suspect we’ll be returning to this album at some point.

More soon.

Late Night Stargazing

There will be a more involved post appearing about her soonish, but I couldn’t resist posting this bit of…well I guess you’d call it Dream Pop, by the gorgeous, sassy, funny, and all-round brilliant Charlotte Church.

Lifted from her 2013 EP “Two” – g’wan, guess how many EP’s she’d released before this – this starts off all Cocteau Twins before descending into what I like to call a glorious cacophony of noise:

Charlotte Church – Lasts, or Eschaton

More soon.

50 Ways to Prove I’m Rubbish #32

So here we are: a Bank Holiday weekend, and I have nothing to do except drink, think of reasons to postpone still further the building of a new shelving unit I bought months ago (I figure: the drink serves as a particularly adequate reason) and write stuff on here.

The plan is, therefore, that I’m going to spend much of the weekend reigniting past series’ which have fallen by the wayside over the past few months. Yes that includes The Chain (if anyone is still interested in it), as well as another long mix that I’ve been working on and hope to have actually got pretty much right, not that anyone seems even the slightest bit bothered about them.

But for now, this: a series I started as I was approaching the milestone age of 50, and here we are, as I approach the slightly less milestoney age of 52, and I’m still only just over halfway through the 50 posts I intended to do. As with pretty much every series I start, I didn’t actually bother to plan out what each post would be about.

For those who haven’t stumbled across this series before – and since the last time I posted one was in November 2020 that may be a few of you – ordinarily, the idea is that I post a record by an act that I simply didn’t “get” when I first heard them, and didn’t connect to until much later.

Usually, it’s band or a record which is universally loved and/or considered to be “cool”, but I’m not sure that’s the case with today’s entry.

See, when this record came out 1987, I had just started 6th Form and was busy reinventing myself as a cool indie kid. This record, written and mixed by the despised (by me) Stock, Aitken & Waterman was the anti-Christ as far as I was concerned: everything that was wrong with pop music was encapsulated right here.

Plus there was this story about how this artist was just the tea-boy in the studio where the self-proclaimed Hit Factory producers wove their magic, and they happened to overhear singing one day. This sounded like bullshit at the time, and has subsequently been confessed to being just that.

You know who I’m talking about by now, of course.

A couple of weeks ago, my brother and I went to visit my parents on the event of my Dad’s 81st birthday. Long-term readers may recall that we were unable to celebrate his 80th partly due to Covid restrictions, but mostly due to the fact that he was in hospital following a fall which had fractured his hip.

Before any of you call the Covid police, we followed the guidelines that were in place at the time of the visit, staying outside until our folks had gone to bed, and then the two of us ventured inside to watch TV for a while. It was a Friday night, but the music shows on BBC4 held no appeal, so we ended up watching a programme on Channel 5 of all places, which was running down the “best” – by which they meant best-selling – records of 1987.

And as this song began, I turned to my brother and said “You know, my feelings towards Rick Astley and this record have softened over the years. I think it’s a pretty great pop song now.”

To my surprise, and he won’t thank me for saying this (and will probably deny it in any event) my brother nodded: “Me too.”

You know what’s coming next:

Rick Astley – Never Gonna Give You Up

A reminder: it’s absolutely fine to like great pop records, and that is a great pop record, irrespective of what I thought about it 30-odd (Jesus…..!) years ago. Your achingly cool stock should be enhanced as a result of you climbing on board.

More soon.

Late Night Stargazing

I’m sure, like me, you’ve been following with great admiration Jim and The Robster’s collaborative effort going over all of the R.E.M. singles in chronological order over at The Vinyl Villain.

It’s been a really interesting and honest read, especially seeing the point where patience began to where patience began to wear thin (the Up album), where it finally ran out (the godawful Around The Sun album) but it’s also been heartening to read many people in the comments who also gave up on them at around the same time, now giving the Accelerate album a listen for the first time and very much liking what they heard – the R.E.M. of old.

The series is fast approaching the end, with just the singles from the farewell album, Collapse Into You to go (I think…The Robster knows best), but I thought I’d duck in with this little beauty which features as an extra track on the career spanning Part Lies, Part Heart, Part Truth, Part Garbage compilation album. This was released as a single elsewhere in the world but not in the UK, so I hope I’m not treading on their toes by posting it.

As a rule, I’m not a fan of bonus tracks on Best Of… albums, viewing them as manipulative way to get us fans to part with our hard-earned cash once more for songs which we mostly already own.

The other two bonus songs on the album – A Month of Saturdays and Hallelujah – are, to put it kindly, nothing special.

But We All Go Back To Where We Belong is just gorgeous, all parping horns, beautiful strings and Stipe’s restrained breathy vocals; it practically twinkles as it come out of your speakers. It’s a thing of such beauty that when I first heard it I remember thinking: “There you go, see: you can still do it.”

R.E.M. – We All Go Back To Where We Belong

There would have been a few more tears shed when the band split if more of their late-period records had sounded like that, I think.

Had it been released as a single in the UK, it would have been a fitting swansong to a glorious career. But instead we got…ah, no. I’ll leave it to Jim and Rob.

More soon.

Saturday Night at the Eurovision Song Contest

I’m not going to lie, I’m a bit annoyed this is happening tonight.

See, I’m due to have my second Covid vaccination tomorrow (yes, I’m that old the GP surgery is opening especially), so I figured I’d better not turn up pissed, which means playing Eurovision Bingo – where you down a shot after every predictable thing that happens at the Contest – is a no-no for me.

This year, the UK is represented by James Newman, with his song Embers. In comparison to our recent entries, it’s actually not bad. Not something I’d buy, but certainly better than our Englebert and Scooch entries.

James will be performing 9th on the night, which is just one after those of us in the UK who don’t have to attend a GP surgery the following day, will be raising a glass to the late great and much missed Sir Terry Wogan, who used to commentate on the proceedings for us, and who would hold off having a drink himself until the 8th song.

I’ve not had chance to check out any of this year’s entries bar our own, so instead, here, from 2008, is France’s entry, which is pretty ruddy great in my book:

Sebastien Tellier – Divine

More soon.


I’m not going to attempt to defend the actions of Martin Bashir in securing that infamous interview with Princess Diana twenty five years ago. He hasn’t, so I see no reason why I should.

What I would say is this: the idea that this interview led to her death two years later seems to me to be stretching a point a little too far. At the time, we all knew the marriage was an unhappy one. We also knew that Charles had continued his affair with Camilla for some time. There has always been doubt about the identity of Harry’s father. Frankly, it was only a matter of time before the marriage collapsed allowing both parties to hook up with whomever they chose to.

I understand and empathise with where Princes William and Harry (is he still a Prince now?) are coming from, with their statements and interviews about how the BBC are culpable. They’ve been fighting against press and media intrusion ever since their mother died, and rightly so.

The release of the Dyson report into the interview and how it was procured, along with the subsequent BBC Panorama programme which aired on Thursday night, gives them the scapegoat they so desperately need. Let them have their moment complaining about the way the BBC went about things back then: twenty five years have passed, none of the people involved are anywhere near the BBC anymore.

But what it also does is add more weight to the Government’s argument that Auntie needs reform, and by reform they mean never criticising them.

It always annoys me whenever I see some right-winger complain about left wing bias at the Beeb, for at the same time there is usually an opposing voice complaining about it being too right wing. And to my eyes, that means that the BBC must, generally, be getting the balance right: it simply isn’t possible for both viewpoints to be correct, so it must be the case that both left and right are getting equal coverage and criticism.

That said, the BBC’s political editor, Laura Kuenssberg, is generally perceived as a conduit to all things Tory. But for every Kuenssberg at the BBC there is at least one other journalist with the opposite political leaning; the problem is that the BBC are so scared of riling the Tories and being reformed they rarely dare let these voices bubble to the top.

What sticks in my throat is the way that the printed media has seized upon this, attacking the BBC, like they had absolutely nothing to do with Diana’s death. “It wasn’t us that chased her in cars and on motorcycles through Paris to her death, desperate for a snap with her and her current beau (not that any of them will mention this, of course), it was them bastards over at the BBC what done it.”

The Housemartins – Freedom (Janice Long 6/1/85)

(Purists: Yes, I know that version isn’t on the Live at the BBC album, it’s on the Deluxe Edition of London 0 Hull 4, but posting a BBC session version was too delicious a prospect for me to resist and I needed a cover pic.)

Of course, our glorious leader was quick off the mark to criticise the BBC (dressed in what appeared to be a costume at best, his pyjamas at worst, with the words Prime Minister sewn into the breast, like a weird boy scout badge he’d earned; it may as well have said “Done a big boy’s wee” for all the gravitas it afforded him), stating that he hoped there were lessons the corporation would learn from the report.

Which, if you know his history, is a bit rich. For this Boris lecturing the BBC on journalistic standards, is the same Boris who, in his pre-political career, was sacked from his job at The Times over allegations he fabricated a quote from the historian Colin Lucas, for a front-page article about the discovery of Edward II’s Rose Palace.

After being escorted from the building at The Times, Johnson moved to The Daily Telegraph, where he worked as the publication’s Brussels correspondent between 1989 and 1994. It was here that he penned many of the “Euromyths” which entered into common parlance, including plans to establish a “banana police force” to regulate the shape of the curved yellow fruit, and the introduction of a ban prawn cocktail crisps, since they contained neither prawn nor cocktail in their ingredients. None of which were true, of course.

What the Dyson report does is to allow the Government to indulge in a bit of deflection. I’ve written before about the dead cat scenario, where, in times of trouble, a government or ruling body will say or do something so utterly strange as to make that the talk of the tabloids rather then the thing they were (probably) about to write about. This, however, doesn’t qualify for such a description, it doesn’t even qualify for “what-about-ery”, where one acknowledges something bad has happened but asks you to look at something if not worse then equally controversial instead (Example: “Yes, Labour did very well in Wales in the latest by-elections, but have you seen what happened in Hartlepool?”*).

No, the Dyson report comes at an absolutely perfect moment to allow the Government to move attention away from another report which was due to be released this week, but was blocked by your friend and nobody else’s, Priti Patel.

This report took an independent body eight years to complete, and looked into the private detective Daniel Morgan in 1987, who was found dead in a south London car park with an axe embedded in his head, and the subsequent botched attempts to solve his murder. No one has ever been convicted of his murder, but interestingly key suspects are alleged to have close ties to News International, and police investigations are thought to have been deliberately ineffective.

In case you’re unaware, News International is the company owned by Rupert Murdoch, under which such luminaries as The Sun, The Times and, at one time News of the World were published. You will doubtless recall the Levison enquiry, which found evidence of links between the press, the police and the Government, and which was supposed to have a second leg of the report until that was also shelved by the Conservative government. A bit like the report into Russian collusion into our elections, which was finally released in July 2020, albeit redacted to within an inch of its life.

But this report was looking at something far more sinister than phone-tapping: it was considering whether News International and the Metropolitan Police were complicit in actual murder.

Now what on earth could cause Patel – who has read the report – and who is part of a Government for whom Murdoch and News International are established cheerleaders – to react in such a way?

Morrissey – Hold On To Your Friends

There’s also the small matter of the investigation into corruption and cronyism with the award of billions of pounds of contracts to companies with no experience or means to produce PPE items, which is going to happen, but not for another year, and even then Johnson will have the final say as to whether the findings should be made public or not.

It’s depressing, isn’t it? The way this Government is lining the pockets of their BFFs (and probably their own – there has to be something in it for them, right?) and yet certain pockets of our society see that and think: “Boris is funny and has funny hair. I’ll vote for his lot again”.

So perhaps we need a moment of levity, and thank the Lord, here to provide it is none other than oily snakeskin and pipedream salesman Nigel Farage.

For it emerged this week that good old honest pint drinking and self-proclaimed Fisherman’s Friend Nigel is currently touring America, giving talks to theatres he expected to be packed with Trump devotees, about how he is “Mr Brexit” – not exactly what I’d call him, to be honest – and how successful a politician he is *coughs*. It’s a self-congratulatory lap of honour of a slippery conman. Presumably his teleprompter at the speeches doesn’t scroll on as far as to mention the seven times he stood for election as an MP and was defeated, and definitely not far enough to reveal that on one of those occasions he was beaten by a man dressed as a dolphin.

And, thanks in no small part to national treasure and lead singer of The Charlatans Tim Burgess, the first night of Farage’s tour was a sell out. The problem was, that only 21 people actually turned up; it later transpired that of those, 6 were part of Farage’s group, and one was Farage himself, who had to deliver his speech to an auditorium designed for 3000 people but which actually contained just 14 people.

See, for once, Farage wasn’t looking to make money from the actual tickets – doubtless there was some merch available though: a pipe, a beer tankard with a frog’s face on it, a burning cross, you know the sort of thing – for he had made tickets free.

Cue Tim:

The Charlatans – Weirdo

And my, how the (mostly) British public reacted:

Just glorious.

Which seems to answer the question raised in this song:

Heart – Alone

More soon.

*What happened in Hartlepool was this: Labour lost their seat for the first time since it was created. General consensus though, obtained via vox pops and exit polls, was that the good people of Hartlepool voted Conservative because they wanted change, seemingly oblivious to the fact that the very people they were voting in to bring change, just happened to be the same people who have been in power for the past eleven years. No wonder they hung that monkey.

New Mood on Monday

It struck me recently that my ongoing malaise may be due to the fact that I hadn’t been seeking out upbeat tunes to kick off the week for a good while now. A Catch-22 situation if you will, where I was feeling apathetic because I wasn’t on the lookout for such songs, and I wasn’t on the lookout for such songs because I was feeling apathetic. Or is that the same thing? I dunno.

Anyway, to try and rectify things, here’s one of my favourite records, which reached the giddy heights of #11 in the UK charts back in 1987. Generally considered to be a one hit wonder, it isn’t: there was a follow-up – Ba-Na-Na-Bam-Boo – which scraped into the charts at #37. Three albums got released, but other than those two singles, the band’s success can only really be measured in terms of two of their songs being used on the soundtracks of Planes, Trains and Automobiles and Point Break.

Here’s their biggest hit though, a record that still transports me back to my sixth form days whenever I hear it:

Westworld – Sonic Boom Boy

It’s still a belter, right?

More soon.

Sunday Morning Coming Down

I’ve mentioned many times on these pages that this is one of my favourite songs ever, and have posted several different versions of it. But never before have I posted the version recorded by the man who wrote it, Mike Nesmith of The Monkees fame (or Michael Nesmith as he is known here, a bit like when footballer Andy Cole started insisting he be referred to as Andrew as he wanted to seem a bit more grown up and sophisticated).

There’s a compilation album out which brings together a load of “lost” recordings from when he was signed to the RCA Victor label, and which features the song in question. I’ve not had chance to listen to the whole album yet, but the songs I have listened to leads me to think this is as album which will feature on these pages again.

In the meantime, this, a more honky-tonk version than I’ve previously featured:

Michael Nesmith & the First National Band – Different Drum (Alternate Version)

More soon.

Late Night Stargazing

Lockdown does funny things to you.

Were you to ask pretty much any family member or friend of mine, after you’ve explained who I am and where they know me from, I’m pretty sure that they would confirm Jack Daniels and Coke with a slice of lime to be my drink of choice.

I’m pretty sure I’ve mentioned before on these pages the night when my brother retired from the RAF; we spent the night in the subsidised bar, drinking nothing but the stuff. Two reactions from the night remain in my mind: firstly, one of my brother’s friends offered to buy me a drink and when I told him what I wanted, he muttered “Oh Christ, not you as well. I hope you don’t drink as fast as your brother.” Challenge accepted. Secondly, the next morning, my father commented that I was drinking a double every fifteen minutes or so, and he had seen them change the bottle six or seven times in the space of about four hours.

Anyway, during lockdown my drinking habit has moved temporarily, from Jack Daniels to Jim Beam. I know, sacrilege, right?

But not any Jim Beam though, I hasten to add. Their normal brew still pales in comparison with Uncle Jack. But they do an off-shoot called Red Stag, which is infused with black cherry liqueur. It’s yummy, and comes highly recommended.

So here’s this:

Goldfrapp – Black Cherry

More soon.

Saturday Night at the Rock Opera

April 2021 saw a landslide of celebrity deaths the likes of which we haven’t seen since The Great Celebrity Cull of 2016.

Some of these were absolute shocks to me: Paul Ritter, an actor best known for his role as the father in the comedy, Friday Night Dinner but who I’d also seen in several straight drama TV roles over the years; Bay City Rollers frontman Les McKeown, who I had the pleasure of meeting circa 1990 when we booked the Rollers (in truth, just him and a backing band) to play at the Students Union – I have no stories to tell about him, even if I wanted to speak ill of the dead, which I don’t. What I would say was that I was very popular with a lot of students’ older sisters who attended the gig; most shockingly and out of the blue actor Helen McRory, best known for being Polly Gray in Peaky Blinders, not a show I’ve ever got round to watching, despite the rave reviews, but I’d seen her in so many things and was always blown away by her performances. Somebody can do much better eulogies to each of these than I can manage.

And then there was the news that somebody I had assumed died years ago, hadn’t, but had now obliged.

His name came up on these pages not so long ago, when I mentioned that a Sisters of Mercy record I posted had all the hallmarks of this musician and writer, only to find that he had in fact co-written it.

A composer, lyricist, record producer, and *gulps* playwright, he worked with the likes of Bonnie Tyler, Celine Dion, Barry Manilow, Air Supply, Boyzone – all the greats (sense the tone, readers) – bringing his bombastic, rock opera-esque trademark sound to each of them.

I speak, of course, of Jim Steinman

Steinman was, of course, most closely associated with the work of Meat Loaf, to the point where The Loaf’s solo career was harmed. In the same way as you know not to bother to listen to a Weezer album unless it has a colour in the title, so we learned to avoid anything Mr Loaf released which didn’t have Steinman’s name attached to it somewhere.

It wasn’t a guarantee of quality mind: I Would Do Anything For Love (But I Won’t Do That) remains utter dogshit, and if you’re one of those people who says “What wouldn’t he do?” whenever it gets played a) you haven’t listened to the rest of the song properly, and b) you deserve the punishment of going to listen to it again, and pay attention this time will you, or you’ll have to listen to it again and again until you understand. Go on. Now.

I will always remember watching Top of the Pops in the 80s, and this video coming on; my father looked up from the newspaper he was pretending to read (like he wasn’t waiting for Legs & Co to come on) and said: “That’s Cher!” At the time, I had no idea who Cher was, and the next time I would encounter her she would be straddling the barrel of a very large looking phallic rocket launcher on a US Navy ship, dressed in nowt but a set of black net curtains and a black mankini carefully placed to cover of her plastic parts (face excluded).

Dead Ringer For Love remains, in my opinion, one of the greatest two-hander pop records ever. To this day – incoming private joke that I’m not going to explain – it has me tapping the rhythm of the lyric out on whatever table or kitchen worktop is closest, imploring the nearest female friend to join in with the Cher parts:

Meat Loaf – Dead Ringer For Love

Still rocks, thirty years later, that.

But the best known collaboration between Mr Meaty and Steinman came at their very first attempt, with an album often much mocked and derided, but which I have loved from the day I first heard it, back in the early 80s.

Released in 1977, Bat Out Of Hell is, of course, one of the best-selling albums of all time, having sold over 50 million copies worldwide. It spent 522 weeks in the UK Albums Chart, the second longest chart run by a studio album.

Every song is a teenage rock opera in its own rights – the title track is practically the Shangri La’s Leader of The Pack told from the dead boyfriend’s point of view – but nowhere are the key Steinman traits more evident than on Paradise By The Dashboard Light, a song which comes in three acts and tells a tale of teenage lust, fulfilment and ultimate entrapment. The middle act, played out to the sound of a baseball commentator describing a batsman reaching various bases, naïve little me didn’t fully understand until a few years later.

Here you go:

Meat Loaf – Paradise By The Dashboard Light

It may not be cool, but by God that’s great.

More soon.