It may have escaped your attention, but the other week it was Record Store Day.
I’m never quite sure what to make of Record Store Day.
Sure, I see it’s intentions are honourable, the aim being to attract punters back into (independent) record stores, part with their hard-earned cash, and keep the shop alive and kicking for a while longer.
And that’s great.
But what it also does, with its slew of limited edition releases set free for that one specific day, is feed the record buying equivalent of the ticket tout.
Whilst you will see ticket touts outside gigs, flogging their grubby wares, they’re far more likely to sell over-priced tickets online, and these exclusive Record Store Day releases are going the same way.
Take, for example, one of the most sought after releases this time around, the Foo Fighters Hail Satin album, which includes a load of Bee Gees overs.
Now, I don’t know how much these were being sold for in-store; I would imagine being a limited edition release by one of the world’s biggest rock bands, who are fronted by a guy who used to be in one of the world’s most iconic and influential bands, I’d have thought round about the £50 – £60 mark would be appropriate.
Now have a look at how much they are being going for on ebay:
Fair enough, the first guy has had the decency to throw in a couple of DVDs which you could probably pick up in your local Cex store for a couple of quid each. But those prices are just ridiculous.
In the same way as bands, venues, ticket selling outlets and festivals are trying to crack down on the ticket touts, something needs to be done to prevent this exploitation of genuine fans.
As it happens, I’ve managed to *coughs* obtain a copy of the album in question. Released under the name Dee Gees, as a nod not just towards the source act in question, but to main Foo Dave Grohl. (I had to explain this to somebody on Twitter who thought it was a fake…)
I know what you’re thinking: the Foo Fighters covering the Bee Gees? That sounds awful!
It really isn’t. For a start, it’s only the ‘A’ side that’s covers (the ‘B’ side is a load of live recordings from the Foo’s most recent album, which I don’t own, so can’t really comment on, other than to say they sound like every Foo Fighters live song I’ve ever heard), but it’s quite surprising how good, and faithful to the originals, the covers are. For a start, Grohl rocks a really quite impressive falsetto which I don’t ever recall hearing on his previous records. He should try it more often.
A few days ago, my brother called me. This is not a terribly frequent occurrence, but there are a few things going on at the moment which needed discussion. Firstly, our father is back in hospital, again. Secondly, my niece is getting married this weekend, and he wanted to make sure I was attending, despite my concerns about using public transport in these heady post-Freedom Day weeks.
But before we tackled either of these subjects, we discussed the much more pressing matter that is my last Friday Night Music Club mix, and in particular – spoiler alert – that I had included ZZ Top’s Sharp Dressed Man.
“Why did you include that one?” he asked.
I was a little bemused by this, as I distinctly recalled him having owned a copy of Eliminator, the album from which the aforementioned single was lifted, whilst I had bought it on 7″ single, along with it’s predecessor, Gimme All Your Lovin’. I asked him what he meant, and he explained that this mid-80s phase of the Top’s career wasn’t really indicative of their best stuff. He advised me that I should have picked something from their finest album (not my words, but the words of my older, wiser brother), 1973’s Tres Hombres.
(You’ll notice that I didn’t buy Legs – the third single from Eliminator – because by then I felt I’d seen through them; the lyrics were not exactly misogynistic, but the videos, all scantily clad women strutting around were certainly exploitative and aimed right at the viewers of the burgeoning MTV audience. So I had to confess that, after Sharp Dressed Man, I’d never really bothered to investigate any further, and on the one occasion I did, I found 1975’s Tush, which lyrically pretty much confirmed what I had suspected. Different times.)
So, no, I’d never heard Tres Hombres, but I promised I would seek it out and report back.
Yesterday, it was announced that the Top’s bass player (and almost founder member) Dusty Hill had died. Coincidence?
Well, yes, undoubtedly.
But I had, for once, heeded my brother’s recommendation just in time to beat the post-death upturn in sales, and I have to say it’s not bad, in a heads-down, no nonsense boogie kind of way.
Here are a couple of songs from Tres Hombres which I liked on first listen:
Now, this may not seem like the most befitting of eulogies to a recently departed rock god, but what I’m trying to say is that I wish I’d investigated their back catalogue sooner.
Or rather: R.I.P. Dusty.
Oh, and happy birthday Bro’. As well as hooking up as close to either of our birthdays in as long as I can remember this weekend, your main present is me admitting you were (probably) right and I was (probably) wrong (and, as if you didn’t already know, any of my friends will attest these are not words which often trip off my tongue). Priceless.
As with many of my regular series, I’ve let this one slide for a while, Sorry!
Anyway, a couple of friends have mental health struggles, and both seem to have hit a low point at around the same time recently. I always feel a little bit useless when the black dog growls at either of them: I want to let them know I’m here for them if they want to talk, but I also don’t want to encroach within their personal barriers and exacerbate how they’re feeling.
As I’ve mentioned before, although I was never officially diagnosed with any particular condition, I’ve been there myself. No matter who or how many people reached out to me, I couldn’t bring myself to admit I had a problem and accept that hand.
Thankfully, both seem to be coming out the other side of the darkness; whilst one will undoubtedly appreciate this delicious slice of campness more than the other, you can’t deny it’s fantastically upbeat:
It probably hasn’t escaped your attention that yesterday was the 10th anniversary of the death of Amy Winehouse at the age of just 27.
I say that it probably hasn’t escaped your attention, as it was all over the media, all falling over themselves, to praise her, her voice and her work, just as they did when she died, without ever taking a good hard look at themselves and considering how much they may have contributed to her death. At least the paps had the decency to make it obvious by physically chasing Diana to her death.
Last night’s TV here in the UK was – rightly – full of documentaries and concerts, marking the anniversary, but I haven’t watched any of them, yet. And that’s because on Thursday night, with the (failed) goal of writing this post afterwards to appear yesterday, I watched Asif Kapadia’s brilliant documentary, Amy, which is currently streaming on All4.
I’m sure I’ve mentioned it before, but if you’ve never watched it, then I urge you to do so. For if you’re one of those people who think of Amy as just another pop star junkie, who got what was coming to her when she died, then Amy will utterly change your mind.
Here’s the trailer:
Kapadia’s CV as a director is impressive, including the excellent Senna, which made me interested in F1 racing for the duration of the film and no longer, and the not-as-good-but-still-not-bad Diego Maradona which almost made me forgive the cocaine snorting short-arse for the Hand of God incident. Almost, but not quite.
Amy is his masterpiece so far, though. Given seemingly unprecedented access to family, friends and colleagues, they give interviews and offer up previously unseen home video footage, so we see her as a young girl singing for her friends, to her taking the first tentative steps to becoming a recording artist to…well, what happened to her next.
The early parts of Amy are just lovely for they capture Amy as an excited young woman embarking on an expedition into fame, incredulous that she might be able to make a living out of her incredible voice and talent. And her lovable gobbiness is nowhere better illustrated than an interview where the interviewer unwisely compares her to Dido, not a comparison which Amy took kindly to.
As I say, I’ve not watched the shows that aired last night (but I will), and in particular the one called Reclaiming Amy (so if I’m off the mark here, that’s why) because it seemed like a damage limitation exercise by those who did not exactly come off well in Amy, and by that I mean her mother, Janis, to some extent, but mostly her father Mitch, who appears in the trailer for Reclaiming Amy saying “People say to me: you killed your daughter”).
Her mother, because in one interview in Amy she remembers how Amy once told her about a fantastic diet she had discovered. “I can eat as much as I like,” she recalls Amy telling her, “and then just go and bring it back up again”. “
And,” Janis continues, “that’s like bulimia.”
It’s not like bulimia, it is bulimia.
“I thought it was just a phase she’d grow out of,” Janis opines at one point. “Mitch knew, and he agreed.”
It transpires that Janis and Mitch, Amy’s father, had separated, when Mitch had a very long extra-marital affair before finally leaving his wife for his new love. Amy can be heard reflecting on this: “Even when he was at home, he was never really at home.” There are then tales of how, with no father figure in her life, Amy became uncontrollable.
Mitch doesn’t seem to to reappear into Amy’s life until she is getting famous; in fact he seems to reappear just in time to decide that she didn’t need to go to rehab for her addiction issues. This, of course, proved to be the lyrical inspiration of her big breakout tune:
I don’t know about you, but I can’t think of another record as great as Rehab which I find such a tough listen. It’s the “Daddy thinks I’m fine” bit, it just makes me angry, knowing how the story ends, and how it could have been nipped in the bud right there.
And that’s the irony of her brilliant Back to Black album; all of the songs are about the sadness in her life, and in particular about the break-up from Blake Fielder.
For if ever there was a film which contained an obvious “The Bad Guy Enters” scene, it’s Amy and the appearance of Fielder. The couple were both in relationships when they met, but embarked on an affair which ended when Fielder went back to his girlfriend.
Ironically, that break-up was the inspiration behind much of the lyrics on the Back to Black album, not least the title track:
And then, predictably rather than ironically, as Amy became a superstar, Fielder is back on the scene, boasting in an interview about how he gave Amy her first hits of crack cocaine and heroin on the same night.
The two marry, and there is footage of them in a bar on the big day, where Fielder pretends not to know what had happened that day, before pronouncing himself skint and asking “Who’s paying for this?” “Amy is,” says someone, and he orders a bottle of champagne.
What a guy.
She’s caught in a perfect storm at this point, her fame spiralling out of control, chased down the streets by the paps, her only refuge time with her new husband, whose drink and drug intake she tries to keep up with.
It’s evident that she was utterly unprepared for life as a star, and it seems nobody was willing to help her.
There’s a sequence where Amy and Fielder attend an initial rehab counselling session, but the expert (in his off the camera interview) reveals that whilst he thought Amy was open to the idea of getting clean, Fielder seemed more interested in keeping her addicted so that the gravy train he was riding didn’t leave town.
It’s just so saddening that so many opportunities to save her were missed, particularly when the final devastating moment arrives. Having got herself away from Fielder and clean of drugs, to a point where she felt able to reach out to her old friends to apologise and try to make good, despite the warnings she had, one drink too many made her heart stop. For good, this time.
I’d not long moved to London when she died, and I remember Hel and I watching the news reports of her death coming in. We’d heard that she had gotten clean, and were looking forward to what might come next. That said, neither of us was really surprised, but we were saddened that nobody had been able to, or wanted to enough, help her.
No matter who you may think is culpable for her death, one thing is clear: this was a vulnerable young woman, thrust into the spotlight of fame, unable to cope with it, and with a supporting network more interested in making money than in making her well. I’d like to think times have changed and we’d do better now, but I’m not so sure, when I think about the likes of Caroline Flack, who took her own life because she couldn’t deal with the press attention anymore.
Here’s what I’m saying: I’d love to think that lessons have been learned about harassing and hassling those in the public eye, but nothing was learned by the media after the death of Diana, nothing was learned from the death of Amy, and when you see the attempt at taking down Marcus Rashford this week by certain right-wing sectors of the press, you wonder whether anything will ever be learned in the battle for sales figures.
Probably not by them. But, I’d like to think, a lot by those who have a vote.
This is the birth of a song which went on to become a favourite; invited into the BBC Radio 1 studio to record an acoustic version of one of her own songs, along with a cover version, she gave this, later transformed into an absolute smash hit:
When I last posted something by The Handsome Family, it was Far From Any Road, the theme tune to TV drama True Detective and was rather well received by y’all.
‘Bout time I posted something else by them, then, so here goes. This from their 2006 album Last Days of Wonder, which sounds like it’s going to be quite an upbeat, summery record until the lyric “Why do you leave a trail of death?Air turns brown, trees fall down” catches your ear and focuses the mind. Yes, we’re in gothic Americana territory here:
I’ve recently *coughs* acquired pretty much their entire back catalogue, so you can probably expect them to pop up more frequently here once I’ve had chance to check it all out. Early signs are that I may be in love with them.
In a desperate attempt not to talk about last Sunday’s football result, or the fall-out from it, I’ve decided to bury myself in some pop records this morning.
As I’m sure many of you do, I love watching the old re-runs of Top of the Pops on BBC4 on a Friday evening, reminiscing about what I was doing and with whom when I first heard some of the songs that feature, wondering who the hell some of the acts – and hosts – are and why I have absolutely no recollection of them, to the extent that I recently bought myself this t-shirt:
I thought it looked pretty cool and retro, until, as she scanned my groceries through, a shop assistant nodded towards it and said “Awww, your kids must think the world of you to have bought you that!”
So, that’s another tee-shirt I will probably never wear out again, shoved into a drawer along with my Teenage Fanclub one, which just gets me waaaay too many suspicious looks from people who don’t know it’s the name of a band and who think I’m a very confident pervert. (Insert joke about them being half right here, if you must.)
Anyway, traditionally my Friday night warm-up to writing something on here involves a) some booze, and b) watching one of the music documentaries shown on BBC4 or, more recently, Sky Arts.
Recently, though, there’s been a new pretender to the throne, and it airs on Channel 5, of all places – a channel I only usually visit when they had the rights to the cricket highlights, which they no longer do.
But for the past couple of months, every Friday night at 10:00, they’ve been showing a succession of shows called, in that way that only a show on Channel 5 can be titled, Britain’s Biggest Hits.
Lasting ninety minutes each week, they play (clips of) the thirty top selling singles from a certain year, with TOTP2 style factoids appearing on the screen, and talking heads from an array of guests.
And what an glittering calibre of guests they have: here’s Tania Evans! (Who? Only the singer from Culture Beat, that’s who!) telling us that she “really liked” a featured song; now here’s some bloke who is in some way which is never explained, linked to Our Price music stores in the 1990s; here’s – wow, someone I’ve heard of! – Shaun Ryder, in slightly (but only slightly, mind) less sweary mode than he is on Celebrity Gogglebox offering such insights as “If you remember the 1990s then you weren’t really there” (no, Shaun, that’s just you – and I say that as someone who loved the Happy Mondays, adored Black Grape, right up until 1997 when they released their second album Stupid Stupid Stupid, which is pure plop) (Note to self: Idea for new feature where I write about truly awful pop songs, called This Is Plop!); here’s Lee Latchford-Evans (y’know, the bloke from Steps that wasn’t H) offering such perceptive insights as : “We were like Marmite, people either loved us or hated us!” which, if nothing else, accurately displays the extent of his original creative input into the band’s success; here’s Lorraine Crosby (Who? Only the lady who sang the female vocals on Meat Loaf’s 1993 smasheroo I Would Do Anything For Love (But I Won’t Do That), but who was replaced by another, more…er…’photogenic’ lady in the video, that’s who!); here’s one of Boyzone – don’t ask me which one: not Ronan, not the dead one or the one who used to be in Corrie, one of the other ones. Possibly the one whose sisters were in B*Witched – moaning about how he hated recording cover versions, before going on to say he loved murdering recording Baby Can I Hold You because he had no idea it was a cover version of Tracy Chapman’s original version from her multi-million selling debut eponymous album, released some nine years earlier. That’s as may be, nameless Boyzone man, but you knew you hadn’t written it yourself, didn’t you?; oh and here’s one of the girls from B*Witched – possibly one of the sisters of…oh, you get the drift – announcing how they had led to teenage girls adopting double denim as the go-to fashion statement, as if that were something to be proud of.
As you can guess, about 80% of the enjoyment I get from the show is the input of the guests, all pompously pontificating in the blandest possible way about whatever tune is being scutinised.
But the show also serves as a timely reminder of some truly great pop records.
Not that you’ll have forgotten (m)any of those featured – as I mentioned, this is a show which focuses on the thirty best selling singles from a certain year, there’s a few surprise inclusions, but ultimately nothing obscure here – but every now and then a single pops up and you remember just how great pop music can be.
Like this one, which appeared in last night’s show, which was about 1998:
All Saints are an English-Canadian girl group formed in London in 1993. They were founded as All Saints 188.8.131.52 by music manager Ron Tom, who later also founded Sugababes, with members Melanie Blatt, Shaznay Lewis, and Simone Rainford. The group struggled to find commercial success upon being signed to ZTT Records and were dropped by the label shortly after Rainford left the group. In 1996, the group were joined by sisters Nicole and Natalie Appleton and signed to London Records under their shortened name.
Part of the 1990s wave of British girl groups, their debut album, All Saints (1997), peaked at number two on the UK Albums Chart and went on to become the UK’s third best-selling girl group album of all time. The album contained three UK number one singles: “Never Ever”, “Under the Bridge”/”Lady Marmalade” and “Bootie Call”. “Never Ever” is the second best-selling girl group single of all-time in the UK, behind the Spice Girls’ “Wannabe”. It also won two Brit Awards: Best British Single and Best British Video, and the group were nominated for Best British Breakthrough Act. Their second album, Saints & Sinners (2000), became their first UK number-one album and achieved multi-platinum success. It included the UK number one singles “Pure Shores” and “Black Coffee”. Amid in-fighting among the group members, All Saints split the following year.
The group later reformed after signing to Parlophone Records to release their third album, Studio 1 (2006). However, the album bowed at number 40 in the United Kingdom and All Saints were dropped by their label shortly afterwards. Following a second split in 2009, the group reunited in 2014 for a series of live performances, prompting the group to release Red Flag (2016), and Testament (2018). As of January 2016, All Saints have sold 12 million records.
One of the talking heads (and I should stress, when I say “the talking heads”, I do not mean the Talking Heads, but you’d got that, right?) gushing forth on the band on last night’s show was 6Music‘s Mark Radcliffe, who, after talking about how the band had influenced the dress sense of teenage girls slightly older than those following B*Witched‘s denim obsession, observed that they had a great songwriter in Shaznay in their ranks, didn’t sound like any other band – girl group or otherwise – and that when you listen to All Saints now, you get a sense that they never quite achieved as much as they should have done.
And I think he has a point; although selling 12 million records shows they were no slouches, you do listen to some of their singles and just wish there had been more.
For example, this, the main song from the soundtrack of Danny Boyle’s ever-so-slightly underwhelming 2000 film The Beach, which, whenever I hear now, I’m immediately transported back to Brighton beach, and Fatboy Slim’s Big Beach Boutique II from 2002, which I was at, and will probably write about come the twentieth (ouch!) anniversary of it next year (if I remember, that is):
I’ve tried to ignore it, vowed not to write about it, but I can’t really ignore it any longer.
So if by writing this I somehow manage to jinx it, I’m sorry.
With apologies and deference to my Welsh, Scottish and Irish friends (and you lot over in that Europe thing), tonight a pretty big thing is happening in the world of sport.
The mens’ England football team have made it to a final of a tournament for the first time since 1966.
I imagine this comes as a surprise to you. It’s barely been mentioned in the mass media over the past couple of weeks.
And this is why I have issued a rallying call to many of my non-English friends: support us tonight, because if we win, we just might shut up about having won the World Cup once. (We won’t, of course. We’ll continue to bang on about that and this as the greatest triumphs in our history, along with a couple of World Wars, conveniently glossing over the colonialism and slavery that we definitely weren’t part of.)
The other week I mentioned in passing the age old discussion about which is the better England football song, this (from 1990):
(Incidentally, nobody ever sings the less “30 years of hurt”-centric version from 1998, do they? I watched England v Columbia (2-0) and England v Argentina (1-1, Argentina won on penalties) in a pub in Nottingham with my old friends Daints and Louise. After the Columbia game, I was challenged by a local drunkard to sing-a-long to both versions. I won, obviously. Can’t quite recall what the prize was, for some reason….)
The reason that its these two songs – World in Motion and Three Lions – which come up in competition against each other as being the Best Football Song…Ever! is, in my book, clear: neither of them make the mistake of referencing players in the England squad for the tournament being sung about.
I’m sure this is the main reason that this is not viewed equally fondly (although the “Gerard to Beckham…” coda is my favourite bit of this):
Both songs are brilliant for different reasons. World in Motion is technically the better song (even if it was an old throwaway New Order song, given new life by Keith Allen and a John Barnes rap), but Three Lions is the far superior terrace sing-a-long.
One of them now has a distinct disadvantage though, for, just like when politicians try to earn credibility points by claiming to like bands they think they should like (see Gordon Brown and the Arctic Monkeys, David Cameron and The Smiths), as England have progressed through the competition, so we have seen growing numbers of politicians suddenly try to gain some column inches by grabbing on the coat-tails of something popular in the hope that some of that love and admiration displayed by the public to the football team, may in some may rub-off on them.
I’m so sorry, I appear to have used the phrase “rub-off on them” just as I’m about to post a link to Jacob Rees-Mogg. For the record, please do not rub anything off, on, near or whilst looking at Rees-Mogg.
1-0 to Three Lions, because I don’t think I can ever listen to World in Motion again after that.
But then there are problems with the very title of the Baddiel/Skinner/Lightning Seeds smasheroo:
1-1, and it’s looking more and more like We’re On The Ball taking over.
Anyway, the slew of (mostly Conservative) MPs jumping on the bandwagon of supporting the England team has been a truly nauseous sight. King of these charlatans was Boris, who turned up at Wembley dressed as most football fans do, with an England shirt over the top of a shirt and tie:
Boris doesn’t care about football. Boris cares about photo-opportunities. He was, rightly called out by Gary Neville in a bit of marvellous punditry where he compared Johnson’s record and professional demeanour with the current England manager, Gareth Southgate:
Boris wasn’t alone in climbing on this particular bandwagon. Here’s Priti Patel, daughter of immigrants, who earlier in the tournament said this:
Which makes all of her subsequent tweets, such as this one from Wednesday night, seem all the more disingenuous:
She may be wearing an England shirt, but there’s no evidence here that she’s watching the match. I suspect that, just out of shot, is a man holding up photos of babies – of colour, obviously – drowning as they and their parents raft goes down as they try to escape the horrible world from which they came.
For this week, Patel has been banging on about the new Borders Bill, passed through the House of Commons this week, which *ahem* gives us back control of our borders (this which, as you all know by now, we already had before Brexit but couldn’t be bothered to implement by way of funding properly).
Amongst other things, the Bill makes it illegal to help or assist anyone that you know or suspect to be a potential immigrant to get to our shores safe and sound. So were you to be out in the Channel in a boat, and you came across a load of immigrants on a disintegrating raft, you are now forbidden to help them. You must, says the Bill, leave them to drown, or you will be prosecuted for saving them.
Which makes the RNLI’s job a lot trickier.
So, if Priti Patel had her way, this is how the current England team would line up:
I mean, it’d be tense match, but I don’t rate our chances of scoring too highly.
And to clarify, here’s the rest of the starting eleven’s roots, all banned under Patel’s blinkered thought process:
What I’m saying is this: you don’t get to encourage people to boo the England football team, and then try to wrap yourself in the glow of their success. People remember this sort of thing.
Patel may win the Most Hypocritical MP of the Month – or pretty much any month, as it goes, but she doesn’t win the Stupidest MP of the Month award, for that can only go to Lee Anderson, who refused to accept that the England players taking the knee before kick off, in a show of unity against all forms of inequality, was their reason for doing so – despite them issuing a formal statement to explain their motivation – and had vowed not to watch any of the England matches in protest:
Excuse my language, but what a fucking idiot. I’m glad he’s missing out on all of this (although I’ll bet he’s watching really).
Anyway, when it comes to discussing which is the best football song ever, I always find it hard to get past this one:
Although, from the same tournament, the first I can remember watching, this – bar the mention of the squad being ‘Ron [Greenwood]’s 22’, which if you try really hard can be changed to ‘Southgate’s 22’ anyway – seems much more appropriate:
Although, were there any justice in this world – which there isn’t – then this, from 2010, would be our go-to England record every time. There’s only two things wrong with this: firstly, the Shuttleworth referred to isn’t John, and secondly: it’s not actually very good.