Sunday Morning Coming Down

More death this morning, I’m afraid.

This one I was alerted to by way of a comment from Charity Chic last weekend: at the age of 84, Don Everly has gone off to resume hostilities with his brother Phil in that great argument in the sky.

The Everly Brothers are one of those acts that it’s easy to dismiss, because of their ubiquitousness – they’ve just always been there, even if they weren’t speaking to each other for most of the time (a template followed many years later by the Gallagher siblings).

You hear many bands mention how important The Everly Brothers were, how they influenced them, and yet they have never really seemed to have been given their dues in the wider circle.

Over the years, I’ve seen many a country artist site them as an influence, but I’ve never really understood that connection: to me they bridged the gap between skiffle and early rock’n’roll, and if I had to pin my colours to the mast then I’d describe them as an early rock’n’roll duo.

But then, a few years ago, I heard the Foreverly album by the somewhat unlikely duo of Norah Jones and Green Day’s Billie Jo Armstrong and then it suddenly clicked:

Billie Joe Armstrong + Norah Jones – Silver Haired Daddy of Mine

Strong recommends for that album, by the way.

Here’s my favourite song by The Everly Brothers, a record my parents owned on 7″ single, and if ever you needed an example of how sibling vocals work so well together, then this is it:

The Everly Brothers – Cathy’s Clown

RIP Don.

More soon.

Late Night Stargazing

I’ve written before – here and here – about my love of a spontaneous car-journey sing-a-long. It had bothered me, though, that I couldn’t recall a single example of this joyous, bonding experience ever making an appearance in a film or TV series.

Doubtless you’re all muttering moments under your breath right now, and you’re right, I had completely forgotten about one such sequence in a film, which I haven’t watched in donkey’s years, but happened to watch the other day, when it cropped up on one of the movie channels I subscribe to.

I speak, of course, of Cameron Crowe’s 2000 masterpiece Almost Famous, which tells the story of a teenage journalist writing for Rolling Stone magazine in the early 1970s, his touring with the fictitious rock band Stillwater, and his efforts to get his first cover story published.

Anyway, here’s the clip:

Were he still around, then Llŷr and I would have raised bottles of beer to our mouths to hide the fact we didn’t know all the words many times throughout that, all the time giggling and giving each other knowing looks.

It’s not the first, nor the most recent, time the song has cropped up in a film. Perhaps less surprisingly, it features in the rather wonderful Rocketman, a film I wanted to hate (I’ll explain why some other time) but which I actually think is, as they say in the land of the luvvies, an absolute triumph (dahling!):

Taron Egerton – Tiny Dancer

(For ages now, I’ve been meaning to write a post comparing Rocketman with the other biopic that came out around the same time, Bohemian Rhapsody. I’ll get round to it eventually, y’know, like I keep saying about the next episode of The Chain…)

And here’s the song itself, from Elton’s 1971 album Madman Across The Water; unbelievably, this never got released as a single in the UK (before the pedants leave comments: not until 2015, when it managed to reach #70 in the charts):

Elton John – Tiny Dancer

And not a mention of mondegreen Tony Danza in sight.

More soon.

Same Title, Different Song

Been a while since I posted one of these, so, by way of making up for lost time, not two but three songs cut from the same title cloth. And what very different sounding songs these three are indeed.

First up, from their 1990 debut album, Pod, a record cited by Kurt Cobain as being one of his favourites (“The main reason I like [the Breeders] is for their songs, for the way they structure them, which is totally unique, very atmospheric. I wish Kim was allowed to write more songs for the Pixies, because ‘Gigantic‘ is the best Pixies song, and Kim wrote it.” He has a point…), here’s rock’n’roll’s Kim Deal (her twin sister Kelley had not joined at this point), Tanya Donnelly, Josephine Wiggs and Britt Walford (the latter recording under the pseudonym Shannon Doughton for some reason):

The Breeders – Oh!

Well, that’s got the day off to a cheery start, hasn’t it?

No fear, for the second track with the same name is from one of my favourite albums ever, and by a band who I really should post more of sometime.

See, hailing from Bristol long before hailing from Bristol was cool, The Brilliant Corners were one of the…erm…corner stones of my evolution into a fully-fledged Indie Kid. Literate and erudite, telling desperately sad stories of failed and failing relationships, singer Davey Woodward’s delivery mostly monotone, bordering on flat, set to a background of mostly jingly-jangly guitars, it would be oh-so-easy to make comparisons with a certain other band from Manchester. You know who I mean.

But in 1988, they released an album, Somebody Up There Likes Me, where they did something that ‘other’ band would never dare to do: they introduced a brass section. The result is a wonderful album which I own on vinyl having bought it back in the day and which still gets a spin every now and again, over thirty years later, and I still love it; twelve songs, pretty much all of them sounding upbeat and covered in horns, until you listen a little closer and realise the often mournful content of Woodward’s lyrics.

This, the closing track from Side One, is a case in point:

The Brilliant Corners – Oh!

I sense a post featuring more from that album on the horizon.

And finally, to the third song of your trio, and this is much newer, having only been released in July 2021, so no mp3 links for this one; you should go stream or preferably buy it. Hailing from Los Angeles, these are The Linda Lindas and they need to be played loud:

That’s pretty darn fantastic in my book.

You can stream & download it here.

More soon.

Sunday Morning Coming Down

It’s been a tough week in the world of celebrity deaths; on Thursday it was announced that comedian Sean Lock had died – more on him later – and earlier in the week, with much less fanfare here in the UK, I learned when scrolling through Twitter that Nanci Griffith had passed away.

At the time of writing, at her own behest, the cause of death has not been announced, but Griffith had previously beaten both breast and thyroid cancer, so chances are that bastard has scored another heart-breaking victory.

Griffith was born in Seguin, Texas, and her career spanned a variety of musical genres, predominantly country, folk, and what she termed “folkabilly”. Although she was probably best known on this side of the pond as being the writer of Bette Midler’s 1990 smash-hit From a Distance, which went on to win the Grammy for Song of the Year in 1991, she also won a Grammy Award for Best Contemporary Folk Album in 1994 for her 1993 recording, Other Voices, Other Rooms.

As a mark of the high esteem she was held in, she also record duets with the likes of Emmylou Harris, John Prine, Don McLean, Jimmy Buffett and Willie Nelson (to name but a few), and she contributed If These Old Walls Could Speak to the AIDS benefit album Red Hot + Country, a song which she co-wrote with the legendary Jimmy Webb.

I happened to pick up her (Grammy nominated) 1986 album The Last of the True Believers on vinyl a few weeks ago; it’s a thing of beauty, and I’d been meaning feature something from it ever since.

Griffith’s lyrical style is often story-telling, and nowhere is that more evident than here, on Love at the Five and Dime, lifted from the aforementioned album:

Nanci Griffith – Love At The Five And Dime

Another great one gone.

RIP Nanci.

More soon.


This shouldn’t take too long.

As we all watched the upsetting images of Afghans desperately trying to flee the country by clinging onto aircraft as they took off, and we heard the horrific stories of former Afghan colleagues who we had been left behind being executed, we learned something new.

Dominic Raab is as lazy as he is stupid.

This remember is the man who took over from David Davies as Brexit Minister and somehow managed to make his predecessor look almost competent. Dominic Raab: the man who, during a speech he gave during his tenure as Brexit Minister said: “We are – and I hadn’t quite understood the full extent of this – if you look at the UK and look at how we trade in goods, we are particularly reliant on the Dover-Calais crossing.”

Just to paraphrase that: “The UK is an island, and I hadn’t quite fully understood the extent of this, it really is jolly close to France.”

Dominic Raab: the man briefly charged with agreeing the withdrawal terms for Brexit, who admitted he hadn’t read the Good Friday Agreement, despite the Agreement being intrinsically linked to any relationship past, present or future, with the European Union.

So, I think we can agree: either monumentally stupid or monumentally arrogant. You can choose.

And now, in his current position as Foreign Secretary, we know that he decided not to call the Afghan foreign minister as the situation worsened. Instead, he sent one of his staff off to do it; he was on holiday, goddamit, and no humanitarian crisis or military threat was going to interrupt it. He got up ruddy early to bagsy this sun-lounger, and he wasn’t going to do anything that might jeopardise that.

That phone call could – I am not saying would – could have saved some lives. If it had saved just one, then it would have been worth letting the ice in your piña colada melting.

The Conservatives love to invoke that Churchillian spirit, but can you imagine where we would be now if Winston had declined to react to the threat of Hitler because he was taking a couple of weeks off?

Oh hang on, maybe that’s why he wanted to fight them on the beaches…

Something else Raab seemed to forget: insurgent terrorist groups are not fond of the West, and care unsurprisingly little about whether their activities coincide with a convenient window in his calendar. Did he expect they’d go: “Oh, Dom’s on holiday is he? Ah well, fair enough. We’ll leave it a couple of weeks before we attempt to seize control of anywhere important then. Enjoy your break, Dom! Bring us some rock back!”

And so this week, we have also seen the usual carousel of Tory MPs we’ve never seen or heard before thrust out in front of the cameras to defend Dom – doubtless at the instruction of our glorious leader: “Come on chaps and chapesses, let’s form a ring around The Raabster!” – each one insisting he is working to ‘tirelessly’ and ‘to the best of his capabilities’, the latter of which is perfectly obvious to even the most myopic Magoo.

Johnson himself has insisted he has “every confidence” in Raab. In football, when we hear that a beleaguered manager has the full support of the board we all know he’s about to get the sack. But when Johnson makes similar statements, we know that what he actually means is: “Thick, lazy, entitled and arrogant? Your job’s safe. You’re such a chip off the block that I may have just identified one of my kids.”

Anyway. A song.

Morrissey – The Lazy Sunbathers

More soon.

New Mood on Monday

More inspiration from Twitter this morning, as last week somebody posted a bloopers clip from a TV show, which featured this morning’s upbeat beauty.

It’s a song and a clip I shared on here many moons ago, but I figured that my posts have become so infrequent most people have lost interest by now and wandered off elsewhere, so a little recycling won’t hurt anyone.

The TV show in question is Peter Kay’s Car Share and the clip features Peter Kay as John Redmond, Sian Gibson as Kayleigh Kitson, and Reece Shearsmith as “Stinky” Ray. John and Kayleigh’s usual car-share drive to the supermarket where they work has been disrupted on this occasion, firstly by Kayleigh’s honking hangover, and then by “Stinky” Ray – so-called because he works on the fish counter at the supermarket – who blags a lift from them when his bus is late.

A song comes on the radio which Ray insists is turned up so he can sing-a-long, the joke being that he doesn’t actually know the words and makes them up.

Given the show’s loose, improvisational format, Kay and Gibson have no idea what Shearsmith is going to come out with, and you can see the moment when Shearsmith realises that Kay and Gibson are both cracking up at him and he starts to deliberately mess about and try to make them laugh, like a Sunny-D’d up kid trying to impress his parents on a long boring drive:

And here’s the song in question, and if you watch the clip first, I defy you not to sing “lyrical dance-flap” at the appropriate moments:

Ini Kamoze – Here Comes The Hotstepper

More soon.

Sunday Morning Coming Down

Yes, yes, I know I’ve posted this song before, and I imagine you all know this song anyway (and if not, why not? Listen to it, godammit it!). But it’s such a beautiful record, I’m not going to make any apologies for the repeat, especially when I have a kinda new way to present it to you.

This is a live version which was brought to my attention (not just me, but also the attention of all his other followers on Twitter) by comedian Robin Ince the other day.

Now: imagine you’re a young sibling folk duo from Scandinavia, who have written a song about the beauty of singing with someone you love. You mention four famous Country music artists (two duos) in the lyrics: Emmylou Harris & Gram Parsons, and Johnny Cash & June Carter.

Imagine you name the song after one of those people.

Now imagine you have achieved a degree of international success, and you are invited to perform said song at an international music prize ceremony, celebrating the power and importance of music.

And that person you named the song after is not only the only one of the four still alive, but she’s in the audience, and she’s there because her life’s work is being celebrated.

Enjoy (but have tissues at the ready):

First Aid Kit – Emmylou (Live at the Polar Music Prize 2015)

Gets me every time I hear it.

No you’ve got something in your eye.

More soon.

No Such Thing as a Guilty Pleasure

This morning a band, and their debut single, who I was often ridiculed for liking when I was younger, and such smirks and nudges have followed me ever since.

“See him?” I would imagine I overheard people whispering to each other. “He likes Dire Straits.”

Let me put them in chronological context; first I had adored and wanted to be Shakin’ Stevens; then, briefly, I really liked The Police, who were swiftly ousted from their pole position by Status Quo, who in turn, much as I may have tried to deny it throughout my twenties and early thirties, have never really strayed too far from the top of my favourite musical acts. But before I discovered what is now known as “indie music”, there was a brief period where Dire Straits were the band who came closest to usurping my double-denimed heroes.

I’ve written before that I don’t think any of us really stop or grow out of loving the pop records we loved as a kid; they may be superseded by cooler bands with cooler haircuts but that little kernal forever remains within. I still have a few songs by Shaky on my iPod, and I absolutely love it when they pop up on shuffle, for they remind me of much happier and more innocent times.

By the time the Straits bug bit, I was in my mid-teens, still relatively happy (although my parents saw little evidence of this) but a lot less innocent (but still a lot more innocent than I strove to be, if you catch my drift).

Like many others, my jumping-on point with Dire Straits was their 1985 behemoth album Brothers in Arms, which I bought, along with pretty much everybody else, it’s polished sound serendipitously linked forever to the new format about to revolutionise the way we consumed music: the compact disc.

I began to investigate them further, purchasing something from their back catalogue whenever I ventured into town. I remember being relieved that, at the time, there was only four albums and an EP to catch up on, not like the umpteen albums and Best Ofs that I had to plough through when learning how to love the Quo (which was a joy, not a chore, obviously).

I think the last one I bought was their debut, eponymous album, which contained Sultans of Swing, a track I already owned on a various artists compilation album called Formula 30 I’d picked up a few years earlier.

It’s by far the best thing on that debut album. This, from Wiki:

The lyrics were inspired by a performance of a jazz band playing in the corner of an almost empty pub in Deptford, South London. At the end of their performance, the lead singer announced their name, the Sultans of Swing; [lead Strait man Mark] Knopfler found the contrast between the group’s dowdy appearance and surroundings and their grandiose name amusing.The lyrics also refer to ‘guitar George’, and to ‘Harry’. These references are of George Young and Harry Vanda from the Australian band The Easybeats”

To these ears, Knopfler was describing what we now rightly recognise and revere as the Pub Rock sound of the 1970s, that gave us such acts as Dr Feelgood and Squeeze, to name but two; “Sultans…” is practically a social document of the movement, of band members who were playing for fun with no real thought of making it professionally (“And Harry doesn’t mind if he doesn’t make the scene/He’s got a daytime job, he’s doing alright/He can play the Honky Tonk like anything/Saving it up for Friday night”) and of largely disinterested audiences (“They don’t give a damn ’bout any trumpet playing band/That ain’t what they call rock’n’roll”).

And then there were those between-lines guitar flourishes we would come to be familiar with; to this teenager, who had recently graduated from an acoustic guitar to his first electric one, this was my catnip, a great way to learn to play little riffs and licks, which I studied and copied and learned how to play in my own not-quite-as-good way.

Again from Wiki: “Writing in 2013 on the impact of the song, Rick Moore of American Songwriter reflected:

‘With “Sultans of Swing” a breath of fresh air was exhaled into the airwaves in the late ’70s. Sure, Donald Fagen and Tom Waits were writing great lyrics about characters you’d love to meet and Jeff Beck and Eddie Van Halen were great guitar players. But Knopfler, he could do both things as well or better than anybody out there in his own way, and didn’t seem to have any obvious rock influences unless you try to include Dylan. Like his contemporary and future duet partner Sting, Knopfler’s ideas were intellectually and musically stimulating, but were also accessible to the average listener. It was almost like jazz for the layman. “Sultans of Swing” was a lesson in prosody and tasty guitar playing that has seldom been equalled since. If you aren’t familiar with “Sultans of Swing” or haven’t listened to it in a while, you should definitely check it out.’

No, I’ve no idea what prosody means either.

With an unbiased, fresh pair of ears, if you will please:

Dire Straits – Sultans of Swing

See? Bloody marvellous.

Oh, and since he’s back in hospital (again) and I know he likes this one, this is for you Dad.

More soon.

“In the End, It Took Me a Dictionary to Find Out the Meaning of Unrequited” #11

May 2018. That was the last time I posted anything in this series.

Can’t really blame that on a lockdown/Covid related slump, now can I?

Anyway, this came up on shuffle the other day and, when I checked, I was surprised to see that I hadn’t posted this classic at all before, let alone in this series.

I don’t think I need to say any more about this one, other than to say that it perfectly captures that feeling of indignation one gets when the girl you think should be with you is with someone else:

Joe Jackson – Is She Really Going Out With Him?

What better way to start the weekend than with disillusionment and disappointment, eh?

More soon.

Not Even Always The Bridesmaid

Inspired by the choice of song for the first dance at my niece’s wedding at the weekend, and since it seems increasingly unlikely I’ll ever be in a position to be choosing one of my own, I thought I’d write a short series featuring a few of the ones I recall from weddings I have been to (fairly) recently.

Shortly after I moved to London, two different couples I’m friends with announced their impending nuptials, and invited me to attend their big days which, to be clear, were held several years apart. But in a very odd moment of serendipity, both couples chose the same song as their first dance.

It’s by a band who inspire utter devotion from their fans, but a band that I’ve never really “got”, a band – neither dislike nor particularly love.

Were friends to describe the sort of bands I usually like, then you could be forgiven for picturing The National as being one of those bands. Yet, there’s a weird disconnect which I’ve never been able to bridge. I don’t change radio channels when their songs get played (in fact, I’m more likely to turn the radio up), but I don’t rush to buy their new stuff – in fact, I own very little by them – and, were I to compile one, they wouldn’t be anywhere near bothering a list of my 100 favourite acts.

That said, I can see precisely why newly-weds might choose their songs for their momentous moment. There’s something awkwardly but gloriously romantic about their sound, I think.

Maybe, as with so many other acts, I just need to investigate them further.

Anyway, here’s

The National – Slow Show

More soon.