Saturday Night Coming Up

Another story from my clubbing days and this one is definitely not for the faint hearted.

And I should immediately stress, I am not directly involved in this one, it’s about some people I know, so the names have been changed to protect the innocent.

You’ll see why I’m so keen to disassociate myself from any direct involvement in this one shortly. But first, a wee litmus test.

Watch this (poorly captured – sorry!) clip. If you’re like Partridge at the start of the clip, do not read on. If you’re like Partridge at the end of the clip, you’ll probably be ok. By the end of this, you will know if today’s story is for you or not.

Still here? Ok, then I’ll continue.

The first thing I’d say is: each to their own. If that’s how you get your kicks, fill your boots. Wellingtons or waders. Assuming it’s all consensual, of course.

As I said, I need to change the name of the two main protagonists in this one. I don’t actually know the name of one of them, which makes things slightly less complicated. And as for the other – well, this is set in Wales and he had a good stout, traditional Welsh surname, y’know like Jones, Williams, Evans.

Evans – that’ll do. And, categorically, it is not the actual name of the person involved.

I first met ‘Evans’ in a club in Cardiff, The Emporium in case you’re interested. Possibly the finest club ever to exist, but I’ll get into why that is another time.

So, I first meet ‘Evans’ there, but I’m already aware who he is as he works for the same company as me. But this night is the first time I’ve ever actually spoken to him.

And I say “to” quite correctly here, because seconds after we’re introduced, it becomes very obvious that ‘Evans’ has taken something and he is not doing okay on it. Sporadically and unpredictably, he seems angry, destructive, possibly homicidal, definitely suicidal.

Though ‘off my nut’ myself, I spend the rest of the night making sure he’s ok, talking him through it, calming him down, and by the end of the night, as he’s coming down, he’s fine. I’ll be honest, I’d not had the greatest night out of my life, but knowing that ‘Evans’ wasn’t about to throw himself in front of a speeding car was satisfaction enough.

Over the next few months, Evans doesn’t exactly join the little group I’m with, but he’s sort of on the peripherals. We all know his history and look out for him. Because that’s what you do.

Enter the other player in this story. A woman who many would say was too old to still be clubbing, but when you’re on pills you’re remarkably non-judgemental about that kind of thing.  I’d place her in her 50s at best, maybe her 60s, possibly her 70s. If not, she’s had a really tough life.

We would see her, but not speak to her, every time we went to this particular club night.

And then one night, when I was out with my mate Rob, this:

“Did you hear about ‘Evans’?”

I feared the worst.

“No, what?”

“You know that really old looking woman who always turns up here at about 1 in the morning?”

I am aghast.

“No……! He didn’t….did he……?”

Rob looks at me and nods.

“But it’s better than that,” he says.

And then he tells me.

Evans and this older lady had gone home together. Nothing wrong with that, whatever tickles your fancy and all that.

But.

Sorry, but I need to be fairly graphic now, and as an Englishman that does not sit comfortably.

Let’s say that ‘Evans’ and the pensioner are involved in the physical act of love. He is lying on his back, and she is astride him.

And then she lifts herself off of him, and scooches upwards, so that she is over his chest.

Where, without asking if it’s ok, or even checking that the bedding is waterproof, she just let’s go.

And ‘Evans’ is drenched in pensioner piss.

Look, I’m not here to judge. Maybe it’s fine. Maybe she didn’t think she could make it to the toilet in time. We’ve all been there (I don’t mean astride ‘Evans’). Maybe ‘Evans’ was okay with it (he wasn’t, he definitely wasn’t, which is why I know about it).

This was maybe 15 years ago, which leads me to ask: societally, when did we get to the point where we cared so little about our fellow man, and so much about our own gratification, that we don’t even bother to ask permission before we urinate on someone?

For the record: it’s not okay. My waterproof top-sheet is my own business and nobody else’s.

Let’s have a tune, and I suppose I’d make it an absolute belter to justify everything you’ve just read/endured:

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Atlantic Ocean – Waterfall

With apologies to anyone who can never hear this tune again without that image.

More soon! Less yucky, I promise.

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Adios Amigo

I’ve been pretty busy recently.

You’ve probably noticed that I’ve managed to post something every day this week, but I don’t mean busy in those terms.

I mean in real life, what with life-shattering events that I still haven’t expanded on (and I’m not going to), and the World Cup and…oh, you know. Life. Just life.

Before I started writing this blog, I would generally get home from work and the first thing I’d do would be to have a quick trawl of my favourite blogs, see what they had to say, what they’d posted. But since I started writing here, that happens less and less frequently.

And so it was that it was only a couple of days ago, that I found out that Drew over at Across The Kitchen Table, after nine and a half years of unparalleled brilliance, had decided to hang up his external hard-drive and call it a day.

I have oft cited Jim over at The Vinyl Villain as the main influence on me doing this, but that’s only part of the story. There are many other people whose blogs I visited daily before I joined in, to whom I owe a massive debt and Drew’s was definitely one of them.

I hope beyond hope that he will return again. We all need a break from doing this every now and then, nobody knows this more than me, and I haven’t even posted something of interest on every single day since I started as Drew has.

If you come back Drew, we’ll all be here, with open arms.

If you don’t, well, thank you, for everything. You’ve given us so much I wouldn’t know where to start in breaking it down.

Including this – and such high regard are you held in that last time I posted it, someone told me off for doing so before you had, because it was your song, and you get to post it every year before we’re allowed to.

Which is absolutely fair and right.

It also means that now, this song, is Forever Drew.

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Jonathan Richman & The Modern Lovers – That Summer Feeling

More soon.

The Best Band You’ve Never Heard Of

You know the schtick round these parts by now: post a song within a series, or drop a vaguely amusing story (and link it to a song), or bang on about politics (and link it to a song) blah blah blah.

But the songs I post are generally older ones that you all know already, or maybe have forgotten about; as historically I have never been first to discover a band, I prefer to leave all that “breaking new acts” to those with a better ear for that kind of thing, and a better turn of phrase for describing it than I.

But this morning: something different. The story of a band who peaked in the mid-to-late 1980s then promptly vanished without a trace, amid animosity, violence and even rumours of death and murder.

And I know for a fact that you won’t have heard of them, or anything by them.

Ladies and Gentlemen, I give you the magnificent:

Third Light

I mention Third Light now because today the three founder members, Rob, Phil and “Swing” will be reconvening. It is the first time they have laid eyes on each other in over thirty years.

Let’s get the admin out of the way first: Third Light is one of the coolest band names ever. Fact. But what does it mean? Well, Wikipedia tells us that Third Light is supposedly  a superstition among soldiers during the Crimean War to World War II. Since then it has been considered bad luck for three people to share a light from the same match. The superstition goes that if three soldiers lit their cigarettes from the same match, the man who was third on the match would be shot. The enemy would be alerted to their presence by the first light, able to take aim by the second, and by the third…well, you get the idea.

It would turn out to be a most prophetic name.

The trio first met at school, but had little to do with each other until one Friday night in their final year when a “disco”, for want of a better word, was held in the school hall. But this was no ordinary school disco, it was open to locals too. And more importantly, it had a fully licensed bar. And even more importantly than that, one of the more senior teachers worked behind the bar and he was perfectly happy to serve alcohol to his pupils, even when he recognised them out of uniform, so to speak. (Indeed, it was this teacher and this act of generosity which inspired the first band name suggested: Cliff and the Babes, a name rejected for sounding too much like a novelty act. As if Cliff would have anything to do with children. Take heed, BBC!)

The three found themselves at the bar together, supping pints of snakebite and black, all suddenly aware that they were rocking a very similar look: dressed all in black, hair spiked-up, skinny tight jeans. It was to become a look adopted by their many fans over the next few years; indeed you sometimes spot them to this day. You might know them as goths, or Emo, but back in the day they were known as Lighters.

And it was in this crowded bar on that Friday night that the three of them looked each other up and down and all came to the same decision: it’s not my round. And then they came to another one: these two geeks are my ticket out of here.

They didn’t need a ticket out of there that night though; they were chased out by a group of local thugs who didn’t appreciate people turning up looking a bit different. That night they were forever united as the pitchfork brandishing and flaming torch waving lynch mob kicked seven bells of shit out of them on the village green. Apparently it’s quite hard running away from danger when you’re in skinny jeans, a flouncy blouse and winkle-pickers. If there was any justice in this world, which we know there isn’t, but if there was, then there would be a blue plaque to them there now.  But there isn’t.

The next day, the freshly bandaged three amigos met up again, and their master plan was hatched. They would buy guitars and maybe even learn to play them. The group was split on the need to actually learn how to play their instruments: Phil thought it was important, Rob said he wasn’t going to bother unless the other two definitely were going to, “Swing” pointed out that Sid Vicious couldn’t play his bass guitar and it never did him any harm, Rob and Phil agreed that was a fair point, but the heroin addiction and propensity to murder his own girlfriend didn’t exactly do him much good either.

They did agree that the first step in their march to world domination was to gain notoriety. And so it was that they went to the pub, played some pool and politely agreed with the regular customers that you don’t get two shots on the black, put loads of money in the juke box, programmed it to play Sigue Sigue Sputnik’s Love Missile F1-11 on repeat until all of their money had run out, then left mid-way through the first rendition.

But the cracks were already appearing. Phil did buy a guitar and set about learning some basic chords. Rob told him to let him know once he could play A7, and he’d think about trying to. But several months later, when Phil had mastered that chord, Rob sent him away again, with the same instruction, but this time for F#, but as a bar chord, mind, not the easy way. The chain of command had been established.

“Swing” meanwhile got hold of an electric guitar which, rather than make any attempt at learning to play, he set about taking apart to see how it worked. And after he’d done that, he realised he didn’t know how to put it back together again, so that was the end of that. Back to being the Sid of the band it was, then.

And still the music, the sweet, sweet music kept not coming. The trio worked hard on their “difficult first album”; they designed a logo (as above) and came up with a title: “It Don’t Mean a Thing if it Ain’t Got That Swing.”

And then, the irony-o-meter went off the scale as suddenly the band no longer had Swing. He disappeared without a trace. Many said that he was dead, some said he was murdered. Then came the usual Lord Lucan-esque rumours that he had been spotted. In much the same way as conspiracy theorists said that Paul McCartney was dead because he appeared on the cover of Abbey Road with no shoes on, so the whispers grew that Swing had been spotted on a zebra crossing wearing nothing but his shoes.

Rob and Phil soldiered on, arranging publicity shots to send out as missives to the likes of the NME. Only one photo survives from that shoot:

Third Light promo

In a rare interview in 2015, Phil added a further layer to the mystery, when he was quoted as saying: “It’s an interesting story. Being only weeks after Swing died, Rob and I decided to push on with the new single release. This publicity shot was the first one since his death. Imagine our surprise when the picture was developed with Swing’s face in between us.”

But the band could not recover from the loss of their most enigmatic, if musically ungifted member, and they disbanded just as the major labels were forming orderly queues to sign them up (it says here).

But now they’re back, Back, BACK! And who knows, maybe this time around they may get around to actually recording something. If they do (they won’t) I suspect it will sound like a hybrid of these five bands, all of whom were cited as influences in early interviews:

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The Sisters of Mercy – Alice

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The Jesus & Mary Chain – Taste of Cindy

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Pop Will Eat Itself – Oh Grebo I Think I Love You

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The Pleasureheads – Falling Man

Front Cover

The Alarm – Third Light

Ah. Maybe that’s where they got their name from, then…

Anyway, truth be told, they’re more likely to go find a local pub which has a pool table and this on the juke box:

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Sigue Sigue Sputnik – Love Missile F1-11

More soon.

PS: have a splendid weekend (this weekend) catching up, chaps.

And have a great birthday (next weekend), Bruv. Please can you put my guitar back together again sometime soon?

A History of Dubious Taste – 1986

When I first started writing this blog, the intention was to list every record I had ever bought in the order that I had bought them, to emulate this in some small way:

Nothing would be omitted, no matter how embarrassing the purchase may be (there’s no such thing as a guilty pleasure!) – although this rule quickly fell by the wayside as it would have meant me talking about every Quo record I ever bought in my early to mid-teens – and trust me, I bought A LOT – which would have been tedious in the extreme for y’all.

But still, I figured, every song had a story, and whenever I hear them I’m transported back to a time in my life where there’d be something in the vicinity, some foolish venture or terribly amusing bon mot which might be worth imparting.

Turns out that’s not the case, which is why I haven’t written one of these since December last year.

In other words, there’s not much of a story to impart here either, to be honest.

Also, truth be told, I can’t remember what order I bought things in. Where I bought them, who I was with and what it reminds me of, yes – but when? Not a hope. Just because something came out in May 1986 – as today’s choice did – doesn’t necessarily mean that’s when I bought it.

In 1984, my older brother had bought today’s artist’s second album, The Drum is Everything, and I’d quite liked a couple of songs on it, enough to lead me to buy the first single from the follow-up album.

Neither album nor single were hits (the single peaked at #60 in the UK, the album The Falling got to #88) and it proved to be the last time that Carmel bothered the charts in the UK.

#60 is way to low for this to have got to, in my book.

See what you think:

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Carmel – Sally

More soon.

S.S.O.S. (Stop Spoiling Our Songs)

Wake up! It’s Rant o’clock!

If you live in the UK, and are of a “certain age” the word Nationwide used to mean this, a  magazine current affairs show – a prototype The One Show, if you will – which ran from 1969 until 1983, airing on BBC1 every weekday evening straight after the news:

Ask anyone born after 1983 what Nationwide means to them, from a cultural point of view, and they’ll probably say one of three things:

  1. It’s a Building Society, or
  2. It’s a Building Society responsible for foisting those godawful singing sisters upon us:

Answer: neither of you. She moved house years ago and has never told you where she is now, leaving you to record these hostage videos performed via a twee Glee-filter in an attempt to reconnect with her, just so you can get your greasy mitts on your inheritance.

(Ordinarily, I wouldn’t post the advert in question here, but these are so utterly irritating, I felt compelled to. You’re welcome. Count yourself lucky I chose a really short one.)

Or:

3. It’s a Building Society responsible for foisting really bad poetry upon us.

I could have picked any one of this seemingly never-ending series to post here – they’re all absolutely shockingly bad. This one was the absolute Everest of irritating.

For a start, it’s such a piss-poor effort at poetry, that they even have to add a caption at the start to tell us it’s a poem.

It doesn’t rhyme (yes, I know it doesn’t need to rhyme to be a poem), and it doesn’t scan either (yes, I know it doesn’t…etc etc).

“Laurie” and “Toby” probably think an iambic pentameter is a Scandinavian device used for measuring shapes.

And then there’s the face pulling at the end, saying “Look at us! (We think) We’re so cool and quirky and a hipster!”

I hate them.

Before I watched that advert, I’d never imagined an occupied photo-booth being dropped from a great height into a metal crusher, so at least that’s one thing I’ve gained from it. Every cloud, and all that.

Don’t get me wrong. I like (some) poetry. But frankly, I’d rather listen to this chap:

And these adverts must have a detrimental effect. Surely the point of paying for advertising is to try and persuade people to buy your product, subscribe to your service, join your club, vote the way you want them to. If it isn’t, then Vote Leave could have saved themselves a whole lot of money – the £7 million which they were allowed to spend in the build up to the 2016 referendum, the additional (almost) £500,000 they spent on top of that anyway, or the £61,000.00 they were fined on Wednesday, not to mention the possible (if unlikely) jail sentences awaiting some of them.

But I digress. (No, you’re right. I couldn’t go a whole post without mentioning it).)

The point I make is that these adverts have the opposite effect to that intended. I simply cannot imagine that anyone has ever seen either of those adverts and immediately transferred all of their savings into a Nationwide account. Instead, many have moved their cash elsewhere rather than be associated with them (probably).

I suppose I should be grateful. At least we’re no longer subjected to adverts where scantily clad women fellate chocolate bars in an over-flowing bathtub whilst a lizard crawls over a telephone.

Indeed, “poetry sells” seems to be the new mantra in advertising executive land, for just like mould on a week-old Split Tin, it’s spreading.

Look, here’s another one, this time for a telecommunications company:

There, did you hear it?

Not the poem, which incidentally wasn’t written by the girl in the advert, but by some bloke from the Rattling Stick advertising agency. (Yes. I did some research.)

No, not the poem, but the song playing on the car stereo, which seems to have been specifically chosen to make us think she wrote it. It’s by a feminist punk/new wave/goth icon, living legend and national treasure, and yes, she must have given permission for it to be used in the advert, but I really don’t think that when she wrote the lyrics to Hong Kong Garden, Siouxsie Sioux was thinking “one day, maybe this will be used to authenticate words written by some prick in a pink shirt with the collar turned up.”

As it goes, we know exactly what she was thinking. This:

“I’ll never forget, there was a Chinese restaurant in Chislehurst called the ‘Hong Kong Garden’. Me and my friend were really upset that we used to go there and like, occasionally when the skinheads would turn up it would really turn really ugly. These gits would just go in en masse and just terrorise these Chinese people who were working there. We’d try and say ‘Leave them alone’, you know. It was a kind of tribute…I remember wishing that I could be like Emma Peel from ‘The Avengers’ and kick all the skinheads’ heads in, because they used to mercilessly torment these people for being foreigners. It made me feel so helpless, hopeless and ill.”

Fast forward to 2018. Right-wing extremists are on the rise again, in a country where shaven-headed thugs give Nazi salutes at female Asian bus drivers whilst knuckle-draggers protest that the founder of the English Defence League was wrongly imprisoned (even though he had pleaded guilty for contempt of Court, after he live-streamed from outside Leeds Crown Court – which had the potential to cause a major trial to collapse – when he was already subject to a suspended prison sentence for doing exactly the same thing at Canterbury Crown Court).

Perhaps now is not the time to associate Hong Kong Garden with a mobile phone network. Perhaps, just perhaps, we should remember what Hong Kong Garden actually represents instead, and then perhaps, just perhaps, we should reflect that maybe we haven’t come quite as far since 1978 – when Hong Kong Garden was released – as we thought and hoped we had.

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Siouxsie & The Banshees – Hong Kong Garden

Oh and by the way. If you’re going to use Siouxsie in an advert, at least have the decency not to use her as mere background music. Nobody puts Siouxsie in the corner.

More soon.

Well, Hello Donny (Slight Return)

I refer my learned friends to a post I published last Friday where, tongue placed firmly in cheek, I commented that I expected those prominent Brexiteers who had criticised then-President Obama commenting on Brexit when he visited the UK back in 2016 would doubtless be equally vocal about now-President Trump letting us know of his opinion on the same matter.

It didn’t take long. Anyone care to line some ducks up?

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In 2016, Professional Walter Softy lookalike Jacob Rees Mogg said this of Obama’s words: “no true, honest Briton is going to be told what to do by a Yankee president”, and that he had been “splendidly arrogant” in lecturing the UK on Brexit.

Last week, after Trump’s comments, Rees Mogg showed a Trump-esque lack of self-awareness when he had this to say: “…what Donald Trump has set out is primarily his view on whether the US will do a trade deal with United Kingdom on the basis that we adopt the common European rulebook and stick to all the EU’s rules.

He’s saying ‘Well, that’s a choice for you, that if you do that, you won’t be able to make a deal with the US’.

That’s a perfectly reasonable thing for an American president to say.”

Hmmm.

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A song:

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The Hives – Hate to Say I Told You So

More soon.

Dear Points of View

Dear Barry Took (or whoever hosts Points of View these days. Is it even on anymore…?)

I’ve been greatly enjoying Smashing Hits! The 80s Pop Map of Britain & Ireland, the music documentary series currently showing on BBC4 where 80s pop icons Midge Ure of Ultravox and … erm … *checks notes* … Kim Appleby of Mel and Kim drive around the countries, interviewing leading lights from the 80s pop scene in various towns and attempting to demonstrate that the records they made could only have been conceived in the artists’ home towns at that specific time.

It’s an interesting way of reframing a potted history of the various musical scenes which popped up throughout the 80s, but of course I have a couple of gripes.

Firstly, that bloody awful title, with its superfluous exclamation at the start.

Secondly, it’s a bit too whirlwind. Episode One focused on London, Sheffield and Coventry, and featured interviews with Gary Kemp from Spandau Ballet, Marco Pirroni from Adam and the Ants, Pauline Black from The Selecter, and Martin Ware and Glenn Gregory from Heaven 17, whilst featuring clips of tracks by all of the above and more. The time given to each city seemed about right, but Episode Two tried to cram in too much in too little a time when it attempted to cover all of the music from Scotland, Ireland and Wales in one show.

The Scottish segment was particularly frustrating, as they crammed interviews with lovely Clare Grogan from Altered Images and Pat Kane from Hue and Cry in between a whistle-stop summary of  Postcard Records, Aztec Camera, The Bluebells, The Proclaimers, Deacon Blue. The city in question was, of course, Glasgow, and much was made of the fact that as it’s a port, here was the source of much hard-to-come-by music being imported. Hence, the documentary reveals, many songs were written by working class people about working class issues, having absorbed mostly American musical influences.

I’m not saying that any of this is inaccurate, it was just that the segment of the show dedicated to Scotland/Glasgow was over far too quickly, and for my money overlooked one particular band who wore their influences on their leather sleeves.

Having gone to the effort of noting The Byrds’ jangly guitars lineage to Orange Juice, and the connection between US country and folk music on the likes of The Bluebells, Texas and The Proclaimers, or the significance of soul on Wet Wet Wet and Hue and Cry, then where the heck were The Jesus and Mary Chain?

William and Jim Reid snaffled a look which was a hybrid of Velvet Underground cool and 60s garage rock grubbiness, then pinched a load of  Brian Wilson-esque melodies and set them against a backdrop of Phil Spector’s Wall of Sound – two of the biggest American music icons ever, one of whom went mad, the other committed murder – and drenched them in squealing feedback to create a noise which was their calling card on one of the greatest debut albums not just of the 80s, but ever: Psychocandy.

Like this:

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The Jesus & Mary Chain – Never Understand

Exquisite.

To have talked about 80s music in Glasgow, and not even mention JAMC was a criminal oversight, and frankly it’s not what I pay my TV licence fee for.

Yours Truly, Disgusted of Tunbridge Wells.

(More soon.)