Old

I try to avoid posts marking the anniversaries of records being released for two reasons.

Firstly, I can’t be bothered with, and would have no idea where to start, keeping track of this sort of thing.

Secondly, because I just feel old when I see them.

“It can’t be that long, can it?” I find myself thinking, before looking it up and finding that yes, yes it can be that long ago that the record in question came out, even if does seem like a blink away.

On my Twitter timeline this week, it was brought to my attention that Sleeper’s The It Girl is twenty five years old this week.

I wouldn’t mention it were it not for the fact that I have a ticket for a gig which has been kicked down the road several times because of Covid, where the band will perform the album before this in full, ably supported by The Bluetones doing the same for their debut album, Learning To Fly.

And so it is: Sleeper’s The It Girl is 25, and I dare not look to see how old their debut album Smart is.

So here’s one of the singles from the album, notable for two reasons. Firstly, it’s used as the theme tune to a Radio 4 panel show (either the Sue Perkins hosted Dilemma, or the Victoria Coren-Mitchell hosted Heresy, I can’t remember which now and typically neither are available on the iPlayer at the moment to allow me to check – I think it’s the former):

Sleeper – What Do I Do Now?

And secondly because of this utterly wonderful cover version, by the other Elvis, which I’ve posted before but is so good it deserves another outing:

Elvis Costello & The Attractions – What Do I Do Now?

Take your pick.

More soon.

Sunday Morning Coming Down

It’s a Don Williams song for you this morning, but a version performed as a duet with Emmylou Harris on her cunningly titled Duets album:

Emmylou Harris & Don Williams – If I Needed You

And, since I missed posting last week, here’s a song which that reminds me of, from a truly magnificent film, one of my absolute favourites, A Mighty Wind, which does for folk music what This Is Spinal Tap did for rock music, which is hardly surprising given the same people were behind both films:

Mitch & Mickey – Kiss At The End Of The Rainbow

If you’ve never seen it, seek it out. It is beautiful, funny and moving. I’ll say no more.

Except: More soon.

Late Night Stargazing

In case you were wondering about the somewhat erratic nature of my recent posts, I’m in the middle (hopefully) of a bout of insomnia.

I simply cannot sleep at night, but as soon as I’ve finished work and my arse has hit the settee, I’m out for a couple of hours, which of course means I can’t sleep that night, and so on and so forth ad infinitum.

What this means is that I end up laying on the sofa at ouch o’clock, trying to find something mind-numbingly dull enough to send me to sleep.

It hasn’t worked yet.

What has evolved is a routine of programmes I end up watching: Premiership Years on Sky Sports (“I’ll go back to bed as soon as Spurs are mentioned…wait, which year is this? Who was managing us then…?”), any episode of Police Interceptors, or something of it’s ilk, hopefully one of the episodes set in rural Wales where PC Paddy Duwayne is the hero, snuffling out bail absconders from underneath beds or behind doors; and if I’m still awake at 4:30 (which I am) then The £100K Drop with squawking Davina (“I love these guys!”) kills an hour, and then it’s time for a repeat of Countdown followed by a couple of episodes of Cheers (which is just as brilliantly written and acted as I remember; I imagine you can stream them on All4 and if you can I’d heartily recommend you do) and then…oh, time for work,

But the other night, I caught a large chunk of a Manic Street Preachers gig, filmed in Manchester to promote the launch of their Everything Must Go album. Billed as their “comeback concert”, it was the first time they had performed since guitarist, lyricist and cheese salad sharer Richey Edward had gone missing several months earlier.

I flicked on to the channel just as they were launching into a rousing version of Motown Junk, my favourite Manics tune, much posted on these pages before. What I don’t know if they played – but given it features a harp, I somewhat doubt it – is this absolute beauty from the same album, one of those rare moments when lead singer James Dean Bradfield actually sings, rather than shouts (not a criticism, by the way – just my way of saying he’s actually got rather a nice singing voice which doesn’t get trotted out enough):

Manic Street Preachers – Small Black Flowers That Grow In The Sky

More soon.

Monday Night At The Movies

Yes, yes. Buses. Nothing for ages then two in one day. Go on, say it.

Actually, due to my infrequent/non-existent posting of late, I’m late posting this. I thought the Oscars were on tonight, but it turns out they were on last night so I’ve missed the chance to look cool and clever and ahead of the curve on the film I want to write about, which is up for five awards, including Best Picture. As I write this (early Monday morning), it’s won Best Original Screenplay; I’ll update this post should that be added to as I’m writing. (PS: it wasn’t.)

There was talk a couple of years ago about whether Netflix original content, which had never been shown in movie theatres, should be recognised by the Oscars, but now, with the event of Covid – where pretty much nothing has been shown in cinemas for over a year, along with two other massive media corporations – Amazon and Sky – joining in the fun, there wasn’t really any way this content could be ignored anymore.

And it’s a film from Sky’s output that I want to flag to you today, specifically Promising Young Woman. If you’ve not seen it yet, redress that as soon as possible (if you can) before some idiot spoils it for you. I’ll try to avoid giving you any major spoilers.

We first meet central character Cassie (played, brilliantly, by Carey Mulligan – married to a Mumford as she is, her choice in life-partner is questionable even if her keen eye for a great role cannot be faulted, and man alive can she act – she’s done lots since but those of us who remember her breakthrough in an episode of (Tennant era) Dr Who – Blink, also often referred to as the episode the Doctor barely appears in, have known for long time what she is capable of) seemingly passed out in a bar. Three male office types at the bar see her; one, claiming chivalrous intentions, approaches her, offers to make sure she gets home okay. Home becomes his home rather than hers, and before you know it, he is taking advantage of this drunk woman, unable to resist, protest or fight him off.

Except Cassie isn’t drunk. She isn’t vulnerable. She’s very much in control, and she’s teaching guys like this a lesson.

As well as learning that invaluable lesson (which I would hope most of you knew already), we learn that Cassie is in her early thirties, works in a coffee shop and still lives with her parents, who needless to say keep dropping very unsubtle hints about wanting her to move out. Props to the casting crew here for picking Jennifer Coolidge – Stiffler’s Mom from the American Pie series as Cassie’s mother and Clancy Brown – perhaps best known as the evil bastard warden in The Shawshank Redemption (yes, that’s where you recognised him from) – who both play against type and are brilliant. When nerdy but determined love interest and paediatrician Ryan (Bo Burnham) shuffles awkwardly into her life, they are delighted, and we also learn that Cassie used to be a promising medical student, until she dropped out.

For a while it seems Ryan is going to be the catalyst to shake her out of her rut, and in a way he is, just not in the way expected. If this were your standard rom-com, then meeting Ryan would ultimately end up being the life-changing event which makes her stop her one woman correction-centre ways. Instead her focus switches to gaining some semblance of vengeance against those she considers culpable for the gang rape, subsequent cover-up and then suicide of her best friend at medical school, Nina. This, it transpires, has been the impetus behind her actions all along, it just took Ryan’s appearance – and his own back story – to make her become more focused in her actions.

I’ll venture no further plot-wise for fear of spoiling things. Suffice it so say that this film comes with a massive thumbs up recommend from me.

And, as you would expect from something I’m recommending, there are some great musical moments in the film too.

For a start, there’s the inclusion of this song, and a sequence which, just for a few moments, makes it okay to like it:

Paris Hilton – Stars Are Blind

And then, at a point where you fear just how dark this film is prepared to go, you notice the strings on the soundtrack, wonder how long they’ve been playing for and then suddenly you recognise them and know: bad things are about to happen.

Anthony Willis – Toxic (Score)

An honorable mention for this:

FLETCHER – Last Laugh

And then, at the end, there’s this, a song which I could have sworn had popped up on these pages before, but I can’t find any such post now. When it arrives in the film, it’s just so perfectly placed because…no, no spoilers. Let’s just say that the whole thing had me standing up and applauding.

Juice Newton – Angel Of The Morning

Dammit, I want to watch it again now.

It would be easy to characterise Promising Young Woman as a #MeToo movie, but it’s so much more than just a hashtag. It’s smart, funny and shocking in unequal measures. It’s a film which every man needs to watch to learn a valuable lesson, and every woman should watch to confirm they’re not alone in their experience.

More soon.

Promising Young Woman is available on NOWTV and Sky.

Be Llŷrious

Shortly after Llŷr passed away in 2019, I wrote what I guess you could call my eulogy to him (although I’m sure he would have loved to have read it for himself, I’m equally sure he would have thought it a tad premature had I written it any sooner). I wrote these words:

“See that “There’s No Such Thing As A Guilty Pleasure” tagline? It simply wouldn’t be there were it not for Llŷr.

I’ll go further. Without that little seed sown, I wouldn’t be writing this and you wouldn’t be reading it.”

And now I’ll go further still, for it was Llŷr who first introduced me to the wonderful world of music blogs. He knew how much I loved a good cover version (the ratio of How To Do A Cover Version posts here against the number of How Not To Do A Cover Version is testament to this) so he sent me a link to a blog, now also sadly deceased, which featured nothing but cover versions. And then he directed me to the sidebar, to the list of other music blogs, and that was me off, following numerous other blogs. Friends: always check the sidebar, for although mine is woefully in need of an update, you’ll find some lovely surprises there.

Anyway, when I was younger, as soon as I got home from school, the first thing I would do would be to run upstairs, plug my guitar in and play VERY LOUDLY for half an hour or so. My mum used to describe it as me “getting my fix”, and for a time that’s how blogs grabbed me too. The moment I got home from work, I disappeared into my room, fired up my PC and spent a good couple of hours roaming around various blogs, seeking out tracks I’d loved and lost over the years, before finally emerging, gushing to Llŷr about what my haul for the day included. He would nod, offer the occasional “that’s cool”, the even more occasional “I don’t think I know that…”, which was usually reserved for some late 80s jingly-jangly twee-pop record.

Although I would undoubtedly have loved them anyway, my love for cover versions manifested itself in a love of what I guess many would consider to be a joke band: Goldie Lookin Chain.

You won’t be surprised to hear that, after Super Furry Animals, they are probably the band that Llŷr and I saw the most together.

I will always remember that on my birthday one year, we found that Super Furries were playing in Port Talbot, with GLC supporting them. Llŷr got a group of us together, hired a minibus and driver, and we set off to the gig. At the venue, a sports centre, if I recall correctly, and a few beers down, I popped to the gents, only to find it absolutely rammed, queue out the door. As I returned, Llŷr spotted my face, white in shock.

“You alright, Jez?”

“Just been to the bogs. It was rammo. I never thought I’d see three men sharing…”

“A cubicle? Probably not pissing, Jez”

“No, not a cubicle…”

“A urinal?”

“No….three men pissing into the same sink.”

“Welcome to Port Talbot!” Llŷr said raising a bottle (of beer) in my direction.

I can see why many people consider GLC to be a joke band – they’ve never released a serious record in their lives, and pretty much all of their songs are about being chavs from Newport, and/or (usually and) about smoking draw – but to dismiss them as “just” a joke band is a mistake, for in my book they are so much more than that. For a start, they clearly know their stuff – their musical references and samples are always spot-on – and are proficient hip-hop musicians and rappers in their own right. Yes, the individual members may have comedy names (Two Hats remains my favourite – say it quickly and you’ll see why) but that shouldn’t denigrate from how good they are.

For me, their songs fall into three categories:

1 – funny song which features a sample or samples I don’t recognise

2 – a funny song which features a sample or samples I do recognise – see Your Missus Is A Nutter (which samples – appropriately – Serge Gainsbourg’s Cannabis – and which they controversially performed before a Wales v England football match in 2005, dedicating it to “our old friend Victoria Beckham”, who seemed to see the funny side, to be fair); Your Mother’s Got a Penis (which samples Eric Clapton’s Behind The Mask); Charm School which features the Grange Hill Theme Tune

3 – a funny song which is a straight-up parody of another song, and includes a play-on-words on the original song title. I call these, with affection, their Barron Knights tracks.

One day, as they often did, a Llŷr-curated mix-CD was thrust into my hands. It contained two of the latter type of GLC tracks, neither of which, as far as I can make out, have ever had official releases. (The second has featured on these pages before, though.)

They still make me laugh whenever I hear them; more importantly, they remind me of Llŷr.

Oh, and of course, there’s a fair amount of effing and jeffing, so please don’t listen to these if you get offended by rude words.

So, here’s the original:

Gruff Rhys – Candylion

And the GLC spoof:

Goldie Lookin Chain – I’m Not Lying

And, at the risk of repeating myself, here’s the original:

Nelly Furtado – Maneater

And the GLC spoof:

Goldie Lookin Chain – Nan Rita

And that would be the end of that, were it not for the fact that when I was trying to find out whether or not the two tracks featured had received an official release or not, I stumbled across another GLC track which samples one of Llŷr’s favourite records.

Since I’ve never heard it before, I can only assume he hadn’t either, because no two ways about it, he would have told me about this:

Cliff Richard – Devil Woman

And the GLC version:

Goldie Lookin Chain – Devil Woman

He’d have bloody loved that.

Happy Birthday dude. Love ya, miss ya, always.

More soon.

Sunday Morning Coming Down

I’ve mentioned before that I have a somewhat chequered experience with tribute albums.

In case you’re unfamiliar with the concept, a tribute album is where a bunch of cover versions of songs by acts who cite the writer as an influence are pulled together in one place. Sometimes it’s a load of songs which already existed, sometimes acts will be asked to record a cover specifically for the tribute, sometimes it’s a bit of both.

To my mind, perhaps as one would expect, they’re a bit of a hodge-podge, for every one decent cover you get three absolute clangers.

The first one I ever bought, I think, was the quite wonderful tribute to The Carpenters “If I Were A Carpenter”: 12 covers and I’d say that 10 of them are really good covers. Conversely, “Surprise Your Pig: A Tribute to R.E.M.” – who I love more than I love The Carpenters – has 17 tracks and maybe 3 of them are kind of ok.

I guess it depends on the quality of the source material, which is why it’s no surprise that “Holding Things Together -The Merle Haggard Songbook” has 24 songs and I’m struggling to find a duff cover amongst them.

Which is how I find myself typing some words that I honestly never thought I would on here.

Ladies and Gentlemen, here’s: The Grateful Dead with a song that doesn’t go on for as long as their doobies:

The Grateful Dead – Mama Tried

We’ll be returning to this album at some point.

More soon.

Late Night Stargazing

For the record, there was no post yesterday not out of any respect for the dead Royal, but because I couldn’t be arsed with writing one.

And here we are and I feel I’m expected to say something controversial.

Well, ok.

I like Miley Cyrus.

She’s a popstar who really seems to be flourishing on her own terms to me: when she isn’t appearing in particularly brilliant episodes of the already-brilliant Black Mirror, she’s making albums with The Flaming Lips, performing blindingly great sets at Glastonbury (remember Glastonbury?) – ok, she loses several million credibility points by getting her Dad up on stage too and thereby reminding us of the line-dancing monstrosity he was responsible for – she’s releasing really quite wonderful stuff like this:

Miley Cyrus – Angels Like You

More soon.

Sunday Morning Coming Down

Back in 2018, Legacy Recordings released Forever Words, a collection of new songs featuring previously unheard lyrics by Johnny Cash. The 16-track set offered new melodies and performances by artists such as Elvis Costello, Willie Nelson & Kris Kristofferson, John Mellencamp, Jewel, Brad Paisley, The Jayhawks, Robert Glasper, Cash’s daughter Rosanne Cash, and his step- daughter Carlene Carter.

Now comes an expanded version of the album which adds a further 18 tracks, 16 of which are previously unreleased. These have been rolled out on digital service providers on a bimonthly basis, culminating in a full second disc of tracks.

This is from the original release, doubtless further choice cuts from this will feature soon enough:

John Mellencamp – Them Double Blues

More soon.

Late Night Stargazing

In my efforts to get back on the horse with writing here, an easy one, a soul classic, which deserves to have it’s moment in the Late Night Stargazing canon.

Here’s Billy Paul telling the story of his canoodling with Mrs Jones.

I mean just look at him in that picture, cool as feck. I mean, I would, if he left his hat on.

Wait, have we inadvertently stumbled upon the greatest bit of pop gossip ever?

Mr Jones is apparently in the dark about the affair – or is he? Surely when Tom Jones sang “You Can Leave Your Hat On” he was referring to a desire to be physically involved with a fedora wearing Mr Paul and/or his missus. No….?

Billy Paul – Me and Mrs Jones

More soon.

Saturday Night at The Movies

Creation Stories is a Sky Original film which attempts to dramatise the life of Creation record label founder, Alan McGee.

A quick glance at the promotional material fills you with hope:

Missing from that is that this was co-written by Irvine Welsh. But there’s Danny Boyle’s name given prominance. And although you may not recognise him from the picture, that’s Ewen Bremner in the main role.

And what a soundtrack that promises to be!

Here’s the trailer:

Looks good, right?

*Scrolls through the rest of the imdb entry*

Look, there’s actual proper acting royalty in the form of Steven Berkoff and Saskia Reeves. Actual comic acting royalty supplied by Paul Kaye, Rufus Jones and Danny John-Jules. There’s Richard Jobson, making a pretty good fist of doing something useful for the first time since The Skids split up. There’s comedians Ed Byrne as…er…Alistair Campbell (I wish I could say: “Now that’s ironic!” here, but it isn’t) and Alistair McGowan as Jimmy Savile (are you sure about this? – Ed). Blink-and-you’ll-miss-them cameos by Bez, Carl Barat and Brix Smith-Start. And practically the entire cast of This Is England is involved (well, the ones who haven’t gone on to super-stardom since, anyway) and that can’t be a bad thing.

Oh wait.

Danny Boyle is just the Executive Producer. Along with fourteen others (not including Co-Executive Producers). Which means he’s put some cash into the project and that’s about the end of his involvement.

Oh wait.

I don’t know if you saw it flash up in the trailer, but this is directed by Nick Moran, who also plays Malcolm McLaren. Hmm, this is starting to look less promising by the second.

And so it proves to be.

There’s an awful lot that’s wrong with Creation Stories.

The first thing is that given the vast amount of Class A drugs ingested by McGee in the film, and given he is played by Ewen Bremner – a fine actor, and no mistake – it becomes almost impossible to shake off the memory of the other drug-guzzling character he has played in a Boyle/Welsh collaboration: Spud in Trainspotting.

There’s nothing here but reminders of Spud’s most iconic moments, the interview:

and the…er…morning after scene:

(The fact that in a review of one film, I’m posting clips from an entirely different film speaks volumes.)

To be clear, I’ve seen Bremner in many other productions, and after the initial recognition has passed, not once did I have Spud on my mind. It’s not Bremner’s fault that Creation Stories is such a dud, he does the very best he can with what he’s been given. I just think they could have cast somebody who didn’t invoke all these memories and comparisons, which have an undesirable effect on his performance and the film. Although I am struggling to think of who that might be.

And what of the crowd-pleasing creatives, namely Boyle and Welsh? To be honest, I can’t see Boyle’s influence at all here, and I reckon the most that Welsh had to do with writing it was ensuring the Scottish vernacular remained honest and true. “I’ve finished the screenplay now Irvine, can you chuck some swear words in, and make sure they’re not snorting when they should be smoking?”

To drive the plot, the film uses perhaps the laziest premise for a biopic: a journalist is interviewing McGee for a retrospective article in an American paper, or magazine, or TV show, it’s not made terribly clear. His story is told via a series of anecdotes, transposed to flashbacks. This method is employed so that the narrative can jump from one momentous moment to the next without really having to explain how we got from point A to point B.

(I wasn’t taking notes, but I also suspect there were several errors in the chronology.)

And I wouldn’t get too excited about that soundtrack, for the moments when you’re swept away by the music are few and far between.

I appreciate, of course, that Creation Records were responsible for a lot of amazing output during it’s all-to-brief tenure as the self-proclaimed “Coolest Record Label on Earth”, and there’s a lot to try and cram into one movie, but there are some acts who are conspicuous by their absence: there’s no mention at all of Super Furry Animals, and they once hired a tank and drove it through London to promote one of their records, which surely would have been visual gold.

Similarly, Teenage Fanclub barely get a mention, overlooking how integral to the label’s success their Bandwagonesque album was. I think I heard a snatch of this in the background in one scene, mind:

Teenage Fanclub – What You Do To Me

McGee is presented as an egotistical chancer, who repeatedly got lucky by being at events where unsigned bands just happened to be playing, and I’m not sure that’s entirely true.

But it’s here that I found the one true highlight of them film, when McGee’s own band are playing in a dingy backstreet London boozer, the Television Personalities invade the stage and take over, perform one song, announce “Here’s our second song. It’s the same as the first one, BUT LOUDER!” once it’s finished, before launching into exactly the same song, which they do indeed played louder than they had the first time.

This song:

Television Personalities – Part-Time Punks

If you’re at entry level, know nothing about Creation Records or Alan McGee, then I’d recommend Creation Stories as a stepping-on point and nothing more.

Otherwise, I’d say avoid at all costs. Stick with the 2010 Upside Down: The Creation Records Story documentary instead.

More soon.