Your perception of Nick Lowe depends, I think, on where you came in.
For many, he’s the man behind the hits from the 70s So It Goes, I Love the Sound of Breaking Glass, or Cruel to be Kind.
For others, he’s the songwriter behind Elvis Costello’s (What So Funny ‘Bout) Peace, Love and Understanding, or Dave Edmunds’ I Knew The Bride (When She Used to Rock’n’Roll) or even Johnny Cash’s The Beast in Me.
This cropped up in The Chain many moons ago,but it’s worth revisiting. For this is Lowe in elder statesman territory, smashing a self-penned Country tune right out of the park:
The other day on BBC 6Music, Lauren Laverne interviewed the actor Samantha Morton.
As she wrapped up the chat, Laverne asked Morton if there was a record she could play for her.
Her selection is tonight’s record, which when Laverne said she would play it, was greeted with a cheer not just in Morton’s house, but in my flat and, I imagine, in countless other homes throughout the country.
Morton added a disclaimer, something along the lines of “I thought it might be a bit too unsettling to play.”
Which it isn’t, unless you look at the 12″ sleeve:
I always thought I knew what Denise Johnson looked like.
But since her much too early passing this week, and the oh-so-many media outlets who have managed to post a picture of someobody who isn’t, wasn’t and can never be Denise Johnson, I figured I’d err on the side of caution.
And instead focus on her finest moment, and give her due prominence, because make no bones about it, this record is as much about her as it is The Scream and Weatherall. Just listen to her: she totally buys into what they’re trying to do, and duly delivers an incredible performance:
Long time visitors to my little corner of the interweb may recall that I used to write a series, raging against the use of songs I love in adverts.
Sometimes though, you have to tip your hat in the direction of the advertisers because they’ve got their song selection absolutely bang on.
Conceding ground is made so much easier when they’ve chosen a song I didn’t care much for in the first place, of course.
Although sometimes you do have to wonder: what took you so long to use this song in your ad?
A case in point: in the last 8 – 12 months or so (I think, it may just not have crossed my radar before then), a well-known domestic cleaning product manufacturer has suddenly started using this song in their ads:
And there’s another advert doing the rounds at the moment where I have to admit they’ve picked precisely the right record and, fortuitously, it’s another one that I’ve never had any time for either.
I mean, when you’re the largest chain of Scottish-sounding burger joints in the world, and you’ve had to close due to that there pesky pandemic, once you’re allowed to start reopening your “restaurants” – apparently the notorious litigants get upset if you describe what they serve junk or fast food, which is funny because whenever I’ve been in one (and you’ll be shocked to learn that I have) the service is rarely fast and the food is (The end of this joke has been removed for legal reasons – Ed.) – what else are you going to choose to soundtrack the advert which triumphantly heralds such joyous news, than this:
But it seems their days adding pithy pop tracks to their adverts are numbered, because last weekend, our glorious leader (sense the tone…) Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Wiff Waff Is-This-What-You-Meant-Dominic? Johnson announced plans to ban advertising junk food on good, honest, decent British televisions before 9pm. Not, as I say, that the company I’m talking about (you’ll have noticed I’m being very careful not to actually say their name, right?) consider themselves to be purveyors of junk food. I mean, a slice of pickled gherkin definitely counts as at least one of your Five-a-Day, even if most people do leave it on the side.
The ban will be accompanied by a £10 million advertising campaign, designed to encourage the population to eat more healthily, and exercise more.
If they have any sense, they’ll have Simon Evans doing the voice-over; he sounds as English as can be, and is very funny indeed, especially when talking about being overweight (he gets there eventually, but I’d recommend you watch the whole clip):
Anyway, the reason behind this new Government-backed health-drive is two-fold, it turns out.
Firstly, it’s thought that, as a nation, we’ve picked up poor dietary habits during lockdown, and need a bit of a nudge to get ourselves back on the straight and narrow. Well, I’ve got news for our leaders: I was overweight before lockdown, and I’m even more overweight now. Not because the quality of what I eat has drastically deteriorated – my diet has remained more or less the same throughout – but because now, bored and unable to leave the flat with anything like the regularity I used to, I eat more. You know, just to have something to do.
Secondly, obesity has been identified as one of factors likely to lead to people catching the virus. Those interfering busy-bodies at Public Health England – the sort of experts we’re supposed to be tired of, according to rubber-faced goon Michael Gove – have published a report into the impact of obesity on people with Covid-19, wherein they say that the case for action has “never been stronger”. The report shows that the risks of hospitalisation, intensive care treatment and – Yikes! – death all “seem to increase progressively with increasing BMI (body mass index) above the healthy weight range”.
And that’s me, folks. I only have to wander in the general vicinity of my local GP and I have abuse hurled at me for being “fat”, and that’s not just the surly youths from the local estate, that’s my actual GP, opening a window to shout at me. He probably feels the shudders as I approach, or spots the ripples in his glass of water, like that bit in Jurassic Park when the kids are trapped in the car.
(This will make you feel old: that came out 27 years ago.)
When I lived in Cardiff, the bloke who worked in the kebab shop around the corner from where Llŷr and I used to live would wave at me as I walked past his frontage, which is just the opposite end of the same stick, I guess.
(No, I’m not going to explain that song’s apparantly unrelated appearance, you’ll just have to listen to it.)
Just as the anti-maskers held a rally in London the other weekend, protesting at the perceived attack on their civil liberties as the locations where one must wear a face covering increased, while at the same time displaying their stupidity at not understanding the reason for wearing a face mask is to protect them and people they come into contact with, I did toy with the idea of organising a similar demo for us fatties, but let’s be honest, we’d all be shagged out after walking up the stairs from the tube station, so there’s not much point.
Last weekend, Johnson said: “I’m not normally a believer in nannying, or bossing type of politics. But the reality is that obesity is one of the real co-morbidity factors.
Losing weight is, frankly, one of the ways that you can reduce your own risks from Covid.”
So at this point, I was genuinely thinking: fair play. That – the banning of junk food ads, the encouragement to lead a healthier diet – is a good thing. And that’s me saying that, and you’ve probably have noticed I’m not the biggest fan of Johnson or any of his inept cronies.
And then I thought about it for a bit.
Although I have exaggerated for supposedly comic purposes, I can’t remember the last time I went to see my GP and he didn’t tell me that I need to lose weight.
Johnson, you will recall, was admitted to hospital earlier this year, having, we are told (and I’m not getting into the whole conspiracy idea that he didn’t really have it) displayed the symptoms of Covid-19. When he was in there, he would almost definitely have been told he needed to lose weight.
He was discharged in March.
Why has it taken him until now, four months later, to come out with this advice?
Surely, immediately after being discharged would have been the optimum point to hoik a thumb in the direction of the hospital and say: “You know what? They gave me some great advice in there”, or whatever the Latin (or Twattin, as it’s referred to in my house whenever he or Rees-Moog uses it) for that is.
And then, on Thursday night, mouth-breather and Health Secretary Matt Hancock made this four-part announcement. On Twitter. You know, like Deranged Donald does:
There’s one phrase in that which troubles me. Can you spot it?
This one: “The spread is largely due to households meeting and not abiding to social distancing….”
Add that to the sudden rush to identify the clinically and morbidly obese as prime Covid targets, and the whiff of “It’s not our fault, it’s yours for not following the guidelines.” starts to filter under the nostrils.
These are the guidelines which say it’s absolutely fine to, say, go to the pub with members of your household/bubble, as long as you don’t go with other households, and observe social distancing when you’re there. As if the consumption of alcohol will have no effect whatsoever on who you interact with, and how far you stand from them.
And the same guidelines which say you can visit someone from within the same family/bubble, but you can’t go into their house or stay with them.
There’s a really good article in, of all places, the Financial Times which addresses this. I could quote from it endlessly, or you can jut read it yourself here.
Confused? You won’t be! (honest)
So if people are not following the Goverment guidelines, it doesn’t necessarily mean that they are doing so willingly. Sure, a very small percentage of anti-maskers may be, but generally – and I appreciate I’m going out on limb here – generally, people don’t want to die. So if the Government guidelines are not being followed, perhaps it’s time to look at those guidelines, and stop churning out contradictory and confusing directives.
In essence: don’t blame us because you can’t do your job.
I’ll just cough the words *herd immunity* and *second wave* and leave you with this:
Long time readers may recall that a long time ago, back in August 2015, I handedover the pages of the blog to my older brother. The post he wrote, A Goth Steps From The Dry-Ice…, was annoyingly well received, so much so that ever since I have been bugging him to write something else.
On Christmas Eve last year, he finally delivered. It was such a long time ago that he’s probably forgotten all about it, or assumed my hyper-critical editing had ruled out it ever getting published here. Actually, I was waiting until today, his birthday, to post it (honest).
By way of a refresher, Swing’s (Swing is his nickname, but he’s Andrew to his family – you’ll need this info for later) last post told of him growing up to discover he was blighted by a love of the most unfashionable, and to some unfathomable, genre of music: Goth. And he related how he had to adapt when he joined the very particular-about-the-way-you-dress Royal Air Force, where the wearing of guy-liner and black winkle-pickers are very much frowned upon.
So here you go, unedited (pretty much – except to spare some embarrased blushes over spelling and grammar, and to insert either a tune, twice because they are specifically mentioned, one of which is one of the worst records ever made from which I wish to disassociate myself), is the next instalment, which has moved on from the 1980s where we last encountered our hero him in his own words:
“By the early noughties (we’re talking 2002) I was working on a trials unit for Her Majesty’s Royal Air Force, testing new aircraft and systems at various places around the world, most of which conveniently (considering the politics of the world at that time) happened to be quite hot and sandy. And which conveniently (for me and my mates) were not anywhere near the Arabian Peninsula, but in the Western United States. Specifically, Nevada. I’m still signed up to the Official Secrets Act, and the memory of the “civilian contractors” defending the places I’ll describe, who regularly pointed the biggest guns I ever saw at me, helps remind me that keeping some secrets is probably for the best.
What I will tell you is that you can probably work out for yourselves where I was, if I tell you the best trick used to stop people wondering what happened in that particular part of the desert was that some very famous rumors suggesting that it was an area frequented by aliens got circulated, so that if anyone saw something strange in the sky around this “Area”, then that’s what they thought they’d seen.
So we were based in this “Area” for about 6 weeks, and during the week that meant we were locked on the base, but at the weekends, when they wanted to run some other “experiments” (which may or may not have included aliens) we had to find somewhere else to stay. Which unfortunately meant we had to drive a couple of hours south and wait in Las Vegas until they let us back on Sunday evening. Your armed forces suffer on your behalf, but you’re welcome.
Now I don’t know if you’ve ever been to Vegas, but I’m sure you are aware of it. And that it is considerably different to the other desert town they sometimes based us in, which had three bars. And forty-seven churches. The only churches I saw in Vegas had Elvis impersonators as vicars, there to marry the woman you met in a bar earlier that evening. And there were a lot of bars, and more than a few of them had women in them who’d happily marry you for the price of a drink….
The Air Force weren’t skimping on accommodation for us either. The usual policy when they chose somewhere was a simple “which is cheapest?”. In this case the best offer came from a dingy little back street place called Caesar’s Palace, but the powers that be realised that if viewers on the BBC tuned in to watch a big title fight, it wouldn’t go down well if in the background of the shot were a lot of noble airmen in uniform heading for another hard day at the office. Instead they spent the extra cash to put us in a Mormon run hotel, which meant it was one of the only places in town with no bar or gambling emporium. In fact, we had to go all the way across the street to a strip bar just to get a drink. Again, only doing our duty, you’re welcome.
So we started experimenting to understand what the best ratio between partying and sleeping is over 48 hours in a city where the bars never close. To save any of you needing to repeat the experiment I can let you know that the liberal use of pseudo-effedrine and caffeine tablets (they sell them over the counter at gas stations to keep the long distance truckers wired) means 48 hours straight is easily within reach, but you are going to sleep for quite a while after that. Then one Sunday afternoon while I was getting ready to head back I started to question what I was doing with my life? I considered reading the bible in the hotel room, then realized there was something even better in there: the Yellow Pages! I had a read in the back seat of the car as we headed back to base, and that’s where I found it! I knew what was missing! A convertible Lamborghini with a hot tub in the back! And joy to the world, I could rent it by the hour next time I was in Vegas! I asked a few of my mates if they were interested, and amazingly, they were. So when we stopped I called the number from the Yellow Pages, only to be disappointed when I was told the Lamborghini was block booked for a video shoot, but that that someone from the company would call me back to let me know what they could offer instead.
Monday morning I’m back on base working on the flight line, when I was told there’s a phone call for me. You’ll remember I said we weren’t allowed mobile phones, so I’d given them my office number. I also said security was tight, and we knew that included all phone calls being monitored (at times you could actually hear the guys listening in, which I’m sure wasn’t an accident). When I picked up the phone there was a bloke on the other end who I can only describe as what central casting on a low budget film would give you if you asked for an over-excited Mexican. He proceeded to offer me a “party bus” for 6 hours, which would take up to thirty of us around Vegas, stopping wherever we liked. The price sounded good, so I agreed, and he told me he’d be at our hotel 3pm next Saturday. He also told me the bus would come with “plenty of liquor” which sounded exactly what we were looking for. He then went on to ask if I needed “any girls, any drugs?”. I can only imagine how much attention that got from whoever was monitoring my calls, so I quickly explained none of that would be necessary and bid him a good day.
Now I had to think fast. The Lamborghini I’d thought about before would have taken six of us, and I had no doubt I could find that many mates up for it. But 30 on a bus was a bigger challenge, as that was almost the whole of the support team out there. I started to spread the word: anyone who’d overheard the call with my Mexican friend was a fairly easy sell, but I needed a hook to really up the interest…
That was when I decided what was needed was a good back story…. You see, it was a fairly common procedure that whenever we took off to a different town for any reason, we never told anyone we were Air Force. That would be far too boring. Instead we chose a variety of back stories to make opening conversations more interesting. If you’ve ever had someone at a bar describe his job as an underwater tractor driver, or a biscuit designer, chances are he was one of Trenchard’s finest. The last trip to Vegas we’d been a team of carpet fitters, in town to replace the floor in the Mirage as the one of white tigers had pissed on it. On another occasion we were a team of off duty phone sexline operatives (they pay extra for an English accent, don’t you know). I decided that this week it was time to be a rock band, and as easy as that “Into the Breach” were born. Remembering why we couldn’t have a Lamborghini, I realized our band had been on a video shoot themselves, filming out in the desert for their next single, “Cry God for Harry”, and the bus was a thankyou from the management team for their hard work. Easy bit done, I put up a poster with those details in the crew room, sat back and waited.
One other thing in my favour was that to cover expenses while we were away, particularly on those arduous trips to Vegas, we were given a cash advance. This was handed out once a week, so I conveniently hung around at that time and found it extremely easy to persuade people they had always wanted to be in a band. And pay me the $50 it would take to join.
The time was ripe to nominate the band line-up. I didn’t really fancy recreating the So Solid Crew, as I thought thirty was too many for just the band itself, but there were still important roles for security, sound engineers, and a couple of more specialised roles. Such as the actual singer who the pretty boy at the front could lip-synch to, but who was too heavy-boned to be in the video, and the “fluffer” who was there to get the drummer in the mood. And me? Manager and record company executive, of course. Which meant that Saturday morning in Vegas as the others were getting their “costumes” ready I had nothing to do, so I printed myself some business cards, just in case.
Saturday afternoon arrived, and a few of us decided that waiting until 3pm for our first drink was pushing it, so we called in the bar next door for a quick beer or three. I say bar, but strictly speaking it was more of a gentleman’s club, booths, table service, half dressed women asking if you want to dance, you get the picture. Which led to the never to be repeated question from one hostess, as to if I was a record company executive then why had one of the guys I walked in with told her he was an alien hunter? Pausing only to make a mental note to re-educate him on the rules for the weekend, I gave her my business card (knew it would be useful) and said that if she could thought she could sing then she should prove it to me. She paused for even less time to whip off her top, perch herself on my knee and sing Jolene. I told her she had potential, and I’d make her a big star someday, but now I had to go, my band were waiting.
Just in time, it turns out, because pulling into the hotel car park was our ride for the day, a fifty-foot-long bus, sort of like the ones big hotels use as airport shuttles, but all black, with blacked out windows.
I introduced myself to the driver, who took me on the bus to sort out the paperwork while the band and support crew gathered in the car park. The inside of the bus was fitted out pretty nicely, with black leather seats along each, split with mahogany topped surfaces. Lift the mahogany tops and there were fridges and cupboards, full as described with beers and all manner of spirits, along with glasses and ice. He checked I was happy with it, as if the huge grin filling my face hadn’t already confirmed that, and we got down to the business side. I paid in full in cash, and he handed me a few disclaimers to sign, including one that said I’d pay for any damage or additional cleaning needed. He swiped my credit card as pre-authorisation for that while I asked what that meant. He told me that if, for example, someone threw up on the bus, then I’d be charged with cleaning it up. Not too likely I thought, these are hardened drinkers, so I started inviting the others on the bus. At which point my new friend, the driver, pulled out a bottle of tequila, threw away the cork and started passing it round. First one he handed it too was my mate Bo. He won’t drink that, I thought, as everyone knew Bo threw up at the first smell of tequila. But the peer pressure got him and he took a good, big swill before passing the bottle on. From inside my wallet I swear I could hear my credit card crying itself to sleep.
We all settled in for the trip. The driver put some tunes on, lit the ceiling light show and we were off. I was making friends with a bottle of Jack, and concentrating on being a good host, making sure my crew appreciated the treat after working so hard in the desert, on the music video they’d definitely been filming….
As I said, to fill a bus with 30 people I went beyond my regular circle of close drinking mates, so there were a few on there I didn’t know so well. One of those was a young PTI (Physical Training Instructor) who we’d brought along to be a general helper and to be a ringer in case the Americans challenged us to a baseball or “soccer” match. He ended up sat next to me on the bus, so we got chatting.
I knew he was fresh, the correct Air Force term being that the ink was still wet on his twelve and a half (Form 1250 is a military ID card, the implication being that you hadn’t served long enough for it to dry yet). Turns out this wasn’t just his first deployment with a flying squadron, it was his first time outside the UK. He was a good lad, but it would have been remiss of me not tofeed him to the lions at least a little bit, surely?
My mate Pete was the bass player for ItB (as the cool kids had taken to writing it on their pencil cases), and he decided now was the time to help me play with the new boy. He headed down the bus to us and asked the PTI to scooch up. From his jeans pocket he pulled a wrapped-up piece of tinfoil and asked to borrow my 1250. He unwrapped the foil, revealing a fine white powder, broken up with spots of fluorescent green and purple, which he proceeded to use my id card to quite professionally chop up into two fine lines, which he offered to me and the PTI to sample. I need to be clear, neither ItB or any of their support team partake in hard drugs. I’d like to say that was a moral decision, but when we weren’t rock stars we were servicemen and as such subjected to regular no-notice drug tests with instant dismissal if you failed; that may well have influenced our lifestyle choices. No, the white substance was actually candy. I knew that and Pete knew that, but to the PTI it was an obvious dilemma: take a line and risk losing your career before it hardly started, or don’t take a line and lose credibility with a bunch of absolute rock stars you just met?
The indecision and fear were written all over his face, and it didn’t look like he’d resolve it internally quickly, so I pushed him out of the way and helped myself to the first line. Now I said already it was candy, not drugs, but that was only half the story. What it actually was was popping candy, the kind we had as kids back in the Seventies, you put it on your tongue and it crackled. Snorting it is a whole different issue, when those fluorescent green and purple bits hit the top of your nose it felt like bonfire night inside your brain! My eyes immediately dilated massively. I let out a breath, then slapped Pete on the back. “Good shit man!” He helped himself to the other line, with the same effect. Soon all of the band had tried it, with our honorable friend the PTI being one of the few not to push for a hit, which means he was probably one of the only ones on the bus not to be in contention with Toxteth O’Grady for the world’s stickiest bogey title (Gratuitous The Young Ones reference, there).
By now we’d been cruising around in the tour bus for about an hour, up and down the Las Vegas strip, so it seemed like a good idea to let the rest of the world get sight of ItB. Our driver pulled up just near Freemont Street, a big area with casinos either side of a covered walkway with a huge lightshow above it. The bus pulled up and fully in character we headed in, security detail first to clear the way for the talent. These guys were having just as much fun with the dressing up box, all wearing black with SECURITY on the front of their baseball caps, but for some reason the actual casino security were unimpressed with the fact that their earpieces didn’t seem to be plugged into anything, and told them to “Stop fucking about, guys!” but fortunately still let us all in.
As I left the bus, the driver asked if there was anything else we needed him to get us while we were in there. My Mexican friend hadn’t exaggerated about the amount of liquor, but there was very little to mix it with. While I’m quite fond of straight Jack from the bottle, which seemed rock star appropriate, I thought something to go with it would be good, so suggested he buy us some coke, and headed into the casino. Seconds later I realised what I’d just asked him, what my Mexican friend offered on the phone, and that the driver had just watched the candy episode. Feeling a sudden, urgent need to break character I ran back out and shout to him “Coca Cola, we want coca cola, not drugs!” He laughed at me, said OK, so I got back into character and went to find the band at the bar. Stay cool, Swing!
I’m sure amongst a group of civilians deliberately being the last one into a bar like that would probably be regarded as a serious breach of etiquette and round dodging, but we were a well oiled machine (in many ways) and already ran a regular system with a nominated holder of the kitty who was in charge of going to the bar and ordering the drinks, with the rest of the group adding to the kitty in his pocket on request, usually in $50 chunks. Seems straightforward, and it is, but choosing who holds the kitty is something of a skill: give it to a budgie-sipper and the rest of the crew would be complaining of dry throats, go to the other extreme and you’d all be under the table half way through the night. Our usual kitty holder was my old tequila loving friend Bo, he liked to feel important, and was actually pretty good in the role, as long as you accepted two key facts:
1. He was very keen to implement the Jägermeister rule. Remember this was 2002, before the concept of Jägerbombs had really taken off in the UK, so back then it was something of a novelty to find in bars in the UK. The rule was the first one to see it said the J-word, and everyone else had to drink a shot. Be honest, it tastes like cough mixture, so being first to shout it and thus avoid the shot was a good thing. Two problems: American bars are usually pretty well stocked with a variety of drinks, so it was much more common; and Bo actually liked it, even to the extent of regularly ordering for himself a cocktail called liquid cocaine, which was 50/50 Jägermeister and Bacardi 151. Yummy! Which meant we needed to rein him in to prevent every round including shots.
2. Later in the evening after a few drinks Bo was easily distracted and often wandered off on his own. We needed to be careful to spot the onset of this, not to stop him of course, just to make sure someone else took the kitty before he did.
What that meant was that when I got to the bar I was not at all surprised to have a beer pressed into my hand. I was also not at all surprised that Bo started ribbing me about the way I had to break character and run back out, after all, if you couldn’t rely on your mates to belittle you in public who could you rely on? Equally obviously I needed to retaliate, but exactly how eluded me at first.
It doesn’t need saying that Gaz with his little girl’s bladder had disappeared to the toilets when we walked in, but I was sure everyone else would do the same before we left, and guessed that meant Bo would need to get someone to hold his beer. A few weeks earlier he had done the same thing for me, and while I was gone he put the straw from my Jack and Coke down his pants, so that when I came back he could ask if I “liked the taste of his Bobby?” Sophisticated humour like that was something they taught in Air Force basic training. My expectation was correct, and although it wasn’t me he asked to hold his beer, I was the manager of a successful rock band, so I only had to ask and it was handed to me. Slight problem, its one thing putting a straw down the front of your boxers, a bit more of an issue to do the same with a beer bottle. No problem, sheltered corner found and wall of mates blocking the view I gave the bottle top a quick wipe of the wand. Which is where the next flaw in my plan became apparent, he was drinking Corona, which had come with a slice of lime in the top. He’d pushed the lime in the bottle, but that meant there was a lot of lime around the top of the bottle. A lot of lime. Definitely not something you’d want in a sensitive area….
I passed him the bottle back as he returned, and realising what had just happened he started to complain, but recognising the obvious look of pain in my eyes he just laughed and swore to only ever drink Mexican lager from that day on.
We had a couple of rounds in the bar, but the draw of free drinks on the bus soon drew us back. The driver had added a few cases of soft drinks and a couple more bottles of Jack (just in case) so the security detail checked everyone was back and we set off around the town again. When we weren’t busy being a rock band some of the guys were avionics experts, specialising in maintaining the electronics on the aircraft: radar, weapon systems, radios, etc. The set-up on the bus had been fascinating them, and between drinks they’d been exploring it, taken control from the driver and found that in addition to the stereo there was an option to project one of a small library of “specialist” DVDs onto a screen filling the back of the bus. The dilemma now was this: did we have pounding rock music for the next leg of the tour, or hard-core pornography. The obvious answer was why not have both, so we were treated to the country-rap classic Cowboy loud enough to make your ears bleed, while on the screen were several young ladies getting overly friendly with each other, and what appeared to be one of their school teachers. I’m pretty sure that’s exactly what Kid Rock would have chosen himself for a video if he could get it played on MTV.
Much sooner this time the balance between free drink on the bus vs no toilet on the bus required another stop, so we had the driver pull up at the next casino, which happened to be The Venetian. Lots of the casinos on the Vegas strip have themes like this, The Venetian obviously consisting of lots of little indoor canals with gondolas in them, but instead of the architectural wonders like St Mark’s Square you got rows of hundreds upon hundreds of slot machines. You have it to hand it to those Yanks, they know how to take anything from the Old World and just make it better.
Disembarking from the bus was much less orderly this time, more of a mad rush to get in and find the first place to pee. Which is why it was time to start enforcing the ‘little boy wee’ rule. This being the early two thousands I got a lot of inspiration from reading the key record of the cultural and artistic pulse of the nation: Loaded magazine. The idea came from someone who’d written in describing a drinking game in his rugby club, and I shamelessly stole it. (Same also applies to the idea of a pub crawl using a Monopoly board as a map, but that’s another story.) (Yes, one I’vealready told: here – Ed)
In essence, when potty training your children, most little boys don’t go straight from soiling themselves to confidently standing alone at a public urinal, there is an interim stage, usually only a few months, involving mummy helping them go for a number one. During this stage rather than fishing through the willy maze that is the front of most male underwear, she makes things easier for herself by lowering trousers and underpants to the floor, thus making access much easier. The concept of ‘little boy wees’ is what would have happened if your Mummy forgot to tell you you don’t always need to do that when you’re all grown up.
So when the rule is in force that’s what you need to do: every time you’re in a public bathroom, trousers and underpants must be fully around your ankles before any release. And if you choose to use a cubicle instead and hence hide the evidence, what you’re actually proving is that you sit down to pee and you’re in completely the wrong bathroom. Anyone forgetting got a forfeit, usually involving shots and/or humiliation. Its quite an amusing game at the best of times, but goes to another level in a crowded place with multiple bathrooms, like a Las Vegas casino on a Saturday evening.
By now you would expect a lapse in discipline with the first stragglers wandering off, but this game made it easy to find if the others were around, just head to the bathroom and use the level of amusement/disgust to judge how many of your colleagues had already been there. In all that helped get the majority of the team back to the bus after a reasonable amount of time (two drinks).
We did continue for another couple of hours, I suspect there was probably another stop somewhere along the way at another strip club, and the tour ended with us being dropped at a night club somewhere, but I have to be honest, by now time and Jack have wiped all those memories from me. If anyone there wants to tell me what else happened that night (or at any other time since I hit drinking age) it would be greatly appreciated.
But there are two post scripts to this story. The following Saturday I was in a regular bar in Vegas when one of the guys called me up to listen to what was happening. Just along the bar was one of our aircrew chatting to a young lady. Now being a squadron leader fighter pilot should be a pretty good chat up line, in fact pilot was the only persona we had an unwritten rule never to use, because that would only encourage them. But this chap wasn’t telling her that, he was explaining how he was a music producer and talent scout from London. I listened in to him for a while then tapped him on the shoulder and asked if he’d ever met Into the Breach. He realised he’d been rumbled, and bought me a drink, the first of many I took from him over the years whenever I reminded him that he pretended to be me to impress girls.
The second one was a bit later on, back in the UK. It turned out that the lead singer (the one in the video who lip-synched, not the chubster who actually sang on the record, keep up) met some girls in the club who were pretty sure they had seen ItB on MTV earlier, and he had taken advantage of this apparent gullibility to live the rock star dream a bit further than he should have. Definitely further than his fiancé would have approved of….. When he got home he had a pang of conscience and admitted everything to her, so after her Dad beat him senseless she forgave him, but decided that whoever organised such a thing was definitely not welcome at their wedding. Which meant that Swing didn’t get an invite, but for the only time in my Air Force career I dusted off another alias and made sure that Andrew behaved himself at the ceremony and at least the early part of the evening event!”
There’s only one song that we can possibly sign off with, I think:
This morning, for those of you with sore heads from celebrating or drowning your sorrows over where your team finished in the 2019/2020 Premier League, a classic, which I don’t need to introduce any further except to say whenever I hear it, I’m immediately in a better mood, and if it doesn’t have the same effect on you today, I’d suggest some Alka Seltzer dissolved in Lucozade.
Yes, like a toddler who has just finished doing his business but doesn’t know how to wipe his own bottom yet, I stand before you, poking my arse in your general direction, innocent eyes pleading for assistance (I must say, this analogy works loads more than I expected it to), and announcing: The Chain is back!
Yes, I thought I’d have been a bit more prolific in writing these during “lockdown” too. What do you want me to say? I’m not Cher, I can’t turn back time.
Truth be told I’ve got a little too involved with two things recently: firstly, trimming down duplicate songs on my iTunes which prevent me from updating my iPod with anything I’ve acquired in the last twelve months or so; and secondly a DJ-mixing app which I’m determined to get to grips with so you can have some proper mixes by yours truly (which I’m sure you’re absolutely crying out for).
That aside, I’ll start with a recap: last time out, we were left with this as our source record:
Ordinarily, the easiest way to come up with a suggestion is to link to any of the words in the title or the artiste (this isn’t a criticism, it’s how I come up with about 90% of my own suggestions), but when you’ve only got three words to work with, it makes things tricky, and some serious creativity (by which I mean showboating) is needed.
So, in terms of a running order this time around, I thought I’d work through the suggestions which link to Donovan, then to Mellow, then to Yellow, and then we’ll all crash back onto our beds as we climax with those that have drilled down a little deeper, so to speak.
But first: a spoiler. Well, two actually. Firstly, nobody suggested the next record in the actual Chain this time around, and secondly there is no Showboater of the Week award this time. Don’t get me wrong, there’s some great records about to cross your path, ingeneously reached, but nothing quite point-worthy (Does anyone know where George, the Undisputed King of Showboating, is, by the way?).
There is most definitely a Worst Record of the Week award. In fact, it’s arguably the worst record I’ve ever posted, and I’ve posted The Wurzels before now (and will do again!).
OK, so let’s kick off with the Donovan related stuff. And where better to start than with something from Rol of My Top Ten fame who seems to have become my standard person to start with, even if his first suggestion this time around was somewhat confrontational:
“Do we also lose points if we mention Jason Donovan? Surely history has been kinder to him that Coldplay?”
I should explain. I signed off the last edition of The Chain with the words: “Minus points to anyone who suggests Coldplay. You’ve been warned.” This was intended not so much as a slur against the band, even though I do think they’re absolute dog-shit (through-gritted teeth: with a couple of admittedly decent songs in their back catalogue that they’ve inadvertently stumbled upon).
Besides, I was rather surprised at Rol’s reticence to suggest a bit of Jason Donovan, given that many years ago, noting my “There’s no such thing as a guilty pleasure” tagline, he had reached out to me for a bit of support in justifying…I won’t say his love of, nor admiration, but…the fact that he quite liked some records by Erinsborough’s second finest pop star (and no, Stefan Dennis is not the first). I duly responded with a post explaining why liking Jason Donovan records is perfectly acceptable, which, since I seem to be a little short of clips and funnies this time out, included this:
Anyway, after much to-ing and fro-ing, Rol was placated by me saying I’d happily post something by the definitely-not-lemon-juice-haired-Aussie wonder, so here we go. And a further explanatory word from Rol:
“I do remember thinking Too Many Broken Hearts was a half decent pop song, even at the time (and I generally hated everything SAW did). Plus, I saw Jason in the War of the Worlds stage show a few years ago and he was much better than Marti Pellow.
And before you ask: no, that’s not the worst record of the week. Not by a long chalk. (Is that a phrase? ‘Tis now.)
So, who else came up with a suggestion to the word Donovan? Well, now’s the time for the fevered mind that is Rigid Digit (the man responsible for all that appears on Stuff & Nonsense), to step up to the plate with his first suggestion, which whilst it links to the Donovan name, gives us a good steer as to the waters we may well find ourselves paddling in later:
“Donovan could’ve become Father-in-Law to a Mr S Ryder from Manchester.
His daughter Oriole shacked up with Shaun, and gave birth to one of his (many) daughters.
And if it wasn’t Shaun, then Donovan’s other daughter was knocking about with Paul Ryder.
The Happy Mondays had the song “Donovan” on Pills n Thrills & Bellyaches (which also samples a bit of Sunshine Superman).
Ok, that’ll do for Donovan/Jason Donovan links. Let’s move on to links to the word Mellow. And it’s back to Rol, who, still somewhat reticent and tail between his legs for the Jason Donovan situation, came back with this as a very strong contender:
“Mellow Birds was a particularly rank brand of Instant Coffee that was popular when we were growing up and therefore became my first experience of coffee… which I promptly decided I didn’t like much and stuck to tea. It took me years to try coffee again and see the error of my ways.
Anyway, here are two songs that link vaguely to that….”
I imagine you will all know that McCartney was due to headline on the Saturday night at Glastonbury this year, until bloody Covid-19 ruined everything. Not that I had a ticket, mind. But as previously mentioned elsewhere on these pages, I was fortunate enough to see him there when he headlined in 2004. He played Blackbird that night, I thought at about the second or third song, but trusty songlist.fm tells me it was tenth in the set. Either way, I remember it as we all sang along, realising what a special set I was watching.
Indulge me for a moment:
Apart from all the deaths and distrust that Covid-19 has brought, I think it’s important that we remember and recognise the cultural impact too.
Anyway, where next?
Well, in case you haven’t been paying attention, we’re still on the section where we’re looking at songs which link to the word Mellow, so what else have we got?
Over to the phoenix from the flames that is The Robster, who I’m sure we can all agree we’re delighted to see has been coaxed out of semi-retirement to start posting again over at Is This The Life which currently has an angry but sad tribute to the man who wrote the song the blog is named after, Tim Smith of Cardiacs. I urge you to read it it, and if you don’t know the music of Cardiacs, follow The Robster’s suggestions. He knows his stuff.
As you will see shortly, Rob has done that age-old trick of mentioning but not really suggesting songs, knowing full well that I won’t be able to resist and will end up posting everything he utters. That was at the end of the line of a series of “Well, there’s this…but no…or this…but nah…” mentions which, true to form, will pop up later. (This is not a criticism, by the way.)
Next up is Swiss Adam from bagging area; now to be fair, this is the third of his suggestions (the others will be along shortly), hence it’s brevity:
“Mellow Gold, Beck. He’s a loser baby so why don’t you kill him?”
There’s another reason I’ve posted that next, and that’s because I figured we could all do with a ruddy good sing-a-long. I’m right, right?
Actually, that’s the first time I’ve listened to that in God knows how many years, and I had a flash-back to singing it at junior school. I, ever desperate to get a laugh out of my friends, would perform the call-back bits in the final verse, paper-and-comb-in-mouth voice and all. I remember our headmaster, face knotted in fury, stalking along the lines of children, trying to locate the source of some unexpected joy, which was not of course permitted. He never caught me (for that). But looking back, what a desperate for attention little squirt I was back then, says the man who writes a music blog in his 50s, as if he’s changed.
Over now to PhonicPat“Here we go, linking the yellow I’ve gone for a a cautionary tale for everybody…”
…because ‘if yellow is mellow…’ and it is a great song.“
Indeed it is, and one filled with memories for me, for it was a song we used to perform in the band I was in at college. We loved it for it was easy to learn: three chords, a drumfill and lots of thrashing our instruments within an inch of their lives. I tried to explain that most Quo records met at least two of those criteria, but my protestations fell on ironically deaf ears.
I mention this now because there exists some recordings of us playing live, done through the mixing desk and they are, without question, hilarious, for all the wrong, unintended reasons. I’m hopeful that the lead singer can locate said tapes so I can convert them to mp3s to post here, and we can all have a jolly good laugh. Watch this space.
Carrying on with the Yellow theme for now, and I’ll hand you back to Nathan, who has a couple of ideas in this area:
“…McCartney/Beatles connection…Yellow connection…vague drug reference a la “Mellow Yellow”…a three-fer?
I admire your enthusiasm Nathan, but sorry, no. The source record isn’t by McCartney or The Beatles, and as for the drug reference, well, we’ll come to that soon enough.
In the meantime, you’ll recall I mentioned earlier The Robster’s cunning plan where he names a lot of records that he isn’t suggesting, knowing full well I won’t be able to resist posting all of them. Time to revisit. Brace yourself, for here we go:
“Where do I start with this one? Yellow? Too easy..:”
I’ve deliberately not picked the original of that one. Click the link and you’ll see why (it’s beautiful). And I don’t just mean because it’s not the Counting Crows version.
Anyway, as you were Robster:
” ‘…Yellow Submarine…’ ” (We’ve had that!) “…I could go on. And on and on…” (I know, I’ve read your blog (just kidding!) received emails from you extolling the virtues of Newport Town FC). “So one that some people might not know is…”
But The Robster hasn’t finished yet. Oh no. Here he comes with his link to Donovan, which should have featured ages ago but I can’t be bothered with going back and putting it in its rightful place.
Go on then Robbo, fill yer boots:
“I’m going back to brilliant cartoons. Donovan once played himself in an episode of Futurama, which has a character called Fry. The wonderful Stephen Fry (credited as Prof. Joseph Yupik) lent his voice to the title track of (the even more wonderful) Kate Bush’s 50 Words For Snow album.”
Yes, it’s almost August, but here’s a song about snow:
Which, fortuitously, leads me nicely onto the final category: all things Donovan-trivia related and associated rudeness.
But before we go there, a couple of the more obtuse suggestions. The Chain Gang may remember that for the past two episodes, The Great Gog has been obsessed with the county of Hampshire. Now, he has a new fixation:
“We move now to Hampstead. The Mellow Yellow album features a track entitled Hampstead Incident. I can think of only two other songs that include this part of North London in their titles:
“(Released in 1987 and 1988 respectively – clearly a time when this area was inspiring Britain’s songwriters)”
Wise words, great mate.
Back then, before the final push, to Swiss Adam from Bagging Area:
“Husker Du, legendary indie punk pioneers covered a Donovan song, Sunshine Superman in 1983. In fairly breakneck style. I’ve just scrolled up and seen another reference to that song but not the Du’s cover. They also covered the theme to the Mary Tyler Moore Show…which is ace but doesn’t really link to mellow or yellow.“
Yeh, but it’s the kind of almost showboating that I mentioned earlier, so I’ll allow it:
I think we left Rigid Digit mid-flow a little earlier, so perhaps we should check back in on him:
” ‘…Pills…” is probably the Mondays high point – it’s a bit of a mess after that, and the next album was a bit a a damp squib. They had it, they lost it, and Tony Wilson probably thought it was great art to fail in this manner (and drag his record company down with them). But … Shaun returned with Black Grape proving he still had it (not sure he’s got “it” now – he’s already been on the Help I’m Stuck In The Jungle, Can I Have A Career? thing on ITV, and is probably second or third reserve for a place on The One Show sofa)..”
You haven’t watched him and Bez on Celebrity Gogglabox, I’m guessing. In case there was any doubt, Bez is shown to not be the sharpest tool in the box. Not that there was much debate in this area beforehand. This is a man who is so simple he managed to get himself disqualified for cheating on Celebrity Bargain Hunt. Sadly, we will never know if he’s like he is now because of the vast amount of drugs he took in the (I hate to narrow it down, but let’s say) late 1980s to early/mid 1990s. I think we can hazard a guess. As for Shaun, for a man who claims to have given everything up, his face is a very odd shade of bright pink. It’s almost like he’s self-glazing. Neither know how to complete a sentence without liberal use of the F-word. Not that I object to this, but come on guys, just one phrase without it, please.
Before we go any further, some background knowledge which you will need to have if what’s to follow is going to make any kind of sense. So have a read of this, which I have pilfered from wiki:
The song was rumoured to be about smoking dried banana skins, which was believed to be a hallucinogenic drug in the 1960s, though this aspect of bananas has since been debunked. According to Donovan’s notes, accompanying the album Donovan’s Greatest Hits, the rumour that one could get high from smoking dried banana skins was started by Country Joe McDonald in 1966, and Donovan heard the rumour three weeks before “Mellow Yellow” was released as a single. According to The Rolling Stone Illustrated Encyclopedia of Rock and Roll, he admitted later the song made reference to a vibrator; an “electrical banana” as mentioned in the lyrics. This definition was re-affirmed in an interview with NME magazine: “it’s about being cool, laid-back, and also the electrical bananas that were appearing on the scene – which were ladies’ vibrators.”
So, to be clear, I have allowed songs which relate to the smoking of illicit substances as that is generally, if inaccurately, assumed to be what the song is about, but none can acquire points. Sadly, since my Mother will be reading this and I’ll have to look her in the eye again at some point, I also have to include any suggestions linked to Lady Love Toys too.
Let’s tantrically wait a while before we submit to the buzzing suggestions which involve items of self pleasure, and we’ll hear from long time-blog faithful, but (I think) first time Chain contributor, Lynchie Fae Enburdeeen:
“Donovan’s “Mellow Yellow” includes the verse:
“Electrical banana Is gonna be a sudden craze
Electrical banana Is bound to be the very next phase”
Which leads me on to the greatest marijuana songs ever written – performed by the fabulous twin lead guitar band Man, who would occasionally perform this song with a full Welsh male voice choir.
I had, and still have, no idea if it’s true that that’s Saffron or not. It doesn’t sound like her to me. But I’m letting it in with no fact-checking because if it’s not true, then it deserves admission just for the balls-out nerve of making such a claim up.
But whilst we’re on the subject of Saffron, here’s Nathan again:
How about Saffron – singer for Republica…Republica doing…:
“During these days of lockdown I’ve been threatening to get my guitar down from the loft and serenade the neighbours. Problem is I only ever got to song number two in my “Teach Yourself Guitar” book, which was (I’ll get to the point trust me) Catch The Wind by Donovan. For years I used to mix up that song and his other one Colours, to come up with Colours Of The Wind which is an entirely different affair from the Disney film Pocahontas, but the next song certainly won’t be that one.
As a follow up I’m going to go for Worst Song suggestion – Donovan also recorded Sunshine Superman. Superman was the name of a novelty record by Black Lace which had been originally recorded by two Italians with the title Gioca Jouer. To quote from wiki: ‘The song featured a number of dance gestures that acted out the lyrics – including sleeping, waving, hitching a ride, sneezing, walking, swimming, skiing, spraying deodorant, sounding a horn, ringing a bell, flexing muscles as a “Macho Man”, making the letters “OK”, blowing kisses, combing and flying like Superman.‘”
Brace yourself. This is unspeakably awful, and fully deserving of the only points I’m dishing out this time for Worst Record:
…which was selected because Donovan and Bono share a birthday.
I know. Rubbish, right?
Anyway, you know the drill: submit your suggestions for songs that link to Beuatiful Day by U2 via the Comments section below, or by email to email@example.com and eventually I’ll get round to writing the next instalment.
There are plenty of novelty Country records and cover versions knocking around which I wouldn’t dream of wasting your time with.
But this one is rather fine, so I will.
Back in 1992, Heavenly Records released an EP, all proceeds from which went to the Terence Higgins Trust, and which featured three bands from the label’s roster performing a cover version each of three singles by British pop act Right Said Fred.
Ask people what Right Said Fred’s only #1 single in the UK was, and chances are they’ll say that it was I’m Too Sexy. It wasn’t, of course, for that single had the misfortune of being out at the same time as Bryan Adams’ power ballad bohemoth Everything I Do (I Do It For You), which spent sixteen consecutive weeks at #1, six of which were spent keeping I’m Too Sexy at #2 (which in itself is a record they jointly share with Father Abraham and the Smurfs’ The Smurf Song which was kept off the UK #1 spot – mercifully – by John Travolta and Olivia Newton John’s You’re The One That I Want in 1977).
As you would expect, I’m Too Sexy features on The Fred EP, performed by Saint Etienne, a band I adore, but whose cover versions I approach with an air of caution. Have you ever heard their version of Bowie’s Absolute Beginners? It’s probably my favourite Bowie song, and so when I saw the Etienne boys and girl had covered it I was thrilled and couldn’t wait to hear it in all it’s undoubtedly glorious kitschness, only to be massively disappointed when I finally tracked it down.
The same is true here; s’alright. Not great. Bit of a let down, if I’m honest.
The second track which features is not-very-fondly-remembered Fred hit Don’t Talk, JustKiss performed by the rarely-remembered-at-all Flowered Up. When I say “not very fondly remembered”, everything’s relative. It’s not as cringeworthy as You’re My Mate, which is possibly one of the worst records ever released by the polished domes of RSF, but ever.
And when I describe Flowered Up as “rarely remembered” I say that with a huge amount of sadness, for I have an enormous amount of affection for them.
But if you happened to listen to Steve Lamacq’s show on 6Music on Thursday this week, when he dropped their ruddy fantastic It’s On, in all it’s pan pipe and what-it-would-sound-like-if-Shaun-Ryder-was-a-Cockney glory, and heard the largely dismissive response it got from his listeners, you may question my judgement.
Anyway, their cover here is absolutely stonkingly great, but it’s not Country so it’s not in.
Which leaves me with, you’ll be pleased to hear, today’s tune.
Give it a couple of goes, and you’ll realise that The Rockingbirds have really taken Right Said Fred’s only #1 single and made it their own: