It Was 50 (and a bit) Years Ago Today…

Firstly, many thanks to you all for the birthday messages last Sunday; they were most unexpected and, perhaps, undeserved, given that I rarely remember to return the favour.

I have a friend back in Cardiff called Huw. We haven’t actually seen each other for around fifteen years (because, I’m lazy), but he let me house-sit whilst he went on holidays when I was very down on my luck around twenty years ago, and I’m forever indebted to him for his kindness back then.

I mention him now, because on the twenty-sixth day of the ninth month of every year one of us will always text the other the following: “Happy Birthday, Same Birthday Dude!”

I went to text him on Sunday, and was gob-smacked to see that we didn’t remember to do it last year. Something else to blame Covid for, I guess.

Anyway, I sent the text, he replied, and we had a quick catch up.

But something else seemed to be missing, and I managed to pin it down to having happened here. Last year, I had posted Bad Moon Rising, as I always do, but I had then gone on to post the record that was #1 in the UK charts on my first birthday: Freda Payne’s glorious Band of Gold.

I announced that every year, I would feature the record that had been #1 on my birthday fifty years earlier, to see how long my run of good luck continued. (And I promised that, as I’d nicked the idea from him, I’d buy Martin from New Amusements a pint at the Martin Rossiter gig which has been rescheduled Lord knows how many times and now actually looks like it might happen – offer still stands, Martin!)

And then I went and forgot to continue the theme this year.

So, here it is, a week late (but it was still #1 then, I think). Here’s what wiki has to say about it:

“…a popular single by The Tams. Written by Ray Whitley, it was originally released in 1964 and…later became a favourite on the Northern soul scene in the UK, belatedly reaching number one on the UK Singles Chart for three weeks in September 1971.”

The Tams – Hey Girl Don’t Bother Me

Pretty happy with that, as it goes.

More soon.

Fighting on the Forecourt

There are two things (some) British men like to do: queue and fight.

Luckily, some have been able to combine the two recently, resorting to fisticuffs as a way to pass the time in a queue for fuel:

That clip come courtesy of The Telegraph, and you will note that there is no attempt to explain why people are queuing for ages to try and fill their cars up.

But we all know why it is, don’t we, dear reader? Yes, sure some of it is down to Covid, but the bigger reason is the thing the news outlets dare not speak of: Brexit.

I mean, even I haven’t bother mentioning it for ages, because it’s turning out to be exactly the kind of shit-show many of us predicted back in 2016, only to be told our message was “Project Fear” and that leaving the EU would bring nothing but “sunlit uplands”.

Who could have anticipated that when we told all of the EU workers – HGV drivers, fruit pickers, nursing assistants – that they were no longer welcome here, that they would take us at our word and disappear back to wherever they had come from.

The problem is that they were a relatively cheap source of labour, and one of the things that many English people don’t like doing is working for not much money.

The Government know this, but won’t admit it, hence them offering temporary visa schemes to EU workers to come back and help us out up until Christmas, get paid less than they do back home, in worse conditions, at which point, on Christmas Eve, they can just ruddy well sod off again, thanks very much.

Funnily enough, they’re not exactly tripping over themselves to accept that offer.

And hence them making obtaining an HGV licence quicker and easier, which sounds like a thoroughly good idea, doesn’t it? “Passed your over-simplified HGV test have we, old chap? Here’s the keys to an articulated lorry, off you pop to pick up some diesel, and try not to crash into and kill anybody, will you, there’s a good chap.”

I cannot think of a more appropriate record to post this morning:

That Petrol Emotion – Big Decision

There has been some entertaining news this week: Brexiteer Tim Martin – who, lest we forget, stopped all pay for Wetherspoons’ staff immediately after the lockdown started, telling his employees to “try their luck at Tesco” – announced the pub chain’s biggest ever loss of £157 million. Couldn’t happen to a nicer guy, eh?

More soon. Once I get out of this queue. (This is the queue for pasties, right?)

Sunday Morning Coming Down

Many thanks to all the well-wishers who got in touch following my recent post about looking for somewhere to live.

I’m very pleased to update you all by advising that I’ve secured a place to live, and I’ll be moving in over the next two weeks – so expect my posts on here to be even less frequent than they have been for much of this year.

To mark the moment, a song which I’ve previously posted a cover version of here, but this is the original, performed by a chap so resolutely unsexy on the album sleeve it’s unbelievable. To me, he looks more than a little like the Jimmy Carr clone that has been raided for the hair-transplant the comedian recently had:

Tom Paxton – Leaving London

More soon.

It Was 52 Years Ago Today…

Long time readers may recall what me posting this song means, but for those newbies amongst you, this was #1 in the UK on the day I was born, 52 years ago today:

Creedence Clearwater Revival – Bad Moon Rising

I still think it’s a cool record to have as my introduction to the world. Imagine having Ed Sheeran or Clean Bandit or somebody else so utterly bland trumpeting your way into the world.

*Shudders*

More soon.

Late Night Stargazing

I’ve had to check this has been officially released before posting this, for at the moment I have only “tried” but not yet actually “buyed”, but thankfully I can confirm that the album of cover versions of The Velvet Underground’s The Velvet Underground & Nico – is that what it’s even called? Most folks I know refer to it as either Andy Warhol (because he did the cover art) or Banana (which is what Warhol painted) – is officially out.

Here you can hear various contemporary artistes – Courtney Barnett, Sharon Van Etten, Andrew Bird, St Vincent, Thurston Moore and Fontaines DC to name a few – recreate each track from the ground-breaking original. And mighty fine it is too, but with such source material it’d be pretty hard to make it sound awful.

For example, here’s Michael Stipe – remember him? – covering the opening track and managing to slide a bass line which echoes Lou Reed’s Walk on the Wild Side to rather wonderful effect:

Michael Stipe – Sunday Morning

Man alive, I’ve missed his voice way more than I thought.

More soon.

Pick a Track, Any Track

So, having mentioned that it’s the 30th anniversary of Primal Scream’s Screamadelica last weekend, I guess I should mention at least one of the other ground-breaking albums that came out the same year. (There were quite a few, as it goes.)

If you listen to either BBC 6Music or, perhaps a little more surprisingly, BBC Radio 2, it can’t have escaped your attention that this weekend sees the 30th anniversary of the release of Nirvana’s genre-defining Nevermind album.

I’m not sure that there’s anything I can say about this record that hasn’t already been said, except maybe this: in the mid-90s we were asked to choose between Blur and Oasis as Britpop hit peak momentum, but back in 1991 it was perfectly acceptable to like both Screamaelica and Nevermind, never mind (see what I did there) that these were records at opposite ends of the spectrum.

Which is a tad ironic, given that Nevermind is credited with spearheading the grunge movement, which the Britpop movement was, so we’re told, a direct reaction to. “The Kids” may have been dressing in scruffy jeans a plaid shirts, but it just wasn’t British enough, hence the subsequent reaction and rise of bands like Suede, Blur and oh-go-on-then Oasis, bands quintessentially British in all they did.

But that paints a picture of grunge not really taking hold, and that’s not true either. Because for a brief moment in 1991, there was an overlap, and it was perfectly acceptable amongst the yoof to love both, and to interact with the records differently.

It’s really tough to choose a song from Nevermind to post this morning, but I got a steer yesterday afternoon, listening to 6Music when they played this and, having not listened to the album for several years, I was transported back to when I first heard the album, lost for breath at the fact that there is not one duff song on Nevermind, as this – not a single – which I turned up loudly when it got played yesterday, amply demonstrates:

Nirvana – Drain You

Apart from the fact that – and I appreciate this won’t endear me to the die-hard fans – that’s a great catchy-as-hell (pop) record, it’s that bit when it rises to a crescendo and then crashes back in that I really love.

More soon.

Late Night Stargazing

I see Primal Scream have announced a tour where they will play two sets; one: a greatest hits set, and two: where they will play their iconic and ground-breaking Screamadelica album in it’s entirety, as it reaches it’s 30the anniversary.

They say as you get older, time seems to pass more quickly; not a view I’ve ever subscribed to until I found myself thinking: “What again??” at the aforementioned news, as it seems like just a couple of years ago that Hel and I went see them play exactly the same set at Olympia to mark the imminent 20th anniversary of the very same album. And that, the internet gleefully tells me, was in November 2010, the night so successful that the band set off on a full tour doing more of the same the following year.

There will be differences this time round, of course: for a start, bassist Mani quit the band at the end of that tour, to rejoin his previous band The Stone Roses, who were set to reform. I wonder how that went…

The other way will be that when Hel and I went we were treated to DJ sets by Andrew Weatherall, at the start of the night and in between the greatest hits and album sets. He won’t be there for a much sadder, and more irreversible, reason than Mani.

Anyway, on Friday night, partly to mark this latest milestone, and partly because they had just played this weekend’s Isle of Wight Festival which they were showing “live” footage from, Sky Arts showed the Classic Albums documentary about the making of Screamadelica.

I’ve seen it before, but it’s a really great little programme, including interviews of all the main players, and plenty of never-seen-before footage of the band at the time.

The key moment is, of course, when the band give tonight’s song to Weatherall and ask him to remix it for them. Weatherall recalls how he tried six or seven times, couldn’t get it right, and that lead Screamer Bobby Gillespie had turned his nose up at them when he played them back to him.

Sensing that perhaps Weatherall was perhaps being a little too respectful of the original song, Gillespie reportedly said “Nah, man, smash it the fuck up, do what you want to it.”

And so Loaded was born.

But you all know that – and doubtless all know this too: the song which became Loaded:

Primal Scream – I’m Losing More Than I’ll Ever Have

That song had actually first appeared on the band’s 1989 eponymously named album, and is the stand out track amongst a load of much more rock’n’roll tunes. And it’s a song which always brings back happy memories for me too.

For back in 1989, I had begun my tenure as resident indie DJ at Uni, taking over the not particularly coveted fortnightly Tuesday night slot with my mate Danny; neither of us had any DJ’ing experience and we basically hustled and hassled the Entertainments Manager until he let us have a go.

Doors would open at 7:30, but we rarely saw anybody come in for at least another hour, still fewer would venture onto the dancefloor, no matter what we threw at them. The few that did attend, would sit in the shadows, quaffing their pints of snakebite and black and looking nervous about venturing out on to the dancefloor in case they had not picked a cool tune to cut a rug to. I’ll be honest, the night was dying on its arse until we got lucky and the phenomenon Madchester struck.

But anyway, one night, quite early on, two girls approached the DJ booth. They were called Sian (a Welsh girl) and Joan (an Irish girl) and they would, every fortnight from then on, come and ask me to play this record before it got, as they laughably described it, “too busy”.

“If you’ll dance, I’ll play it,” I told them, which seems a lot sleazier writing it as an almost 52-year old than it did saying it way back then.

“Deal.”

And so it became, in my head, Sian and Joan’s tune. And it got to the point where I would keep an eye out for them, wait until they had arrived, bought some drinks and got settled; then I would play it without them having to ask. And at the end of the record, as they made their way back off the dancefloor to their unguarded drinks, one of them would always turn and wave at us, or occasionally shout “Thank you!”, like they were getting off a bus.

Know your audience.

The following year, Joan became the first ever female DJ to regularly play at the Uni. And I know this because I gave her the job and trained her, a glass ceiling I remain immensely proud to this day that I helped her smash.

More soon.

The 100 Greatest UK Number 1 Singles – #94

This is the series where I feature The Guardian’s idea of the 100 best UK #1s ever, and we see what I have to say about them.

Yeh, I’d forgotten about this series too.

So, we last visited The Guardian‘s Hot 100 countdown back in January with a song from 1979, but today’s entry brings us bang up to date (almost), and features an artiste I recently described on these pages as one of “…the finest female pop stars going.”

Here’s what The Guardian had to say about it:

After a fitfully successful start, this was the song to turn the Kosovan-British pop singer into a global star. You can almost feel her clamp a hand on your shoulder as she adopts a stern, schoolmarmish tone to dispense those rules for breakup survival: don’t answer your ex’s calls, let them pop round or even be their friend. She’s not telling us or her mates, though, but rather herself, making for a powerful pop psychodrama.

And here’s the tune:

Dua Lipa – New Rules

And here’s what I have to say: I agree.

Worth the wait, that, wasn’t it?

More soon.

Ba Ba Ba Ba-Ba Ba Ba Ba*

*Now expanded to include La La La’s, Do-be-do-be-do’s, Na Na Na Na Na’s and all points in between.

Ask most people to name their favourite T. Rex tune, and they will usually plump for any one of the following: Telegram Sam, Get It On, Debora, Ride a White Swan, 20th Century Boy, Jeepster or Children of the Revolution.

But not this star cat, oh no.

My favourite T. Rex tune was their first ever UK #1 single, but, for some reason it always seems to get overlooked when people posit on the band’s success. It was the first ever record I heard by them, and the person responsible for playing it to me was (at the time) Radio 1 DJ Tony Blackburn.

He didn’t play it just to me, of course. It was on his radio show, and this would have been in the late 1970s, so as I was approaching my tenth birthday. I was in my bedroom, listening to the radio, when Tony introduced a record with the following words (not verbatim):

“I remember when this first came out in 1971, I played it on the Breakfast Show and when it had finished, I realised that I liked it so much I just had to hear it again. And I thought the listeners must have thought the same thing, so I played it to them again.”

This caught my attention. I may even have put down whichever Dr Who book I was reading at the time (probably Dr Who and The Loch Ness Monster, I read that one a lot. It’s the best one: it has Zygons in it) and listened.

And now whenever I hear the song in question, I am back in my room, listening to it for the first time, and thinking that, even though it had come out seven or eight years earlier, it was quite unlike anything my eight or nine year old ears had heard before.

See, you’re never too old to learn.

Anyway, this is the song, just shy of five minutes of what we would come to know as Marc Bolan’s lyrical style (rhyming couplets which don’t generally don’t really seem to mean anything), and which then pulls the same stunt as The Beatles did on the coda of Hey Jude, only swapping the Na Na Na‘s for some La La La‘s until the fade:

T. Rex – Hot Love

More soon.