Ordinarily, I would go about my business with my iPod on shuffle, listening to whatever it decided to feed my ears.
But this week, three things happened which made me focus in on three particular acts for a while.
Phase One, and the most short-lived of the three, Kylie at Glastonbury.
In a set only spoiled by the appearance of Chris Martin and the denegration of the majority of Can’t Get You Out Of My Head into an unnecessarily-acoustic version of the mega-hit. To these eyes, Martin always looks like the sort of person who has trouble controlling his saliva, and has to keep sucking it in before it spills out of the corners of his big shit-eating grin. Nobody wants to hear a mostly acoustic version of Can’t Get You Out Of My Head just so he can strum along to it; we want to hear it in all its full-on banger glory, without the interjection of a man who thinks it’s perfectly acceptable to name his children after fruit.
I say “spoiled”, but that’s not quite true. Nick Cave was there too, to accompany Ms Minogue on Where the Wild Roses Grow. I’d seen a lot of summaries of Kylie’s career in advance of her appearance on the Pyramid Stage, all of them, it seemed, bemoaning this particular period of her career as being the least succesful and therefore dullest. I beg to differ: it was around this time that Kylie suddenly got interesting in my book.
And when I say “spoiled” I don’t mean that Nick Cave spoiled it, because of course he didn’t. But if you can conjure up Nick Cave and Chris Martin, then surely La Minogue could have also cajoled Jason Donovan into joining her to duet on Especially For You? I mean, it’s not like he isn’t in the country. It would have made the inevitable airing of the song almost bearable.
Truth be told, I got a little emotional during Kylie’s set, especially when she did her speech about why wasn’t able to headline the Sunday night as planned back in 2005. See, I was there that year, and while Basement Jaxx proved to be a thoroughly enjoyable replacement, I’d have much rather have seen Kylie. Plus, the merest mention of someone beating cancer these days sets me right off, for reasons regular readers will be fully aware of.
Anyway, here’s Kylie and Nick performing that song:
Phase Two: The Cure, headlining the Pyramid Stage on Sunday night.
I thought they were incredible, even though much of the first hour of their set was comprised of songs from their Disintegration album which I know I’m supposed to love, admire and respect as their masterpiece, but to be honest I’ve always found it to be just a bit too gloomy for my taste. Controversial, I know.
But that last half hour or so, when they just started belting out the hits, was magnificent; their Greatest Hits album Standing on a Beach, was a massive part of my indie-music education when I was a teenager, and I found myself, not for the first time that weekend, rueing the fact that I wasn’t there to witness it in person.
Now, I’ve not managed to find a decent clip of a song from the set I like enough to post yet, so you’ll just have to make do with the non-live version of this, which was a real highlight of their set for me:
But there can be no doubt what the absolute highlight of the weekend was. Until last weekend, I had no idea who Dave was (other than a TV channel renowned for showing episodes of QI and Top Gear on repeat ad infinitum, or the name Trigger incorrectly calls Rodney throughout Only Fools and Horses), and only slightly more of an idea who Thiago Silva is.
I definitely had no idea who Alex Mann was. But I do now (plenty of effing and jeffing in this, by the way):
Phase Three: having spent the whole of the week listening to nothing but Kylie and The Cure on my daily commute, I went to the cinema on Thursday evening…and here’s some words I never thought I’d type…to voluntarily watch a Richard Curtis rom-com.
Let me get my disclaimer in really quickly: Yesterday is also directed by Danny Boyle, who I love and would watch anything he’s been involved in. He’s responsible for some of my favourite films ever (Trainspotting, Shallow Grave, 28 Days Later to name just three) along with the opening ceremony of the 2012 London Olympics (remember 2012, when we were proud to be British, rather than embarrased as we are now by Brexit MEP morons turning their backs on Beethoven?)
Don’t get me started.
But I’ll take any excuse to post that glorious opening ceremony, thank you very much:
And so I weighed it up: did my love of Boyle outweigh my distaste of Curtis? Yes it did.
You’ll be aware by now of the premise of Yesterday, but just in case you’ve been living under a rock for the past few weeks as Boyle, Curtis and leading man Himesh Patel have done the promotional circuit, here’s the trailer:
Here’s the plot: Jack Malik (Patel) is a struggling musician, stranded in Suffolk, who when cycling home one night is hit by a bus at exactly the same moment as the whole world experiences a power cut. When he wakes in a hospital bed, he slowly realises that, for some unexplained reason, The Beatles and their entire back catalogue have been expunged from everyone else in the world’s memory. Only he can remember the songs, which puts him in a bit of a dilemma: does he start performing the songs and claiming them as his own – indeed, can he even remember all of the words? – or does he…erm…let it be. He chooses the former, or course (it’s be a really dull film if he didn’t) and is promptly propelled to super stardom. But who are the two people who seem to know his secret? (Well, it’s the criminally under-used Sarah Lancashire and Justin Edwards, as it goes.)
I have to admit I rather enjoyed Yesterday, despite it’s many flaws. The cast is really good, and it’s practically a Who’s Who of current British comedy acting talent, as you would probably expect from a Curtis movie.
And once you get past the gag that is people not knowing any Beatles’ songs and consequentially mis-naming them, there are a few funny jokes, one at the expense of Oasis, another at the expense of Coldplay, another still at the expense of Ed Sheeran. (I’m doing it a disservice here: I laughed more than three times.)
Ah, yes. Ed Sheeran. I’m not a fan, suffice it to say. But his involvement here does make perfect sense plot-wise. It’s just…well, he’s in it quite a lot, as himself. And James Corden also makes a cameo appearance, also as himself, and again this does make sense: he’s a successful British actor with a chat-show in the US, so he will be recognised on both sides of the pond. It’s just I’d rather not spend my time and money looking at or hearing either of them, thank you very much.
That said, there’s a couple of clunkers: dotted throughout the film, Jack mentions something which also got wiped from the collective conscious during the power outage, and the inference is that they are in some way therefore linked to collective amnesia about The Beatles. To extrapolate: if The Beatles don’t exist, then nor can these things. But the things in question are cigarettes (and, other than a mention of having ‘a smoke’ in A Day In The Life, I can’t think of any other reason for this) and Coca Cola (perhaps the biggest clunker, this seems to have been excluded simply so that a Coke/Cocaine joke can be ham-fistedly crowbarred in.) I mean, The Beatles didn’t write Lola, wherein perhaps the most famous Coca/Cherry Cola reference resides.
And if the idea is that as well as The Beatles disappearing, so anything linked to or based on them must also not exist, then there’s a reference to Cilla Black which makes no sense, given that she was discovered by The Beatles at Liverpool’s Cavern Club.
What the film does have – apart from a surprise, uncredited appearance by Boyle-stalwart Robert Carlyle – is the songs, and it’s really quite lovely that these were recorded with Patel performing them, and not in a totally reworked kind of way as (I understand, I haven’t seen it) happens in the recent Elton John biopic Rocketman.
No, these versions are remarkably faithful to the originals, and includes one absolute belter, for the live version of Help! is rattlingly good:
Over all, I rather enjoyed it, despite myself. There are no surprises here: it’s a Richard Curtis rom-com, we all know how it ends before it even begins, but it’s enjoyable enough. Perhaps wait until it starts cropping up on ITV2 rather than forking out to go see it in the cinema, though.
Ok, to round things off and tie up all the loose ends, here’s Paul McCartney’s headlining set from Glastobury 2004. I had the pleasure of being at this, although I’ll admit I only watched him because…well, how often do you get to watch an actual Beatle play live? Turned out to be one of the finest gigs I ever saw, which really shouldn’t come as any great surprise:
There’s a bit of an oddity about that, in that the opening song (Jet) appears twice at the start, which I’m sure many of you will assume is just an excuse to post this:
I’d skip to around the 5 minute mark if I were you.
The second occasion Jet appears over-writes the actual song in the set, which just so happens to be one of my favourite Beatles songs ever, from my favourite Beatles album ever. You can keep your Sgt. Pepper, give me Revolver any day of the week.
One of the first posts I wrote in memory of my recently deceased best buddy Llŷr was one recalling the time in 2015 when we went to Glastonbury together, and sat getting drenched watching Mary J Blige on the Pyramid Stage.
Truth be told, I have at least a hundred memories of Glastonbury and Llŷr. I simply cannot think of the greatest festival in the world without thinking of him, the two are utterly inseperable.
So this weekend has been tough for me, and doubtless for everyone else who knew the boy wonder.
That’s one of the reasons I’m not there this year. See, every year that I went to Glastonbury, it was with Llŷr – and often his sister Hel – at my side, and I wasn’t sure I would be ready to attend again without him, so soon after he passed. Not that I think that will get any easier as the years pass; when I next lug my festival paraphanalia through the gates, collect my wrist-band and Grauniad-sponsored weekend guide, I know I’ll be looking round for him.
The other reason, of course, is that I didn’t get a ticket.
At the reception after his memorial service (note: not a wake), Hel and I were waiting to be served at a fairly packed bar. In front of us was a bunch of Llŷr’s work colleagues, Cardiff girls doing what Cardiff girls do really well: getting some shots in. Suddenly – mostly because they recognised Hel as being Llŷr’s sister, but partly, I think, because we happened to be in their vicinity – a shot of I know-not-what was thrust into each of our hands. We of course dutifully necked them, it would have been rude not to do so.
One of the girls in the group, Hannah, asked what our names were, and after I’d told her mine she stared, open-mouthed.
“Oh my God,” she said, “You’re Jez! He fucking loved you! He was always talking about you!”
Not for the first nor for the last time that day, I forced a smile and held back a tear.
“You’re a lot older than I thought you were,” she continued. “He never told me you were old.”
Holding back the tears suddenly became a lot easier, as my shoulders shuddered in laughter.
Anyway, Hannah had been to Glastonbury with Llŷr on at least one of the occasions when I hadn’t managed to get a ticket; neither of us were going this year, so we made a pledge that we’d do our darndest to go in 2020, and if we managed to get tickets, we would make it Llŷr’s Farewell Tour.
Where am I going with this? Oh yes….
In 2003, Llŷr and I and a whole bunch of friends – there was around ten of us, I think – went to our first Glastonbury. The headliners on the Pyramid Stage that year were R.E.M. on the Friday night, Radiohead on the Saturday, and Moby on the Sunday.
None of us watched Moby (Doves were playing on The Other Stage, so of course that’s where most of us were), the group was split between R.E.M. on the Pyramid or Primal Scream on The Other Stage (you can probably guess where my affiliations lay), but – and if memory serves me correctly, it was the only time this happened over the whole weekend – we all saw Radiohead together.
A couple of weeks later, back at home in at the flat of filth in Cardiff, Llŷr burst into the living room, triumphantly brandishing a CD he had just burnt off.
And on it, scrawled in marker pen, were the words: Radiohead Glasto 03.
“Here you go, dude,” he said as he thrust it into my hands.
This is the series where I remember my recently passed best friend Llŷr by posting songs which remind me of him.
Today’s song reminds me of Llŷr for two reasons.
Firstly, because, knowing that I liked it but would probably never get round to actually buying it for myself, he bought me the CD single of it for Christmas one year.
And secondly, because of Glastonbury.
The last time I went to Glastonbury was in 2015, and on the Friday, having caught The Charlatans and The Cribs on The Other Stage, Llŷr and I headed over to the Pyramid Stage, lugging our foldaway camping chairs and all the booze we could muster with us.
Having stopped en route to buy a couple of pints each, and knowing we’d be here for a few hours, we positioned ourselves towards the back of the field: chairs out, pints supped, box of red wine ready to go, suncream applied.
Of course the latter proved to be pointless, as the heavens soon opened. But, seasoned Glastonbury pros that we were, we were ready for this, waterproof clothing whipped from rucksacks and quickly donned.
We sat in the pouring rain watching Alabama Shakes come on stage, be brilliant, and leave. This was a rare occurance: they were a band who I knew and liked but who Llŷr was unfamiliar with. It’s not often I get to say that. He really enjoyed them, thanked me for persuading him to come and see them; we’d finished the gin and tonics I’d prepared in advance by now, all of the pints we’d manage to carry between us were done, so the assault began on the box of wine I’d brought. We clinked plastic glasses of wine, toasting our friendship and our resilience against the elements.
Between acts, we sat in the rain, drinking, surveying the scene before us.
“I’m having a lovely time,” said Llŷr, without even the slightest hint of sarcasm.
And then there was Mary J Blige. She too railed against the rain, putting in a truly show-stopping performance, culminating in No More Drama. And then she was gone, or so it seemed. Because of the tight schedule and turn-around between acts, they don’t usually come back on for an encore, and at this point I was disappointed as she’d not performed today’s tune. Moreover, my slack bladder could be ignored no longer, and so, grumbling to Llŷr about her failure to do my favourite song, I set off to the Gents.
And of course, no sooner had I got there and begun to do what needed to be done, than I heard her come back on stage and strike into this:
When I got back to him, I found Llŷr up on his feet, dancing and whooping along to the closing few bars. As he saw me trudging back into view, ruefully shaking my head, he raised his wine glass up in my direction, chuckled at my obvious dismay, gave a little ironic cheer, and greeted my return with the immortal, often-uttered words: “Oh Jez, you twat.”
Llŷr’s younger sister Sian is running the London Marathonthis year, raising money for the Brain Tumour Charity. I don’t think Sian will mind me saying that she is not normally the running type, so for her to do this deserves a massive amount of respect and, if you feel so inclined, some money. Thanks once again to all of you who have been generous enough to sponsor her so far – I know who (most of you) are and it is massively appreciated; if anyone else would like to help, you can do so here:
For those of us who weren’t able to make it to Glastonbury, the BBC footage was invaluable in feeling anywhere close to being there. Frankly, just this weekend makes the cost of the TV licence worthwhile to me.
Not least because every now and then, there’s a little treat that’s thrown up from the BBC set, which not only allows for the likes of Mark Radcliffe, Jo Whiley and some of those young people I don’t recognise to noodle on like they’re of some importance, but also allows bands to perform a song from one of their sets.
It was through this that I first encountered First Aid Kit doing “Emmylou” a couple of years ago, so, as always I was keen to see what they had lined up for this year.
Much of which failed to ignite the Dubious Taste passion, with the exception of one song. A song I already knew, possibly one of the greatest songs ever written.
Oh, and played acoustically, with an orchestra of kazoos on the fade out. Of course.
Just as it’s impossible to see everything you want to when you’re actually at Glastonbury, so it’s almost impossible to watch everything that the BBC screens from the biggest and best festival in the world. I have an awful lot stacked up on my recorded/to watch list.
I’m writing this before the Foo Fighters headline the Saturday night (I’ve seen them a couple of times before – once supporting Oasis in Cardiff, which has always struck me as being the wrong way round, and once headlining at Hyde Park, with Motorhead, and Queens of the Stone Age supporting them – and I expect them to be fricking awesome), but my highlights so far have been The Pretenders, Royal Blood, Lorde, Katy Perry and, of course Radiohead.
The Oxford group delivered a breath-taking set, getting the balance of their more avant-garde bleepy moments and The Hits just about right.
One particular highlight was their rendition of “No Surprises”, not least for the spontaneous cheer that goes up after the line “Bring down the Government, they don’t speak for us”:
To mark the 20th anniversary of the original release of the OK Computer album that first featured on, the band have recently released a remastered and expanded version of the album; here’s the same song lifted from that:
And finally, around the time of the original release of OK Computer, the band developed a reputation for producing visually stunning videos. I’ll leave you with the promo for “No Surprises”. Don’t have nightmares, now will you?
It certainly hasn’t escaped my attention, but I bet you haven’t even noticed, that Glastonbury officially starts on Friday and I am not there.
I mention this because the last time I went, two years ago, it was the Wednesday before it officially kicks off that I arrived.
Actually, I arrived late on the Tuesday night, but you’re not permitted onsite before Wednesday morning, so I, along with the group of folks I was camping with, only one of whom I’d met before, had met in one of the fields doubling up as a car park, like some weird dogging jamboree where everyone had arrived thoroughly prepared to get drunk to dull the pain of what was about to happen.
From there, we set off to join the impressively and annoyingly big queue for the gates.
And there we remained until early Wednesday morning, when the gates opened and what had been a reasonably orderly queue transformed into a mad free for all scrum to get inside.
Once inside, our group reconvened at our chosen spot for camping, and we all set about constructing our living quarters for the next few nights.
Although the gates had opened at 9am (I think), it was mid-day before we reached this spot, and, just like today, it was a gloriously hot and sunny day:
By around 1pm, my tent was up, my mattress fully inflated, the contents of my rucksack strewn across the floor of my tent to make any potential thieves think someone had beaten them to it, and so it was at this point, with sweat dripping from every pore, that I decided now would be the moment to demonstrate to my new found buddies just what I do better than anything else in the world.
Have a kip.
I reckon if you asked any of that gang their thoughts on me by the end of the weekend, they would probably say: “Sleeps a lot.”
And they’d be right, and I’d be rightly proud.
But on this occasion, I had made one fatal error; I crawled into my tent, flopped down on my back, and lay with my feet and lower parts of my legs sticking out. It would create an amusing image for any passers-by, I thought.
When I awoke an hour or so later, my legs and feet were, of course, very sunburned, making any attempts to walk for the rest of the weekend an unpleasant and painful chore.