Late Night Stargazing

I’ve never seen Pulp live.

I know that every now and then they reform to play a few gigs, but if and when they do i again, then it will be without bassist Steve Mackey, who has sadly died at the oh-too-young age of 56.

I wish I could better this description on him, from The Guardian, but I don’t think I can: “With his sharp tailoring, drooping quiff and model good looks, Mackey brought raffish cool and driving, disco-influenced rhythm to the Sheffield band…”

As an unwished for footnote on his achievements this, also lifted from The Guardian: “Mackey collaborated with an impressive range of musicians as a producer, co-writer and mixer. He co-wrote and produced songs on Florence + the Machine’s debut album Lungs; co-produced the breakthrough MIA single Galang; worked on early recordings by the Horrors; and continued to collaborate with Cocker on the latter’s solo recordings. He later partnered with Daft Punk producer Thomas Bangalter to produce tracks on Arcade Fire’s album Everything Now, and worked with Spiritualized on 2018 album And Nothing Hurt.”

I know most people, when Pulp play a gig, go not just to hear the wonderful records they created unleashed upon us, but to see Jarvis in all his wriggling, hip-shaking and pointing glory – God knows I’ve imitated him enough on the indie dancefloor over the years.

But Mackey was an integral spoke of the wheel, and should the band ever play live again, it just won’t be the same without him there.

Here’s a late-period Pulp tune which doesn’t exactly display Mackey’s talents, but nevertheless is wonderful:

Pulp – The Trees

More soon.

Late Night Stargazing

Tonight, a tune I was inspired to post by one of the ones I included in Friday night’s Halloween mix.

I’d not listened to Bloc Party’s ‘Hunting for Witches’ – or anything by Bloc Party, for thst matter – for quite a long time, so I had forgotten there’s that bit at the start where it sounds like someone scanning an old radio.

And that reminded me of this tune, which I got on a free “Best of 2002” CD with Musik magazine back in…er….2002, which takes a similar bitty approach to the construction of a tune to the nth degree:

Akufen – Deck The House

PS: UK peeps, don’t forget the clocks go back tonight.

More soon.

Late Night Stargazing

Tonight, a song which, when I first heard the album it lives on, was probably my least favourite song by the band in question. And that’s despite it featuring rather a good joke, which I can’t be the only one to have noticed, but which I’ve never seen anyone else mention.

Tonight’s song is by The Smiths, and is lifted from their final studio album, 1987’s Strangeways Here We Come.

Now. I know many people feel conflicted about The Smiths these days, on account of Morrissey turning out to be a a supporter of extreme right wing views. But back in the 80s, he and his lyrics, combined with Johnny Marr’s often juxtaposed guitar work, were the main appeal of The Smiths.

Integral parts of the whole that they were, literally nobody loved The Smiths because of Mike Joyce’s drumming or Andy Rourke’s bass lines. It was all about Morrissey’s tormented words, making a virtue of solitude and outsider-ness, offset against Marr’s chiming, jangly guitar.

How we all laughed, as we earnestly did our Morrissey impressions on the dancefloors of indie clubs, wearing our cardigans, pretending to have either a hearing aid or a fistful of gladioli, wagging a finger and furrowing our brow as we sang-a-long-a-Mozzer.

We suspected, of course, that something was not quite right – the interview where he announced that “all reggae is vile”, for example (he’s just thinking of UB40, surely?) – but these thoughts never encroached or disturbed the lyrical content, which remained steadfastly both left-wing and Northern. But we chose to ignore it.

Until tonight’s record.

I’d like to think that Marr had some degree of creative control, and refused to allow some lyrics through. He doesn’t mention it in his excellent autobiography, Set The Boy Free, but then again he was never the kiss-and-tell type.

And although Death of a Disco Dancer seems to be a pondering of life, death and the afterlife, that title has always bothered me. It seems to at best to witheringly accept, at worst condone, the bludgeoning of someone who likes disco music – a genre usually associated with either gay or ethnic communities – in a manner which didn’t manifest itself again until Morrissey’s solo work – see Bengali in Platforms‘ “Life is hard enough when you belong here”, or all of The National Front Disco, with all it’s orchestrated Union Jack waving, skinhead baiting Finsbury Park rhetoric.

So what to do? Do we deny our experience and love of The Smiths on the basis of what Morrissey patently is, or at best, has become. I know of many people who cannot bring themselves to listen to the band’s records, because of what he now represents. I get that, totally.

Me? Until now, I’ve made a disctinction between him in The Smiths and his solo work. The Smiths stuff has the dust blown of its grooves every now and again, but the solo Morrissey records have obstinantly remained on the racks. Fortuitously, much of the latter has been dull and plodding pub-rock – watch his band try and perform The Smiths’ hits live compared with how Marr handles it, and there’s a world of difference.

My rule has been this: post nothing of his solo work, but if you absolutely must, thenposting The Smiths is fine because everything was (almost) okay back then.

On my commute to and from work on Friday, my trusty iPod kept shuffling Smiths’ tunes into my ears which I’d not listened to in ages because, well….because. And it was lovely to hear I Don’t Owe You Anything, and tonight’s tune, and Rusholme Ruffians. And then it gave me Suedehead, and I began pondering cancel culture.

Suedehead is a magificent record which holds many memories for me; am I to deny myself the pleasure of ever listening to it, of reliving those memories, simply because I disagree with the singer’s political views? Am I heck.

Have I stopped posting Ian Brown’s records because he was a vocal anti-vaxxer? No. I rarely post anything from his solo canon because it’s not very good (bar F.E.A.R.).

Do I refuse to post anything by Gary Numan just because he does more than dress to the right? No (but again, get passed Are Friends Electric? and Cars and there’s little I’d be likely to mention.

Why do radio stations continue to play Micahel Jackson, but not Gary Glitter? Does it make a difference that one was convicted whilst the other paid off his accusers victims?

The list goes on. And the thing with being cancelled is that rarely has the person moaning about having been excluded actually been so – if they had, then we wouldn’t hear them complaining about it.

So I refuse to deny myself the pleasure of listening to or featuring records by artist swith whom I disagree. But when I do, I’ll be mentioning why I feel conflicted. And I think I’ve covered that tonight.

So here’s Death of a Disco Dancer in all it’s possibly racist and homophobic, sounds-a-bit-like Dear Prudence grandeur:

The Smiths – Death Of A Disco Dancer

And here’s Morrissey wearing a For Britain badge on The Jimmy Fallon Show in May 2019:

And here’s a close-up, just in case you weren’t sure:

And as for that joke I mentioned earlier? Well, the pawing at the piano described as being keyboards on that is none other than Morrissey himself, and this after him singing on The Queen is Dead : “She says ‘I know you and you cannot sing’; I said ‘That’s nothing you should hear me play piano!'”.

That joke isn’t funny anymore.

But this is: Jools Holland playing piano with The Beach Boys after Adam Buxton has “just tweaked the sound ever so slightly”:

More soon.

Late Night Stargazing

I may have told this story before; forgive me if I have, and feel free to skip to the bit where I post a tune.

I’ve definitely posted this song before, in a different series, back in 2017, so it’s long overdue a second appearance, especially when you consider it’s by a band that I love who (assuming I tagged things properly, which isn’t neccesarily a given) have only featured on these pages once before, when I posted this song. I’ll be redressing that shortly.

Anyway, here’s what I wrote about the album this appears on back in 2017:

“Released in 1986, “Purveyors of Taste” was a Creation compilation, seven tracks by bands from the label’s roster, and each one quite magnificent.

Tracks from this album featured regularly on the tapes I used to prepare for the sixth-form common room, which I used to record on my Dad’s stereo, situated in the dining room of the family home. Often, the vinyl I had used would remain there for a few days, and I used to ensure that I left this one at the front of the pile I had brought, because I knew it really annoyed my Mum. Can’t think why.”

And my story relates to that sleeve, and I figure if I didn’t tell it when I wrote about Pureveyors of Taste, then I can’t conceive of when I would have written about it.

Enough with the disclaimers.

Here’s the album sleeve in question:

I had a party for my 18th birthday, held in the upstairs function room of The Country Club, a glorified bar in the small village I lived in. It was invite only, but as the night progressed many locals seeking some late night drinking tried to join us; I knew most of them, figured the more the merrier, so said they could come in.

What I didn’t know was that my 6th form friends – most of whom did not live locally – had clubbed together and bought me an 18th birthday present I’d never forget: an inflatable lady shaped sex doll. Apparently this was meant as a comment on my peceived unattractiveness to women, and my ongoing unwanted clinging to virginity. Hilarious, right?

I’m told that a bunch of my so-called buddies met in the pub across the road, inflated my present and then were thrown out after they tossed her around the bar.

The first i knew about her was when the DJ killed all the music, cleared the dancefloor and then invited me onto the empty space, at which point my new inflatable friend was presented to me, and I had to waltz around the room with her.

I’m game, so I went with it (mostly because I figured it would be more embarassing to refuse to play along).

Shortly afterwards, I was handed a somewhat deflated present, and was told that someone had jumped on her and caused her to puncture. Fortuitously, someone was there to capture the moment the news of her passing was broken to me:

In case you’re confused, that’s 18 year old me on the left.

And no, I do not look anything like either subject these days. Except maybe for the moobs.

But that’s not the end of the story, for a few months later, Mrs Rubber Dolly had a most wonderful renaissance.

Having spent several months in a plastic bag in my parents’ garage, I set about repairing her with my trusty bicycle puncture repair kit. Not for any sordid reasons, but because there was news that an election for the position of 6th Form Head Boy/Girl was forthcoming, and I wanted to be unruly and satirical.

And so it was that, like a phoenix from the flames, restored to her former glory, she was inflated and pinned to a wall in the 6th Form Common Room, a sign sellotaped to her chest which simply read (not Simply Red): “Vote Mrs R Dolly”.

I wish this story ended differently, but I have to tell you that Mrs R Dolly won the election. However, she was subsequently disqualified on the grounds that she was “not an actual student”. Pah! There was nothing in the election rules which stipulated this. Pure nit-picking, in my book.

Were it to happen now, then I’m sure the outcome would be different, for if there’s one thing we’ve all learned since then, it’s that you should give The People what they want, even if it is ridiculous, possibly harmful, and almost certainly not in their best interest.

All of which, apart from the album cover, has no bearing on tonight’s tune. I just thought, for a change, you might want to hear something about inflation which didn’t make you accidentally soil yourself.

The Weather Prophets – Like Frankie Lymon

More soon.

Late Night Stargazing

It shouldn’t be a surprise that For All Our Days That Tear the Heart – the album where Jessie Buckley & Bernard Butler collaborate – is pretty wonderful.

After all, we all know that Suede got a lot less interesting (and, arguably, a lot more succesful) after Butler jumped ship, and whilst we probably know Buckley better as a BAFTA (3 times) and Oscar (just the once, so far) nominated actor these days, it shouldn’t be forgotten that she first caught the public’s eye when she came second in the TV talent show I’d Do Anything, the sole purpose of which was to discover seomeone to play Nancy in the revival of Lionel Bart’s Oliver! In fact, she won a Laurence Olivier Award in 2021 for playing Sally Bowles in Cabaret – you know, the role that Liza Minelli famously made her own in the 1972 film version.

So, no, it shouldn’t come as any surprise that For All Our Days That Tear the Heart is pretty wonderful. What does come as a surprise is just how wonderful it is. It reminds me a lot of Laura Marling, (see also fairly recent Late Night… inductees Dot Allison and This Is The Kit, as well as much of Tracey Thorn’s solo output, who I’m surprised to find I’ve not featured here, so that’s next week’s post sorted) so if you like her/their stuff – and if you don’t, there’s probably something wrong with you – you’ll love this album.

Here’s the opening track, which sets the tone for the whole record, which you can just immerse yourself and get lost in:

Jessie Buckley & Bernard Butler – The Eagle & The Dove

Do yourself a favour and go buy it.

More soon.

Late Night Stargazing

Released in 1969, For Lovers is an album credited to The San Sebastian Strings, with the sub-credit: Music by Anita Kerr, Words by Rod McKuen.

In fact, the album is some of McKuen’s poetry, set to music by Kerr, with the music performed by The San Sebastian Strings, whilst McKuen himself provides the spoken word recitals.

This is the opening track from the second side of the record:

The San Sebastian Strings – Why I Follow the Tigers

In 1998, McKuen and Kerr found themselves earning a rather surprising writing credit on Madonn’a seventh studio album, Ray of Light, which she produced with Wiliam Orbit, when a sample from Why I Follow the Tigers was used on this little beauty:

Madonna – Drowned World/Substitute For Love

You could say that whilst there may be a massive queue to see Her Maj laying in state at the moment, there’s considerably less waiting time should you want to hear something by the Queen of Reinvention, Her Madge.

More soon.

Late Night Stargazing

There’s no real need for me tell you anything about tonight’s featured artist, as they have featured on these pages many times before.

The song, though? Well, it’s lifted from their 7th album Howdy! which was released way back in 2000, and was released as a single in June 2001. Much like so many of their singles, it failed to chart, which is no reflection on how good it is and they are.

What I love about this – or rather, one of the things I love about this – is the mix, where the main guitar sequences alternate between speakers, in a way which reminds you just what stereo was invented for. Listen to via headphones to get the full effect.

In short, another near-perfect entry in a near-perfect back catalogue:

Teenage Fanclub – Dumb Dumb Dumb

More soon.

Late Night Stargazing

I mentioned in a recent post how many up-and-coming bands seem to have chosen names which seem to been selected without thought for how easy they would be to search for online, and tonight’s artist falls into the same category.

Or so I thought, until I actually typed Ross from Friends into Google (other tax-avoiding search engines are available) and found that such was the success of the stage name of UK producer Felix Clary Weatherall (no relation, as far as I’m aware) that he had managed to knock all hits referring to the actual Ross from Friends down to 8th spot in the rankings.

Much as I love it, I tend not to post chilled-out bleepy electronica in this series, where it perhaps it would sit best of all amongst the stuff I write here, because I’m just not very good at describing it. I could try, but I fear I’d make a proper fool of myself.

So, anyway, here’s a bit of chilled-out bleepy electronica from Ross from Friends’ 2021 album Tread which, if you like this sort of thing (which I do), is well worth a listen:

Ross from Friends – Thresho_1.0

More soon.

Late Night Stargazing

It’s fairly well documented round these parts that I bloody love R.E.M., but even I will concede that after Bill Berry left, there’s very little of any merit in the remaining albums they put out.

I struggle to recognise the titles on some of them. Sometimes one comes up on shuffle and whilst I recognise it as being R.E.M. – Stipe’s vocals were distinctive until the end, even if his lyrics weren’t – but I have no clue which album it might be on. At a push, I could probably name the singles from each, but I wouldn’t want to make it my specialised subject on Mastermind (I have made my peace with the fact that I will never appear as a contestant on Celebrity Mastermind).

So imagine my surprise when one such song came upon shuffle the other night, and I found myself thinking: That’s not so bad, really. Granted, it’s no Country Feedback (but what is??), but still, y’know, okay, even if that is in the context of their latter career with it’s diminishing returns?

This one:

R.E.M – Until The Day Is Done

As I say: not great, but not terrible either. Alright, I guess.

I’ve not really sold this one to you, have I?

More soon.