No Such Thing as a Guilty Pleasure

The other weekend, I went to a wedding in Wales, and I had a really, really¬†great time, not just because of the wedding, but also because I got to meet up with some old friends that I hadn’t seen since I left Wales, almost ten years ago.

In the evening, there was a disco. I’ll not pass comment on the DJ for two reasons: firstly,¬†the groom has been known to visit these pages, and I wish to appear neither spiteful nor ungrateful, and secondly, the DJ¬†did what any wedding DJ does: he¬†played songs he thought would appeal to all of the generations in the room, and would get them on the dancefloor. Let’s just say that we enjoyed his set in a way which he probably didn’t intend.

One such song was this, which none of us danced to, but we did have a ruddy good sing-a-long to on on our table.


Mental As Anything – Live It Up

Yes, it’s a bit cheesy. But that doesn’t stop it from being a bit great.

More soon.

This Is Pop #1

Second of my new threads for the week now, and here is where I want to expand on the whole “there’s no such thing as a guilty pleasure” ethos which is supposed to pervade this palace that I have built. It’s also the thread which is most likely to shatter what little is left of my credibility.

But first, I want to draw on a couple of things my blogging peers have written. Firstly, to Rol at My Top Ten‘s tagline: “Irk the Musos!”, and secondly to something Alyson said recently over at What’s It All About, Alfie?: “It seems you should never be dismissive of any genre of music as one day you may suddenly just ‚Äúget it‚ÄĚ and you have a great new world to explore.”

This is a life-long philosophy of mine. I always hate it when I meet someone for the first time and as an ice-breaker they¬†ask “What kind of music do you like?” because I always want to answer “Don’t try to pigeon-hole me, I like music. Not all musics, but lots of musics,” but figure I’ll sound like a bit of an idiot, so end up saying something even more excruciating, like “Oh you know, I guess I’d be called an Indie kid if I was 30 years younger.”

An example: I don’t really like reggae music. It’s fine, I can listen to it, it’s not a race thing, I understand the importance of it, it just doesn’t float my boat, doesn’t grease my wheels or whatever analogy you might choose. I still post reggae tunes when suggested in¬†The Chain, because whilst broadly I’m not a fan of the genre, every now and then I’ll hear a tune and think: “Actually, that’s¬†bloody brilliant.” (N.B. none of the tunes that have made me think that were by cod-white Brummies UB40)

And the same applies to any genre: there’s some songs I, we, you, like, and some that I, we you, don’t. Don’t ever dismiss, because undoubtedly you will be the one to miss out.

Which brings me here, to this second new thread of the week, where I unashamedly nail my colours to the mast and say: this is a pop record, and I really like it.

The thing with pop music is that it’s not supposed to remain popular, fashionable, or current, it is,¬†by its very definition, transient, here today and gone tomorrow. And there’s nothing wrong with finding glee in a pop record that a few weeks later is no longer the flavour of the month.

And so, to Girls Aloud. I like some Girls Aloud records. Actually, I like quite a lot of Girls Aloud records. There.¬†I’ve said it.

And I like them because they are brilliant pop records.

Many of you will disagree, and you’re not wrong to, but I’m not wrong to like them either. Subjectivity, that’s where we are.

This is the second Girls Aloud single, and the first thing I ever bought by them. Lyrically, tt’s¬† a mighty, anti-authoritarian¬†“Don’t tell me what to do!”; musically, it obviously references “My Sharona” by The Knack, which just makes it even better in my opinion.


Girls Aloud – No Good Advice

And don’t get me wrong, I’m not about to start extolling the virtues of Saturday Night ITV scheduling, but when they get it right, as they did here, with Girls Aloud (and I’m struggling to think of another “product” from that particular farm this applies to) it can be magnificent.

Girls Aloud will¬†feature again in this thread, because like it or not, they made more than one ace pop record, so I’d suggest you either get used to it, or just don’t come visit on a Thursday.

By which, of course, I mean: More soon.

Calling Your Name

Over at JC’s ever-glorious place today, the latest in his Saturday’s Scottish Song is a tune by Bronski Beat, and JC of course¬†describes their “The Age of Consent” album as “incredibly brave and groundbreaking” ¬†(and I mean ‘of course’ in the sense that¬†he is 100% correct, rather than in the sense of “predictably”, followed by a weary sigh and a rolling of the eyes).

In the early 1980s, there suddenly seemed to be a lot more openly gay pop stars, and Bronski Beat were arguably the most important; not only did they write songs about being gay in a community that wasn’t exactly “gay-friendly” (I’m thinking of “Smalltown Boy” here, as¬†potent,¬†powerful and emotional a record¬†all these years later as it was the first time I heard it), but they also portrayed an image which, as far as I’m aware, had not been done before: that there wasn’t necessarily anything out of the ordinary¬†about gay men.

Out and proud musicians were not a new thing in the early 1980s – we’d had Disco for several years –¬†but up until then gay men in pop music, and probably in popular culture more generally, had always been portrayed as camp,¬†incredibly flamboyant, or both. (see: Divine, Sylvester, or Boy George).

But here, with Bronski Beat, were three blokes who just happened to be gay, who looked like any other blokes you might see on the street, and who, although Smalltown Boy and The Age of Consent are undoubtedly very political records, just wanted to make great pop songs. What Bronski Beat taught us was that one’s sexual preference makes no difference, other than providing a different perspective from which to comment on things.

I mention this, and Boy George in passing, because I read a fascinating article by Alexis Petridis in The Grauniad the other day (apologies, I always refer to it as such due to its fabled propensity for failing to spot basic spelling mistakes and grammatical errors pre-publication). Petridis is one of my favourite music journalists, a view probably somewhat coloured by the fact he was the first famous person (if¬†being a Grauniad journo counts as being famous…), before I started writing this blog,¬†to ever reply to one of my Tweets (a joke about Withnail and I, in case you’re interested). Along with JC’s kind advice on the practical points of how to do this blogging lark¬†(of which I have written, and embarrased him, previously), Petridis’ acknowledgement that something I had sent him was funny was just as an important part in my starting to write here. This wasn’t my mates laughing at something I said down the pub, this was someone I didn’t know, who could very easily have just ignored my Tweet, responding in a positive, probably unintentionally, encouraging way.

But, as usual, I digress. The article in question was an interview with early 80s pop-pioneer and friend of Boy George (and I don’t mean that in a “Friend of Dorothy” kind of way), Marilyn.

Back in the early 1980s, both George and Marilyn were branded as “gender-benders”, which always struck me as lazy, homophobic journalism. What you’ve done there, Mr Daily Mail¬†journo,¬†is find a word which rhymes with gender, and hope that its use as a derogatory term,¬†a playground cat-call,¬†will stick. Which, annoyingly, it did.

That was part of the problem for Marilyn back in the day; his friendship with Boy George was generally construed/portayed as him hanging onto the coat-tails of his famous friend, and as George’s star descended into an unseemly mess of drug addiction and not very good records, so Marilyn’s career spiralled down the spout¬†too.

Make no bones about it, Boy George is an integral part in the story of how¬†gay men came to be accepted as equals in modern society, in the same way as, dated as they may seem now, people¬†like John Inman and Larry Grayson had done in the 1970s. And when people saw Boy George and wondered out loud if “it” was a boy or a girl (there’s a clue in the name, folks), they were positively aplopeptic when they saw Marilyn. And his story is amazing, 2 parts inspirational to 1 part sad. Or maybe that should be the other way round. I’m not sure.

To say any more would be to trample all over the interview itself, which you can read here: When Alexis Met Marilyn

Given the content of my last post, there’s a certain theme (failed pop star turns into drug-addled loser) bubbling up here, and that’s not intentional. Donovan has had his moment of redemption, where the public have gone “Oh, you’re alright really, aren’t you?”. Marilyn is not as big a star as Donovan, nor has he¬†been afforded¬†such a luxury.

What I’m really trying to do is nudge you in the direction of this, one of the greatest, often over-looked,¬†pop songs of the 1980s:


Marilyn – Calling Your Name

And if you ever need convincing of just how important gay rights were in the 1980s, I urge you to watch “Pride”, an incredible film that I’ve waxed lyrical about before, and which I’m off to watch again now.

Here’s the trailer:

More soon.

All Part of the Service

You’ve probably noticed that I haven’t done a Friday Night Music Club post for a few weeks now. There’s a few reasons for that.

Firstly, I felt that I’d kind of painted myself into a corner with that thread in its present format. It had started off as just being a post with a playlist for those of us who,¬†for whatever reason –¬†be it through lack of funds, or having reached a certain age where going out dancing isn’t really a viable option, or simply¬†have nobody to go with – are unable to go out on a Friday night, to enjoy in the comfort of their own living room.

But somewhere along the line, it changed into me posting ten songs on a particular theme. Some of these became tedious for me to write (I’m thinking of the series of three posts about songs that shared a name with a television programme in particular), and judging by the marked drop-off in comments, I guess many of you felt the same way about reading it!

Secondly, I was running out of ideas for themes, although typically I’ve thought of a couple of potentially good ones recently, so I wouldn’t rule out the possibility of it returning again at some point. Ultimately, though, if it does return, it’ll just be some tunes to brighten up your Friday night, something to dance to, sing along to, maybe even shed a tear to.

Thirdly, it was becoming¬† bit of a drag to do. By about Wednesday every week, my mind would start to frantically scramble for a theme, the panic rising throughout Thursday, reaching a climax around Friday lunchtime. Sometimes I managed to pull a good one out the bag (I’m still quite proud of the post about Radio songs which I cobbled together at the last minute), but more often than not I felt I was boxed in a bit. And, as I’m sure my fellow bloggers will agree, if writing a particular post becomes a bit of a chore to do, then maybe it’s time to move onto something new. As they say on those adverts encouraging us to gamble, “When The Fun Stops, Stop” (like that’s an excuse for the previous thirty seconds of telling us how cool it is to gamble, how much money you could win…don’t get me started…)

Fourthly, I discovered regular Chain contributor Rol’s excellent My Top Ten blog, where¬†he posts ten songs on a certain theme. Here, it seemed,¬†was my excuse to put Friday Night Music Club on a hiatus, for Rol seemed to be doing a much better job of it than I, writing with warmth, wit and charm about a¬†selection of subjects, whilst highlighting a broad range of records.

I mention this, because having been out for a few beers last night, I woke early this morning, still thirsty,¬†and began my usual trawl of the blogs I follow, at which point I alighted upon My Top Ten and found what I think we can safely describe as “a cry for help”.

As part of his “Top Ten Maths Songs (Volume 5: Division) Rol had posted a song by a former Australian soap star (he’s still Australian, just no longer a soap star) that he was a tad embarrassed about. His writings ended with the following words:

“Perhaps I should consult Jez over at A History of Dubious Taste? If anyone will stick up for me here, it’s got to be him…”

Happy to help. All part of the service, no extra charge.

Now, I should start off by saying that back in 1989, I would have rather chewed off one of my own testicles¬†than admit to liking anything by Jason Donovan (for it is he), or indeed anything from the Stock, Aitken & Waterman camp, but I’ve kind of mellowed. Besides, it’s physically impossible, so I’m told.

Now, Donovan (and when I refer to Donovan from hereon in, I’m referring to Jason, not Leitch) has certainly had his troubles: post-Neighbours, and post-pop career, he developed¬†a serious drug problem, taking around two grams of cocaine a day. In early 1995, at Kate Moss’ 21st birthday party, held in¬†The Viper Room, Johnny Depp’s notorious bar¬†on (not Paul) Hollywood’s Sunset Boulevard, where actor River Phoenix died of a drug overdose a couple of years earlier, Donovan¬†suffered a drug-induced seizure which very nearly finished him off too. Lightweight.

Putting aside the whole episode where he sued¬†The Face magazine in the early 1990s¬†for alleging he was a homosexual¬†–¬†which he has later confessed was the biggest mistake of his life – I’ve always found Donovan to come across as¬†quite a likeable chap, as this clip from now defunct-and-should-have-been-out-of-its-misery-years-before-it-actually-was comedy pop quiz “Never Mind The Buzzcocks” illustrates:

So, a drug habit and a bunch of A-List celebrity friends certainly would seem to provide him with an air of credibility that one could argue his recording career didn’t really deserve.

Sure, we may not consider many, if any, of his records to be in any way¬†profound or artistically worthy, but¬†that’s because they’re¬†not supposed to be.¬†Let’s not lose sight of the fact that Donovan made pop records, and pop, by its very nature is “here today and gone tomorrow”, transient bubble-gum. But forever tucked away in our CD racks,¬†our cupboards of vinyl, our MP3 folders, there they lurk: pop songs. And some of them are cheesy. And some of them people will stumble over, raise an eyebrow in your direction and say “Really? You like Cleopatra??”

There’s nothing wrong with liking pop records.

So, as part of the newly founded Bloggers’ Solidarity Movement (so newly founded, that’s the first ever mention of it), here’s a song by Jason Donovan that I like.

There, I’ve said it.


Jason Donovan – Too Many Broken Hearts

I’m perfectly aware that Too Many Broken Hearts is¬†not a great record, but that doesn’t preclude me from liking it. I don’t think this is too¬†difficult a concept¬†to grasp:¬†I’m not wrong for liking it, and you’re not wrong for disagreeing with me.

Oh, and he had a nice hat.

More soon.

No Such Thing as a Guilty Pleasure

Today, I broke a record.

In the last week, I’ve had more hits on my blog than in¬†any previous week.

I’m not really a man for statistics,¬†probably because I quoted Mark Twain’s “There are lies, damned lies and statistics” to prove a point¬†so many times when I was writing scholarly essays at the end of the 1980s, I now believe none of them.

So, let me say from the get go: I anticipate that this post will bring a record low in views or downloads.

For whilst Swiss Adam over at Bagging Area was off watching Peter Hook on Friday, a week earlier I was watching Status Quo play an Acquostic gig (that’s their awful pun, not mine) at the Union Chapel in Islington.

As you may know, Quo released an album of acoustic versions of some of their songs at the back end of 2014, and it was an unexpected smash hit. The problem with unexpected¬†smash hits¬†is that record labels tend to want a follow up, and Quo – reluctantly, so they say – are obliging (there’s an Aquoustic Volume II coming soon).

The other problem is that, because they weren’t expecting it to be such a hit,¬†they pretty much shot their bolt with the first album, and included versions of all the big hits: “Rockin’ All Over The World”, “Whatever You Want”, “Down, Down” etc etc etc – so where to go next?

To my mind, the first album had focussed a little too much on the famous songs, including songs which didn’t really benefit from acoustic make-overs, so I was particularly excited by the idea of them¬†unearthing further songs from their back catalogue and giving them the acoustic treatment. For me, early album tracks, like “Claudie” from 1973’s “Hello!” album, which¬†they revisited on the first acoustic album, had been a triumph, so I was hoping for more of the same.

So, much as I loved the gig and it’s compact, snug surroundings, I was a little disappointed that they only played two songs from the new album. A misjudgement on their part, I think: this was a strongly partisan crowd who would have known whatever they wanted (see what I did there?) to pluck out and perform.

The two songs in question were “That’s a Fact”, the original being on 1976’s “Blue For You” album, and “Hold You Back” from 1977’s “Rockin’ All Over the World” album, and it’s the latter that I want to focus on here.

Hold You Back” has always been a live favourite, and on Friday night it prompted the audience to get up on their feet and have a bit of a dance. Have you tried dancing in a pew? It’s not easy.

Like much from the first acoustic album, “Hold You Back” benefits from a revisit and revamp, turning it into¬†– and I now this will sound odd – the Scottish reel it always wanted to be. Here’s someone’s hand held footage of it, taken from a far better vantage point than I managed to secure:

There was, however, an elephant in the room: the absence of original member Rick Parfitt.

Rick has had more than his fair share of health problems recently, and I read this weekend that, because of them, he has probably played his last ever gig.

There was a notable absence of songs that Parfitt performed the lead vocal on at the gig, hence, to my disappointment, there was no “Mystery Song”. If ever a greater song was born from someone putting a couple of teaspoons of speed into someone else’s tea, I’m yet to hear it.¬†To my mind, it’s¬†the greatest song in their back catalogue, and I know I’m not alone in thinking that

Luckily, they have Andy Bown in their ranks, a talented multi-instrumentalist in his own rights, with a pre-Quo history (yes, such a time exists) to make others pale into insignificance, and it was he that stepped up to sing “Whatever You Want” (which he co-wrote with Parfitt).

Anyway, you can find various hand-held clips of the Union Chapel gig on You Tube if you so desire. Here, though, is their recent gig for Radio 2 at Hyde Park, which is essentially the same set, just played to a lot more people:

And here is an mp3 of them playing “Hold You Back” at the same gig (with apologies for the Radio¬†2 i-dent at the start, not that I expect any of you to listen to it…)


Status Quo – Hold You Back (Radio 2 Live in Hyde Park 2016)

I await the obligatory “Oh dear” comment.

More soon.