2016, I Hate You

There was so much love on the internet when Victoria Wood died, I didn’t feel the need to comment.

But last week, we lost another Northern funny female voice when Caroline Aherne died, and I have to say something,

If I really wanted to, I could now post a whole host of links to brilliant, hilarious, funny stuff that Caroline was responsible for, from Mrs Merton, to The Fast Show, to The Royle Family.

You don’t need me to do that. You already¬†know what¬†a sad loss this was. And anyway, long term friend¬†Terry Christian nails it in this interview:

Oh, go on then. Here’s my favourite comic creation of hers, Renee, of Roy and Renee fame:

From what I have read since her passing, Caroline battled with illness for most of her life. We should be thankful that what little time she had with us, she dedicated to making us laugh.

So: a song that will forever be synonymous with her name, the theme tune to her masterpiece, a song that when released was tucked away as the B-side to my favourite song by the band in question.

It’s obvious, I’m not the only person to post it, but it’s right:

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Oasis – Half The World Away

More soon. I just hope not in this thread.

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There’s No Such Thing as a Guilty Pleasure

I’m a big fan of streamed comedy content, particularly that provided by the BBC on their iPlayer Radio app, and that’s my go-to place¬†for easily digestible 30 minute chunks of funnies.

But when I want to hear something more substantial, which is a little more intellectually stimulating, but still fun to listen to at the same time, then its off the land of podcasts I journey. I listen to the big hitters, UK sides anyway, to Scroobius Pip and to Richard Herring. But my first port of call, always, is a chap I could listen to until the proverbial cows come home, tether themselves to an archaic milking machine, and do what the Good Lord intended, albeit in a falsely induced scenario.

I’m talking about¬†Adam Buxton’s simply wonderful podcast, modestly called The Adam Buxton Podcast.

You know Adam Buxton. He was one half of Adam & Joe, the Channel 4 Star Wars cuddly toy recreators from the 1990s. (That does both Adam and Joe a massive disservice by the way, they did way more and were way funnier than just that).

You younger folk might recognise him as that funny bloke with a beard who pops up every now and again on 8 Out of 10 Cats Does Countdown,¬†doing his “Commentar¬†¬†¬†¬† Y Corner” (Not Welsh) about comments left by odd people on that there internet (which really is a game-changer, by the way).

No, not Alex Horne, the other one, the one with the better beard¬†(I do have beard envy) and a laptop as opposed to a band and an egg.¬†(I’ve linked to one of Adam’s appearances¬†before. Do try and keep up, old chap. Here it is again. When √ď Briain, Lock, Carr, Richardson and Horgan, some of the finest comedic brains going,¬†are laughing at what you’re doing, then¬†you know you’re doing just fine. I could happily watch that forever.)

Anyway, a couple of weeks ago, Adam released a podcast¬†where he was ramble-chatting – interviewing is not the right phrase for what happens on Adam’s podcasts; ramble-chat is¬†perfect, and comes equipped with a great theme tune¬†– to Marc Riley.

You know Marc Riley. Used to be in The Fall. Then was in Marc Riley & The Creepers (the clue was in the name with that one). Then was the Lard in the Mark and Lard Show on Radio 1. And now is the host of his own show on 6Music.

Anyway, about 20 minutes into the podcast, the following exchange occurs:

MR: Every now and then I will play “Toxic” by Britney Spears, not out of any kind of perversity, I just think it’s a great record, and I’ll maintain that if Diana Ross had made that record, or The Shangri-La’s in 1966, people would go “What a great pop record!”

AB: Plus, that’s the great thing about music and the art of the DJ, if I can refer to it that way, is that when you play a piece of music, it changes according to what’s around it – the record you play before, and the record you play afterwards – y’know, and it’s totally different. If you hear ‘Wichita Lineman’ on a mainstream radio show that only plays accessible country-sounding songs it sounds very different to ‘Wichita Lineman’ sandwiched in between a Pixies record and something by Polly Harvey, or whatever.

MR: Yeh, that’s dead true. I played “I Feel For You” Chaka Khan a couple of weeks ago, and the only violence I got was from a mate who sent me a text with a fist. But people are probably just thinking “Oh, I know what he’s doing, I’ll go and make a brew…”

AB: That’s a stone cold classic, come on…

MR: Yeh. For me it is. There’s no perversity at all, in the same way there’s no perversity in me playing “Yoo Doo Right” by Can which lasts 20 minutes, or “Supper’s Ready” which is 23 minutes by Genesis

AB: I think the nice thing about 6Music is that it’s got people used to the idea that you can hear all sorts of music and there isn’t that sort of silly snobbery anymore. Y’know, I mean it was Sean Rowley that used to do “All Back to Mine” and the “Guilty Pleasures” thing but that whole notion – I mean, I really like Sean and what he was doing – but I didn’t like that notion of “Guilty Pleasures”…

MR: No, nor me…

AB: There’s no such thing as a “Guilty Pleasure”, there’s a song that you like

MR: You either like it or you don’t like it…

AB: You don’t wander around going “Urrrgh I shouldn’t like this….”

MR: It’s basically all born out of the fact that some people¬†want to just seem to be cool, and not admit to liking something that isn’t – in inverted commas – “cool”, it’s just rubbish. It’s not a guilty pleasure, y’know if you like “Waterloo” by ABBA you like it cos it’s a great pop record, there’s nothing shameful in that.

You can listen to the whole ramble-chatty thing (and realise why I keep referring to it thusly) right here

But before you do that, may I direct your attention to the tag line to this little blog of mine, which has been there since day one, and which I feel a weird sense of pride to hear both Adam and Marc echo: There’s no such thing as a Guilty Pleasure. I feel vindicated.

It’s no coincidence that I’ve posted¬†“Toxic”, “Witchita Lineman”, and “I Feel For You” here already –¬†long before that podcast came out, I hasten to add. May need to brush up on my Can and Genesis knowledge though.

Queen amongst them is Toxic. Seriously though: what a record. And partly written by Cathy Dennis, whose name will pop up here again sooner or later.

I don’t really like to post the same song twice, so here is one of the bonus tracks from the CD single of Toxic (what we used to call the B-side, many years ago), a remix by some chap called Armand Van Helden, whoever he is. (Don’t write in, I’m perfectly aware who he is. That there was irony, Alanis.)

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Britney Spears – Toxic (Armand Van Helden Remix)

And you can listen to Adam’s podcasts – and I’d really recommend that you do – here.

More soon.

Friday Night Music Club (Hot Dogs For Tea edition)

So, it’s over. The great Welsh adventure into Euro 2016 finally came to an end on Wednesday night when a rather fortuitous Portugal managed to put two absolute shinners past the mighty Dragons.

As promised last week, in their honour, this week’s Clwb Cerdd Nos Wener (Welsh for Friday Night Music Club, and this has been checked and verified by a Welsh speaking friend of mine) focuses on musical acts who have come from the Land of Song. Some are obvious, some less so. And there’s a lot to get through, so forgive me if I crack right on.

But first, a disclaimer: many of you will be familiar with The Robster’s very wonderful blog “Is This The Life?“, in which case you’ll also be familiar with his Welsh Wednesday thread. Inevitably, some of the same acts will pop up in this piece as have done over at his place, but where they do, I’ve tried to pick a different song. As I write this, The Robster is on post #94 – or #95 if you count his honouring of the Welsh football team late on Wednesday night – so if you hear anything you like in my post, then I’d recommend you pay him a visit for an absolute feast of all things Valley, like.

Ready? Tidy.

Right, let’s start by getting one of the big hitters out of the way. You all know who the Manic Street Preachers are, will be aware of their sad history and triumphant return, and that their single “Together Stronger” was the soundtrack to the Welsh campaign. So here’s something which I would offer to my dear friends who are heartbroken following Wales exit from the tournament:

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Manic Street Preachers – So Why So Sad (Avalanches Mix)

Don’t be sad. Cherish this. Lawd knows you’ve waited long enough. And you don’t know when it’s going to come around again. Although I suspect you won’t have such a long wait until the next time.

Here’s some Welsh language shenanigans to sort the Daffyds from the Dilwyns: a cover version especially recorded, I believe, for BBC Radio Cymru which I don’t think has been formally released (hence the absence of a proper sleeve):

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317. Candelas – Rhedeg i Paris

“Rhedeg i Paris” translates to mean “Run to Paris”, which seems an appropriate enough reason for them to cover it, what with the Euros being held in France and the final in Paris and everything.

The original of “Rhedeg i Paris” was by a Welsh punk rock band called Anhrefn (or sometimes Yr Anhrefn) which means “Disorder”, who hailed from Bangor, North Wales and who formed in 1982 and lasted until 1995.

They sounded like this:

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318. Yr Anhrefn – Dim Heddwch

(Last of the translations for you tonight: Dim Heddwch means No Peace)

Anhrefn were championed by John Peel, supported Joe Strummer on the Rock Against The Rich tour in 1988, and at one time had Super Furry Animals drummer Dafydd Ieuan amongst their ranks, but I’m sure they would agree the absolute pinnacle of their career came in 1992 when the Social Secretary at the Polytechnic of Wales insisted that St David’s Day be marked appropriately and put on a night of Welsh language acts, with Anhrefn top of the bill, and with a DJ playing nothing but Welsh records in between the acts. If I may misquote Max Boyce for a moment: I know, for I was that Social Secretary.

Years later, when I was in The Halfway pub in Pontcanna, Cardiff, I was approached by a very smiley chap who I half recognised, and he asked me what my name was. I told him, and he asked if I was the person responsible for said event all those years before. I conceded that I was, and he proceeded to buy me a pint and thank me; he was a proud Welsh-speaker, and was very dismayed at the scarcity of Welsh language entertainment around at the time, so had always treasured that night. Which made me feel quite proud, I must say.

Slightly better reaction than I got from the two girls in the Tut and Shive pub (RIP) in Cardiff who recognised me as “that wanker who booked Frank Sidebottom and wouldn’t give us our money back”, but you can’t win them all, I suppose.

Since I’ve mentioned Super Furry Animals, here’s one of there’s, a live favourite, and the B-side to 1997’s “Hermann Loves Pauline”:

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319. Super Furry Animals – Calimero

Back in time now to 1969, and a band who recorded several albums for The Beatles’ Apple label, and chalked up four Top 10 hits in the UK, including this one, which was written and produced by some chap called Paul McCartney. I wonder whatever happened to him?

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320. Badfinger – Come and Get It

The band’s name was a reference to “Bad Finger Boogie”, which was an early working title of Lennon & McCartney’s “With a Little Help From My Friends”, so called because Lennon had, according to legend, hurt his forefinger and only had one finger to play instruments with on the original demos (what happened to all of the rest of his fingers remains unclear) – although George Harrison would later claim that they were actually named after a stripper that the Beatles had known during their stint in Hamburg, who was called Helga Fabdinger. Hmmm. You decide, dear reader.

Perhaps Badfinger are best known, however, as being the creative force behind Harry Nilsson’s tear-jerking mega-smash “Without You”. The song, which was actually the amalgamation of two songs, the verses penned by Pete Ham and the chorus by Tommy Evans, won them the Ivor Novello (also Welsh) “Song of the Year” award in 1972.

The success of the song, and the subsequent arguments within the band over the royalties the song attracted, not only tore the band apart, but also led to the suicide of Evans in 1982.

Time for something more cheerful, I think, and to a man without whom no post about Welsh artistes would be complete:

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321. Tom Jones – What’s New Pussycat?

I’ve started to get the hang of watching major events whilst interacting on Twitter now – Eurovision this year was hilarious – and Tom was featured in one of my favourite Tweets from Wednesday night, courtesy of London Lee, who many of you will know from his excellent “Crying All The Way To The Chip Shop” blog who posted this:

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See? We don’t just restrict our fun and japes to our blogs, you know.

Link ahoy! Yes, one of Tom’s finest moments was “Green Green Grass of Home”, which leads me nicely on to my next record, which I was going to play in my “Same Title, Different Song” thread until I realised that there’s no “…of Home” in the title of the version on the “Songs of Ignorance” album , which I own, although there was on an earlier version of the song, which I don’t:

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322. Murry the Hump – Green Green Grass

Main Murry man Matthew and I have a few mutual friends, and we once spent a hugely enjoyable evening – right before Murry the Hump were due to play the Barfly in Cardiff for what I think was their last ever gig – playing drinking games and getting right royally trashed in The Rummer Tavern in Cardiff (You’re getting a right little tour of my favourite drinking dens in The Diff tonight, aren’t you?). It didn’t seem to stop them playing a blisteringly brilliant set afterwards, mind.

If you like that, I can thoroughly recommend the whole album; each song is a little diamond, just as catchy as “Green Green Grass” and with witty lyrics to die for. Matthew is now in The Keys (note: not The Black Keys), who I’ll probably feature on these pages sooner or later.

Now, some might say that Welsh fashion leaves a lot to be desired. Not me, you understand. Some people. Those other people. So here to dispel that myth are 1980s fashion gurus and ozone layer botherers The Alarm:

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323. The Alarm – Spirit of ’76

See? Cool as toast.

When I was a kid, The Alarm were almost exclusively liked by lads who also listed U2, Simple Minds and Big Country as their favourite bands; stadium rockers, all rousing choruses and fists punched in the air. Bar the occasional song which is the exception that proves the rule, I’m not a fan of any of those other three acts, but I do have to admit to having a bit of a soft spot for Mike Peters and the boys, that song in particular.

Something a little more contemporary now, although the sound is like Belle & Sebastian playing Northern Soul,  and the title echoes back to a certain Northern Soul classic by Frank Wilson that I once had played for me on 6Music (at my own request, I should add):

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324. The School – Do I Love You?

Okay, last one for this week, and I’m going to wrap things up with five words which would normally, understandably, compel many of you to say “Naww, you’re alright, you can stop now if you like”.

Those five words are: Here’s one by the Stereophonics.

Now. I agree that Stereophonics are a fairly dire bunch, but I have to admit to having greatly enjoyed their debut album, “Word Gets Around”, when it first came out. The sound was the same, bar-room rock drudge they peddle to this day, albeit slightly, but not much, rougher round the edges, and with far fewer dreadful ballads, but it was the lyrical quality that struck me most about that album, many of the songs providing little vignettes, stories about real people from the towns and villages the band members hailed from.

But then they went and got famous and started writing guff about how hard it is being on tour (“Have a Nice Day”) or how much the music press hate them and how unfair that is (“Mr Writer”), and that little spark of promise was gone.

Truth be told, it had been almost entirely extinguished by the time the second album, “Performance and Cocktails” came out – with the exception of one song on said album, which is an absolute belter.

So I give you the last decent record Stereophonics ever made:

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325. Stereophonics – The Bartender and The Thief

That’s all for this week; I’ll be back with the second (and final) ten \9poddibly eleven or twelve) in my homage to the Welsh football team and to Welsh music next week.

Oh and just in case you’re wondering what the “Hot Dogs For Tea” in the title of this post refers to, it’s this:

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More soon.

Name That Tune

Mention of the legendary Half Man Half Biscuit in my Sunday Morning post reminded me that I’ve not done one of these for a couple of weeks. Too busy ranting.

And I thought I’d better get this posted before the Wales v Portugal match, during which I’ll be too nervous to take my eyes off the screen, and after which I’ll either be too depressed or too deliriously happy to write anything.

So, here’s the song that was on the compilation CD I mentioned, on Sunday, possibly my favourite ever Half Man Half Biscuit song (it changes about as often as which is my favourite song by The Smiths or The Wedding Present, i.e. pretty much every day. The general rule of thumb for each is: whatever I’ve just heard), and believe me, it’s up against some pretty stiff competition.

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Half Man Half Biscuit – Dickie Davies Eyes

The title is, of course, a reference to/piss take of Kim Carnes’ “Bette Davies’ Eyes”, or possibly even The Adverts’ “Gary Gilmore’s Eyes”, both of which I’ll save for future posts.

And in case you’re unclear as to who Dickie Davies was, he was the anchorman on ITV’s World of Sport, their alternative to the BBC’s Grandstand, linking together highlights of sports of a Saturday afternoon. And he looked like this:

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As the Wales game is on ITV here in the UK this evening, it seems apt to mention him now.

When he retired, because of that trade-mark white line in his hair, there was a rather fine joke that went round: “Dickie Davies never did finish painting his ceiling, did he?”

It’s the way I tell ’em.

More soon.

The Chain #11

Afternoon all.

So, I¬†¬†left you last week with¬†‚ÄúI’ll Be There For You” by The Rembrandts¬†and asked you to suggest songs that linked to it. (It’s my new catchphrase, shush!)

Okay, first the admin. The link between Bruce Springsteen and¬†“I’ll Be There For You” was that Courtney Cox – Monica from Friends to which the latter is the theme tune – appeared in Springsteen’s “Dancing in the Dark” video, as a plucked-from-the-audience-hottie who gets to dance on stage with The Boss himself, regardless of how excruciatingly 80s that might look. What are the odds of that happening? Totally spontaneous, and not at all bought and paid for, naturellement.

I say naturellement, for unlike the England football team, we’re in France for much of this week.

As I did last week, I’ll post the suggestions as they were received.¬†I mentioned in an intervening post there was a fair bit of mind changing/dual suggestions going on this week. For the record, as long as I don’t get swamped (which seems unlikely) I’ll try to post all suggestions, irrespective of whether you’ve already suggested something. This does not give you carte blanche to bombard me with multiple ideas (You know who I’m looking at).

You won’t be surprised to learn that all of today’s suggestions focus on the Rembrandts rather than the “I’ll Be There For You”, opening up many possibilities in respect of art and artists as it did.

So, here we go, first up is The Swede, who managed to beat George out of the traps for once.

“Rembrandt‚Äôs old gaff, now known more formally as the Rembrandt House Museum, is located in Amsterdam. So, keeping it simple and straightforward, how about spinning David Bowie‚Äôs interpretation of Jacques Brel‚Äôs ‚ÄėAmsterdam‚Äô?”

Deal. As I mentioned in my response, I’ve been meaning to post some Brel for a while now, but would probably have plumped for a really obvious Scott Walker cover. But since very little Bowie has been posted in the blogosphere this year (!), here’s his BBC recording version, with a bit of a certain Mr¬†John Ravenscroft at the end, just because it’s always great to hear his voice (and because I have no idea how to edit MP3s):

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David Bowie – Amsterdam

And yes, I’m well aware Amsterdam isn’t in France, before you all start.

Okay, there’s been much kidding around in the Comments since I started doijg this thread about “Showboating”. It’s a term of endearment, of admiration, for a particularly fine example of getting from one song to another. If I, or anyone else, says you’re Comment Showboating, it’s the equivalent of us applauding your choice and how you got there.

Here’s a prime bit of showboating¬†from the Great Gog:

“Takes deep breath‚Ķ

Obviously, Rembrandt was a famous painter, one of his works being 1632‚Äôs ‚ÄúSelf portrait as a burger‚ÄĚ. Although this meant burger in another sense, I found myself imagining a painting with Rembrandt placing himself between two halves of a seeded bun. One organisation famous for placing burgers in seeded buns is McDonald‚Äôs.

Michael McDonald was a member of The Doobie Brothers, so perhaps one of theirs, but which? Linking back to the Friends theme, many would consider Jesus as a friend, so ‚ÄúJesus Is Just Alright‚ÄĚ, it is. This appears on the Toulouse Street album, and by an amazing coincidence, Toulouse-Lautrec was also a famous painter!

I‚Äôm off for a lie-down now as my brain is beginning to hurt.”

Okay, two things. Firstly, The Great Gog has a very odd imagination. And secondly, I’ll admit, I had to check this. Burger as opposed to Berger? The Great Gog was, needless to say, correct.

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The Doobie Brothers – Jesus is Just Alright

Just like the Marillion sleeve in my post from yesterday, that’s a really odd sleeve isn’t it? Every one of them seems to be saying, in a Southern drawl, reminiscent of that scene in Deliverance: “Yeh, my sister is pretty, ain’t she?”

I have to admit, my knowledge of the Doobies output pretty much began and ended with “Long Train Runnin'”, but that’s pretty good isn’t it. Must investigate further. Cheers, TGG.

Next up, here’s Charity Chic:

“I‚Äôm going to jump on the back of the excellent comment from the Great Gog with Goodbye Toulouse from The Stranglers.”

For those of you unfamiliar with The Stranglers output, that’s from their “Rattus Norvegicus” album, and it sounds like this:

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The Stranglers – Goodbye Toulouse

A few years ago, I was working for an Insurance company. My phone rang and it was one of our customers calling to report a little bump he’d been in.

I took their policy number and loaded their details up on my screen. There was something familiar about the name.

“Can I confirm¬†your name, please?” I asked.

“Burnel,” came the response.

It can’t be, can it? I thought.

“First name and date of birth?”

“Jean-Jacques and (I’ll leave this bit blank)”.

Jesus, it was.

I spent the rest of the conversation trying to think of a way to let JJ know that a) I knew who he was, and b) that I bloody love The Stranglers.¬†But I couldn’t find an “in”. The moment passed, the call ended.

I removed my headset, and announced to my colleagues “That was Jean-Jacques Burnel!”

Not a flicker.

“From The Stranglers!”

More “couldn’t give less of a shit” noises and glances.

Still, made my day. I almost wish he’d dangled me out of a window by my ankles.

But, I digress. Here’s The Great Gog again:

“You‚Äôve jogged my memory of a single from Radio Africa hitmakers, Latin Quarter, simply titled Toulouse. Slightly annoyed with myself that I didn‚Äôt think of that one just over 24 hours ago.”

The only song I know by Latin Quarter is “Radio Africa”, and it’s not a song I’m overly fond of, so I approached this with some trepidation:

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Latin Quarter – Toulouse

At this point, George arrived:

“One of The Rembrandts is Danny Wilde. Who was born in MAINE. And MAINE Road used to be where Mancheter City played, and Joe Hart is their goalie, leading us to another Joe, Joe Tex, who sang Buying¬†A Book”

In the late 1980s/early 1990s, Spurs had a goal keeper called Erik Thorstvedt who we affectionately named “Butterfingers”.¬†After his ricks¬†against Wales and Iceland, I think Hart has taken over ownership of the name. Quite how long he’ll stay at Man City if he carries on doing the same remains to be seen, but for now, the link stands:

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Joe Tex – Buying a Book

And that’s your lot for this week.

Oh, wait. Here’s George again.

“Can I have another go? In my defence I can link to an absolutely outstanding song.”

To be fair, pretty much every song George suggests is absolutely outstanding, so I told him to carry right on.

“The song I‚Äôll Be There for You was co-written by Allee Willis. Who grew up in Detroit, Michigan. as did a certain Denise Nicholas. Who? Well she married Bill Withers, who gave us the outstanding I Can‚Äôt Write Left Handed (and the best version is on the Live At Carnegie Hall album).”

Which I think is this version (I own it on a compilation album, where it doesn’t stipulate where it was recorded):

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Bill Withers – I Can’t Write Left Handed

George, if that’s not the version you were after, my apologies. Either way, it’s right up there with “And The Band Played Waltzing Matilda” in terms of anti-war sentiment, although the latter edges it in terms of numbers of limbs lost. Not that I’m proposing that should be the way we judge records, you understand. Otherwise I’d have to crown “Jake the Peg” as the greatest record ever, which it clearly isn’t.

Please note, I have resisted doing the duck in a microwave joke. Kind of.

And just in case you’ve never heard that before (the song, not the joke)¬†but think something about it seems familiar, it may be because of this:

As for my suggestion? Well, it turns out that mine was fairly close to the one chosen in that there real life thing. I also went for an artist, but a different one, and to a song from an album that¬†many people mistakenly call “Andy Warhol” or “The One With The Banana On the Front”:

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The Velvet Underground – Femme Fatale

And here, in a rather pleasing, circular, all loose ends tied up kind of way, is the official selection:

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David Bowie – Andy Warhol

So, roll up, roll up, your suggestions please for tunes to play next week that link to “Andy Warhol” by David Bowie. Please send them via the Comments section below explaining how you have got from that record to yours.

Or, if you can do it in 140 characters or less, tweet me @jezbionic.

Or, if you’re one of the lucky people¬†who have my¬†email or mobile¬†number and want to keep your submission private (until next Sunday), then you can use those methods to. And we really should do lunch sometime, it’s been ages.

I already know my suggestion for next week. I wonder if any of you will be like-minded. I can think of at least one person, a very dear friend,¬†who I know reads this and who I would be absolutely staggered if they haven’t chosen something along the same lines as me.

I’m not sure that last sentence makes grammatical sense, but you get the gist.

More soon.

Sunday Morning Coming Down

A few posts ago, I mentioned Spillers Records in Cardiff, and this morning’s selection comes from an album I picked up there when I was at college, I think one of the first CDs that I ever purchased there. Definitely not the first, for that honour went to a compilation CD I bought which included a song by today’s artiste, and which prompted me to buy what I thought was¬†the source album.

I went through a phase in my late teens/early twenties where I would buy compilation albums that contained a couple of tracks by bands I liked, figuring that the remainder of the songs would be of a similar ilk, I’d maybe unearth a new band and could start to investigate more of their stuff. Method in my madness, see?

So, one day I strode from Spillers, the proud owner of a compilation CD called “CD88”, in a blatant call-back to the NME C86 cassette released two years earlier. I’d bought it because it had songs by The Wedding Present, The Soup Dragons and Half Man Half Biscuit on it, and bar a couple of exceptions, all were cut from roughly the same Indie cloth.

One of those exceptions was the track by today’s artist, and her track stuck out, not quite like the proverbial sore thumb, for that would imply something unpleasant. The song in question was “Fog Town” by Michelle Shocked, which turned out to be lifted from her recorded-on-a-Sony-Walkman debut album (I had no idea you could record stuff on a Walkman. Did anyone else have one you could record stuff on?), “Texas Campfire Tapes”.

So the next thing I purchased from Spillers Records was her sophomore album (that’s what music journalists call a second album, right?) “Short Sharp Shocked”, which contained an altogether rockier version of “Fog Town” as a bonus track (hence my confusion at the time), but more importantly it contained this little beauty:

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Michelle Shocked – Anchorage

‘Anchorage’ tells the bitter-sweet tale of Michelle exchanging letters with¬†her old friend for the first time in a couple of years, finding that she’s moved from Texas to Alaska, that their circumstances have changed, that they have very little in common anymore bar shared memories. You come away from it feeling that both are a little jealous of the other’s lifestyle; Michelle of her friend’s family life and domesticity, her friend of Michelle’s free spiritedness (is that a word?). You also get the feeling that this will be the last contact between them (this is pre-Facebook days, pre-Friends Reunited, even, when staying in touch with old friends was such a hassle. I know, I’ve lost plenty of them.)

Whilst I was at college, my Dad got made redundant from the job he’d been in for twenty-plus years. He retrained as a driving instructor and, since I’d managed to fail my test first time around (when he hadn’t taught me), whenever I was home from college he would give me lessons. We looked on it as a reciprocal deal, I think (and an opportunity to have a sneaky cigarette): he was teaching me, and at the same time he was learning how to teach someone. Luckily, our hourly rates cancelled each other out.

Once, he suggested that I drive part of the leg from our family home in Cambridgeshire, down to South Wales, where I was at college. I agreed on the proviso that his rule that the driver chooses the music still applied. I could tell he didn’t look keen, worried about what horrors I might unleash, but he reluctantly agreed.

When it got to my turn to drive, I slipped a cassette of “Short Sharp Shocked” into the cassette player, and watched as Dad’s body tensed up, not at the standard of my driving (I was still in neutral, quite the feat as you approach the toll booths on the Severn Bridge), but in anticipation as to what I was going to subject him to.

Two songs in and he’d relaxed.

“What is this we’re listening to?” he finally enquired.

“Surprised you don’t recognise it”, I replied, “I gave you a copy of this album a few months ago.”

“He won’t have listened to that unless you told him it sounded like this,” my Mum sagely advised¬†from the back seat.

Nowadays, we have a system: if I post something he’d like anywhere other than in this thread, I have to send him a text to tell him there’s a song he’d probably like. It saves there being a repeat¬†incident of him “accidentally” attempting to watch the uncensored “Girls on Film” video I posted the other week.

Anyway, safe ground here Dad. You’ll like this one. That’s if you don’t remember it, of course.

More soon.

Late Night Stargazing

I’ve mentioned Evan Dando a few times on these pages recently, but featured very little by him, so here he is for your aural delectation, providing¬†the guest vocal on a track by Craig Armstrong from his “As If To Nothing” album:

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Craig Armstrong (with Evan Dando)  РWake Up In New York

I should stress that this is not the sort of thing that Dando is best known for being involved with; it is however a quite lovely snapshot of the sort of¬†pieces that¬†Armstrong has composed for film scores as wide-ranging as “Plunkett & MacLeane”, “Love Actually”, “Ray” (for which he won the Grammy for Best Original Score), “Fever Pitch” and “The Great Gatsby”, to name just a few.

More soon.