Friday Night Music Club

Hello, hello, hello, hello!

It’s Friday night here in the UK, and that can mean only one thing: more tunes to add to the Friday Night Music Club playlist.

Tonight’s 5 sees us remaining firmly in 80s territory, and with me providing a lesson in DJing: it’s not always about playing the records you like. Sometimes, you have to play the ones that your crowd will like.

Such is the case with the first two songs in tonight’s list. These are definitely not my favourite songs by these artistes:

LetsDance David Bowie – “Let’s Dance”

(For the record, my favourite Bowie song is…fuck, I don’t know…where do you start?? Right now, it’s probably “Life on Mars”….later tonight it’ll probably be “Absolute Beginners”…tomorrow, or maybe even later tonight, it will be…oh this is too hard. It’s not possible to have just the one favourite Bowie song, in the same way as it’s not possible to have just the one favourite toe)

220px-Reflex7 Duran Duran – “The Reflex”

(For the record, this is much easier: my favourite Duran song is “Hungry Like The Wolf”)

348103 The Human League – “Don’t You Want Me”

Sometimes I like to slot songs together which kinda sound a little similar, or which remind me of each other, and such is the case with the next one:

dittoep Beth Ditto – “Open Heart Surgery”

I dunno what it is about that, but when I hear either of those two, I immediately want to hear the other straight afterwards. You’re welcome.

Finally this week, we start to move into slightly dancier waters, with a song that always takes me back to my clubbing days:

$_35 Goldtrix presents Andrea Brown – “It’s Love [Trippin]”

More soon. (Next Friday, to be precise).

The Sample Life

When I first encountered Norman Cook, he was just the bass player in The Housemartins.

I felt betrayed by Norman at the time.

There was an interview with the band in Smash Hits where, amongst the talk of collecting crisp packets, Norman announced that he didn’t really like the music The Housemartins made, and he preferred dance music.

At the time, this was the most heinous of proclamations.

As you will have noticed from this week’s Friday Night Music Club, I got over it.

Here’s some storming Norman:

lPClbXmWL4k Fatboy Slim – The Rockefeller Skank

and the source material:

7_justbrothers_tomatoes Just Brothers – Sliced Tomatoes

Or should that be sauce material….

More terrible puns soon (and some tunes too).

You Can’t Ring My Bell (My Bell Ding Dong Ding Dong)

When I was about six months old, my parents moved to the States.

Don’t worry, that’s not the start of a “I managed to find them” joke – they took me with them.

We lived there until I was about three. Consequently, my very formative years were spent in a country I remember very little about, and what I think I remember I’m not sure if, and as I suspect, by some weird process of osmosis, I remember because I’ve seen pictures and slides of us living in America and I’ve subconsciously assumed those as my own memories.

(At this point, if this were a documentary, there would be footage of me running around in a garden somewhere, or getting my head stuck in some railings (a popular past-time of mine, I’m reliably informed), or trying to run off with Mickey Mouse. And at this point, you, instead of thinking “Awww, what a cute kid!” would be thinking, as I always do when I see documentaries including such footage of the subject: “Rich fuckers, owning a video camera in 1972!”)

So there is no video footage of me as babe in arms (seems an appropriate term) in the US of A.

When I returned to the UK (with family in tow), as I had learned to talk in America, I had a Yankie-Doodle accent. This stayed with me, unchallenged, until I started junior school, when it was emphatically punched out of me. Several times. S’why I’m so pwetty.

Years later, when I left home, I found myself living in Wales for twenty years (I’ve made that sound like more of a penance than it actually was – for the record, I would not trade my time in Wales for anything), and nowadays, when I tell people I lived that side of the border for so long, they often comment, surprised that I don’t have a Welsh accent (conversely my Welsh friends tell me I cannot even do a Welsh accent). I suspect these two things are linked, and that my subconscious-self refused to let me pick up another accent, for fear of having seven bells of shit kicked out of me again. (It almost happened twice when I lived in Cardiff, and I don’t think it’s a coincidence that both occasions took place when football was involved. But, these are stories for another day)

Since I’ve lived back in the UK, I’ve noticed, as I’m sure most of you have, more and more American-isms creeping into our lives: McDonalds; Drive-throughs; Saying “Can I get…” instead of “Can I have…”; Refusing to take responsibility for our own clumsiness and suing someone you have a vague idea you may be able to pin the blame on; Clinical obesity; Warmongering (actually, we were pretty good at that before we got into bed with the Americans) et cetera, et cetera, in the midst of life we are in death et cetera.

I don’t think those early years living in America have had too adverse an effect on me. Although, now I think about it, it would explain my predilection for starting illegal wars over oil fields I have no ownership rights to, and how I love to spend a Tuesday morning gunning down innocent multiple school friends of mine whilst wearing a big heavy leather overcoat, like Keanu in The Matrix, whilst imploring that I have a right to bear arms, as laid down constitutionally in 1791, because nothing has changed in the world since then then, right?

Anyway, one of the things I think I remember from living in the States, is Halloween, another Americanism foisted upon us Brits.

I do have some vague memories of being dressed up as Spiderman (scary, right? I think my costume perhaps reflects well on my parents not wishing to get too immersed into this tradition) or something similar and being dragged round the houses in my block, a bucket shaped like a pumpkin on my arm, ready to take ownership of any sweets or chocolates kindly neighbours may decide to festoon upon me.

I say “think” because the sensible part of my head screams “You were only two, how can you remember this??”

Which means I probably have osmosed this scenario into my own time stream.

That’s right: for me, ET is at least one part documentary.

Anyway, I now have my own Halloween ritual. It goes like this:

  1. Go to local supermarket and buy loads of chocolates and sweets
  2. Return home, draw curtains and take the batteries out of the doorbell
  3. Spend the rest of the weekend eating said chocolate and sweets, ignoring the shouting from outside

Perfect!

Oh and:

4. Listening to the only Halloween record worth listening to. The only record that makes me feel about 8 years old and excited about Hallow-fucking-een.

This:

Monster_Mash_cover Bobby ”Boris” Picket & The Crypt Kickers – Monster Mash

More soon.

Friday Night Music Club

Week Three and we’re ticking along nicely and we’re segueing nicely into a little 80s and 80s-ish period.

dubbegood Beats International – Dub Be Good To Me

R-102690-1170019469_jpeg Freakpower – Turn On, Tune in, Cop Out

R-88784-1252781781_jpeg Moloko – Pure Pleasure Seeker

Intothegroovesinglecover Madonna – Into The Groove

c4d72c66 La Roux – Uptight Downtown

More next week!

Do Tell Him, Spike!

Elvis_Costello_Spike

Tomorrow night I’m going to see Elvis Costello.

Not to see him perform, mind, although I’ll be a little annoyed if he hasn’t brought his guitar along.

No, tomorrow night I’m going to see him “in conversation” with Nick Hornby, author of, amongst others, the excellent “31 Songs” (in which he attempts to provide a critique of – you guessed it – 31 Songs which he loves, making the very valid point that it’s harder to explain what you like about a song than what you don’t like (I feel his pain), and that it’s far too easy to just talk about what the record reminds you of (err…..mental note to self: must try harder….) and “High Fidelity”, which is itself named after a Costello song. You will know if you have ever read the introduction to this blog, Hornby is also inadvertently responsible for me writing it.

Anyway, the event is primarily to promote Elvis’ new memoir “Unfaithful Music & Disappearing Ink” (Is a memoir different to an autobiography…? *shrugs* I dunno..).

This is what his website says about the book:

“This memoir, written entirely by Costello, offers his unique view of his unlikely and sometimes comical rise to international success, with diversions through the previously undocumented emotional foundations of some of his best-known songs and the hits of tomorrow. It features many stories and observations about his renowned cowriters and co-conspirators, though Costello also pauses along the way for considerations of the less appealing side of fame.

Unfaithful Music & Disappearing Ink provides readers with a master’s catalogue of a lifetime of great music. Costello reveals the process behind writing and recording legendary albums like My Aim Is True, This Year’s Model, Armed Forces, Almost Blue, Imperial Bedroom, and King of America. He tells the detailed stories, experiences, and emotions behind such beloved songs as “Alison,” “Accidents Will Happen,” “Watching the Detectives,” “Oliver’s Army,” “Welcome to the Working Week,” “Radio Radio,” “Shipbuilding,” and “Veronica,” the last of which is one of a number of songs revealed to connect to the lives of the previous generations of his family.

Costello recounts his collaborations with George Jones, Chet Baker, and T Bone Burnett, and writes about Allen Toussaint’s inspiring return to work after the disasters following Hurricane Katrina. He describes writing songs with Paul McCartney, the Brodsky Quartet, Burt Bacharach, and The Roots during moments of intense personal crisis and profound sorrow. He shares curious experiences in the company of The Clash, Tony Bennett, The Specials, Van Morrison, and Aretha Franklin; writing songs for Solomon Burke and Johnny Cash; and touring with Bob Dylan; along with his appreciation of the records of Frank Sinatra, David Bowie, David Ackles, and almost everything on the Tamla Motown label.

Costello chronicles his musical apprenticeship, a child’s view of his father Ross MacManus’ career on radio and in the dancehall; his own initial almost comical steps in folk clubs and cellar dive before his first sessions for Stiff Record, the formation of the Attractions, and his frenetic and ultimately notorious third U.S. tour. He takes readers behind the scenes of Top of the Pops and Saturday Night Live, and his own show, Spectacle, on which he hosted artists such as Lou Reed, Elton John, Levon Helm, Jesse Winchester, Bruce Springsteen, and President Bill Clinton.”

Astonishingly, for an artiste with such a rich and plentiful back catalogue stretching back to 1977, he has only ever had three top ten singles in the UK, and two of those (“I Can’t Stand Up For Falling Down”, and “Good Year For The Roses”) were cover versions.

Of his 30 albums, on the other hand, 11 have made the UK Top Ten.

As you will probably have guessed by now, I’m more of a singles kinda guy than an albums one, so it’s perhaps less astonishing that I own more kind of bits and bobs by the non-jumpsuited Elvis than full albums.

One album I do own, however, is “Spike”, and there will be more about this at a later date.

For now though, something a little different for round these parts. Here’s the interview the BBC did with him at the time of “Spike”‘s release in 1989, a Late Show special if memory serves.

Everything You Ever Wanted To Know About Spike

It’s rare for me to be drawn in by what is essentially a promotional interview to such an extent that I actually go and buy whatever is being plugged, but this did it for me. As soon as I heard Elvis speak, as soon as I heard him perform some songs from the album, I knew I had to own it.

The next day I went to Rainbow Records in Pontypridd to get a copy, left swiftly as they didn’t have it, and then ventured into Cardiff to pick a copy up from the wonderful Spillers Records. Yes, Mum & Dad, sorry but that’s what my student grant went on in my first year: Elvis Costello CDs and train fares. (And booze and fags, if I’m honest).

Obviously, I’m hoping he is on equally good form tomorrow night. If he is, then I’ll be coming to a reputable bookshop near me soon.

More soon.

Keeping it Peel

As you get older, and it will come to all of you young fuckers (by which I mean fuckers who are young, not…) time seems to speed up. What seems to have been a mere blip on the radar turns out to be a week, a month, six months, a year, more, longer.

Sometimes these anniversaries pass you by, and it’s only as they’re disappearing in the rear view mirror that you go “Whoa! Wait a minute! How did that happen???”

Let me give you an example. Every now and then, I meet up with people from my past. I like to do it, to renew those old friendships, to catch up, break some bread, or, as is more likely, drink some cider and have a curry. And without fail the first thing that is discussed is how long it is since we’ve last seen each other. And once that’s happened, we all stand, scratching our heads, looking baffled and, no matter how long it is, wondering where the time went.

Let me give you another example. Today, it is a year since I posted some stuff about John Peel on here (and frankly, blew my only two Peel-based anecdotes; I wasn’t exactly anticipating that I would still be writing this blog a year later or I would have kept at least one of them back).

More importantly, it also means that today it is eleven years since John Peel died.

Read that sentence again. It is eleven years since John Peel died.

Whoa! Wait a minute!! How did that happen???

How have we managed to live for eleven years without John’s guiding hand at the tiller??

Some might argue that we haven’t, and that it’s noticeable that since he passed the likes of Simon Cowell and his (e)X(crement) Factor have risen to prominence. Which is a fair point.

But let me let you into a little secret: much as I would like to blame the world’s ills on Cowell, there’s something else. We have the internet now. We can trawl for whatever music we want to hear without recourse to some Radio 1 DJ.

Back in 2004, the internet was not what it is now. We still needed John back then, to tell us what was worth listening to, and often playing us something that really wasn’t.

But fear not, I come here not to damn the man but to praise him.

Because that’s not to say that were he still here now we wouldn’t listen to him, because we would. And that’s the point: John saved us the bother of having to trawl through the quagmire of crap we have to now, he was our filter, our conduit, he syphoned away all of the excruciatingly bad records we’ve had to plough through since he was so cruelly taken from us.

Which is also why, in those eleven empty years, whilst the music has been out there, just the same as it always was, nobody has managed to step up to the plate and fill John’s shoes: his shoes are unfillable. In fact, it has taken a whole music station (by which I mean 6Music of course) to come anywhere close to doing what John did. On his own.

So anyway, here’s my record to mark the anniversary of his passing. Not the greatest version, but appropriately titled, a Peel session, and a band that John championed, seeing through all the “sixth-form Smiths pastiche” guff that was levelled at them during their all-to-brief time with us.

51DlnQ8RtVL Gene – For the Dead (Peel Session)

A Missed Opportunity

A few posts ago, when I was talking about me getting arrested in 1985 (and don’t worry, I haven’t forgotten I have to finish that year off…it’s just proving problematic. It will come and I will explain then) I somehow didn’t think to post this prime slice of Britpop greatness:

220px-Caughtbythefuzz Supergrass – Caught By The Fuzz

Consider that massive oversight rectified.