The Chain #20

A warm welcome to all the Chain Gang for the latest instalment in…erm…well, The Chain, obviously.

It seems you’ve decided to take it easy on me this week, with, at the time I’m starting to write this, just the 16 suggestions (plus mine) received. So far. Can’t rule out the occasional late arrival though.

So to recap: we ended last week with The Smiths “Rusholme Ruffians/His Latest Flame (Medley)”, and of course we were looking for your suggestions for records which can be linked to that.

Now you know the score by now: at this point I would normally simply go through the list of suggestions, in the order that I received them, until we get to the end, I suggest mine, reveal what the actual link from the official BBC The Chain is, and invite your links to that ready for next week.

This week, however, I’m going to mix it up a little bit, because, well frankly, the last suggestion I received simply has to be first.

Here’s George to explain:

“I’ve got a link to Ant and Dec………..”

Is it just me, or has it suddenly got very cold in here?

“In The Smiths the drummer was Andy Rourke. PJ O’Rourke is an American journalist……..and PJ and Duncan were in Byker Grove (not actually filmed in Byker) and they released a few singles, for example ‘Lets Get Ready to Rumble’ And PJ and Duncan are better known (according to my partner) as Ant and Dec!”

I love the double disclaimer in George’s suggestion, not just the “according to my partner” bit, but also spelling Rumble in the way he has, instead of the way that we all know it was actually spelt on that legendary single. Like this:

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PJ & Duncan – Let’s Get Ready to Rhumble

Fear not. That’s not the last we’ve heard of from George this week. And I should stress, his suggestions get better, not worse.

So, to The Swede, of Unthought of, though, somehow with a short, but sweet, suggestion:

“From Smith to Jones – Meilyr Jones with the terrific ‘How to Recognise a Work of Art’.”

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Meilyr Jones – How To Recognise A Work Of Art

If you don’t know that record – as I didn’t until The Swede suggested it and I went a-huntin’ – I would heartily recommend you give it a go. It reminds me of My Life Story crossed with Johnny Boy’s “You Are The Generation That Bought More Shoes”, and if that doesn’t tempt you, then I don’t know what will. In fact, if I can go all Victor Kiam for a moment, I liked it so much I’ve gone and got me the album, 2013, too. So, y’know, cheers Swede!

Anyway, back to business. Here’s babylotti:

“Mint Royale released a single called ‘From Rusholme with Love’, one of their most well known tracks is ‘Sexiest man in Jamaica’, not many know the sample was lifted from a live Selecter album with Prince Buster introducing the song in his own humble way, so I suggest that song: The Selecter ft Prince Buster, Rough Rider”

I just confess, I’d often wondered where that sample was lifted from. Cheers for enlightening me.

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The Selecter feat. Prince Buster – Rough Rider (Live)

In case you don’t know the Mint Royale tune babylotti refers to, it’s this:

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Mint Royale – Sexiest Man In Jamaica

And before we go any further, it would be improper not to doff a cap, raise a glass, or show respect in whatever way you think is appropriate, to the now late, always great Prince Buster who passed away last week.

Look out, here come George again.

“I’ve got a link involving Mick Hucknall………..”

No, it’s definitely got colder again.

“Johnny Marr of The Smiths was born in Manchester as was Mick Hucknall….(wait, it gets better) and Mick Hucknall recorded a trbute album of songs of Bobby “Blue” Bland (I promise you it gets better very soon……), for which Mr Hucknall was fortunate not to be sent to prison, and amongst the many fine songs recorded by Bobby “Blue” Bland is one from his R&B era, ‘Little Boy Blue’ (which is my favourite of all his songs).”

Judge for yourselves, Chain Gangers.

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Bobby “Blue” Bland  – Little Boy Blue

Better than his first suggestion, no? And at least it isn’t an actual record by the Tiffany-from-EastEnders’ vomit covered singer (look it up).

Ok, here’s SWC from When You Can’t Remember Anything:

“So Rusholme, Google tells me, is in Manchester. The Smiths also famously put Strangeways on their album sleeves which is also in Manchester. The Mull Historical Society also sang about Strangeways in their minor classic ‘Strangeways Inside’”

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Mull Historical Society – Strangeways Inside

That’s an album I’ve owned for ages but have never really got into. You’d think having seen them, albeit on the main stage at Glastonbury, on a gloriously sunny Saturday afternoon, when I was too mashed to move having over-done the space cakes would endear them to me, wouldn’t you?

“Or just post Sackville by the Carpets” continues SWC.

That’s more like it!

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Inspiral Carpets – Sackville

We are now about to go fully Manc.

I’ll hand you over to Badger (also of When You Can’t Remember Anything) for the next link:

“Taking the Manchester thing that my esteemed colleague SWC mentioned and twisting it slightly by introducing ‘Shadows of Salford’ by Doves”

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Doves – Shadows of Salford

“But…” Badger continues, “Manchester is linked to Liverpool via a motorway. If you turn off that motorway near the end you end up near ‘New brighton’. Which has a promenade famously sung about by The Boo Radleys.

Well, it certainly has a promenade The Boo Radleys sang about. Famously, though….?:

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The Boo Radleys – New Brighton Promenade

You’ll recall that last week Swiss Adam from baggingarea managed to correctly guess the next song in the official chain. Let’s see if he can manage it again this week, shall we?

“To jump on Badger’s suggestion, Doves also had M62 Song which handily links Manchester and Liverpool westwards”.

No, he can’t, is the short answer.

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Doves – M62 Song

“I love all this talk of the M62” proffers The Great Gog. “It’s Immaterial started off in Liverpool and hypothesised about heading out to Manchester on Driving Away From Home (Jim’s Tune). – “it’s only 39 miles and 45 minutes…and that’s my birthplace you know”. Mine too!”

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It’s Immaterial – Driving Away From Home (Jim’s Tune)

One of my favourite records ever, that. I remember seeing them perform it on Top of The Pops back in 1986 and incredulously thinking: “What on earth is that??”

It’s a cracking anecdote, that, isn’t it?

“An alternative would be that in Rusholme Ruffians,” The Great Gog continues, “Morrissey makes reference to a speedway operator. The word speedway to me and many other Mancunians of my age evokes memories of the great Belle Vue Aces team of the 1970s, so perhaps a spot of Kathleen Edwards and “12 Bellevue” would be in order.”

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Kathleen Edwards – 12 Bellevue

This is where I piggy-back on The Great Gog’s idea. I made two semi-suggestions myself, both of which stem from his. The first was “Speedway” by Morrissey, but it seems a bit lame to link a record by The Smiths to a record by Morrissey, so I’ll scrub that.

However, I’m sticking with this absolute corker:

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Miaow – Belle Vue

Now then. We have an announcement. Regular Chain Ganger What’s It All About, Alfie? isn’t a spy at all, as we’d all suspected from her reluctance to divulge her name. No: it transpires that she has a name, and lo! It is Alyson.

Here’s her suggestion:

“Coming from the far north I get my English place names a bit muddled and in my head I got Rusholme and Rushden mixed up. I seem to remember when listening to football results being read out on a Saturday that there was a team called Rushden & Diamonds. Got me, in a very round about way, to thinking about the sadly missed Prince and one of my favourite songs from him – Diamonds & Pearls.”

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Prince & the New Power Generation – Diamonds and Pearls

Now, on to my remaining suggestions. I have to admit I was struggling a bit this week, figuring that most of you would go with links to The Smiths, to Rusholme, to Rank, but that very few of you would come up with anything linked to Ruffians. So, I flicked through my thesaurus (which I really should refer to again to come up with some alternatives for the word “suggestions”) which proffered the word “Barbarian”. Which leads me to this:

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Voice of the Beehive – There’s A Barbarian In The Back Of My Car

And I was going to leave it there, but I happened to notice for the first time that that was co-written by 1980s grebo Zodiac Mindwarp, which leads me to this:

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Zodiac Mindwarp & The Love Reaction – Prime Mover (Automatic Cannibal Mix)

Look out, George is back, and he’s taking the starting point for his third and final suggestion (which was actually his first…confusing doing this in a random order, innit?) as the album that The Smiths “Rusholme Ruffians/His Latest Flame (Medley)” is lifted from, Rank, and links it:

“…to J Arthur Rank (the British film producer) then using rhyming slang (“I’m just off for a “J Arthur” – a spot of one-handed lovemaking) to end with The Vapors song Turning Japanese, a song allegedly about Onanism – but the writer says that this is wrong.”

I have to say I’m rather disappointed if that’s the case. I’ve lost count of how many people I’ve told that is what the song’s about. Gah! Egg all over my face!

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The Vapors – Turning Japanese

Here comes Charity Chic:

“Staying on the ranking theme can I have the greatest one hit wonder of all time and a song which I think has featured on this series before (It hasn’t, or rather if it did, I forgot to tag it, although it has featured on this blog fairly recently – Ed.): Uptown Top Ranking by Althea and Donna.”

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Althea & Donna – Uptown Top Ranking

“If there is a rule about songs not featuring twice,” CC continues – there isn’t but I think we should perhaps introduce that rule now. Don’t want to make things too easy for me, now do you? –  “Ranking Full Stop by The Beat please.”

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The Beat – Ranking Full Stop

Time for the last of the suggestions, and I’ll hand over to Alex G from We Will Have Salad, who, rather annoyingly from my perspective, has a good memory:

“Well, you did lay down the challenge, so… The Smiths obviously links to Will Smith, who was half of DJ Jazzy Jeff and The Fresh Prince, and thereby had a hit with “Summertime”. You really should listen to your friends when they tell you it’s one of the two greatest records with “summer” in the title.”

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DJ Jazzy Jeff and The Fresh Prince – Summertime

I remain unbowed. I’m not saying it’s a bad record (although I have probably said that at one time or another). I’m just saying that if I have to pick my favourite two songs with the word “summer” in the title, I’m going for “Hot Fun in the Summertime” by Sly & The Family Stone and “Here Comes The Summer” by The Undertones every time. But each to his/her own, and all that.

And that’s the end of that, and you probably will have noticed that normality has been restored, and there’s been no  correct guesses as to the official link this week. As usual, that’s because your suggestions are all really good, and as usual, the official one is ever so slightly underwhelming:

“Another famous ‘Smith’ is Cure frontman Robert…”

The song, on the other hand, is terrific. But you already knew that, right?

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20. The Cure – In Between Days

And that’s it for another week. I would think most of you know what to do now, but we’re having a few more visitors to these shores recently, so I’ll recap: send me your suggestions for songs that you can link to The Cure’s “In Between Days”, along with a description of how you have got to your suggestion, via the Comments section below. All suggestions welcome.

See you all same time, same place, next week.

Oh, and more soon, obviously.

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A History of Dubious Taste: The Formative Years

Disclaimer: This post contains four fucking terrible records. But stick with it. There’s four really great ones after that.

It’s funny how the most mundane of events can trigger long buried memories.

Don’t worry, I’m not about to go all gloomy and confess to years of abuse at the hands of a 1970s celebrity. Well, not unless you can count owning records by a certain band from the 60s & 70s as abuse.

And no, I don’t mean Status Quo.

Let me explain.

This week, for the first time in years, I went to the dentist.

I should stress at this point that I hadn’t avoided going through any lack of care for my oral hygiene – I’m no Shane Magowan, is what I’m saying. When I was a kid, my parents took me to the dentist regularly, and I had learned how to take care of my teeth to the extent that I’ve never had a filling, a crown or a tooth removed. I know you’re supposed to go to the dentist for regular check-ups, but I don’t go to my doctor for them for the rest of my body, and going to the doctor is free, whilst you have to pay to see a dentist. Why waste money just to have a bloke give my teeth a bit of a scrape every couple of months? Trips to the dentist firmly resided in the “If it ain’t broke, don’t mend it” category.

Well, this week, something broke, namely one of my teeth. I wish I could say it was punched out of me in a fight where I was defending someone’s honour, but what actually happened was I was eating a chocolate which suddenly developed a crunchy texture it hadn’t had when I first popped it in my mouth. At first I wondered if I was the latest victim of one of those “look at this disgusting thing that I found in my food” stories you read about every now and then, but it quickly transpired that the crunchiness was in fact a large chunk of tooth which had decided it no longer wanted to be in my mouth, and preferred my stomach instead. My stomach is considerably larger than my mouth, so I can’t really say I blame it for wanting to upgrade to somewhere roomier.

As it goes, the trip to the dentist was considerably less painful than I had expected: all he did was saw off part of the remaining tooth, prescribe me some antibiotics, and tell me I need to come back to have the rest either removed or a crown put in.

In fact, the most painful thing about the whole thing, is that as a result I’ve had this song, by a group whose schtick was performing “funny” parodies of popular hits of the time (on this occasion, “Rivers of Babylon“, “Matchstalk Men and Matchstalk Cats and Dogs” and “The Smurf Song“) lodged in my brain all week:

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The Barron Knights – A Taste Of Aggro

Unbelievable as it may seem, that got to Number 3 in the UK singles chart in 1978.

I, of course, did not contribute to its sales. Oh no, of course not. Instead, the nine-year old me belligerently badgered my parents until they finally gave in and bought me their “Night Gallery” album from which “…Aggro” came instead.

At the time, I thought this record was the funniest thing I’d ever heard. I would listen to it over and over again, learning the words, laughing out loud long after the “jokes” had actually ceased to be funny.

Not content with annoying my family by playing this album endlessly, I decided I wanted to share it with my peers at school, and to that end I asked my Junior School teacher at the time if I could bring it in for a “Show and Tell” lesson.

What I should stress at this point is that we had never had a “Show and Tell” lesson before, and as far as I can recall, we never had another one either. I think the second of those two facts can be directly attributed to me.

These are the three parodies from “Night Gallery” that I subjected my classmates and teacher to: one of Heatwave’s “Boogie Nights”, one of Althea and Donna’s “Uptown Top Ranking”, (both fairly recent hits at the time, being from 1976 and 1978 respectively), and Tommy Steele’s “Little White Bull” (from 1959, so slightly less current).

Oh no, you don’t get off so lightly as to just be told what the chosen songs were parodies of: here’s the actual songs, placed in ascending order of awfulness.

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The Barron Knights – Boozy Nights

The Barron Knights – Boy Scouts Out Camping

(I seem to have an horrific image of “comedians” Little & Large performing that on one of their shows, both dressed as Scouts. I’m not sure which is worse: that actually having happened, or my imagining it…)

The Barron Knights – Little White Bum

Yes, that last one really is about a young boy who liked, and was encouraged by his parents, to show off his bottom to the extent that he is entered into a Best Baby’s Arse Competition. Was that ever a thing??

When people say the 1970s were a different time, they really aren’t joking.

The only good thing I can say about these is that they introduced me to the original records, two of which I love (the Tommy Steele one, not so much). So, in the interest of balance, and moreover palate cleansing, here they are:

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Heatwave – Boogie Nights

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Althea & Donna – Uptown Top Ranking

Words cannot express how much I love Althea’s (or is it Donna? I have no clue which is which. Does that make them the 1970s Ant & Dec??) massive glasses and even more massive ‘fro combo.

If I lie back on the psychologist’s couch for a while, I guess this forced “Show and Tell” lesson was the first example of something which has characterised my life ever since – through all the mix-tapes I used to churn out at Sixth Form, the DJ’ing at college, the playlists I still happily compose at the drop of a hat, hell, even this place: a desire to share records with people. The notion that I owe all of those years of pleasure to The Barron sodding Knights is quite a startling one.

But I’m not done with embarrassing confessions from my Junior School days just yet.

Surprising as it may seem now, when I was at Junior School age I was considered to be a pretty bright kid, and was moved up a year as a result. This must have happened when I was about six or seven years old, and I, along with my year older than I classmates, had completely forgotten about it until it came to the time for them all to go to Secondary School and I was left behind.

That meant that I essentially had to repeat my final year of Junior School, a trend which continued when I went to college, but more of that some other time.

Anyway, that meant that I spent two years in Mr Land’s class. He was a nice enough chap, as I recall. He used to be in charge of putting on the annual school play and – and I only remembered this when the above came to mind – he encouraged his class in creative writing. One project he gave us was to write a children’s story for someone in the Infant School, placing them within the story, which now I think about is a quite brilliant way to engage kids in books and writing. He also used to hold a short-story writing competition for his class at the end of each term.

Now, all through my educational years, and when at Junior School in particular, it was considered that I had a great talent for writing. I was given blank exercise books and encouraged to just fill them with stories; I, of course attempted to write one long story. Ultimately, these just consisted of elaborate car chases, but the intention was there.

Ever since, I’ve wanted to write a novel. Many of my friends will vouch for the fact that every now and then throughout my life  I have announced I’ve come up with a brilliant idea for a book which I would start on right away.

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Father John Misty – I’m Writing a Novel

Inevitably, I would write the first chapter, if that, before being struck with either writer’s block or a crippling realisation that I just can’t write well enough to produce such a thing.

Which is pretty much why I do this. A few years ago, I decided I was going to write about all of the dumb things me and my friends had got up to, or had happened to us, on nights out, which I would then try to string together into some kind of narrative structure and build a plot around. Needless to say, I didn’t get far when I realised – again – that writing a book is bloody difficult, that I didn’t really have the patience, stamina, self-discipline, determination or drive required for the task in hand. Instead, I decided to write them in bite-size chunks and post them here. I still get distracted and find myself writing about cover versions, or preparing a playlist for you every Friday night, or any of the other threads I’ve started here and got bored with after a while. But be warned: I’m currently working on pieces about all of the records I bought in 1986, so the main thrust of this blog should be returning more regularly soon.

Speaking of getting distracted, I have digressed again. Mr Land’s short story competition is where I was heading.

Because of my perceived talents in the field, I had just assumed, as did many others, that I would walk away with first prize every time the competition came around. But I was reckoning without my nemesis, a lad called Richard Crisp.

Every term, Richard would write essentially the same story, and every term he would win. Every term, without fail, he would write a story about a football match between two semi-fictional teams, say for example “Mods versus Rockers” (the names had absolutely no bearing on the story, he didn’t recount a football match as if it were a pitched battle on Brighton beach), but he would make classmates and teachers members of the teams, giving him scope to make a few jokes at their expense, and refer to incidents which had happened during the previous term.

So when my classmates all went off to Secondary School, leaving me behind with a new class who had never been invited to enter the short story competition before and thus had never heard any of Richard’s prize-winning stories, I saw my opportunity to claim the crown I so desperately craved. I would do exactly the same as he did: write a story about a football match between two random groups, and, just as Richard had done so successfully, would incorporate teachers and classmates alike into the game, with much hilarity undoubtedly ensuing.

But which two random groups would I choose as the names for the teams? I pondered long and hard over this, before finally settling on two which I thought were entirely appropriate and suitable.

Before I go any further, may I just remind you at this point that this was 1980. Granted, no longer the 1970s, but pejorative terms did not die the moment the 70s ended. And the two names I chose were still in common usage at the time, often bandied about in newspapers, or in sit-coms, and so I didn’t really consider what they actually meant. They were just words, as far as I was concerned.

May I also make it very clear that, other than in the context of this post, these are not words I would ever consider using nowadays.

I think that’s enough disclaimers. Allegations that “The lady doth protest too much” would surely follow if I carried on digging any further.

So, on what I was confident would the first of many triumphant wins, I stood up in front of my class, and in front of Mr Land, and began my story:

“It was the annual football match between The Poofs and The Pansies….” I announced.

“Erm…can I have a look at that please?” interjected Mr Land. I handed him my exercise book. He thumbed through it, a concerned look on his brow, before handing it back. “Okay. Carry on.”

I can only surmise that he hadn’t spotted the next sentence.

“And leading The Poofs out onto the field is their Captain, Mr Land….”

“I think we’ve heard enough of that now, thank you. Please sit down. Immediately.”

I learned a valuable lesson that day: never use words that you don’t understand. Which is why you’ll never find me writing about Pneumonoultramicroscopicsilicovolcanoconiosis anytime soon.

As I hang my head in shame, this seems appropriate:

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Spandau Ballet – To Cut a Long Story Short

More cringers soon.