I Don’t Speak French, So I’ll Let the Funky Music Do The Talking. (As if!)

It occurred to me the other day that I had slightly wandered off track from my original mission with this blog.

For those newcomers, a) hello, nice of you to drop by. Make yourself at home, there’s vol au vents on the side, help yourself (I’m a sucker for puff pastry finger food), and b) inspired by watching High Fidelity, the idea of this blog was to talk about every record I had bought in the order that I bought them. No matter how embarrassing the purchase was, I’d spill the beans. To my mind, there is no such thing as a guilty pleasure: when you bought a record it was because it gave you pleasure, we don’t need to add middle-aged guilt into the equation.

I have to admit, as you’ll probably have gathered from the lack of posts on this theme for…ooooh, quite some time now….I’ve kind of given up on making that the over-riding theme here, and was quite happy going off at tangents as I have done for a while now.

But the other day, something made me decide to focus back on this again, albeit it fleetingly. Not sure what prompted it. But I suddenly found myself going through all my mp3s, making little folders entitled “1983” and such like, and dragging and dropping all the stuff I bought hard copies off back in the day into their respective folders. I now have an often very short playlist on my iTunes for every year from 1982 onwards. The exercise proved interesting, as I could certainly see certain trends emerge, and also the point where my craving to own more and more records started to snowball. 1986 is a particular belter, and it seems I was on a roll for a good few years after that. So, you know, bear with me, almost there.

But then, deeply unsatisfied as I often am with digital, I decided to get my vinyl out. Now: I have quite a lot of vinyl, and I’m also “looking after” my ex-flatmate’s vinyl (with her permission, you understand) as she had no longer had the room for it when she moved in with her bloke, nor a turn-table to play it all on for that matter.

In particular, out came the singles. Now, as you may have noticed, I bloody love a single, me. The point of a single, so those braces wearing marketing tools will tell you, is to encourage you to part with more of your hard earned cash by buying the single, maybe a second single, and then the album they’re both on. Ok, well hands up I’ve fallen for that hook, line and sinker on many an occasion. But I’ve also used singles as an “in” to certain bands that have been around for a while that I’ve been curious about.

So, in the early days, I’d follow the marketing execs wet dream: I’d buy the lead single. Then the follow-up. And then the album. And then probably the third single too, as it probably had an exclusive B-side, never to be released on an album. Anywhere. Ever. Honest.

But then I realised I could save money by going for the Best Ofs for certain established acts.This is how it went: buy greatest hits album. Decide which singles I like best. Play these incessantly. Go and buy the album they’re on. Decide I don’t like anything else on the album as much as the singles. Listen to the singles from said album on the said album as opposed to on the greatest hits album. Put on shelf to gather dust while I buy a new greatest hits album. Repeat ad infinitum. In other words, look out: there’s a veritable glut of Greatest Hits albums on the horizon.

So there I was, sifting through my singles, when a song popped into my head which I remember buying, but for some reason no longer own. No idea what happened to it. Probably got left in a DJ booth somewhere, not that I could ever imagine playing this record “out”. Not even at the incredibly cheesy 80s night I used to do at college (I started doing said retro 80s night in 1990. I think I really was impressively quick out of the nostalgia-block there).

And then, completely coincidentally, my bestest buddy happened to post the song on Facebook. This, I decided, was a sign.

So, this post takes us back a little. I think the last post I did in this strand was a) before my numbskull fellow English citizens decided to give old shiny-ham face the mandate to fuck us over for another 5 years and b) some records I bought back in 1984. Well, it turns out I missed some from 1982 and 1983. (Quo records aside, of course. There were fricking hundreds of those 3 chord chuggers bought around this time). Hard luck, you’re going to have to listen to me waffle on about them.

So. Imagine it’s 1982. Picture me, watching Top of the Pops, with, of all people, my father. This record comes on. I rather like it. I am aware that the singer is someone who is more commonly associated with being in another band. A band, the singer of which my father, on a Saturday night, when he’d had a few, was quite adept at doing an impression of (though he fervently denies this now). Keen to impress, I tell my father I rather like this record.

“Father”, I say, ” I rather like this record”.

Father looks up from his paper and G&T, doubtless disappointed I’m not dragging his attention to Legs & Co, and says: “Ah yeh. Him. Got a face like a horse”.

There you have it, everyone. Bill Wyman has a face like a horse. I’m sure that’s what attracted Mandy Smith to him. Face like a horse, and sadly that’s where the similarities end. (Sorry, couldn’t resist)

bill-wyman-si-si-je-suis-un-rock-star-1981-6

Bill Wyman – (Si Si) Je Suis Un Rock Star

Now: listen to those lyrics. “They’ll think I’m your Dad, and you’re my daughter.” Errrrrrmmmm…I know this blog is called A History of Dubious Taste but…purrleeaaase…..! (Smash Hits reference there, 80s pop fans)

For those who are uninitiated in celeb gossip, Bill Wyman was 47 when he began a relationship with 13 year old Mandy Smith. By the time she was 14, they had started a “sexual” (imagine Simon Bates saying that at the start of an 18 rated video. Ewwwwww.) relationship with Mandy Smith.

Yup, you read that right. 14. They subsequently married (and divorced) but I think that’s rather by the by.

Over the past few years, we’ve seen plenty of our 1970s celebrities and light entertainers, and in particular Radio 1 DJs, come under much deserved scrutiny and prosecution for not entirely dissimilar behaviour. On the rare occasion I have heard anyone attempt to explain away those awful acts, it’s usually with the paper-thin defence that “Times were different back then”. Well, yes they were. And thank God things have changed.

But the curious thing is that it seems it is that the British media has perpetuated the widely accepted, it seems, idea that all of that kind of stuff ended with the 1970s, that after that point attitudes changed almost over night. It’s as if this problem can solely be blamed on the social mores and values of the 1970s; that on January 1st 1980 we all woke up and realised that the sexual molestation of minors was no longer cool but that, y’know, we’d best not talk about it or anything.

Well, I hate to burst your bubble, but that ain’t quite how it played out.

Bill Wyman and Mandy Smith began their relationship in 1983.

I remember the general pubic being pretty appalled about this at the time. But how did our media react? How about the press – what did they do?

You’ll all remember how the red tops howled for the BBC to be burned to the ground when it was found that Savile, Harris et al had been plying their perverted trade whilst employed by the TV Licence payer, right? Well they behaved in the same way back then, surely?

Did they fuck as like. Their portrayal of the Wyman/Smith affair was to caricature Wyman as an incorrigable old rogue with a bit of a penchant for the younger lady. Headines tended to lean more towards painting Wyman as just a harmless cheeky old chappie, more in the “Aww, bless ya Bill, good on ya!” vein than any sense of moral outrage or indignity.

So when you next see an article in a tabloid screaming blue murder at the latest celebrity crashing from the ceiling, applaud them for finally catching up with public sentiment in at least one way. And then ask yourself what the fuck they were doing twenty or thirty years ago.

Hurrah the Blackshirts, indeed. (Google it if that makes no sense. I’ve ranted quite enough for now)

But I digress. You remember how I said right at the top that there’s no such thing as a guilty pleasure? Well this comes bloody close. But guilty in terms of what it represents rather than the record itself, which on face value is a fairly innocuous pop song until you listen a little closer.

Having revisited it, I’m now off to self flagellate with a particularly bumpy pumice stone.

More soon.

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