Rant

There’s a very good reason why one of these hasn’t surfaced since I returned: I’m an avid watcher of Have I Got News For You and listener of Radio 4’s The News Quiz. Both, whilst recorded on a Thursday, are broadcast on a Friday, which gives them a headstart on anything I might be thinking about writing about for a Saturday morning post.

See, the last accusation I want to have levied at me is one of plagiarism; I’ve lost count of the amount of times over the past few weeks I’ve intended to post something here, then watched/listened to those shows, and deleted my post as there were a few too many similarities gag-wise.

But when a big news story breaks on a Friday…well, the tables are turned.

So no prizes for guessing who today’s post is all about…

Blur – Charmless Man

The problem is, I don’t have much to say that I haven’t said already, so this won’t be much of a rant, more a celebration. Not of the man, but of the fact that he’s gone. For now.

And it is extraordinarily good news, and it must be, because I’m not even going to spend much time gloating about Nadine Dorries, not someone greatly troubled by either facts or brain-cells, quitting as an MP because PM Rishi Sunak actually had the balls to block her peerage, a peerage which you’ll recall Johnson had nominated her for in his jump before he was pushed resignation honours list as a thank you for her unwavering support through all the…jeez, where do I start…I dunno…through everything. No matter what he did wrong, there was loyal Nadine, slurring her defence of the walking marshmallow in an ill-fitting suit.

This proved to merely be the amuse-bouche for the day of strops and sulks that would come later…

Belle & Sebastian – Nice Day For A Sulk

Billy Bragg – Sulk

(Perhaps appropriately, we appear to be a bit B heavy with the bands/singers so far…best I rectify that:

Radiohead – Sulk

…dammit. Bends. With a B. There’s no escaping him.)

Anyway, where was I? As yes: it was a day of toys being thrown out of prams, of allegations of a conspiracy against Johnson by the MP-led Privileges Committee who were looking into whether or not he misled Parliament over lockdown rule breaking parties at Downing Street. We all know they happened, at a time when mixing with those outside of your bubble was prohibited, but did he lie to the House about them?

Shortly after being advised of the contents of the report the Committee had prepared, Johnson realeased a resignation statement, where he said: “I am not alone in thinking that there is a witch hunt under way, to take revenge for Brexit and ultimately to reverse the 2016 referendum result.” Looking at the state the country’s in now, I bloody hope there is.

Bloc Party – Hunting for Witches

He still doesn’t get it, does he? He still thinks he can’t have done anything wrong, because he is Boris and he can do whatever he likes. I’m reminded of this extract from a letter written to his father back in 1982:

Crazyhead – What Gives You the Idea You’re so Amazing Baby?

Lest we forget, whilst the Privileges Committee was considering whether he lied to Parliament about Partygate, it has always been Johnson’s position that no rules were broken, but if they were, it was unintentional, and any statement he made to Parliament which may also have been incorrect was inadvertent. He told the Committee that social distancing had not been “perfect” at gatherings in Downing Street during Covid lockdowns but insisted the guidelines (as he understood them) were followed at all times.

“As he understood them.” Like he had nothing to do with creating the guidelines. Like he didn’t stand behind that expensive lectern and tell the nation precisely what the guidelines were. Perhaps if they’d been written in faux-Latin he might have remembered them better.

And then, a couple of weeks ago, his sister accidentally let slip that it wasn’t just at Downing Street that the lock-down rules had not been followed:

Oopsies.

Camera Obscura – I Missed Your Party

Let’s take a closer look at his resignation speech.

“I am now being forced out of Parliament by a tiny handful of people, with no evidence to back up their assertions, and without the approval even of Conservative party members, let alone the wider electorate.” You’re not being forced out, you bumbling comb-less oaf, you resigned (for the second time, I might remind you. No, wait – third if we count that time you quit as Foreign Secretary. But it’s interesting to note you struggle with the difference between resigning and fired. Between renuntiate et accentus, if it helps. You’re welcome). You could have stayed on and seen how the vote in the House of Commons as to whether the findings of the Committee should be accepted or not went, but you have chosen not to, because you know that vote would not go in your favour. And that’s with the massive majority that your party currently holds. Forgotten how many MPs rebelled against you to bring your time as PM to a close have you? 52. In one day. And that’s before we consider the 148 who voted against you in the confidence vote in June 2022 (although there was doubtless an overlap between the two, a bulging middle section of the Venn duagram, if you will).

“When I left office last year [you mean resigned, Boris], the government was only a handful of points behind in the polls. That gap has now massively widened. Just a few years after winning the biggest majority in almost half a century, that majority is now clearly at risk.” The old selective memory is really kicking in here. Let’s not forget that during your tenure as PM, Chris Pincher, a senior member of your government – appointed by you – was forced to resign after allegations he had groped two men on a drunken night at a private members’ club. His resignation prompted multiple reports of other past sexual harassment allegations against him. Your spokesperson initially said you had not been aware of any allegations made about Pincher when you appointed him to government. You backtracked after it emerged you’d been briefed about a specific allegation ahead of that appointment. Not forgetting that it was reported you had quipped “Pincher by name, pincher by nature.”

I mean, that kind of leadership can’t have helped the support getting decimated, now can it?

And then there was Neil Parish MP, who was forced to resign after admitting watching “tractor porn” in Parliament? (What even is tractor porn? I have visions of a Page 3 photo of a tractor, and a caption reading “Massey Ferguson just loves getting dirty out in the countryside…”). Another (whose name escapes me, and I am not going to Google it to find out) was found guilty of sexually abusing a teenage boy. In local elections held to replace the pair of them, opposition candidates won by large majorities. So yeh, everything was just hunky dory when you quit as PM.

But enough of this. Time to look to the future:

Viola Wills – Gonna Get Along Without You

Glen Campbell – I’m Not Gonna Miss You

…following his most recent resignation, the usual candidates lined up to pay tribute to him. Winner of Most Reasonable Employer of the Year award 2022 (current holder one Mr D Raaaaaaaaab) Priti Patel described Johnson as “a political titan” (two letters too many at the end there, Priti), whilst Richard Mills, Johnson’s local Conservative association chairman, said he had “delivered on his promises to local residents” (and if he hasn’t then he now has plenty of time on his hands to pop round and sire another couple of kids he’ll deny all knowledge of later).

Oh. Before I go, there’s just one more thing…

…those glad to see the back of him were much easier to get quotes from. Liberal Democrats, deputy leader Daisy Cooper simply said: “Good riddance.” And that’s where I’ll leave it.

Green Day – Good Riddance (Time of Your Life)

Good job I didn’t have much to say, eh?

More soon.

Friday Night Music Club Vol 23

And, as promised/threatened (delete as applicable), we’re back with one of my self-proclaimed ‘eclectic’ mixes.

This one clocks is at just shy of 90 minutes, as opposed to the usual 60-ish, which is partly to celebrate the return of the mix, but also as a reference to an NHS employee I encountered when I had my recent consultant with a rheumatologist.

As this was my first visit, I had to have the usual checks (height, weight, blood pressure) and as I entered the examination room the chap about to perform these tasks (he did introduce himself, but I’m terrible with names) commented that he liked my t-shirt.

I was wearing one which was a homage to the retro, and had depictions of nine cassette tapes on it. This one, in fact:

I pretended I wasn’t absolutely delighted to have someone commend my sartorial taste.

“Thanks,” I replied, “but you realise you’re showing your age, right?”

So, anonymous NHS chap, this mix is designed to fit on a C90 in your honour. Yes, I’d rather you had a decent pay rise too, but sadly that is beyond my control.

Anyway, since this mix includes a bit of actual mixing, it’s admin/disclaimer time: any shonky mixes are down to me; any skips or jumps are down to the mixing software or the uploading process; all song choices are mine.

Ready? Good, then let’s begin:

Friday Night Music Club Vol 23

And here’s your track listing, complete with sleeve notes:

  1. Spinal Tap – Tonight I’m Gonna Rock You Tonight

Regulars will know that I like to kick these mixes off with a pace-setter, and this week I was torn between four different tunes. Unable to decide which to use, I’ve included all of them. I was, as you will have gathered from the image at the top of this post, unable to resist starting proceedings with something from one of the funniest films ever made (and I don’t mean Big Momma’s House).

2. Led Zeppelin – Rock and Roll

Second song which could’ve been the opener. Since this is the first mix I’ve posted since October, the “been a long time” lyric seemed too appropriate to ignore

3. The Jim Jones Revue – High Horse

Whatever happened to this lot? Like Jerry Lee Lewis meets the Jon Spencer Blues Explosion, this is fecking great.

4. The Vines – Ride

Potential opener number 3. Instead: consider it an invitation.

5. Ride – Like a Daydream

I couldn’t resist the theme. Sue me. Also: I was there Part 1. The video for this was filmed at That London’s ULU, and I was there. Sort of. A story for another day, I think (if I haven’t written about it before, that is…)

6. Helen Love – Power On the Music

Potential opener number 4. Helen Love are ace, even better now they’ve moved on from their original obsession with Joey Ramone to release a swathe of top-notch indie-pop records (not that the Ramone-fixated years weren’t also great). This little beauty is simply a call to play music loudly, and contains one of the few Super Furry Animals samples that I’m aware of.

7. The Lovely Eggs – Don’t Look at Me (I Don’t Like It)

Short of some decent insults? There’s loads in this absolute belter. Lovely stuff.

8. Fatboy Slim – Right Here, Right Now

At the time of writing, there’s a documentary on Sky/NOWTV which covers the events of July 13 2002, when Fatboy Slim threw Big Beach Boutique II, a free entry gig on Brighton beach which was expected to attract around 60,000 people, but which actually found the seaside town over-run by closer to 250,000. One of whom was me (I was there Part 2). I’ll be writing about it when the time is appropriate (i.e. come the 21st anniversary later this year…).

9. U2 – Even Better Than The Real Thing (Perfecto Mix)

Look, I know it’s not the done thing to like U2, and I would certainly not consider myself a fan. But, as the saying goes, even a stopped clock is right twice a day. It’s possible to think that this remix is great, but retain the belief that Bono is a prick. Lose the sunglasses, mate, you’re not Edgar Davids.

Edgar Davids: Not Bono.

10. The Tamperer feat. Maya – Feel It

Some dumb but great pop from 1998. At the time this was riding high in the charts, I was working at Boots the Chemist in Cardiff, and remember going to local dodgy night-spot Zeus with some of the store’s weekend staff – students, predominantly – and trying to explain to one them that the riff this is based on is a Jacksons sample. She didn’t know the original, nor who The Jacksons were for that matter, and I’ve rarely felt older until I just looked up the date when this came out.

11. Tim Deluxe (Feat. Sam Obernik) – It Just Won’t Do

Fatboy’s opening tune from the aforementioned Big Beach Boutique II gig and an absolute “choon”.

12. Danny Tenaglia + Celeda – Music Is The Answer

In the words of Frank Sidebottom: “You know it is, it really is.”

13. The Prodigy – Breathe

It’s really hard to overstate just how massive The Prodg were way back then, but perhaps this best explains it: in 1998 (two years after this was released) I visited some friends in Nottingham and, as is the law there, we ended up at Rock City, where the DJ broke two golden rules: 1) he played two tunes by the same artists in the same set, and 2) he played them right next to each other, Firestarter followed immediately by this. Rather than point out his faux pas, I danced my legs down to the knees, as did pretty much every one else there that night.

14. Oceanic – Insanity (99 Radio Edit)

Still a tune. Whilst I’ve been off work, I’ve watched all the Top of the Pops recaps of the years on the BBC iPlayer, and the two members of Oceanic continue to argue to this day as to whose idea it was to include the key change in this. Doubtless, Louis Walsh will step in and claim credit at some point.

15. The Osmonds – Crazy Horses

I was DJing once, opening slot (so I could get home on public transport) when the chap following on from me decided to guide me through the records he had brought and especially drew my attention to an Osmonds Greatest Hits album he had in his record satchel.

“Do you know what I’ll be playing off of this, Jez?” he asked.

I gave him my best “do-you-know-who-you’re-talking-to?” look and replied innocently: “Love Me For a Reason?”. Twat.

16. Billy Bragg & Wilco – Hoodoo Voodoo

If I could find a clip of Vic & Bob performing their voodoo song – “Do you do voodoo?” – then I’d include it here, but I can’t so….tough.

17. El Goodo – Feel So Good

Apparently, I’ve met at least some of this lot, friends of friends, who have made the mistake of making themselves incredibly hard to find via a Google search, given that their name is derived from a very wonderful tune by icons-to-cool-indie-kids Big Star.

18. Django Django – Default

You can tell it’s getting near the end when all I can think of to say is that this is great. Next!

19. Cracker – Movie Star

Because your Friday night wouldn’t be complete without a song about a decapitated celebrity, right?

20. The Dandy Warhols – Bohemian Like You

Okay, so I know it’s an obvious pick from this band’s back catalogue, and also it was used in *shudders* an advert back in the day, but, at the risk of sounding patronising, I figured a tune most of you will know was needed. My apologies if I’ve underestimated you. This reminds me of dancing in a packed Cardiff’s Barfly with my buddies LlÅ·r, Mike, Vicky, and the two Claires. Happy days.

21. The Stylistics – Can’t Give You Anything (But My Love)

I’ve had this in my brain for ages, a forgotten 70s classic. It’s another beauty, which probably would have sounded pretty great next to The Tamperer, but it’s getting late and I can’t be arsed with redoing the whole mix. Here is just fine.

22. The Divine Comedy – Everybody Knows (Except You)

And so we fade further into end-of-night sing-a-long territory. Probably my favourite Hannon composition (although, to be fair, that changes fairy regularly).

23. The Lemonheads – Bit Part

More sing-a-long stuff which, I’ll be honest, has been squeezed in for no other reason than I realised I had room.

24. Baby Bird – Goodnight

Night BB, thank you for not singing You’re Gorgeous. And that’s it, right?

25. R.E.M. – Afterhours

Wrong. I flim-flammed between this and The Velvet Underground’s original (and indeed We Are Scientists identically-named belter) as the final tune, before ultimately plumping for Stipe & Co’s rather shambolic version, deciding the applause to wrap things up was egotistically appropriate, if ill-deserved on my part. This is lifted from a rip of the band’s Tourfilm video which showed them on the tour to promote the Green album back in 1989 – the first time I ever saw them (at the Newport Centre, support from the Blue Aeroplanes), and to this day my favourite gig I ever went to. With thanks and much love to the much missed The Power of Independent Trucking blog for providing.

Now I’m off to put my hands, fingers and wrists in ice to recover.

More soon.

Sunday Morning Coming Down

After last week’s post, where Alyson kindly confirmed what I couldn’t be bothered to check – that I’d posted the song before – I have performed due diligence this week.

And I was staggered to find that not only have I never posted today’s song before, I’ve never posted anything from this album at all (not counting the time one song from the album was suggested as part of The Chain).

I imagine most of you will know this already, but to be on the safe side: Mermaid Avenue is an album of previously unheard lyrics written by American folk singer Woody Guthrie, set to music and performed by Billy Bragg and Wilco.

And it’s a thing of beauty and wonder, as I think this will amply demonstrate:

Billy Bragg & Wilco – Hesitating Beauty

More soon.

Friday Night Music Club

Here we are again, this week with the penultimate part of my six-hour mix, divided into six parts for your ‘delectation’.

And this week I think it’s fair to say we’re going full-on Indie Disco, albeit one from circa 1992 (with a few notable exceptions).

It’s also fair to say that once we’ve got past the chanting monks at the start of the first tune (and what better way is there to start a mix than with some chanting monks, right?) we go very LOUD before settling down to a mix of songs you’ll know, some you’ll have forgotten about, and possibly some that you’ve never heard before. Which is exactly how an Indie Disco should be, in my book: entertain and educate.

Many of these tunes remind me of when I used to DJ at college, but two in particular remind me of the first time I DJ’d in around 10 years or so (I’m excluding the time LlÅ·r and I DJ’d at a friend’s wedding, as all I did that day was hand him records to play).

I was at a party at Hel’s old flat in North London; our friend Ruth, her decks set up on the breakfast bar which looked out on to the living room-cum-dancefloor, has just performed a mammoth set of around 8 hours. People were starting to leave, and I figured she deserved a break. It was around 4am when I sidled up to her: “Do you mind if I have a go?” She nearly bit my hand off, and went and sat on the sofa with Hel.

Since they were practically my entire audience, every one else having left or crashed out, I decided to play some quieter stuff. My first choice caused both of my audience to break off their conversation momentarily, look in my direction, and go “Awwww!” I repeated the trick with my second choice. “Ahhhhhh!”, sighed the two ladies.

“Still got it,” I thought to myself, and played for another hour or so, until it was time to pack the decks away so Ruth could go home too.

I shan’t spoil things by telling you which two tunes I played, but you’ll spot them alright. Partly because, if you know the tunes in question (and I’d be very surprised if you don’t recognise either of them) you’ll probably make similar noises to Hel and Ruth when they start (I’ve put them together here, for maximum effect), but mostly because I couldn’t resist putting a massive sign-post in right before them.

I’ve done mixes, playlists, call them what you will, for years in various guises, from mix-tapes played in the 6th Form common room, in the motorway ‘restaurant’ I worked in during the holidays at 6th Form and at college (and for a year after I graduated), and in the video shop I pretended to work in after I finally graduated, all were sound-tracked by an ever-growing collection of mix-tapes. DJ’ing at college was almost inevitable, really. And then, when I left college – bar a very short, unpleasant stint working for a mobile DJ in Cardiff in the early 90s, which I’ll tell you about some other time (if I haven’t do so already) – nothing.

It was in those moments, standing in Hel’s kitchen, playing to an audience of two awake people and several sleeping ones, that I realised how much I missed DJ’ing, which is why I do these mixes.

So whilst the last of the six parts will be here next week, I’m already adding the final touches to the one for the week after. In short: tough luck, I’m not stopping just yet.

Time for the usual disclaimer: any skips and jumps in the mix are down to the mixing software; any mis-timed mixes are down to me (although on this one, it’s all about the timing rather than the mixing, as the cross-fader literally didn’t move from it’s central position throughout this one).

A cross-fader, yesterday

I’m not sure if that’s something I should be proud of, let alone advertise, to be honest…

There is, as usual, a little bit of potty-mouthed effing and jeffing, only on one song (I think), and as you cast your eye down the track-listing below, you’ll have no problem identifying which one it is. Previous mixes have contained worse (and next week’s mix definitely does), but it would be remiss of me not slap one of these on it for those of a delicate constitution:

Here you go:

Friday Night Music Club Vol 6.5

And here’s your track-listing:

  • Eat – Bleed Me White
  • Hole – Celebrity Skin
  • Senseless Things – Homophobic Asshole
  • The Futureheads – The Beginning of the Twist
  • Northside – Take 5 (7″)
  • The Fatima Mansions – Only Losers Take The Bus
  • The Smiths – Jeane
  • Billy Bragg – Sexuality
  • Elastica – Connection
  • Sleeper – Inbetweener
  • The Cure – In Between Days
  • Super Furry Animals – (Drawing) Rings Around The World
  • Teenage Fanclub – Star Sign (Remastered)
  • The Soup Dragons – Slow Things Down
  • Strawberry Switchblade – Since Yesterday
  • Blur – Coffee + TV (Radio Edit)
  • Pulp – Something Changed
  • One Dove – White Love (Radio Mix)
  • Prince – Little Red Corvette

Next week is, then, the final part of this series, where the cross-fader is in full effect as I give you over an hour of dance bangers (as I believe “The” “Kids” say, or used to anyway), which tests my actual mixing skills to the maximum, including as it does what my mate Rob insists is “the hardest tune in the world to mix in or out of.”

Tune in next week to see how successful I am.

More soon.

Janice is Gone

I hadn’t intended to post anything else until the New Year, but, sadly, recent events have meant that I feel compelled to crank the old laptop into life on my first night at home and post something.

I’ve spent the past three nights safely ensconced in the bosom of my family, Lateral Flow Tests dutifully completed before visiting. I had a really lovely time, the only black mark coming late Saturday night/early Sunday morning when the news broke.

I say I had a really lovely time, and I mean that, my time split fairly evenly between eating, drinking and watching TV or, more precisely, falling asleep in front of the TV. This seems to be a family trait, but then my father is in his mid-80s and my mother – who probably won’t thank me for telling you this – moves into her eighth decade in a little under a month, so they’ve both got a much better excuse than I have, and have earned the right to an occasional snooze in any event. By Sunday, my father felt compelled to comment: “You’re like a bloody vampire, you only come to life when it gets dark!”

Saturday night arrived, and my parents decided they would prefer to sleep in a horizontal position during night hours and headed off to bed. I stayed up to watch TV for a while longer and also to have a scroll through Twitter to see what kind of Christmas had been enjoyed by those I follow. But literally the first thing I saw was this, from music journalist, author and broadcaster Pete Paphides:

I felt my heart begin to sink, and immediately checked Janice’s own Twitter feed – nothing since June when she announced he was in a hospital in Liverpool and “bored silly” – and then the BBC news website – nothing at all. Probably some misunderstanding then, I thought.

I scrolled on and came across an exchange between Sean Dickson, formerly of The Soup Dragons fame and Ian McNabb of The Icicle Works:

There was nothing else in McNabb’s Twitter feed so, after noting equally concerned tweets from Lloyd Cole and Martin Rossiter, I figured it unlikely there would be any news until the morning, so, after raiding my parents cupboard of munchies, I headed to bed too.

When I awoke on Sunday, I checked my phone almost immediately. And there it was: Janice Long had died after a short illness on Christmas Day.

As I said right at the top of this, I hadn’t intended to post anything else until the New Year; I try not to make this blog just about famous people from popular culture who have sadly passed away, but the brutal truth is that when you’re my age, the majority of the people whose work I admire are a good twenty years or so older than me. They’re all at an age when that terribly sad news is going to come sooner rather than later.

Here, I try to just write about the ones whose loss I feel most acutely, but sometimes I get that wrong. To this day I rue not writing anything when Caroline Aherne, Victoria Wood and – and it may seem strange to include her in this trio – Sarah Harding from Girls Aloud passed, for these were all deaths which caught my surprise, knocked the wind out of me, and by the time I had composed my thoughts, too much time had passed so that anything I wrote might be considered a bandwagon-jumping after-thought.

So, I’m not prepared to let Janice suffer the same fate.

Janice made a career out of breaking glass ceilings; having joined Radio 1 in 1982, by 1984 she was rewarded with her own daily show on BBC Radio 1, the first woman to achieve this. She was also the first woman to host Top of the Pops; if you’ve been watching the reruns of the show on BBC4 over the past few years, you’ll have noticed that, after David ‘Kid’ Jensen quit the BBC, she was often paired with John Peel, and it was a partnership which flourished. The two obviously loved working together and held a mutual respect for each other (and if you’ve ever read Peel’s autobiography Margrave Of The Marshes you’ll know that this was not a professional courtesy extended to all of his Radio 1 colleagues).

For example:

When her death was confirmed, I commented on Twitter that at least she would be met by her old partner-in-crime and they could get up to some more japes. I bet Peelie’s sad but delighted she’s there, and right now they’re slagging off all the current chart acts they hate, whilst also swapping notes about all the stuff the other has missed out on.

In 1985, she was also one of the hosts of the BBC coverage of Live Aid; here she is interviewing Status Quo shortly after they have came off stage having kicked off proceedings:

After her time at Radio 1 was over, Janice began presenting a Saturday afternoon show on Radio 2, before taking over the post-midnight slot. But this was no Quiet FM show a la Smashie & Nicey, nosireebob – every show would start with an absolute old school indie banger (usually something from her Liverpudlian roots: Teardrop Explodes, Echo & The Bunnymen, Pete Wylie/Wah!) whilst at the same time championing new acts and getting them in for exclusive sessions – Janice was the first presenter to give Amy Winehouse a radio session – a formula (classic old track followed by something more recent, repeat till end of show) which a cursory listen to any of the current crop of 6Music DJs will confirm is copied to this day.

Although I listened to her every now and again in the Radio 1 days, it was here on Radio 2 that I became a regular member of her audience. I loved the mix of the old and the new, but more than anything, it was her style of presenting I adored, which was almost conversational, like an older sister thrusting a record into your hands and saying “Give this a listen, I think you’ll like it.”

Indeed with the advent of social media, texts and tweets, Janice became more accessible to her adoring audience. On a Monday night/Tuesday morning, she would choose a subject and ask her listeners to make appropriate suggestions; then she would pick the best and compose a playlist which would air on Thursdays, her last night of the week. I remember once, perhaps with one twinkling eye on Smashie & Nicey dedicating records to “all the truckers out there”, she asked for listeners to suggest songs about their favourite roads that they regularly drove. I emailed her – not really expecting to get an answer – and said that, as a non-driver, I felt a little excluded this week – could we make the subject our favourite songs about roads instead?

Imagine my surprise when she not only read out my email, but also agreed to tweak the subject to my suggestion.

And then, to cap it all off, on the Thursday she began her playlist with the words: “And here’s the song which kicked it all off, suggested by Jez…” and played this:

Billy Bragg – A13, Trunk Road To The Sea

To my mind, Janice would have been an ideal 6Music DJ, and she was there, for a short time, between 2002 and 2004, hosting Dream Ticket, a show which played current music as well as music from the BBC music session and live performance archives. She should still have been there, but instead, she left Radio 2 in 2017 after her show’s length was outrageously cut, moving to BBC Radio Wales. I’d always meant to tune into her there, but, alas, had never quite gotten round to it

Like many others – go to Twitter, type in the words Janice Long in the search bar and see the outpouring of sorrow at her passing – Janice’s death has left me a little numb.

Trying to find a song which sums all of this up, well…there’s one which is so obvious I can’t help but post it. Written as a comment on her exit from Radio 1 – if memory serves, and I should stress I can’t find anything to confirm this, she was fired when she became pregnant yet was unmarried – this is a pre-fame (short-lived as it was) tune and to my mind the best thing the band in question ever did (and I really like them, as I’ve mentioned before).

I’ve posted this before, here, and if anyone is interested enough, let me know via the Comments and I’ll re-up all the other songs mentioned in that post.

But for now, here’s the Milltown Brothers and their utterly wonderful and sadly appropriate song, Janice is Gone:

Milltown Brothers – Janice Is Gone

It’s a rare event when you can post a song so perfect to mark someone’s passing. I’ve only ever really managed it once before, when posting The Larks’ Billy Graham’s Going to Heaven on the day the death of the evangelist was announced.

But I take no pride or satisfaction in this. I’d much rather Janice was still with us than having to post this song.

RIP Janice. You will never know just how much you were loved and will be missed.

Keep spinning those tunes up there.

More soon.

No Pressure

Many moons ago, when I could be bothered with posting here on a semi-regular basis, I wrote a post where I moaned about stupid things people say on TV quiz shows. You know, back when I used to write about the important things in life, before I became besotted with trivial matters like Brexit, our corrupt, inept Government and the like.

I spotted another one the other day. At least, I say another one, because I haven’t been able locate the original article to check. Let’s assume I didn’t include this one.

It gets said by people in every day life too, but in the world or TV quiz shows, it is usually preceded by the host saying something along the lines of: “You need to get this right or you’ll be knocked out.” (Of the quiz, that is. The quiz show where somebody is beaten about the head until unconscious for getting an answer wrong has not yet aired in the UK. Only a matter of time though. I’d watch it.)

The contestant will then, with air on inevitably, say this:

“No pressure, then!”

It’s always delivered with such chirpy cheerfulness it’s intention can only be to puncture the pressure bubble building up around them, to show some bravado, some fearlessness in the face of great jeopardy. And I understand the latent need to show no fear, but man alive, think of something more original to say, will you? It just makes me want to put some shoes on, so I can take them off again and hurl them at the TV in anger.

It may have been funny, once. Actually, no, I don’t even think it was funny that many times. In fact, I’ll bet the first time somebody ever said it, everybody in their immediate vicinity avoided eye contact, shook their heads and muttered the word “Twat” under their breath.

I’d have more respect for them if they launched into Blackadder quotes like: “I laugh in the face of danger. I drop ice cubes down the vest of fear.”

Or – much as I dislike musicals where the cast suddenly, spontaneously, all break into a song which none have heard before but all miraculously know not just the words to, but also the choreographed-to-within-an-inch-of-its-life dance moves – if they broke into song. It would certainly display a maniacal disregard for their current circumstance.

Here’s some suggestions:

Spandau Ballet – Chant No. 1 (I Don’t Need This Pressure On)

Or, for those who love a little a capella (although I wouldn’t recommend this as a sing-a-long, it’s literally only here because of the pun in the title):

Billy Bragg – I Don’t Need This Pressure Ron

Or, finally, those who might want to bop around like it’s 1991:

Sunscreem – Pressure

Look, I know it’s not of much substance, but at least I’ve actually written something.

Or, to put it another way:

More soon.

Rant

Just one week off, please, one week where nothing happens to get my goat, one week where I can post something nice and positive of a Saturday morning. That’s all I ask.

But no. Here I am, banging on yet again about the latest injustice and trying desperately to justify it by tagging a tune or two on at the end.

We’ll get on to the biggie soon enough, but let’s start with some good news for a change.

This week, taxi/private hire company Uber finally gave in to a recent Supreme Court ruling that their drivers were not, as Uber had previously contested, self-employed but were employees, and as such entitled to the normal “perks” other employees were entitled to: a minimum hourly wage, sick pay, pensions.

It comes to something when it takes a Supreme Court ruling before companies will give their workers what they are entitled to, and is indicative of how some companies will try and bend the rules, squirm through as many loop-holes as possible, to try to exploit their staff and maximise their own profits. (Take) That’s Capitalism, folks!

But this isn’t just about the exploitation of your working man (or woman): research by Citizens Advice has suggested that as many as 460,000 people in the UK could be falsely classified as self-employed, costing up to £314m a year in lost tax and employer national insurance contributions. That’s £314m which the Government could be passing on to their mates, so I’m struggling to see why the fight was so hard, the original ruling having been handed down in 2016, but then contested by Uber. Surely Johnson or Hancock or Raab could have waded in, insisting they accept the ruling, hand over the cash in a brown envelope to be swiftly popped into the pocket of old Spewy Dickson – seriously, he was such a laugh at college – who swears he knows how to rattle up a few Covid-compliant face masks or aprons or something?

Uber operates around the world, with the company valued at more than £50bn.

I often wonder: just how rich do you have to be, before you stop being a greedy arsehole?

And then I think of “Sir” Philip Green, his love of other people’s money, and yachts, and conclude: well, richer than him, apparently.

Some of the people I went to school with have ended up being far wealthier than me. And that’s fine, I’m comfortable with that. I rarely meet up with them these days, but on the occasions that I do, I always feel them looking down on me, wondering where things went wrong for me. I was a fairly bright, if lazy, pupil when at school, I could have made money like they did, why haven’t I?

Because I have no desire to be wealthy, that’s why. I’m quite happy, bobbing along in my moderately-paid job, paying my taxes, my rent, my bills, and enjoying whatever I have left after doing so; eking out my monthly salary until the next payday is part of the rollercoaster of life for me, safe in the knowledge that whilst I am certainly not as well off as some, I’m definitely better off than many.

Will I make it to the end of the month without resorting to beans on toast as a staple meal? Yes, usually. Will I have any money left over at the end of the month to pop away in a savings account? No, not usually, for I am far more likely, with a few days to go until payday, to splash out on a takeaway or a bottle or two of something to make my Friday night a go with a whizz.

I can’t think of much worse than being so wealthy the question of whether I can afford something or not never enters my head. How dull their lives must be! To misquote Joe Fagin’s 1984 hit and theme tune to Auf Weidersehen, Pet!: That’s Not Living, Alright?

But I digress: the action against Uber had originally been brought by the ADCU, the App Driver and Couriers Union, on behalf of two of its members, Yaseen Aslam and James Farrar, which leads me to the first tune of the morning.

As mentioned last weekend, I am a huge Billy Bragg fan, although generally I prefer his (unrequited) love songs to the political songs with which he’s most associated by those who don’t really know anything much about him.

This song first appeared on his “difficult third album”, Talking With The Taxman About Poetry, but that’s not a version I’m fond of – it’s a bit too Billy-By-Numbers, if that makes sense. Somewhere I used to have a full band version, all fiddles and folk, but frustratingly I cannot lay my hands on it right now (it popped up on a B-side somewhere, I’m sure….I may be thinking of the instrumental version on Greetings to the New Brunette, but I don’t think so….), so instead here are two versions which I found on YouTube when frantically searching for the lost-Billy version.

The first is what YouTube insists is lifted from the closing credits of the wonderful movie Pride, although, whilst I recall the song being used, I don’t recall it having a choir and a brass band on it, as this does. I’ll have to revisit, which will be an absolute joy as Pride is one of my favourite films from the last twenty tears, telling the true story of a London based group of gays and lesbians (before they would have been called LBGT+) supporting a Welsh mining village during the strike of the mid-1980s. If you’ve never seen it, put that right as soon as possible.

The second version I found is a bluegrass version performed by a collective called Pickers’ Local 608. It’s rather good:

As a disclaimer, I’ve not had chance to do due diligence and look into Picker’s Local 608, so I do hope they don’t turn out to be of the redneck Confederate breed.

And so to the grim stuff.

*****

Remember last year, when we watched how Trump dealt with the BLM protests, how multiple examples of police brutality were caught on camera? And remember how, whilst we condemned it, we, privately, breathed a sigh of relief and thought: “Well, that could never happen here”…?

Well, last weekend, it did.

And here too, many disturbing photographs were taken, as the police waded in to break up what was, to all intents and purposes, a vigil, not a protest, in memory of Sarah Everard, the woman murdered as she walked home alone one night.

Around the world these images flowed, none more evocative and widely shared than this one:

Over the course of the day, mourners had left flowers around the bandstand of Clapham Common, close to where Everard vanished. One such mourner was Princess Cathy, the Duchess of Cambridge, who was seen paying her respects:

Not wearing a mask, I notice.

Funny how the police didn’t wade in when she was there, right? You’d think the Royal Family would have welcomed a change in focus after the couple of weeks they’ve had.

But no, it was much later that evening that the trouble started. And by trouble, from everything I’ve seen, I mean the actions of the police who suddenly decided that the crowd needed to be broken up.

Now, it would not be entirely truthful to say that this was simply a vigil, with no protest aspect attached. Placards were displayed, songs were sung. But what protest took place was, again from what I’ve seen, 100% peaceful, until PC Law decided enough was enough.

And, to my eyes, its important to note that both were going on at the same time, but neither vigil nor protest was worthy of the attention the police gave them. Peaceful protest, even in these times of Covid restrictions is permitted. Indeed, the activities of the day, whilst originally blocked by the Courts, were ultimately allowed to take place.

What followed was an upsurge in real life stories from women about occasions that they have felt scared, threatened, or, on far too many occasions, actually been assaulted by men as they made their way home after a night out.

The #MeToo movement over the past couple of years shocked many of us, but I still think a large amount of people considered the hashtag related exclusively to the famous, the celebrities who had been abused or forced to the euphemistically referred to “casting couch”. Referring to it as such allows you to escape the horror of what that actually means, in a way that the victim was unable to.

Personally, I know of at least two of my female friends who have been assaulted as they travelled home. Both in London, but that doesn’t mean it’s a London problem.

This is a male problem.

And I pray that, reading all of the stories women have posted on social media, men finally learn to change their behaviour.

We all need to reassess our actions. I’ve never assaulted anyone, never taken advantage of anyone when they were drunk or alone or vulnerable, but even I can look back at certain incidents in my life and think: “I could have behaved better there”.

The protest which ran parallel with the vigil was, largely, from the Reclaim The Night movement. Put very simply, all this movement asks is that women be allowed to travel safely at night in the same way as men do. It’s such a basic request, that it saddens me to my very core that they even have to exist. Here. Now. In 2021, when we’re all supposed to be equal, except we’re clearly not.

I pray, but I’m an atheist, so I’m not confident anything will happen as a result of my prayers.

I’m certain that the man who wrote this song didn’t do so in order that it might be included in a blogpost about how women should be able to walk the streets without fear of intimidation or assault, but at first blush it seems to fit. It’s the “Because the night belongs to us”, I’m thinking of here as making this appropriate.

I could have posted any number of versions of this song, but I’ve gone for my very favourite:

By way of a reaction, the Metropolitan Police have announced that once COVID lockdown measures are lifted, they plan to employ more plain clothes officers to frequent bars and clubs, in an effort to stamp down on offences of the nature mentioned.

Which rather overlooks the fact that the person arrested and charged with Sarah Everard’s murder is…a serving policeman from the Metropolitan Police.

Yeh, nice one. I’m sure that will put many people’s concerns to rest.

*****

Now, you know when something seismic has happened, where public opinion and sympathy lies in a particular way, because politicians suddenly leap into action and want to be seen to be doing the right thing.

And so it was that our Home Secretary, old Smirky McSmirkface herself, Priti Patel, criticised pictures of officers manhandling women at the vigil, rebuked the Met commissioner, Cressida Dick, and ordered an inquiry.

Quite right too, until it emerged later in the week that Patel had sent a memo to all police chiefs making her position clear: she wanted them to stop people gathering at vigils. (She also promised she would personally urge people not to gather – but she never did.)

And this shouldn’t be much of a surprise to those who had followed a bill which passed it’s second reading at almost the same time Patel was feigning outrage, a bill which written by Patel, further restricts the ability to protest and increases police powers.

What is interesting is that in the debate about the bill on Monday she said this: “On Friday my views were know and they were based on the fact that people who wanted to pay tribute within the locality… laying flowers was the right thing to do.” Which rather implies the opposite of the leaked memo, that she encouraged the Met to let the vigil go ahead, but ho hum, lying to Parliament seems to be acceptable these days, just ask our PM.

Now, permission to protest is one of the cornerstones of democracy; remove it, as this bill seeks to do, and we are sleepwalking into a territory where dissenting voices can no longer be heard in public.

One of the problems with this Bill is that it allows Patel to change the meaning of the phrase “serious disruption” whenever she likes:

In other words, this Bill seeks, amongst other things, to limit the power and ability to protest, whilst also giving Patel the power to decide what is and isn’t acceptable. What the bill should do is lay down the terms, rather than leave it in the hands of someone who has a proven record of being a duplicitous bully to decide.

The Bill attacks, on a permanent basis the fundamental human right of peaceful assembly.

For example, under this Bill, the Home Secretary (Patel, as it stands) could decide that one person protesting in a vocal manner in public should be shut down and imprisoned.

Netpol analysis of BLM demos found that “black-led protests disproportionately faced excessive interventions by police”. This Bill radically increases police power and discretion to impose restrictions on protests. It allows them to impose them not for disruption, but for “impact”, and on the broadest, vaguest and lowest possible basis. It allows police to impose restrictions if they believe a single passer-by will experience “serious unease” from the noise.

These aren’t flashers we’re talking about, likely to cause offence by wanging their wongers in the general direction of some schoolgirls; they’re people exercising their democratic right to protest. Make no mistake about it, this is the most violent attack on our civil liberties we’ve seen since Thatcher blocked flying pickets during the miner’s strike.

I’ll end by quoting the words of Nadia Whittome, MP, as part of the debate on the bill: “There is so much wrong with this bill that three minutes couldn’t possibly cover it. We’re debating it today because the home secretary despised Extinction Rebellion and Black Lives Matter…[The Bill] expands police powers to levels that should not be seen in a modern democracy. If we were debating this legislation in another country, I’m sure members of this House would be condemning that country as an authoritarian regime…We’re sick of male violence. We’re sick of male violence whether it’s at the hands of the state, our partners, our family members, or strangers. And we march because some people don’t survive that violence. The public realm belongs to women too…[The Bill] hands unaccountable power to the police. The same police that were forcing women to the ground on Saturday night.”

The same police which includes the man charged with the murder of Sarah Everard.

It’s cheesy, I know, but there’s only one song which can illustrate this properly:

Ayes: 359 Noes: 263 The bill passed it’s second reading.

There’s still the Committee stage, where the Bill is given a right good going over, so there’s hope.

And there’s still the House of Lords, who might well kick this back for further review and amendment.

Pray this bill doesn’t get passed in its current format, so your voice can still be heard.

More soon.

Late Night Stargazing

This week, I have been mildly obsessed with Billy Bragg. For three reasons.

Firstly, apropos of nothing, I had this, an extra track on his You Woke Up My Neighbourhood CD single, as an earworm for a few days:

Secondly, because as long-term readers may recall, a load of my vinyl inexplicably vanished a few years ago, stolen either by an ex-flatmate who did a runner, or by some unsavoury types invited back from a ropey local pub and left unsupervised by later flatmates, and amongst the records lost was my entire collection of Billy’s records.

This week, all for the princely sum of £15.00 + P&P (a bargain!), I (re)purchased Brewing Up With…, Life’s a Riot with Spy vs. Spy, and a 12″ single of this, :

…which of course includes this on the B-side, guitar courtesy of Mr Johnny Marr:

Billy Bragg – Walk Away Renee

Thirdly, because, to cheer myself up, I bought this bad boy:

No offence to Mr Bragg, but I bet you can guess which of the three tunes I still cannot play.

Nobody plays guitar like Johnny Marr.

More soon.

Remembering Kirsty

It was twenty years ago today, as the song almost goes, that we were robbed of one of the most wonderful musical talents the UK has ever produced: Kirsty MacColl.

Every year (provided I remember in time) I try to post something by Kirsty to remember her by. Here’s what I wrote the first time I wrote one of these posts:

In case you don’t know the story of her untimely demise, on 18 December 2000 she and her sons were on holiday in Mexico, and went diving in a designated diving area at the Chankanaab reef, that watercraft were restricted from entering. As the group were surfacing from a dive, a high-speed powerboat entered the area. Kirsty saw the boat coming before her sons did; Jamie (then 15) was in its path but Kirsty was able to push him out of the way. Tragically, in doing so she was struck by the boat and died instantly.

The powerboat involved in the accident was owned by Guillermo González Nova, multimillionaire president of the Comercial Mexicana supermarket chain, who was on board with members of his family. One of his employees, boat-hand José Cen Yam, stated that he was in control of the boat at the time of the incident. He was found guilty of culpable homicide and was sentenced to 2 years 10 months in prison. However, under Mexican law he was allowed to pay a punitive fine of 1,034 pesos (about £61) in lieu of the prison sentence. He was also ordered to pay approximately £1,425.22 in restitution to Kirsty’s family, an amount based on his wages.

To add insult to quite literal injury, eyewitnesses contradict Cen Yam’s claim that he was in control of the speedboat, and people who have spoken to him since say that he has admitted to receiving money – presumably from Nova – for taking the blame.

In May 2006, Emilio Cortez Ramírez, a federal prosecutor in Cozumel, was found liable for breach of authority in his handling of the MacColl case.

But Kirsty and her family have never found justice for her death.

*****

Here’s the first record I ever bought by Kirsty, the song which catapulted her to the pop-stardom she’d been flirting with the idea of for a few years prior to its release in 1984:

It’s ironic that someone who became so well-known for the brilliance of her own compositions should gain fame via a cover versions. But the writer of A New England has never forgotten that boost the song gave to both of their careers; to this day, whenever he plays it live, Billy Bragg still dedicates the extra verse that he penned for her version to Kirsty:

R.I.P. Kirsty.

More soon.

Tuesday Short Song

More ‘importing stuff to my iTunes’ discoveries for you this morning.

2019 – remember then? When all we had to worry about was Brexit and Trump? – saw the release of Best of Billy Bragg at the BBC – 38 tracks by the man himself lifted from various sessions between 1983 and 2019.

I imagine there’s a lot more than 38 tracks nestling in the archive, but this will do us for now. Each song is significantly different to the version we’re familiar with – the addition (or removal) of Dave “Woody” Woodhead on trumpet here, a topically mangled lyric there – so as to make it compulsory listening for any life-long fan such as I.

And of course, amongst those 38 tracks, there’s at least one which clocks in under the two minute mark:

Billy Bragg – The Busy Girl Buys Beauty

(Janice Long Paris Theatre, London Live, October 1999)

If you’re a fan of the Bard from Barking – and why wouldn’t you be? – this is an essential purchase.

More soon.