This Is Pop #11

Question: At what age does it become unacceptable to still have crushes on pop stars?

I mean, perfectly harmless crushes, of course. Not the sort that develop into going through their bins, appearances in Court and restraining orders being issued.

I ask this because a pop singer’s name came up in conversation with Kay at work (I’m not sure how, I suspect that, as with so many conversations we have, she misheard something I said and asked me why I’d just mentioned this particular pop singer) and on the bus on the way home, the stomping ground of many an obsessed pervert over the years, I realised I’d had quite a thing about this popstress back in the day.

The first time I heard her, back in 1989, just like Vienna she meant nothing to me, for she was what I assumed to be “just” a session singer on a record by an R&B act with a terrible pun for a name. This record, in fact:

d-mob-introducing-cathy-dennis-cmon-and-get-my-love-1989

D Mob Introducing Cathy Dennis – C’Mon And Get My Love

D Mob knew something we didn’t at that point, of course. Did you spot it? That’s right: not D Mob featuring Cathy Dennis, but¬†D Mob¬†Introducing Cathy Dennis. “Ladies and Gentlemen, please allow D Mob to introduce you to¬†Miss Cathy Dennis.”

Those crazy D Mob boys knew what they were unleashing on the world alrighty.

My ignoramus belief that she was nothing more than a session vocalist (who, I realise now, are generally incredible singers) seemed to be vindicated when the first three singles she released in her own right stalled at numbers 93, 48 (so close!!!!) and 95 respectively.

And then, in 1991, two years after that inauspicious debut, came the biggest hit of her recording career:

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Cathy Dennis – Touch Me (All Night Long)

I was 21 years old when that came out in 1991, and yet I still recall looking up over the pages of the NME when¬†it came on The Chart Show one Saturday lunchtime, and feeling my little heart beat so hard that I hoped my girlfriend didn’t wander into the room or else I’d have to explain the copious amount of drool on my chin.

Remember I mentioned those three flop singles? Well, actually it was just two, for the one that reached #93 and #95 was actually the same record released twice. Still, third time’s a charm, and so it was that in July 1991 it got released again, and this time: bingo! #13:

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Cathy Dennis – Just Another Dream

Two hits into a career and we all know what record labels want an artist to do next to cash in on them¬†cement their¬†reputation: release a ballad…

cathy_dennis-too_many_walls_s_1

Cathy Dennis – Too Many Walls

…and then follow that up with one last single from her¬†“available in all good record stores now” album:

cathy_dennis-everybody_move_s_1

Cathy Dennis – Everybody Move

And then, suddenly it was all over. Yes, there were a couple more minor hits, and a¬†brief flirtation with the UK Top 20¬†again in 1997 with a cover of The Kinks’ “Waterloo Sunset” which I’m not going to trouble you with here, and there was¬†the time when she quit Club MTV’s first tour amid claims that she had been sexually harassed by one of Milli Vanilli, who presumably wasn’t lip-syncing on that occasion.

But it seemed to me that just as quickly as she had breezed into my life, so she was gone again.

Or so I thought.

For unbeknownst to me, Dennis¬†had¬†merely gone off¬†to reinvent herself, and boy oh boy¬†did she ever did that, writing or co-writing three of the biggest selling and – let’s be honest –¬†best pop records of the 21st Century, namely this…

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Britney Spears – Toxic

(I think that’s the third time I’ve found an excuse to post that record here)

…and this…

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Kylie Minogue – Can’t Get You Out Of My Head

(Kylie’s Harry Houdini tribute act needed some work)

…and this…

Katy_Perry-I_Kissed_A_Girl_(Cd_Single)-Frontal

Katy Perry – I Kissed a Boy

I watched Katy Perry’s Glastonbury performance a few weeks ago, and as I sat there watching it I found myself thinking: No really, at what¬†age does it become unacceptable to still have crushes on pop stars?

More soon.

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There’s No Such Thing as a Guilty Pleasure

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

MR: No, nor me…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Britney Spears – Toxic (Armand Van Helden Remix)

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

More soon.

I Coulda Tooken

I think I’d better start off this post by declaring that I am not drunk. Whether that is still the case by the time I finish it is questionable.

The reason I feel the need to declare this is because I’m probably going to end up writing some things which are likely to come across as the kind of slurry “You’re my best mate, you are” things you’d only really expect someone four or five¬†sheets to the wind to say.

There you go, that’s the disclaimer out of the way.

You may have noticed recently there has been a lot of Birthday talk on these here pages. A lot of people I know seem to have birthdays around September and October, and I suppose if you think about it logically, at the time of year when we were all conceived it would have been the winter months, dark and cold,¬†and perhaps our parents were huddling together under what used to be called a Continental Quilt when…well, you know…one thing led to another and here we are. (Note to self: I may need to rewrite that bit, it sounds like all my friends’ parents were under the same duvet, which they weren’t, obviously)

Anyway, the thing about birthdays is that on at least one of yours, or perhaps on another totally inappropriate moment – on the school bus, say – you will find yourself suddenly considering the most awful of truths: your parents did “it”.

My brother and I are lucky in that respect. I should explain.¬†My parents got married on 22nd October 1966. My brother was born on 29th July 1967 – near enough nine months to the day after the honeymoon, which I think it’s safe to assume went well. (This has also just reminded me I forgot to remind my Dad about their anniversary, my traditional job. Ooops!)

Similarly, I was born on 26th September 1969, almost nine months to the day after Christmas Day, so it’s safe to say the petrol station was closed, or my Dad¬†just forgot to get my Mum a Christmas present, and had to make it up to her in…er…different ways.

So there we have it. They only did “it” twice. Ever.

I’m not really sure why I’m mentioning all of this, except as a preamble into wishing my former housemate and equal best mate¬†Hel a happy birthday, in something approaching a creative way.

A couple of weeks ago, we were out having a few drinks and Hel pointed out that we had been friends for 16 years.¬†Jesus, really? (You’re expecting an “it seems longer” gag here, right? Well jog on, you’re¬†not going to get it. Because¬†it really doesn’t seem that long. And of course by referencing said joke, I have managed to make it, whist¬†simultaneously denouncing it. Oh yes! I am finally revealing myself to be the very epitome of a hitherto concealed post-modern self-deconstructing blogger!)

Anyway, it seems just weeks since we first met, upstairs in¬†what was The Tut ‘n’ Shive¬†on City Road in Cardiff (although she will probably tell me I’m wrong and we met much earlier than that). She was with her brother Llyr, also mentioned often in these pages, who would soon become my flatmate, but more of him another time.

Hel was wearing a Motorhead t-shirt, which I thought was pretty cool. This was before band t-shirts such as this became fashion accessories worn by needy people who had no clue about any record ever made by the bands whose logos graced their t-shirts  (see also Ramones).

As an aside, I have two band t-shirt stories to tell.

Firstly I was at a house party once, and there was a guy there wearing one of these:

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You and I know this is a Primal Scream “Screamadelica” t-shirt. But the guy wearing it? No-siree-bob.

“Nice tee shirt” I called across the room to him.

“Thank you” he beamed in response.

“Great album too!” I suggested.

“It is an album?” he replied, genuinely confused. “I just liked the picture!”

Hmmmm…..

Second, I was wearing a PJ Harvey tee shirt at work once, one promoting “50 Foot Queenie” from her “Rid of Me” album. It looked like this:

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I was wearing it ironically, since it has the words “Hey I’m One Big Queenie” emblazoned on it.

Certain folks in my office had never seen the likes. A very attractive girl approached me at the photocopiers.

Her: “I like your tee shirt”

Me: (nonchalantly) “Oh, thanks”

Her: “Who’s the picture of?”

Me: (disinterestedly)¬†“PJ Harvey”

Her: “Who’s that?”

Me: “A really cool singer/songwriter. You’d like her.”

Her: “Oh? What does she sing? What do you recommend?”

My brain: “Sorry mate, I got nothing. I mean, I could have a rummage round some of these boxes of the usual shit you’ve got stored up here and try and dig out some of her songs so you don’t look like a dick, but I don’t think I can be arsed right now.”

Me: “Um….er….ahhh…hahaha…would you believe it…my mind has gone totally blank…..”

Tune in soon for the next instalment of “I am rubbish at talking to girls”

But anyway, I digress.

I asked Hel what her favourite Motorhead record was. Her reply: “It’s actually a thing they did with Girlschool…”

I looked at her in some amazement.

“Please Don’t Touch?” I said.

“Yes!!” she replied, mouth and eyes agog that someone else knew that record.

This one:

motorhead-and-girlschool-please-dont-touch-bronze¬†Motorhead & Girlschool – Please Don’t Touch

And yes, I know I’ve posted that before.

We got talking and somehow got onto the topic of Smash Hits magazine.¬†The more astute of you will have spotted¬†the more-than-occasional homage to their way of writing around these parts. We enquired about each others favourite fact gleaned from those glossy pages. Number one on both of our lists was: “Mark King of Level 42 has insured his thumb for a million pounds!!” Truly I had found a kindred spirit. A Liverpool fan, but you can’t have everything, right?

If further proof were needed, we both love this record, the UK’s Eurovision entry the year after Bucks Fizz:

One_step_further_bucks_fizz Bardo РOne Step Further

If I had a pound for every time we had drunkenly attempted to do the dance routine I’d be a very rich man by now.

We’ve spent many a happy night ratted together, me and Hel. There was the time we stayed up all night pissed, and I sent her out to buy another bottle of vodka at 9am, after which we decided it would be a really good idea to watch Jimmy McGovern’s¬†death drama “Hillsborough” (the clue’s in the title as to how happy it’s going to¬†be), spending the next few hours hugging each other and bawling our eyes out.

And then there was the time of the great argument about radishes.

Suffice it to say that on many of the stories I will tell over the forthcoming posts, Hel has been at my side, my wing-girl, a reciprocal deal, I hope. There’s so many stories I could, and probably will, tell you about times we’ve spent together, things we’ve done.¬†For now, I’ll just give you a couple.

Firstly, as a measure of the woman, when I first was moving to London 7 years ago, I gave her a ring to see if she knew of anywhere I could find some digs.

“There’s a spare room in my place,” she said.

“Really? Great! Can I have it….?”

“It depends. Have you got the following things: 1) a DVD player 2) a pepper grinder, and 3) friends who are male models?”

I had the first two, but not the third.

“Meh. We can work on that. Move in when you like”.

And on the day I moved in, instead of unpacking and then letting me get an early night before my first day in a new job, she proceeded to take me on a tour of all the local pubs and get me proper hammered.

More recently, we’ve started DJ’ing together. Usually when you DJ with someone, you have an agreed spell “solo” on the decks, say¬†half an hour on, half an hour off,¬†but I have a need to know what’s coming next, in being prepared and lining the next one up¬†(reasons will become clear in subsequent posts, and yes, those that know it, I am going to tell that story eventually), and she totally buys into this. As a result, Hel and I seem to have such a blast DJ’ing together we spend the whole night conferring about a running order, concurring about¬†what the next record will be, and then the next and the next, with an implicit agreement that if you suggested the next record up, you mix it in. It’s a truly democratic process.

Our most prestigious gig was about a year ago, a private function in London’s swanky Groucho Club (we’ve never been invited back, but we¬†were invited to “turn it down please” on the night.)

Beforehand, Hel had told me she was desperate to play Taylor Swift’s “Shake It Off”. I wasn’t particularly happy, but had decided I could counter it by deciding what to play either side. The next three records were the sequenced result:

Dance%20Apocalyptic%20Concept%20Art%20-%20Credit%20SAM%20SPRATT Janelle Monae РDance Apocalyptic

Krista-2_28-2 Taylor Swift РShake it Off

Britney_Spears_Toxic Britney Spears РToxic

(What actually happened was as we walked to the venue, I told Hel I had thought of a record that would fit perfectly¬†after Taylor Swift. “Is it Britney?” she asked. Damn you!!!)

(The place went batshit crazy when we dropped the Janelle Monae track, but we’ve never actually agreed which of us thought to play it. But I¬†mixed it in,¬†so……)

Some time earlier, we had played a friend’s wedding (truly any occasion, bar mitzvahs etc etc) and Hel taught me a valuable lesson: in certain circumstances, it is perfectly acceptable to play this:

whitneydance Whitney Houston РI Wanna Dance With Somebody

There’s loads more records I could play now which make me think of her, one of which she would fucking kill me if I posted, but for now,¬†that’s me and Hel.

Oh, and then there’s this:

R-826535-1190720197_jpeg Almighty Allstars РStar Wars

Can’t think why that reminds me of Hel….did I mention she used to work for Almighty Records…? And recorded the odd vocal…? No….? Silly me….

Happy Birthday, hope you have a great one.  Love ya loads.

Here’s an appropriate one:

R-1574277-1274915614_jpeg¬†The Velvet Underground – She’s My Best Friend

(Count yourself lucky I didn’t post The Wedding Present version)

PS: OK, now I’m drunk.