Yes, like a toddler who has just finished doing his business but doesn’t know how to wipe his own bottom yet, I stand before you, poking my arse in your general direction, innocent eyes pleading for assistance (I must say, this analogy works loads more than I expected it to), and announcing: The Chain is back!
Yes, I thought I’d have been a bit more prolific in writing these during “lockdown” too. What do you want me to say? I’m not Cher, I can’t turn back time.
Truth be told I’ve got a little too involved with two things recently: firstly, trimming down duplicate songs on my iTunes which prevent me from updating my iPod with anything I’ve acquired in the last twelve months or so; and secondly a DJ-mixing app which I’m determined to get to grips with so you can have some proper mixes by yours truly (which I’m sure you’re absolutely crying out for).
That aside, I’ll start with a recap: last time out, we were left with this as our source record:
Ordinarily, the easiest way to come up with a suggestion is to link to any of the words in the title or the artiste (this isn’t a criticism, it’s how I come up with about 90% of my own suggestions), but when you’ve only got three words to work with, it makes things tricky, and some serious creativity (by which I mean showboating) is needed.
So, in terms of a running order this time around, I thought I’d work through the suggestions which link to Donovan, then to Mellow, then to Yellow, and then we’ll all crash back onto our beds as we climax with those that have drilled down a little deeper, so to speak.
But first: a spoiler. Well, two actually. Firstly, nobody suggested the next record in the actual Chain this time around, and secondly there is no Showboater of the Week award this time. Don’t get me wrong, there’s some great records about to cross your path, ingeneously reached, but nothing quite point-worthy (Does anyone know where George, the Undisputed King of Showboating, is, by the way?).
There is most definitely a Worst Record of the Week award. In fact, it’s arguably the worst record I’ve ever posted, and I’ve posted The Wurzels before now (and will do again!).
OK, so let’s kick off with the Donovan related stuff. And where better to start than with something from Rol of My Top Ten fame who seems to have become my standard person to start with, even if his first suggestion this time around was somewhat confrontational:
“Do we also lose points if we mention Jason Donovan? Surely history has been kinder to him that Coldplay?”
I should explain. I signed off the last edition of The Chain with the words: “Minus points to anyone who suggests Coldplay. You’ve been warned.” This was intended not so much as a slur against the band, even though I do think they’re absolute dog-shit (through-gritted teeth: with a couple of admittedly decent songs in their back catalogue that they’ve inadvertently stumbled upon).
Besides, I was rather surprised at Rol’s reticence to suggest a bit of Jason Donovan, given that many years ago, noting my “There’s no such thing as a guilty pleasure” tagline, he had reached out to me for a bit of support in justifying…I won’t say his love of, nor admiration, but…the fact that he quite liked some records by Erinsborough’s second finest pop star (and no, Stefan Dennis is not the first). I duly responded with a post explaining why liking Jason Donovan records is perfectly acceptable, which, since I seem to be a little short of clips and funnies this time out, included this:
Anyway, after much to-ing and fro-ing, Rol was placated by me saying I’d happily post something by the definitely-not-lemon-juice-haired-Aussie wonder, so here we go. And a further explanatory word from Rol:
“I do remember thinking Too Many Broken Hearts was a half decent pop song, even at the time (and I generally hated everything SAW did). Plus, I saw Jason in the War of the Worlds stage show a few years ago and he was much better than Marti Pellow.
And before you ask: no, that’s not the worst record of the week. Not by a long chalk. (Is that a phrase? ‘Tis now.)
So, who else came up with a suggestion to the word Donovan? Well, now’s the time for the fevered mind that is Rigid Digit (the man responsible for all that appears on Stuff & Nonsense), to step up to the plate with his first suggestion, which whilst it links to the Donovan name, gives us a good steer as to the waters we may well find ourselves paddling in later:
“Donovan could’ve become Father-in-Law to a Mr S Ryder from Manchester.
His daughter Oriole shacked up with Shaun, and gave birth to one of his (many) daughters.
And if it wasn’t Shaun, then Donovan’s other daughter was knocking about with Paul Ryder.
The Happy Mondays had the song “Donovan” on Pills n Thrills & Bellyaches (which also samples a bit of Sunshine Superman).
Ok, that’ll do for Donovan/Jason Donovan links. Let’s move on to links to the word Mellow. And it’s back to Rol, who, still somewhat reticent and tail between his legs for the Jason Donovan situation, came back with this as a very strong contender:
“Mellow Birds was a particularly rank brand of Instant Coffee that was popular when we were growing up and therefore became my first experience of coffee… which I promptly decided I didn’t like much and stuck to tea. It took me years to try coffee again and see the error of my ways.
Anyway, here are two songs that link vaguely to that….”
I imagine you will all know that McCartney was due to headline on the Saturday night at Glastonbury this year, until bloody Covid-19 ruined everything. Not that I had a ticket, mind. But as previously mentioned elsewhere on these pages, I was fortunate enough to see him there when he headlined in 2004. He played Blackbird that night, I thought at about the second or third song, but trusty songlist.fm tells me it was tenth in the set. Either way, I remember it as we all sang along, realising what a special set I was watching.
Indulge me for a moment:
Apart from all the deaths and distrust that Covid-19 has brought, I think it’s important that we remember and recognise the cultural impact too.
Anyway, where next?
Well, in case you haven’t been paying attention, we’re still on the section where we’re looking at songs which link to the word Mellow, so what else have we got?
Over to the phoenix from the flames that is The Robster, who I’m sure we can all agree we’re delighted to see has been coaxed out of semi-retirement to start posting again over at Is This The Life which currently has an angry but sad tribute to the man who wrote the song the blog is named after, Tim Smith of Cardiacs. I urge you to read it it, and if you don’t know the music of Cardiacs, follow The Robster’s suggestions. He knows his stuff.
As you will see shortly, Rob has done that age-old trick of mentioning but not really suggesting songs, knowing full well that I won’t be able to resist and will end up posting everything he utters. That was at the end of the line of a series of “Well, there’s this…but no…or this…but nah…” mentions which, true to form, will pop up later. (This is not a criticism, by the way.)
Next up is Swiss Adam from bagging area; now to be fair, this is the third of his suggestions (the others will be along shortly), hence it’s brevity:
“Mellow Gold, Beck. He’s a loser baby so why don’t you kill him?”
There’s another reason I’ve posted that next, and that’s because I figured we could all do with a ruddy good sing-a-long. I’m right, right?
Actually, that’s the first time I’ve listened to that in God knows how many years, and I had a flash-back to singing it at junior school. I, ever desperate to get a laugh out of my friends, would perform the call-back bits in the final verse, paper-and-comb-in-mouth voice and all. I remember our headmaster, face knotted in fury, stalking along the lines of children, trying to locate the source of some unexpected joy, which was not of course permitted. He never caught me (for that). But looking back, what a desperate for attention little squirt I was back then, says the man who writes a music blog in his 50s, as if he’s changed.
Over now to PhonicPat“Here we go, linking the yellow I’ve gone for a a cautionary tale for everybody…”
…because ‘if yellow is mellow…’ and it is a great song.“
Indeed it is, and one filled with memories for me, for it was a song we used to perform in the band I was in at college. We loved it for it was easy to learn: three chords, a drumfill and lots of thrashing our instruments within an inch of their lives. I tried to explain that most Quo records met at least two of those criteria, but my protestations fell on ironically deaf ears.
I mention this now because there exists some recordings of us playing live, done through the mixing desk and they are, without question, hilarious, for all the wrong, unintended reasons. I’m hopeful that the lead singer can locate said tapes so I can convert them to mp3s to post here, and we can all have a jolly good laugh. Watch this space.
Carrying on with the Yellow theme for now, and I’ll hand you back to Nathan, who has a couple of ideas in this area:
“…McCartney/Beatles connection…Yellow connection…vague drug reference a la “Mellow Yellow”…a three-fer?
I admire your enthusiasm Nathan, but sorry, no. The source record isn’t by McCartney or The Beatles, and as for the drug reference, well, we’ll come to that soon enough.
In the meantime, you’ll recall I mentioned earlier The Robster’s cunning plan where he names a lot of records that he isn’t suggesting, knowing full well I won’t be able to resist posting all of them. Time to revisit. Brace yourself, for here we go:
“Where do I start with this one? Yellow? Too easy..:”
I’ve deliberately not picked the original of that one. Click the link and you’ll see why (it’s beautiful). And I don’t just mean because it’s not the Counting Crows version.
Anyway, as you were Robster:
” ‘…Yellow Submarine…’ ” (We’ve had that!) “…I could go on. And on and on…” (I know, I’ve read your blog (just kidding!) received emails from you extolling the virtues of Newport Town FC). “So one that some people might not know is…”
But The Robster hasn’t finished yet. Oh no. Here he comes with his link to Donovan, which should have featured ages ago but I can’t be bothered with going back and putting it in its rightful place.
Go on then Robbo, fill yer boots:
“I’m going back to brilliant cartoons. Donovan once played himself in an episode of Futurama, which has a character called Fry. The wonderful Stephen Fry (credited as Prof. Joseph Yupik) lent his voice to the title track of (the even more wonderful) Kate Bush’s 50 Words For Snow album.”
Yes, it’s almost August, but here’s a song about snow:
Which, fortuitously, leads me nicely onto the final category: all things Donovan-trivia related and associated rudeness.
But before we go there, a couple of the more obtuse suggestions. The Chain Gang may remember that for the past two episodes, The Great Gog has been obsessed with the county of Hampshire. Now, he has a new fixation:
“We move now to Hampstead. The Mellow Yellow album features a track entitled Hampstead Incident. I can think of only two other songs that include this part of North London in their titles:
“(Released in 1987 and 1988 respectively – clearly a time when this area was inspiring Britain’s songwriters)”
Wise words, great mate.
Back then, before the final push, to Swiss Adam from Bagging Area:
“Husker Du, legendary indie punk pioneers covered a Donovan song, Sunshine Superman in 1983. In fairly breakneck style. I’ve just scrolled up and seen another reference to that song but not the Du’s cover. They also covered the theme to the Mary Tyler Moore Show…which is ace but doesn’t really link to mellow or yellow.“
Yeh, but it’s the kind of almost showboating that I mentioned earlier, so I’ll allow it:
I think we left Rigid Digit mid-flow a little earlier, so perhaps we should check back in on him:
” ‘…Pills…” is probably the Mondays high point – it’s a bit of a mess after that, and the next album was a bit a a damp squib. They had it, they lost it, and Tony Wilson probably thought it was great art to fail in this manner (and drag his record company down with them). But … Shaun returned with Black Grape proving he still had it (not sure he’s got “it” now – he’s already been on the Help I’m Stuck In The Jungle, Can I Have A Career? thing on ITV, and is probably second or third reserve for a place on The One Show sofa)..”
You haven’t watched him and Bez on Celebrity Gogglabox, I’m guessing. In case there was any doubt, Bez is shown to not be the sharpest tool in the box. Not that there was much debate in this area beforehand. This is a man who is so simple he managed to get himself disqualified for cheating on Celebrity Bargain Hunt. Sadly, we will never know if he’s like he is now because of the vast amount of drugs he took in the (I hate to narrow it down, but let’s say) late 1980s to early/mid 1990s. I think we can hazard a guess. As for Shaun, for a man who claims to have given everything up, his face is a very odd shade of bright pink. It’s almost like he’s self-glazing. Neither know how to complete a sentence without liberal use of the F-word. Not that I object to this, but come on guys, just one phrase without it, please.
Before we go any further, some background knowledge which you will need to have if what’s to follow is going to make any kind of sense. So have a read of this, which I have pilfered from wiki:
The song was rumoured to be about smoking dried banana skins, which was believed to be a hallucinogenic drug in the 1960s, though this aspect of bananas has since been debunked. According to Donovan’s notes, accompanying the album Donovan’s Greatest Hits, the rumour that one could get high from smoking dried banana skins was started by Country Joe McDonald in 1966, and Donovan heard the rumour three weeks before “Mellow Yellow” was released as a single. According to The Rolling Stone Illustrated Encyclopedia of Rock and Roll, he admitted later the song made reference to a vibrator; an “electrical banana” as mentioned in the lyrics. This definition was re-affirmed in an interview with NME magazine: “it’s about being cool, laid-back, and also the electrical bananas that were appearing on the scene – which were ladies’ vibrators.”
So, to be clear, I have allowed songs which relate to the smoking of illicit substances as that is generally, if inaccurately, assumed to be what the song is about, but none can acquire points. Sadly, since my Mother will be reading this and I’ll have to look her in the eye again at some point, I also have to include any suggestions linked to Lady Love Toys too.
Let’s tantrically wait a while before we submit to the buzzing suggestions which involve items of self pleasure, and we’ll hear from long time-blog faithful, but (I think) first time Chain contributor, Lynchie Fae Enburdeeen:
“Donovan’s “Mellow Yellow” includes the verse:
“Electrical banana Is gonna be a sudden craze
Electrical banana Is bound to be the very next phase”
Which leads me on to the greatest marijuana songs ever written – performed by the fabulous twin lead guitar band Man, who would occasionally perform this song with a full Welsh male voice choir.
I had, and still have, no idea if it’s true that that’s Saffron or not. It doesn’t sound like her to me. But I’m letting it in with no fact-checking because if it’s not true, then it deserves admission just for the balls-out nerve of making such a claim up.
But whilst we’re on the subject of Saffron, here’s Nathan again:
How about Saffron – singer for Republica…Republica doing…:
“During these days of lockdown I’ve been threatening to get my guitar down from the loft and serenade the neighbours. Problem is I only ever got to song number two in my “Teach Yourself Guitar” book, which was (I’ll get to the point trust me) Catch The Wind by Donovan. For years I used to mix up that song and his other one Colours, to come up with Colours Of The Wind which is an entirely different affair from the Disney film Pocahontas, but the next song certainly won’t be that one.
As a follow up I’m going to go for Worst Song suggestion – Donovan also recorded Sunshine Superman. Superman was the name of a novelty record by Black Lace which had been originally recorded by two Italians with the title Gioca Jouer. To quote from wiki: ‘The song featured a number of dance gestures that acted out the lyrics – including sleeping, waving, hitching a ride, sneezing, walking, swimming, skiing, spraying deodorant, sounding a horn, ringing a bell, flexing muscles as a “Macho Man”, making the letters “OK”, blowing kisses, combing and flying like Superman.‘”
Brace yourself. This is unspeakably awful, and fully deserving of the only points I’m dishing out this time for Worst Record:
…which was selected because Donovan and Bono share a birthday.
I know. Rubbish, right?
Anyway, you know the drill: submit your suggestions for songs that link to Beuatiful Day by U2 via the Comments section below, or by email to firstname.lastname@example.org and eventually I’ll get round to writing the next instalment.
I’ve been struggling all week to come up with anything to play this week. And then, tonight, Friday, a day later than I usually start writing these posts, on my way home from work I found myself thinking about how the way that I get to hear about new music has changed so much.
Nowadays, I’m pretty much reliant on my blogging chums to flag new stuff to me; bar Jools Holland’s “Later…” there’s next to no music television programmes on in the UK these days (Friday night BBC4 documentaries excepted); or occasionally a friend will text, tweet or email me to ask if I’ve heard of someone or other, or to see if I want to go see someone I’ve never heard of live (the answer’s generally yes, as long as a) I’m not skint; b) I can track down at least one song that I like by the suggested act, and c) whether or not I value the opinion of the person asking or not).
When I was a kid, new music did not appear on the Multi-Coloured Swap Shop. Songs that were already hits appeared on Top of the Pops. And I had no idea what the Old Grey Whistle Test was, and would probably would have avoided it even if I did.
No, when I was growing up the only way I heard anything new was via the radio.
And that gave me an idea for tonight’s post. Four words to strike fear into the heart of any of you who endured my recent run of TV show titled posts. To misquote Martin Luther King: “I have a theme..”
So I got home, cranked the laptop up, opened iTunes and typed “Radio” into the search window.
427 songs were suggested.
Jesus, this thread is going to finish me off, I thought.
But fear not: by the time I’d eliminated all the songs I have by TV on the Radio, or by Radiohead, or were on a rather fine Radio Soulwax mix I downloaded recently, or any that were on the list because they were the Radio Edit of a single, I was down to a much more palatable amount.
So, let’s crack on, shall we?
And what better place to start than with this stone cold classic:
I’ve had a life-long love affair with R.E.M. Well, not quite life-long. I wish I could say I bought this when it first came out, but no. I first heard it on the third R.E.M. album I ever bought, a Best of (regular readers will perhaps be surprised to learn it wasn’t the first record I ever bought by the band) called “Eponymous”.
Radio Free Europe first came out in 1981, the band’s first single, later resurfacing as the opening track on their debut album “Murmur” two years later. I didn’t buy anything by the band until 1987’s “Document”, four years and five albums later, but I’d still like to think I was a little ahead of the majority of the pack here in the UK, where most were unaware of them until 1988’s “Green” album, interest growing somewhat by the time 1991’s “Out of Time” came out, and hitting absolute peak with 1992’s flawless “Automatic For The People”.
In the summer of 1989, I somehow found myself at quite a posh garden party, full of young darlings, public school types, who had been quite astonished that I didn’t know I was supposed to kiss the proffered hand of a young lady I was introduced to. Yes, THAT posh. (I shook it, an act which was greeted by quite the round of disbelieving guffaws.)
Anyway, feeling ever so-slightly out of place, I proceeded to get phenomenally pissed, and wandered into a barn where a DJ was trying had to tempt the fops onto the dancefloor. He played R.E.M.’s “Orange Crush” from their Green album, which pleased me (not enough to dance, mind), that was until the DJ took to the microphone and said: “That was R.E.M. a new, up and coming band from the U.S.of A.”
I couldn’t take it, marched over and started to berate him about how they were neither new nor up and coming, how they’d been around for years, how that track was from their sixth album and how that was the sort of thing he really should know if he was going to make it in the cut-throat world of DJ’ing, quietly omitting to mention that I’d only been a fan since the album before.
Musical snobbery, eh? Never gets you anywhere. Oh, what do you philistines know, anyway?
Moving on to 1993, and another of my favourite bands:
I don’t have much to say about this, apart from it being the lead single from their “Thirteen” album, that it’s a quite magnificent single from a quite magnificent album, which, for reasons that I don’t think I’ll ever really understand, saw the band completely fail to capitalise on their break-through album “Bandwagonesque”. If you don’t own them, kids, go get ’em. Or, if you hang around here long enough, I’ll probably end up posting every song from them both sooner or later.
Moving on to another artist whose work I’ve admired for a great many years:
This is from 1978, when Mr McManus was at his snarling best, so much so that following an appearance on US show Saturday Night Live in 1977, he found himself banned from appearing again.
Here’s the story: The Sex Pistols were booked to appear on the show, but for one reason or another – reportedly, a lack of visas – they couldn’t make it and Elvis and his band The Attractions were roped in. His record company wanted them to perform their current UK single “Less Than Zero” – which was about Oswald Moseley, leader of the fascist movement in the UK – but Costello was less keen, thinking the song wasn’t exactly going to resonate with an American audience.
So Costello took the stage, started to play “Less Than Zero” before calling proceedings to a halt a few bars in, announcing “I’m sorry, ladies and gentlemen, but there’s no reason to do this song here” before launching into “Radio Radio” instead.
Going so far off message was not appreciated by the powers that be; he wasn’t invited back until 1989. He did, later, however reference it on the 25th Anniversary Show, when, as Beastie Boys were just getting going on “Sabotage”, this happened:
Where do you go to top that? Well, you can’t, but I know someone who’ll give it a bloody good go:
Ironically, this track, written by popular rhyming slang Miles Hunt, was only ever released as a single in the US, and not here in the UK, where it remained just another track from their second, not-quite-as-good-as-their-first album “Hup!”. Quite how they got away with lines like “Bugger the plugger” is beyond me. But maybe I shouldn’t be surprised: many years ago I saw Phil Collins being interviewed after he had appeared in US hit TV show “Miami Vice”. Collins related how when he attended the script run through, he’d found that his character repeatedly used the phrase “wanker”, and Collins asked the producers if they knew what it meant.
“Sure,” came the response, “it’s English slang for ‘idiot’, right?”
Fortuitously, there was nobody better qualified than Collins to enlighten them as to the true meaning.
One of the other acts who were approached to appear on Saturday Night Live on that night Costello so infuriated the TV bosses, were this next lot. They declined the invitation, giving this as their explanation: “We don’t substitute for anybody.” Bonus cool points.
Denver is probably best known over here for a) Annie’s Song, b) looking like the Milky Bar Kid, c) his love of the Rocky Mountains, and d) his love of flying. Sadly, he failed to survive the occasion when he inadvertently combined those last two by crashing his plane into one of them.
Time for a musical interlude. Not that I’m saying what you’ve had so far wasn’t musical, just…this sounds like a musical interlude. And that’s a good thing. Particularly when it’s provided by a band who most people only know for one song, and that a remixed version of it, and even more so when to the best of my knowledge, this sounds like nothing else they’ve ever done:
Next up, a song which first came to my attention via a compilation album called “The Trip: Created by Saint Etienne”. It’s crammed full of Northern Soul, down-tempo numbers, lost and obscure nuggets from the 60s and 70s; if you’ve never heard it then I urge you to track down a copy.
I say it’s created by Saint Etienne, it’s more likely to just be Etienne stalwart and fountain of all pop knowledge Bob Stanley that compiled it. Bob once was kind enough to retweet a link to these pages once, so I reckon I owe him a name-check.
In the real world, knowing that a member of Saint Etienne had read one of my posts would earn me extra bonus points; alas it was predominantly about Bucks Fizz with a healthy portion of Shakin’ Stevens, so I reckon I’m probably in cool point deficit now. Ho hum.
But I digress. This is Douglas Dillard, banjo player (banjoist? banjoer?) and founder member of bluegrass outfit The Dillards, and Harold Eugene “Gene” Clark, singer, songwriter, guitarist and founder member of The Byrds.
Together, they came together under the inspired name of:
Two to go now, and it’s time for some 2 Tone ska. I don’t feature nearly enough of this kind of stuff on these pages, which some of you poor misguided fools may consider a blessing, so here’s an absolute belter to rectify that:
And so to the last one for tonight, and any post about songs with the word Radio in the title, inspired by my musings on how I rarely listen to the radio these days (6music at the weekends aside, and particularly former Fun Lovin’ Criminal Huey Morgan’s show of a Saturday morning, which is simply unmissable), would not be complete without this polished gem (it features and was produced by Trevor Horn, so it was never going to be anything but polished, now was it?):
What’s extraordinary about that record is that although it’s written from a future perspective, it was actually first released in 1977 (by Bruce Woolley and The Camera Club), before music videos were anywhere near the peak they would become. MTV wouldn’t even be launched for another four years, yet all that the song prophesizes – how polish, image, self-promotion, glamour and glitz would become the prevalent (X) factor, as opposed to, y’know, how good you are and what you sound like – has pretty much come true.
Which is a fairly bleak way to wrap things up, but there you go.