And so here we are. Another bloody year older. At 53, I think this is the final year that I can get away with saying I’m in my early-50s. Next year, I’ll have to confess to being in my mid-50s and then….*shudders*…well, I’d rather not think about that any further, thank ou very much.
Still, better than the alternative, I guess.
Long time readers may recall that I used to mark my birthday every year by posting the same song, the one which was #1 in the UK charts on the day I was born. That record, for those a little newer round here, is Creedence Clearwater Revival’s Bad Moon Rising, which I think is a pretty cool – and possibly appropriate – record to be associated with in such a way.
Inspired by a series Martin over at the ever brilliant New Amusements did a few years ago, where he discussed each song which had been #1 on his birthday each year, I decided to do something similar. Alright, something almost identical – the difference being that I’d just post one a year, on my birthday, to see how long the run of cool records being #1 on my big day could last.
Now, I must say that when I saw who this year’s record was by, my heart sank. I’m not adverse to a bit of 70s kitsch, nor oblivious to the charms of the odd teen heart-throb, but Jesus wept…David Cassidy….!
So I gave it a listen. And what do you know, it’s nowhere near as bad as I imagined.
Which is probably because I recognised it as a cover version of this, much more Scott Walker/Jacques Brel-esque version:
I think perhaps I’m trying to convince myself here. Sure, The Young Rascals version would have been preferable, or even better, the (not featured here for fear of overkill) Dusty Springfield version from 1970. But in all honesty, the David Cassidy version isn’t that bad.
I tell you what is rather galling though. On 26th September 1972, the David Cassidy version had only been #1 for two days. Had I been born even more prematurely than I actually was, on 24th September instead of 26th, then this would have been the next record in this series and I’d have been a whole lot happier:
Is it Wednesday again already? Where did that week go?
Right, we’ve got the biggest number of suggestions to get through that we’ve ever had this week, and that’s without any from a couple of regular Chain Gangers, so there’s no time for pleasantries this week, bar a courteous “Hello!” (Also, I’m feeling a little under the weather today, so please excuse me if there are less attempts at jokes than usual this week…)
Still, the show must go on, and all that.
We signed off last week with “The Ballad of Peter Pumpkinhead” by XTC, inviting your usual wide-ranging nominations for tunes that link to it, and I can’t think of a batter way to kick things off this week than with one of The Beard’s suggestions:
“The Ballad of Peter Pumpkinhead was released in 1992. Also released in 1992 was the album Connected by Stereo MCs. That year they supported Happy Mondays on their Yes Please! tour. Yes Please! is a genuinely appalling album and one that appeared to mark the end of Shaun Ryder as a lyricist and a poet comparable to Yeats (in the mind of Anthony H. Wilson, anyway). That was until he came back with Black Grape and the single Reverend Black Grape a few years later.”
“My first thought was that the XTC sleeve looked familiar, but I know that I didn’t buy ‘Peter Pumpkinhead’ as a single, only acquiring later on a compilation. A quick look through the vinyl singles revealed another XTC sleeve in that style for The Disappointed, which I presume was on the same album [it was, on “Nonsuch”]. This immediately brought to mind a couple of other singles I possess called Disappointed – one by Public Image Limited…”
Now, when I say the Morrissey song leads us nicely to Bob the Builder, it’s because Bob is of course voiced by actor Neil Morrissey, and not because anyone other than the aforementioned Spud has a head shaped like a pumpkin.
“Frank Sidebottom didn’t have a pumpkinhead, but it was the size of a pumpkin. His cover of Panic is always worth a spin, but as it’s that time of year, you may want to consider something from the Christmas Is Really Fantastic EP which came out 30 whole years ago! Blimey…”
By the way, apologies for the absolute bobbins way that mp3 ends; I didn’t notice until earlier today that it cuts out mid-conversation between Frank and Little Frank, and, erm, frankly I haven’t had time to re-edit it.
Anyway, we seem to be in the middle of some pumpkin related shenanigans, so here to add to the mix is a couple of suggestions from SWC, also of When You Can’t Remember Anything:
“If you need a Pumpkin reference [as it happens, I thought we would, but we’ve done alright, ta!], then we could go towards ‘Pumpkin’ by Tricky…”
And here’s another. Remember Kate Nash? You know, her with that really annoying voice that sounded like she was affecting an Essex accent, had a massive hit with “Foundations” a few years back? Yeh, you do. Well, anyway, here’s one of her follow-up singles:
I have no idea why that song is so named. I can’t help but suspect it’s one of those “Yesterday/Scrambled Eggs” scenarios, except she didn’t bother changing it.
Time for a big Chain Gang welcome to a new (I think…) contributor, and here with a couple of belters is Julian, the first of which is a double-linker, since it mentions not only pumpkins but also ballads:
“Murder Ballads by Nick Cave & The Bad Seedshas the song The Curse Of Millhaven, a line in which refers to two dog killers as ‘Stinky Bohoon and his friend with the pumpkin sized head’…”
Sorry, George, I had no idea he was going to do that, honest….
Anyway, since we seemed to have strayed into Ballad territory, we may as well have some more. Welcome, then, Charity Chic from Charity Chic Music:
“I shall redeem myself with my second thought – ‘The Ballad of El Goodo’ by Big Star.”
Yes, I know I haven’t posted his first suggestion yet, do I need to post the whole Dr Who, Timey-Wimey clip again? I’ll get to it. Besides, this now adds a whole element as to whether or not CC’s second suggestion really is going to be better than his first, don’t ya think?
“I remembered My Top Ten Ballads Of… which I did ages ago (I can’t be bothered looking for a link, I’m not after a cheap plug this week!) Ahead of the aforementioned Peter Pumpkinhead [and another one which will be along in a minute or two] was ‘The Ballad of Barry Allen’ by Jim’s Big Ego, which is about the fleet-footed superhero The Flash and, curiously enough, written and performed by Jim Infantino, the nephew of comic book artist Carmine Infantino who used to draw said superhero quite a lot back in the comics I read when I was a younger, more affluent person.”
“I tend to submit only one suggestion per week as realise you must be pretty overloaded nowadays [yeh, a little, but I’ll survive!] …but three that came to mind immediately – if any of them seem worthy of including, or have a gag in them, take your pick.”
This, then was the third: “…Marianne Faithful, who tends to be remembered less for her music as for “other things” but there you go”:
Gags? I have no idea what you mean. Nor do I have any idea what those “other things are” that you refer to.
Oh, I see.
Moving swiftly on, here’s Martin from New Amusements, back for his second week of Chain Gangery:
“My first reaction was to pick up on the ballad, and go with ‘The Ballad of Tom Jones’, by Space and Cerys Matthews. However, much as I sometimes love Cerys, I felt determined to come up with a better song than this….”
Back over to Rol, who’s still banging on about the Ballad Top 10 he did over at his place, but which he definitely isn’t after a cheap plug for, nosireebob. (It’s right here if you want to have a look. Needless to say, there’s some belters)
“At #2 was Martin’s Tom Jones.
#1 was something really rather special.
‘The Ballad of the Kingsmen’ by Todd Snider. It’s Louie Louie-tastic.”
babylotti continues: “The video (apart from having several ladies in a state of undress) is one of those ones which stops the song halfway through, which leads me onto my next suggestion, the magnificent Bizarre Love Triangle by New Order (You’re a real ‘up’ person..) surely the best song they ever wrote?”
I’m not arguing.
babylotti is right, The Bloodhound Gang video does stop halfway through (as their bass player wanders off stage, his eye caught by one of these ladies). I have watched it, so that you don’t have to, just to check the link is valid. You know, purely for research purposes. Seven times.
In case you’re not sure what babylotti is talking about re:Bizarre Love Triangle, this from wiki:
“The music video, which was released in November 1986, was directed by American artist Robert Longo. It prominently featured shots of a man and a woman in business suits flying through the air as though propelled by trampolines; this is based directly on Longo’s “Men in the Cities” series of lithographs. The video also features a black and white cut-scene where Jodi Long and E. Max Frye are arguing about reincarnation, in which Long emphatically declares “I don’t believe in reincarnation because I refuse to come back as a bug or as a rabbit!” Frye responds, “You know, you’re a real ‘up’ person,” before the song resumes.”
Some of you, and I won’t be asking for a show of hands, will perhaps not be familiar with Chasey Lain, so I’ll let babylotti wrap things up, as he seems to know who she is:
“My last suggestion, as Chasey Lain is a porn star, I would like to suggest another porn star who went on to make a record (no, not Paris Hilton, though surely that would have made worst single of the week….), ‘Fallen Angel’ by Traci Lords”
Now, a few moments ago, babylotti made reference to the Worst Record of the Week, and surprisingly, in a week where we’ve already mentioned Bob the Builder, there were very few of these this week. Few, but not none.
Step forwards SWC:
“The Ballad of Peter Pumpkinhead takes us to A recent poll in a magazine in which ‘More Than Words’ by impossibly awful hair bear band Xtreme was voted as the ‘worst ballad of all time’. This was a song that was my sisters first dance at her wedding and a song on a cassette that I once reversed my car over around 19 times.”
A small admin point here: I’m taking the link to be bands whose names start with an X? In which case, sorry to break the news, but they were called Extreme, not Xtreme. But, under the weather as I may be, Spurs have just managed to finally win a game in the Champions League (better late than never, eh?), so I’m feeling magnanimous and I’ll let it slide this time:
Of course, it’d be sacrilege for me to post that and not also post this:
And whilst we’re on out-dated sounding bands from the 70s, here’s a suggestion from George:
“Right. Worst record of the week. Here goes. Also from Swindon was Diana Dors, who was married to Alan Lake, leading to Emerson Lake and Palmer and a record I bought for a pound (and was described to me in the record shop as a terrible record, and they were right) Pictures At An Exhibition, and side 1 track 2 The Gnome. Complete and utter tripe.”
Over to Kuttowski from A Few Good Times in My Life. As you will see shortly – and this is my introducing yet another element of suspense – I have had to disqualify his first suggestion. Until the moment of that big reveal, though:
“Far back in time, when punk ruled my life for a bit I was addicted to Peter and the Test Tube Babies. Fast, mean and straight was the main things they gave me at these times. So I would like to suggest their ‘Banned From The Pubs’.”
I’m not surprised they were banned from pubs. Test Tube Babies are way under age, even if they are accompanied by a consenting adult.
Time to head over to Muso Corner and see what some of our regulars have rustled up for us this week.
Here’s Martin again: “Andy Partridge of XTC was originally going to produce Blur’s ‘Modern Life Is Rubbish’ but, at the label’s insistence, was subbed, and Stephen Street was drafted in like an indie supply teacher. Cue career-redefining album and the salvation of the band. All of which is my excuse for pitching Colin Zeal by Blur, from ‘Modern Life’ …”
Well pitched sir. You’ll be on the creative team on The Apprentice in no time!
“‘Peter Pumpkinhead’ was produced by the late Gus Dudgeon, most famous for twiddling the knobs on many of Sir Reginald of Pinner’s greatest hits, though also among his credits are two albums by The Bonzo Dog Band (post Doo-Dah). From the second of these, ‘Tadpoles’, I’d like to suggest ‘Canyons of Your Mind’.”
“(There’s a rather splendid TV performance of the song on YouTube if you’re looking for a video to post this week.)” The Swede rather helpfully suggests. Well, I wasn’t, but since I think the clip you’re referring to is actually where I know the song from, it would be churlish of me not to:
Back now to SWC, with “a proper suggestion”. And when he says, “a proper suggestion” he means “a proper suggestion”:
“If I remember this song correctly it had a dodgy reference in it to crucifixion – something about being nailed to a chunk of wood…?”
You do remember correctly; in fact it goes:
“Peter Pumpkinhead was too good
Had him nailed to a chunk of wood
He died grinning on live TV
Hanging there he looked a lot like you
And an awful lot like me!”
“So the obvious link to that is ‘Reverence’ by the Jesus and Mary Chain.”
“I’m only hoping,” winds up SWC, “that the real link is nothing to do with Crash Test Dummies.”
I’m not sure I understand that reference. Still, with a bit of luck, someone will explain it to me soon enough.
Here’s Alex G again:
“‘The Ballad Of Peter Pumpkinhead’ was later a minor hit for Crash Test Dummies via the soundtrack of ‘Dumb and Dumber’ [Oh, I see! Thanks!]. So going with the link of “original recordings of songs subjected to ‘quirky’ cover versions on the Dumb and Dumber soundtrack”, I would like to suggest “Get Ready” by The Temptations.”
Penned by Smokey Robinson when he was still called William, and covered by The Proclaimers of all people on the above named soundtrack, I think that may be my favourite record of the week. It’s certainly my “Best Dressed for a Single Sleeve” winner of the week.
Time for more Dumb and Dumber relayed madness from Rigid Digit of Stuff & Nonsense:
“As mentioned above, covered by Crash Test Dummies for the ‘Dumb and Dumber’ soundtrack, Crash Test Dummies are best known for going “Mmm!” a lot. That single was a huge seller (and after a while hugely annoying). The parent album (God Shuffled His Feet) is worth a listen, as is the follow-up single ‘Afternoons and Coffeespoons'”
Maybe time has dulled it’s ability to irritate, but I listened to “Mmm Mmm Mmm Mmm” after you mentioned it, first time I’d heard it in years, and it wasn’t as bad as I recalled. It’s his voice that’s really annoying, I think. Still, I don’t know anything else by them, so let’s have a listen and see if he’s always like that:
That was the B-side to their smash “Unbelievable” single, and I remember there being quite the furore in some of the red-tops when they flipped the record over and found out what EMF stands for. Other interesting facts: one of the band (Derry…?) used to have a party trick where he inserted a whole orange under his foreskin. That’s not the sort of party I ever want to be invited to, thank you very much.
Still, more fine E related skull-doggery is afoot, with this suggestion from Swiss Adam from Bagging Area, which wins my “Oh, Is That What That Tune’s Called!!” Award of the Week:
“XTC, as several people have pointed out, is also a name of a popular rave drug. It is chanted throughout Joey Beltram’s monstrously good Energy Flash.”
Now, earlier on, I mentioned that I had to disqualify a suggestion by Kuttowski, this one to be precise:
“XTC were an art-rock band from Swindon and were much more as the average in these days. So it would great to listen to their Making Plans For Nigel once again.”
I don’t disagree, but here at The Chain we need a link to be more than just “X band also did X song”, the suggestion needs to be more than that.
But, I’ll tell you what, how about I give you a tune which has the music from “Making Plans” but something else over the top if it? I’m talking, of course, about one of them there “mash-ups”; as a whole I’m not a great fan of the genre – yes, they’re often very clever but equally often the producer over eggs it, assumes the listener needs it explaining, and includes the vocal from the backing track when it really isn’t required, spoiling it.
This is one of the better ones, mixing Tweet featuring Missy Elliott’s “Oops (Oh My)” with the aforementioned XTC tune. Give it a listen:
You thought we’d finished with the pumpkin related tunes a while ago, didn’t you? Well, as it happens, we haven’t, I was saving a couple back.
Here’s George again:
“A pumpkin is a member of the squash family, and in the 1970s there was a squash player called Jonah Barrington (who stormed out of Superstars for some reason ,but I might be wrong there), and Barrington Levy is a reggae artist, so I suggest his diddly-diddly-wah-hoo song ‘Here I Come’.”
Time to tie up one more loose end now, and it’s back to Charity Chic, who you will recall is due to post a record worse than Big Star’s “The Ballad of El Goodo”, which really shouldn’t prove too difficult:
“XTC to Andy Partridge to the Partridge Family to David Cassidy and Daydreamer.”
Since we’re on Partridges – and I know you’re expecting me to post a video clip to a bit of Alan Partridge, but I’m not going to -here’s something seasonal from The Great Gog:
“Now it’s December, there is a well-known song that features the word partridge rather a lot. My favourite version of this tune actually DOESN’T contain the word partridge, and despite many listens over the years, I do still find it mildly amusing – The Twelve Days Of Christmas by Bill Barclay.”
Ok then, to round things up, here’s a wee message from Andy Partridge himself, which I picked up on one of those “Late Night Tales” compilations a few years ago, this one compiled by Helmut, and it seems rather apt: