Be LlŇ∑rious

Today is the fourth anniversary of the passing of my best friend and honorary little brother, LlŇ∑r, and as regular readers will know this series is where I share a memory about him. It’s my way of keeping him alive, I guess.

Whilst I’ve been off work unwell for the past couple of months, I’ve taken full advantage of all the various streaming services I subscribe to, and recently embarked on watching a Channel 4 comedy drama which so reminds me of LlŇ∑r, that it almost became the subject of this post, until I checked back and saw that this time last year I also wrote about some TV shows we both loved, so I figured I’d save it for another time.

So instead, a music- based reminiscence, and I suppose I should start by explaining why there is a picture of an aubergine (or egg-plant, as our American friends inexplicably call it) at the top of this post. Truth be told, whenever I see a picture of the purple fruit, I think of LlŇ∑r, and not for the reason you mucky emoji-obsessed folks are currently imagining. I should clarify immediately, but I’m not going to; all will become clear.

When LlŇ∑r and I first began sharing a flat, we both knew the other was a massive popular culture nerd obsessive, and that the favoured emphasis was most defintely on music. My chunky stereo – turntable, 5 CD, non-DAB radio, twin tape deck – got positioned in the living room, along with my extensive CD collection, since LlŇ∑r had, of course, called ‘shotgun’ on the larger of the two bedrooms, and there simply wasn’t the room for them all in mine. Not if I planned on having a bed in there too.

LlŇ∑r’s vinyl collection lived in the lounge too albeit in a much more prominent position. Because vinyl looks cooler than CDs.

Flat-sharing meant that we now had unlimited time to peruse each other’s hoarded stashes, as I often did with great envy. I occasionally got the feeling that mine was viewed with a bit of a chuckle, and a rueful shake of the head – not neccesarily of disapproval, more disappointment when I owned records by certain acts, but perhaps not the right records by them.

A case in point:

‚ÄúYou’ve got some Dire Straits albums…”, LlŇ∑r once said to me, not in an accusatory manner, more quizzical. He’s right, I have, and I’d previously owned more on vinyl, but I’d left these with my father when he expressed an interest several years earlier and I’d decided they didn’t quite project the cool indie-kid image I had cultivated at Uni.

“I have indeed,” I confirmed, nonchalantly. “And….?”

“No, no, nothing…I’m just disappointed you don’t have the one tune by them I like.”

It transpired that it wasn’t the actual song he liked. but the video which accompanied it, which consisted of a load of US sporting bloopers, the equivalent of those you would find playing alongside the closing credits on late 70s/early 80s Burt Reynolds’ films like Smokey & The Bandit and The Cannonball Run.

This one:

And not an aubergine in sight yet, no matter what you think of Knopfler’s headband.

One day, his opening gambit was “I see you have a Cud CD single….”.

“I have indeed,” I confirmed, nonchalantly. “And….?”

I had this one:

Cud – One Giant Love

“Nothing, nothing,” LlŇ∑r innocently protested. “I’d not heard it before, it’s really cool.”

It’s always nice to have your musical taste vindicated.

“But, have you ever heard this?” he continued, dropping the needle on to the 12″ single he had all lined up and ready to go on the turn-table.

This one:

Cud – Purple Love Balloon

And that’s why I miss him so much; the unconditional acceptance of any of the less conventional (or, rather, in the case of Dire Straits, too conventional) records in my collection, and the desire to expand my horizons by nudging me in the direction of something else I might like.

Plus, I bet those Burt blooper reels were somewhere in his taped-from-TV video collection.

Miss you dude.

More soon.

No Such Thing as a Guilty Pleasure

This morning a band, and their debut single, who I was often ridiculed for liking when I was younger, and such smirks and nudges have followed me ever since.

“See him?” I would imagine I overheard people whispering to each other. “He likes Dire Straits.”

Let me put them in chronological context; first I had adored and wanted to be Shakin’ Stevens; then, briefly, I really liked The Police, who were swiftly ousted from their pole position by Status Quo, who in turn, much as I may have tried to deny it throughout my twenties and early thirties, have never really strayed too far from the top of my favourite musical acts. But before I discovered what is now known as “indie music”, there was a brief period where Dire Straits were the band who came closest to usurping my double-denimed heroes.

I’ve written before that I don’t think any of us really stop or grow out of loving the pop records we loved as a kid; they may be superseded by cooler bands with cooler haircuts but that little kernal forever remains within. I still have a few songs by Shaky on my iPod, and I absolutely love it when they pop up on shuffle, for they remind me of much happier and more innocent times.

By the time the Straits bug bit, I was in my mid-teens, still relatively happy (although my parents saw little evidence of this) but a lot less innocent (but still a lot more innocent than I strove to be, if you catch my drift).

Like many others, my jumping-on point with Dire Straits was their 1985 behemoth album Brothers in Arms, which I bought, along with pretty much everybody else, it’s polished sound serendipitously linked forever to the new format about to revolutionise the way we consumed music: the compact disc.

I began to investigate them further, purchasing something from their back catalogue whenever I ventured into town. I remember being relieved that, at the time, there was only four albums and an EP to catch up on, not like the umpteen albums and Best Ofs that I had to plough through when learning how to love the Quo (which was a joy, not a chore, obviously).

I think the last one I bought was their debut, eponymous album, which contained Sultans of Swing, a track I already owned on a various artists compilation album called Formula 30 I’d picked up a few years earlier.

It’s by far the best thing on that debut album. This, from Wiki:

The lyrics were inspired by a performance of a jazz band playing in the corner of an almost empty pub in Deptford, South London. At the end of their performance, the lead singer announced their name, the Sultans of Swing; [lead Strait man Mark] Knopfler found the contrast between the group’s dowdy appearance and surroundings and their grandiose name amusing.The lyrics also refer to ‘guitar George’, and to ‘Harry’. These references are of George Young and Harry Vanda from the Australian band The Easybeats”

To these ears, Knopfler was describing what we now rightly recognise and revere as the Pub Rock sound of the 1970s, that gave us such acts as Dr Feelgood and Squeeze, to name but two; “Sultans…” is practically a social document of the movement, of band members who were playing for fun with no real thought of making it professionally (“And Harry doesn’t mind if he doesn’t make the scene/He’s got a daytime job, he’s doing alright/He can play the Honky Tonk like anything/Saving it up for Friday night”) and of largely disinterested audiences (“They don’t give a damn ’bout any trumpet playing band/That ain’t what they call rock’n’roll”).

And then there were those between-lines guitar flourishes we would come to be familiar with; to this teenager, who had recently graduated from an acoustic guitar to his first electric one, this was my catnip, a great way to learn to play little riffs and licks, which I studied and copied and learned how to play in my own not-quite-as-good way.

Again from Wiki: “Writing in 2013 on the impact of the song, Rick Moore of American Songwriter reflected:

‘With “Sultans of Swing” a breath of fresh air was exhaled into the airwaves in the late ’70s. Sure, Donald Fagen and Tom Waits were writing great lyrics about characters you’d love to meet and Jeff Beck and Eddie Van Halen were great guitar players. But Knopfler, he could do both things as well or better than anybody out there in his own way, and didn’t seem to have any obvious rock influences unless you try to include Dylan. Like his contemporary and future duet partner Sting, Knopfler’s ideas were intellectually and musically stimulating, but were also accessible to the average listener. It was almost like jazz for the layman. “Sultans of Swing” was a lesson in prosody and tasty guitar playing that has seldom been equalled since. If you aren’t familiar with “Sultans of Swing” or haven’t listened to it in a while, you should definitely check it out.’

No, I’ve no idea what prosody means either.

With an unbiased, fresh pair of ears, if you will please:

Dire Straits – Sultans of Swing

See? Bloody marvellous.

Oh, and since he’s back in hospital (again) and I know he likes this one, this is for you Dad.

More soon.

The Day Today

Over the past couple of weeks, I’ve read people complaining a tedious number of numerous times on social media how, as we continue to stumble our way through ‘lockdown’, they find they are losing track of what day it is.

And just to cause more confusion, today, a Friday, is also, technically the May Day Bank Holiday Monday.

That’s right, Friday is the new Monday.

But worry not – this does not mean that immediately you think you’ve finished one week, the next sodding one starts. No, rest easy, weekends have not been cancelled. Not yet, anyway.

Many moons ago, probably when the Government thought they might need to rustle up some more jingoistic nationalism and Blitz spirit as the no-Deal Brexit they crave edges ever nearer (no, you’re right, I haven’t mentioned it for a while, have I?), some yahoo in a salmon shirt popped open their filofax and noticed that May Day – the Bank Holiday which traditionally falls on the first Monday of May – was due to take place on the Monday just gone, and that Victory in Europe Day (or VE Day) was today, the 8th May, and they wanted that to be a Bank Holiday for the nation too.

Actually, “too” isn’t quite right, for what they actually decided was that us oiks didn’t deserve to have two days off in the same week, so today became May Day instead.

If memory serves, the announcement was garnished with some florid explanation about how the economy couldn’t possibly withstand the idea of the majority of us taking two days off work in the same week. I’m sure, now that any public places where folks might want to gather to celebrate is closed, public gatherings cancelled, we’re all banned from standing within 6 feet of each other, and the Goverment is supposed to be furloughing thousands of businesses to keep them afloat, the irony of that decision isn’t lost on whoever made it. Could’ve let us have both and it wouldn’t have made a jot of a difference, would it?

I don’t want you to get the idea, however, that I don’t think VE Day should be celebrated, far from it. I think it is important that landmark military successes in our proud history are remembered. Plus, I have relatives who served in the armed forces (yes, I appreciate that does sound a little bit too close to “But! Some of my best friends are black/gay/Liberal Democrats…”) and I wouldn’t want them or any of their brothers-in-arms to think their work was not appreciated by yours truly.

Don’t worry, I’m not about to post Dire Straits’s Brothers in Arms.

I sort of remember having a lovely time attending VE celebrations in Cardiff Park many years ago, probably when it was the 50th anniversary.

I say “sort of” remember because I was, predictably, absolutely twatted.

I remember thinking how pleased all the drunks who usually lolled about in the park would be that several hundred chairs had suddenly been provided for them. Even more so that on this day they had something to sing-a-long with, rather than indulging in their second favourite past-time (third if you count sniffing industrial strength adhesives from brown paper bags, fourth if you count laying on your back zonked out on a combination of UHU and White Lightning) of just making up songs on the spot and singing them at anyone who cared to listen and a lot more people who didn’t.

For if memory serves, there was a real smorgasboard of entertainment laid on for us that day: an orchestra zipped through a selection of wartime hits, there was some opera, and I think Michael Ball probably sang. He has a tendency of turning up and doing that, whether he’s asked to or not.

And a bit of Ball is like catnip to your not-so-average sunburned Park drunk (“O! Mikey! Do Love Changes Everything, I fecking loves that one I does!”)

Anyway, to mark the day in my own sweet way, I give you this:

PJ Harvey – Victory

The problem is, now I’ve mentioned it, I can’t resist:

Dire Straits – Brothers in Arms

More soon.

“Like a Rolling River…”

Okay, I have a small confession to make. Some of the songs I’m posting this weekend have featured on the blog before. Some of those, have appeared in the same section as they are this weekend. Some have not. This one sort of has.

In my book, there’s no finer compliment to pay someone than to tell them that whenever you hear a song, you think of them. No matter how good or bad the song is, it’s the context in which the link is made. Generally, they remind you of people that you like, of good times you had.

This song – although granted, not this version; I thought I’d post this just so you got something slightly different to the last time I posted it – reminds me Groom of the Day (not to be confused with Groomer of the Day), Neil.

When Neil properly came into our lives – and I say properly, because I have a sneaking suspicion that our paths probably crossed at some house parties I used to habitually attend – shortly after I moved to London. I definitely remember he and I discussing the virtues of Ride at the end of one New Year’s Eve night out in Camden. He’d been a long-time friend of Jo and E, long-time friends of Hel and me. Hel and I were sharing a flat in North London at the time, and as the two of them began to date, so Neil would be round at the flat more and more often.

His visits were always a pleasure – for a start, he’s a bloody amazing chef, likes his football (an Everton fan, but not everyone can be perfect) and a music buff. Friday nights began to be a regular thing, and I would often compile a tediously long playlist, often three or four hours long, and the three of us would sit, get drunk, listen to the tunes and slag off our flatmates (in case any of them are reading this, I don’t mean you, I mean those other fuckers. You were just fine.).

As you would probably expect from a playlist I’d put together, the content varied, from the cool, to the not-so-cool, to the definitely-not-cool, and back to the cool again, popping in to check how the not-so-cool were doing, my intent being for us to¬†hear¬†the latter framed in a different way to normal, to reappraise and maybe not to be ashamed to say that actually, that’s not a bad record at all. Pretty much the blueprint for what I try to do here (sometimes, when I can be bothered), I suppose.

One night, as Neil and Hel popped open their second or third bottle of red wine, and I staggered back from the kitchen having made myself another pint of White Russian (yes, you read that correctly – a pint), a song by this band came on. It’s not the one that I’m (re-)posting today, but Neil’s little ears pricked up at the sound of it.

“Jez…..” he began, a little warily. “Do you like Dire Straits…?”


“I like some Dire Straits…but I’ve never met anyone else who does. Or who admits they do anyway.”

A chance to test him, I thought.

“Oh right, what do you like by them?”

“Do you know Telegraph Road?”

Test passed with flying colours.

“Never heard of it,” I said, watching him visibly deflate. “Only joking! ‘Course I do!”

Yes indeed folks, I’m that funny in real life. I blame the heady but deliciously more-ish mix of Vodka, Kahlua, Milk and Ice on this occasion.

And so, my copy of Love Over Gold was dug out, and Telegraph Road played in all it’s fourteen minutes, eighteen seconds-long glory. I lost count of how many times a non-plussed Hel checked her watch in that time. Neil and I were already friends, but now we were friends with a Knopfler-shaped, headband-wearing secret.

Last year (or maybe the year before, I’m lousy at remembering how old people are, mostly because I hope they’ll return the favour), when Neil turned 40, having received a new turntable from Hel,I bought him two albums on vinyl. One – Ride’s Nowhere¬†– he had asked for. The other – Dire Strait’s Love Over Gold – he did not. I’ve never asked him which he plays most. I suspect much will depend on how long Hel’s out of the flat for.

Anyway, here’s the version from their double live album Alchemy. It may not be edgy, but it is monumentally marvellous. If you’ve never heard this, go make yourself a brew, sit back and take it all in. (Not you, Neil, get your tie on.)

And Hel: fear not – this version is only thirteen minutes, thirty-seven seconds long. It’s no less glorious, mind:


Dire Straits – Telegraph Road (Live)

More soon.

A History of Dubious Taste

As I mentioned a couple of posts ago, I pledged that I’d crack on with the autobiographical aspect of this place, irrespective of the fact that I don’t necessarily have any entertaining acid drops to relate¬†to the records in question.

So, with nothing to say except that you should trust me here: suspend your pre-existing prejudices about this lot and give this a listen. This is just great. I love this record, especially the bit where Knopfler goes all Springsteen mid-way through it.

Here’s the¬†just-shy of fifteen minutes epic that is:


Dire Straits – Telegraph Road

See? Told you.

More soon.

1985 and All That

“More soon. Better soon. No really, I promise.”

Sometimes things I write come back to haunt me. Last time I wrote anything in this thread, it was the words above.

And then I checked to see what records that I bought in 1985  I still had to write about.


Can I pretend I was talking about records I bought in 1986? No? Fair enough.

OK, let’s try and get through these then.

You know how stand-up comedians often talk of terrible gigs they played when they started out, before they found “their voice”? Well, that pretty much sums up the mish-mash of records that I’m going to post today: I hadn’t quite found my voice, my style just yet, and that’s as close as I’m going to get to justifying some of these.

So, first, one which proves that I was still a little easily-led. When I was 15, and for a few years beforehand, many of my friends were into bands like Pink Floyd and Rush. I bought into the first to an extent – I’ve talked about ‘Dark Side of the Moon’ on these pages before, and that remains the only record by them that I own a physical copy of – but I never fell for the ‘charms’ of Canadian rockers Rush at all.

But there was another band that loomed large amongst my peers, who I never really liked all that much, but who managed to score a couple of hits in 1985, the first of which I still quite like but didn’t buy, and the second which I did buy but don’t think I’ve played more than once or twice since:


Marillion – Lavender

That sleeve really tells you all you need to know about that record, doesn’t it?

Well, not quite. Marillion’s lead singer was called Fish. He chose that name because he thought it to be less ridiculous than his real name. Which was Derek Dick. So he had a point.

Moving swiftly on then, a record which I seem to remember a girl at school giving to me as a birthday present. I have no idea why she did that. I don’t recall ever saying I particularly liked it, and I don’t recall she and I ever being particularly great friends. Friendly, sure, but not friendly enough for birthday gifts. Maybe I’d mentioned it in passing and she decided to present me with it thinking I would be grateful, maybe I’d mentioned in in passing and she decided to present me with it knowing it would piss me off to actually own it. (In case any of you are now hollering “Maybe she fancied you, you idiot!” at your screen/tablet/phone, well I can rule that out, for she only ever had eyes for wrong ‘uns, and no amount of shoplifting white socks would have made me a wrong ‘un). So, I have no idea. All I know is that I not only own this, but also¬†that¬†it has inexplicably survived my lean years, when records that I genuinely loved were ruthlessly stripped¬†from within my vinyl collection to assist me in the purchase of some unloved trinket or other:


 Red Box РLean on Me

I do hope that everyone of you is saying “Aye” right now, as requested.

There was still the occasional purchase from Britannia Music going on at this time, including this, which was actually released two years earlier in 1983, but which I bought through choice rather than one of their “Tick This Box and Send the Card Back if You Don’t Want This Record” scam. I have no qualms at all about owning this album; Elton John has been around for such a long time that I think tucked away somewhere in his back catalogue there’s at least one song that everyone loves, be it “Your Song”, “Tiny Dancer”, “Passengers” (God help you if that’s yours)¬†or this, from the album in question, “Too Low For Zero”, which still has me singing along like nobody can hear me (although they can, they definitely can, as the guy who used to live in the flat above us in Cardiff once kindly pointed out to me) when I’ve had a few:


Elton John – I Guess That’s Why They Call It the Blues

Of course, in 1985, Live Aid happened. I’ve already mentioned this in passing before, and besides, as I think I mentioned last time, I can’t really compete with the wonderful post over at Any Major Dude With Half a Heart from the 30th anniversary of the gig, which I would thoroughly recommend you go read, here.

The cynics amongst us – okay, including me – whilst applauding the honourable intentions of all those involved, couldn’t help but notice that appearing at either the UK or the USA concert (or both, as Phil Collins did when he famously got Concorde across the pond, thus leaving the sort of carbon footprint that required Live8 to happen years later), not only scored them bonus points for caring, or appearing to care, about world issues, it also had a seriously positive effect on their record sales.

None more so, than Queen.

In November, they released this single, often thought to have been inspired by the event of Live Aid, the lyrics to which, in drummer Roger Taylor’s own words, were “sort of half nicked off Martin Luther King’s famous speech”:


Queen – One Vision

That’s Queen, who lest we forget, were roundly criticised for playing a run of shows at Sun City, the entertainment complex located in Bophutswana, despite the United Nations cultural boycott of¬†South Africa whilst apartheid remained in situ.

But let’s not go off on another rant again, eh?

Queen were of course not the only act to appear at Live Aid to monopolise on their appearance. Precisely two months before Live Aid, Dire Straits released their “Brothers in Arms” album, which of course went on to claim a position in the Top 10 Best-Selling UK albums ever that as far as I can find, they still hold today (Number One? Queen’s “Greatest Hits”, natch). I by now was working my way through The Straits’ back catalogue as fast as my money would allow me, and next on the list was 1980s “Making Movies”.

Now I know that the mere mention of Dire Straits makes many of you reach for that little X in the corner that closes the window, but indulge me for a moment. For whilst “Brothers in Arms” may have been the album that made them all their bucks (helped in no small part by a coincidental¬†correlation with CD sales taking off), if I were to look over their back catalogue, they were already past their best, with their absolute peak¬†having been “Making Movies”. It’s an album I still own, and play semi-regularly today, mostly because of this:


Dire Straits – Romeo & Juliet

When I was a kid, I was mildly obsessed with “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy”, a science fiction/comedy series, written by the late, great Douglas Adams, which first aired on BBC Radio 4 in 1978, but has been repeated many times since. In 1982, my brother recorded them all onto a series of C-60 cassettes, which he created sleeves for, little doodles, drawing and sketches of characters and scenes from the episodes contained within. (I know it was 1982 because there was an odd amount of episodes, which meant the second side of the last cassette was blank, a situation he resolved by recording songs from the Top 40 one week, one of which was Quo’s version of Tom Jones’ “Something ‘Bout You Baby”. Don’t fret, I’m not going to post it.)

Anyway, the radio series spawned a television version, a five book trilogy (The final one, “Mostly Harmless” came with the words “The fifth book in the increasingly inaccurately named ‘Hitch Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy’ trilogy” written on the front), and much, much later, a film version.

There were also novelty singles (“Marvin the Paranoid Android” by…erm…Marvin, The Paranoid Android – and fret not, I’m not posting that either),¬†a stage show or three, not forgetting that Adams’ creative brilliance¬†inspired the names of¬†musicians (see: Level 42), and of course Radiohead, who named their¬†biggest single,¬†“Paranoid Android”, after the aforementioned character.

Oh go on then, I’ll play one of those three:

Why am I prattling on about Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, I hear you feel obliged to ask.¬† Well, because in the fourth of the inaccurately named trilogy, “So Long, and Thanks for all the Fish”, Adams write this:

“Arthur put Dire Straits on the stereo…Mark Knopfler has an extraordinary ability to make a Schecter Custom Stratocaster hoot and sing like angels on a Saturday night, exhausted from being good all week and needing a stiff beer – which is not strictly relevant at this point since the record hadn’t yet got to that bit, but there will be too much else going on when it does…so it seems best to mention it now while things are still moving slowly”

A page later, he writes:

“She moved forward, put her arms round and kissed him, because the record had got to that bit which, if you knew the record, you would know made it impossible not to do this.”

I had always assumed, wrongly I find as I came to research this post, that Adams was talking about “Romeo & Juliet” when he wrote that, but it transpires he was actually referring to a different track from “Making Movies”, one which opens the album with an arrangement of the “Carousel Waltz” from the Rodgers and Hammerstein¬†musical “Carousel”. This song, in fact:


Dire Straits – Tunnel of Love

Say what you like about Dire Straits, they knew how to press home a concept on minimalist sleeve art. “Making Movies” is identical to the two above (but with the words “Making Movies” replacing the words “Romeo & Juliet” and “Tunnel of Love”, obviously).

If Peter Saville had done something similar with the sleeves of all the Factory Records releases, we’d all be hailing them as works of art. But as this is Dire Straits, and thus already on minus cool points, we’ve never heard of the bloke responsible for the original design and artwork. (A chap called Neil Terk, in case you’re interested. Brexiters are hoping he won’t gain access to our country.)

Which leaves me with just two other singles that I bought in 1985 to write about, and hopefully a sign of things to come.

These last two also come from the same band, a band who had already reincarnated from Southern Death Cult, to Death Cult, to The Cult, their sound spiralling to a more and more accessible version of Goth, and following the success they found with their “Love” album,, they changed once more, unleashing a full metal racket upon us (which I also loved).

But before that, following¬†the release of “Love” and “She Sells Sanctuary”, which I’ve written about and posted¬†previously, by¬†the end of 1985, there were two more singles, both of which I bought on gatefold double 7″ format. I don’t think I’ve ever played anything other than the A side of either of them, which makes me think that it was around now that I was beginning to turn into the fully fledged, must collect everything,¬†music nerd you see before you today.

So, here, to round things off for 1985 (as far as I can work out, that’s covered everything I bought, borrowed or stole), are two singles by The Cult, both of which seem to sum up Britain right now. And that’s all I’m going to say on the matter:


 The Cult РRain


 The Cult РRevolution

You’d think they’d have edited out the occasion that¬†lead singer Ian Astbury comes in a bar too early for the “There’s a revolution” refrain, wouldn’t you? Can you spot it, readers?

More soon. Better soon. No really, I promise.

Oh, shut up, mun.

1985 And All That

‘Bout time I got this moving again isn’t it?

When I last wrote anything on this thread, I was talking about a school trip to Norway, and promised to talk about the contents of the diary I kept for those two weeks.

Well, having read said diary, I’m not going to dwell on it as, frankly, it’s rather embarrassing. It’s like it’s been written by a  15 year old boy.

Similarly, the next record I bought is by a band most people would be embarrassed to admit owning anything by, let alone liking.

I’ve mentioned them previously on these pages, but only in terms of being on a compilation album I once bought. Now, though, it’s time for me to come clean and admit to buying not just that, but today’s single and every album in their back catalogue.



Dire Straits – Money For Nothing

Now. Let me be clear. I’m not embarrassed to admit to liking this band. I don’t care that they are not, nor have they ever been or will be, cool. They will be mentioned again on these pages, so you’d better get used to it.

As you may have noticed from previous posts, in my youth I was fairly easily influenced in terms of my musical tastes, usually by my father or my brother, much as I tried to resist.

But there was no resistance for Dire Straits. And that was because someone on the Norway trip loved them, and I utterly fell for her and all she loved and at the time that included Dire Straits too.

I’m still in touch with the lady in question; she’s now happily set living in New Zealand with her partner and three kids; we’ve been in touch sporadically over the past ten years or so, and I felt obliged when writing this to get in touch with her and warn her that I was going to be posting something here about the Norway trip.

Her (edited) response was “Oh gosh. I think I was horrid in Norway… the tune of Brothers in Arms”.

Well, I beg to differ.

What I haven’t told her is that having decided against writing about the trip to Norway, I really couldn’t avoid writing what I’m about to write. Oopsies.

Her reply goes on:”…thought nostalgia was supposed to make you feel all warm and fuzzy and enhance self-esteem…”

So before I go any further: Anne, if you’re reading this, sorry! But I hope it fits the latter criteria for you…

Anne was in the school year above me when we went to Norway; when I was at junior school I had been moved up a year (yeh, check out the brains on me!) and consequently knew a few people in her year, particularly one lad called Adrian, who had been given the nick-name “Flop” on account of the fact that he was the first person from his family to be clever. So we weren’t total strangers before the Norway trip, and we got on well throughout it. But in that way that 15 year old boys do when they meet a girl who doesn’t seem to be totally repulsed by them (although, with the benefit of hindsight and my diary, she was perhaps a little more interested in the local boys than I noticed at the time) I found myself gravitating to her.

A couple of years later, Anne, Flop and I wound up at 6th form together, at a different school to that we had attended for the previous five years, and they introduced me to their friends, at least one of whom is one of my longest-standing friends to this day. For that year, me, Anne, Flop, Richard, Tony, Kirsty and Maria, and a few other peripherals who hung out with us every now and then, were the cool kids, the antithesis to the boorish louts who took up one half of the common-room.

All of the aforementioned were indie kids; bear in mind when I started at 6th Form I was still a flag-waving, but wavering, Quo fan, so they must have seen something in me, probably my friendship with Anne and Flop, that allowed them to let me into their little gang.

As well as this, and at the same time, Anne was more than instrumental in introducing me to new bands too. She made me tapes of albums and tracks she thought I’d like; I still have these knocking around somewhere (though, alas, no working tape deck to play them on) and we’ll come back to them another time. I listen to pretty much all of the bands in question to this day, not solely because of her, but because they’re bloody ace. So, y’know, thanks.

Between these two reference points, between Norway and 6th Form, Anne used to work part-time in the Co-Op in her village. This was just up the road from my mate Matt’s house, where I would often stay after the monthly “dance” (by which I mean “disco”) which was held in our school on a Friday night. Come Saturday morning, I would often make excuses to pop to the shop in the hope she’d be working; more often than not she wasn’t, so I would return with bags full of pointlessly purchased provisions.

So, Anne was my great unrequited teenage love; I think she knows this, but I never told her or made a move at the time, so crippled with self-doubt and insecurity was I in my teenage years (and the fact she was proper obsessed with a lad called Paul Darby). If she doesn’t, then I’m pretty sure this is exactly the way that she would want to find out.

In an attempt to pull this back to something less embarrassing and confessional, this seems an apt record to post, one of the finest songs about unrequited love you will hear, not just by Mr Bragg, but ever:


Billy Bragg – The Saturday Boy

(Disclaimer: Anne never did any of things listed in this song)

More soon.

1985 And All That (May – July)

Let me make something perfectly clear: whilst 1985 was definitely a transitional year for me in terms of the sort of records I was buying, I certainly hadn’t yet cracked this thing called “cool” yet. This will become self-evident when you consider the next batch of 45s and 33s that found their way into my life and onto my turntable.

That said, given the idea behind this blog stems from the book and film “High Fidelity”¬†it seems apt to start this section off with a single I bought which later popped up on the soundtrack to the latter.

220px-Walkingonsunshine Katrina & The Waves РWalking on Sunshine

How I wish I could say that I bought this identically-titled and much cooler tune from a couple of years earlier. But I didn’t. Ho hum. Forget I ever mentioned it.

In one of my earlier posts here, I talked about Andy’s Records, a semi-independent record store (there was a chain of about four shops dotted around East Anglia/East Midlands) which had a basement dedicated to second hand vinyl, and I find myself being drawn downstairs more and more often, sometimes spending hours flicking through the racks in the desperate search for some hidden nugget that some other poor fool had castaway.

Putting aside the term “hidden nugget” and its connotation of being linked to an unearthed gem for a moment, it was here that I picked up the next (non-Quo) album to be added to my growing¬†collection, an album my brother had owned (yeh, that’s right: I know you’re reading this and¬†if I’m going down I’m taking you¬†with me!) and which I inexplicably decided I wanted a copy of too. And who can blame me? Oh yes, anyone else who ever heard “An Innocent Man” by Billy Joel could. For that’s what it was. In 1983, “An Innocent Man” was huge, spawning hit after hit after hit. Buying it at the time might be just about excusable, but two years later? I’m not so sure.

Anyway, rules is rules, so here’s a single from “An Innocent Man” which I have to admit I do still have a bit of a soft spot for:

51ozwZ1Ke-L Billy Joel РTell Her About It

Actually, I’m being a bit disingenuous here: there are plenty of songs by Joel which I have¬†a soft spot for, not least¬†this, a song I hated at the time, but which became a firm favourite of the Friday Night Music Club, Hel and I often collapsing in fits of giggles after drunkenly squawking the line “children of thalidomide” into each other’s face¬†(if we missed it, we would start the song again)¬†– not that kids born with disabilities is in any way funny just…y’know, props to the guy for weaving that lyric into a hit record.

Andy’s Records also provided me with another album which I bought purely to fill in some gaps in my¬†“classic rock” compendium, a compilation album called “Formula 30”. Check out the track listing here. If anyone can explain to me the concept behind the title of this album, I’d be delighted. The “30” clearly refers to the number of tracks, but the “Formula”? And the band names scrawled on a classroom blackboard? Are we equating classic rock with scientific theories…?

*Shrugs* I dunno…

Anyway, “Formula 30” gave me my first taste of a band that I would soon become moderately obsessed with, further proof (if proof were needed) that I definitely had not got the hang of this thing called “cool” yet:

R-903957-1176299751_jpeg Dire Straits РSultans of Swing

I’m putting my love (there, I said it) of this record¬†down to my burgeoning desire to better my guitar playing. By this point, I had become relatively competent (even if I do say so myself), and would spend hours upstairs trying to master every little lick, with varying degrees of success. My parents tell me that the moment I got home from school every day, I would race upstairs to get my fix, plug my guitar in, put a record on and play along¬†at maximum volume. The record was my backing band, and I was the lead singer and guitarist, practicing my rock star foot-on-monitor poses for all I was worth. My apologies to the neighbours.

(Of course, any mention of “Sultans of Swing” starts the synapses in my brain sparking, and leads me inevitably to mention this lot. Glorious.)

But for every song on “Formula 30” by Dire Straits,¬†Free or The Moody Blues¬†that decreased my cool rating, there was one which added a gold star, and if you’ve taken the time to check out the album’s track-listing, you will have spotted which band who feature twice on it I can attribute two stars to:

R-903957-1176299751_jpeg Roxy Music РVirginia Plain

Seriously, in the canon of great debut singles, that must rate pretty highly.

And of course, noting the 11th track on the album (or Side Two, Track Three as vinyl-heads may prefer) I can’t let the chance to post this slide.

And the horror of some of the records I picked up in Andy’s Records doesn’t end with “Formula 30”. Oh no. Around this time, my mother commented that money seemed to burn a hole in my pocket: no sooner did I have some, than I was pleading for a lift into town so I could go browsing in¬†Andy’s Records second hand emporium.¬†¬†What other explanation, apart from¬†a rush of blood to the head,¬†or temporary insanity, can there be for the purchase of this album:

Genesis83¬†Genesis – That’s All

Yes, not content with having bought Phil Collins & Philip Bailey’s “Easy Lover” a year earlier, I found myself parting with my hard-earned for this abomination. The only solace I can glean from this purchase is that at least I picked it up second-hand and so I wasn’t further lining the pocket of Mr Collins. (In 1992, Phil Collins was attributed with a quote¬†that he would leave the country if Labour won the election. Questioned on this later,¬†whilst neither confirming or denying he said it, Collins¬†admitted that he certainly did not want most of his income taken.¬†He said this¬†from his home in the tax haven country of Switzerland. This album contains a song called “Illegal Alien”. Go figure. And let’s not forget him faxing his soon to be ex-wife over their impending divorce.¬†What a guy.)

Think anything I’ve posted so far qualifies as the most embarrassing record I bought in this chunk of 1985? You’re wrong. Much worse was still to come.

But not just yet.

On to slightly more contemporary (for the time) records. Next up, less controversially titled than¬†“Black Man Ray”, but no less baffling lyrically:

China-Crisis-King-In-A-Catholi-116069 China Crisis РKing in a Catholic Style

When writing this post, I did some research into what this record is actually about. All I managed to find was this post on one of those song lyric websites:

“The song has such strong political overtones, although not as well executed as some bands for making political statements.
Still, fairly insightful lyrics, a catchy beat, what more can you ask?”

Yeh, thanks for that.

And just what is going on in that record sleeve? *Shrugs* I dunno…. (Have I got a new catchphrase here…?)

Next up, an album which came out in early 1985 but which I held off buying until now: “Songs From The Big Chair” by¬†Tears for Fears. A couple of years earlier, they had been one of the bands that the cool kids were into. Of course, me being me,¬†I arrived to the party late.¬†Better known for huge singles “Everybody Wants To Rule The World”, “Shout”¬†and the frankly rather wonderful “Head Over Heels”,¬†the next song was released at the arse-end of 1984,¬†the first single to be lifted from the album, and is somewhat overlooked when compared with that list of smasheroos from the album:

Tears_for_Fears_Songs_from_the_Big_Chair¬†Tears for Fears – Mother’s Talk

All funky bass and synth-stabs, I’m not sure it’s possible for a song to sound any more 80s than that.

Next this:

billy_idol__white_wedding Billy Idol -White Wedding

Seriously, you don’t need me to tell you about this record do you? Thought not.

The next one takes some explaining. Drum roll…for it is time for the award for the “Undisputed Worst Record of This Post”, which hands down goes to:

jimmy-nail-love-dont-live-here-anymore-virgin-2¬†Jimmy Nail – Love Don’t Live Here Anymore

I know. What the fuck was I thinking? Well, I’m afraid I have no justification for this whatsoever. At the time I did, and it’s time for the obligatory Quo mention. At the time, I was under the impression that Rick Parfitt played guitar on the record. Now, as I am forced to admit I actually paid money for this soulless slaying of the Rose Royce classic, I can find no evidence to support this. Roger Taylor from Queen? He’s certainly there. But Parfitt? Well he’s¬†in the video¬†…soo…

Anyway, this is indicative of¬†just how all-consuming¬†my obsession with the Quo had become. If only there had been such things as Quo-patches (and not the sort I had sewn into my denim jacket) to help wean me off all things heads-down-no-nonsense-boogie-esque. Don’t worry, I snap out of it soon enough.

Now. An apology. The original intention of this blog was to a) chronicle every record I bought in the order that I bought them, and b) provide an anecdote related to the purchase of said record, where possible. Regular, patient readers (patients…?) will have noticed that this latter point has rather fallen by the wayside somewhat recently. Truth be told, much as I’d like to believe that everything I do will be of endless fascination to everyone else (I’m hoping you sense the tongue-firmly-in-cheek tone of that last statement), as I’ve worked my way through all of the records, I’ve realised that there simply aren’t as many funny things to tell you about as I had hoped. So, sorry that this has become a bit “and then I bought this…” recently.

1985, however, gives me plenty¬†to tell you about. Or So Much Thing To Say, as Lenny Henry would quip. Not necessarily linked directly to record purchases, but still snapshots of where I was at at the time. Sitting comfortably? Good. Then I’ll begin.

See, 1985 sees the start and equally swift end to my career as a petty criminal. (I say end, but in fact I had two further run-ins with “the law”, once for riding pillion on a motorbike without a helmet, the other for singing as I walked¬†down the fast lane of the A470 at 3am in the morning singing.)

First, some back info. In 1984, some of my mates from school had gone on a fortnight’s trip to Sweden with the school’s Canoe Club. (Every school had a Canoe Club, right…?). They had returned with tales of high jinx and hot girls, so when the Canoe Club announced they were going to do a similar trip to Norway in 1985, I signed up.

Shortly before the trip,¬†a friend (who had best stay anonymous for legal reasons – let’s call him Pete) and I went into town to pick up a few provisions for our holiday. At this point, we had every intention of paying for them, but once in Boots the Chemist looking to purchase a battery for my pocket torch, Pete whispered in my ear “Nick it! Nick it!“. The next thing I knew, the battery was safely deposited in my pocket and we were skedaddling from the scene of the crime sharpish.

I know. Crime of the century, right? Eat your heart out Ronnie Biggs!

Flush from our successful pilfering debut, next on the shopping list was socks. Not just any socks, for this was the 1980s. Oh no. White socks were the order of the day. In fact, they were probably already unfashionable by 1985, but that was me, late again. And so to Littlewoods, an online vendor these days, but back then a reputable high street chain-store. Littlewoods was situated over two floors in Peterborough’s Queensgate arcade, the first¬†floor of which¬†offered several vantage points from which you could look down (and throw things) onto the shoppers below. One such spot was immediately outside Littlewoods.

Pete and I entered on the ground floor, collected the bounty that was a four-pack of gleaming white socks, before making our way upstairs, me via the escalator, Pete by way of the adjacent staircase. It was here, where I thought I could not be spotted, that the socks got dropped into my bag.

On exiting the shop, we stopped to lean nonchalantly against the railing, and it was then that over Pete’s shoulder¬†I spotted a bloke who seemed to be trying to draw my attention to something without making it obvious he was doing so. Turning, I was confronted with two security guards, who launched into the “we have reason to believe you have items in your bag which you have not paid for” speech, and I was invited to accompany them to their office. They turned to Pete and told him that as he wasn’t actually with me at the point of theft, he was free to go, unless he wanted to come too, an¬†offer which he politely declined before fucking right off. Cheers, mate.

Pete and I¬†were actually supposed to meet his parents for lunch that day, about half an hour after I was nicked. He went, and had to spend the entire time pretending that we had got separated in the sprawling metropolis that is Peterborough, and he had no idea¬†where I was. Had it happened now, of course, they would have just called my mobile (which would have been confiscated, and the police would assume that all the calls were from disappointed punters trying to work out where the stolen goods they’d ordered were).

Back in the store, meanwhile,¬†I found myself standing like a naughty school boy (which of course was exactly what I was) in front of the manager. After a brief interrogation, wherein I apologised profusely for my moment of madness¬†(copyright Richard Madeley, Winona Ryder et al) and offered to pay for the contraband (he declined), he¬†instructed the security guards to call the police. He then left, leaving me sitting with my head in my hands, pretending to cry whilst peeking through my fingers¬†to see if the¬†security guard’s heart would melt at my histrionics. It didn’t of course: he¬†remained with his hand on the door handle, as if I was likely to try and make a run for it.

The police duly arrived, about six of them Рclearly they considered me to be a major catch Рand proceeded to escort me through Queensgate, me surrounded by coppers, like a celebrity with his entourage and security. I was then bundled into the back of a police van and driven off to the local police station. Clearly they were making an example of me, and at the same time, scaring enough shit out of me to make sure I never went shop-lifting again. (It worked).

Once at the station, you have to be interviewed, booked in and read your rights by the Duty Sergeant. However, on arrival I found there was a queue of similarly arrested teenage (or younger) shoplifters, and I was instructed to take my place against the wall at the back of the line.

As we all stood there in shameful silence, a policeman walked by, and asked each of us why we were here.

“Nicking” said the first lad.

“What?” asked PC Plod.

“A personal stereo” came the budding Oliver Twist’s response.

The same question was asked of the other two in the queue; I can’t remember what their answers were, but they were definitely cooler and harder things to steal than my meagre haul.

And then it was my turn.

“What about you, sonny?”

“Four pairs of socks” I replied, eliciting smirks from my new found fellow thieves.


“Yes sir. White ones.”

There was a pause for dramatic effect. I’ll give him something, this guy’s comic timing was impeccable.

“Bet you feel a bit of a twat now, don’t you?” said the copper, looking back down the line and proffering a “Hark at him!” gesture at my fellow convicts. I couldn’t disagree.

Finally I got to the desk, where my particulars were taken down, and my pockets emptied, at which point the shocking presence of the battery was exposed.

“What’s this?” my interrogator asked.

“A battery” I replied, matter-of-factly.

“Nick this as well did you?”

“No, I bought that”.

“Oh? Where’s the receipt then? And the bag?”

“I didn’t keep the receipt and I didn’t ask for a bag.”

“Where did you buy it?”


“Which counter?”

“The photography department” I answered, the first thing to come into my head.

“Well, we’ve got you there Sonny Jim. My wife works on the photography counter in Boots on a Saturday. I can give her a ring and see if she remembers you.”

I may only have been a kid, but even I could spot such an obvious bluff.

“Okay. Feel free to ask her” I replied, looking him straight in the eye. I wanted to add “Though I don’t think they’re allowed to take personal calls during opening hours”, but thought better of it.

I was then led to a cell, where I was to be held until my parents had arrived. Before entering the cell, they make you remove your shoes and belt, and anything else you might potentially use to top yourself whilst in custody. (The shoes have a dual suicide purpose: firstly, the laces could be used to hang myself, secondly, as a teenage boy, one whiff of the insoles would have induced a catatonic state at the very least).

I handed these over, and went into the cell, to find I was sharing with the youngest of the three other kids I had been lined up with. He was displaying considerably less bravado than he had when in the queue, sitting on the bench, knees up against his chest, arms clasped round them, sniffing in an effort to stop himself from crying.

The door slammed behind me, and I decided that as my cellmate was about to blub, I needed to show I was top dog, that I wasn’t bothered, that I was the Norman Stanley Fletcher and he was the Lenny Godber of this cell. I lay down on what was left of the bench, and proceeded to have a kip.

I was woken some time later by the sound of the flap in the door clanging open, and the words “Oi! You! Get up, your parents are here” being barked through. I assumed, as did my cellmate, that as he had been here longer than me, it was his parents, and he got up to leave. However, it turned out his folks gave less of a fuck about him than mine did about me.

“Not you” shouted the kindly policeman, “you!” It was directed at me.

I mentioned earlier that they had taken my shoes and my belt; the reason I was wearing a belt that day was because I was wearing a pair of grey canvas trousers with a popper button (I know, cool, right?) which had a nasty habit of unpopping at inopportune moments. This, of course, transpired to be one such moment.

As I stood up, I failed to notice the popper had performed its usual trick, leading me to literally fall over my trousers which had, in true slap-stick¬†style, plummeted to around my ankles. Lord only knows what the police must have thought I was doing with my cellmate….

Into the interview room, where I was met with understandably frosty glares from my parents. I was released with a caution, the only thing my mother saying on the drive home was “Well, you’ll never get a job now”. The subject was never mentioned again, and I have a sneaking suspicion that this might be the first time my brother has ever found about this (although I might have told him during a drinking session sometime).

It¬†was not until several years later that I¬†ever discussed the events of that day with my parents. Luckily we can laugh about it now, although I am always disappointed that, bearing in mind the identity of store from which I had stolen, this old, slightly adapted,¬†joke didn’t happen on that day:

I had a phone call yesterday.

“Hello?” I said.

“Hello. This is Dominic from Littlewoods”

“Littlewoods? Oh God thank you thank you thank you! I’ve won the football pools!! I’m rich! Rich! Rich!!!!”

“Er…no….we’ve just caught your son shoplifting.”

We’ll save the trip to Norway for next time. To finish off with, a song which perhaps goes some way to explaining the reason I stole that day, a jealousy of those who seemed to get everything they wanted with minimum effort, and the last of the singles I bought (yes, bought) in this chunk of 1985:

522b5c8dd844503c7dfa41b149d2c053 Dire Straits -Money For Nothing

Or I could just blame Pete.

More soon.