Mental note to self: do not make any more jokes about people you admire in pop culture dying whenever a new mix in my Friday Night Music Club series is released.
Two weeks ago, on the eve of me dropping the first in the current series, Ronnie Spector died. Last week, it was Meat Loaf.
And this week, it was Barry Cryer.
The word ‘Legend’ is bandied around far too much these days, to the point when a genuine legend passes, the phrase is diluted. But make no mistake, Barry Cryer was a comedy legend.
It would probably be quicker to write a list of all the acts that he didn’t write for rather than all he did, but a quick role call shows the following sample: Dave Allen, Stanley Baxter, Jack Benny, Rory Bremner, George Burns, Jasper Carrott, Tommy Cooper, Les Dawson, Dick Emery, Kenny Everett, Bruce Forsyth, David Frost, Frankie Howerd, Bob Hope, Richard Pryor, Spike Milligan, Mike Yarwood, The Two Ronnies and Morecambe and Wise. Alright, a bit 70s, but not a bad CV, right?
That’s not to mention the countless panel shows he has appeared on over the years. Here he is cropping up on Would I Lie ToYou? a few years ago, back when they all sat a bit nearer to each other and neither team captain had grown a beard:
Nor does it even begin to scratch the surface of the many, oh-so many appearances he has made on Radio 4’s anti-panel show I’m Sorry I Haven’t a Clue, a show which he says he has been doing since “before the invention of sound.” If you ever have 30 minutes to idle away, then pop over to the BBC Sounds app, there’s usually a few editions there for you to dive into, I really cannot recommend it highly enough. Just don’t try to understand the rules of Mornington Crescent (spoiler alert: you’re not supposed to).
Oh, and he even had a hit single once. Yes, his version of The Purple People Eater reached the #1 spot….in Finland:
More recently, Barry had, like everybody else in the world it seems, started doing a podcast with his son Bob called Now Where Were We…?, available through all the usual places you get your podcasts from. The premise is simple: Barry and Bob take a highly regarded friend (Stephen Fry, Miriam Margolyes, Danny Baker, Sanjeev Bhaskar) to the pub (or, in Margolyes’ case, pops round to hers for a cup of tea) and just has a chat. Cunningly disguised as an interview, it’s really just a ruse to allow Barry and his guest to trade anecdotes and jokes (Bob doesn’t really join in that much, to be honest, except to remind his father of a joke or story he knows).
Here’s one of my favourites, which Barry tells in one of them:
A man is driving along a country lane late one night. It’s dark, and he doesn’t see the bird in the road in front of him until it’s too late. He gets out of his car after he’s hit it, and finds it’s a cockerel, and he’s killed it stone dead.
He looks around and sees a nearby farmhouse, and decides it must have escaped from there. Full of remorse, he picks the bird up in his arms and walks towards the farmhouse.
He knocks on the door, which is answered by what he presumes to be the farmer’s wife, dressed in a nightie, curlers in her hair. “I’m very sorry,” he says, “but I’ve killed your cockerel and I’d very much like to replace him.”
“That’s very kind of you,” says the farmer’s wife. “The chickens are all round the back, be my guest.”
In actual fact, more often than not you find on Now Where Were We…? that it’s Barry being interviewed by the guest rather than the other way round, the guest gently steering him towards recounting a particular anecdote or joke they love. It’s an absolute joy, a testament to the warmth felt towards him, the high regard in which he was held – but with only six episodes released so far, and with presumably a few more in the can to drop, it’s likely to be one of the shortest-lived podcast series ever.
Time for a song, and the title of this one springs to mind, not least because the title is a play on words, which Barry loved:
Great though that is, it’s a little sombre, while Barry was all about the laughs, and was magnanimous enough to not care whether it was him or somebody else providing those laughs – he didn’t care, as long as the laughs kept coming.
So, to finish off, a song written by one from that list of names I gave you right at the top that Barry had written with. My Dad had a copy of this on 7″ single, and it was compulsory (but voluntary, I should add) listening when I was a kid, 3 1/2 minutes of utter lunacy and silly voices. I’m sure Barry would approve:
And so, the return of the series which more than any other, when a song I don’t recognise has popped up on my iPod when on shuffle has made me go “What the feck is this…?” (sometimes in a nice way, often not).
Yes, it’s the very long awaited (be modest, it says here – Ed) return of the greatest thing on the internet (oh, don’t bother then – Ed): The Chain. And hopefully The Chain Gang are all assembled, like slightly nerdy versions of The Avengers, except all hot, bothered, and ready to rock and maybe even ‘n’ roll a bit too.
For the unitiated, this is the series where I blatantly nick an idea off Radcliffe & Maconie on BBC 6Music, and ask for suggestions for songs linked to the next in a series of songs. But here’s the rub: free from the constraints of time and the length of a radio programme, instead of picking just one, I’ll post all of them, then ask for suggestions linked to the next in the official series. This way, we (ok, probably just me) gets a hell of a diverse playlist to while away our days, and a whole lot more fun than usual compiling it.
And did I mention there are points to be earned?
Well, yes there are. Totally meaningless points; you won’t be winning a prize or anything, but points nonetheless. And here’s how your suggestion can win them:
Correct Guess: 3 points (fairly self-explanatory, this one – guess the song which is the next in the official 6Music sequence and these could be yours)
Double Linker: 2 points (for a suggestion which works on two levels, and definitely not a sex toy)
Showboater of the Week: 2 points (for the most convaluted link between the source record and your choice)
Worst/Cheesiest Suggestion of the Week: 1 point (again, I would hope this category needs no further expansion).
Up until this reboot, points have been awarded and then discarded, but whilst the series has been laid off, I’ve gone through all the old posts and where I have specifically said that points were being awarded, I have totted them all up and will continue to do so. And if you don’t believe my accuracy, go ahead, check for yourself, my stats could do with a boost.
So we’ll start off by having a look at the league table as it stands
1: George 17
2: Swiss Adam 13
3: Alyson 9
4=: Charity Chic 8
The Robster 8
6=: The Swede 7
8=: Dirk 6
Rigid Digit 6
10= Alex G 5
The Great Gog 5
13= GM Free 3
17 The Beard 2
And so George would appear to be the Liverpool FC of the group, romping into a twenty-two four point lead as he has, although it should be noted that at least one of the point-winning categories was invented as a result of a particularly breath-taking bit of bullshit linkage by him way back in the day.
So where were we? Oh yes – asking for your links to this record:
Now I figured this was a really easy way to restart the series: just send me any song which has some sort of drug reference involved. Pop music, and music in general, is quite literally littered with them.
Look, here’s one, and it seems a particularly appropriate place to start:
I only mention this because I was somewhat underwhelmed by the amount of suggestions I received this time. I’m putting this down to two things: firstly, the amount of time it’s been since the last post in this series, and secondly, me moving the suggestions to email rather than via the Comments Section.
I think the latter is the biggie here, so screw it, we’ll go back to suggestions via the Comments at the end of the post again.
I had a bit of a moan about this to Kay at work the other day, as she hadn’t suggested anything – not behaviour fitting of someone equal 13th in the league table of dreams, I’m sure you’ll agree.
Her response was that she couldn’t think of anything other than the theme tune to Wizbit.
In case you’re confused, or one of those annoying young people, or both, Wizbit was a 1980s children’s TV show about a magic alien, shaped apparently like a wizard’s hat, but to these eyes as a fully unpeeled Dairylea triangle:
And now I’ll hand the reins over to the newest member of The Chain Gang, Pat, who gives me several thoroughly decent suggestions, although I’ll need to explain this first one a little.
The E in the title of the Pulp song refers to Ecstacy, a party/clubbing drug also referred to colloquially as “pills”, for that is the form in which they are swallowed (as opposed to smoked, injected or sniffed). Who needs Susie Dent, amIright Countdown fans?
I’m glad you made that distinction, because the drug referenced in that song is more likely to make you visit an all night garage to buy a Twix or a pastry product at 4:00 am than it is to lead to illicit dancing…
Now, have you ever found yourself wondering whether your favourite bloggers prefer their orange juice smooth or with the bits, as I believe it’s technically referred to on most packaging, left in? Well, wonder no longer, for here’s Alyson from What’s It All About to answer that nagging doubt for you:
“There is Pulp in Orange Juice (and I usually prefer mine with it left in). Will therefore go for the band Orange Juice and the obvious song, Rip It Up.”
I invited Rol, as I think I did to all who submitted suggestions, to feel free to send more, and sure as eggs is eggs, he came back with the following:
“…whizz is an example of onomatopoeia…”
Whoa, there tiger! A clarification is required here: although not in the context we are talking about whizz – I’ve never known a drug to make any kind of noise, onomatopoeiac or otherwise, although I’ve made a fair few odd ones when ingesting the same – think Billy Whizz from The Beano and you get where Rol is coming from.
“…so you could have the song with that name by either John Prine…”
Over now to The Great Gog, who frankly had me flummoxed by the very matey tone of his email, which came from someone called Dave. A quick explanation later and needless to say we all saw the funny side, and he came up with not one but two suggestions.
Floor’s yours The Great Gog/Dave:
“I’ve always been intrigued by the line: ‘Mother, I can never come home again ‘cause I seem to have left an important part of my brain somewhere in a field in Hampshire’.
Basically, why Hampshire? I can’t think of any other song that mentions it by name, although two of its cities have been the subject of Top 5 hits.’
And this, ladies and gentlemen, is why The Chain exists: not so you can propose songs you like by some contrived link you’ve struggled to come up with (although, that’s fine if you do, hence the Showboating award), but to suggest songs which link to the source material, regardless of whether they’re any good or not.
“Why? Pulp front-bloke Jarvis Cocker co-wrote Walk Like A Panther for All Seeing I. Jarvis has said that the song was written specifically for Tony Christie to sing, and he was instrumental in getting Christie on-board – even flying out to Spain to meet him and convince him.”
Oh go on, then. Don’t mind if I do. (I’m trying out new catchphrases):
Now, you’ll recall that we left Jules from Music From Magazines hanging with an odd Dallas clip. Shortly after receiving that, Jules sent me an actual suggestion, which…well, since it wasn’t by Lambchop, as Jules’ suggestions usually are, let’s just say it took some deciphering.
But we got there in the end, despite Jules’ insistance not to bother, and here we go:
…which is included because of the lyric: “Go out and get me another roll of pills.” I think.
Sorry George, we almost made it.
And finally, as they used to say on The Two Ronnies, one last contribution from The Great Gog, who is still wittering on about Hampshire:
“The rather marvellous British Sea Power popped up on random play and the song referenced a field in a county adjacent to Hampshire – I’m guessing it is potentially unique. Said county was Wiltshire and the track was….”
Which seems far too classy a way to bow out, so let’s end as we began, if for no other reason than it will look like I know what I’m doing, with a supplementary conversation with Kay.
“What about ‘Magic E’?” she said, which isn’t exactly the kind of proposition one expects from their boss.
Turns out she was talking about this, of which I have no memory whatsoever:
Magic E (Look & Read)
Wait a minute. I recognise that voice. That’s your actual 70s/80s TV kids presenter/legend Derek Griffiths, isn’t it?
Here’s what Wikipedia has to say on the subject:
A popular song was “Magic E”, originally written in the mid-70s for Words and Pictures to demonstrate the silent E and the change in pronunciation of preceding vowels — for example: “cap” becomes “cape” with me, “tap” becomes “tape” with me. The song’s simple lyrics about changing the words with “magic E” were memorable and simple to learn.
“…most of the songs were sung by Derek Griffiths.”
Which means I can end on a note much more befitting of the nonsense that goes on here:
Except, of course, to reveal the identity of the next record in the official Chain, chosen because Pulp frontman Jarvis Cocker once caused a bit of a fuss at the Brit Awards. So did frontman Danbert Nobacon.
Who’s Danbert Nobacon, I hear you ask.
Well, he’s in this band, and this is the next song in The Chain:
So, you’re suggestions please for songs which link to Tubthumping by Chumbawamba, along with a brief explanation of the link, either by email to firstname.lastname@example.org or via the Comments section at the bottom, whichever you prefer.
…it’s the weekend before payday, and I’m broke. So, a weekend, in the flat, watching TV and adding to the usual slew of posts that I generally write over these two days.
You may have noticed, despite my best efforts to disguise my ineptitude behind a veneer of seemingly planned series’, that often what I write here is pretty much made up of whatever I think of when the laptop grinds into life.
Even more often, usually just as I’ve clicked the button marked “Publish”, I think of something I wish I’d written instead.
Such was the case with last night’s post.
How can I let a fourth anniversary pass without mention of this:
Which is of course, a reference to this timeless comedy sketch:
As do these four versions of the same song, the first of which I picked up on 7″ single back in 1986 from a Record Fayre (I never understood why they insisted on spelling Fayre like that, as if they thought it would add some rustic credibility to the event) at The Wirrina in Peterborough (demolished back in 2010, it’s only as I come to write this that I find Northern Soul All Nighters were held there in the 1970s):
There’s been a load of old guff on telly over Christmas and New Year (am I right in thinking “Mrs Brown’s Boys” got a Christmas AND a New Year’s Eve special??), but there has been at least one jewel, buried away on BBC4, but shown twice so you’ve no excuse if you missed it.
“Bob Monkhouse: The Last Stand” showed one of Britain’s best loved and much missed comedians performing what turned out to be (and, as becomes apparent as you watch it, he knew it) his final performance.
In the early 80s, when there was a changing of the guard and alternative comedy came in, brushing all of the old timers away, Monkhouse managed to escape unscathed, mostly, I think, because by then he was better known for being a gameshow host than a comedian.
This gig, aired for the first time, was him reminding everyone of the force he had been. In front of an audience of specially invited young comedians – it was filmed in the summer of 2003, so many in the audience (Kevin Day, John Culshaw, David Walliams, Reece Shearsmith, Mark Thomas) were not the established acts they are now – Monkhouse delivers a set of wonderful gags, impeccably timed, before embarking on a trip down nostalgia avenue, reminiscing about his relationships with other comedy legends: Peter Sellers, Tommy Cooper, erm…Benny Hill.
The footage is interspersed with current interviews with those in the audience that night, and it is truly fascinating stuff.
Of course, it got me thinking of a suitable record to play, and I could think of none more appropriate than this:
“Spike – The Beloved Entertainer” is probably my favourite Elvis Costello album. Yes, I know that “Armed Forces”, “Imperial Bedroom”, “Almost Blue” and “This Year’s Model” are all classics, but “Spike” does it for me because it was one that I discovered for myself, rather than being told (rightly so) that all those I’ve already mentioned deserved a place in any self-respecting record collection.
I say “discovered for myself”, but that’s ever so slightly disingenuous: had I not watched this documentary, holed up in my room in the halls of residence in my first year at college, then maybe it would have passed me by:
Oh, and if you’re living in the UK (I think restrictions prevent you from watching it if you’re not) and want to watch that Bob Monkhouse show (and I really do recommend that you do), it’s here, presumably for a limited time only.
You’ll forgive me if I crack right on this week, as we have an awful lot to get through.
Ok, so we ended last week asking for suggestions for records to play which had some vague connection to Elvis Presley’s “(Marie’s The Name) His Latest Flame”, and I’ll tell you straight off that one of you managed to suggest the song that follows next on the official Chain. So: bonus points will be awarded at some point in today’s post.
“I’m sure there must be other Maries in popular music (though I can’t think of any off the top of my head), but I do know that Marie’s the (real) name of the fairly popular vocalist and light entertainer, Lulu. So in accordance with your request for some cheese (and because I don’t actually know very much by Lulu), how about “Boom Bang A Bang”?”
I can’t pretend this isn’t a song that I love and have posted before, so I’m not complaining. Ladies and Gentlemen, we give you the UK’s entry into the 1969 (a good vintage, by the way) Eurovision Song Contest:
For those of you who don’t know the Euro-tale behind this, it was back in the days when the UK wasn’t hated by the rest of Europe, and we regularly stood a fairly good chance of winning the Eurovision Song Contest. In 1967, Lulu’s tune was the UK’s entry, and it was involved in a four-way tie for first place, with France, Sweden and the Netherlands. Regrettably, there wasn’t time to go through the process of establishing an out-and-out winner on the night, so Lulu was proclaimed joint-winner.
Now. Strictly speaking, I should be declining that suggestion on the grounds that the song we’re linking to has the name “Marie”, not “Maria” in it. But, before there are complaints from the locals: I’m going to let it slide this time, for three reasons: firstly, it’s your first time here so I’ll cut you some slack; secondly, for a time in the late 1980s I loved Miss McKee’s band Lone Justice, and they will feature again here soon, so I’m more than happy to hear some of her solo-ish work; thirdly, I don’t think there’s a single one of the regular contributors who haven’t posted a suggestion then gone “Doh! I’ve thought of something waaaay better than that!”, and I, diligent and warm host that I am, have posted both. So, shush. Maria McKee suggestion stands.
Take the pressure off me, someone, please?
Ah, here’s Charity Chic, creator of the Chain Gang name with which you are all now blessed (I’m still kicking myself that I didn’t think of that.)
“I suspect I would lose points for the fairly obvious Marie Marie by Shaking Stevens. So what about the original by The Blasters?”
No, but you might lose points for placing an erroneous g where a ‘ should be in his name. Very long term readers will know, I was pretty much obsessed with the Shaky one when I was a kid, so sorry, you’re getting both versions:
Speaking of points, here’s….no, not yet, calm down, I’m just messing with you…
Oh wait, it’s Charity Chic again!
“I see a Maria has already sneaked in. Maria was a song in the musical West Side Story (don’t panic I’m not stopping there) Squeeze had an album called East Side Story which included the wonderful Tempted.”
I have to admit I kinda lost interest in Maximo Park after their second album, so it’s rather nice to hear something from later on in their career. Time for to me to revisit them, I think.
Hold up. babylotti’s back:
“I shall suggest another one, Sister Marie Says by OMD, from their 2010 History of Modern LP, though written in 1981 it sounds like it could have appeared next to Enola Gay and not been out of place. And he sings this as Sister Mary, not Marie to add to my earlier Maria faux pas”
I can’t say that anything by OMD had crossed my radar since they stopped writing records for Atomic Kitten (there’s a separate theme starting right there…) and reformed, but I take your point about that sounding like something circa Enola Gay.
babylotti’s not finished there though:
“Ok last one, I suggest His Latest Flame – “Somebody’s Gonna Get Hurt” for hopefully obvious reasons…..”
Now, there’s a name I’ve not heard for a long time.
“As we all know, at one point Elvis’ latest flame was Priscilla Beaulieu but Priscilla was also the real name of that other ’60s singer/light entertainer Cilla Black. (Don’t worry it’s not going to be Alfie) – Going to choose her very first release, the Lennon & McCartney penned song Love of the Loved please.”
The very thought of Louise Wener still makes me go a little weak at the knee….
Here’s S-WC’s second choice:
“The second one is that Elvis as well as singing about Flames called Marie also wrote about being ‘In The Ghetto’ which is probably his finest moment. That was memorably covered by Leatherface on their 1989 classic ‘Fill Your Boots’”
Remember how earlier I said ‘I don’t think there’s a single one of the regular contributors who haven’t posted a suggestion then gone “Doh! I’ve thought of something waaaay better than that!”, and I diligent host that I am, have posted both.’? Well, here’s What’s It All About, Alfie? back for a second bite:
“I’m back as now having listened to my last suggestion it sounds truly awful so to redeem myself I’m going to suggest that other Elvis – Costello. He also sang about a girl’s name, the lovely Alison.”
Even if I wanted to complain about multiple submissions (which I don’t), that is not a song I could resist posting (so I won’t):
Hold up, here’s George with what I think we can all agree is this week’s clear winner of the Comments Showboating award:
“Here goes. The song (Marie’s the name) His latest Flame was originally sung by Del Shannon. Unfortunately Del Shannon killed himself with a gun (in 1980). And two years earlier Terry Kath had killed himself with a gun, although this was accidental [this from Wikipedia: “Don’t worry about it … look, the clip is not even in it.” …….Kath showed the empty magazine………….then replaced the magazine in the gun, put the gun to his temple and pulled the trigger. However, there was a round in the chamber, and Kath died instantly.] Terry Kath was in the band Chicago, whose song 25 and 6 to 4 is pretty good.”
If, like me, you’re more familiar with Chicago for their slushy ballads (“If You Leave Me Now”, “Hard to Say I’m Sorry” etc.) then I’d heartily recommend you give this one a listen to see what they used to sound like:
“I was going to link to The Smurfs but they’re Belgian….so instead. Elvis Presley’s manager was Tom Parker (who was Dutch, and I thought the Smurfs were Dutch but they’re not). And Parker was a character in Thunderbirds, he was Lady Penelope’s chauffeur/manservant. And Felt did a song called Penelope Tree.”
As I mentioned in the Comments to last week’s post, I cannot believe I’ve not posted anything by Felt before, lead singer Lawrence being one of the great unsung heroes of the UK independent music scene:
Of course, they weren’t the only band who released a Thunderbirds-related single, for in 2004 those naughty Busted boys had a hit with the theme to the movie. But I’m not going to play that. A Thunderbirds related Busted song? On these pages? Don’t be so ridiculous.
“Some good tunes already suggested: Smiths, Felt & OMD. Hit by the perils of just returning from hols with all the good suggestions gone, and I feel like I’m being forced into a bit of fromage. I’ve been on a cruise ship on the Baltic for the last fortnight, and I believe Tony Christie was doing such venues at one point. He of course had a girl called Marie who was apparently hanging around for him in Amarillo, presumably as there was nothing else to do there.”
I really wouldn’t worry about the fromage, GG. You’ve seen what I posted,right?
Those of you who read the Comments on this section as they come in will know that Charity Chic posted a very intriguing comment, which I invited CC to expand on:
“You’re wrong there about Amarillo GG – I once spent an hour in a turkey compound there hiding from an armed and unstable man in a El Camino truck intent on causing us harm.”
For those of you were as fascinated as I was for more details, he has indeed spilt the beans, here. (Oh and cheers for the plug!)
Whilst we’re on Charity Chic, here’s a first: a (kinda) dual suggestion by two of our Chain Gang regulars. Firstly Swiss Adam of bagging area, flush with his bonus points, returns with three simple words:
“Absolutely Sweet Marie”
Since no artiste was given, I can only assume Swiss meant this version, as opposed to, say,the George Harrison or Jason & The Scorchers versions:
Ok, so before I wrap things up, two things. Firstly: CW, thanks for your comment and I – no, we all – look forward to your suggestions in the future. And secondly, many many thanks for all of the messages about my cousin, it really meant a lot to me that some of you took the time to pass on your kind words of support.
Before I get all teary-eyed, I’ll end for the night. Your suggestions please for any record that you can link to The Smiths “Rusholme Ruffians/His Latest Flame (Medley)” which is lifted from their 1988 live album (and Rough Trade contract fulfilling) “Rank” – via the Comments section at the bottom of the page please!
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.
Not to see him perform, mind, although I’ll be a little annoyed if he hasn’t brought his guitar along.
No, tomorrow night I’m going to see him “in conversation” with Nick Hornby, author of, amongst others, the excellent “31 Songs” (in which he attempts to provide a critique of – you guessed it – 31 Songs which he loves, making the very valid point that it’s harder to explain what you like about a song than what you don’t like (I feel his pain), and that it’s far too easy to just talk about what the record reminds you of (err…..mental note to self: must try harder….) and “High Fidelity”, which is itself named after a Costello song. You will know if you have ever read the introduction to this blog, Hornby is also inadvertently responsible for me writing it.
Anyway, the event is primarily to promote Elvis’ new memoir “Unfaithful Music & Disappearing Ink” (Is a memoir different to an autobiography…? *shrugs* I dunno..).
This is what his website says about the book:
“This memoir, written entirely by Costello, offers his unique view of his unlikely and sometimes comical rise to international success, with diversions through the previously undocumented emotional foundations of some of his best-known songs and the hits of tomorrow. It features many stories and observations about his renowned cowriters and co-conspirators, though Costello also pauses along the way for considerations of the less appealing side of fame.
Unfaithful Music & Disappearing Ink provides readers with a master’s catalogue of a lifetime of great music. Costello reveals the process behind writing and recording legendary albums like My Aim Is True, This Year’s Model, Armed Forces, Almost Blue, Imperial Bedroom, and King of America. He tells the detailed stories, experiences, and emotions behind such beloved songs as “Alison,” “Accidents Will Happen,” “Watching the Detectives,” “Oliver’s Army,” “Welcome to the Working Week,” “Radio Radio,” “Shipbuilding,” and “Veronica,” the last of which is one of a number of songs revealed to connect to the lives of the previous generations of his family.
Costello recounts his collaborations with George Jones, Chet Baker, and T Bone Burnett, and writes about Allen Toussaint’s inspiring return to work after the disasters following Hurricane Katrina. He describes writing songs with Paul McCartney, the Brodsky Quartet, Burt Bacharach, and The Roots during moments of intense personal crisis and profound sorrow. He shares curious experiences in the company of The Clash, Tony Bennett, The Specials, Van Morrison, and Aretha Franklin; writing songs for Solomon Burke and Johnny Cash; and touring with Bob Dylan; along with his appreciation of the records of Frank Sinatra, David Bowie, David Ackles, and almost everything on the Tamla Motown label.
Costello chronicles his musical apprenticeship, a child’s view of his father Ross MacManus’ career on radio and in the dancehall; his own initial almost comical steps in folk clubs and cellar dive before his first sessions for Stiff Record, the formation of the Attractions, and his frenetic and ultimately notorious third U.S. tour. He takes readers behind the scenes of Top of the Pops and Saturday Night Live, and his own show, Spectacle, on which he hosted artists such as Lou Reed, Elton John, Levon Helm, Jesse Winchester, Bruce Springsteen, and President Bill Clinton.”
Astonishingly, for an artiste with such a rich and plentiful back catalogue stretching back to 1977, he has only ever had three top ten singles in the UK, and two of those (“I Can’t Stand Up For Falling Down”, and “Good Year For The Roses”) were cover versions.
Of his 30 albums, on the other hand, 11 have made the UK Top Ten.
As you will probably have guessed by now, I’m more of a singles kinda guy than an albums one, so it’s perhaps less astonishing that I own more kind of bits and bobs by the non-jumpsuited Elvis than full albums.
One album I do own, however, is “Spike”, and there will be more about this at a later date.
For now though, something a little different for round these parts. Here’s the interview the BBC did with him at the time of “Spike”‘s release in 1989, a Late Show special if memory serves.
It’s rare for me to be drawn in by what is essentially a promotional interview to such an extent that I actually go and buy whatever is being plugged, but this did it for me. As soon as I heard Elvis speak, as soon as I heard him perform some songs from the album, I knew I had to own it.
The next day I went to Rainbow Records in Pontypridd to get a copy, left swiftly as they didn’t have it, and then ventured into Cardiff to pick a copy up from the wonderful Spillers Records. Yes, Mum & Dad, sorry but that’s what my student grant went on in my first year: Elvis Costello CDs and train fares. (And booze and fags, if I’m honest).
Obviously, I’m hoping he is on equally good form tomorrow night. If he is, then I’ll be coming to a reputable bookshop near me soon.
Mention Glastonbury to anyone who’s never been, and they will say one or both of the following two things:
1) they will make some reference to you, and everyone else who has ever been to Glastonbury, being a drug taking hippy,
2) they will say something about how crappy the weather always is.
Neither of these things are, of course, entirely true.
You may have noticed that in my last two posts, whilst I haven’t exactly banished the spectre of Glastonbury as a haven for spliff-puffing, pill popping longhairs (it isn’t, though there is a fair bit of hippyness going on) I have tried to shy away from mentioning the weather, partly because it’s so damned predictably English to talk about the weather, but mostly because on the whole it wasn’t too bad in 2003 and 2004.
In fact, I came away from Glastonbury 2004 with quite the tan, mostly because I’d lost my cap on pretty much the first day, and hadn’t bothered applying any sun cream for the rest of the weekend. On my first day back in work afterwards, I was met with a couple of “Fucking hell, where did you go on holiday?”s, although this was probably because my bald bonce had burned so badly I was quite literally able to peel a whole layer of skin off in one go, leaving me with what appeared to be a swimming cap made of my own skin, like some macabre tribute to Duncan Goodhew made by Hannibal Lecter.
So that was the look I was rocking post Glasto 2004: draw a line through the middle of my forehead and I was bright sore pink above it and tanned brown below. I must have looked like I was going to a fancy dress party, had taken it waaaaay too seriously, and was going as a Big Dog’s Cock.
But I digress. There’s really no getting away from it, the weather at Glastonbury 2005 was terrible. We (a considerably smaller posse this time, but I really have lost track of who was there this year) arrived on the Wednesday of our hat-trick year, pitched up and wandered round, and the weather was gorgeous, no sign at all of the quite literal storms to come. This continued through Thursday, and by Thursday evening we were all beginning to believe that we were about to experience that most rare of things: a sunny Glastonbury festival.
No such luck. On Thursday night/Friday morning, the rain came down. And down. And down. Camp sites were flooded, tents and their belongings swept away. Proceedings at the Pyramid were delayed starting due to flooding, with the first two acts, Adjágas, and The Subways having to bow to the storm and the threat of electrocution.
When I was researching (alright, trying to jog my memory) about the 2005 festival, I came across this on YouTube, footage taken by a festival goer showing before, during and after the storm. It kinda has the feeling of one of those camcorder horror films like Blair Witch Project, or Cloverfield that were all the rage a few years ago; for the 1:40 seconds at the start you just know something terrible is going to happen and then…boom!
But something happens when the Glastonbury Festival is hit by extreme weather. All the festival goers seem to come together in defiance, determined to have a good time no matter what the skies may throw at them, and assuming that your tents survived the deluge that’s about all you can do: chuck a waterproof on, decide “Aww, fuck it”, neck some scrumpy, and soldier on. That’s British Bulldog Blitz Bravado, right there.
Anyway, tracking down footage of some of the acts playing in 2005 proved rather difficult, presumably because most of the TV companies covering the event decided to follow the example of the Pyramid on Friday morning and elected not to risk electrocution by filming much bar the headliners.
As a result, I have nothing to offer you in respect of Editors on The Other Stage on the Friday morning, after which we trudged over to the newly named John Peel Stage to catch Maximo Park. We didn’t manage to see them, but we did manage to stand outside the rammed tent and hear them, a bit. You can get a better idea of how they were here.
Next it was over to The Pyramid to see the legend that is Elvis Costello. Sometime in the late 1980s I’d picked up a copy of his “The Man (The Best Of Elvis Costello)” album. This was back in the days when people released a “Best Of..” album when they had established themselves, and had a wide body of work to choose from and show off about, rather than after two or three albums with a couple of new tracks thrown in to sucker you into buying it. I’m with Dave Gorman on this one. (Hopefully, that link should take you to a rather brilliant analysis of the content of Scouting For Girls’ Greatest Hits album. Scroll up to the start of the chapter if it works. If it doesn’t, then buy the book from which it’s lifted “Too Much Information: Or: Can Everyone Just Shut Up for a Moment, Some of Us Are Trying to Think” here)
It would seem that the British Bulldog Blitz Bravado spirit hadn’t quite kicked in yet; much as I loved his set, Elvis went on record saying it was “fucking dreadful” and pledged never to play in the UK again (a threat he has, thankfully, reneged on since, returning to the festival in 2013, sporting, it has to be said, a rather natty hat)
Here’s him doing sticky Valentine unrequited love classic Alison, and segueing into something by some other chap also called Elvis. Not sure what happened to him.
Next up, Doves. Not much to say here, other than I miss them a lot more than I thought I would. Their slightly brooding but captivating sound certainly seemed to sum up how everyone was feeling as the weather resolutely refused to improve.
Next, The Killers. Promoting their first album, the aptly titled Hot Fuss, they were much anticipated by all that had not yet seen them. I, and most of our gang, being super-cool indie kids, had already seen them, headlining the NME Awards Tour earlier that year, with support from (and get this): Bloc Party, The Futureheads, and Kaiser Chiefs. Now THAT’S a line-up.
We’d decided they were okay enough to warrant us sticking around and to watch them again, though this decision had more to do with the mud underfoot and the fact that The White Stripes were on next as headliners than any particular desire to watch The Killers again. That said, they put on a pretty good show, opening with my personal favourite by them, Somebody Told Me, followed by Jenny Was A Friend of Mine (a song which, to this day, my friends and I are unable to say the title of without doing it in that ridiculous yelp Brandon Flowers does when introducing it here), before rounding off things with the song that has perhaps the most cringe-worthy rhyming couplet ever in it All These Things That I Have Done The reaction of people to this song baffles me to this day, all eyes closed, hands and lighters in the air like it actually means something. I’m with Bill Bailey on this one.
Much like Adam Buxton in Commentary Corner, I can’t resist looking at the comments left under a clip on YouTube, and some of the screaming outrage on show under the clip of Mr Bailey, left by Killers fans, is the internet version of those earnestly singing along to utter claptrap. Like Daniel Pacheco, for example, who says “The phrase in context of the song makes perfect sense. Hell even taken out of context it makes perfect sense. Bill Bailey is obviously retarded”. Well, no, Daniel, it does not, and I note that you haven’t actually gone as far as to explain why you think it makes sense. I would challenge him to expand on his theory via the YouTube comments, but I won’t, partly because I’d like to think I’m above that sort of thing, but mostly because I’m not a masturbating fourteen year old. Sighs…I wish….
Anyway, The White Stripes are next, and they do their thing, which is Jack tossing off some awesome riffs whilst Meg just twats the fuck out of her drums, the two seemingly bearing no relation to each other, yet somehow working brilliantly at the same time. We get every White Stripes song you could wish for: Blue Orchid, Hotel Yorba, Jolene, My Doorbell, I Just Don’t Know What To Do With Myself, and, of course, Seven Nation Army to name but a few that anyone has actually heard of.
So ended Friday, and off to our tents we all trudged (eventually), hoping Saturday would be a little drier.
It was, but not much. No more floods, thankfully, but still not exactly flip-flop weather.
My day was spent flitting between The Other Stage and The Pyramid. Apparently Goldie Lookin’ Chain played The Pyramid on Saturday morning, and a tiny part of me wonders if this is where my confusion with them playing in 2004 comes from, but a larger part of me remains fairly sure the line up was as I remember. Anyway, I couldn’t find any footage of them in 2005, so I guess I’ll never know.
Next up: Kaiser Chiefs. As already mentioned, we’d caught them on the NME Tour earlier that year, and until that night I’d been totally non-plussed by everything I’d heard from them. But that night they completely blew me away: they were first on the bill, started their set off with a blistering rendition of “Na Na Na Na Na”, took no prisoners after that, and to my mind utterly upstaged all the acts that came after them.
Their set at Glastonbury followed pretty much the same pattern, and whilst The Pyramid Stage is a rather different proposition to Cardiff University’s Great Hall, they still were pretty darn good. Here’s two out of the three of their early singles that have the trademark “Whooooooooaaaaaaahhhhhhh” in them: Oh My God and, of course, I Predict a Riot.
Next on The Pyramid, Ash. It’s incredible to think that they were still in their late-twenties by 2005; they seemed to have been around for ever, churning out indie classic after indie classic for ten years or so. They don’t need any more introduction, so here’s A Life Less Ordinary and Burn Baby Burn.
Back over to The Other Stage now for the obligatory Echo & The Bunnymen set, The Killing Moon being an obvious high-light, closely followed by Interpol.
Interpol are one of those bands that seemed to have made one awesome album (Antics, for the record) and several kind of okay ones. Luckily, they were promoting said album in 2005, so we got Slow Hands and Evil (I’ve never seen them since, but I imagine they’re staples of every set).
Who’s on next? Wait…is that….Fuck, run!! Head for the hills!! It’s Kasabian!!!
Luckily, over at The Pyramid there was New Order, back in the days when they were still speaking to each other, kind of, occasionally, if they had to. This was a proper tear through their back catalogue, plus a couple from their slightly iffy new album, so we got some Joy Division (Love Will Tear Us Apart, of course), some classic New Order (Temptation) and Keith Bloody Allen, coming onstage riding a pantomime horse, comic genius that he is, so he could “join in” on World In Motion.
Choice of Saturday night headliners had been a bit of a quandary for me this year. 90% of our group elected to watch Razorlight on The Other Stage; promoting their one half decent album (Up All Night) they were probably the wise choice. However, one of the group really wanted to go to The Pyramid and watch…Coldplay. Somewhat bashful after how rude I was to the girl the previous year who wanted to watch Muse rather than Orbital, I think I decided I needed to do something to sort my karma out (now there’s some hippy bullshit, right there).
So, I volunteered – yes, volunteered!! – to go watch Coldplay with my buddy. Now that’s friendship.
They couldn’t be that bad, now could they? I reasoned.
Oh, but yes they could.
I can honestly say that I have never been so deathly bored at a gig in all my life. The one highlight, if you can call it that, was their cover of “Can’t Get You Out Of My Head“, played as attribute to Kylie, who had to pull out of doing the headline slot on Sunday due to fairly well-publicised health problems.
Needless to say, they turn one of the finest pop records of the 21st century into a dull dirge. Oh and Chris, don’t give up the day job for comedy.
People, if you buy Coldplay records, CDs or MP3s, or go to their gigs, or buy their T-shirts, then please stop. You’re just encouraging the morose posho dullards.
Sunday arrived, and the weather didn’t seem to be showing any sign of improvement. And then Brian Wilson played The Pyramid, and suddenly everything was alright with the world, for, just like during Belle & Sebastian’s set the year before, the sun suddenly came out to play, only this time we had Surfin’ USA, California Girls and a whole host of other Beach Boy-tastic tunes rather than wry Scottish indie pop songs about someone called Judy dreaming about horses to celebrate to. I have deliberately not posted a link to film footage of the set, partly because I again struggled to find much of decent quality, but mostly because if I had, you would have to watch Brian looking…well, let’s just say he didn’t really seem to be fully aware of where he was, what was going on, and what he was doing, for the majority of the set. But no matter, Glastonbury loved him for bringing the California sun with him.
Next up: Garbage. I don’t mind a bit of Garbage, and actually met lead singer Shirley Manson many years ago when she was backing singer in Goodbye Mr Mackenzie (CLANG! – the sound of a name drop there). Actually, she won’t remember it (nor should she) and I certainly don’t. I’ll explain this some other time. Needless to say, there is no gossip for you to get your teeth into.
Garbage were here in support of their fourth album, “Bleed Like Me”; an album that I would struggle and fail to name a single song from, much the same as with their third album, whatever that was called. Thankfully, they knew what to do in a festival atmosphere, so we got the decent singles from their first two (good) albums: Stupid Girl, Push It, and the apt-if-only-you’d-been-on-stage-a-couple-of-hours-earlier Only Happen When It Rains
Next: Primal Scream. I love a bit of Gillespie, Innes and Co., and now the sun was out, and about to go down again, I, along with probably about 85% of the rest of the crowd wanted a set of sunny-Screamedlica songs to compliment our new found joy and dryness. The signs were good when the into music was the chorus of the single version of “Come Together”, but The Scream don’t really “do” what you expect, so instead of summery dance records, we got their Kraut-rock set, which was fine, they were still fantastic, just not what most of wanted, I think. They started by launching into a blistering version of Accelerator before ending up with Movin’ On Up via Swastika Eyes .
I say “ending up”, but anyone who was there, or watched it on television, will know that their set didn’t end after Movin’ On Up. Well not straight afterwards. Bobby was clearly not impressed that Basement Jaxx were now headlining the Sunday night in place of Kylie, and decided that he wanted to a) berate the crowd, and b) play another song. Some of his taunts are just priceless (“Do you wanna dance? Yeh?? Well you should’ve been here fifteen fucking years ago”). This, I have decided, was definitely aimed at me and the rest of the Screamadelica crowd. He had a point.
So, on to Basement Jaxx. You’ll recall that many of my fellow festivalees had chosen them over Paul McCartney the previous year, and whilst I have no regrets about seeing the former mop-top, I have to admit the Jaxx were incredible, giving Glastonbury the dance Bobby refused to and Kylie would have done.
Again, for some reason, footage seems to be in short supply; here’s U Don’t Know Me from Glastonbury, and Oh My Gosh, which isn’t, despite it being the first time I ever heard it, and it became possibly my favourite song by Basement Jaxx.
Oh My Gosh was a new track on Basement Jaxx’s “The Singles” album. Which I bought. What does that say about me, Mr Gorman?