Mummy’s Brave Little Soldier

Hello. Been a bit quiet around here lately, hasn’t it?

Sorry about that, been a bit under the weather all week. I’ll not bore you with the details, but last weekend I got struck down by what some might call flu, others might rather disparagingly call Man Flu, but which I’m going to call a really heavy cold (mostly to neatly side-step any unkind messages advising me to man up).

I battled on with normal life, spending the last week alternating between sitting at my desk at work, coughing with a veracity and vibrato that knocks Storm Doris’ efforts into a cocked hat, and my bed, pausing only to quaff a Lemsip or a Hot Toddy or two along the way. Frankly, sitting down and writing stuff here fell off my list of priorities.

Anyway, although I’m still not feeling 100%, hopefully normal service – and yes, that includes The Chain – will now be resumed.

In the meantime, allow me to wheel out one of my catchphrases. These records seem appropriate:

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Mudhoney – Touch Me, I’m Sick

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The Smiths – Still Ill

(I’ve always loved the harmonica part on that version.)

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Gene – Fighting Fit

More soon. No, really.

Friday Night Music Club

Evening all.

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, it can’t have escaped your attention that the Olympics start officially later tonight (if you count the opening ceremony as it starting) or tomorrow (if you count it as starting when the competitions actually do).

Of course, whichever opinion you subscribe to, you’re wrong, for the Olympic football tournament started two days ago, but since this is generally being ignored here in the UK as Team GB didn’t qualify (did we even try…? Couldn’t have been a more humiliating experience than Euro 2016 was, I guess), you can be forgiven for that.

Anyway, pack me a lunchbox and call me Linford, I’ve only gone and done us a Friday Night Olympic playlist. Try to contain your joy.

So here goes, 12 songs which are (very) (tenuously) linked to the Olympics. And no sign of that bloody Spandau Ballet record anywhere.

First up, no surprise that I’ve managed to crowbar this lot in:

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355. Super Furry Animals – (Drawing) Rings Around The World

Of course, the opening ceremony climaxes and the Games truly commence when the Olympic flame arrives at the stadium, transported in one of these (the song title, not the band):

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356. Soft Cell – Torch

The majority of the games involve a race of sorts (I think. I dunno. I haven’t checked). So here’s this lot:

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357. The Flaming Lips – Race For The Prize

Next, a song which is actually about a motor race, which means it isn’t a race that appears in the Olympics (I think. I dunno. I haven’t checked), but the theme is roughly the same. Plus, I’ve not heard it for ages:

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358. Cake – The Distance

The objective of any of the sports hosted at the Olympics is to win a medal, preferably a gold one, which is given to the winner:

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359. Shed Seven – Going For Gold

…or failing that, make do with second place, which earns you…

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360. Echo & The Bunnymen – Silver

…which is another way of saying….

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361. The Jesus & Mary Chain – Almost Gold

…which is still one better than coming third, and getting:

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362. Queens of the Stone Age – The Bronze

Mention the name “Queen” and one other band springs to mind, a band who famously had a song which actually mentions an actual Olympic sport, albeit somewhat colloquially, in the title. But I’m not playing Queen tonight; instead this rowdy lot:

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363. Be Your Own Pet – Bicycle Race

Straight on to the next one, which surely needs no explanation:

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364. Sugababes – Push The Button

Okay, maybe a little explanation.

In 2012, on the night of the opening ceremony, I was at a works party. The party had nothing to do with the Olympics, and was held in the beer garden of a local pub, whilst TV screens in the bar showed the opening proceedings. I have to admit, in the run up to the games, I was firmly in the “We’re going to make a right pig’s ear of this” camp, and had little to no intention of watching any of the games. However, the appointment of Danny Boyle, he of Trainspotting, Shallow Grave and Slumdog Millionaire fame, to direct the opening ceremony piqued my interest, and every time I went to the bar – which was often – I found myself watching the television, bordering on the entranced.

I got home later that night, found it on the BBC iPlayer, and watched it right through.

Sort of.

The next morning, I woke up on the sofa, my television on stand-by, and watched it again/properly. I hadn’t been mistaken. It was bloody amazing.

Soon after the Games finished, I bought a copy of the DVD box-set. The first disc contains the opening ceremony, the other two the highlights of the games. The first is possibly the most watched DVD that I own. The other two haven’t even been out of the box.

Why is this relevant? Well, the other night I had a text from Hel, asking if I’d watched the BBC documentary about the making of the ceremony. I hadn’t, and sat down to watch it the following night.

For the next couple of hours, I was transfixed, in exactly the same way as when I first watched the actual opening ceremony. The documentary, part of Alan Yentob’s “Imagine” series, contains behind the scenes footage, including the teaching of all the thousands of volunteers, some of whom had to learn to dance, others to drum; it has interviews not just with all the main creative players (Boyle himself, Underworld’s Rick Smith who was the musical director, etc. etc.) but also with several of the volunteers, some of whom have moving stories to tell about why they were there, and what happened to them on the night and as they trained for it. For example, in the “Saturday Night/Music” sequence, which tells the story of a boy and a girl meeting on a night out: I had assumed that both of them were trained actors/dancers. But no: both just normal kids, who’d volunteered to take part, and had been picked from the masses to play a major role in the event.

But there was one scene which stuck in my mind, filmed in the tunnel where the volunteers involved in the aforementioned sequence were waiting to enter the stadium. Out there, the Sugababes’ “Push The Button” is playing; in the tunnel, they are going mental, all bouncing up and down with excitement, singing along and cheering…it’s wonderful to behold. If you have chance to watch it, I urge you to do so. You won’t be disappointed.

So, that’s why the Sugababes are here. They’ve probably changed line-up about seven times since I started writing that, mind (obligatory Sugababes revolving line-up joke, there).

Back to a song which I don’t really think can be criticised for being included in a playlist on an Olympics theme:

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365. Gene – Olympian (Single Version)

That is just majestic.

And so to round things off, a song from my favourite album by this band (a controversial choice, I believe), which I dedicate to every athlete from every nation taking part. May you hear yours many times over the next few weeks.

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366. Radiohead – The National Anthem

More soon.

It’s Make Your Mind Up Time (Slight Return)

Earlier today, I rocked up at my polling station, polling card in hand, and cast my vote to Remain in the EU.

I was handed my card, took shelter in a booth, and read the card. And re-read it. Then read it again. My pencil hovered over the box. I read it again. Then once more for luck. And again, just to be on the safe side.

I wasn’t having second thoughts, you understand, just terrified that I might accidentally put my cross in the wrong box.

I’d developed the condition Ballot Box Battiness.

After reading it another 10, 15 times, I finally did the deed. Folded the paper in half, strode confidently to ballot box, and posted. As my fingers released my voting slip, a voice inside my head whispered “Are you sure you put the cross in the right box?”

Of course I’m sure.

So now it’s all over, bar the shouting.

Well, actually all the shouting’s over. Hopefully.

The votes have been cast, and now I have a long night ahead of me, watching Dimbleby and Paxman into the wee small hours, trying to second guess how the voting has gone until we can finally start to make some sense of what’s happened.

Someone on Twitter described today as like knowing you’ve left the rings on your electric hob on, but having to wait until tomorrow to find out if you’ve burned your house down. Which seems to be a pretty spot on analogy to me.

If you’re a UK resident who was able to vote, I hope that you did.

And I hope that whichever way you voted, you can look yourself in the eye tomorrow morning (I’d recommend using a mirror) and tell yourself you did the right thing.

More than that, and especially if you voted to Leave, I hope you manage to sleep. If I’d voted that way, I’m not sure I would be able to.

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Gene – Sleep Well Tonight

More soon.

Keeping it Peel

As you get older, and it will come to all of you young fuckers (by which I mean fuckers who are young, not…) time seems to speed up. What seems to have been a mere blip on the radar turns out to be a week, a month, six months, a year, more, longer.

Sometimes these anniversaries pass you by, and it’s only as they’re disappearing in the rear view mirror that you go “Whoa! Wait a minute! How did that happen???”

Let me give you an example. Every now and then, I meet up with people from my past. I like to do it, to renew those old friendships, to catch up, break some bread, or, as is more likely, drink some cider and have a curry. And without fail the first thing that is discussed is how long it is since we’ve last seen each other. And once that’s happened, we all stand, scratching our heads, looking baffled and, no matter how long it is, wondering where the time went.

Let me give you another example. Today, it is a year since I posted some stuff about John Peel on here (and frankly, blew my only two Peel-based anecdotes; I wasn’t exactly anticipating that I would still be writing this blog a year later or I would have kept at least one of them back).

More importantly, it also means that today it is eleven years since John Peel died.

Read that sentence again. It is eleven years since John Peel died.

Whoa! Wait a minute!! How did that happen???

How have we managed to live for eleven years without John’s guiding hand at the tiller??

Some might argue that we haven’t, and that it’s noticeable that since he passed the likes of Simon Cowell and his (e)X(crement) Factor have risen to prominence. Which is a fair point.

But let me let you into a little secret: much as I would like to blame the world’s ills on Cowell, there’s something else. We have the internet now. We can trawl for whatever music we want to hear without recourse to some Radio 1 DJ.

Back in 2004, the internet was not what it is now. We still needed John back then, to tell us what was worth listening to, and often playing us something that really wasn’t.

But fear not, I come here not to damn the man but to praise him.

Because that’s not to say that were he still here now we wouldn’t listen to him, because we would. And that’s the point: John saved us the bother of having to trawl through the quagmire of crap we have to now, he was our filter, our conduit, he syphoned away all of the excruciatingly bad records we’ve had to plough through since he was so cruelly taken from us.

Which is also why, in those eleven empty years, whilst the music has been out there, just the same as it always was, nobody has managed to step up to the plate and fill John’s shoes: his shoes are unfillable. In fact, it has taken a whole music station (by which I mean 6Music of course) to come anywhere close to doing what John did. On his own.

So anyway, here’s my record to mark the anniversary of his passing. Not the greatest version, but appropriately titled, a Peel session, and a band that John championed, seeing through all the “sixth-form Smiths pastiche” guff that was levelled at them during their all-to-brief time with us.

51DlnQ8RtVL Gene – For the Dead (Peel Session)