Be Llŷrious

Shortly after Llŷr passed away in 2019, I wrote what I guess you could call my eulogy to him (although I’m sure he would have loved to have read it for himself, I’m equally sure he would have thought it a tad premature had I written it any sooner). I wrote these words:

“See that “There’s No Such Thing As A Guilty Pleasure” tagline? It simply wouldn’t be there were it not for Llŷr.

I’ll go further. Without that little seed sown, I wouldn’t be writing this and you wouldn’t be reading it.”

And now I’ll go further still, for it was Llŷr who first introduced me to the wonderful world of music blogs. He knew how much I loved a good cover version (the ratio of How To Do A Cover Version posts here against the number of How Not To Do A Cover Version is testament to this) so he sent me a link to a blog, now also sadly deceased, which featured nothing but cover versions. And then he directed me to the sidebar, to the list of other music blogs, and that was me off, following numerous other blogs. Friends: always check the sidebar, for although mine is woefully in need of an update, you’ll find some lovely surprises there.

Anyway, when I was younger, as soon as I got home from school, the first thing I would do would be to run upstairs, plug my guitar in and play VERY LOUDLY for half an hour or so. My mum used to describe it as me “getting my fix”, and for a time that’s how blogs grabbed me too. The moment I got home from work, I disappeared into my room, fired up my PC and spent a good couple of hours roaming around various blogs, seeking out tracks I’d loved and lost over the years, before finally emerging, gushing to Llŷr about what my haul for the day included. He would nod, offer the occasional “that’s cool”, the even more occasional “I don’t think I know that…”, which was usually reserved for some late 80s jingly-jangly twee-pop record.

Although I would undoubtedly have loved them anyway, my love for cover versions manifested itself in a love of what I guess many would consider to be a joke band: Goldie Lookin Chain.

You won’t be surprised to hear that, after Super Furry Animals, they are probably the band that Llŷr and I saw the most together.

I will always remember that on my birthday one year, we found that Super Furries were playing in Port Talbot, with GLC supporting them. Llŷr got a group of us together, hired a minibus and driver, and we set off to the gig. At the venue, a sports centre, if I recall correctly, and a few beers down, I popped to the gents, only to find it absolutely rammed, queue out the door. As I returned, Llŷr spotted my face, white in shock.

“You alright, Jez?”

“Just been to the bogs. It was rammo. I never thought I’d see three men sharing…”

“A cubicle? Probably not pissing, Jez”

“No, not a cubicle…”

“A urinal?”

“No….three men pissing into the same sink.”

“Welcome to Port Talbot!” Llŷr said raising a bottle (of beer) in my direction.

I can see why many people consider GLC to be a joke band – they’ve never released a serious record in their lives, and pretty much all of their songs are about being chavs from Newport, and/or (usually and) about smoking draw – but to dismiss them as “just” a joke band is a mistake, for in my book they are so much more than that. For a start, they clearly know their stuff – their musical references and samples are always spot-on – and are proficient hip-hop musicians and rappers in their own right. Yes, the individual members may have comedy names (Two Hats remains my favourite – say it quickly and you’ll see why) but that shouldn’t denigrate from how good they are.

For me, their songs fall into three categories:

1 – funny song which features a sample or samples I don’t recognise

2 – a funny song which features a sample or samples I do recognise – see Your Missus Is A Nutter (which samples – appropriately – Serge Gainsbourg’s Cannabis – and which they controversially performed before a Wales v England football match in 2005, dedicating it to “our old friend Victoria Beckham”, who seemed to see the funny side, to be fair); Your Mother’s Got a Penis (which samples Eric Clapton’s Behind The Mask); Charm School which features the Grange Hill Theme Tune

3 – a funny song which is a straight-up parody of another song, and includes a play-on-words on the original song title. I call these, with affection, their Barron Knights tracks.

One day, as they often did, a Llŷr-curated mix-CD was thrust into my hands. It contained two of the latter type of GLC tracks, neither of which, as far as I can make out, have ever had official releases. (The second has featured on these pages before, though.)

They still make me laugh whenever I hear them; more importantly, they remind me of Llŷr.

Oh, and of course, there’s a fair amount of effing and jeffing, so please don’t listen to these if you get offended by rude words.

So, here’s the original:

Gruff Rhys – Candylion

And the GLC spoof:

Goldie Lookin Chain – I’m Not Lying

And, at the risk of repeating myself, here’s the original:

Nelly Furtado – Maneater

And the GLC spoof:

Goldie Lookin Chain – Nan Rita

And that would be the end of that, were it not for the fact that when I was trying to find out whether or not the two tracks featured had received an official release or not, I stumbled across another GLC track which samples one of Llŷr’s favourite records.

Since I’ve never heard it before, I can only assume he hadn’t either, because no two ways about it, he would have told me about this:

Cliff Richard – Devil Woman

And the GLC version:

Goldie Lookin Chain – Devil Woman

He’d have bloody loved that.

Happy Birthday dude. Love ya, miss ya, always.

More soon.

It’s Chriiiistmas!!!

Of course, it was only a couple of weeks ago that I mentioned I was reluctant to do any posts involving Christmas songs. My how times have changed.

There was a reason for this, other than thinking you’d all be sick of hearing Christmas songs by now. Let me take you back a few years.

I was still sharing a flat with Hel, and she, along with our two other flatmates (I say two, I actually mean one other official flatmate and his girlfriend who practically moved in on the same day as he did) suggested we had a Friday night in, just the four of us (so I’m reluctant to call it a House Party, although that’s exactly what it was) and they asked me to do a Christmas playlist to last the night.

I spent the next few weeks finding songs to fill a few hours, my idea to be structure them into sequences of three or four upbeat cheerful ones to have a bit of a dance to, then a slower one or two for us to sit down, catch our breaths, and of course, have a ciggie. And more booze.

Alas, time caught up with me, and I didn’t have chance to fashion them into any kind of order, so I elected to simply put the playlist on shuffle and hope for the best.

You can guess what happened next. My iPod decided to get the ratios the wrong way round, merrily skipping to six or seven slow, depressing Christmas plodders in a row, then chucking in Shaky’s “Merry Christmas Everyone” to lull us into a false sense of security, before reverting back to the death dirges again.

Needless to say, it was not the joyous Christmas knees-up that had been requested. I think we were all in bed by 10.30.

Well, they say that what doesn’t break you makes you stronger, so I thought I’d post a few of the less cheerful songs today, just to temper those Christmas spirits, you understand.

First up, breathy songstress Isobel Campbell and gravel-throated Mark Lanegan, from their excellent third album “Hawk”:

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Isobel Campbell & Mark Lanegan – Time of the Season

Next up, a slightly more upbeat track by an actual couple (at the time anyway, I’ve no idea whether they still are) from what is one of my favourite Christmas albums of recent years:

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Emmy the Great & Tim Wheeler – Home for the Holidays

Could that sleeve be any more twee indie?

A few songs by female artistes now, and taken from her breakthrough album “I Speak Because I Can” (I call it her breakthrough album partly because it was the first thing I ever heard by her, but also because by now she had ditched Mumford & Sons, who I seem to remember used to be her backing band at some point, but I’m buggered if I can find any reference to this anywhere, so maybe I dreamt it):

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Laura Marling – Goodbye England (Covered In Snow)

Moving swiftly on, here’s a bona fide female icon performing a rather over-looked single. Released back in 1980, shortly after her second album “Never for Ever”, I think I had managed to completely avoid hearing this until one of those Top of the Pops 2 Christmas Specials came on last year. You know the kind of thing, where Steve Wright, or more latterly Mark Radcliffe, make super lame jokes about the clip he’s introducing. Whoever would do such a thing? (*coughs…looks guiltily around*)  Needless to say, it’s an absolute joy:

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Kate Bush – December Will Be Magic Again

A word of warning. When I was searching for the sleeve for that single, I actually mistyped her name, writing Hate Bush by mistake. Let me tell you, that brings up a whole different set of search results than I had been expecting, only about 2% of which referred to the former US President.

Mind you, “Hate Bush” would be an excellent slogan for a t-shirt, like those “Brian Maiden” ones which were doing the rounds a few years ago. Does me typing it here count as my having copyrighted it?

(Why do I think there was one of those t-shirts about Motorhead too…? Ah yes, a certain someone I know once got Iron Maiden and Motorhead mixed up and accidentally referred to them as “Maidenhead”. Pffft! You know who you are!)

Anyway, you want iconic female singers doing slightly unhappy songs about Christmas? Well, you came to the right place, I got ’em. How about some nice Joni Mitchell:

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Joni Mitchell – River

Actually, I have a confession to make about that choice: I was rather hoping I’d be able to track down Michael Ball’s version somewhere, but have had no joy. Ho Hum. There’s always next year.

Anyway, never mind that its opening melody is “Jingle Bells” in a minor key and that the lyrics begin with a seasonal scene: “It’s coming on Christmas, they’re cutting down trees/They’re putting up reindeer, singing songs of joy and peace.” Ultimately, “River” is a bereft song about a broken romance and a woman who desperately wants to escape her heartbreak, saying repeatedly: “I wish I had a river I could skate away on.”

Well Joni, this must be your lucky day!

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Smith & Burrows -When The Thames Froze

For the unitiated, that’s Tom Smith – lead singer from Editors – and Andy Burrows who you will no doubt recognise as being the drummer from Razorlight (and now of We Are Scientists, apparently). So, proper indie royalty then (*ahem*)

Speaking of Indie Royalty, hands up who remembers this lot? Pretty huge a little while back weren’t they?

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The Killers – Boots

Three to go for today, two of which are from artists that I have banged on about an awful lot on these pages. Firstly it’s Gruff Rhys, lead singer of Super Furry Animals, from his bloody-wonderful-but-then-I-would-say-that-wouldn’t-I? “Atheist Xmas EP”:

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Gruff Rhys – Post-Apocalypse Christmas

Think yourself lucky I didn’t post (and I shit you not, I haven’t made this up) “Slashed Wrists This Christmas” from the same EP. Still brilliant, but maybe a little too dark for tonight’s post.

Instead, something which could quite easily have cropped up in my “From Leeds With Love” series, had I actually been arsed to write any of them for a while; yes, it’s The Wedding Present covering Sir Elton:

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The Wedding Present – Step Into Christmas

And lastly for today, before you get all cheerful again, this, two minutes of a newscaster reading horrible headlines about how terrible everything is whilst the evil ones from The Detectorists sing “Silent Night” in the background:

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Simon & Garfunkel – 7 O’Clock News/Silent Night

Now, tomorrow is Christmas Eve, and I’ll be travelling home to spend Christmas with my parents, so there may, or may not, be a post-tomorrow, depending on whether I get all of the things done in time that I need to. Which you could take to be a cover story to obscure the fact that I am actually Father Christmas. You might think that, I couldn’t possibly comment.

More soon.