Keeping It Peel

I deserve to have my blogging wings clipped, for yet again I have missed the anniversary of the great man’s sad passing.

There’s very few famous people, and even fewer Radio 1 DJs, whose sudden departure from this mortal coil has stunned and upset me as when I got the news fifteen years (and one day – clip me!) ago that John Peel had died.

Just like people know where they were when JFK was assasinated, I remember where I was when I heard the news. It’s not exciting or unusual, for I was sitting at my desk in the office where I worked. But I also remember a Mexican wave of muttering shock and sadness heading towards me, rolling over and engulfing me as I heard the words “John Peel’s died”. I clicked Google open and there it was, confirmed.

I had to go out for some air. And probably (actually, definitely) a cigarette.

I don’t understand why it is that the good ones, the ones who make our lives richer, are taken from us sooner than they should have been. The last few years has been littered with them: Victoria Wood, Prince, Caroline Aherne, Bowie…this list could go on and on and on. As do those we could do without: Johnson, Gove, Rees-Mogg, Farage, Morrissey – why are they still here and the honourable, decent ones are not?

Anyway, I’ve had this up my sleeve for a while; it’s not a record that I physically own, because the only person who did own it was Peel himself.

But…oh, why don’t I let the great man explain it himself?

Half Man Half Biscuit – A Legend in My Time

More soon.

50 Ways to Prove I’m Rubbish #12

Mention of my DJ’ing days in my last post reminded me of today’s tune.

Long-term readers may recall that back in 2016 I wrote about how I came to start DJ’ing at college, you can read it here (links re-upped, as always).

The event of baggy and Madchester quite literally saved my DJ’ing career and the Indie night I played every other Tuesday night.

For despite mine and my fellow DJ Danny’s grandiose plans to rejuvenate the Indie night – we got it rebranded from the awful Funk Off to the slightly less awful (but only slightly, mind you) Intensity – attendances were dwindling to the point where the night itself was threatened with the axe.

And then Madchester happened, and we were reborn. If you wanted to hear this achingly cool new music, then we were the only DJ’s playing it (in the mid-Glamorgan area).

But, I must confess, we were pretty slow out of the blocks, and owed a huge debt to some of our regulars.

Initially, Danny and I were pretty much oblivious to this new music trend – I blame Danny, he was waaaaaay cooler that I was – and we only played something from the scene when it was dragged into our attention.

Actually, that’s not strictly true: we were playing early tracks by bands like The Charlatans, Inspiral Carpets and The Stone Roses, but to my ears there’s one band who were the real flag-wavers of the scene, and we had not a clue about them.

In a desperate attempt to entice punters in, we made it known that if you brought records in and told us what to play from them we would. If I were to try and spin it, I’d say that we were the first truly interactive DJ’s (but then I remember that DJ’s had been doing this for a long time, as evidenced here, in one of my first ever posts. Links also re-upped, though I don’t anticipate anyone will listen to them. Although, were I to tell you that Bob Stanley (of St Etienne fame) retweeted the link to that post back in 2014 maybe you will be a bit more tempted.

This led to some interesting moments; somebody brought in The Boo Radleys’ Ichabod and I and asked us to play a particular track, which we were happy to do, only to find that the record didn’t tell you which was Side 1 and which was Side 2, so I have no idea whether we played the right tune or not.

But specifically, two young chimps from Nottingham came up to us one night, and introduced themselves as Peaty and Daints – they were both called Andrew so everyone referred to them by their surname to avoid confusion.

And they asked us if we had anything by the Happy Mondays.

Which we didn’t.

So we told them, as we always did, to bring something in by them next time and we’d play it.

And they did.

And so, two weeks later we played a track (Kuff Dam, I think, or maybe Tart Tart) from Squirrel and G-Man Twenty Four Hour Party People Carn’t Smile (White Out). Danny and I looked on bemused as Daints and Peaty performed what we later recognised as Bez impressions on the otherwise deserted dancefloor.

Danny and I caught on fairly soon afterwards, but it’s a massive moment of professional and personal regret that I didn’t spot at the time how immense this record is:

Happy Mondays – Twenty Four Party People

Frankly, you know you’ve made it when Half Man Half Biscuit write a song which references you:

Half Man Half Biscuit – 24 Hour Garage People

I love having Peel pop up on my iPod every now and then, generally introducing HFHB, or more usually, as he does there, utterly messing up.

Recently, I’ve been in touch with Daints, who I haven’t seen since I went to visit him in Nottingham back in 2000. It was lovely to catch up with him, and if all pans out as I hope, there will be something quite unique posted here soon….

By which I mean: more soon.

Tonight Matthew…

…since he’s gone to all of the bother of getting crucified, shoved in a cave and then rising again, all over one weekend (and because I haven’t posted any HMHB for a while), it seems only fair that I post this:

half

Half Man Half Biscuit – Tonight Matthew, I’m Going To Be With Jesus

Look, I know this weekend’s post haven’t been very interesting, but at least I haven’t mentioned Brexit.

More soon.

I’m Not Too Keen on Mondays

Recently, when my brother asked me to help him when he moved into his new home and told me he had hired a Transit van for the task, I accepted on one condition: that it had a digital radio and that we could listen to BBC 6 Music as we drove.

I’d imagine that for most of you, like me, BBC 6 Music is your (music) radio station of choice. Certainly, recent figures indicate that so far in 2018, it’s the most listened to digital-only radio station, with an average weekly audience of 2.3 million.

It’s hard to believe that it’s not that long ago that the station was threatened with closure. (That’s especially hard to believe because, when fact-checking this post, I realise that it was actually eight years ago.)

This was on the back of a report by the BBC Trust, who, when charged with finding ways for the corporation to make savings, stated that only 1 in 5 UK residents were even aware of the station’s existence, and that the roster of presenters lacked credibility as music experts.

Frankly, the idea that the presenters are not credible music geeks is laughable; the week-day schedules include Lauren Laverne (a pop star, of sorts, in a previous life), Stuart Maconie (former music journalist with the NME, back when it was good, by which I mean when I used to read it), Mark Radcliffe (whose been around for ages, on Radios 1 and 2 previously, and who co-hosts the TV coverage of Glastonbury), Marc Riley (former member of The Fall – but who hasn’t been?), whilst elsewhere on their rota you can find former Fun Lovin’ Criminal Huey Morgan, 70s agit-pop star Tom Robinson, Mary Anne Hobbs (ex-music journalist at Sounds and NME), former Welsh-pop star Cerys Matthews, Don Letts (who made several of The Clash’s videos, and was in Big Audio Dynamite with Mick Jones), and Tom “Son of John Peel” Ravenscroft, to name just a few. Frankly, I can’t think of a radio station with a more credible rosta of DJs.

Anyway, I mention all of this now because the other week it was announced that, for the first time in…oooh, ages, the schedule is to be shaken up in 2019. I’ll not bore you with the details, you can read about it here if you really wnt to. Suffice it to say, it will soon be Lauren Laverne’s job to get me out of bed of a morning, instead of Shaun Keaveny’s.

When the station was threatened with closure what I now realise was all those years ago, one of those Facebook campaign things was launched to save it, and at the same time, to get one song – which, it was thought, epitomised 6 Music’s position as purveyors of a mix of quality ‘alternative’ and classic music – to number 6 in the UK charts.

It got to Number 56.

And it’s that song we’re going to this morning. As with many songs by this band, much loved by many in the blogging community, this never fails to put a huge dumb smile on my chops. Enjoy:

achtung

Half Man Half Biscuit – Joy Division Oven Gloves

More soon.

A History of Dubious Taste – 1986

I honestly can’t recall what caused me to buy this album back in 1986.

It may have been that I heard something by this band on the John Peel show.

It may be that I’d heard the song of there’s which featured on the legendary C86 compilation album, which my brother owned.

Either way, it’s an album which I love to this day, by a band that I know invokes much love via the Comments section whenever I mention them.

Their sound may have become ever so slightly, almost imperceptibly, more polished over the years, but they’ve remained instantly recognisable. You know when you’ve heard a song by Half Man Half Biscuit.

So here’s a selection of songs from the album in question, along with pictures to help younger readers get some idea of who the many celebrities name checked in them are.:

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Half Man Half Biscuit – Fuckin’ ‘Ell It’s Fred Titmus

 

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As featured:

Fred Titmus, England cricketer who lost four toes in a boating accident, and is still better than the absolute shower we’ve got playing in The Ashes at the moment.

 

Half Man Half Biscuit – 99% Of Gargoyles Look Like Bob Todd

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As featured:

Bob Todd, comedic actor, straight man to Spike Milligan and, more famously, Benny Hill.

 

leslie

 

Lesley Judd, co-presenter of BBC flagship childrens show Blue Peter, from the classic line-up of Judd, Singleton, Noakes & Purves

 

 

 

 

Half Man Half Biscuit – Time Flies By (When You’re The Driver Of A Train)

M&G_218775_L

As featured: Pugh, Pugh, Barney McGrew, Cuthbert, Dibble and Grub, stars of animated TV show Trumpton. After the series ended, McGrew, Dibble and one of the Pugh boys made ends meet by stripping. (Are you sure about this? – Ed)

 

Half Man Half Biscuit – The Len Ganley Stance

Len-Ganley

As featured: Len Ganley, bequiffed snooker referee and style icon.

 

 

 

 

Half Man Half Biscuit – I Love You Because (You Look Like Jim Reeves)

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As featured: Jim Reeves, American country singer known as Gentleman Jim

 

 

 

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Peggy Mount: English actor, probably best known for starring in sit-com “George & the Dragon” with Sid James. You can probably work out a) the basic plotline of every show, and b) which part she played.

 

 

osO0yNP

Arctic Roll, popular pudding in the 1970s. This post would have appeared a lot sooner had I not decided to go and buy one the moment I saw this picture.

 

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Shake n’ Vac, popular carpet freshener from the 1970s, when this advert set hearts a-racing:

 

 

and as covered by Snuff, here:

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Snuff – Shake n’ Vac

And finally:

Half Man Half Biscuit – Reflections In A Flat

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As featured:

Echo & the Bunnymen: Liverpudlian trench coat salesmen

 

 

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Ali Bongo: children’s entertainer, good at contortionism

 

 

 

 

david_nixon

David Nixon: not as good as Ali Bongo

 

 

And I’m mightily relieved to have got through all of those, and realised I don’t appear to have pinched a single description from those presented on the back cover of the album, just about legible here:

il_570xN_1110292233_1b16 (2)

More soon.

Four

Logging into the blog this evening, I see I have a new notification pending. Probably a suggestion for The Chain, thinks I.

I click the icon, and the notification opens:

FourBlimey, is it??

I check the first post I ever wrote. It is dated 21st September 2013.

You’re a day late, WordPress. Sort it out.

Ordinarily, I’d post The Wedding Present version of “Happy Birthday” at this point, but instead, and remembering I started a new series the other week about songs with numbers in the title/and or involve counting, this:

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Half Man Half Biscuit – Four Skinny Indie Kids

More soon.

A Mix-Tape Maker’s Best Friend #4

I’ve not written one of these for a while, and a couple of things prompted me to dig out today’s compilation CD.

Firstly, on this week’s edition of The Chain, Alex G suggested a track by All About Eve, which reminded me that I had bought a compilation album entitled CD88 back in 1988 that had a track by them on it.

Secondly, I found that the ever wonderful Cherry Red Records have released a triple CD of Indie tracks from 1988, entitled C88, which, looking at the track-listing has just entered my list of must-get albums at number one.

CD88 was one of a long series of Indie Top 20 albums released by Beechwood Music Ltd which started back in 1987 and ran into the mid-1990s. There’s a pretty wonderful and comprehensive blog which focuses on these albums here.

The albums were released two or three times a year, with the occasional Best of the Year editions thrown in every now and then for good measure. CD88 was one such volume, sort of. For it’s important not to be misled by the title: it’s not a Best of the Indie tracks which were released in 1988, it’s a Best of Indie tracks which was released in 1988. Confused? Let me put it another way: it covers the first five volumes of the Indie Top 20 compilations, which were released in 1987 and 1988.

Here’s what it says on the booklet that accompanies the CD (which, I have found when writing this, also got a vinyl release):

“CD88 is a testament to the vital role played by the independent chart. Many of these hit singles have never been and might never be available on CD elsewhere.

CD88 is a collection of outstanding singles that have since become indie classics, and for many, subsequently served as the springboard from their Independent roots to major label and Gallup chart status.

Each track is chosen from the successful Indie Top 20 compilations, plus four classic tracks previously not included in the series. Indie Top 20 is released every three months to highlight the best of the new singles which have made a high impact on the National Independent Chart.”

It’s funny when you find yourself getting all wistful and nostalgic at the mere mention of the Gallup charts, isn’t it?

Anyway, I was going to just post the songs that I love from this compilation – a Best of the Best, if you will – but, on reflection, have them all, along with their original artwork. Perversely, for an album celebrating the Indie Top 20, there are only nineteen songs on it:

cd88

All About Eve – Our Summer

I’m not a massive fan of All About Eve (the band, not the film, or The Wedding Present track), but this is okay enough, and definitely fits the “before they were famous” mould that defines many of the acts/songs here, for this record reached the giddy heights of #87 in the UK charts in 1987.

Cardiacs – Is This The Life

If you’ve ever wondered where Chain Gang regular The Robster got the inspiration for the title of his excellent blog, then look no further.

As well as making me think of Rob, this record always reminds me of my first year at college, when me and my buddies would traipse along to the Student’s Union every other Tuesday to attend “Funk Off”, the Indie Night, and it was here that I first heard this tune.

This was before I started DJing there myself – I wrote about how I started DJ’ing at college, and how the chap who taught me to DJ had introduced me to quite a few records (here) and this is one of them – and one of the resident DJs, Jolly Jim, had played it; generally someone in our gang would be able to tell you what a record was if you didn’t know, but this one drew blank looks from everyone. I couldn’t not know, so I nervously shuffled up to the DJ booth which would soon become practically my second home.

“‘Scuse me mate,” I called to Jim. “What’s this record?”

Jim looked at me with some mixture of surprise and joy; surprise because admitting you didn’t know a record was definitely not considered a cool thing to do at Funk Off, and joy because he was able to impart some wisdom.

So the Cardiacs track was probably the one most responsible for me buying this album in the first place. If you’ve never heard this one before, I urge you to give it a listen (Part 1 of 2).

Fields of the Nephilim – Preacher Man

Goths, but Goths By Numbers. Wannabe Eldritches. That’s all I got.

Danielle Dax – Cat-House

This, on the other hand, is another absolute belter of a forgotten track. Although, having said that, a few years ago, Hel and I DJ’d a couple of times at the now defunct Mucky Pup bar in Islington. I happened to be there on a night when we weren’t playing, and was staggered when the DJ played this, partly because I was annoyed that I hadn’t played it the week before, but mostly because I genuinely didn’t think anyone else remembered it, much less did I expect to meet anyone else who did. As it played, I spoke to the DJ, commending him on his choice. He looked at me with an air of bafflement. “You know this record??” he asked. Oh yes. If you’ve never heard this one before, I urge you to give it a listen (Part 2 of 2).

Crazyhead – Baby Turpentine

This lot cropped up on my Replenishing the Vinyl series a couple of weeks ago, and The Robster left a comment about how this was his favourite track by them. Mine too, mate, mine too.

The Wedding Present – Nobody’s Twisting Your Arm

In the late 1980s, no Indie compilation worth it’s salt was without a track by The Wedding Present, a band who I still love to this day, as I have mentioned many, many times on these pages. This is one of their greatest (early) singles. Take it away, Grapper!

The Soup Dragons – Hang Ten!

Ditto: The Soup Dragons, whilst they were still in their playful pop mode, as they were here. Many happy memories of pogoing around the Students Union dancefloor to this one.

The Rose of Avalanche – Velveteen

Not really my cup of tea, this one, though it’s one of my brother’s favourites, so at least he’ll get chance to hear it again.

Half Man Half Biscuit – Dickie Davies Eyes

Any excuse to blow the dust of this one.

Michelle Shocked – Fog Town

Thankfully, the version lifted from The Texas Campfire Tapes, rather than the (nowhere near as good) rock version which crops up as a bonus track on Short Sharp Shocked.

The Chesterfields – Ask Johnny Dee

My old mate Rich got in touch after I last posted a track by this lot to tell me that this tune reminded him of when we were kids listening to records in my bedroom. I’m not sure there’s a finer definition of late 80s jangly indie pop than that.

Wire – Kidney Bingos

I’d never heard of Wire before I picked this CD up, but this is great. Not as great as similar period Eardrum Buzz and nowhere near as good as their earlier stuff, but a bad Wire record is still a pretty good Wire record in my book.

Bradford – Skin Storm

This lot were, not least because of the blessing they received from one Steven Patrick Morrissey, once tipped to be the next big thing, but it never happened for them. Mostly because every other record of there’s seemed to sound almost exactly like this, but not as good.

Sweet Honey In The Rock – Chile Your Waters Run Red Through Soweto

Perhaps the surprise inclusion on this compilation. Nowadays, this would doubtless attract sneery comments about diversity targets being met, but that would detract from the fact that this is a brave and beautiful political record, latterly covered by Billy Bragg.

A Certain Ratio – Mickey Way (The Candy Bar)

Manchester legends, who I’ve never really got into for some reason. My loss, I’d imagine. And having just listened to that for the first time in god knows how many years, it is pretty ace.

Ciccone Youth – Into The Groovy

A side project of the Sonic Youth gang, plus Firehose and Minutemen member Mike Watt and J Mascis from Dinosaur Jr, taken from a tongue in cheek tribute to Madonna which I’m not going to name as I have a sneaky feeling that if I did, it might crop up again on these pages quite soon….

The Beloved – Forever Dancing

From before they became successful, one listen to this will tell you why commercial success eluded them for another year or so.

The Shamen – Jesus Loves Amerika

The sound of another band, soon to be quite large indeed, still honing their musical sound. The deliberate mis-spelling of America is, I suspect, making a point still relevant today.

Pop Will Eat Itself – There Is No Love Between Us Anymore

Taken from Box Frenzy, their first album where they stepped away from their grebo sound and started using samplers.

One last thing before I go: this compilation holds a special place in my heart, for it was the first record of many that I ever bought in the oldest record shop in the world, Cardiff’s “Spillers Records”, a store which became a regular haunt for me over the following twenty years. It’s moved premises since I last lived in Cardiff, but this is how I remember it:

spillers-2

Now that’s a proper record shop. And now I’m getting all wistful and nostalgic again.

You can read about it here, or, better still, go here and spend a few quid to keep them going.

More soon.