Late Night Stargazing

Released in 1969, For Lovers is an album credited to The San Sebastian Strings, with the sub-credit: Music by Anita Kerr, Words by Rod McKuen.

In fact, the album is some of McKuen’s poetry, set to music by Kerr, with the music performed by The San Sebastian Strings, whilst McKuen himself provides the spoken word recitals.

This is the opening track from the second side of the record:

The San Sebastian Strings – Why I Follow the Tigers

In 1998, McKuen and Kerr found themselves earning a rather surprising writing credit on Madonn’a seventh studio album, Ray of Light, which she produced with Wiliam Orbit, when a sample from Why I Follow the Tigers was used on this little beauty:

Madonna – Drowned World/Substitute For Love

You could say that whilst there may be a massive queue to see Her Maj laying in state at the moment, there’s considerably less waiting time should you want to hear something by the Queen of Reinvention, Her Madge.

More soon.

Friday Night Music Club

Right. Time for an explanation.

Tonight’s mix is not the one I had planned to post.

The one I had prepared was a little too upbeat for such a momentous weekend; whilst I personally won’t be joining in the nation’s mouring, I didn’t want to disrespect those that are.

And so I decided to create a mix “on the fly”; I decided what the first and last track would be, and then started recording as I journeyed from one to the other.

I tell you this instead of offering sleeve notes, as there will doubtless be those who think some of my selections are….disrespectful. That wasn’t the intention. The intention was simply to pick tunes which sounded good next to each other – any which may seem to have been chosen as some sort of comment on any recent high profile passings are entirely coincidental.

Honest.

So let’s crack on, shall we?

(By the way, because this mix is just shy of 2 hours, Google Drive can’t cope and won’t let me upload it, so the link below takes you to my old Soundcloud account. Hope it works ok!)

Friday Night Music Club Vol 18

  1. Beastie Boys featuring Miho Hatori – Start
  2. Cilla Black – Something Tells Me (Something’s Gonna Happen Tonight)
  3. Luther Vandross – Never Too Much
  4. Womack & Womack – Teardrops
  5. Gary Byrd & The G.B. Experience – The Crown
  6. Catatonia – Karaoke Queen
  7. Marilyn Monroe – Diamonds Are A Girl’s Best Friend
  8. Madonna – Material Girl
  9. Annie – I Know UR Girlfriend Hates Me
  10. Avril Lavigne – Girlfriend
  11. The B-52’s – Wig
  12. David Bowie – Queen Bitch
  13. Carole King – I Feel The Earth Move
  14. Eddy Arnold – I’m Throwing Rice (At The Girl I Love)
  15. Half Man Half Biscuit – Paintballs Coming Home (Andy Kershaw Session)
  16. The Ukrainians – Koroleva Ne Polerma
  17. Status Quo – Gentleman Joe’s Sidewalk Cafe
  18. Beyond the Wizard’s Sleeve – Midas Reversed
  19. Barry Adamson – Set The Controls For The Heart Of The Pelvis
  20. Pulp – Mis-Shapes
  21. China Crisis – King in a Catholic Style
  22. Doves – Kingdom of Rust
  23. Black Grape – Tramazi Parti
  24. Beck – E-Pro
  25. Nirvana – Lithium
  26. PJ Harvey – 50ft Queenie
  27. Pixies – Planet of Sound
  28. Supergrass – Richard III
  29. Gene – We Could Be Kings (Single Edit)
  30. The Teardrop Explodes – Treason
  31. The Stranglers – Everybody Loves You When You’re Dead
  32. ? & The Mysterians – 96 Tears
  33. Inspiral Carpets – Dragging Me Down
  34. The Jam – Town Called Malice

That should keep you occupied for a while.

More soon.

Friday Night Music Club

Tonight, in a week where confessions are back in vogue, even if they’re not entirely sincere, some answers for you.

Chiefly: what exactly was I up to at the end of last year when I didn’t post anything for a couple of months?

Well, for a start, I definitely wasn’t attending a jolly at Downing Street. Oh no. But if I was, I reckon I’d be able to identify it as a jolly, and not claim to have thought it was a working meeting. For a start, in either case, what the hell would I be doing there? I have no idea how to govern a country…..oh. Fair point.

Long time readers will recall that I moved house at the start of October, out of That London to the glorious environment that is Peterborough (I’m currently reading comedian and actor Miles Jupp’s hilarious Fibber in the Heat which contains this description of Indian city Nagpur: All that I can say about it at first glance is that it was like an Indian version of Crewe or Peterborough – somewhere that you would only really visit deliberately if you were hoping to experience the sensation of changing trains which made me laugh a lot) and me and my conscience couldn’t square off writing bloggy things when I really should be unpacking and sorting my new home out. So I set myself a rule: no more blogging until I’ve got my new place sorted.

What this failed to take into account was a) how lazy I am, and b) how much I like to take drink on a Friday night, which is when I usually write most of my posts. Yes, that means that much of what you read here has been prepared when I’m if not drunk, then I’m very much on the way. Which may explain some of the choices I’ve made about what I think is a good idea to write about.

To get round this self-imposed embargo, Friday nights were spent putting together a new playlist, the idea being that it would trumpet my return to the blogging arena. But it turns out, I’m a man who needs a deadline, for the playlist in question grew and grew and grew and got tweaked and rearranged every Friday night until eventually I had a mixed set I was pretty happy with.

The only problem was that it was over 6 hours long, at which point I took on board a previous comment from Swiss Adam over at Bagging Area once left for me: “I enjoy doing long mixes too but sometimes wonder whether people have the time to commit to listening to them.”

Which is an absolutely fair point; the mixes I do are meant to accompany a stay-at-home-Friday-night, but I also very much appreciate that 6 hours is a) a lot of time to invest in a playlist poorly mixed by a drunken oaf, b) a lot of time to be drinking at home (you lightweights), and c) I’m up against some stiff competition, what with every celebrity in the world doing some podcast about puddings they like or favourite trousers they once owned or some such.

So, I’ve split said mix down into six constituent parts, all around a much more manageable hour (or so) long each. If you’ve downloaded previous playlists, they should still work as a whole, whilst also working as an individual mix in its own right.

Tonight, the first part, which is probably the most disparate of the lot. A good chunk of it is very pop, but before we get there, we go a little bit crusty, and also tip a hat at a feature JC briefly did over at The Vinyl Villain, where for a short time he featured bands who never quite made the grade, and which he called – quite brilliantly and appropriately – “Indie Landfill”.

Whilst I was disappointed when JC called a halt to this series, I understood where he was coming from in doing so. In his book 31 Songs, Nick Hornby talks about how it’s so much easier to write about records you don’t like than explain what it is about songs you do. JC’s justification was that it was all a bit too negative for a blog about records he loves, which is absolutely fair enough.

But I thought the Indie Landfill idea was something someone could have a lot of fun with, so I did toy with the idea of asking JC if I could take over the series, but then remembered that about five years ago I promised him I’d contribute something about The Wonder Stuff for his wonderful ICA (Imaginary Compilation Album) series which I never delivered on, so decided against it. JC, if you’re reading this, the offer’s there. There are three consecutive candidates for inclusion towards the start of this mix. You’ll spot them, I’m sure.

So, on to tonight’s mix, the first in a series of six which I’ll post over the next six weeks, and, assuming I’ve done more in the meantime, I’ll continue afterwards.

Usual disclaimer: any skips and jumps are down to the mixing software; any mis-timed mixes are down to me.

One thing to add: the first record in this mix got added at the last minute. I’ve not had time to write a piece about the brilliance that was Ronnie Spector, who passed away this week, so I figured I’d honour her by letting her most famous record kick this mammoth playlist off. This does not mean I now like the film Dirty Dancing, which remains the source of my most embarrassing moment.

And in any event, Swiss Adam has put it far better than I ever could, here.

Ladies and Gentleman, listen to this and raise a glass to Ronnie:

Friday Night Music Club Vol 6.1

And here’s the track listing (and I should explain – the third track: I’m not a fan, it’s there purely as a response to the second…awww, you know how I do things by now…):

  • The Ronettes – Be My Baby
  • The Beloved – Hello
  • Roxette – Joyride
  • Boy Kill Boy – Suzie
  • Chapel Club – All The Eastern Girls
  • Reverend And The Makers – Heavyweight Champion Of The World
  • New Model Army – Vagabonds
  • The Levellers – 15 Years
  • The Charlatans – Weirdo
  • Paris Angels – Scope
  • Madonna – Hung Up
  • Estelle (Feat. Kanye West) – American Boy
  • Rachel Stevens – Sweet Dreams (My L.A. Ex)
  • Rihanna – S.O.S.
  • Girls Aloud –Biology
  • Stereolab – French Disco
  • Wet Leg – Wet Dream

More soon (specifically: Vol 6.2 this time next week)

Friday Night Music Club

For quite some time now, I’ve been pondering what it is that is preventing me from posting with the same regularity as I was last year.

I’ve worked it out.

Regular readers will know that I generally sit on a Friday night, have a few drinks and write posts for the next week. But for a while now, I’ve become preoccupied on doing a new mix.

Warning: artist at work excuse incoming.

See, whilst they seem remarkably unpopular, I really enjoy piecing together a long playlist/mix/call it what you will, and that inevitably means a few drafts which don’t quite, to quote Echo & The Bunnymen, cut the mustard.

So, I’ve been working on this mix for some time now, but somehow something always seemed to prevent me from finishing it, be it me tinkering with the running order, or thinking of new tunes to toss in, or some kind of technical calamity, or (more often) listening to it and realising I’ve utterly messed up a mix and I simply can’t bear to have anyone else listen to it.

I’m not going to pretend all of the mixes between tunes here are perfect – there’s at least one which I know isn’t – but I’ve reached the point where it’s close enough to let it go and move on to something else, before I drive myself mad searching for perfection.

So here’s my latest mix, imperfect though it may be; frustrating as it has been, I really like this one, which starts off in the usual way – slowly – before getting into a groove which includes Kings of Leon from before they went stadium and knew how to use a cowbell, a new(ish) track by The Chemical Brothers, an obligatory Soulwax remix, two of the finest female pop stars going: Miley Cyrus & Dua Lipa (not on the same tune, sadly), the occasional hidden ‘joke’ (by which I mean it seemed funny when I first put the songs together, less so now), via Madonna having a short chat with Johnny Cash.

It’s the usual mix of songs you love, songs you’ve forgotten about, and songs which make you think “What the hell has he put this on here for??”. Some might say eclectic, but I couldn’t possibly comment. Think mainly Indie guitar stuff, with a few dance tunes, 80s pop songs and a couple of timeless classics – at least one of which you probably won’t have heard before – thrown in.

As always, no track-listing – I like to imagine your faces when the next song kicks in – but there’s a list of featured artists on the right hand side in case you want to see what you’re letting yourself in for. Which is a treat, obviously. If you desperately need to know what a track is, either Shazam it or, if you’d like to feed my ego, ask me via the Comments at the bottom of this post.

Usual disclaimer: any skips and jumps are down to the mixing software; any mis-timed mixes (and, as I say, there is at least one) is down to me. Either way: Sorry!

One more thing: you may recall that last time out I mentioned that my brother had said he managed to predict what I was going to play next, which annoyed me greatly. No such criticism of the last mix, although he told me he listened to it whilst out on his morning run, so some of the sudden gear changes weren’t helpful. I’ve tried to rectify that this time, with a relatively steady beat and tempo maintained throughout (after you’ve got past the traditional slow start) for those of you who listen to this whilst doing your exercises (not that I really understand what that means). The danger was that it would denigrate into either a Ministry of Sound pumping dance mix or a Top Gear/Best Driving Songs…in the World…Ever! playlist, but I think the song choices just about keep us on the right side of that happening.

Let’s say it starts slowly, gets into a groove, and then has more false endings than a Status Quo single.

I’m a bit annoyed that since I first decided to include it, at least on song here has popped up in an advert – and you know how I feel about them – for burgers, of all things. Rest assured, the advert in question was not the inspiration for the song’s inclusion. You’ll know it when you hear it, I think.

Oh and there are several songs which feature effing and jeffings – “sexual swear words” as Simon Bates used to say at the start of videos – so please avoid if you are easily offended by unfettered vulgarity and sauciness. Look, there’s a Goldie Lookin’ Chain tune which is probably the rudest and most inappropriate (but funny) thing I’ll ever post, so beware.

For a limited time (until I do another one, so y’know, could be months), you can stream or download it via Soundcloud here.

More soon.

Late Night Stargazing

I’m continuing to greatly enjoy the reruns of Top of the Pops on BBC4, and recently tonight’s song cropped up, one which I loved at the time, and which I bought on the album True Blue at the time, and have recently rebought on vinyl.

It still sounds great, if very 1986, today I reckon.

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Madonna – Live To Tell

More soon.

The Return of Friday Night Music Club

It’s Bank Holiday Weekend here in the UK, which can mean only one thing: being stuck in the house, watching television, whilst the rain buckets down outside until it’s time to go back to work again on Tuesday.

Which leads me onto the theme for this week, and for the next couple of weeks: Songs With The Same Name As Television Programmes, But Which Are Not The Actual Theme Tune, Or A Cover Version Of The Theme Tune Of The Programme In Question.

Catchy, eh?

With a sub-title that long, you can’t really be all that surprised to learn that this one is going to take more than one week to get through….

And where better to start than here:

the-rezillos-top-of-the-pops-sire

232. The Rezillos – Top Of The Pops

Released in 1978, and peaking in the UK chart at 17, this new wave classic earned the group an appearance on the very show that the lyrics so roundly criticise. There’s an interesting bit of pop history about the line up too: each band member had a stage name and one, Jo Calles (a.k.a. Luke Warm), after the group split up in late 1978, went on to form Shake with, amongst others, Troy Tate, a name many of you will recognise partly from him later appearing in Julian Cope’s band Teardrop Explodes, and many more will recognise as the producer of the original cut of The Smiths’ debut album, which was ditched in favour of the mix provided by John Porter. After Shake split, Callis went on to join Human League, just in time to co-write their classic “Don’t You Want Me”. There you go, don’t say you never learn anything around here.

And just to prove that The Rezillos “Top of the Pops” was neither the actual theme nor a cover of the theme to the show in question (see, I’ve already heavily edited this subtitle), get your laughing gear around this little montage:

Moving on, here’s one of my favourite singles from the mid-90s “Britpop” era:

kung-fu-foci---ash_3172453a

233. Ash – Kung Fu

The title is lifted not just from the erroneously used term for Chinese martial arts (the original meaning is any study, learning, or practice that requires patience, energy, and time to complete – see, entertaining and informative, me), but also the American TV series which ran from 1972 – 1975, and starred David Carradine as a Shaolin monk called Kwai Chang Caine. The part was originally intended for some chap called Bruce Lee, only for the TV studios to duck out of casting an Asian and cast non-Asian Carradine instead. The 70s, eh? Gotta love ’em.

Having spent much of his subsequent life appearing in frankly duff straight to video B-movies such as Deathrace 2000, Safari 3000, and Night Rhythms, Carradine’s career was going through something of a renaissance following his appearance in Tarantino’s 2004 “Kill Bill: Volumes 1 & 2”, At least it was, until 2009 when he died suddenly in a hotel room in Thailand, apparently killed by the same thing as allegedly killed Michael Hutchence: the old “erotic asphyxiation” routine, which I shall not be demonstrating for you any time soon.

Here’s the title credits, featuring not just David Carradine, but Keith too:

But there’s another popular culture moment involved with the Ash single: the sleeve, which captures that moment back in 1995 when Manchester United’s Eric Cantona, having just been sent off during a match against Crystal Palace, got ever so slightly upset by some comments from the crowd:

This, inevitably, led to a lengthy ban from the game for Cantona, and to this very brief press conference statement which I often see people describe as being confusing:

Now, I do not claim to be a man blessed with profound intellect, but that’s not really that hard to understand, is it?

Anyway, on May 21st 2016, Manchester United and Crystal Palace will meet each other in this year’s FA Cup Final, and there’s the teensiest part of me that hopes one of the participants decides to re-enact the Cantona moment. My money’s on Palace boss Alan Pardew, whose got a bit of form in the losing his rag stakes. Him, or United’s Marouane Fellaini, who I’m sure you could wind up pretty easily if you asked him when the new series of Saved By the Bell is going to start enough times.

But I digress. Some more Britpop tuneage next:

Sleeper-Sale-Of-The-Centu-114263

234. Sleeper – Sale of the Century

Sleeper will feature many more times on these here pages, so we’ll jump straight to the TV show from whence the title is ripped:

I bet there’s quite a few people my age and older who went a tad misty-eyed at the sight of Anglia Television’s silver knight at the start of the clip.

But, oh! Times have certainly changed in the world of TV game shows, haven’t they?

That’s broadcasting stalwart Nicholas Parsons doing the hosting duties; he can still be heard hosting Radio 4’s wonderful parlour game/panel show “Just A Minute”, and, at the age of 92 as I write this, he seems to be in possession of just as many of his faculties now as he was back then. Take that in whatever way you wish.

But Sale of the Century has a dark secret. For it was here that the Dark Overlord himself made his first TV appearance:

So, y’know, cheers for that Anglia Television.

In 1975, David Bowie released “Young Americans”; you don’t need me to tell you what an incredible album that is, or to tell you that this was one of the singles lifted from it:

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235. David Bowie – Fame

Okay, so this is a bit of a cheat by me, since the Bowie single pre-dates the 1980 Alan Parker directed movie of the same name by five years:

…and the 1982 TV series by the same name by seven years:

…but any excuse to post a bit of Bowie, eh?

It also gives me the excuse to link to this 24 carat cheese nugget:

Bruno was no singer, was he?

In 1969, the BBC launched a show about holiday destinations, called “Holiday ’69”. (Stop it…..!!). The show ran until 2007, but in the 1990s, they dropped the year from the title, making it just plain old “Holiday”. Which is lucky, as surprisingly Madonna never recorded a song called “Holiday ’69” (she left that kind of grubbiness to Bryan Adams):

1983-holiday

236. Madonna – Holiday

Back when I was at college, there was a quiz held in the Students’ Union every other Tuesday which a couple of mates and I used to regularly enter (and which I ended up hosting). The Students Union had invested in a karaoke machine – quite the new-fangled gadget at the arse-end of the 1980s – but were struggling to come up with occasions on which it could be used. So, at the end of each round of the quiz, it was decided that one member from the team with – now, I want to say the highest, but in reality, it was probably the lowest – score was invited up on stage to perform a song of the host’s choice.

My fellow team-mates were considerably less stage-shy than I, so on the two occasions that one of us had to go on stage, it was me that bowed to public pressure. The relevance of this is that on one of these occasions, it was Madonna’s “Holiday” that I was obliged to perform (on the other occasion, it was The Police’s “Walking On The Moon”, just in case you’re interested). I delivered both in a dead-pan, spoken style, a la Ted Chippington.

“Who’s Ted Chippington?” I hear you ask.

This is Ted Chippington:

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Ted Chippington – The Wanderer

“Oh THAT Ted Chippington”, I hear you reply, looking none-the-wiser.

Don’t worry yourself about him now, he’ll crop up again on these pages in a lot more depth at some point or another.

So, with the BBC having a show about potential holiday destinations – which, if memory serves me right from my younger days, seemed to feature a pleasing amount of footage of continental topless beaches – ITV decided to get in on the act with a rival show, called “Wish You Were Here?”. We know a song about that too, don’t we?

Pink_Floyd,_Wish_You_Were_Here_(1975)

237. Pink Floyd – Wish You Were Here

Ok time to wrap things up for this week, and here’s the finest example of a song having the same name as a TV show, but this is another cheat by me as it is clearly named after and references the show in question. But it gives me a chance to play some Divine Comedy, and a lesser known track by them too:

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238. The Divine Comedy – Arthur C. Clarke’s Mysterious World

And just so you know that neither me nor The Divine Comedy main-man Neil Hannon are losing our marbles:

That’ll do you for this week.

More soon.

How Not To Do a Cover Version

I’d decided to put this thread on ice. “If you’ve got nothing good to say, perhaps it’s better to say nothing at all”, I thought.

Plus I was struggling to think of any more truly awful cover versions (suggestions welcome!)

But then when I was writing this week’s “Friday Night Music Club” one just fell into my lap.

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Madonna – American Pie

Now. Don’t get me wrong. I love a bit of Madge, me. Whilst I might struggle to find much to love in her recent output, I cannot deny that for around twenty years or so, from say 1984’s “Like a Virgin” album onwards (and yes, I know there was an album before that), she was incredibly influential, released stone-cold classic after stone-cold classic (and, admittedly, a few clunkers), many of which I own, and which deservedly made her one of the most iconic and enduring pop stars in history.

But for me, her decision to cover “American Pie” marked the point where she began to go off the boil. It’s taken from the 2000 movie “The Next Best Thing” (nope, me neither) in which she starred alongside Rupert Everett. She won an award for it, it says here. Ah, it was a Razzie for Worst Actress though.

For a start her version is much shorter than the original, containing just the beginning of the first verse and all of the second and sixth verses, which does makes we wonder what the point was. The song’s meaning is puzzling enough as it is (the song’s composer would rarely elucidate: “You will find many interpretations of my lyrics but none of them by me … Sorry to leave you all on your own like this but long ago I realized that songwriters should make their statements and move on, maintaining a dignified silence.”) without slicing off over 50% of it. The NME, mind you, considered this a blessing, calling it: “sub-karaoke fluff” and adding “it’s a blessing she didn’t bother recording the whole thing.”

Play me the original though, and I’m reminded of when I was learning to play the guitar and shelled out on the sheet music for the song; back then I was working at a motorway café and after hours those of us who’d been on the late shift would end up at one of our houses, having a few beers and singing along to records (usually Simon & Garfunkel and The Carpenters, partly because they were the ones that most people knew most of the words to, and partly because there’s some fricking great tunes in there). Every now and then, when my parents were out of town, we’d end up at mine and I’d be coaxed into getting my acoustic out. Inevitably, I’d play this, on the condition that someone turned the pages of the music book for me. I would have been 17 or 18 then, without a care in the world. Great days.

Later, when I lived in Cardiff, we would end up of a Friday night in “Branningans”, one of those cheesy bar-come-clubs that attracts after-work groups, since they’re unlikely to play anything that such inevitably disparate groups could object to, and around 10:00pm every week the original of “American Pie” would get played, the shorter, single version. The first time it happened I was surprised – it’s not exactly a floor filler. But when you’ve been drinking since 5:00pm, 10:00pm is a significant point in the evening – it’s when you’re just bladdered enough to let your defences down enough to join in a mass communal sing-song. And let me tell you, if you’re going to indulge in a late night sing-a-long in public, you could do a lot worse than heading to Wales. Land of the song, see?

Anyway, this would have been around 2001-ish, and I can categorically say that not once did I hear the Madonna version being played, and there’s a reason for that: it’s just not as good, is it?

Judge for yourself. Here in all of it’s 08:36 glory, is the original version:

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Don McLean – American Pie

More soon.

Friday Night Music Club

Week Three and we’re ticking along nicely and we’re segueing nicely into a little 80s and 80s-ish period.

dubbegood Beats International – Dub Be Good To Me

R-102690-1170019469_jpeg Freakpower – Turn On, Tune in, Cop Out

R-88784-1252781781_jpeg Moloko – Pure Pleasure Seeker

Intothegroovesinglecover Madonna – Into The Groove

c4d72c66 La Roux – Uptight Downtown

More next week!