I Am The Voice, Too

One of the girls who works on the Internal Audit team at work came over to us this afternoon, and asked who had been speaking to staff from one of the schools in the Borough recently. My colleague and I looked blankly at each other, neither of us able to recall.

The girl – for the sake of anonymity, let’s call her Laura – told us that she had visited the school recently, and had asked them how they found it when they had cause to contact the Council (which is where I work, by the way). The answer had been that they had spoken to a man on our section (there are only two of us) who’d been very helpful; Laura wanted to pass on their kind words, but wanted to make sure the commendation went to the right person.

She had given both of our names to the lady at the school, but that hadn’t helped.

“In the end,” Laura said, “I asked whether or not the person she spoke to sounded like the man who does the voice-over on The X-Factor.”

“Which one of us is that?” I laughed.

Laura just stared at me.

“You,” she said.

So apparently, I sound like this bloke:

Now, as you know I’m no fan of The X-Factor, but even I’ve heard that voice before. Thing is, I’d always thought it was Patrick Allen (until I discovered, whilst writing this, that he’s dead, and has been since 2006). Allen is the chap who featured in this series of 1970s adverts :

“You can choose a house for as little as £14.00 a week.” Blimey. Good job none of the major political parties wants to take us back to the 1970s, what with all that horrible affordable housing and everything. I bet all of those houses leaned to the left.

Many of you will recognise that voice from one particular hit song:

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Frankie Goes to Hollywood – Two Tribes (12″ Extended Mix)

Readers of a certain vintage will also recognise Allen’s voice (and I don’t mean the Ronald Reagan impression, that’s Chris Barrie of Red Dwarf and The Brittas Empire fame)  as being from a series of public information films from the late 70s/early 80s, called Protect and Survive, which frankly terrified me back then:

These were released at a time when Russia and America seemed at total loggerheads, and nuclear oblivion seemed unavoidably imminent. Good job the leaders of these two countries are such great mates now then, eh? (Allegedly.) (Actually, not even allegedly. Definitely.)

Anyway, I digress. I asked Laura to clarify what she meant, and she chirpily advised us that I have a very deep and distinctive voice.

Which is true, so I’m told. By which I mean: it doesn’t sound deep to me, in my head, but it has been commented on several times in the past. I’ve always put that down to a life-time of ill-advisedly having a rough fag in my mouth. (Note to any American readers: a fag is what we call a cigarette over here in the UK).

Most notably, there was a New Year’s Party that Hel and I threw at our old flat a few years ago.

At the time, we were living in what I guess you’d call a maisonette; we lived above a couple who were in, at a guess, their 50s – for the sake of anonymity, let’s call then Barry and Babs.

Barry and Babs lived on the ground floor, and we had the two floors above them.

Thing is, our living room was directly above their bedroom, so, since the sofas had been pushed back against the walls to free up the wooden floorboards/dance floor, we thought it only right that we gave them fair warning of the impending party, and of course extended an invitation to them, safe in the knowledge that, whilst we got on with them in a neighbourly kind of way, they were very unlikely to accept.

At around 3.30am on New Year’s Day, with our party still in full swing, we heard a knock at our front door. It was Barry and Babs, home from their own night out, and despite being quite worse for wear, definitely not ready for bed just yet.

It was blatantly obvious that the party was still happening, so we couldn’t really turn them away. Up the stairs and into to our flat they staggered.

A short time later, I was sitting chatting to Babs.

“You have a very deep voice, you know,” she said.

“Blimey, I am so sorry: can you hear me through the living room floor?” I apologised. “I’ll try to keep it down from now on.”

“Oh no no no no no no, don’t do that,” said our Babs quickly. “It’s quite nice hearing your voice when I’m laying in bed.”

Bit awkward.

I looked around for an escape route.

Babs broke the silence.

“Are you quite vocal during sex?” she asked.

“To be honest,” I replied “I can’t remember. If it ever happens again, I’ll let you know.”

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Marilyn – Calling Your Name

Yes, I know I’ve posted that song before, but it’s a belter and seemed rather appropriate.

More soon.

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Calling Your Name

Over at JC’s ever-glorious place today, the latest in his Saturday’s Scottish Song is a tune by Bronski Beat, and JC of course describes their “The Age of Consent” album as “incredibly brave and groundbreaking”  (and I mean ‘of course’ in the sense that he is 100% correct, rather than in the sense of “predictably”, followed by a weary sigh and a rolling of the eyes).

In the early 1980s, there suddenly seemed to be a lot more openly gay pop stars, and Bronski Beat were arguably the most important; not only did they write songs about being gay in a community that wasn’t exactly “gay-friendly” (I’m thinking of “Smalltown Boy” here, as potent, powerful and emotional a record all these years later as it was the first time I heard it), but they also portrayed an image which, as far as I’m aware, had not been done before: that there wasn’t necessarily anything out of the ordinary about gay men.

Out and proud musicians were not a new thing in the early 1980s – we’d had Disco for several years – but up until then gay men in pop music, and probably in popular culture more generally, had always been portrayed as camp, incredibly flamboyant, or both. (see: Divine, Sylvester, or Boy George).

But here, with Bronski Beat, were three blokes who just happened to be gay, who looked like any other blokes you might see on the street, and who, although Smalltown Boy and The Age of Consent are undoubtedly very political records, just wanted to make great pop songs. What Bronski Beat taught us was that one’s sexual preference makes no difference, other than providing a different perspective from which to comment on things.

I mention this, and Boy George in passing, because I read a fascinating article by Alexis Petridis in The Grauniad the other day (apologies, I always refer to it as such due to its fabled propensity for failing to spot basic spelling mistakes and grammatical errors pre-publication). Petridis is one of my favourite music journalists, a view probably somewhat coloured by the fact he was the first famous person (if being a Grauniad journo counts as being famous…), before I started writing this blog, to ever reply to one of my Tweets (a joke about Withnail and I, in case you’re interested). Along with JC’s kind advice on the practical points of how to do this blogging lark (of which I have written, and embarrased him, previously), Petridis’ acknowledgement that something I had sent him was funny was just as an important part in my starting to write here. This wasn’t my mates laughing at something I said down the pub, this was someone I didn’t know, who could very easily have just ignored my Tweet, responding in a positive, probably unintentionally, encouraging way.

But, as usual, I digress. The article in question was an interview with early 80s pop-pioneer and friend of Boy George (and I don’t mean that in a “Friend of Dorothy” kind of way), Marilyn.

Back in the early 1980s, both George and Marilyn were branded as “gender-benders”, which always struck me as lazy, homophobic journalism. What you’ve done there, Mr Daily Mail journo, is find a word which rhymes with gender, and hope that its use as a derogatory term, a playground cat-call, will stick. Which, annoyingly, it did.

That was part of the problem for Marilyn back in the day; his friendship with Boy George was generally construed/portayed as him hanging onto the coat-tails of his famous friend, and as George’s star descended into an unseemly mess of drug addiction and not very good records, so Marilyn’s career spiralled down the spout too.

Make no bones about it, Boy George is an integral part in the story of how gay men came to be accepted as equals in modern society, in the same way as, dated as they may seem now, people like John Inman and Larry Grayson had done in the 1970s. And when people saw Boy George and wondered out loud if “it” was a boy or a girl (there’s a clue in the name, folks), they were positively aplopeptic when they saw Marilyn. And his story is amazing, 2 parts inspirational to 1 part sad. Or maybe that should be the other way round. I’m not sure.

To say any more would be to trample all over the interview itself, which you can read here: When Alexis Met Marilyn

Given the content of my last post, there’s a certain theme (failed pop star turns into drug-addled loser) bubbling up here, and that’s not intentional. Donovan has had his moment of redemption, where the public have gone “Oh, you’re alright really, aren’t you?”. Marilyn is not as big a star as Donovan, nor has he been afforded such a luxury.

What I’m really trying to do is nudge you in the direction of this, one of the greatest, often over-looked, pop songs of the 1980s:

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Marilyn – Calling Your Name

And if you ever need convincing of just how important gay rights were in the 1980s, I urge you to watch “Pride”, an incredible film that I’ve waxed lyrical about before, and which I’m off to watch again now.

Here’s the trailer:

More soon.