It’s A Sin

I don’t normally like to binge-watch TV shows which are airing weekly, daily, whatever, on terrestrial TV; I quite enjoy the old-fashioned communal feeling, now enhanced by a hashtag on Twitter, that millions of others are watching the same thing as I am at the same time, feeling the same emotions, absorbing the same experiences.

But recently, there have been two exceptions.

Firstly, Staged. The second series (note: note season) of this was about to air on BBC1, but I’d not seen the first. Having caught some of the promotional interviews the main stars had done, I was intrigued. See, I like David Tennant, and I like Michael Sheen. But which one’s best? There’s only one way to find out:

No, wait, that’s not right.

What I meant to say is that I like David Tennant, and I like Michael Sheen, and so I had to stop for a moment and think why I hadn’t bothered with the first series. And I remembered that it was because at the time it had seemed a bit “luvvy”, a bit “I AM AN ACTOR!!” and so I had avoided it.

But since I had literally nothing else to do one Sunday, and the new series started the next day, and the first series was up on Netflix and the BBC iPlayer, and since episode was only fifteen minutes long, I figured I’d give it a go. And what an absolute treat it is.

In case you’ve not seen it, the premise is that Tennant and Sheen (or should that be Sheen and Tennant?) have been cast in a play together, which due to the Covid-crisis has been put on hold. However, the writer and producer encourages them to rehearse via Zoom calls. And that’s it.

In much the same way as Steve Coogan and Rob Bryden play exaggerated versions of themselves in The Trip, so the same is true here with Tennant and Sheen and, like The Trip, it really is very funny indeed. And it’s very meta.

The second series picks up where the first left off, but ups the meta stakes: the TV series has been a success, and is being remade for an American audience, but neither Sheen nor Tennant has been cast, as they’re not considered famous enough in America. They are, however, much against their combined wills, roped in to provide advice to the various actors being considered to play them in the USA version. There’s a whole host of brilliant cameos here, all playing the same exaggeration game. Like I said, it’s very meta.

Spoiler alert, here’s one of the many trailers (with some swears):

It does get a bit “luvvy” in one episode of the second series, but they manage to reign it back in for the subsequent episodes. A strong recommend.

The second show I’ve binge-watched, as you will have guessed by the title of this post, is Russell T. Davies’ magnificent It’s A Sin.

I can’t pretend to have seen all of his works, but I’ve really enjoyed everything I have seen by Davies, and It’s A Sin seems to be the crowning glory (not a euphemism) he has been building up to writing about since he first burst on the scene with Queer as Folk in the 90s.

Spread over a ten year period, it opens in 1981, with a group of friends who share a house in London: Ritchie (played by Olly Alexander from current pop group Years and Years, who is an absolute revelation); his best friend Jill (Lydia West, who I’ve seen being tipped as the next Dr Who, and if they don’t pick Matt King/Super Hans then they could do a lot worse); Roscoe (Omari Douglas), Colin (Callum Scott Howells); and Ash (Nathaniel Curtis). I’ve singled out Alexander there, but truthfully there isn’t one duff performance amongst them.

As well as these young ‘uns there are some wonderful appearances by the likes of Stephen Fry, as a Conservative MP with a…er..soft spot for young black men; Tracy Ann Oberman as Ritchie’s agent; Neil Patrick Harris, who you will know from either 80s US-series Dougie Howser MD, or, from a brief appearance in Gone Girl, or if you’re really unlucky to have seen it, from How I Met Your Mother, one of the worst US sitcoms to have come out hoping to ride on the tailcoat of Friends. He is simply magnificent here And best of the lot, Keeley Hawes, who puts in an astonishing performance as the confused, indignant, hurt, resolute, heartless yet caring contradiction that is Ritchie’s mother. If she doesn’t win every award going for this, then I demand a recount.

Spoiler alert, here’s the trailer (with some swears)::

Never has the phrase “one minute you’re laughing, the next you’re crying” been more true than with It’s A Sin, as the group have their lives turned upside down by the AIDS crisis. It plays out like the latest in the Final Destination movie franchise, except nobody cheats death at the beginning. Or, if you prefer, like the opening twenty minutes of any episode of Casualty, except you don’t need to work out what happens to each character to lead them to a hospital bed.

It’s A Sin is not for every one though; if you’re not comfortable with fairly explicit sex scenes, which given the story-line are all gay sex scenes, then I’d say it’s probably best you avoid, but it really is your loss.

I absolutely loved it. I can’t remember the last time I watched anything where the tears changed from ones of joy and laughter to ones of feeling so absolutely distraught at the handbrake turn that had just unfolded in front of me.

And it’s a story that needed to be told; the impact of AIDS/HIV and the way the government attempted to deal with it should be on the national curriculum as part of either history or sex education classes, or both. There are lessons to be learned.

The soundtrack is, as you would expect, just magnificent, a real smorgasboard of camp 80s classics, but of every thing that features, I have to post this really, don’t I?:

Staged (Series 1) is currently available to stream on Netflix, and Staged (Series 1 & 2) is currently available to stream via the BBC iPlayer; It’s A Sin is currently airing on Friday nights at 21:00, and the whole series is available to stream via the All 4 app.

More soon.

The Chain #49

I promise that I’m not going to start all of my posts with these words, but following the last instalment of The Chain I had an email from from long-time reader and Chain Gang contributor George who said that he was “toying with idea of making a cd of Chain 48”. (To any of our younger readers, CDs are what we used to record music on to and listen to music from before streaming and making playlists became things.)

Anyway, I thought this was an excellent idea, because I have a playlist for every edition of The Chain, the purpose of which was partly so that I could revisit and relive the good times and the bad, but mostly so that I could check whether something had already been suggested and therefore was precluded from being nominated again. You may have noticed I’ve been rather lax about this since The Chain returned, and that’s not going to change: I figure in these days of Trump & Johnson, of global pandemics*, international recessions, corruption at a governmental level, and starving children (it was The Chain or a Rant today), there’s more important things to worry about than duplications in The Chain back catalogue.

(*Sit down, New Zealand, I’m not talking about you)

Anyway, the point I am trying to make is that to get all of #48’s songs onto one CD would take a lot of editing choices, so I’d love to hear which songs made the cut – even more so should you decide on making one after you’ve read this one because this week (I say that like I post these every week, rather than every six weeks or so) we have just shy of 4 and 3/4 hours worth of tunes to get through, and I don’t think there’s a duff choice amongst them. Some ropey ones, yes, but duffers, no. But then Kay hasn’t suggested anything this time, so…..so maybe I should crack on.

Oh, and George (Incoming obligatory oblique 1970s TV reference that about 80% of you won’t get): I’m sorry but we aren’t able to return any drawings sent in, but yes, it is a big one, no I’ve never seen one quite that shape before, and no I don’t need you to send me a photo, but thank you for the offer.

OK, so let’s start as we usually do with a reminder of the source material this time around, which was this:

As you might expect, we have a lot of tunes related to Talk(ing), some related to Fear of Music (the album that features on), and then what I believe is the collective term for lots of suggestions on a similar theme: an absolute fuckload of songs linked to a specific city, or the words cities or city. As always, I’ll try to put them in an order that makes some kind of narrative sense (you’ve noticed I do that right?) but if you’re planning on doing yourself a playlist of these, I’d be interested to see if you think you’ve done better (NB: no I wouldn’t. Keep it to yourself, thanks very much).

Not quite first out of the traps this time was Swiss Adam from Bagging Area who, as he will explain, suggests a tune which simply demands to go first:

“Cities should have a theme and luckily we have an ahead of its time piece of ice cool euro dance that found a second life in the Balearic sounds of ’88 and thereafter:

Now, I don’t profess to know anywhere near as much about that there dance music as our Swiss, but I do know that got used on a tune recorded by David Russell Lee, who used to be known under the stage name of Joey Negro. Lee also recorded under many other pseudonyms, including this one, which throws in a Queen sample for good measure, and I think is what Swiss means when he says “thereafter”, given this came out in 2001:

But since we’re already going off on tangents, here’s a factoid for you (lifted from Wiki, so large pinch of salt at the ready): In 1993, Lee was approached by Take That’s label with a view to working together. Lee suggested they covered an old hit by Dan Hartman, which hadn’t been a hit in the UK but which had become a popular club track in the house music scene. They did as suggested, replacing Loleatta Holloway from the original with – who else? – Scottish songstress Lulu and lo! the boy band’s second number one in the UK was born.

Anyway. Cities. I think next I’ll hand over to Rigid Digit from Stuff & Nonsense to get us back on track:

“Knowing too much about 3rd Division Punk Bands (as I do), the phrase “Cities” immediately brought forth [this]…It’s OK, in a mohican wearing punky thrashing type way, but probably not what you’re looking for.”

Turns out, that’s quite the accurate description. I’m also imagining a purple and black furry jumper:

I gather Westlife are planning to do a cover of that as their comeback single.

Well, we seem to have strayed into the territory of songs with the word Cities in their title, so here’s another couple of suggestions. Firstly, C from Sun Dried Sparrows who says “I’m just plumping for the very first thing that comes into my head as a kind of quick subconscious response and it is…..:”

…which is bound to lighten the mood.

Let’s see what George can conjure up this time:

“Taking the cities from the song, to Manchester City, whose best English footballer was Colin Bell, whose birthday is February 26th, the same date as Michael Bolton…[Oh, Jesus, no…. – Ed]…wait for it…Fats Domino [Better – Ed]…and Johnny Cash, so my song is…:”

Phew!

I think at this point I should hand back to Rigid Digit, who gave me a whole host of acts who had recorded songs called In The City, the first of which was also suggested by Martin of New Amusements fame:

..and this (just Rigid Digit now):

and (which, if I was still giving points out, would earn a couple for being in one of the coolest films ever, but I’m not, so it won’t – and in any event, I’d have to deduct points for the artist having also been in The Eagles and Ringo Starr & His All Starr Band, surely the least cool bands ever):

and this:

Now. Regular readers will know that I have deep-seated hatred of songs being appropriated for advertising purposes, as documented in my S.S.O.S. (Stop Spoiling Our Songs) series. For the avoidance of doubt, I’m with the late, great Bill Hicks on this one:

Here’s a tune which I’ve been meaning to post for a while, and which samples Hicks and explains my thoughts better than I ever could, and which I must credit my old mate Dum Dum (not his real name) for bringing into my life:

See, it’s bad enough when songs we love are appropriated to sell something, but surely it’s even worse when an act we love pops over to an overseas land in the hope that those back home will never find out what they’ve done – and I’m looking at you Bacon and Clooney – isn’t it?:

Mostly because Joey did it too:

But I digress, again.

Rigid’s next suggestion is this: “…or even Starship who built this city on sausage rolls.” Now, we all know what he is obliquely referring to, and that’s the first of the last two Christmas #1s here in the UK. In a week where Tory MPs voted down a motion which would have ensured that children from poor families don’t starve because of the various lockdown restrictions, I thought it probably best if I didn’t post a free link to a song which tried to help. Instead, here’s the (extremely unfunny) video (and yes, this got to #1 in the UK):

…and here’s the song they are referencing:

To be fair, Rigid does offer up a vastly superior song, the title of which references the same source:

So before we set off on a little journey of all the songs mentioning actual cities in their titles or their lyrics (and there’s lots of them), we’ll have a look at all of the suggestions – most of them are mine, admittedly – which feature the word City in the title or in the artiste name. But before we do that, let’s get all of the other ones mopped up.

Here’s the Devonian with, I think, my favourite explanation ever:

“A geographical link… not going off “Cities” though, but rather the fact that the bassist in Talking Heads was the esteemed (albeit not by David Byrne) Tina Weymouth. That got me wondering whether there are any other groups with bassists named after gentrified Dorset coastal settlements. But I couldn’t find any, so I had to settle for a couple of singers instead. Therefore I give you Shelly and Karen Poole and…”

“…which is great and you know it is really.”

Actually, I’m more of an ‘I Am, I Feel’ kinda guy, as it goes, but that’s enough about why I can’t go on public transport without a responsible adult in tow anymore.

“Whilst Devonian was struggling for Dorset-named bass players to link to Tina Weymouth,” pipes up The Great Gog, “I found myself thinking of a feature of said coast that is named in a song – namely the theme tune to children’s TV show Portland Bill (which must have been 20 years old when my kids watched it on satellite telly in the early 00’s).

I can’t say this rang any bells with me at all, but I have managed to track down a copy of the writer of the theme tune in question, playing…well, it:

Next up is PhonicPat who, undeterred by suggesting the worst record last time out, has come up with a load of absolute bangers this time, starting with this, which kinda follows on given that it’s “made up of the rhythm section of Talking Heads” who just so happen to be husband and wife combo Chris Frantz (drums) and Tina Weymouth (bass and renowned gentrified Dorset coastal settlement):

Talking Heads “…tried to continue without Byrne and released the ‘No Talking Just Heads’ album” Pat continues, “featuring collaborations with Debbie Harry, Andy Partridge and Shaun Ryder amongst others therefore:”

and

and

And Pat isn’t finished there:

“[A] David Byrne/Talking Heads link” (as Byrne features as guest vocalist on this):

Now, there’s two things to say about that: firstly Byrne mentions New York at the start, and we’ll be coming on to that city in the fullness of time; and secondly these PhonicPat sponsored words: “…(along with saucy video)“.

In the name of research, strictly so that you don’t have to press play on this next video, you understand, I have watched this, several times, and can confirm that no matter how much you might slow it down or rewind and watch again, whoever had the job of censoring out the wobbly bits did a fine job. Still, best you approach with caution, eh?

Remind me in a bit to give you a related Pet Shop Boys fact, will you?

Since we seem to have landed on band-related suggestions, George is back again:

“From Talking Heads to the Talking Book album by Stevie Wonder, and the track:…”

And moving on to other suggestions about links to the band name we have Alyson from What’s It All About? who says: “We’ve had Dollar [last time out] so in the same vein can I suggest….”

Whoa there tiger! I need to explain the “in the same vein” bit, because Dollar should definitely not be bracketed with The Fizz so lightly. Oh no. For post-1980s fame The Fizz split into two factions: one containing original members Cheryl Baker, Mike Nolan and (sighs) Jay Aston, the other containing Bobby Gee and an almighty war broke out about who should use the name Bucks Fizz to promote their cruise ship wares. And amidst this row, up popped former member of Dollar and never member of the Fizz, David Van Day who, when he wasn’t trying to be the Lawrence Fox of his day and appear all outrageous by dumping his girlfriend live on Channel 5’s The Wright Stuff, elected to appropriate the name Bucks Fizz, go on a tour, sing a couple of their songs and trouser all the cash. The twat.

Anyway, here’s Alyson’s Fizz choice:

What I love about Alyson’s choice is that she could have picked the original of that, by The Romantics, but such is her devotion to ladies having their skirts ripped off as part of a Eurovision dance routine, she simply had to plump for a bit of Fizz. Kudos.

No idea what I’m banging on about? Here you go, complete with withering intro from the much missed Terry Wogan:

Genius pop music. And I mean that.

Alyson has some other suggestions linking to Talking Heads’ name, namely:

and

Almost time to set off on our tour of cities, have you got your packed lunch and your waterproof coat? Ok, I’ll stall for a bit with some frankly rather clever suggestions.

The source record this time features on Talking Heads’ Fear of Music album, which takes us into the dark territory of phobias. Or, as the Devonian puts it: “Cities is from the album Fear Of Music… which is a Phobia… which is a song by Flowered Up”

It sure is:

Which leads us neatly on to Hal’s suggestions: “Didn’t Cage the Elephant release an album called Melophobia?” he asks, rhetorically. Well, yes, yes they did. And in case you were wondering, Melophobia is the correct technical term for having a fear of music, so here’s something from the album of the same name:

I’ve always avoided them because, well, I thought (and still do) that they have a terrible name, but that’s not bad so maybe I need to reassess.

Anyway, Hal isn’t finished yet: “Which leads us to Phonophobia: The Second Coming by Extreme Noise Terror. Or perhaps not…”

Too late, you’ve said it now.

Phonophobia: The Second Coming is an album by Extreme Noise Terror, and this is one of the songs on it:

Peelie would be proud.

How do you follow that? With this:

Thank goodness for Rol from My Top Ten who kindly steps in to suggest this, which in his eyes “seems an obvious winner”

Frankly, if we’re going to mention bands with the word City in their name, I don’t think we can justifiably omit this lot:

“The other obvious one”, Rol continues undeterred, and I’ll let him carry on because I can’t quite work out where else to place this, “is to jump to Radiohead (as they took their name from a Talking Heads song) and Street Spirit (because there are lots of streets in cities…)

He’s not wrong, there are. I counted at least seven near where I live just the other day, and I think I may have missed some.

I hadn’t finished with bands with City in their names. This lot are definitely less renowned than Mr McKeown and the gang (Bay City Rollers, not Radiohead) and are named after 2000AD’s Judge Dredd comic strip. Play this one loud:

And so we move on to songs with the word City in the title (that aren’t called In the City). You know how until that last little spurt I’ve hardly suggested anything so far? Consider that ended. Eyes down and here we go with the almost entirely forgotten about:

…to an often overlooked gem:

…and the never to be forgotten:

A sort of clever one: this was released on City Rockers, a label synonymous with the electro-clash sound of the early 2000s:

And we shouldn’t overlook this brace of bangers:

…which almost inevitably leads us here:…

…which leads me to this spoof record, but it’s a spoof of a song which doesn’t have a city in it’s title, but I’m sure you’ll get it:

And finally, I was very surprised that absolutely nobody suggested anything from PJ Harvey’s magnificent Stories from the City, Stories from the Sea album, so I guess I’ll have to:

I’m stalling because it feels slightly disingenuous to be suggesting we go on a world tour just as so many cities around the world are locking down to prevent travel and the potential spreading of the Corona virus, so can I ask that you all don your face masks, smear yourselves in hand sanitiser like it’s goose fat before you attempt to swim the Channel, don’t stand so close to me and we’ll be off, safely.

But where to start? “Something from Gerry Rafferty’s very fine City To City album perhaps?” pipes up Rigid Digit again, which seems a perfectly good suggestion, and I’ve plumped, somewhat obviously, for the title track:

And it’s to Rigid Digit that we turn to yet again as we herald the start of The Chain World Tour which, given some places like my beloved Wales have gone into circuit-breaking lockdown today, I must say I feel a teensy bit guilty about, but, nevertheless, here we go.

Truly, there can only be one song to kick this off, and as Rigid quotes: “London, Paris, New York, Munich.  Everybody talk about…:

“I was beaten to M,” moans The Great Gog, “but other songs name-checking a number of cities that sprang to mind were…:”

…and…

Not forgetting, as Martin from New Amusements points out, a song which (apart from the Hang the DJ bit) perhaps most perfectly encapsulates where we are right now:

Ok, let’s start, with a whistle-stop tour of the UK. Here’s The Robster:

“I was going to suggest the wonderful Theme For Great Cities but Swiss Adam beat me to it! So I decided to think about songs ABOUT cities. Then I realised I’d be suggesting about 4 million songs and you’d hate me more than I’d hate myself! So in the end I plumped for one city. It was going to be Newport, but the only songs about us are parodies and parodies of parodies. So I chose our neighbours instead and came up with…:

I’m not sure why The Robster thinks this lot only do parodies. Funny songs, of course: it’s their stock in trade. I mean, sure this one is a parody, but it’s the only one I know which actually mentions The Mighty ‘Port in it’s title, and (sorry Rob) from the short time I lived there, seems wholly accurate to me:

Let’s head up to Birmingham next, and I’ll hand the reins back to Swiss Adam for a moment, for he is quoting lines from the source material to guide us to our next destination.

“Birmingham ‘lots of rich people’….” (although I think Byrne was probably referring to B’ham, Alabama.)

For those of us old enough to remember, it’s hard to forget when they fell foul of a Government clause of the 1981 Broadcasting Act which prohibited the broadcast of direct statements by representatives or supporters of 11 Irish political and paramilitary organisations. The restrictions were part of the Thatcher government’s desire to prevent Sinn Féin from employing the media for political advantage.

Yeh, I know. Dry subject.

What this meant in practical terms was that when, in 1987, they appeared on Friday Night Live , a Thames Television programme hosted by Ben Elton, they played Streets of Sorrow but the broadcaster cut to an ad break before they got to Birmingham Six.

Ridiculous as the rules were, a loop-hole meant that we were allowed to hear what Sinn Fein (the political arm of the IRA) had to say, but we could not hear them spoken by a member of the political party. Generally what this meant was the words were read by an actor with a plummy Home Counties accent, but the ludicrousness of the situation was highlighted here, on The Day Today:

This next song actually mentions bombing in Birmingham, although it means it in the “not going down to well at a gig” sense, rather than the more literal interpretation:

In these times of Tiers and Lockdown, I’m not sure we’ll get any better advice than to ‘start drinking til we’re blind’ (again, metaphorically of course – I don’t want any of us to end up in one of those adverts asking people to sponsor a puppy); I know it’s what has got me through writing this post, for a start.

“This mentions Birmingham, Alabama”, offers PhonicPat, and he’s not wrong, it does:

But we’re not quite ready to go trans-Atlantic, because here’s The Robster again:

“I have another one, this time referring to my Devon roots. The nearest city to where I grew up was Exeter – so:”

What I love about IDLES, apart from their records, is that they’re so bloody angry about everything, even their name is in capital letters like they’re shouting that too.

Catchphrase time! Well, if you’re having that, then I’m having this, a song about the nearest city to where I grew up, but where IDLES are VERY ANGRY! about how shit Exeter is, The Long Blondes are just a wee bit disappointed with how dull Peterborough is:

Staying in the UK, here’s Stevie from Charity Chic Music who takes us (much) further Up North:

David Byrne was born in Scotland – Dumbarton to be precise.  So the link is obviously:”

…which not only gets added to the ever-growing pile marked: ‘Must Investigate Further’, it also allows me to include this, which the title obviously references:

Since that also mentions Berlin, we may as well pop over to Europe, y’know, whilst we still can, without having to incorporate a two-week stay in a car park in Kent. Here’s another suggestion from Martin:

Well, this all seems to have got rather gloomy rather quickly. But I have an idea! Let’s pop over to the former capital of Turkey to liven things up a bit:

It became very apparent as I was sifting through the suggestions that there were two cities which featured more than any other, so, after a spot of self-isolation, we’ll pop back to the one in the UK: That London. And first up is another suggestion from Phonic Pat which takes us on a nice little (if expensive) tour of the city:

Here’s Swiss Adam again, quoting lines from the source record:

“…a small city, dark in the day time…”

…and suggesting this absolute shoe-in:

And here’s Martin again with two further capital suggestions:

“For when one is tired of London, one is tired of life, right?” adds Martin. Try telling Alan that:

Obligatory Alan Partridge clip? Tick!

One more from Martin, “…because I love them so…” (me too, mate, me too):

Sticking with Martin’s stream of suggestions, let’s hop over to the other city which seems to be mentioned in song titles more than any other:

“Decidedly not a cover of Ol’ Blue Eyes”, Martin adds. Well no: there’s a more liberal use of the F-word than Sinatra ever committed to record for a start. Plus, without wishing to be pedantic (he says as he is about to do just that), the Sinatra song Martin refers to is actually called Theme from New York, New York, so there was never any real danger of confusion. This next one though, less so:

That’s what being brought up listening to Radio 2 does for you: you remember records like that.

You won’t be surprised to read that I’ve got loads of these, the next of which is by someone who gets a bad rap for being a bit square (I think that’s it; I certainly don’t recall him having done anything unmentionable, apart from Uptown Girl of course), but I think he’s written some absolute corkers, and this is one of them:

New York, here we are, and here’s Odyssey to tell us we fit right in:

When The Strokes released their wonderful and never-bettered debut album Is This It? in 2001 (God, that makes me feel old), there was a difference between the UK and the US release, for the UK release included this, presumably omitted from the US release because it probably wasn’t considered to sit well so close in the wake of 9/11:

Back in time now, to the first record I ever bought, sort of. You can read about that here but in case you can’t be bothered (and if you’ve got this far I can’t blame you for feeling a bit wiped out) here it is:

Remember about seven hours ago, just after The BPA tune, I asked you to remind me to give you a Pet Shop Boys factoid? Well, the time is now: before he worked for Smash Hits magazine (my gateway drug to pop music before I grew up/discovered the NME) Neil Tennant used to work for Marvel Comics, editing out any hint of nipple from the cartoons contained within the pages of the heralded comic book. And that’s not even as funny as the rumour Stuart Maconie made up about him being a fully qualified Rugby League referee.

Anyway, here’s the Pet Shop Boys:

Hold up, Swiss is back with his quoting lyrics and suggesting songs ways:

“Memphis: ‘home of Elvis and the ancient Greeks’”

Leading him here:

And if you’re going to mention Memphis, you either have to include something by a certain Mr Presley (not Reg), or make a joke about being dead on a toilet eating a burger, or post this:

Funnily enough, Mr Simon is going in the opposite direction to Ian Hunter and the Mott the Hoople crew, as suggested by Phonic Pat:

And here’s a group who are considering a move to a completely different part of the US of A:

But as we all know, there’s only one place in America that one should consider moving to:

And that’s where I intended to sign off, were it not for one final suggestion from Martin:

“Oh, and can I add Vegas by Sleeper, just because… well, okay, just because of Louise Wener, really.”

Of course you can: if it doesn’t get cancelled as opposed to being forever rescheduled, I’ll be going to see them perform their debut album Smart, sometime, along with this morning’s postees The Bluetones doing the same with their debut album Expecting to Fly:

And that’s yer lot, except to reveal the actual next record in the actual Chain, which nobody suggested.

Here’s the link: “Talking Heads had a female bassist. So did…

Which just leaves me to ask for your suggestions for songs which link to 1979 by The Smashing Pumpkins, to be submitted via either the Comments function on this page, or if you prefer anonymity that you ultimately won’t be afforded, by email to dubioustaste26@gmail.com

More soon.

Thank You For The Opportunity

It’s a big weekend on the BBC, what with the final of that dancing competition and the annual Sports Personality of the Year Awards.

But there’s one other series finale happening tonight: the conclusion of the 14th series of The Apprentice.

It’s a show I’ve watched for many years now, introduced to and hooked on it by my old flatmate Llyr.

For those of you unfamiliar with the concept: sixteen business people compete through a series of tasks for a £250,00 investment in their business. Each week, ineptitude is exposed and (at least) one is “fired” from the show.

As with my post earlier about Paul Heaton and The Beautiful South, I’m very aware that it’s a show which divides opinion, and that many consider it to be a tired format, ready to be put out to grass.

But.

This series has been really funny, especially the interview episode which aired this week.

The interview episode, the penultimate one, is always a highlight, as the remaining five candidates are grilled on their business plans, their performances up until now, their characteristics, and, frankly, anything else which is of relevance.

This year’s interview episode threw up a truly great piece of TV as last standing guy Daniel floundered under the interrogation of Mike Soutar, giving us, as @benjamincutting said on Twitter: “The best 52 seconds of TV in 2018” (link posted with Ben’s kind permission):

When each applicant is “fired” it has become tradition for them to shuffle out of the boardroom, thanking everyone for “the opportunity”.

It’s something that always irked me; why thank them? They’ve given you nothing in return for your efforts! Why not go out with a screaming tirade against them, rather than saving the soliloquy about what they’re missing out on for the taxi ride home?

But.

Several years ago, I was offered a position at a firm of solicitors based in Cheltenham. They predominantly made claims against insurance companies and, having worked for one for almost ten years, I had pitched my interview schtick in the “I know how to get their money” camp. I got the job, and spent just shy of three months commuting from Cardiff every day.

Just before my three-month probation was up, I was chatting to the CEO of the company, who gave me the nod that I was going to pass my probation and that maybe I should think about moving more locally to save me having to commute every day. I duly did, signing a six-month rental agreement on a flat within walking distance of the office.

And then, one Monday morning around three weeks later, I was called into the office by the main partner of the firm who told me that things “weren’t going to work out”, that they’d had many other ex-insurance employees and it was always the same, and that they’d have to “let me go.”

What was particularly galling about this was that he was the one who had interviewed me, had hired me on the basis of my insurance background and experience, and now was firing me for exactly the same reason!

But what annoyed me even more was that instead of pointing this out to him, I meekly shook his hand and heard myself say: “Thank you for the opportunity.”

There’s only one song to post:

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Pet Shop Boys – Opportunities (Let’s Make Lots Of Money)

More soon.

This Is Pop #8

Generally in this thread, with the exception of the post about Sugababes, I’ve featured pop acts who have made one, maybe two, records that I like.

This week though, a band who I love, who you probably do too, but who it took me some time to actually admit that I like them.

I’d been aware of the Pet Shop Boys since before they were famous, since Head Boy Neil Tennant was writing for the much-missed Smash Hits magazine when I first began getting my Mum to pay for it in the early 1980s, and I remember them getting quite some coverage when he left. There was one interview I remember where he divulged that prior to joining Smash Hits, he had worked for the UK branch of Marvel Comics, employed to anglicise the text, and to ensure that no drawings of female characters included any surreptitious nipples. Can’t think why that stayed in my mind.

I’d thought “West End Girls” was pretty good, liked “Suburbia”, loved “What Have I Done To Deserve This?”, their duet with Dusty Springfield (mostly because of Dusty, it has to be said), but not enough to actually, you know, buy any of their records.

Have a listen to a piece of impeccable pop:

Pet Shop Boys - What Have I Done To Deserve This

Pet Shop Boys with Dusty Springfield – What Have I Done To Deserve This?

There’s a bit in “What Have I Done….” where Tennant’s delivery always, without fail, makes me think of T. S. Eliot’s “The Love Song of J. Arthur Prufrock”, a poem I had studied at 6th Form at roughly the time that the single came out, and which I had fallen in love with almost immediately. You can read it here.

And then there’s Dusty; the bit where she just breezes into the chorus is just…heavenly.

Yet still my shelves remained a Pet Shop Boys-free zone

And why would that be? Well, I’ve written elsewhere admitting that when I was growing up, I had a general aversion to any record which didn’t contain anything sounding even slightly like a guitar, and today’s group definitely fall into that category.

As well as this unjustifiable phobia, they had annoyed me by keeping The Pogues & Kirsty MacColl’s “Fairytale of New York” from the Number One spot in the UK with a bloody cover version, a heinous crime in my book.

By now, I had graduated from the glossy fortnightly pages of Smash Hits to the grubby weekly music paper NME.

And then, this happened:

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This really annoyed me. Not in a Noel Gallagher “Jay-Z shouldn’t headline Glastonbury” kind of way; I had no issue with the Pet Shop Boys being on the cover of my beloved NME, it was the tag-line that got my back up.

“The Smiths you can dance to“.

The inference being that you can’t dance to The Smiths. This incensed me at the time. How they dare imply such a thing??

A few years ago I found myself in an Indie club, and the DJ dropped “This Charming Man”, and I suddenly realised they had a point. Have you ever tried dancing to that, without resorting to doing a Morrissey impression? It’s nearly impossible, the time signature is not conducive to anything other than an awkward Dad-dance shuffle.

So, in short, that tag line confirmed everything I thought: the Pet Shop Boys were the enemy.

I’m not entirely clear when that changed, but it was probably when Johnny Marr formed Electronic with Barney Sumner of New Order fame, and got Neil Tennant to make a guest appearance on a couple of tracks. Hang on a minute…if Johnny likes them, then what the hell was my problem?

Fast forward a few more years and one day I was in Cardiff’s branch of Fopp (R.I.P.) and there was their Greatest Hits album, “Discography”, going for £2.00. I examined the track-listing. How could anyone resist this list of supremely arch and, yes alright, danceable list of hits:

Pet Shop Boys - Discography trasera

Not one duff track to be found there. Why were these songs not already in my life?

Because sometimes I’m an idiot, that’s why.

I admitted defeat. I had been wrong. Moments later it was mine.

If I had to pick one song by them that I love more than any other, it’s this next one. The lyrics evoke “The Day Before You Came” by ABBA, which I’ve written about before.

Older and (a bit wiser) I now realise that a band who can make you think of one of the greatest pop singles ever recorded and poetry within two songs is a very special band indeed.

And that record is this:

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Pet Shop Boys – Left to My Own Devices

In 2010 I was at Glastonbury and was lucky enough to catch Pet Shop Boys’ headline set on The Other Stage on the Saturday night. They were incredible, without doubt one of the greatest sets I’ve seen, not just down on Pilton Farm, but ever. The set was a mix of “the classics” – Dusty made an appearance, albeit via a video screen – and new stuff which was so instantly loveable it felt like I knew them already.

There was even a cover of a song which I didn’t recognise as being by Coldplay until it was way to late to stop myself joining in with the crowd-singing.

Have a look for yourself:

Majestic.

Sometimes it’s alright to be late to the party, as long as when you finally arrive you’re able to admit that you wish you’d set off earlier.

More soon.

The Chain #36

And we’re back! Back! BACK!! (obligatory Smash Hits reference for you there.)

Here we go with another dose of interactive blogging; you all know how this works by now, so we’ll crack straight on.

Last…erm…time, we left you with “C30 C60 C90” by Bow Wow Wow and the usual plea for your suggestions for songs that can be linked to that tune.

Younger readers may not know what the C30 etc in that title stands for, so allow me to explain in a slightly patronising tone.

Many years ago, music as we know it today did not exist. MP3s was the name of a robot from Star Wars (probably); the term “streaming” meant that water, or some other liquid, was flooding out of something.

Back in those dark days, us old timers listened to music via the radio, (sometimes referred to as the wireless, but let’s not go there or things will get really complicated), or cassette tapes. These could either be purchased pre-recorded, or blank, onto which we would record the vinyl records (some naughty people recorded songs from the radio, which is definitely not okay, as we will find out), and these cassette tapes were then played on cassette players or, later, on portable devices called a Walkman. The length of the blank tape varied, and the 30 signified you could record thirty minutes of music onto it, the 60 held sixty minutes, and so on.

I mention all of this to save any puzzled looks when we start going through the suggestions, for many of them refer to that medium of music presentation.

For example, first up, here’s Charity Chic from Charity Chic Music:

“C30 C60 C90 refers to taped music [okay, you’ve put that a lot more succinctly than I just did…] – you can tape to tape and in days gone by this would be in the form to reel to reel tapes. So Reel to Reel by Simple Minds from when they were good please.”

“From when they were good”, eh? Well, that certainly narrows things down quite a bit:

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Simple Minds – Reel To Real

Reel to Real, you say? Well, if you’re going to suggest that, then I’m going to suggest this lot:

r-47885-1282972620_jpegReel 2 Real feat. The Mad Stuntman – I Like To Move It

That Mad Stuntman, he really was quite mad, wasn’t he? Textbook lunacy, there. Lovely stuff.

Over to Rigid Digit from Stuff & Nonsense who ventures: “Can I get away with 3 suggestions in one comment?” You can, but I will of course break them up into three separate suggestions and post them all out of sequence and context.

“1) C30, C60, C90 – all variants of the most portable music delivery method [Can you all stop putting that more succinctly than I did please?] Now all you need is something to play them on whilst on the move. Aah .. the Walkman – which leads (in my mind) to a roller-skating Cliff Richard in the video for Wired For Sound.”

It’s the stuff of dreams, if you’ve eaten far too much cheese before bedtime, that video:

That bit when he’s driving…does it remind you of anyone….?

May not make the midnight deadline now, as I have literally just watched that about ten times.

Anyway here, for anyone who may want to listen to it and be reminded of all that lycra again, is the single:

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Cliff Richard – Wired For Sound

Just when you thought we might be all Cliffed out for this week, here’s Alyson from What’s It All About, Alfie?:

“I remember well dancing to Go Wild In The Country by Bow Wow Wow back in the day (Mr WIAA,A?’s predecessor and I used to do a bit of show-dancing to that one) but another song about being In The Country (but not being wild) was by Sir Cliff & The Shadows back in 1966. Sir Cliff is also a great tennis fan and although this is tenuous, Annabel Croft was our British female no. 1 for a while and the lead singer with Bow Wow Wow was also called Annabel(la) so a double link.”

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Cliff Richard & The Shadows – In The Country

Quick! Someone suggest something slightly more credible!!

The Great Gog steps up to the oche.

“I suppose there’s also the very relevant “On Tape” by The Pooh Sticks.”

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The Pooh Sticks – On Tape

Over now to SWC from the very much still alive and kicking When You Can’t Remember Anything:

“I will be heading, like Charity Chic, down the tape route. I will start with the excellent ‘Freak Out’ by Tapes ‘n Tapes”

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Tapes ‘n Tapes – Freakout

They’re a band that have managed to pretty much pass me by, are Tapes ‘n Tapes. I remember reading about them, but never actually hearing anything by them. I think I was put off by the missing apostrophe from the other side of ‘n. Time for me to investigate some more, I think.

Here’s Rol from My Top Ten:

“The Pooh Sticks were my first thought, but I knew I’d be beaten to that, so I offer the far more obscure…..”

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Dan Bern – Tape

And here’s The Swede from Unthought of, though, somehow:

“C30, C60 & C90 were all commercially available cassette tape lengths [Ahem…! What did I just say….?] (as was C120, but who used those?) [Erm….] and the Bow Wow Wow song in question was the first ever cassette single. Pete Murphy of Bauhaus famously appeared in a TV advert for Maxell cassette tapes, so I’ll go for ‘Bela Lugosi’s Dead’”

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Bauhaus – Bela Lugosi’s Dead

Brace yourself now, as we are about to step into the nerdy world of which cassette tape was our weapon of choice back in the day. Welcome back, Alyson:

“The tapes of choice for me were usually made by Philips which was a Dutch company and 2 Unlimited were Dutch…… Oh no, did that link last week time.

Include another L in Philips and you have the surname of half of the members of The Mamas & the Papas and I don’t know about you but “All the leaves are brown and the sky is grey, I’ve been for a walk on a winter’s day, I’d be safe and warm if I was in L.A., California dreamin’ on such a winter’s day.” Yes it’s a bit of California Dreamin’ from me.”

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The Mamas & The Papas – California Dreamin’

And here’s Dirk from Sexyloser to chuck his thoughts on the matter in:

“For me it always had to be BASF cassettes, they really were the best. Although, somehow, they smelled rather disgusting, strangely enough ….”

They say the olfactory sense is the most powerful in terms of invoking childhood memories, so let’s see what that little sniff and scratch session has brought back to Dirk’s mind:

“I was thinking about other famous people with a nice mohawk (‘cos that’s what always impressed me mightily when looking at Annabella [of Bow Wow Wow] back then … that and her figure, of course … I always thought she was smoking hot! Still admire her today, to be brutally honest! Perhaps I should be careful these days when saying such things, bearing in mind she was only 13 or 14 when the first singles came out, and I don’t want to end up being the one with the paedophiliac stamp in future posts of The Chain! Then again she’s two years older than me, but does this fact legalize my continiuing adoration? Interesting subject, once you think about it …”

You do realise you’re talking out loud, don’t you Dirk? Reign it in, old chap.

But before you do, here’s Martin to add a little background to Dirk’s ramblings:

“Annabella Lwin of Bow Wow Wow was famously photographed for the album sleeve art with not too many clothes on, despite being a minor. Cue tabloid frenzy and a visit from Scotland Yard for Malcolm McLaren. And on that basis, I’ll make my suggestion, an ode to being sure she’s old enough…”

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Travis – U16 Girls

Back to Dirk, who hopefully has had time to have a cold shower. Dirk, fancy picking up where you left off, and maybe coming up with something which not only links to the subject record, but also to Martin’s suggestion?

“Famous people with a mohawk are Mr. T out of the A-Team of course, but also Robert de Niro as Travis Bickle in ‘Taxi Driver’, which gives me a fine opportunity to annoy George (again) and link to The Clash and ‘Red Angel Dragnet’ [because it features several lines of dialogue lifted from the film]

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The Clash – Red Angel Dragnet

As is traditional, Rol picks up the mohawk baton (which, surprisingly isn’t a euphemism) and kind of runs with it, as far as this:

“Mohawks lead me to recall Pop Corn & The Mohawks – ‘Custer’s Last Man’.  Worth a spin if you can find it”

Ok..

Two minutes later, Rol posted this:

“P.S. Having listened to it all the way through again now… you must dig it out. It is utterly mental.”

Blimey, Rol, give us a chance!

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Pop Corn & The Mohawks – Custer’s Last Man

We seem to have got a little way away from the subject in hand. Anyone care to drag us back to the whole tape thing?

Oche vacated, here’s Swiss Adam from Bagging Area

“Wild Billy Childish and the MBE’s ‘He’s Making a Tape’ (‘and it’s not for me’ she sings, Billy’s wife, Nurse Julie)”

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Wild Billy Childish and the MBEs – He’s Making A Tape

Continuing the tape theme, Martin’s back:

“Following the C30, C60, etc, into the land of mixtapes, how about ‘Press Play and Record” by Lois Maffeo?”

I could only find the same song credited to just Lois, so I’m hoping this is the song you had in mind:

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Lois – Press Play and Record

Back to SWC now, with his second choice, and his second choice by someone who has passed me by, mostly because I’ve always viewed him as a Billy Bragg wannabe, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but we’ve already got one Billy Bragg, so…

Anyway, having listened to this, I may have to reassess.

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Frank Turner – Losing Days

SWC: two shots on target, two goals.

Go on, have another go.

“You could also go down the mixtape route which is regularly used by rappers taking us nicely to the odd future tape and ‘Slow it Down’ by Tyler, The Creator.”

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Tyler, The Creator Ft. Hodgy Beat – Slow It Down

We’re almost at the end of the Tape links, here’s Dirk with one more, no build-up, no pre-amble, just introduced by the words: “Clever, eh? But this happens when you remember every old shit no-one else knew all along!):

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The Membranes – Spike Milligan’s Tape Recorder

First appearance of the week now from Jules of Music from Magazines fame:

“One of the best uses of tape in a promo video was of course in “America What Time Is Love?” By The KLF.”

It took me ages to work out what he meant. See if you can spot the reference:

Jules will be back shortly with some actual suggestions. Some of which I may even allow.

I haven’t suggested anything for a while. Feeling a bit left out actually. So how about I wrap up the Tape section with one of mine?

Every now and then, post The Chain, I get an email from George, telling me how much he loves a song that I’ve posted. They are always the songs that I least expect him to like, which is a mark of the man. George, I mention this because, going off some of the previous ones you’ve told me you enjoyed, you’ll love this, if you don’t know it already (though I would imagine you do).

Tidying off the tape section with another Reel song, here’s The Chemical Brothers:

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The Chemical Brothers – The Private Psychedelic Reel

Oh and George: next time you email me, there’s no need to attach the video clip of you dancing round your kitchen. But if you must, please can you be wearing some trousers next time? Or at least some underwear. Thank you.

Okay, before we move on to the next batch of links, a couple of random ones. First up, is Alex G from We Will Have Salad:

“Let’s play Chain Letters! Take Bow Wow Wow, change a letter, and you get Bow Wow Now, which is a song by Dubstar”

Quite a short game, really, that, wasn’t it? I suggest you work on a second draft before submitting it to one of the major TV channels. Although, stick the word ‘Celebrity’ at the start of it, and Channel 5 would probably be interested in it right now:

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Dubstar – Bow Wow Now

And since we seem to have stumbled into the vague area, here’s the aforementioned George:

“From Bow Wow Wow, to violins (played with a bow) and to some prog rock, namely King Crimson and ‘Larks Tongues in Aspic Part 2’ , which has some violin-ing in a splendid racket of a song.”

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King Crimson – Larks’ Tongues In Aspic, Part Two

One of the other recurring themes that came up after last week’s time’s source record, was home taping, the hobby/habit/thriftiness/call it what you will that so many of us of a certain age indulged in in our youth, sitting hunched and “hovering over the Pause & Record buttons on your knackered old tape recorder when the Top 40 was on a Sunday evening…cursing when you accidentally taped even the briefest snippet of Bruno Brookes…” as I once described it elsewhere on these pages.

This was known as piracy, which led two of the Chain Gang to come up with suggestions.

First, here’s The Robster from Is This The Life?:

“One thing immediately comes to mind, and it’s a double-linker! C30, C60, C90 Go! was a song about taping music off the radio – music piracy. The pirate skull and crossbones flag was called the Jolly Roger. Bow Wow Wow consisted of ex-members of Adam And The Ants, also formerly managed by McLaren. Adam banded together a new bunch of Ants and modelled himself as some kind of glam-punk pirate, recording a song called ‘Jolly Roger’ on the album ‘Kings of The Wild Frontier’.”

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Adam & The Ants – Jolly Roger

And then came The Great Gog, who I am used to receiving a suggestion from at around 3am the morning after I post The Chain. This time, he has a rather unique way of coming up with a suggestion:

“Like Robster, I started thinking of piracy, in particular the old cassette and crossbones logo that used to adorn many an album cover back in the early eighties. “Home Taping Is Killing Music – And It’s Illegal”, that one. This set me wondering how quickly I’d find one of these if I were to randomly pull out a few records from my vinyl collection. Around a minute or so as it turned out. The Psychedelic Furs’ eponymous debut LP was the album in question. Did any particular track lend itself to The Chain? Well, much home taping was done from the good old wireless, so a case could be made for “Blacks/Radio”. Of course, I’m now wide awake listening to said album through headphones when I should be sleeping like the more sensible members of my family…”

And I suppose that’s my fault, is it…?

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The Psychedelic Furs – Blacks/Radio

Mention of the ‘Home Taping is Killing Music’ campaign reminded me of this alternate logo, which always made me chuckle, and which at least one other blogger used to use on their website. Can’t remember who, suspect it may have been Dirk, but wouldn’t want to swear to it:

hometaping_remix

I had that made up into a couple of t-shirts (for myself), so I probably owe somebody something for that blatant copyright breach. Ah well. Join the queue.

Anyway, where was I? Ah yes, the Home Taping is Killing Music thing. Here’s Rigid Digit with the second of his suggestions:

“2) Fuelling the Home Taping Is Killing Music campaign, the cassette single of C30, C60, C90 … Go had a blank side – this also led to the band parting company with EMI.
The logo was used in the back of Venom’s Black Metal album with the words ‘Home Taping Is Killing Music… So are Venom’…Venom have a place in my ears, but if I’m honest, they really aren’t that great…”

Don’t start backing down before we’ve even played it, Rigid!

So, here’s some words I never thought I’d type. Ladies and Gentleman, I give you Venom:

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Venom – Black Metal

Now I know I mentioned in jest that I wouldn’t post Rigid’s three suggestions in order, but truth be told, they do pretty much work in that order, fair play. So, here’s his third:

“3) The 21st Century equivalent of home-taping is downloading, so no pre-ambling explanation: Weird Al Yankovic – ‘Don’t Download This Song’.”

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Weird Al Yankovic – Don’t Download This Song

It won’t have escaped your attention that musically that’s based on this:

My two favourite bits on that song are when Cyndi Lauper comes on and kicks some ass (vocally), and (long term readers and friends, forgive me for making this joke yet again), the bit where Bob Dylan does his impression of Cartman from South Park.

But I digress, yet again.

Having allowed Rigid’s  three suggestions to appear almost uninterrupted and in sequence, I’m going to break with tradition and allow the same thing to happen with babylotti’s.

But first, round our way, whenever someone name drops, we tend to shout the word “Clang!” It is often bawled at me when I start regaling people with stories of all the bands and comedians, some on the way up, some on the way down, some going absolutely no further, that I worked with, albeit usually only for one night, back at the end of the 1980s/start of the 1990s. I mention this now, apropos of nothing.

Over to you, babylotti:

“Being from Coventry the thought of bootleg tapes immediately brings to mind my first serious music love, Ska. Or Two Tone Ska as it’s become known as.  So my first suggestion is Gangsters by The Specials with the line ‘Why must you record all my phone calls…’ [I’ve had the privilege of playing as drummer with several members of the band since]…”

Clang!

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The Specials – Gangsters

“…My next suggestion is staying with the same scene & to suggest The Selecter & On my radio, the 1991 version is better IMO. And I’m proud to say I actually deputised as their keyboard player for one gig, a very happy moment!”

CLANG!

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The Selecter – On My Radio (1991)

“…And lastly I’m going to link to Tom Robinson’s ‘Atmospherics: Listen To The Radio” for the radio link. And lets face it, we all used to tape stuff off the radio, didn’t we?”

CLA – oh. Sorry.

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Tom Robinson – Atmospherics: Listen To The Radio

Two more categories to go now until the big reveal, and unsurprisingly, we’re going to the dogs now. But before we do, a quickie from Jules:

“Songs with numbers in title, how about Culture’s ‘Two Sevens Clash’..?”

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Culture – Two Sevens Clash

To the dogs! And one from me, from an album that I’ve had for a while, but never really given it much of a chance; not sure why, probably partly because I’d not been fussed about their last one, partly because with Hooky gone I didn’t think they’d sound anywhere near as good, despite the decent reviews the album got.

But then the other night, the Iggy Pop growled his way out of my speakers on a tune I didn’t recognise. This one:

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New Order – Stray Dog

A change of pace now, and here’s Badger from When You Can’t Remember Anything, or rather, Mrs Badger on his behalf, as he had much more important things to sort out at the time:

“Greetings from the mountains. Mrs Badger here.
Tim wishes to link to ‘Old Brown Dog’ by Ralph McTell.
He’d tell you himself but he’s at the bar getting me a mojito.”

I had to check twice to make sure she hadn’t put us all to shame by submitting that in the form of a haiku.

Here’s Ralph:

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Ralph McTell – Old Brown Dog

Two Ralph stories.

When we were kids, although I have no recollection of my brother going to stay in Germany (and I know I definitely didn’t, I tend to remember that kind of stuff), we played host for a couple of weeks to a German exchange student by the name of Ralph. And of course, part of the task of having a foreign exchange student is to teach them about the British way of life, sample our culture, teach a little history even.

It was only years later that it occurred to me that perhaps there were less inappropriate,  more tactful places of interest that we could have taken a young German lad, away from his family for the first time, than the Duxford Imperial War Museum, which has, amongst many other things, a permanent Battle of Britain exhibition.

Ooopsies.

Second Ralph story isn’t really a story, but everyone who knows me knows that having featured a song by Ralph McTell, I simply cannot resist posting this:

Over to Jules, again, who is now in full on pun mood:

“Been feeling a bit ruff lately so I thought I was barking up the wrong tree with the cassette link until I did my sums

30+60+90=180 degrees, a complete turn around

Of course the link is Bow Wow Wow

And what do you do with dogs (quiet at the back)?

Run with them”

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Pet Shop Boys – Suburbia

Of course, any mention of Dogs, and there’s one person who we just have to mention:

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Snoop Doggy Dogg –  Gin and Juice

I don’t know if this particular story crossed your radar a couple of years ago, but it’s a prime example of why television interviewers, like barristers, should never ask a question that they don’t already know the answer to. Especially when you’re interviewing a Welsh farmer who has recently met Mr Dogg, and who drops da bomb at around 01:18 on this clip:

Here’s Jules with…a less successful suggestion:

“Oh! As mentioned many times Bow Wow Wow lead’s to dogs which are canine….. Sounds like K9 to me the robot dog in Dr Who

Put all the ingredients [including the earlier KLF reference] into the blender and simmer for a while and one gets

The Timelords’ ‘Doctorin’ The House’.”

Apologies Jules, but I can’t allow that one as it’s featured on The Chain before (The Chain #28, to be precise, before you started frequenting these pages, I think), and is therefore now off limits.

When I get time, I’ll set up a page listing everything we’ve posted here so far. Might take me a little while as we’re fast approaching the 800 mark, mind, but it will happen sooner or later, as I do hate having to disqualify a perfectly good suggestion on these grounds.

So, we’ve done dogs, but what about dog noises?

Here’s Martin:

“Bow Wow Wow is the noise a dog makes, as described by a child… who might describe said dog as a doggy… hence:

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Patti Page – (How Much Is) That Doggie In The Window?

“Twee but terrible,” he continues, before going on to suggest what is unquestionably the Worst Record of The Week. “So how about the noise that dog makes? In which case, “Ruff Mix” by Wonderdog, in which sampled barks are used for lyrics?

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Wonder Dog – Ruff Mix

“Fascinating (debatable) fact,” Martin adds, “the human voice of Wonderdog, in promo appearances, was none other than Simon Cowell in a dog suit – mindboggling and depressing in equal measure. Also twee but terrible.”

If only he’d stayed there, eh readers?

Two songs to go, and it’s at this point that I suddenly realise I haven’t sorted out the next song in The Official Chain which we’re all trying to either guess, or better. Bit of an oversight by me that.

I’ll leave you in Rol’s capable hands whilst I sort that out. Rol, it’s all yours, and try to pad it out a bit, will you?

“If you want a link that requires (a little) explanation, then…Bow Wow Wow is the sound of a dog barking, so…”

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I, Ludicrous – Trevor Barker

“(Actually, that didn’t take much explaining at all, did it? Must try harder.)”

That’s it, is it mate? Cheers.

Okay, last one, and last one from me. Following on from that, here’s Underworld’s “Diamond Jigsaw”. The link? It’s from their album “Barking”. I thank you.

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Underworld – Diamond Jigsaw

Before we have the final record, can I just say that all that up there that you’ve just read, that’s why I love doing this, and that’s why I don’t want to introduce any maximum suggestions per person. For where else would you hear Bauhaus, Snoop Dogg, The Pooh Sticks, Wonder Dog and King Crimson in the same post, other than here at The Chain?

Apart from on Charles Manson’s record player, of course.

So, to the official tune, and some of you got within a whisker of the link, if not the actual tune:

“C30/C60/C90 – types of cassettes. Cassettes were made by Dolby…”

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36. Thomas Dolby – Hyperactive!

Can’t really argue with that, can we?

So, your suggestions please, via the Comments section below, for records that you can link to Thomas Dolby’s “Hyperactive!”, along with your explanation on the links you propose.

And don’t forget, we’re moving to Sunday as of next post, so the next edition of The Chain will be with you the first weekend in February. Feel free to make your submissions as early as you like though.

Thanks for your time.

More soon.

How to Do a Cover Version

If today’s first lesson was to camp it up and go uber-gay, then when the song you choose to cover is already both of those things you only have one option:

Be arch, too.

And maybe throw in a Broadway choir for good measure.

Or, to put it another way: be the Pet Shop Boys.

The original:

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Village People – Go West

The cover:

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Pet Shop Boys – Go West

And as a reminder of just how brilliant Pet Shop Boys are, here’s the video too. You’re welcome.

More soon. Obvs.