Friday Night Music Club

It’s Friday night (at least it is here in the UK), and not just any old Friday night. Nosireebob. This Friday night is the best type of Friday night: the type that kicks off a Bank Holiday weekend. Hoorah! No! Work! Til! Tuesday!

So here’s your weekly 60 minutes or so of tunes curated and mixed by yours truly into some semblance of a coherent playlist. As is often the case, it’s a slow burner at the start, before we get into some tunes that should make you want to dance and/or sing, before we have a little break so you can have a nice sit down for a bit before we’re up and at ’em again for the last few choices.

So, with the usual apologies for a couple of skips and jumps which happened either during the recording or uploading process, let’s get your weekend started:

Friday Night Music Club Vol 17

Look out, here comes your tracklisting (complete with sleeve notes):

I’ve been on a bit of a Paul Fab-Macca-Wacky-Thumbs-Aloft McCartney trip since his headlining slot at Glastonbury this year, so I thought this, from “the band The Beatles could have been”, would be quite a nice way to kick things off this week:

  1. Wings – Let ‘Em In

This is one I’ve been meaning to have as an opening track on one of these for a while, simply because the title fits the mood of things. And also because of Simon’s unintentionally hilarious, trying to sound hip, description of him popping “outside to smoke myself a J”. Oh, you are outrageous, Paul!

2. Paul Simon – Late in the Evening

There’s no Bowie this week, so I figured a bit of T. Rex would be the next best thing. I try to avoid posting the obvious, famous ones when I’m doing these playlists, but sometimes it the obvious, famous ones which are just screaming out to be included. I couldn’t resist:

3. T. Rex – Get It On

There’s no Bowie this week, so I figured a bit of Suede would be the next best thing.

4. Suede – The Drowners

There’s no Bowie this week, so…oh wait, that doesn’t work with this one. Bring on the lovely Ms Wener and her Sleeperblokes!

5. Sleeper – Nice Guy Eddie

I wanted to pick the tempo up a bit more here, and the Kaisers doing their standard “Woah! Woooah! Woooooaaaaaaah! Woooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooah!” routine seemed as good a way as any:

6. Kaiser Chiefs – I Predict a Riot

Contrary to popular belief, Kula Shaker didn’t just release ropey singles. When they weren’t referencing Hinduism or dropping covers of Deep Purple singles, they managed to release at least one decent one:

7. Kula Shaker – Hey Dude

There’s no effin’ & jeffin’ warning on this week’s playlist, but let’s be honest, genius that he was, can we ever be sure exactly what Mark E. Smith was singing all the time? Sacrilege, I know, I know. Chances are we’re on safe ground here, though, with this blistering cover of an old Tommy Blake number:

8. The Fall – F-‘oldin’ Money

If I ever had to name a band that had single-handedly introduced me to the most other bands, then it would be The Wedding Present, via their dazzling array of cover versions. This one cropped up on as an extra track on their 1994 single Yeah Yeah Yeah Yeah Yeah, and it’s easy to see – and hear – what drew Mr Gedge to it:

9. Paul Revere & The Raiders – Him Or Me – What’s It Gonna Be?

This next one is included purely because the intro to it reminded me of the Paul Revere tune, although now I listen to them both, I’m really not sure why:

10. The Monkees – Last Train to Clarksville

I had the pleasure of catching this next lot at Glastonbury back in 2010, playing in the Acoustic Tent (I think); there was only about 15 people there to see what was a blistering set, which was fine for us as there was more room to wig out in; it was probably a little disheartening for the band to have to play to such depleted numbers though.

In the context of this mix, this is a bridging song, by which I mean one which links nicely with what follows, as I slow things down for a bit. The fact that it has the word “Train” in the title is entirely coincidental, a theme is not about to emerge:

11. The Woodentops – Love Train

There’s no effin’ & jeffin’ warning on this week’s playlist, but you should ensure any minors’ eyes are averted from the saucy old name of this band. Time to put your feet up and have a breather for a bit:

12. Starfucker – Rawnald Gregory Erickson the Second

I’m genuinely surprised when I hear that this R.E.M. track isn’t universally loved. Sure, it’s from the first post-Bill Berry album Up, which is patchy at best, but I think this is a rare moment of beauty from the band’s late period of ever decreasing circles and diminishing rewards:

13. R.E.M. – Suspicion

Ok, I’ll admit it. There’s another reason I picked that R.E.M. tune: for some reason which I can’t quite fathom, it pleased me greatly to have that song title next to this one. Maybe it’s because it then echoes Supernatural Superserious, the lead single from their Accelerate album. I dunno. Maybe. Does it matter?

Anyway, should you ever you get chance, check out some of the footage of Stevie playing this one when it was released back in 1972; he looks as cool as cool can be:

14. Stevie Wonder – Superstition

We’re on to the home straight now, and Stevie acts as the first part of a pair of Seventies classics used to book-end a couple of belters from the Eighties. No further notes required, I think:

15. New Order – True Faith

16. Pet Shop Boys – Heart

17. The Jackson 5 – I Want You Back

That’s yer lot til next Friday, although all of the previous mixes should be available to download should you need a long varied soundtrack for your Bank Holiday weekend BBQs. Fill your boots.

Oh, and: More soon.

Late Night Stargazing

It’s fairly well documented round these parts that I bloody love R.E.M., but even I will concede that after Bill Berry left, there’s very little of any merit in the remaining albums they put out.

I struggle to recognise the titles on some of them. Sometimes one comes up on shuffle and whilst I recognise it as being R.E.M. – Stipe’s vocals were distinctive until the end, even if his lyrics weren’t – but I have no clue which album it might be on. At a push, I could probably name the singles from each, but I wouldn’t want to make it my specialised subject on Mastermind (I have made my peace with the fact that I will never appear as a contestant on Celebrity Mastermind).

So imagine my surprise when one such song came upon shuffle the other night, and I found myself thinking: That’s not so bad, really. Granted, it’s no Country Feedback (but what is??), but still, y’know, okay, even if that is in the context of their latter career with it’s diminishing returns?

This one:

R.E.M – Until The Day Is Done

As I say: not great, but not terrible either. Alright, I guess.

I’ve not really sold this one to you, have I?

More soon.

Late Night Stargazing

Here’s three words I never thought I’d type: Dubstar are back!

You remember Dubstar, right? Had a couple of successful Britpop-era electronica pop records: Stars, Everywhere, Not So Manic Now and a really rather great cover of Billy Bragg’s St Swithin’s Day? Yes, that Dubstar.

When I say they’re back, they actually resurfaced in 2018, released an album called One which totally passed me by.

But now they’re back! Back! BACK! with a new album of mostly new material called Two.

I’m always a little wary of bands returning: I genuinely can’t think of a single band who has reformed and released records of the same standard as they did first time around. Don’t give me Take That as an answer, I’ll be dealing with them some other time.

I’ve not really given Two anything more than a cursory listen yet – it sounds just fine on first listen – so I may be wrong and this is the triumphant return one hopes for.

But it does include, as a final track, a cover version which is a pretty bold selection:

Dubstar – Perfect Circle

I’m undecided what I think about that.

Here’s the original:

R.E.M. – Perfect Circle

I have many different versions of R.E.M. performing that Bill Berry composition live, but on most of them something is not quite right – either Stipe’s lead vocal or Mike Mills’ backing vocal is just a little bit off.

This is the best the version I have, recorded for VH1’s Storytellers show, after Berry had left. Not only is it pretty much perfect, it includes Stipe saying “Hi Bill!” towards the end, an acknowledgement of the songsmith on this one:

R.E.M. – Perfect Circle (VH1 Storytellers)

Just beautiful.

More soon.

Home Furnishings

It’s a Bank Holiday (again) here in the UK, so (and again, with apologies to those who do have to work today) there’s no need for the usual New Mood on Monday post today.

Instead: a while ago, I briefly had a series on here called Art (I say brief: 2 posts in total is probably beyond brief) where I talked about some of the various pop culture references which adorn my walls – predominantly, but not exclusively, prints of album covers I love.

Since I’ve moved home though, I found the need to buy something my old flat never had – a doormat. But I didn’t want just any old doormat – I wanted something which fitted in with the pop culture feel of the stuff that covered the rest of the house. ‘I have pop culture references on the walls, so why not the floor too?’, I reasoned to nobody but myself. (Regular readers will be aware that pop culture is not just limited to the walls in my pad, for I own a pair of these, courtesy of my brother. I bought him a Sisters of Mercy clock for Christmas, but there’s not a song about that, so it’s not nearly as clever.)

So the search began, but nothing I found fitted the criteria, all too bland, or too “nice” and a bit too welcoming. No, I wanted a doormat which reflected my personality and, more specifically, my love of music.

And then I stumbled upon a place who do bespoke doormats; just send them what you wanted to have printed on it, and they would oblige, stamping your design on to the bristly little dog-dirt wiping bugger.

But now, faced with this blank canvas, I had to decide what should decorate this otherwise bland household item.

At first, I toyed with the idea of having the blog’s DJing Elvis logo on it, but wasn’t convinced a picture would come out so well on such a canvas, so I rejected that idea.

Words, that was what was needed. Something to replace the “Welcome” one normally finds on such things.

My next thought was to get one with the word “Binky” written on it, in reference to this tune, from (arguably) R.E.M.’s last if-not-great-then-at-least-pretty-good album:

R.E.M. -Binky The Doormat

Knowing how much I love R.E.M., you’ll be surprised to learn I rejected this idea too.

Instead, I plumped for a reference to this old skool banger:

Kicks Like A Mule – The Bouncer (Original Mix)

And here’s the frankly ruddy marvellous cover from Klaxons – 2007’s Mercury prize winning, next big thing (and promptly never heard of again) – which, if I’m totally honest, I prefer to the original:

Klaxons – The Bouncer

All of which means that in the unlikely event that anyone ever visits, this is what they will see when I open the door (with apostrophes in the right place):

Yes, you’re right: I am cool, aren’t I?

More soon.

Late Night Stargazing

Time to feel old again.

On Thursday, it was twenty five years since R.E.M. released what is arguably their last truly great album, New Adventures in Hi-Fi (or, as one of my mate Martin’s mates inadvertently and innocently used to pronounce it: New Adventures in Hee-Fee).

Recorded during the band’s 1995 Monster tour, it proved to be the final album to feature the original line-up, with drummer Bill Berry departing shortly afterwards. Funny how collapsing on stage with a brain aneurysm can effect people.

Here’s bass player Mike Mills in an interview with Mojo magazine:

“We got into the studio feeling very happy and relieved that everyone was okay, especially Bill. It brought us all much closer and made us realize how important we are to each other. Once we’d been through a crisis like that, making a record was a piece of cake. We discussed making an album of on-the-road stuff a year and a half before we went on the Monster tour. We wanted to get some of the looseness and spontaneity of a soundcheck, live show or dressing room. We used all the good songs. ‘Revolution’ – a song we did live – didn’t make it onto this record, just like it didn’t make it onto Monster… It usually takes a good few years for me to decide where an album stands in the pantheon of recorded work we’ve done. This one may be third behind Murmur and Automatic for the People.”

Many of the elements which we had come to expect were all here: down-beat lead single (E-Bow The Letter)? Check. Cool rock star celebrity guest appearance (Patti Smith)? Check. Seemingly pointless short instrumental (Zither)? Check. Absolute swoonsome beauty, drenched in feedback, sandwiched between two rockier/poppier numbers? Check.

This one:

R.E.M. – Be Mine

As is the record industry norm, a 25th anniversary edition is scheduled for release in October. Genuinely excited about this one.

More soon.

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

Watching Radiohead’s headliner set from Glastonbury 1997 on Friday night, I was reminded of just how wonderful this song is:

Radiohead – Street Spirit (Fade Out)

I was also reminded of the video:

…bits of which I always thought were ripped off (towards the end) on this video:

R.E.M. – Electrolite

And here, finally, is Michael Stipe dropping a bon mot and a clanging name-drop when explaining part of the lyric on an edition of VH1 Storytellers:

Michael Stipe – Explaining Electrolite

I know, annoying I cut it there, right?

More soon (I promise, R.E.M. won’t feature).

Glastonbury, So Much To Answer For

You may have noticed that this weekend would have been Glastonbury Festival weekend.

Of course, Covid has put paid to that for a second year running – perhaps if it were to have a snog and a grope with someone who didn’t have a ticket, that would be fine? – but the BBC have decided to mark the missing music by showing some of the finest headliner shows. Tonight you’ll be able to relive Kylie from 2019 (not a headliner set, but whatever, she almost was had the Big C not struck her down in 2005) and Artic Monkeys from 2013 on BBC2 from 22:00, whilst Iggy and The Stooges grace the 2007 stage (I was at that! – also not a headliner set) on BBC4, then on Sunday sees BBC4 fulfil it’s remit with a set from Fela Kuti from 1984. All of these concerts book-ended with various compilation shows.

Not sure how they’ve managed to over look Quo’s set from 2009, but they can’t get everything right, I guess.

Last night saw BBC2 show Radiohead’s headline set from 1997, and R.E.M.’s from 1999. I had intended to post some of my favourite sets from years that I attended, and top of that list would have been R.E.M.’s set from the first year I went, 2003.

You may have noticed that when I have bothered to post here recently, R.E.M. have often featured. See, I’m having a bit of an R.E.M. renaissance recently. A R.E.M.aissance, if you will. And I think I can probably attribute this to JC and The Robster’s excellent (recently concluded) series over at JC’s place where they honestly reviewed every R.E.M. single – and when I say “honestly” I mean they pulled no punches and called out the duffers where they occurred, which, as the band got older, was often – and now The (rejuvenated) Robster’s off-shoot series over at his own place where he picks what should have been singles from the band’s mighty catalogue.

Alas, I couldn’t find the 2003 set anywhere (if anyone has any good bootleg sites they care to recommend I’d be very grateful), so instead, just in case you want to check how off-key those Beach Boys-esque harmonies on At My Most Beautiful are, or how the end of Sweetness Follows seems to descend into an out of time (see what I did there) mess, here’s the audio from the R.E.M. show which was transmitted again last night:

R.E.M. – Live from Glastonbury 1999

Apologies for the intro nonsense on that, I haven’t had time to edit it out. Skip to around the 01:40 mark for the actual music to start.

Back in 1999, it seems the Beeb didn’t have the rights to show the entire set live, as we join the group as they are about to go into Daysleeper, which was actually the seventh song on the night. We’ve already missed (in order): Lotus, What’s the Frequency, Kenneth?, So Fast So Numb, The Apologist, Fall On Me, and The Great Beyond – some I’m not sorry were omitted but some….well, I hope whoever missed out on Fall On Me, one of their finest records, sleeps at night. (It would be remiss of me not to point out it does appear on the recent R.E.M at the BBC boxset.)

All of which makes me sound like a real sourpuss or grumpy face, but I don’t mean to be: while we may not get the full picture, we do get a lot of the big-hitters, the crowd pleasers, but we also get a snapshot of just how wonderfully entertaining and bewitching R.E.M. live could be on their day.

God, I miss them.

More soon.

Late Night Stargazing

Continuing a watery theme from yesterday morning….

After the football on Friday night – i.e. just when I needed it – BBC4 aired an hour of R.E.M. live at the BBC.

If you can ignore the fact that it jumped from second album Reckoning‘s Pretty Persuasion to sixth album Green‘s Pop Song ’89 it was a reasonably career- encompassing show.

The highlight for me was a performance of Nightswimming, lifted from an edition of Later…with Jools Holland; to the best of my knowledge this has never seen a commercial release (and I’m sure The Robster will correct me if I’m wrong). It certainly doesn’t appear on the R.E.M. – Live at the BBC album which came out a couple of years ago..

And so here it is, just Stipe’s unmistakable vocal, Mike Mills on piano, and I think something that’s supposed to sound like a cor anglais parping along beautifully. Thankfully Jools doesn’t rock up with his trademark boogie-woogie piano:

R.E.M. – Nightswimming (Later… with Jools Holland 14 October 2003)

More soon.

Late Night Stargazing

I’m sure, like me, you’ve been following with great admiration Jim and The Robster’s collaborative effort going over all of the R.E.M. singles in chronological order over at The Vinyl Villain.

It’s been a really interesting and honest read, especially seeing the point where patience began to where patience began to wear thin (the Up album), where it finally ran out (the godawful Around The Sun album) but it’s also been heartening to read many people in the comments who also gave up on them at around the same time, now giving the Accelerate album a listen for the first time and very much liking what they heard – the R.E.M. of old.

The series is fast approaching the end, with just the singles from the farewell album, Collapse Into You to go (I think…The Robster knows best), but I thought I’d duck in with this little beauty which features as an extra track on the career spanning Part Lies, Part Heart, Part Truth, Part Garbage compilation album. This was released as a single elsewhere in the world but not in the UK, so I hope I’m not treading on their toes by posting it.

As a rule, I’m not a fan of bonus tracks on Best Of… albums, viewing them as manipulative way to get us fans to part with our hard-earned cash once more for songs which we mostly already own.

The other two bonus songs on the album – A Month of Saturdays and Hallelujah – are, to put it kindly, nothing special.

But We All Go Back To Where We Belong is just gorgeous, all parping horns, beautiful strings and Stipe’s restrained breathy vocals; it practically twinkles as it come out of your speakers. It’s a thing of such beauty that when I first heard it I remember thinking: “There you go, see: you can still do it.”

R.E.M. – We All Go Back To Where We Belong

There would have been a few more tears shed when the band split if more of their late-period records had sounded like that, I think.

Had it been released as a single in the UK, it would have been a fitting swansong to a glorious career. But instead we got…ah, no. I’ll leave it to Jim and Rob.

More soon.