Breathe

Hello.

Yes, I have been quiet for a few days.

There’s a reason for that – and no, in case you’re concerned, it isn’t related to my Dad’s health (although at the time of writing he is still in hospital).

This is one of those posts which I’ve started writing and have no idea where it’s going, so bear with me.

I had a long chat on the phone the other day, and during that conversation the person I was chatting to mentioned they read this, and asked me how my stats were.

It was a trick question, for I had previously told them that I wasn’t interested in how many views or visitors this place has had anymore. And yet I was able to answer quite precisely. Which meant I was getting too fixated on that aspect of blogging, the chasing of numbers. And so I took some time out.

Saturday mornings, though, is almost traditionally where I have a rant about whatever’s going on in the world that yanks my chain. It used to be Brexit, but now it’s Covid-19, or more specifically the Government’s handling of it.

“Now is not the time to be apportioning blame!” howl the gammon-faced who habitually do just that. “Now is the time to come together to defeat the common enemy” they scream in a rare moment of lucidity, attempting to evoke some kind of Blitz-spirit, even though World War 2 and the current crisis are in no way comparable.

Ok. I won’t then. But let me know when it is okay to criticise the Government’s handling of the pandemic crisis and I’ll happily chip in. It’s clearly not the day when they missed their target of 100,00 tests a day by the end of April (goal posts moved: that was what the pledge was, but now it’s to have the capacity to test rather than to actually test).

And that’s why I’m slightly reticent about writing a political post today, for satirical behemoths – BBC1’s Have I Got News For You and BBC Radio 4’s The News Quiz – have both aired; I’ve watched/listened to them both, so I worry I may be inavertently nicking a gag or a point from one of the more famous participants.

But the Goverment’s position – that they had achieved or nearly achieved the target – is just laughable. For the stats they announced failed to take into account those who were tested more than once, and included testing kits which had been posted out, rather than those which had actually been returned and tested.

The adjusted figures I have seen suggest a figure of around 714,000 per day was actually being tested. And that’s fine, that’s good: that’s better than 713,000 per day.

But here’s the problem: we don’t believe politicians any more. I mean, you only have to look at who our Prime Minister is to see that’s true. Nobody believes a word that Boris says, because it’s Boris and we all know his history as a liar, a serial philanderer, a bully, a Brexit flip-flopper until the moment suited him, and the most shamefully incompetent and yet self-promoting Mayor of London in history (OK, for the latter part I’ll give you Dick Whittington: say what you like about BoJo, he hasn’t got a pantomime named after him. Unless you count the Cabinet, of course. Boom! Satire! ) and yet we – and by we, I do not mean me – voted the tousle-haired absentee Latin-quoting shagger into office.

It’s not often I find myself agreeing with Janet Street-Porter, but I saw this the otherday and found myself nodding in consensual confirmation:

I mean, she’s right, isn’t she?

We may have a bull-shitting, bizarrely coiffured, absentee numb-nut in charge, but at least we don’t have this bull-shitting, bizarrely coiffured, (golfing) absentee numb-nut in charge:

I *love* the way he has to clarify the word “doctor” by prefixing it with the word “medical”. You know, like all those other kinds of non-medical doctors you might ask about this kind of thing.

The day after that press conference, there was a spike in the amount of people admitted to hospital in the US, having injected themselves with bleach in the hope of ridding themselves of any virus potentially coursing through their neanderthal veins. Cue the POTUS back-pedalling and claiming he was “being sarcastic” when he suggested it. Of course you were, Donny.

See, perhaps when you say something sarcastic that is no more ludicrous than many other things you say, you need to make it a bit more obvious that it wasn’t an instruction:

A thought: if someone is so stupid as to think that by injecting disinfectant directly into them is a good idea – and by which I actually mean not only believing but acting upon anything Trump says – aren’t these exactly the braying yee-haw rednecks we should celebrate being removed from the gene pool? (And a big hello to all my American readers!)

Pop Will Eat Itself – Inject Me

Praga Khan feat. Jade 4U – Injected With A Poison

That’s why Trump back-tracked: not through any concern or remorse for people self-harming as a result of his *coughs* sarcastic words, but because he realised that only his supporters would be dumb enough to do it, and dead people can’t vote him back in. Although he’d probably find a way to allow it. As long as they weren’t black, obviously.

But I’m not talking about any of that today. (Yes, that was me not talking about it. Welcome to my world.)

Instead, let me take you back to November 2019, when regular readers may recall I had to decant from my flat into temporary accommodation in a Travelodge whilst some anti-subsidence works were done to my residence.

I always promised I would write about my time in this Partridge-esque setting, but truth be told nothing much happened which deserved comment. There was no breakfast and so no Big Plate – sorry, there was breakfast but it was “breakfast on the go”, so a scrambled egg bagel, a coffee and a fruity muffin (stop it!) all for the princely sum of £5.25 per day and nowhere to sit and eat it, so I declined it every day – and other than my key not working every now and then (actually, more now and also then), there was nothing much to report.

Look. Here’s the view from my room; this as exciting as my time there got:

Beautiful, right? If that’s not inspiring, then I don’t know what is.

When I finally returned to my flat, I found that the workmen had literally done as little as possible. They had started painting my kitchen, but gone no further than painting the borders. They had been instructed to obtain new lampshades for the Big Lights in the living room and bedroom, but had elected to just swap them in the hope nobody would notice. They installed a new curtain rail and curtain which left about six inches between bottom of curtain and bottom of one window. They didn’t bother covering anything when painting the rooms, so now my belongings – a fridge/freezer, a coffee machine to name but two – have paint spattered on them, as does the bathroom and kitchen floor.

Along with the spattered paint, several clues had been left throughout the flat to confirm they had ever even been there: numerous fag ends tossed on the floor; paint on the windows – not just close to the window frames, but sloshed across the pane like blood at a crime scene; sandpaper, paint and rolling trays nonchalantly left on top of the cooker, a box of black rubber gloves left on the mantlepiece.

Wait, what?

Truth be told, that box of black rubber has subsequently saved me a couple of quid, since for the last month or so, the wearing of latex gloves has been demanded whenever leaving the boundaries of my residence.

Keen to observe goverment directives, (when they finally came) I ordered a surgical face mask, and was delighted when it arrived, for finally I could go outside without attracting the sort of glances usually reserved for serial killers and sexual deviants (I imagine).

Which was ironic for now I actually looked like a serial killer. Rocking the black latex gloves and surgical mouth-mask look gave me the appearance of popular 80s murderer Denis Nilson; whenever I ventured out I felt like I was en route to a serial killer-themed party.

Plus, I also found that every breath from my Covid-19 defiant, mask-covered mouth and nose caused my glasses to steam up. Any spectacles wearer who has walked into a crowded pub on a winter evening will know what I mean. Faced with the choice of inadvertently passing on a virus I don’t think I have or accidentally walking out into the middle of the road and the path of an oncoming bus, I chose the former.

And let me tell you ladies and gentlemen, that if there’s one thing worse than the disapproving looks you get for not wearing a surgical mask at all in public during pandemic times, it’s the looks you get for obviously having a mask but electing to wear it slung casually loose around your neck, rather than in place in front of your wheezing breath orifices.

I’m reminded of Rhod Gilbert’s encounter with the travelling chef on a train:

Time for an appropriate tune: Tina Turner’s Steamy Windows springs to mind, but I bloody hate that song, so instead, this:

R.E.M. – Try Not To Breathe

More soon.

The Chain #46

I got quite excited the other day, when I went into my Drafts folder and saw this title.

“Zut alors!” I exclaimed, thinking that I must have at the very least started writing the next installment of The Chain. And that I was French or German or whatever that language is.

But no, my laziness and ineptitude was laid out there before me, for all I had done was write the title, and that was it. Classic me, if my deadline nightmares are anything to go by.

Anyway, hello, and welcome back to the latest in what is turning out to be an increasingly infuriating occasional series: The Chain.

But at least it’s here, right? We all need distractions and things to think about at the moment, things to fill the time, and surely there’s no finer way to spend some time than reading what folks from all around the world can link to one particular song. It’s what Covid-19 was invented for, surely.

A brief reminder for those new to the shnizz we get up to here: we’re working our way through the songs played on The Chain section of Radcliffe & Maconie’s 6Music show, coming up with alternative suggestions, and listening to them all instead of just the one (Mrs Wembley). 80s sitcom gag, there, to help you acclimatise to the level of writing you can expect should you venture further.

I used to write these once a week, but then couldn’t be arsed lacked inspiration for a year or so, brought it back and suddenly find myself wondering where the days/weeks have gone and how it’s got to the point where I really should have written it by now has arrived.

Anyway, blah blah blah poor old me….let’s be off.

This episode, just to be different, we’re not going to start with the source record from last time. Well not quite, anyway.

No, instead, we’re going start with the first part of one of Rol from My Top Ten‘s suggestions:

The album version of Tubthumping opens with an inspirational quote from the great Pete Postlethwaite, taken from the movie ‘Brassed Off’…

Dammit, it’s done my head in for years trying to remember where I recognised that from! Cheers, Rol!

Chumbawamba – Tubthumping (Album Version)

Before we go any further with Rol’s suggestion, I’ll hand you over to one of the two people who insist on emailing me (which is fine, by the way) their suggestions rather than popping them in the Comments section:

You may recall that last time out The Great Gog got a little obsessed with the county of Hampshire. And rightly so: if Hampshire had a church steeple with a 123-metre spire, then them pesky Ruskies would be queuing up to smear Novochok all over it and any corporate Italian restaurant chain in the immediate vicinity (I’m nothing if not topical).

Anyway, things don’t appear to have changed much in the Land of the Gog:

The album containing Tubthumping is Tubthumper.

Thumper is a rabbit in the animated film Bambi.

There are lots of cartoon rabbits in the animated film Watership Down.

Watership Down is set in some Hampshire fields – which could take us all the way back…

Art Garfunkel – Bright Eyes

Is it too early to be handing out points for Comments Showboating? I think not: POINTS!

By the way, I’m not going to post the Points Table every time I write one of these, as nothing much will change from one post to another. It’d be like looking at any sports league table over the past four weeks. I’ll update things and do it every couple of posts or so.

Or…The Great Gog continues…stretching the link to breaking point (You’re by no means the worst cuplrit, fill your boots)…given my ramblings above…[this] would seem appropriate:

Bright Eyes – Down in a Rabbit Hole

Which gives me an unexpectedly early opportinty to to dust off my catchprase (he says, as he dons a spangly suit).

*Ahem*

Well, if you’re having that, then [all together now] I’m having this:

Chas & Dave – Rabbit

Sorry, Rol, where were we?

The soundtrack to Brassed Off was performed by the Grimethorpe Colliery Band, Rol continues. The Grimethorpe Colliery Band also played on this famous John Peel favourite:

Roy Harper – When An Old Cricketer Leaves The Crease

Next up, over to The Robster from the annoyingly still dormant Is This the Life blog who offers this:

All I could come up with is Get Up by R.E.M. but I’m sure I can come up with something else given time. Probably got, what, 18 months before the next installment? which is a bit rich, coming from the man who only posts anything at the end of the year. Go on click that link to his blog, let’s see if we can’t get him back in action. Your country needs you, Rob!

I posted the album version of this song not so long ago in my I’m Not Too Keen on Mondays series, so here’s a slightly different version, a live one, which pops up as one of the bonus tracks on the Collector’s Edition of the Shiny Happy People CD single.

But since the band themselves have practically disowned that single (guitarist Peter Buck once described it as “relentlessly upbeat” and also said “If we did one of those per record, I could see how it could get a little embarrassing”) maybe we should too; it’s notable for it’s absence from many of the Greatest Hits compilations, despite it being their =4th biggest hit in the UK (after, in reverse order: Leaving New York (#5), E-Bow The Letter (#4) and The Great Beyond (#3))

They weren’t so embarrased by it that they declined to do this, though (and who could blame them: would you turn down the chance to appear with the Muppets on Sesame Street???)

I love that the female vocalist is a Muppet who looks like Kate Pierson from The B-52s who, as you all know, provided the additional vocals on the single.

But I digress: this version is neither the album version nor the tucked-away-on-a-limited-edition-CD single version, but one I *coughs* obtained from a long gone and much missed blog called (I think…) The Independence of Tractors (long-time bloggers and blog followers may be able to jog my memory….I’m thinking of featuring this soon and would like to accredit, so if anyone has any info….y’know….), who once posted the whole of the band’s Tourfilm DVD as a series of mp3s:

R.E.M. – Get Up (Tourfilm Version)

Onwards, then, to the next suggestion, and to Alyson from What’s It All About? who proffers this:

I got a bit worried when you mentioned Jarvis and his controversial stunt at the Brits as I remember whose expense it was at. But no, it was our friendly water boys who if I remember correctly soaked Two Jags Prescott. Sticking to my Scottish band theme I’m therefore going to go with The Waterboys for the next link and sticking with my “water” theme in this comments box, the song….

The Waterboys – Fisherman’s Blues

I think I should step in and clarify that, according to their Wikipedia page, they’re a Scottish-Irish band..

Anyway, nice of you to bring up the subject of Chumbawamba’s dust up with John Precott at The Brits, as this gives us licence to go off at a bit of a tangent.

To start things off, here’s George:

A Chumbawumba was involved in an altercation with then deputy PM John Prescott, who was the MP for Hull. Also from Hull was Mick Ronson, who played guitar on:

Lulu – The Man Who Sold the World

It’s not really a surprise that Ronson was involved, given who wrote the song and who – keen-eared listeners will have noticed – also provides backing vocals on that: one Mr D Bowie Esq.

George adds: I was going to go from John “Two Jags” Prescott to The Jags and Back of my Hand, but changed my mind.

What, and you think that’s going to stop me posting it? Of course you don’t, you know I won’t be able to resist:

The Jags – Back Of My Hand

Since we’re on Prescott, indulge me for a moment with my two favourite clips involving him. The first isn’t really about him, but it is from a documentary he made back in 2008 called Prescott – The Class System And Me:

I guarantee you, she voted Brexit.

And then there’s this notorious clip:

In his defence: a) what would you do if someone chucked an egg at you? and b) later (admittedly when he’d had time to get someone else to write a witty response think of something clever to say, he came up with this: “Well, Tony Blair asked me to go out and connect with the electorate….”

Anyway, that leads me to my next suggestion of the week:

The Chemical Brothers (feat. Tim Burgess) – The Boxer

Over now to Martin from New Amusements who proffers this Prescott related…um… jewel, I guess:

Like George, I’m going with a John Prescott connection, but hope to craft mine into a Double Linker. Yes, Danbert Nobacon once up-ended an ice-bucket over John Prescott at the Brits, but John Prescott was also memorably once replaced on ‘Have I Got News For You’ with a tub of lard, so I can surely claim a double link to Tubthumping for anything lard-related, so I’ll pitch:

The Shirehorses – If You Tolerate This Piss

He’s not done yet: …which, lest we forget, featured Marc “Lard” Riley. Since this is also about drinking, much like Chumbawumba’s chorus, could this be a Triple Linker? And maybe a point for worst suggestion of the week?

I don’t think I can refuse, can I, dear reader? It’s unquestionably the worst record of the week (POINT!) and he has managed to get a triple link out of this, the first time this has happened as far as I can recall (Ermmmm…points, I guess….).

I think we need to cleanse our palate a little, and remind ourselves that Martin could easily have dodged the sub-Barron Knights tosh that is The Shirehorses by referencing it and then directing us to this:

Manic Street Preachers – If You Tolerate This Your Children Will Be Next

Which brings me back to Rol, whose first suggestion was this:

The Manic Street Preachers must be guilty of Tubthumping, since that’s what Street Preachers do.

Alice Nutter was in Chumbawamba. The Manics once covered an Alice Cooper song. So…

Manic Street Preachers – Under My Wheels

If that’s not a double-linker, than I don’t know what is.

Well, yes, Yes it is. POINTS!

Anyway, for continuity purposes, take a step back. If You Tolerate This… was the band’s first #1 single in the UK (I’m sure this can all be traced back to a shared cheese salad…) and it contains the line “Well, if I can shoot rabbits, then I can shoot fascists”, which leads me to another draft post of mine which I never got round to finishing. And neither Chas nor Dave are anywhere in sight.

This one even had a semi-clever title: “You’re Not The One For Me, Fascist”.

I’ll hand over to the ever wonderful Charity Chic to explain:

Chumbawumba recorded a song with Credit to the Nation called ‘The Day the Nazi Died’…

Chumbawamba & Credit to the Nation – The Day The Nazi Died (1993 Mix)

Ordinarily, I wouldn’t allow a suggestion which was simply “X recorded the source record, and they also recorded this”, but since this was a collaboration with the frankly quite marvellous Credit to the Nation, I’ll let it slide.

Plus: Charity Chic has a point to make:

….Morrissey (who may or may not be a Nazi) – he continues (“Not my words, the words of Top Gear car magazine!”) had a song called:

Morrissey – First of the Gang to Die

…And he is a bit of a tub these days who could probably do with a good thumping…Charity Chic signs off.

Just in case you’re not sure what CC is banging on about, or on which side of the fence you should be sitting when it comes to the whole “Is Morrissey a racist?” question, well I’ll leave you to make your own mind up.

And here to help you is a picture of him performing live on The Jimmy Fallon Show in May 2019:

And here’s a close-up of the badge he’s wearing on his lapel:

In case you’re not familiar with it, and I hope you’re not, that is a For Britain badge.

For Britain are not nice people.

Oh my, indeed.

Here’s my rule of thumb when it comes to Morrissey, which you are welcome to adopt: yes, when he was in The Smiths he made some inflammatory comments in interviews, but none of them leaked into his lyrics. Since The Smiths split and he went solo, they have. Regularly.

So: The Smiths – fine to still express love and admiration; Morrissey solo – tread carefully.

Which leads me to a suggestion from Jules of Music From Magazines fame, which *checks notes* I’m disqualifying becuase *checks notes*…well, I’m not sure why to be honest, but I am and that’s that:

Carrying on with the high five, Mel Brooks ‘Hitler Rap’

Ah now, I remember; in response to Charity Chic’s anti-Moz post, Jules responded: A high five for that and I don’t think that’s enough to allow it.

Yes, I am a strict Taskmaster, and yes, Greg Davies, watch your back!

What else have you got, Jules?

As I am a tad partial to a cider drink or eight anything I suggest at closing time will make sense….

I beg to differ, but nonetheless:

Tom Waits – Closing Time

Please allow me to interject with something more cheerful but less good:

Semisonic – Closing Time

And then with something less good and less cheerful:

Leonard Cohen – Closing Time

Ok, who’s left?

Well, long time readers of The Chain will know that certain things crop up repeatedly. For sure is eggs is eggs, someone will suggest either a record by The Clash or Bruce Springsteen just to annoy George, and Jules will suggest something by Lambchop.

No, not that Lambchop….

So let’s unclasp the shackles and let Jules free; I have to say that I almost rejected all that you are about to enjoy, until I thought about his first suggestion a little harder:

Any crossword fan would see the anagram “wham bam Cuba” and the country’s name was nailed by the Gibson Brothers:

Gibson Brothers – Cuba

Don’t think Debbie Gibson was related but her role in the film “Mega Python vs. Gatoroid” was ably supported by Tiffany...

Tiffany – I Think We’re Alone Now

Whoa there! You can’t mention Debbie Gibson and expect me not to slide this in, for no other reason than to direct you away from the schmaltz:

Mojo Nixon & Skip Roper – Debbie Gibson Is Pregnant With My Two Headed Love Child

Well, that hasn’t lost any of it’s charm, has it?

Right, where were we? Ah yes, with Jules. Off you go, feller. Pretend I said nothing. I promise not to interupt again.

Ah yes “Breakfast At Tiffany’s”, not that song

What, this song….? (I lied)

Deep Blue Something – Breakfast At Tiffany’s

Jesus, I’d forgotten how much I hate that record.

…not that song, but the film that featured Moon River...

This..?

Audrey Hepburn – Moon River

At last! A bit of class is introduced around these parts!

Oh wait, he’s not done yet.

…but more importantly was based on a novella by Truman Capote. Harry S. Truman was the 33rd U.S. president, the 37th was Richard Nixon….

Lambchop – The Old Gold Shoe

There it is! Normality restored.

Where next? Step up to the plate, if you will, Rigid Digit:

Tubthumping – a synonym for drumming (or it is in my world anyway).

Drummers doing solo singles? Not a rare thing. Plenty of stuff from Ringo…

Ringo Starr – It Don’t Come Easy

….and Phil Collins

Phil Collins – In The Air Tonight

Now, let’s be honest: every time we’re unlucky enough to hear that, all we can really think of is this:

…Dave Grohl left the drum stool, strapped on a guitar and became Mr Foo…which sounds like a George Formby record (“Oh Mr Foo, what shall I do…? A niche joke, I know), but I’ve gone off at enough tangents, so we’ll leave that.

Foo Fighters – The Pretender

Even Keith Moon managed a solo album (word of advice: approach with caution).

I have to draw the line somewhere…

But I’m choosing the drummer who was invited to join the reformed ELP in the mid-80s for two reasons:

1) He was a great drummer

2) His surname began with P

Cozy Powell – Dance With The Devil

Let’s hand the baton on to Walter from A Few Good Times In My Life:

The main thing of Tubthumping is keep your head up whatever will be. This leads me to:

Curtis Mayfield – Keep on Keeping On

 …otherwise by…

The Redskins – Keep On Keepin’ On!

If I could award points for Best Record of The Week, that would win, hands down.

Back then to some email submissions I received, and I’ll hand over to Pat from phonicpat for a bit:

“….a couple of suggestions – a link to a thumping:

Earl Vince & The Valiants – Somebody’s Gonna Get Their Head Kicked In Tonite

This song has featured in The Chain before so strictly speaking should be disqualified, but looking back I see that both this and The Rezillos version were suggsted at the same time, and, unable to choose between the two, I posted both. So I’ll let this slide too…but only so I can post my favourite record about somebody getting their head kicked in:

The Jam – Down In The Tube Station At Midnight

What else have you got, Pat?

Elvis Presley – Heartbreak Hotel

…link being Chumbawamba covered this on the “Fuck EMI” compilation.

Which leads me back to The Robster, who hasn’t quite had the eighteen months he ribbed me with earlier to think things over, but nonetheless has returned with this:

I remember when Tubthumping came out, it was released on EMI *shock-horror* a filthy major label. The band was deluged with accusations of selling out and going back on its DIY ethos. But one of the reasons they signed to EMI was because previous label One Little Indian rejected the ‘Tubthumper’ album as they didn’t like its sound. The band subsequently signed to EMI as “…experience had taught us that in a capitalist environment almost every record company operates on capitalist principles. Our previous record label One Little Indian didn’t have the evil symbolic significance of EMI but they were completely motivated by profit. Our position was that whoever we signed with would want us not for our ideas but for the potential profit, so we’d battle for a contract where we still had autonomy.”

So to that end, I’m offering up…a song about the music industry’s obsession with making moolah with little regard for the art:

The Kinks – The Money Go Round

Hang on a minute: that’s two mentions of the same record company in as many messages. It’s almost like somebody has manipulated it so the suggestions fell this way…

Sex Pistols – E.M.I.

We’re on the home stretch now, I promise. And with the finish line in sight, the baton is thrust into Alex G’s hand:

Of course, a song about a man who drinks a whiskey drink, a cider drink, a lager drink AND a vodka drink naturally leads us to Shane MacGowan. I suppose any song would do, but just to keep the theme going, it may as well be

Shane MacGowan and the Popes – That Woman’s Got Me Drinking

What Alex G omits to mention is that That Woman’s Got Me Drinking features the guitar work of one Mr Johnny Depp. When he’s not acting in the latest Tim Burton movie, or appearing in an advert for something smelly, or getting stopped at the border of an antipodean country trying to smuggle dogs across and subsequently being forced to make an apologetic if half-arsed video rather than go to jail, or defending himself against allegations of domestic abuse for that matter, there’s nothing Mr Depp likes more than to pop up in unexpected places:

Where were we?

Ah yes, booze related songs. I’m surprised there wasn’t more of these. Let me chuck one into the mix:

The Wurzels – I Am A Cider Drinker

And yes, The Shirehorses song is worse than that.

Hold up, Pat’s got another one:

Several booze songs come to mind but I’ll go for…

Pulp – Whiskey in the Jar

…on the bonus cd of Different Class, Jarvis trying very hard to keep his own accent rather than channelling Phil Lynott.

Pat has a point; I much prefer it when Jarvis sounds like Jarvis, rather than trying to sound like a drug-addicted partner of gameshow host Leslie Crowther’s daughter.

Hey Dirk! Dirk! DIRK! Fancy suggesting something mate?

Two famous song titles are more or less quoted in the lyrics of ‘Tubthumping’ – the first one being ‘Danny Boy’, which, as we all know, is the Anthem of Northern Ireland. And what is the finest thing Northern Ireland ever produced, apart from ships (minus the Titanic. Obviously)?

Oh blimey, there’s a can of worms opened…

It’s of course:

The Undertones – Teenage Kicks

Phew!

…which could well be the link here. (It isn’t.)

Alas it’s not [I know] (although, Jez, nevertheless this should be a good excuse to include said tune in your essay straightaway), because, as I said, another song is being mentioned and that is ‘Don’t Cry For Me Argentina’. Yes, I have noticed that Chumbawamba omit the ‘Argentina’ – bit (and replace it by ‘next door neighbour’). But this is purely for copyright infringement reasons, I’m sure.

Now, ‘Don’t Cry For Me Argentina’ is a song done by Julie Covington back in 1976. But only (freaks like) you and me know this. And Wikipedia. To the wider public another version is much better known, and that’s the one by Madonna from 1997.

So the link, no question about that, is, to my great dismay (because I would have LOVED to see my other option), Madonna’s version of ‘Don’t Cry For Me Argentina’.

I mean, love ya for trying and all that, but it isn’t the link, and frankly Covington’s version pisses all over Madonna’s attempt, so Dirk: you shall (metaphorically) go to the (metaphorical) ball!

Julie Covington – Don’t Cry For Me Argentina

I always thought that ended rather abruptly, like the whole orchestra had spotted that David Essex had the microphone again, and downed tools to wrestle it from his sweaty palms.

Last one, now (sort of), for inspired by Dirk’s moving words, Walter has something else to offer:

…as Dirk said ‘Danny Boy is is the North Irish anthem and House of Pain celebrated the Irish style on their first album. Therefore I suggest:

House of Pain – Jump Around

(We may have to explain the difference between Northern and Southern Ireland to our overseas friends one day. But not today.)

I say sort of, because of course I have something else to offer.

Dirk also mentions Danny Boy, and you’ll recall that, several hours ago when you first started reading this, Rol mentioned the film Brassed Off and The Grimethorpe Colliery Band.

Which, just to make this all nice and circular (you know, like I know what I’m doing) makes right here a pretty good point to jump off:

The Grimethorpe Colliery Band – Danny Boy

Brassed Off was on Film 4 the other night. It remains a thing of beauty. If you haven’t seen it, or even if you have, and have a couple of hours to kill (which, I think I’m safe in saying we all do at the moment) then you could do a lot worse than spend them watching this: it’s up to stream on the C4 app All4.

And that leaves just one thing: the unveiling of the next link in The Chain, and trust me, had anybody got this I would have been suspicious.

Here’s the official link from Tubthumping to the next record:

[Tubthumping] was once sung by Homer Simpson of cartoon fame. He also sang:

Donovan – Mellow Yellow

Your suggestions then, please, along with your explanation of how your suggestion links to Mellow Yellow by Donovan, via the Comments section below or, if you must, by email to dubioustaste26@gmail.com.

Minus points to anyone who suggests Coldplay. You’ve been warned.

More soon.

I Just Can't Get Enough of Those Self-Isolation Blues

The first thing I want to say today is thank you, for all the good wishes after my last post, especially to the couple of “lurkers” (their choice of words!) who’d never left a comment before but wanted to show some support. The rest of you guys are used to offering support in my times of woe, so y’know…still appreciated, but it’s a big deal for non-bloggers to stick their heads above the parapet – so thank you to you all.

The second thing, I guess, is how I’m doing. Well, better, is the answer to that; I still have an annoying cough, but the high temperature has gone and I’ve not strayed into the territory of being short of breath, any more so than usual.

So I’m not sure that I’ve had “it”; that said, whether I have or not, I do think I’ve done the right thing by taking myself out of circulation. Indeed, the day after I decided not to go to work, I learned that there had been one confirmed case in my office, along with a couple of people who, like me, were showing some of the signs so the decision was made that all in my department should work from home for the time being.

Much as I disagree with much of the Government’s handling of this crisis, and at the risk of sounding like I’m trying to score political points here because Boris has been – well, I’d like to say unbelievably here, but he’s been exactly as we expected: an idiot of King Canute proportions, trying to turn back the tide of a virus with catchphrases; isn’t “Turn The Tide” just a little bit too close to “Get Brexit Done”? – believably shit, the one thing they did get right was to recommend that, if you can, you work from home, avoid contact with anyone else, self-isolate, irrespective of whether or not you have any of the symptoms.

Anyway, how have I filled my days since Wednesday I hear you mumble into a scarf pulled across your chops? Well, with quite a lot of snoozing in front of the telly, it has to be said. But also listening to some podcasts – truly the BBC have upped their game and shown exactly why it is essential they do not become a subscription only service – and watching some TV shows and films that I love. On Friday, I watched two of my favourite films: Shaun of the Dead, which incredibly ITV2 isn’t showing at the moment, and Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, both of which I’ll probably return to talk about at some point.

Tonight there’s a documentary about Maradona on Channel 4 which is probably worth a watch, along with the final episode of Hidden on BBC4, which I won’t bang on about as I’m biased because my friend Sian (who many of you sponsored to do the London Marathon last year) stars in it, and (she, and it) is just utterly, utterly brilliant.

But you won’t be surprised to learn that I’ve also spent quite a while thinking about appropriate songs for our current situation, and so, well here you go: fourteen apt songs to keep you reasonably occupied

And to start off, a man who claims to understand the joys of self-isolation, but who in reality probably would have sent out a couple of hoods via his Mafia connections to sort out this corona wise guy:

Frank Sinatra – A Man Alone

The message that we’re trying to get across here is that, irrespective of what symptoms you may or may may not have, your time would be much better spent staying at home rather than clearing the shelves down at your local supermarket of their staple foods:

Alice DeeJay – Better Off Alone

Whilst she may have a valid point, nobody is going to take seriously anyone who gives their ascribed profession as their surname. It’d be like me telling you my name is Jez Insurance Officer, or Boris demanding to be called Boris Prime Minister (although given what his actual surname is slang for, this might be preferable), or Clarkson insisting he be referred to as Jeremy Denim-Bigot.

Perhaps, just perhaps (given that it came out in 1999) this isn’t the clarion call to stay home that we want it to be. How do we know that “Alice” doesn’t have any of the symptoms we’ve all come to know and over-identify? There’s only one group qualified to ask such a question:

Terrorvision – Alice What’s the Matter (‘Oh Yeah’ Mix)

Now, irrespective of whether Alice is or is not showing any of the symptoms, it’s important that she – and you, yes you – takes themselves out of the loop for a while. If you’re not exposed to it, then you can’t catch or spread it – it’s not a difficult concept, right?

What you need to convince you is somebody who shot their own face off in a downward spiral of herion and depression, right? Right!

Nirvana – Stay Away

No? Ok, so how about something from an album of acts covering/trying out Brian Wilson songs under his tutelage, who are so good, they don’t even make the list of artists on the front sleeve of the very album they feature on?

Redwood – Time To Get Alone

And so to a song which I’ve had ear-worming it’s way through my brain for days now, the title of which is self-explanatory, even if the subject matter is actually some hippie schtick:

Thunderclap Newman – Something In The Air

Sometimes, you have to look for the silver lining with global crises, and I think we can find one here. For finally, we find a use for a song from R.E.M.’s just-about-above-average Up album, for it’s not just ‘something’ that’s in the air….:

R.E.M. – You’re In The Air

So, the best way to fight this is to self-isolate, to avoid contact with anybody else. As a result, I imagine there’s quite a few porn sites which have suddenly experienced an increase in traffic. The ladies on Babestation (er…probably…) are knackered this morning, having had to ‘talk’ to more drunk blokes back from The ‘Spoons than they’re used to.

I doubt that’s what Billy Steinberg and Tom Kelly had in mind when they wrote this next song; I’d imagine that a global pandemic and the domino-effect on to the adult entertainment industry probably barely crossed their mind, which is why this plea is so mis-placed. But who can resist a power ballad right now? Appropriate your own pretend microphone now please!

Heart – Alone

We now know the answer to the question: How do I get you alone? Answer: wave some unsullied bog roll at them. Job’s a good ‘un.

Now don’t take the title of this next song too seriously. It’s just here to add some class to proceedings. Just because you’re alone at home does not necessarily mean you’re lonely. You’re doing a good thing.

And besides, none of us can call upon the likes of Willie Nelson to dash out a quick duet anyway, so suck it up:

Sheryl Crow – Lonely Alone (feat. Willie Nelson)

One group, if any of them were still alive, who would probably not follow the rules are this lot, who nonetheless wrote this, not their finest moment, granted, but any excuse to slip a little Gabba Gabba Hey! into your daily routine should be celebrated (Disclaimer: they do not say Gabba Gabba Hey! on this song):

Ramones – Sitting In My Room

So what have we learned, not just here (I’m not sure anyone has learned anything here) but in the broader context?

Well the main thing is that regardless of whether you have any of the symptoms or not: STAY AT HOME.

And if you’re lucky enough to share a home with other people, do not engage in any tactile behaviour.

We know some songs about avoiding touching, don’t we kids?

MC Hammer – U Can’t Touch This

I prefer this as a Government Health Warning, though:

Motorhead & Girlschool – Please Don’t Touch

So whilst you can’t touch your own face, or anybody else, what can you touch? Well all I can do here is refer you to the over-worked (so I’m told) Babestation ladies and Divinyls, who combined may have the answer:

divinyls – I Touch Myself

But I don’t want to add to the scaremongering here. It really is quite simple:

– wash your hands regularly;

– try not to touch your face, or other people, or things that other people might have touched;

– Don’t panic buy/stockpile/whatever you call it: buy what you need for a short period of self-isolation only;

– And then stay indoors.

Because, to quote Nick Frost in Shaun of the Dead – right at the end of this clip (includes some effing and jeffing, by the way):

Super Furry Animals – It’s Not The End Of The World

That should do you for now.

More soon.

Late Night Stargazing

I have a couple of friends who, over the past couple of years, have confided in me that they suffer from a mental health issue, in one form or another.

I should, I think, make it clear that they don’t have such issues because they know me. At least I don’t think so.

I think they both know – because I have mentioned it here on at least one occasion – that I’ve battled similar demons myself. I was never officially diagnosed with any particular condition, mostly – well, wholly, if I’m honest – because I was too much of a coward to seek professional help. When I last mentioned it, several people assumed that it was when I spent six months unemployed, but it was actually a little earlier than that, but still within the last ten years. I’ll not elaborate further, because it would mean me confronting some out-and-out lies I told to people both at the time and subsequently; they’ll probably know who they are, what the lies were, possibly even knew they were lies at the time. But it’s a scab I’d rather not scratch at, thanks. Not yet, anyway.

It’s amazing how much mental health awareness has improved in such a short time, for were I to ever slip back, be caught by that black dog again, then I’d not hesitate to seek help now.

But I’ve been lucky. So far.

One of the aforementioned friends (obviously, I’m not going to name either of them here) confided in me shortly after we met for the first time in far too many years, at Llŷr’s memorial service, last February.

I have to say I was totally surprised by this revelaion, for they had always seemed such a cheerful old sod, not exactly without a care in the world, but certainly not weighed down with the baggage of expectation, pressure, responsibility, either.

And then I realised that that is almost exactly how many people view me – laid back, entertaining company, very little really phases me. Admittedly, I don’t have the pressure of a family, or a mortgage to deal with. But one’s day-to-day life brings it’s own particular worries, and how we react to them simply cannot be predicted.

And I realised that they had probably been doing the same as I had all these years: wearing a mask to disguise how we’re really feeling.

I asked how they dealt with it, and they told me that they have a close net of friends who they will contact whenever they felt the darkness descend and they will look out for my friend, listen when needed.

I’ve been added me to that list now, I’m part of the network, and I’m really pleased and proud that they felt they could open up to me and tell me how they feel.

I mention this because I’m worried about the other friend at the moment.

Again, I’m not going to name names, or go into specific detail, but I noticed a week or so ago that they seemed to be struggling.

Unspoken, not pre-agreed, I’m part of their safety network too. That seems to be the most positive way forward to me: to know that you have friends who have your back, and who are there for you. We had agreed to meet for a couple of post-work, Friday evening drinks, to chat things through, in the hope I might be able to shine a little light. Because that’s what everybody needs to lift their spirits – a night out on the booze with yours truly! I should be on prescription, seriously.

But that didn’t happen, which means they must be finding things really tough right now.

So I want to post something positive, uplifting, but I keep coming back to the song I’ve chosen tonight.

On paper, the title is everything that being supportive should not be; it’s a “Man Up!”, a “Cheer up luv, it might never happen!”. But leave the title out and absorb the rest of the words and hopefully it makes sense in this context.

R.E.M. – Why Not Smile (Oxford American Version)

Hey you. Yes, you. You know where I am if you need me.

And whilst we’re at it, if you know somebody who you think might be struggling, let them know that they can talk to you. That might be exactly what they need.

You’ll be amazed how much ‘just talking’ helps.

More soon.

N.E.W. R.E.M.

Okay, not technically new, but definitely previously unreleased.

With all proceeds going to directly to the Mercy Corps’ emergency response efforts in the Bahamas following the battering that the north-west islands endured at the hands of Hurricane Dorian, which caused widespread destruction and left 76,000 people homeless, Fascinating is available to stream for free on the band’s Bandcamp page, or you can purchase it for a minimum of $2.00 (at the time of writing that’s £1.60).

The song first appeared on the original master of 2001’s Reveal but was cut at the last minute (amazingly Chorus & The Ring kept its place), and was re-recorded for 2004’s Around The Sun album, but it was deemed not to fit there either. Many will know that Around The Sun is generally considered to be their worst record, so you can maybe find some hope in that.

And Fascinating is really lovely, and would have provided a much-needed boost to either of those albums.

You should give it a listen (and preferably buy it too):

R.E.M. – Fascinating

More soon.

How To Do A Cover Version

In my book, if an act can so over-whelmingly own a tune that you have no idea it’s a cover version until you check the writing credits, that’s job done.

For example (and I’ve mentioned this before), a lot of people don’t know that Status Quo’s Rockin’ All Over The World is a John Fogerty (of Creedeence Clearwater Revival) tune.

Similarly, until I had a good look at the liner notes on Life’s Rich Pageant – which I’d owned for quite some time – I had no idea that this wasn’t an R.E.M. original.

So, the original:

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The Clique – Superman

…and the cover, which is probably my go-to cheer-me-up record of the moment:

pageant

R.E.M. – Superman

And, as a special treat because you’re all so nice, a completely different song with the same title which I really like, from the really rather excellent A Glasgow Band album:

cover

Ewan Cruickshanks – Superman

More soon.

Say What?

The other thing about baffling lyrics, is that sometimes you’re just astounded by the sheer audacity of the songwriter who has

a) having written them

b) tried them out and

c) then thought: “Yeh, that’s totally appropriate” and left them in.

Today’s song is one which I’ve had thrust into my virtual world ever since the fire at the Notre Dame Cathedral the other week.

In that context, it’s probably fine – a Gallic “we didn’t do it” shrug.

But buried amongst the “wants to be Subterranean Homesick Blues or at the very least It’s The End of the World as We Know It (And I Feel Fine)” lyrics of this song there lies an absolute gem of a “Sorry, what did he just say?” moment.

Look, there’s the sleeve, all “I am front page news and I have a message”, all self-important pomposity.

Which would be fine, in a 20th century history lesson kind of way, which the song essentially is.

But then, come the words which make Bono’s “Well tonight thank God it’s them instead of you” on Do They Know It’s Christmas? seem positively humanitarian.

I should give some background for my mentioning it: this is a song and a lyric which Hel and I always thought to be hilariously inappropriate, to the extent that whenever one of us hears it and the other isn’t there to bask in it’s iffy-glory, the one feels compelled to let the other one know a moment is happening.

Hence one night last week I got a series of texts from Hel, telling me that the DJ in wherever she was had just played this, and that nobody else enjoyed her singing along with mucho gusto to the line in question.

My take home message: everyone misses living with me at some point.

Alogether now:

“CHILDREN OF THALIDOMIDE!!”

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Billy Joel – We Didn’t Start The Fire

Ouch.

More soon.

 

Goodbye To My Little Brother (Part 2)

Llyr

Okay. Deep breaths.

This is the story of me and the dude up there that I have affectionately referred to as ‘my little brother’ for years now. When I finally publish this, I’ll have lost track of how many drafts I’ll have written, hated and discarded.

What I hope is that what follows does my best friend Llŷr justice.

What I know is that I will have been a howling mess of snot and tears on several points through it.

It’s a story that I wish I’d written ages ago, after he gave me his blessing to write about him, and while he was still around to actually read it.

Whilst I’ve mentioned Llŷr many times, until my last post I’d never mentioned his actual illness, because I knew he didn’t want it to define him, and I wanted to respect that.

I want to remember him how he was too, not how he was at the end.

I got his consent two years ago, when we shared a hotel room at a friend’s wedding. He’d want me to tell you it was twin beds, not a double, but it wasn’t. He’d definitely want me to stress there were no shenanigans though, no “those aren’t pillows!” moments:

The wedding just happened to fall on the same weekend as his 40th birthday. Typically Llŷr refused to let us properly celebrate his milestone birthday as he didn’t want to steal the limelight from the happy couple.

But him reaching forty was something to celebrate, more so than anyone else I knew, and so I started writing this post.

But much as I tried to, I couldn’t find the right words.

Nothing seemed appropriate, didn’t do him justice, just didn’t seem right. So I put it on the back burner, resolving to return to it once I’d had chance to mull things over some more.

And now it’s too late for him to read it.

On Friday I went to his memorial service and then the reception. Note: not a wake. As you might expect, there were many tears, hugs and embraces, but also many smiles and laughs amid much swapping of stories and memories; there was singing, there was dancing, there was a lot of drinking, oh-so-many glasses clinked together in his name.

He would have loved it.

*****

So I thought I’d explain how Llŷr and I became such good friends. Truth be told, we were thrown together by circumstance.

I had been living with a bloke I knew from college days, who found he was about to be a father and decided that my bedroom would be much better deployed as a nursery, which definitely did not require a sponging, chain-smoking lodger residing in it.

Hint taken, I promptly moved out, and found myself a flat in the Grangetown area of Cardiff. It was the first time I’d ever lived alone, and I greatly enjoyed being able to eat what I wanted when I wanted without disapproving looks from housemates, or watch whatever I liked on TV. And if I wanted to watch TV in just my underwear, I could, without anyone either judging me or dry-wretching at the sight in the same way as you are at the image now in your mind.

Around the same time, Llŷr found himself in a similar situation; he had been lodging with Richie, a chap who I had worked with years earlier in the video shop, who now worked at the same insurance company as we did, and who also suddenly found fathership was impending. Llŷr moved out and got himself a flat on the same side of the river as me and which just so happened to be about five minutes walk from my flat.

We knew nobody else who lived in this area of Cardiff, and so consequently, united in our ostricisation, we started spending more and more time in each other’s company, usually at his flat, partly because it had central heating (a fact I had failed to consider when moving into mine), partly because Llŷr didn’t live under the permanent shadow of the electricity going off as I did (as I had to pre-pay via a meter which only accepted discontinued fifty pence pieces which I had to purchase from my landlord), but mostly because Llŷr had an absolute treasure trove of a collection of popular culture for us to feast on.

Firstly, a mountain of vinyl, some of the most ludicrous but still somehow cool, records you’ve ever seen. A gatefold Bay City Rollers album, you say? Ordinarily, not fussed. But somehow, imbued with Llŷr’s consent, such things seemed cool.

Secondly, an absolute wall of video tapes, all crammed with stuff he had taped off the TV. This was manna from heaven for me, and most nights I was there I would just sit back, drink beer and smoke whilst he fast forwarded through another VHS to find the next good bit he had captured.

Now, I’ve always been a bit of a hoarder myself when it comes to popular culture, but my VHS taped-from-TV collection pretty much ends at a load of clips from Top of the Pops or any other music show. Llŷr, however, took it to another level.

I will never forget the night that we drunkenly watched – several times – footage from The Big Breakfast he had taped, where some blokes from shouty-not-very-good-indie band Reef played that game where you place your forehead on a broom, run round it several times then try to run a short obstacle course, inevitably falling over in a dizzy mess. The night ended with both of us taking it in turns to lay on our back in his living room, trying (with an impressive degree of success) to light our own beery farts.

I had just turned thirty and I felt like a teenager again.

Llŷr suggested us sharing a place and initially I was resistant. I was thirty, and had finally got a flat of my own. To start sharing again felt like a step backwards.

And then the bills at my flat started becoming a bit much, and suddenly it felt like a good idea to be splitting them with someone.

We went to visit a couple of female friends of ours, who rented a ground-floor flat back in Cathays, the cooler studenty-area of Cardiff. They just happened to be moving out and were looking for someone to take the flat off their hands. Llŷr floated the idea of us sharing a flat again, and this time I jumped at it.

We became inseparable. On the rare occasions that he went out without me, he would come home telling me everyone had been asking where I was, and I found the reverse to be true. We very briefly discussed that perhaps everyone thought we were “a couple”, dismissed the idea, and decided that we didn’t really care what anyone else thought anyway.

The flat, pristine and beautiful when we moved in, fell into decay because we behaved exactly as you would expect two lazy blokes to behave. Shall we do a bit of housekeeping, or watch some more utter tat on the telly? Telly it is!

I’ll never forget the night a couple of female friends came back to ours for a drink; one went to the bathroom, and when she hadn’t returned some twenty minutes later and we went to check she was okay, we found her scrubbing our bath with bleach because it was so grim. Llŷr’s reaction: “Oh, have we got bleach?”, which pretty much sums up our distant relationship with keeping the flat clean.

Initially we just had the sofa in the living room – part of the features and fittings when we moved in – to sit on, but at some point we added to the furniture by retrieving a knackered old armchair somebody had thrown out onto the street. Under cover of darkness, we dragged it into the flat one night only to find that the springs had all gone; still, stick an upturned washing-up bowl (it wasn’t required for any other purpose in the flat of filth) underneath it and it worked just fine. But Llŷr made it very clear: this had been my idea, so the scuzzy armchair was mine, the sofa was his. Fair enough.

While we lived together, my re-education really began.

It was Llŷr who reminded me, in my early thirties, that it’s absolutely fine to like pop records, and there’s nothing to be embarrassed about in doing so.

See that “There’s No Such Thing As A Guilty Pleasure” tagline? It simply wouldn’t be there were it not for Llŷr.

I’ll go further. Without that little seed sown, I wouldn’t be writing this and you wouldn’t be reading it. He told me many times that he really loved that I do this, regularly left grateful comments or sent me encouraging messages about something I’d posted, and once told me that he wanted to start writing something himself: you know, like younger brothers often do, to impress their older sibling.

It may seem glib or inappropriate to post tunes now, but everyone who knew him would agree that Llŷr was all about the music. There’s a multitude of songs I could post which will always remind me of him. It’s impossible to choose just one.

OK. Here’s one. To start.

One night in a bar in Cardiff, Llŷr got into an argument with a friend who dared to be dismissive of Kelly Clarkson, of all people. Llŷr wasn’t having that: just because she’d won American Idol did not automatically mean that her songs were awful. He was right, of course. This is a belter:

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Kelly Clarkson – Since U Been Gone

And then there’s the night, in a different bar, when he defended his love for Energy 52‘s ‘Cafe Del Mar‘ to another long-standing friend by pointing out that it really didn’t matter if a tune had no words, as long it sounded great and didn’t sound like whoever the friend’s favourite song was by. If ever there was a tune which makes me think of Llŷr, that’s it – and I know I’m not alone: when I posted that tune back in June 2018, after hearing that Llŷr’s time was limited, I was contacted by our friend Jon, a true friend. He had understood the bat-signal, and wanted to know what was happening.

Anyway. All of that makes Llŷr sound a right argumentative bugger, but he really wasn’t. Passionate, yes. Persuasive, yes. And generally right.

Llŷr and I lived together for four or five years, and I can only think of one occasion that we argued in all that time. The disputed subject was telling: the BBC had announced the winner of American Idol before ITV had shown the final; he couldn’t believe the Beeb had broken that bond of trust, whilst I couldn’t believe he thought the BBC wouldn’t do whatever it deemed necessary to prevent their audience from watching a rival channel, even if it was only ITV2. I still think I was right, but I wish I hadn’t been.

We were once asked to DJ for an hour or so at a friend’s wedding. Suffering a crisis of confidence, I suggested that he did the actual DJ’ing bit and I’d just pass him the records he wanted. Llŷr was having none of it: he might play the records, but we would jointly decide what was played.

We agreed on this, and the dance floor went wild:

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Girls Aloud – Love Machine

The actual DJ for the night gave us his business card and asked us to call him if we ever wanted any work. We never did. We didn’t need him.

Then there’s the night my parents visited Cardiff, and stayed at our flat. We all went out to eat, came back to the flat, and after my Mum had gone to bed, Llŷr and my Dad bonded over obscure records by none other than (who else?) Edward Woodward. Llŷr had something by him on vinyl. Of course he did.

About a week later, I received a parcel through the post. It was a load of Max Boyce records my Dad owned on vinyl, burnt off onto CDs. The post-it note attached made it very clear that they were not meant for me, but for Llŷr. They’d discussed him at length, apparently.

That was the effect he had on people: they immediately wanted to share things with him and be part of his story.

He was perfectly happy to admit when he liked something that you really wouldn’t have expected him to. The term “eclectic music taste” was probably devised to describe him. Which also meant that if you told him you liked a band that he didn’t like, or knew little about, he would want to understand the appeal, and would go off and investigate for himself.

We never quite saw eye-to-eye on R.E.M., who I love but he was generally indifferent to. They played Cardiff’s Millenium Stadium on their tour to promote their not-very-good Around The Sun album. We went to see them, me as the uber-fan, he as the curious outsider. He’d done his research of the band’s discography in advance, which had led him to one tune by them that he really loved.

Llŷr (at the gig, in between songs): Do you reckon they’ll play it, Jez?

Me: Nah, they won’t play that one. They never do.

Llŷr: Are you sure, Jez?

Me: Yup. Won’t happen.

Llŷr: A tenner says they do.

Me: Deal.

Llŷr: (as the band crashed into the opening chords of the song in question): Shall we stop at a cash machine on the way home?

I later found out that in advance of the gig, he had checked the set-list for all of the gigs the band had already done on the tour, and knew bloody well they’d be playing it.

This one:

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R.E.M. – These Days

(I learned at the memorial service on Friday that he’d played a very similar prank on his younger sister, Sian, when they were kids, this time tricking her out of her pocket-money by getting her to bet on a horse in the Grand National, a race where he miraculously managed to pick the winner. Unbeknownst to Sian, the race had happened hours earlier, he already knew the result, whilst she was betting on the highlights.)

Another case in point: he and Hel (his older sister, also often mentioned on these pages) went to Glastonbury in 2009, a year I didn’t manage to get a ticket for.

2009 just happened to be the year that my much beloved Status Quo played on the Sunday morning. The two of them went to watch them (because they knew I’d be really annoyed with them if they didn’t), and I got a text from Llŷr at some point that day telling me that they’d played Mean Girl, a song that, whilst he wasn’t at all bothered about anything else they’d ever done, he had found for himself and loved.

My response, articulately put and spread over a number of texts, was along the lines of:

“They never play that! They never played that. Did they play that? Tell me you’re joking. No. They didn’t play that.”

Come the edited highlights on BBC4 later that day, I had to eat my proverbial hat.

You think I’d learn, wouldn’t you? Still, at least no money changed hands this time.

He never let me forget that. Ever. You know, like smart ass little brothers don’t let you forget stuff like that.

Sorry, I have to post this while I have a little cry:

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Status Quo – Mean Girl

Just to be clear: I’m not claiming that as a result of knowing me he suddenly loved R.E.M. and Status Quo. Far from it: he saw I loved them, gave them a listen, and decided he liked precisely one song by each.

Then there was the time that I won two tickets to go and see Gene play at Clwb Ifor Bach; initially he was dismissive as Sian had been a member of their fan club when she was much younger (so he told me, citation needed) and he had – as older brothers are supposed to – mercilessly ripped the piss out of her for it.

But he came with me anyway, and left the gig buzzing, telling me that his opinion had changed, asking to borrow all of my Gene records, but making me swear I’d never tell Sian, of his conversion. Well, I managed it until now…

There’s one song by Gene the title of which would be sadly, horribly appropriate for me to post here, but I can’t bear to listen to it, so instead a song the opening lines of which we both felt a great affinity with

“Please don’t stop me from drinking, it’s my only joy.

Please don’t stop me from smoking, this my reward.

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Gene – Sick, Sober and Sorry

And then everything changed forever.

One Sunday, when Sian – who had been sofa-surfing at ours for a couple of weeks and, moving into her own flat the next day, had offered to take us out for a Sunday lunch somewhere as a “thank you” for letting her stay – suddenly, scarily, started banging on my bedroom door, imploring that I come help quickly.

Something was happening to Llŷr.

He had gone to the bathroom to clean his teeth, and had started having some kind of fit. I emerged to find him on his back on the bathroom floor, seemingly unconscious, frothing at the mouth.

I sent Sian off to the front of the house, partly so that she didn’t have to see Llŷr like this, partly because the phone reception was better to call an ambulance there.

But now what to do? Having taken control of the situation, I had to do something. Remembering films I’d seen, where this sort of thing happened, I threw water on Llŷr, foolishly thinking that would snap him out of it.

It didn’t, of course, but by the time the paramedics arrived, his fit had ended. They asked why his hair and T-shirt was all wet, a question which Llŷr himself asked as he was lifted into the ambulance.

I looked sheepish. “Threw some water on you. Thought it might work. Sorry.”

I kicked my heels and felt stupid.

I love the NHS. But that Sunday in Cardiff they were completely overwhelmed. We spent hours waiting to be seen and then, when he finally was, as I recall, the seizures having stopped hours earlier, they gave him a quick once over, resolved all was okay, and sent him home with an instruction to take a day or two off work.

Back at the flat, we ordered Chinese food and Llŷr made us both promise not to tell his parents. Neither Sian nor I were happy about it, but we respected his wish. Okay, we can convince ourselves that was a one-off.

I took the next day off work as a precaution too. Llŷr’s dad was due to visit to collect Sian, and since we didn’t want him to know what a shit-hole we lived in, or that Sian had stayed in, we pledged to clean the flat before he arrived.

Llŷr went off to clean the bathroom, and since this was where his last incident had happened, I was wary. Just take it easy, I said, and if you get into difficulties, just holler.

Ten minutes, later there was a crashing noise from the bathroom. I, stupidly, assumed he was having a laugh at my expense.

“Llŷr, are you okay?” I called.

No answer.

“Llŷr..?”

Still nothing.

“Okay, I’m coming, but you’d better be properly ill and not winding me up or I’m going to fucking kill you myself”.

Funny how words said in jest can come back to haunt you.

I found Llŷr laying on his side, having fortuitously landed in something approaching the recovery position, having another fit.

Reassuring words spoken. Ambulance called, again.

And this time, a much-needed stay in hospital.

When he was discharged, I hated leaving him at home alone for fear of anything happening whilst I was out, but he was insistent. Before he became ill, Llŷr and I often went clubbing together, and he was adamant that I should carry on even though he no longer could. Unsaid, I think he wanted to live vicariously through me, for whenever I went out clubbing he would be waiting up when I got home, eager to hear who had been out, and more importantly, what tunes had been played. I could remember the former, rarely the latter.

And so we devised a system that both freed us and kept things in check: if I was out, he just had to text me a code word which he would have saved on his phone, and I would come home.

Fast forward a few weeks. I met some friends in a bar in Cardiff, heading club-wards. They offered me some coke, which I declined. Seconds later my phone rang, and it was Llŷr. I answered, but could just hear a gurgling noise from the other end.

Fuck.

I ran home, passing people I knew through clubbing who were very surprised to see me run, and found Llŷr laying on the living room floor, in the final throes of another fit.

Nerves calmed – “I’m here, it’s going to be okay” – ambulance called.

Shortly afterwards, Llŷr was diagnosed with a brain tumour which was causing the seizures. He was given medication to stop them happening, but tragically the tumour was inoperable.

And that was fourteen years ago.

Fourteen years. Fourteen years where he has struggled and coped and fought and never once did I ever hear him complain. He knew the cards he had been dealt, accepted it but refused to let it define him, refused to let it stop him from doing whatever he wanted to do for as long as he could. He would still go to gigs, would still go to Glastonbury, and no annoying thing living in his head was going to stop him.

I wish I could say I’d react the same. I can’t say that I would. Who knows. But what I do know is that despite his restricted capabilities, Llŷr carried on regardless. Like he knew his time was limited and he was going to make sure he continued enjoying every second he had left.

Much as I may try here, I can’t properly express my admiration for him and the way he insisted on conducting himself.

And now Llŷr has left us, and there’s a gaping hole in my life where he used to be which nobody can ever fill.

Never again will we go to an indie club and do our little joke to each other where we would sing along to a record but take a swig of our drink when it gets to a lyric we don’t quite know (which we found so much funnier than I just made that sound).

Never again will we get to play “French, or Student?”, a game we devised – and even made up a theme tune to, nicked from Raw Sex’s musical enunciation of French & Saunders. The game was that when out at an indie club, one of us would stand behind someone who was dressed like they could be French or could be a Student, and the other had to guess which they were. Again, you probably had to be there.

Never again will I be able to text him the word “Pennoes!” and know he would be watching the same football match as me.

Never again will I have to worry about him spilling the beans on some of the more embarrassing moments that happened when we lived together. Never again will I be able to buy his silence with the threat of an equally unsavoury  tale.

Never again will we go to a Super Furry Animals gig together, as we did countless times, and laugh with each other as we basked in our self-perceived glory when we air-drummed the fill after the bridge on this tune, which we did every time, without fail, much to the bemusement and confusement of anyone who was with us:

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Super Furry Animals – Slow Life

Never again.

All of these records – and so, so many more – will always make me think of Llŷr.

They are ours.

Not past tense.

Are.

Not were.

For whilst he may be gone, they’re here with me now, as he will be whenever I hear them, for as long as I’m still breathing through these knackered old lungs of mine.

I’ve felt him at my shoulder as I’ve written every word of this: “Oh Jeremy, don’t tell that story…and pick that tune…no, not that one, that one.”

He’s gone, but he’s not, because I, and every person who ever met him, remember him as the most joyous, loveable, force of life you could ever hope to meet.

I’m honoured to have known Llŷr, to be able to call him my friend, my best friend, my little brother, and to know that would be reciprocated.

Dude, I miss you already. I always will.

There’s so many things I feel sad about. Selfishly, that my own recent illness robbed me of a couple of visits to see him, that I didn’t get chance to say goodbye to him properly.

Unselfishly, for you, my friend; for the battle you had, for all of the normal things one expects a life to deliver that you were robbed of, for the opportunities and experiences you’ll never have.

And angry at how terribly, terribly unfair it is that you’ve been taken from us.

Sleep easy, dude, you deserve a rest.

We’ll all love you forever.

We’ll never forget you.

And I will forever try to be the man you should still be.

*****

The final hymn at the memorial service on Friday was this, a song I have heard many times before, usually in the build-up to a Welsh rugby match. It never fails to make the hairs on the back of my neck stand up. But never before had I heard it sung so beautifully, so passionately, as it was on Friday:

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Morriston Orpheus Choir – Cwm Rhondda (Guide Me O Thou Great Jehovah/Bread of Heaven)

I warned you: here come the snot and tears again.

*****

Sian is running the London Marathon this year, raising funds for The Brain Tumor Charity. As I write this, she has smashed her target of £5000.00 – but that’s not a cut-off point. It would please me, and Llŷr’s family and friends, immensely if you could see your way to contributing, no matter how large or small an amount, so that one day, maybe, a family doesn’t have to go through what Llŷr and his family have had to.

If you’ve read this far a) well done, b) thank you, and c) please click the link below and read Sian’s words about Llŷr. They were written before he passed, but she says it way better – and, crucially, more concisely – than I have. But be warned, I’ve just read it again and I’m bawling my eyes out. Again.

https://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/fundraiser-display/showROFundraiserPage?userUrl=SianWilliams16&pageUrl=3

More soon.

A Surprise Discharge

There’s not much more to tell you about my time in hospital, or rather there’s very little left that I can wring a bit of humour and/or a tune or two out of. So I’m going to rattle through the rest of the incidents of note and wrap things up.

Firstly, there’s something I omitted to tell you; in between the nurse’s call to my folks and them walking in on me mid-grease, there is some news as to what exactly I’m still doing there.

The nursing staff remain concerned about my vomiting episode. It is thought that I may have a tear ‘somewhere’ which has led to any liquid I’ve consumed to fall into places not intended to store liquid (you’ll let me know if I get too technical, won’t you?). I am to remain on a water only diet for the time being.

Added to that, and more definitively, on a couple of occasions, it has been observed that I get short of breath rather easily. Test results are now back in and I am told I have a pulmonary embolism, which is a blood-clot on my (left) lung to you and me. As a result, I am placed on a oxygen mask, which makes talking to my parents when they visit rather difficult.

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Radiohead – My Iron Lung

For the record, I am not placed on an iron lung, but this post needs breaking up a little bit and I can’t think of any other songs which are even vaguely appropriate.

Although, maybe this:

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The Sweet – Love is Like Oxygen

or perhaps..

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JJ72 – Oxygen

In other news, in a conversation with one of the consultants, I am told that my “sepsis is now under control”. This is a condition which has never been mentioned before and doesn’t crop up again; I assume at the time it is to do with the alarm over my blood tests which first led me to hospital, but it is also omitted from my discharge report.

However, a little research tells me that sepsis is not necessarily, as I thought, a blood problem, it’s a serious complication of an infection, which, if untreated, can lead to multiple organ failure and death. Not so funny anymore, right?

Symptoms of sepsis include:

– a high temperature

– chills and shivering

– fast heartbeat

– fast breathing

…all of which I have presented with or complained about at some point during my admission and stay in hospital.

Although it’s not specifically mentioned in my discharge papers, it seems pretty clear to me that the alarm the hospital showed when they got my blood tests back just before I was admitted was because I probably had sepsis due to the pulmonary embolism.

(After I’m discharged, I go to stay with my parents for a week or so, to convalesce. During that time, various family members visit me, including an aunt who for many years was a nurse, and whose opinion is gratefully received. She reads my discharge papers, and mentions that it was a pulmonary embolism that killed my grandmother. Later, she sends me a message where she mentions me having had a “near-death experience.” I show it to my mother, and flippantly comment that she’s exaggerating things a tad. “No,” says my mother, “I don’t think you realise how serious things were.” Having done the research, I get it now.)

No clever song for this bit, so you can let it sink in just as I did.

Oh ok, maybe one:

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The Housemartins – Think For A Minute

For the rest of the week,  friends visit: Hel, Kay and Ian on Monday; Richie on Tuesday, Jo on Wednesday. It’s absolutely love to see them, to know friends are true friends concerned for my well-being (that’s not to sound like I’m dissing those who didn’t visit; I got texts from everyone who knew I was in hospital asking how I’m doing and wishing me well). I am snowed under with fruit, magazines, books and an ipod charger.

This last thing is essential as by Monday evening I’ve decided that the in-house entertainment leaves a lot to be desired. There is a television in my room, attached to one of those moveable crane-arms. But here’s the thing: you can only watch the terrestial channels (which is fair enough, I suppose a Sky subscription is a little too much to ask of a cash-strapped NHS), and you can only watch those between 7am and midday.

My morning routine now includes being woken and the lubed up, catching the end of the BBC’s Breakfast show (I’m ill, but not so ill that I’d choose to watch Piers Morgan on ITV), followed by a progam about celebrities tracing family members who fought in the First World War, followed by Homes Under The Hammer (seriously: what is former Manchester United striker Dion Dublin doing on that show?), followed by the first fifteen minutes of some sort of ‘criminals caught on CCTV’ show, hosted by short-arse slaphead do-gooder Dom Littlewood, and then the screen is filled with a message asking me to purchase credits if I wish to keep watching.

I pay my TV licence, and I pay my National Insurance contributions, so I feel a little put out by this demand. I decide I’m not sufficiently obsessed with Bargain Hunt or Flog It! to pay for (what I consider to be) a third time for the privilege of watching them. Thankfully, the radio is free, but none of the digital channels are provided as options. No 6Music then. I end up listening to Radio 2 from mid-day onwards, to idiots calling in to Jeremy Vine, and then Steve Wright, who I find hasn’t changed since the last time I listened to his show, around thirty years ago on the bus home from sixth form (this is not a recommendation).

Alarmingly, repeated exposure means I find myself quite liking the new Michael Buble single. Ipod it is then.

Over the course of the week, I have some physiotherapy, designed to help me walk better again. This is more because I have been laid up and have not actually used my legs for days, rather than addressing the pain, loss of strength and grip in both my hands. But still, on the second session, I progress from standing and walking from my bed to the door, to completing a circuit of the hosiptal floor.

Rem Murmur demos

R.E.M. – We Walk

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Helen Shapiro – Walkin’ Back to Happiness

On the Wednesday morning, I go to have a scan on my left arm, to see whether or not I have a blood clot there too. As I am wheeled out of my room, my physiotherapist happens to stroll by. He tells me that he probably won’t come to see me again today (as we had arranged) but he would definitely be back before I am discharged. He gives me the impression this is not going to be soon, that there’s no real rush, and that I’ll be here until the weekend at least.

Back in my room, I’m visited by a consultant who rather sheepishly tells me that they may have lost the results of the biopsies they did the week before. I think she is expecting me to kick off, but it’s not in my nature.

“Ah well, these things happen,” I say. “So you’ll need to do them again, I suppose?”

She looks at me, somewhat surprised.

“If we can’t find them, yes. We have got somebody going through all of the results trying to find them, though. I must say,” she adds,”you’re taking this very well.”

“Well, what’s the point in getting angry about it?” I reason. “It’s not going to make the results magic themselves back into existence. It’s an admin error, as far as I’m concerned, and I’m always blaming admin for things going missing at work, so I can’t really complain when I’m on the receiving end, can I?”

But the following day, before I can have any more physiotherapy, or find out whether my biopsy results have been located, I am told I am to be discharged. Given everything that has been said or alluded to previously, this comes as a bit of a surprise. But several hours later, after a lot of paperwork is completed (the discharge report lists not just the pulmonary embolism and the vomiting event, but also tells me I had pneumonia in my right lung. As far as I can recall, this is the first time this has been mentioned during my stay. I am given a load of medication and creams and strict instructions about how to use at least one of them, and then I am waiting outside for a taxi.

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Simon & Garfunkel – Homeward Bound

And that’s it.

But.

I can’t leave it hanging there, so let’s rewind a few days.

It’s just after my first session that my physiotherapist suggests the catheter should be removed so that I can build my strength up by actually having to get out of bed to go to the toilet. The day before, I had summoned the nurse and advised her that having not had a bowel movement of the solid variety for several days, the urge was now not quite overhwelming or urgent, but certainly imminent. She provides me with a bedpan, offers to help me position myself upon it (“No thanks!”) and then leaves me to my own devices.

I climb on board.

Have you ever tried to use a bed-pan? It’s really difficult. For although you know that everything is in place to catch whatever emerges, your mind remains resolute.

“You learned a long time ago”, it says, “that having a shit in your bed really isn’t the done thing.” I’m not Spud from Trainspotting, for God’s sake. I have control.

And so my body resists, and I have to ease myself back off the bed-pan and admit defeat, mission unaccomplished, .

The next day the catheter is removed. Just so you know, it hurt more coming out that it did going in. Ouchies.

And the combination of these two events (the failure to crap, and the begrudging knowledge that I now have to get up to pee) leaves me with a song in my head, the title of which explains my thought process now I have to actually get up to perfom my daily ablutions in a normal way:

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Slim Whitman – I’ll Never Pass This Way Again

More soon.

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