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.

Friday Night Music Club

I was beginning to think this mix was jinxed.

I’ll explain, with some back story.

Firstly, I wanted to do a mix unlike the Not Christmas one, which I thought strayed a bit too far into the territories of cheese or chart music. Whilst it served a purpose, it wasn’t really indicative of the sort of tunes which usually feature here.

This one, though is a corker, even if I do say so myself.

Regular readers may recall that way back in the late 1980s, I started DJ’ing at college because I was fed up with being able to guess what song the indie DJs would play next. So imagine my annoyance when my own brother told me that on a previous mix he’d been able to predict my next choice a couple of times. Grrr.

But this mix has proved to be such a pain to complete; when I came to do it today, it tells me that some of the tunes have been played 22 times, which gives you an idea of how many times I’ve tried to get this one right. Pretty much once a week, since Christmas.

What’s gone wrong all those times? Well, on more than one occasion professional pride kicked in: I’ve messed up a mix between tunes, so have elected to start again.

On more than one occasion, preoccupied with playing Solitaire or Candy Crush just to have something to do whilst recording the mix, there’s a sudden, irretrievable silence where the next record should be. Oops!

Once I forgot to stop recording until an hour later, and, triumphant at how the mixes had worked out, I couldn’t understand why the mix lasted over 5 hours, until I listened to it.

The other problem is booze. More than once, I’ve taken drink to such an extent that I’ve forgotten I was doing a mix until the silence after one record has finished hits home and startled me awake.

Last weekend, I got to the third record from the end, and suddenly woke up to silence and realised I’d messed up again. That’s not an indictment of the standard of the mix, by the way, more an example of how drunk I’d gotten.

Even last night, when I finally nailed it, it was my second attempt of the night, having got through most of the mix when I had a drink-spillage event, which I thought I’d sorted, until, four records from the end, suddenly the sound cut out whilst the tunes kept playing and I had no idea if it was still recording the sound or the sound of silence.

Anyway, we’ve got here, and this has been a real pain, so if you could take a listen, that would be great.

I will confess that I have broken the golden rule of not featuring the same act more than once in this mix; this wasn’t intentional, but as the various run-throughs progressed, I simply forgot said acts already appeared as “featuring” acts. One is deliberate. Sue me (Please don’t).

Time for the usual disclaimer: any glitches, skips or jumps are down to the software or the uploading/downloading process, and nothing to do with my limited mixing skills.

Oh, and the usual “effing and jeffing” warning applies; it seems I’m incapable of doing a mix which doesn’t include more than the occasional swear.

I’m not posting a link to download here, other than the one to Soundcloud, where you can either download or stream it.

I couldn’t be bothered with the last ones, but I’ve done it this time: you’ll see a list of all the acts featured in this mix at the bottom of the page, so you can check whether this one’s likely to be your cup of tea before going to the hassle of actually listening to it. If you’re particularly short of things to do, you can try to guess which song I’ve picked by which artist. There’s fun.

But by way of a description: pretty much all life is here, from indie rock to 60s California hippy-shtick, some Old Skool dance classics, some hip-hop and some soul classics via some Northern Soul belters via some TV show theme tunes (sort of); there’s some hoary old rock and some psychobilly, and a couple of tracks which should have featured in a New post by now, but the bands in question played the 6Music festival last weekend so you’ll probably know them intimately by now. And, of course, there’s The Fall.

Easy on the cheese this time, there’s even some poetry so we can all pretend we’re intellectual. You’ll have chance to dance, sit and recover for a few moments, before getting back on it again.

Available for a limited time (i.e. until I do the next one), you can download or stream this on Soundcloud here:

Friday Night Music Club (Volume 4)

I hope you have as much fun listening to this as much as I had putting it together. And I found it utterly frustrating, so you’d better.

Oh, and it ain’t over ’til the fat bloke sings.

More soon.

Rant O’Clock

Jesus, where do I start?

When I last sounded off, one of the many topics was students and the utter fiasco which was their A-Level results, so let’s pick up there.

Now, this may come as a shock to many of you, but what you achieve at A-Level pretty much decides what happens next for you. Do badly: start looking for a job.But do well and you can start thinking about what university offer you want to accept, to continue your education.

So before I go any further, congratulations to all who achieved sufficiently impressive grades, despite the interference of Gavin Williamson and his blessed algorithms.

I don’t think this will come as much of a surprise to many, but what happens next is that those who have achieved the required grades travel to live at and attend the university they had been accepted by.

What actually happened next was also no surprise: a spike in those away from home for the first time, now diagnosed with Covid and impelled to self-isolate.

I have a lot of sympathy for the students here; they had been told that they were of an age-group unlikely to be susceptible to virus, and were happily told to pack themselves off to college to enjoy themselves. There has been much talk of “The University Experience” and what that means: you live away from home for the first time, you study but you also meet lots of new people from different parts of the country. You bond, you may go on to party with them, and if you’re very lucky, you might sleep with at least one of them.

There was no need for them to leave home at all: the lectures could have been engaged in at home online, rather than having the students leave home and then be confined to their rooms. So let’s be clear: these students are not attending lectures: because of the ongoing crisis, it’s all being done online, via Teams or Zoom, all of which could have been done from the comfort of their own homes.

Try telling me, in those exact same circumstances, if it were you then you wouldn’t try to meet up with people, and I call bullshit.

This was, of course, not the Goverment’s fault. Nosireebob. Here’s Dido Harding, and just to fill you in on her qualifications: Diana Mary “Dido” Harding, Baroness Harding of Winscombe is a British Conservative Party businesswoman who served as chairwoman of NHS Improvement since 2017, current head of the Test and Trace programme, and acting Chair of the National Institute for Health Protection since 2020.

She is also the former chief executive of the TalkTalk Group where she faced calls for her to resign after a cyber attack revealed the details of 4 million customers. A member of the Conservative Party, she’s married to Conservative Party MP John Penrose, and is a friend of former Prime Minister David Cameron. Dido was appointed as a Member of the House of Lords by Cameron in 2014 and she holds a board position at the Jockey Club, which is responsible for several major horse-racing events including the Cheltenham Festival. (That’s the same Cheltenham Festival which was allowed to take place this year, despite the obvious Covid risks it presented.)

Dido – head of Track and Trace, remember – said “I don’t think anybody was expecting, to see the real sizable increase in demand that we’ve seen over the last few weeks, so none of the modelling was expecting that, and that’s why we all need to think really hard about how we prioritise the use of these tests.”

No, Dido. Nobody could possibly have predicted that students would go to University at the start of term in September. Absolutely unforeseeable.

Think about this too: most of the people who had been helping with testing over the summer worked for universities, and so when they returned to their full-time jobs, said testing positions were left vacant.

You’ll be shocked to learn the Government hadn’t thought of this and, like Roy Hodgson as England Manager (sorry for the comparison, Roy) had no back-up plan, no Plan B. Just surprise: suddenly we have less people to administer the tests at exactly the time where we’re encouraging more people to get tested. This, of course, could not have been predicted.

Which leads us to the situation where people who needed to have a Covid test suddenly found that they were instructed to drive hundreds of miles to the nearest appointment. That’s travelling at Cummings-grade level.

See, the thing one thing everybody agrees on (now) is that keeping the virus in check relies on having a fully working Track and Trace system. The Independent published this handy, cut-out-and-keep chronology of our dabbling with the idea of tracking and tracing:

‘January 2020 – deadly pandemic breaks out.

February 2020 – World Health Organisation issues three word advice: “Test. Test. Test.”

UK’s deputy chief medical officer Jenny Harries responds by saying: “There comes a stage in a pandemic where testing is not an appropriate intervention.”

March 2020 – Chris Whitty, the chief medical officer,  advises people with coronavirus symptoms to self-isolate at home and don’t get tested.

April 2020 – Matt Hancock decides testing is in fact important. Launches drive to “100,000-tests-a-day” target.

May 2020 – Matt Hancock announces his own success in reaching his 100,000-a-day target, which turns out to have been through putting 35,000 tests in the post the previous day.

Dido Harding is put in charge of test and trace programme. Boris Johnson promises it will be “world-beating”.

July 2020 – government starts bribing people to go to pubs and restaurants, and threatening people with redundancy if they don’t go back to the office.

August 2020 – infection rate begins to soar. People going to pubs are blamed.

September 2020 – schools reopen. Infection rates rise to more than 4,000 a day. The “world-beating” test and trace system is running at full capacity. Parents in London with coughing children are advised to drive them to Inverness if they want a test. If they don’t get a test, the child can’t go to school and the parents can’t go to work.

Dido Harding tells a House of Commons select committee: “I don’t think anybody was expecting to see the really sizeable increase in demand that we’ve seen over the course of the last few weeks.”

Harding continued to explain that she had no real idea how many people were trying and failing to get a test. The system capacity is 250,000 a day. The only way to know how oversubscribed it is by measuring “how many people are visiting the website and calling the number”.

She did acknowledge that there would be some “double counting” involved, which indeed there would be, as anyone who has ever tried to use a website or call a phone line that is not capable of coping with the demands placed on it will testify. “Between the years 2011 and 2019, for example (The Independent journalist writes), “I would estimate that I personally represent over a quarter of a million people attempting to buy a ticket for the Glastonbury Festival. One would hope a “world-beating” test and trace system would have rather more robust metrics in place for gauging how many people in the country think they’ve got coronavirus.”

Look, I know I’m a raving Leftie, but I do not dare to claim that things would necessarily have been any better had Labour won the last election, especially when you think about who would have been in charge if “we” had won. But Jesus wept, I’d like to think there would be at least an element of transparency, of learning from mistakes, which is not what we’re seeing now.

For a start, don’t be fooled by Conservative MPs referring to what we do have as “NHS Track and Trace”. The implication in them referring to it as such is that the NHS is at the heart of it, when in actual fact it has knack all to do with the the NHS.

In fact, it is an outsourced service provided to the NHS. The contact tracers are employed by Serco, who were paid £108 million for the first phase of the work, up to late August. The call centre is operated by American specialists Sitel, who were paid £84m for a similar period.

Money well earned.

So why do Conservative MPs continue to refer to it as NHS Track and Trace? Call me a cynic, but I think it’s because they want you to believe, when this is all finally over and done with, that it was the NHS that failed the nation, rather than one or any number of the privately owned firms who are actually culpable, and to whom our most precious asset will doubtless be sold off.

Who, when reading this and seeing the name Serco did not feel their heart sag? Oh that lot, we thought. For Serco have a bit of a reputation: in July 2019, a fine of £19.2m was imposed on them for fraud and false accounting over its electronic tagging service for the Ministry of Justice. This is where they were found to have charged us – the British taxpayer – for tagging a number of prisoners temporarily and legitimately released from prison, whom they hadn’t tagged at all. The company was also ordered to pay the Serious Fraud Office’s investigative costs of £3.7 million.

And what do we do with companies who have failed to adhere to the very basic terms of a contract? Give them another one, that’s what.

Incidentally, Serco have also been accused of an extensive cover-up over sexual abuse of immigrants at Yarl’s Wood Immigration Removal Centre in Bedfordshire, and, together with its consortium partners, failing to develop a strategy for managing Higher Active radioactive Waste at the Atomic Weapons Establishment. I think that’s a Full House, isn’t it?

So, Serco are exactly the sort of people one would expect to have been awarded such a lucrative and important contract as the Track and Trace one. I could go on about how these contracts, and many others, which have wasted millions, if not billions, of pounds since Covid kicked in, were awarded without going through the proper tender process and just so happened to be awarded to companies which are owned by, or who have shareholders who are Conservative MPs or their main fund providers, but you’re all smart cookies. You can look it up.

And get this: the government backed Track and Trace app, which you’ve doubtless seen advertised this week, encouraging us to download it and help beat the virus, isn’t actually compatible with Covid tests done by the NHS.

World-beating, my arse.

Let me just say this: there are parallels to be drawn between the money which has been made by Tory benefactors since Covid, and those that a record company makes when a star on their books dies:

At the time of writing, the Goverment has wasted £3,895,556,000 since March. This includes unsafe testing kits; face masks that don’t work; broken tracing systems; useless antibody tests; contracts to sweet manufacturers and dormant companies with no employees, to provide PPE that, well who’d have thunk it, never arrived.

Three words: Magic. Money. Tree.

At the end of July 2020, debt was £2,004 billion, £227.6 billion more than at the same point last year. Just remember that next time Labour is painted as the profligate party.

Yeh, yeh…these are unprecedented times of national crisis…I get that. Extra money had to be spent. Agreed. But that should not be seen as an opportunity to line the pockets of your already stinking-rich mates.

Meanwhile, as various areas – the North East, the North East, South Wales (fuck it, anywhere but London) – saw spikes in those who were diagnosed with Covid, the Government implemented regional restrictions in an attempt to curb the rise. The problem here was that nobody in Government seemed to know exactly what the rules were from one area to the next: when questioned junior minister Gillian Keegan was unable to explain what the rules were in the North East. You can maybe excuse her for not being all over the detail (were she not being interviewed on a local radio programme in one of the areas in question), but surely one could expect the person who had imposed, or at the very least sanctioned, said measures to be all over it like the proverbial tramp on chips, no?

No. For later the same day, our PM when asked got it wrong too, prompting this hastily written (by someone else) Tweet:

Fair play for admitting he got it wrong, but via the medium of Twitter is hardly the way to announce it, is it? He may as well have hidden in another fridge. Get out in front of the press again, man. I brought eggs.

And “Misspoke”…? Miss-speaking is when you accidentally refer to someone as Mrs rather than Miss. This was not him miss-speaking, this was him getting it wrong. Politician-speak, see: where the words “I’m sorry” are followed by the word “if…”; where you have to make it seem like you’ve said what is expected or anticipated, but where you leave yourself enough wriggle-room to amend, backtrack, clarify or denounce as deemed necessary later on.

This is where the whole matter of trust comes into play. Now, more than ever, it is essential that the people of the UK trust and believe in those who rule over us, and yet what we constantly get is the breaking of rules we’re supposed to adhere to, and the flim-flam justification for doing so, followed by errors and cover-ups. I’m not necessarily advocating another nationwide lockdown, but what I am asking for is for consistency. Is that too much to ask?

An example: new rules state that pubs and clubs must now shut at 10:00 pm. Putting aside the implied idiocy of thinking that the Covid virus is only active from 10:01 pm, and the actual idiocy of having all pubs turf people out at exactly the same time, to travel home on public transport where social distancing is simply not possible, what was not widely advertised was that one particular set of bars were exempt from the rule: those located in the House of Commons.

In the meantime, regional spikes – and we should really start calling it what it really is now: the second wave – led to our Government asking us all to work from home where possible, when only a matter of weeks ago they were encouraging us to go back to our offices to work, under the pretence that local sandwich businesses were struggling. Let’s call that what it was too, whilst we’re at it: it’s no coincidence that the people who were losing out on rent for vacant office buildings just so happened to also be major contributors to the Conservative coffers. And we can’t have those billionaires being out of pocket, now can we?

These spikes are, apparently, all our fault: we love freedom “too much” and we “don’t like being told what to do”. I call bullshit once again. There may be small pockets of Covid deniers in the country, or those who consider wearing face masks to protect ourselves and others is either a fallacy or an infringement on our civil liberties, but they are very much in the minority.

The majority of us just want to get through this and will do whatever it takes to do so.

What’s needed here is clear and consistent messaging, and (and I can’t believe I’m about to type these words) strong and stable leadership.

What we’re getting is the absolute opposite.

For once, I agree with Phil and the boys:

******

In non-Covid related news, it was announced that Brexit – ah, Brexit! Remember those heady days when this was all we had to worry about? – and the additonal paperwork which every vehicle will need to have (and have checked) will cause queues of approximately 7000 lorries per day at channel ports. Give or take, that’s 700 miles of tailbacks. And the solution? More staff, presumably. But no: a new internal border in Kent. Genius. Say what you like about Boris’ “oven-ready” deal: we never expected it to lead to the annexing of Kent.

Oh, and the software needed to control the borders won’t be ready until May 2021, months after it’s needed.

And the same applies for the border with Northern Ireland he assured us wasn’t going to happen.

But it’s okay, Boris has a master-plan: all we have to do is pass new legislation which allows us to renege on the Withdrawal Agreement he signed with the EU less than a year ago – which, for those of you with short memories, was forced through Parliament in record time because, it was argued, there was no need to examine the detail of the agreement. “We would never have agreed to this had we bothered to read it first time around” the likes of Ian Duncan Smith exclaimed. (Still no sign of Mark Francois. Funny, that)

And our Premier agreed – and he claims to have written the fecking thing – hence the Internal Market Bill, which has got through two readings in the House of Commons, and which – amongst other things, such as grabbing power back from our devolved nations, and throwing the Good Friday Agreement out the window, so it’ll be a big 70s welcome back to sectarian violence in Ireland – permits us to renege on the Withdrawal Agreement, all of which is of course, in breach of international law.

Here’s Ed Miliband, standing in for Labour Leader Kier Starmer when he was self-isolating, still sounding like an Aardman Animations character, but giving Johnson a proper what-for at PMQs:

If only he could have managed to eat a bacon sandwich properly.

But, of course, it is the EU who are being painted as the unreasonable ones now. Does anyone actually buy that? How outrageous that they might insist on us sticking to an agreement we agreed to only last year, the manipulative bastards.

What this does, of course, is send out a very clear message to all of those countries with whom we are currently negotiating new trade deals (to replace the perfectly good one we had via the EU): Britain can’t be trusted.

Who haven’t I mentioned yet?

You know it: Home Secretary, Priti Patel.

Obsessed with her desire to send any asylum seekers (she continues to call them illegal immigrants, even though they are not) elsewhere, this week two proposed plans were leaked to the press. The first was that we should send them all to the Ascension Islands (hello Australia! Does this sound familiar?), the second was that we should contain them on boats moored off-shore whilst their applications were considered.

Just to clarify the hard-line Patel allegedly proposed: we remove them from the dangerous craft on which they had paddled their way here and either relocate them to an isolated volcanic island, about 1,600 kilometres from the coast of Africa and 2,250 kilometres from the coast of Brazil, or we put them in a much bigger and safer ship than they had been used to thus far.

Or – and this may seem radical – maybe, since they’ve done nothing wrong, we could treat them like humans and let them in whilst their applications are processed. maybe even let them work a little, pay their taxes and National Insurance contributions, to make up at least some of the money the Government seems determined to – and I quote – “spaff up the walls” on Covid and Brexit.

I heard a government minister – sadly, I didn’t catch his name – being interviewed and asked whether these suggestions were true. His answer was that he ‘wouldn’t comment on leaks’. Which is Politician Speak for “Yes, it’s true, but it’s a bit embarrassing so I’d rather you didn’t press me on this.”

One wonders just how persuasive Patel is for these nonsense ideas to be even considered, let alone leaked. With apologies to you all, not least to The Robster for the tarring of a great record with debase connotations:

And don’t even get me started on the US elections, which given the developments over the last 24 hours, I’m steering clear of. I’d hate to speak ill of the dead (until they’re actually dead, and then it’s fair game. Fingers crossed!).

More soon.

The Chain #48

I know I have often moaned in the past about how time-consuming it is to write The Chain, but this morning, at around 2am, having put off writing it every day this week, it suddenly occured to me that there are three reasons why it takes me so long:

1. You won’t be surprised to learn that I don’t own every record that gets suggested, so I have to track down a copy to post here. I quite enjoy this aspect, as it goes;

2. As I’m going through all of your suggestions, I put all the songs on a playlist so I can familiarise myself with them, and hopefully come up with either some decent jokes (I’ll let you be the judge of how succcesful I am with that) and/or some funny video clips to include in the post. This latter aspect, as I’m sure you can imagine, often leads me down a YouTube rabbithole. That said, I quite enjoy this aspect too;

3. For practically every song you suggest, I manage to think of at least one more to link to either the source record, or your suggestion. That’s not meant to sound like a boast, more a statement of fact: people who write music-based blogs tend to know quite a lot of records. I try to exert some kind of control over the amount of my own suggestions I include but sometimes I just can’t resist. I really like this aspect as well.

So next time I moan about what a pain it is to write The Chain, ignore me. Once I get going on it, I bloody love it.

As can be seen by the amount of suggestions I’ve made this time.

And that’s despite the source record being, in my opinion, one of the worst singles by – well, I’m not going to say the worst bands, not when Black Eyed Peas and Coldplay are both things – but certainly by a band that I don’t much care for.

In case you’ve forgotten, said source record this time around was this:

U2 – Beautiful Day

As usual, the suggestions can be split into categories, one for each word: ‘U2’, ‘Beautiful’ and ‘Day’, with a few tangents thrown in for good measure.

We’ll save the vitriol of links to U2 for later I think, so let’s start with a suggestion from PhonicPat:

“[Beautiful Day] is from their ‘All That You Can’t Leave Behind” album which leads nicely to…:”

Over to C from Sun Dried Sparrows to kick off all the nominations linked to the word ‘Day’ and complete the cleansing of the palate:

“I think ‘keeping it simple’ will be my mantra from now on, so… Beautiful Day takes me to beautiful Days. I’ve just been through your back pages and I couldn’t see Kirsty MacColl’s sublime cover version appearing here before, so can we have that one please?”

But of course!

Kirsty MacColl – Days

Next up is a clutch of suggestions/songs mentioned in passing – which you all know I can’t resist – from Kay. For those of you who don’t know, Kay is my manager at work, but also a friend. She, too, wants to keep things simple:

“I’m a simple soul [I’m saying nothing – Ed], so I immediately started thinking of songs about a particular day of the week. First thought was…”:

New Order – Blue Monday

“…then remembered [Look out, folks, she’s off. Experience tells me to get comfy and look like you’re paying attention – Ed] Foals had a song called Sunday, and I thought I would choose that, so you’d have to post it (much to your disgust)…”

Foals – Sunday

Allow me to explain that “much to your disgust” comment: I’m not a Foals fan. I don’t dislike them either, to be honest. I just find them a bit “meh”. I don’t understand why anyone would want to pay money to go and see them, unless they need to pick up a new Yasser Arafat-type scarf from the merchandise stall, that is.

Anyway, carry on.

“…but then thought neither a Monday or a Sunday is a beautiful day. So I’m going for…”

The Cure – Friday I’m In Love

“…as Fridays are really quite beautiful.”

I’m not sure if this has any bearing, but before we all had to work from home, Friday would be the day when someone was most likely to bring cakes into the office.

In the spirit of full disclosure, Kay’s email to me with her suggestions began like this:

“Here’s my suggestion…(it’s a bit basic, so doubt I’ll win the Showboating prize)…I have an alternative (that could be a Worst Record of the Week Award contender)…”

You know me, dear reader. I was intrigued and pressed Kay as to what that might be.

This:

Whigfield – Saturday Night

No, I don’t understand that record sleeve either.

I’m not going to give you the satisfaction of being the recipient of the Worst Record of the Week Award.

Now get back to work, all those complaints about me aren’t going to answer themselves, you know.

Over to Martin from New Amusements next:

“There’s already been mention of Kirsty’s sublime cover but what of The Kinks’ original version of Days?”

I wouldn’t normally do this kind of thing, but oh, go on then:

The Kinks – Days

Martin will be back shortly, but in the meantime previously thought Missing in Action Chain Ganger George is back! Back! BACK!:

“From the song Beautiful Day to Darren Van Day of Dollar (don’t worry, it’ll get better)…. “

Too late! You’ve mentioned them now!

Dollar – Hand Held in Black and White

Sorry. As you were.

“…to Working For The Yankee Dollar (Skids)”

Skids – Working For The Yankee Dollar

Well, he says, blowing some dust off the box marked “Catchphrases”, if you’re having having that, then I’m having this:

The Men They Couldn’t Hang – Greenback Dollar

“Also,” Martin pipes up again, “a beautiful day might even qualify as a Perfect Day, by Lou Reed?”

Don’t mind if I do:

Lou Reed – Perfect Day

Time for a clip, and I imagine most of you will know that popular comic creations Lou & Andy from Little Britain…:

…are based on Lou Reed and Andy Warhol as played by David Walliams and Matt Lucas in an old Rock Profile sketch, reprised here on The Ralf Little Show (no, me neither):

Anyhoo. Kirsty MacColl also covered Perfect Day, with the Lemonheads’ Evan Dando, of course. But I’d be overdoing it if I posted that too, so we’ll save that for another…erm…day.

Instead, here’s Kirsty doing something which just begs to be played right after that:

Kirsty MacColl – The End Of A Perfect Day

And since we’re on the subject of perfect days, I was mightily suprised nobody came up with this:

PJ Harvey – A Perfect Day Elise

That’s all the ‘Day’ suggestions, and before we move let’s move on to the “Beautiful” links, a suggestion which covers both, and I’ll hand you over to The Robster from on/off/on-again/no-he’s-definitely-gone-this-time Is This The Life?

“Beautiful Day was used by ITV for their ill-fated coverage of The Premiership back in, erm, I don’t remember. Quite a few years ago. The song I always associate with football on TV is Life Of Riley by the Lightning Seeds which Match Of The Day used for its Goal Of The Month feature.”

The Lightning Seeds – The Life Of Riley

Ill-fated it certainly was, for two reasons: firstly, given an alternative, I don’t know anyone who would elect to watch football on ITV, and secondly, tactical analysis was provided by former professional footballer Andy Townsend, not from the comfort of a warm studio, but from what was know as The Tactics Truck, for no other reason, it seemed, than alliteration.

Whilst we’re on the subject of football, here’s PhonicPat with a couple of suggestions which I’ll allow, even though they link to The Robster’s suggestion more than to the source record:

“Late to the party this time around and some of my thoughts already reflected in the comments [but I haven’t got to them yet in this post, in case you were wondering – Ed]…More footy with…”:

“…and one more football song:”

Sorry, Pat. I can’t say I enjoyed that one. Worst Record of the Week, in my book.

Now we’ll move on to just plain Beautiful, words often used to describe Swiss Adam from Bagging Area, I’m sure:

“There are lots of songs that link to beautiful – Peaking Lights’ Beautiful Dub has the double pleasure of the word in its title and being beautiful to listen to.”

He’s not wrong:

Peaking Lights – Beautiful Dub

In fact, he’s not wrong on both fronts: there are loads of songs which link to “Beautiful”. Like this, for example (a bit of a gear change here):

Marilyn Manson – The Beautiful People

And then there’s this:

Suede – Beautiful Ones

And:

Not forgetting:

Neil Diamond – Beautiful Noise

Somebody stop me!

Ok, to break me out of this run, since we’ve now learned that a Beautiful Noise makes Mr Diamond feel good, just like a hand in a glove, I have to post this, don’t I….?

The Smiths – Hand In Glove (7” Version)

Anyone else care to add to the list?

“So many ‘beautiful’ songs,” PhonicPat thankfully chips in, “but eels’ Beautiful Freak could almost have been sung about Bono and the band.

eels – Beautiful Freak

I’m not sure if that’s meant to be a compliment or not. If it is, then frankly that’s not what we expect when asked to comment about U2 round here. Please allow Swiss Adam to show you how it’s done:

“U2 are bad. Really bad. Negativland nailed them and their egos with The U2 Song, daring them to sue. Which they did.”

Effin’ and jeffin’ alert:

Negativland – I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For (Special Edit Radio Mix)

There’s a little snatch (and no, I don’t mean Bono) of the melody of that, such as it is, which reminds me of Una Paloma Blanca by Jonathan King, but since I’ve banned Morrissey’s solo records from the blog because of his extremist views, I guess I should extend that to convicted paedophiles too. So instead, here’s the George Baker Selection with the titularly-truncated (presumably Ms Stubbs complained) Paloma Blanca:

George Baker Selection – Paloma Blanca

Bet you thought I was going to follow that up with a certain spoof version by The Wurzels, right?

Of course not. How dare you.

No, I’m going to follow that up with a cover of a certain spoof version by The Wurzels:

Going back to expressing one’s…erm…admiration for U2, perhaps one could take a leaf out Stevie from Charity Chic Music who does it in a much more subtle way:

“A mention of U2 leads to You’ve Already Put Big Old Tears in my Eyes (Must You Throw Dirt in my Face) by the Louvin Brothers”

Louvin Brothers – Must You Throw Dirt In My Face

Personally, whenever I hear the name U2, I want to rebel against it, and listen to the complete opposite. So, like a typically confusing clue on 70s game show 3-2-1

…here we go: The clue mentions the complete opposite and the the opposite of U could be Me or it could be We; the opposite of the opposite of 2 is the number immediately adjacent to it, so it could be 1 or it could be 3; if you want to rebel against something then you want to bring about change, and perhaps the most famous rebels were the French Resistance…so the next suggestion is of course:

I mean, really I should be awarding myself some points for Showboat of the Week. Not that I can be bothered awarding points anymore. Nobody really cares about them, do they?

Here’s Martin again with another song which sort of links to the band’s name:

“Finally I want to mention ‘U Talk 2 Much’ by Sultans of Ping FC, not least for its U2-referencing sleeve art”:

Which takes me back to PhonicPat, and an alternative Sultans of Ping FC tune, suggested “…for the footy link”:

Do you remember when U2 graciously and modestly decided that everyone with iTunes should be blessed with a free copy of their 2014 Songs of Innocence album, whether they wanted it or not? Well, that leads me here:

Janelle Monáe – Dirty Computer (feat. Brian Wilson)

Time to go off on some (non-football) tangents, I think, and so here’s Alyson from What’s It All About?:

“U-2 is a kind of plane and another plane become the inspiration for a song by OMD, so I’m going for Enola Gay, which very scarily was a big hit for them in 1980, 40 years ago now. The awful event addressed in the song, the atomic bombing of Hiroshima, happened only 35 years prior to that. Is it just me or is time running away with us as we get older?”

Keep it light, Aly, for Gawd’s sake:

Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark – Enola Gay

Well, if we’re side stepping to planes, then – surprise, surprise – I have a couple.

Predictably, this lot:

Status Quo – Paper Plane

And, perhaps less predictably, this:

M.I.A. – Paper Planes

On the same theme, some suggestions from a couple of first-timers (I think – apologies if you’ve contributed before and I’ve forgotten); firstly, give a big Chain Gang welcome to Devonian:

“U2 is a plane named after a letter and a number. B-52 is also a plane named after a letter and a number. Something by The B-52s, then… let’s say…”

The B-52’s – Mesopotamia

And follow that up with an equally warm hand on his entrance for Stevo Kifaru, who, for a first-time Chain Ganger has certainly got the hang of naming a load of records knowing full-well I won’t be able to resist posting them all:

“U2 were named after an American spy plane, the Lockheed U-2, so I’m going with the theme of Spies for a second. My initial thought was…:”

Was (Not Was) – Spy In The House Of Love

“…but then I thought…”

The Untouchables – I Spy (For The F.B.I.)

“…to be a cooler track.”

Hmm. Not sure about that, because of this:

Anyway, if we’re side-stepping into the world of spies and espionage, then we’ll have a bit of this, I think:

Super Furry Animals – She’s Got Spies

And this, too:

Pulp – I Spy

He’s not done there, though, is our Stevo:

“But as I’m typing this I think ‘The House of Love’ ooh Christine is such a sublime single, I mean those guitars…”:

The House of Love – Christine

Pop the handbrake on for a moment and hide the jacket potatoes, I have (yes, yet another) suggestion:

….which I’m sure you’ll agree is the very best of the mixes, right Chums?

It turns out Stevo is quite the Chatty Cathy (a bit rich, coming from me, granted), for he continues:

“I also thought U2 reminded me of the nomenclature of German submarines, always beginning with a U, & that brought me to Das Boot. Many years ago my friend randomly asked me, what was the number of the sub in Das Boot? I thought for a second & said U96. I have felt like such a nerd since that day, my friend obviously grateful that I answered his question, but the look he gave me was one of shock at my depths of geekness….In reality I just remembered the techno remix of the theme tune that was released under the name of U96….”:

U96 – Das Boot

So, having dealt with all things U2-related (was that what we were doing? I’ve lost track…), what about the individual band members?

And by band members, I mean your Bono fide ones, not charlatans like this chap:

Back to you, Robster:

“I’m also going to throw a Half Man Half Biscuit song into the mix, just because it’s Half Man Half Biscuit. Something from their ‘Achtung Bono’ album. How about…:”

Half Man Half Biscuit – For What Is Chatteris

In the interest of balance, perhaps I should point out that Bono at least seems to be vaguely self-aware and have a sense of humour about how many people view him, even if that sense of humour has been written by somebody else:

Right, who’s left?

Rigid Digit from Stuff & Nonsense, that’s who:

“U2 to Stiff Little Fingers to Grandmaster Flash and back to U2 in 3 moves:

There is a story that Adam Clayton says the bass line for U2’s ‘With Or Without You’ is basically Stiff Little Fingers’ ‘Alternative Ulster’ slowed down.”

Now. I know you haven’t suggested it, and I wouldn’t ordinarily post a second song by the source artist (especially when it’s U-Sodding-2), but I don’t think I can let that slide without investigating. So here’s both of those records, to allow us to compare and contrast:

U2 – With or Without You

Hmm. I suppose he may have a point. But it’s not exactly the most complicated bass-line in the world is it?

“SLFs 1997 album Tinderbox,” Rigid gamely continues, undeterred, “contains a cover version of ‘The Message’, which includes the lyric: “Don’t push me cos I’m close to the Edge”

So, here’s both the cover and the original. I do like a bit of SLF, but I know which of these I prefer:

Sounds a bit Walk This Way, only not as good to me, no? Imagine the Run DMC boys hadn’t turned up at the studio and so Aerosmith recorded their part too.

Where were we? Ah yes: Grandmaster Flash:

Much better.

Of course, any mention of The Edge being close to the edge means that I’m contractually obliged to share this clip:

Last ones before we find out what the next record in The actual Chain is, and I’ll hand over to The Great Gog to bring things to a thrilling climax as only he can:

“The phrase ‘close to the edge’ has already been mentioned. Of course Bono and the other two are close to The Edge when they play live. Close To The Edge was also an album recorded by Yes in 1972. Later versions of this album include a cover of the Paul Simon-penned America, also recorded in the same year.”

Now, I’m no Yes man, so I checked what Wiki has to say about this, and GG is quite correct:

In 1987, ‘Close to the Edge’ was reissued by Atlantic Records on CD in the United States and Europe. Another issue of the album was digitally remastered by Joe Gastwirt in 1994. In 2003, the album was reissued again on disc in an expanded and remastered edition by Rhino and Elektra Records. Included were two previously unreleased tracks: an alternate version of ‘And You and I’, an early run-through of ‘Siberian Khatru’, and Yes’s 1972 single ‘America’ with its b-side, an edit of ‘Total Mass Retain‘.”

Never in doubt:

It’s not so much a cover version as a lot of proggy noodling with the Simon & Garfunkel lyrics chucked in after a while.

I should be careful how I phrase that, really; for to describe them as ‘Simon & Garfunkel lyrics’ does rather give the impression that Art had some involvement in the song-writing process, a goof that Annie Nightingale made when she interviewed Paul Simon for The Old Grey Whistle Test many years ago:

“1972 saw Simon record the song ‘Mother & Child Reunion’,” GG continues. “He performed this song on stage (and presumably close to The Edge) with U2 at Madison Square Garden in 2015. The performance is on YouTube but the quality isn’t great and there’s a load of waffle from Bono at the start of it.”

Which seems a good enough reason to just post the Paul Simon version:

And all that leaves me to do is….oh wait. Rigid Digit is back:

“Forgot to include the story of my U2 branded SatNav. It’s terrible – the streets have no names, and I still haven’t found what I’m looking for.

And I think my U2 fridge is on the way out – all it does is Rattle and Hum.”

Thanks Rigid, I trust you’ll be here all week?

Anyway, as I was saying (he says, locking the door behind him to be on the safe side), all that leaves me to do is to give you the next song in The Chain, along with the way the person suggesting it got there. And don’t worry, it’s a waaaaaaaay better record this time:

The link: As PhonicPat said right at the top, Beautiful Day appeared on the band’s All That You Can’t Leave Behind album. What Pat didn’t say was that said album was produced by Brian Eno (and Daniel Lanois); and the album that this is taken from (Fear of Music) was also produced by Brian Eno (without Daniel Lanois):

So, your suggestions, please, for songs which link to Cities by Talking Heads, along with a brief description of the link, via the Comments Section down below or via email to dubioustaste26@gmail.com in time for whenever The Chain circus next rolls into town, in a month or so’s time (probably).

More soon.

Same Title, Different Song

Some of the subject matter has been a tad on the heavy side round here recently – (alleged) rape, the exam result travesty (now thankfully rectified), the asylum seeker “crisis”, my impending colonoscopy – so I figured today I’d just post something dumb and fun.

Before I do, a big thank you to all that got in touch with good luck messages about the procedure I underwent this week. As always, I was blown away by how many of you took the time to get in touch. You know me, I will be providing you with a post which provides a lot more detail than you probably wish to know at some point. I’ll try to make it obvious so that the more squeamish amongst you don’t read it.

I’m going to be spending much of this weekend writing the next part of The Chain, with a view to posting it next weekend, so if you haven’t submitted your suggestion yet, get a scoot on if you want it to be included. To refresh your memory, the source record is, God help us, Beautiful Day by U2: submit your suggestions via the Comments page here or, if you must, by email to dubioustaste26@gmail.com

This morning, though, a Chain-lite post: three songs linked by nothing other than their song title and this chap:

As mentioned in a recent post, I first became aware of the first band a few years before many others in the UK did, thanks to my brother returning from America with a copy of their 1983 Pyromania album for me. To the rest of the UK (except, presumably, the residents of Sheffield) they were ‘that band nobody over here has ever heard of, but are massive in America, apparently’.

By the time 1987 rolled around, they were now known as ‘that band nobody over here has ever heard of, but are massive in America, apparently, and have a one-armed drummer.’ For that four-year hiatus was due to drummer Rick Allen losing his left arm in a road traffic accident and, commendably, the rest of the band waited for him not only to complete his rehab, but also to invent a whole new drum system which allowed him to continue to play, minus one limb.

So this was their first single on their return, and whilst none of their previous singles has troubled the UK Top 40, this reached #6:

Def Leppard – Animal

Little did we know they would go to release such preposterously-titled singles as Let’s Get Rocked! and Pour Some Sugar On Me….both of which test my “There’s no such thing as a Guilty Pleasure” philosophy to knicker-elastic twanging point. But love ’em I do. Sue me.

Fast forward a good few years. It is 2003 and I am at my first ever Glastonbury festival. Headlining the Pyramid Stage on the Friday night are my idols, R.E.M.

At this point, we are unaware of what an utter dogturd of a record 2004’s Around The Sun would turn out to be. The band play a blistering set with *gulp* some new songs they want to try out.

Look, I understand the reason that bands do this. The songs are a work in progress, and they want to gauge the audience reaction, and decide which ones need a little more work. The problem is, the audience reaction on hearing these new songs for the first time is generally polite applause, the underlying subtext being: Now play something we know. The band learns nothing from us. I begrudge bands doing this less if it happens at a gig where it is just them that are playing, to hardcore fans who who’ve paid to see them, but when they’re headlining a festival? C’mon, we just wanna hear the hits.

The set is mercifully free of much new stuff; there’s just Final Straw – which appears in the encore – and which makes the cut for the aforementioned Around The Sun album, and Animal, performed fourth on the night, and which is conspicuous by its absence from the forthcoming, not very good, album.

It does, however, get released as a single in 2004, in advance of the album it will not appear on. The British record-buying public is indifferent, shrugs, and it reaches #33.

I’m not saying it’s bad record, but it is, to these ears, the sound of a band floundering, trying to recapture past glories, and not quite managing it:

R.E.M. – Animal (New Mix)

Thank Goodness for that “New Mix” (of a record which has never been released before)!

It is here that I expect The Robster to pop up and correct me by pointing out a different version appears on the 2003 compilation In Time: The Best of R.E.M. 1988–2003

Anyway, moving on….

Thirdly, finally, this, a record I first heard on a 2012 mix album by Annie Mac called, wittily, Annie Mac Presents…

Yes, this is what I’ve been building up to, and yes, this is such a great record, all boinging basslines and sing-a-long chorus. Plus, it’s nice to hear from an act with a double I in their name. I can’t think of another. Except Piink Floyd and Iiron Maiden and they don’t count for obvious reasons (I’m convinced there’s a better joke in there somewhere, but I’m buggered if I can find it).

Anyway: this is great. Listen and enjoy:

Miike Snow – Animal (Crookers Remix)

More soon. Probably something unpleasant.

Carry On Ranting

Saturday morning used to be the time when I would have a rant on here about whatever was going on in the world that just happened to bugging me at the time.

But a few weeks ago, I decided I’d try and curb this side of things, and write fewer such posts.

If I may misquote Lloyd Bridges in Airplane!: it looks like I picked a hell of a month to give up ranting.

Because, well…there’s just so much that gets my dander up these days, it’s a wonder I’ve not exploded from bottled-up fury.

So, in no particular order, let me get some things of my chest.

August kicked off with The Scottish Qualification Authority (SQA) announcing that since the Covid-19 crisis led to the abrupt closure of schools and an end to the 2019/2020 academic year, results would not be based on exams, because nobody had sat any. Instead, teachers were asked to use their professional judgement to estimate a grade and band for each pupil.

But that wasn’t the end of the process: the SQA then “checked and validated” the teachers’ estimates, and then “moderated” them to “ensure consistency across schools and colleges, and with results from previous years”.

Which, on the face of things, seemed fair enough. Until it transpired that one of the factors taken into consideration was how well each school had historically peformed; those pupils who attended schools which had performed poorly in the past were marked down, those who were fortunate enough to go to “better” schools, either had no amendment to their results, or got marked up.

In other words, it made not one jot of a difference how well a pupil had done, rather it was the school they attended which became the most crucial factor in the grade they received.

It will come as no surprise that schools which perform badly were, by and large, in deprived communities; those which did well in more affluent ones.

The process, in effect, disregarded the possibility of any pupil from a poorer, working class background achieving above and beyond what normally happened at the school in question.

Unsurprisingly, this caused quite a lot of upset, until, finally, earlier this week, there was a U-turn, when the Scottish Education Secretary, John Swinney, told the Scottish Parliament that 124,564 affected results would revert to the grades estimated by the pupils’ teachers.

A rare example of common sense prevailing, you might think. And you’d be right.

Except…

“Hold my beer” said the English Government, and the day before A-Level students were due to get their results (there’s nothing like forward planning, and this was nothinglike forward planning), announced that practically the same process as had shown to be controversially calamitous in Scotland would be used south of the border.

And who’d have guessed the outcome: 36% of entries had a lower grade than teachers predicted and 3% were down two grades.

Of course, the stock answer when challenged was that everything was fine and fair. Education Secretary Gavin Williamson said the “majority of young people will have received a calculated grade…that enables them to progress to the destination they deserve, with the added safety net of being able to appeal on the basis of their mock results, as well as the chance of sitting autumn exams”, seemingly unaware that autumn is when the 2020/2021 academic year commences, and thus any pupil sitting an exam then would almost certainly be too late to find a place at their desired university, or even at an alternative one.

That “…progress to the destination they deserve…” bit is interesting, because, as in Scotland, it transpired that those pupils who had their results downgraded just so happened to be from more deprived areas; those that had their results left as is or improved, from more affluent ones.

Billy Bragg – To Have and To Have Not

Oh hang on a minute. Sarah Vine has had a pop at the Government about their handling of this, describing it as “confused and chaotic.” Maybe I’ve got it wrong and everything really is just fine and dandy then….

Where next? How about long-time staple of my rants: Brexit. How’s that going?

Well, despite the country grinding to a halt because of Covid-19, and our Goverment’s focus being on cocking right-up our response to that, the date by which we could ask for an extension to the transition period has passed, which means that come January 1st 2021, the UK will be leaving the EU, irrespecetive of what, if anything, has been agreed to replace it.

If there were a monthly “It would be funny if it wasn’t so serious” award, perhaps a trophy depicting someone slapping their forehead…

…then surely August’s recipient would be former Conservative party leader and ardent Leaver – I hate the term “Brexiteer”, it imbues them with a far more swashbuckling persona than is accurate, like they’re similar to the dubiously-named (and pronounced) Juan Sheet from those kitchen towel adverts (but without a foreign acccent, obviously) – Iain Duncan Smith.

For this month, IDS (an abbreviation which always makes me liken him to an irritable syndrome for a part of the body staring with a ‘D’ – I’ll let you make your own joke there) said this:

“Whilst the UK wants to have a good trade relationship with the EU as a sovereign state, the EU has different ideas…They want our money and they want to stop us being a competitor. The Withdrawal Agreement (WA) we signed last year sadly helps them…To avoid their own budget black hole, the EU gets £39billion as a “divorce payment” from us, reflecting our share of the current EU budget. But it gets worse. Buried in the fine print, unnoticed by many, is the fact we remain hooked into the EU’s loan book…the problem is the WA. It costs too much & it denies us true national independence.”

And that is estimated to be a further £160 billion that we will owe them.

Ordinarily, I’d be delighted that such a prominent Leaver seemed to be finally seeing sense, albeit it being tantamount to the stable door being closed so long after the horse had bolted that the horse has completed a long career in dressage, spent years retired on a city farm somewhere and has now been melted down and flogged to UHU.

But look at that “Buried in the fine print, unnoticed by many…” bit. And then remember that IDS voted for the WA and also attempted to stop the House of Commons having more time to discuss the agreement, as well as voting to reject the House of Lords amendments. Five times.

So, to be clear: IDS voted against proper scrutiny of the WA agreement, voted for it to be passed without amendment, and now says that he didn’t read it properly and wants it changed.

The Hives – Hate To Say I Told You So

What a numpty.

Sultans of Ping F.C. – Stupid Kid

Elsewhere in “one rule for them, one for us lot” news, a different vote from 2016 to the one I normally moan about came to prominence earlier this month, when news broke on that a senior Conservative MP had been arrested on suspicion of rape.

Now, I appreciate there is a whole seperate debate to be had about those directly involved such cases, by which I mean both the accused and the accuser, and their right to anonymity, and I can see both sides of the arguments which are usally proffered. On one hand, releasing the name of a high profile accused may lead to others who have suffered at their hands to come forward and thereby build a case against them. On the other hand, should the allegations prove to be unfounded or unproven, the ‘innocent’ accused’s name is irretreiviably tarnished.

Take former Blue Peter presenter John Leslie. Having left the world of children’s television and forged a career presenting game shows like Wheel of Fortune, and daytime TV show This Morning, his media work dried up when he was arrested in December 2002 on one count of rape and two concerning indecent assault. All charges were dropped in 2003. But mud sticks. I think the last time I saw him on TV was on the steps outside the courts on the day the case collapsed.

Not that I have much sympathy for him, especially when a quick bit of research to confirm the dates revealed that he was arrested again in June 2019, and charged with sexually assaulting a woman back in December 2008.

But here’s the thing: Leslie, and anyone else arrested on such charges, can be and often is named, irrespective of the irreperable damage this might cause them if cleared of all charges.

But Members of Parliament charged with identical offences cannot be named. For whilst there is no law that states that the accused in sexual abuse cases has a right to anonymity, Parliament, in that vote in 2016 I mentioned, voted to keep MPs’ arrests secret from the public. It stripped the public of any right to know if their MP is arrested for anything.

Want to know how good an idea that is? It was pushed through by Chris Grayling. You remember him, right? The muppet who awarded £13.8m to British firm Seaborne Freight to provide additional cross-channel freight capacity in case of a “no-deal” Brexit, only for it to later transpire that the company had never run a ferry service and owned no ships.

Anyway, allies of the MP arrested on suspicion of rape rallied round him, arguing that publishing their name would make it easy for people to discover the identity of the victim (who is entitled to remain anonymous, irrespective of status) who is known to be a former parliamentary staffer of the accused. Which would be fair enough if the accused had only ever employed one female. Perhaps the solution is for MPs to join the 21st century and start employing more women. But how many women are going to want to work in an environment where an accused sex offender continues to work?

Because in this very current example, the accused has not even been suspended whilst the police investigation continues.

They also argued that should an accused MP’s name be released, it would constitute a breach of their “right to privacy” under the Human Rights Act. But a reminder: they have no such qualms about the right to privacy of you or I should we ever be wrongfully charged with any crime.

Of course, rumours and speculation as to the accused’s identity has been rife. I have a sneaking suspicion who it is, someone normally perfectly happy to be seen in public or on TV but who has been noticeable by their absence for a few weeks. I’m certainly not going to name them here, or anywhere, though.

So, because everything I’ve written about so far is so grim, here’s a gif of Peter Griffin from popular cartoon Family Guy doing a funny dance, included for a bit of light relief, and completely unrelated to that last topic:

De’Lacy – Hideaway (Deep Dish Radio Edit)

The mention of ferries and crossing the English Channel to reach our sunlit shores leads me on to my final whinge, and it’s a double-header. On Thursday evening, the Goverment announced some additions to the list of countries on return from which travellers are obliged to self-isolate for 14 days.

This led to good honest British holiday makers starting an almighty Cannonball Run-type rush to get home before the deadline – 4am this morning – kicked in. Plenty of them were interviewed on the news throughout the day yesterday, many moaning about how unfair it is, and that they didn’t want to be inconvenienced by self-isolating on their return.

How terribly considerate of them, not for a second stopping to consider that they’re returning from a country where Covid-19 has spiked. Well, excu-u-u-u-use me, but if there’s a chance they might be carrying the virus, then we don’t want them wandering around over here, spreading their droplets all over the place. It’s the anti-masking, “Sod You Jack”, mentality writ large.

The countries removed from England’s exemption list to take effect from 4am this morning were (from the Government’s own website): Aruba, France, Malta, Monaco, the Netherlands or Turks and Caicos Islands.

It’s confusingly worded, in my opinion. At first blush, that makes it sound like you don’t need to self-isolate if returning from any of those locations after 4am this morning, when actually the reverse is true.

Generally, the news coverage was fairly sympathetic to these poor, put-upon travellers, which was in direct opposition to how some other people trying to cross the Channel by much less established – and safe – modes of transport were portrayed: refugees.

(Annoyingly, the only shareable footage of the BBC’s coverage I could find to illustrate this comes via a discussion piece released by Novara Media, “an independent, left-wing alternative media organisation”. I’d rather not include any of their content, not because I particularly disagree with everything that is said in this clip (nor do I agree with everything said), but because I don’t really like to promote any media company which has a political agenda, be it left or right wing. So please do not take their inclusion here to be any kind of endorsement on my part; they’re there simply beacuse I don’t have the means to edit them out):

Imagine you’re crammed into a boat that size, with 20+ others, risking your lives to reach a new country and try to make a better life for your family. You see a boat coming towards you: it’s not the lifeguards or the police, and for a moment you think help is on it’s way. You’re saved!! And then a film crew start capturing a bloke with a mic boom in one hand shouting “Are you okay?” at you, giving a thumb-up in your direction, before turning back to the camera and describing how you were having to empty water out from your boat to prevent you from sinking.

We’ve been here before, of course. You’ll remember how the media whipped up a storm when the last asylum seeker “crisis” arose, and you’ll no doubt recall the moment that public opinion changed, when we suddenly realised how desperate these people are not just to reach safety, but to escape the horror and devastation that war is bringing to their own countries :

We’ve gone backwards again, haven’t we?

And then there’s our Home Secretary, Priti Patel, who seems to have forgotten that she herself is the daughter of Ugandan-Indian migrants. Priti wants to blockade the Channel and wants France to co-fund it. Sound familiar?

I suspect Patel’s suggestion will be met in France with a response not dissimilar to the one given by former Mexican President Vicente Fox:

Although, there will probably be a nonchalant shrug thrown in for good measure.

Some points that Patel (and she’s Home Secretary, so I would hope she knew all this at some point) would do well to remember: firstly, illegal immigrants only become illegal immigrants once their application for asylum has been considered and declined. Until then, they are perfectly legitimate asylum seekers, irrespective of how they got here.

Secondly, there is no law which states they must seeks asylum in the first country they arrive at. They are entitled to continue to travel on through any number of countries until they arrive at the country where they wish to seek asylum.

Thirdly, many of them are fleeing countries where the British Government has made a pretty penny from arming, and more than occasionally training, the agressive militia. If we have nothing else, then we have a moral obligation to help those leaving areas where that is the case.

Fourthly, they are human beings. Wouldn’t it be nice to treat them as such?

*****

Earlier this year, we had to ship in Eastern European workers to fill the defecit of fruit-pickers caused by many overseas workers, who were already living here legitimately, vacating our shores due to Brexit and the way they were being treated by some of those who voted to Leave. You know the ones I mean, and I certainly am not implying that all Leave voters did or would behave the same way.

And why weren’t those unskilled jobs filled by ? Because British people don’t want to do back-breaking work for very little pay. They’re too busy trying to find fame and fortune on whatever the latest reality TV show is.

I’ll wager every single person on that boat would happily do those jobs.

And they’d doubtless pay their taxes too.

R.E.M. – Let Me In

Wouldn’t it be nice if we could let in all those who want to work and contribute to our society, and cast adrift all the racists, the trouble-makers, the ne’er-do-wells who don’t?

More next time my blood pressure gets dangerously high. (Soon, probably.)