Be Llyrious

One of the first posts I wrote in memory of my recently deceased best buddy LlĆ·r was one recalling the time in 2015 when we went to Glastonbury together, and sat getting drenched watching Mary J Blige on the Pyramid Stage.

Truth be told, I have at least a hundred memories of Glastonbury and LlĆ·r. I simply cannot think of the greatest festival in the world without thinking of him, the two are utterly inseperable.

So this weekend has been tough for me, and doubtless for everyone else who knew the boy wonder.

That’s one of the reasons I’m not there this year. See, every year that I went to Glastonbury, it was with LlĆ·r – and often his sister Hel – at my side, and I wasn’t sure I would be ready to attend again without him, so soon after he passed. Not that I think that will get any easier as the years pass; when I next lug my festival paraphanalia through the gates, collect my wrist-band and Grauniad-sponsored weekend guide, I know I’ll be looking round for him.

The other reason, of course, is that I didn’t get a ticket.

At the reception after his memorial service (note: not a wake), Hel and I were waiting to be served at a fairly packed bar. In front of us was a bunch of LlĆ·r’s work colleagues, Cardiff girls doing what Cardiff girls do really well: getting some shots in. Suddenly – mostly because they recognised Hel as being LlĆ·r’s sister, but partly, I think, because we happened to be in their vicinity – a shot of I know-not-what was thrust into each of our hands. We of course dutifully necked them, it would have been rude not to do so.

One of the girls in the group, Hannah, asked what our names were, and after I’d told her mine she stared, open-mouthed.

“Oh my God,” she said, “You’re Jez! He fucking loved you! He was always talking about you!”

Not for the first nor for the last time that day, I forced a smile and held back a tear.

“You’re a lot older than I thought you were,” she continued. “He never told me you were old.”

Holding back the tears suddenly became a lot easier, as my shoulders shuddered in laughter.

Anyway, Hannah had been to Glastonbury with LlĆ·r on at least one of the occasions when I hadn’t managed to get a ticket; neither of us were going this year, so we made a pledge that we’d do our darndest to go in 2020, and if we managed to get tickets, we would make it LlĆ·r’s Farewell Tour.

Where am I going with this? Oh yes….

In 2003, LlĆ·r and I and a whole bunch of friends – there was around ten of us, I think – went to our first Glastonbury. The headliners on the Pyramid Stage that year were R.E.M. on the Friday night, Radiohead on the Saturday, and Moby on the Sunday.

None of us watched Moby (Doves were playing on The Other Stage, so of course that’s where most of us were), the group was split between R.E.M. on the Pyramid or Primal Scream on The Other Stage (you can probably guess where my affiliations lay), but – and if memory serves me correctly, it was the only time this happened over the whole weekend – we all saw Radiohead together.

A couple of weeks later, back at home in at the flat of filth in Cardiff, LlĆ·r burst into the living room, triumphantly brandishing a CD he had just burnt off.

And on it, scrawled in marker pen, were the words: Radiohead Glasto 03.

“Here you go, dude,” he said as he thrust it into my hands.

And here you go, dudes:

Radiohead – Glasto 03

More soon.

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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 temperture
  • 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 often unwanted, but on this occasion is gratefully received. She reads my discharge papers, and mentions that it was a pumonary 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 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. As far as I can recall, this is the first time this has been mentioned during my stay) and I have been given a load of medication and creams and strict instructions about how to use at least one of them, 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.

Don’t Panic!

After I posted a TV theme from my childhood on Sunday, which attracted some rather lovely comments about the memories hearing it brought back, I started thinking about other TV themes which evoked the same kind of memories for me.

And I came up with this:

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The Eagles – Journey of the Sorcerer

For those of you who don’t recognise that, it was used as the theme tune at first for the BBC Radio series, and then as the BBC TV Series, of Douglas Adams’ peerless The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, which, as luck would have it, first aired, on 8th March 1978, forty years ago today.

I first encountered it in 1982. How am I able to say that so confidently? Well, because my brother recorded them all onto C60 cassettes, one episode on each side, and drew his own cover art for each of them. There were thirteen episodes, which meant that one blank side was left over, which he filled with songs taped off the Top 40. And amongst those songs, were Status Quo’s Something ‘Bout You Baby I Like and XTC’s Senses Working Overtime. And guess which of those two I’m going to post? Yup:

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XTC – Senses Working Overtime

When my brother left home to join the RAF, I claimed those cassettes, and they stayed with me right up until the final year of my degree course, when one of the options was a Creative Writing for Radio, which I took.  At some point in one of the lectures, the subject of The Hitchhiker’s Guide… came up, and, eager to please, I happened to let slip that I had all of them, should anyone wish to borrow them. I don’t think there was one person who didn’t borrow the set and come back to the next lecture gushing about how brilliant they are. So brilliant, in fact, that I never got them back again.

Although it didn’t occur to me at the time, one of the reasons that I took that course was because of how awe inspired I was by Adams’ work, and how I wanted to emulate him. You can tell by the fact that I’m writing this, that I was never successful.

But I digress. One of the biggest misconceptions that people make about the The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy – and by people, I mean people who have never read, listened to or watched it – is that it’s something for nerds, of sci-fi fans. Wrong, wrong, wrong. I mean, yes, it is set in space, and yes, there are aliens and robots, and yes there are characters with funny names (Slartibartfast is a favourite, specifically because Adams wanted a character whose name sounded very rude, but which was still actually broadcastable. He therefore started with the name Phartiphukborlz, and changed bits of it until it would be acceptable to the BBC) but above and beyond all of that it’s a very, very funny work, often satirical in places.

Here’s the premise: Arthur Dent is rescued from Earth’s destruction by his long-standing friend, Ford Prefect, who, until his rescue, Arthur has no idea whatsoever is not a human at all, but rather a human-like alien from Betelgeuse, working as a writer for the titular electronic travel guide. The two escape by hitchhiking onto a passing Vogon spacecraft, who have been sent to destroy the Earth to make way for a new Hyperspace By-pass. Together, and along with the President of the Galaxy, Zaphod Beeblebrox, and his companion, Trillian (not forgetting the depressed Marvin the Paranoid Android) they explore the galaxy and along the way discover how, why, by and for whom the Earth was created in the first place.

Okay, so it is sounding a little sci-fi-y, I suppose.

For those of you who are able to listen to it, there’s a rather wonderful episode of Bookclub available on the BBC iPlayer, an hour long special to mark their 20th anniversary, which includes an interview with Adams. If you’re in the UK (and pay your licence fee, of course), it’s here. In it Adams is asked whether or not he considers himself to be a sci-fi writer or not. His answer is rather illuminating:

“Well, I’ve always denied this, I’ve always said I’m primarily a comedy writer, but I have to say that virtually everything I ever write turns out to have something to do with science or science fiction, and anytime I try to right something else, very quickly spaceships and robots start creeping round the edges, so I think I probably do have to own up and say maybe I am a science-fiction writer after all.”

But it’s weird how some science fiction can come true. For example, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy is a book that….well, I’ll let The Book itself explain (these are the first words you hear in episode one of the radio series):

“This is the story of ‘The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy’: perhaps the most remarkable –  certainly the most successful – book ever to come out of the great publishing corporations of Ursa Minor. More popular than ‘The Celestial Homecare Omnibus’, better selling than ’53 More Things To Do in Zero Gravity’ and more controversial than Oolon Calluphid’s trilogy of philosophical blockbusters ‘Where God Went Wrong’, ‘Some More of God’s Greatest Mistakes’ and ‘Who Is This God Person Anyway?’

And in many of the more relaxed civilisations on the Outer Eastern Rim of the Galaxy, The Hitchhiker’s Guide… has already supplanted the great Encyclopaedia Galactica as the standard repository of all knowledge and wisdom, for though it has many omissions and contains much that is apocryphal, or at least wildly inaccurate, it scores over the older, more pedestrian work in two important respects.

First, it is slightly cheaper; and secondly it has the words

Don't Panic

inscribed in large friendly letters on its cover.”

Does that sound familiar? A digital portable reference book which gives you access to all of the information and knowledge, and quite a lot of disinformation and ignorance, in the known world?

(If it doesn’t sound familiar to you, then might I suggest you have a look at what you’re reading this on, and reconsider your first answer.)

Here are some other great quotes from the series, some funny, some thought-provoking, many both:

“In the beginning the Universe was created. This has made a lot of people very angry and been widely regarded as a bad move.”

There is a theory which states that if ever anyone discovers exactly what the Universe is for and why it is here, it will instantly disappear and be replaced by something even more bizarre and inexplicable. There is another theory which states that this has already happened.”

“The ships hung in the sky in much the same way that bricks don’t.”

Arthur: You know it’s at times like this, when I’m trapped in a Vogon airlock with a man from Betelgeuse, and about to die of asphyxiation in deep space that I really wish I’d listened to what my mother told me when I was young.
Ford: Why, what did she tell you?
Arthur: I don’t know, I didn’t listen.

“On the planet Earth, man had always assumed that he was more intelligent than dolphins because he had achieved so much — the wheel, New York, wars and so on — whilst all the dolphins had ever done was muck about in the water having a good time. But conversely, the dolphins had always believed that they were far more intelligent than man for precisely the same reasons.”

“It is known that there are an infinite number of worlds, simply because there is an infinite amount of space for them to be in. However, not every one of them is inhabited. Therefore, there must be a finite number of inhabited worlds. Any finite number divided by infinity is as near to nothing as makes no odds, so the average population of all the planets in the Universe can be said to be zero. From this it follows that the population of the whole Universe is also zero, and that any people you may meet from time to time are merely the products of a deranged imagination.”

“Nothing travels faster than the speed of light with the possible exception of bad news, which obeys its own special laws.”

As I mentioned, there’s often a satirical bent to Adams’ writing:

“The disadvantages involved in pulling lots of black sticky slime from out of the ground where it had been safely hidden out of harm’s way, turning it into tar to cover the land with, smoke to fill the air with and pouring the rest into the sea, all seemed to outweigh the advantages of being able to get more quickly from one place to another.”

And perhaps most famously and appropriately for our times, this:

“It is a well known fact that those people who most want to rule people are, ipso facto, those least suited to do it. To summarise the summary: anyone who is capable of getting themselves made President should on no account be allowed to do the job.”

But apart from predicting the creation of the internet and the rise to power of Bush, Trump, or whoever we all think is an incapable idiot this week, Hitchhiker has inspired many other things. Take the Babel Fish. More quotes, I’m afraid:

“The Babel Fish is small, yellow, leech-like, and probably the oddest thing in the universe. It feeds on brain wave energy, absorbing all unconscious frequencies and then excreting telepathically a matrix formed from the conscious frequencies and nerve signals picked up from the speech centres of the brain, the practical upshot of which is that if you stick one in your ear, you can instantly understand anything said to you in any form of language: the speech you hear decodes the brain wave matrix.

Now it is such a bizarrely improbable coincidence that anything so mind-bogglingly useful could evolve purely by chance that some thinkers have chosen to see it as a final and clinching proof of the non-existence of God.

The argument goes something like this:

“I refuse to prove that I exist,” says God, “for proof denies faith, and without faith I am nothing.”

“But,” says Man, “the Babel fish is a dead giveaway, isn’t it? It could not have evolved by chance. It proves you exist, and so therefore, by your own arguments, you don’t. QED.”

“Oh dear,” says God, “I hadn’t thought of that,” and promptly vanishes in a puff of logic.

“Oh, that was easy,” says Man, and for an encore goes on to prove that black is white, and gets killed on the next zebra crossing.”

And that has led to online translation service Babelfish.com

The world of music hasn’t escaped the influence either; ÂŁ1 million-insured thumb-slapping bass based 80s popsters Level 42 take their name from the answer to Life, The Universe and Everything, and Radiohead had their biggest hit in the UK with this, inspired by the aforementioned Marvin, which reached #3 back in 1997:

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Radiohead – Paranoid Android

Of course, there are other, less critically acclaimed musical moments inspired by the great book, not least this, voiced by actor Stephen Moore, who played perhaps the most memorable character in both the radio and television series. Listening to this now, it sounds like the Not The Nine O’Clock News gang doing a comedy send-up of Kraftwerk:

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Marvin the Paranoid Android – Marvin

You know Philip K. Dick’s Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, the book on which Blade Runner was based? Well here’s your answer: No.

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In case you haven’t guessed by now, I bloody love the universe Adams creates in The Hitchhiker… series. So if this is your first exposure to it, and you decide you want to investigate further, then I envy you and the journey you’re about to embark on.

If I were you, I’d start with the radio series, then track down the TV series (which visually hasn’t aged that well, but of all the differing platforms it is the most faithful to the radio series, and is available on DVD, and probably on YouTube if I could muster up the energy to check), then read the five books in, as Adams himself put it, the increasingly inaccurately titled trilogy, and then, if you really must, watch the film (I’m not saying it’s bad, it’s just…disappointing. Not a patch on the radio series, which you should then revisit to remind yourself just how great it is.)

“But how can we hear them?” you (hopefully) ask.

Ok, well if you want to dip your toe in and try them one at a time, here you go:

The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy – Series 1, Episode 1

The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy – Series 1, Episode 2

The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy – Series 1, Episode 3

The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy – Series 1, Episode 4

The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy – Series 1, Episode 5

The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy – Series 1, Episode 6

Or, if you want to download the whole lot in one go:

The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy – Series 1, Episodes 1 – 6

Finally, one last thing, and we’re popping back to the BBC iPlayer and to this, the ironically titled: Boring Talks #01 – The End Of The World where Steve Cross close-reads The Hitchhiker’s Guide… to try and work out the specific date of the end of the world. You will be surprised by his conclusions…

(NB – you will need to have a (free to set up) account to listen to either of the BBC iPlayer links, and the programmes are only available for a limited period of time.)

Anyway, that’s my bandwidth shafted for a few days, so I’ll see you at the weekend.

Or rather, so long, and thanks for all the fish.

Or, put another way: more soon.

(The (Brief) Return of) Friday Night Music Club

What, I hear you ask, has caused this sudden splurge of posts on a Friday?

Well, it’s like this.

Last night I went to the British Film Institute (cool kids call it the BFI, like it’s a Roald Dahl character) to see Adam Buxton perform a tenth anniversary of his Bug shows.

I’ve mentioned Adam here before, referencing and linking to his excellent podcasts, and I also went to see him perform at the start of the year, a gig which was one of the funniest nights out I’ve ever been to. To quote Blackadder: “I am glad I wore my corset, for I fear my sides have split.”

The Bug shows are a slightly different beast, and those who subscribe to the Murdoch channels may have caught the Bug shows getting an airing on there.

Here’s the deal: Adam plays some ground-breaking music videos, and says some funny stuff about them, the funny stuff often being about comments that have been left under the video clip on YouTube.

There’s more to it than that, and I’m doing Dr Buckles a grave disservice by describing it thusly, but in essence what you get at a Bug show is some incredible videos, some amazing songs, and a lot of “have I actually wet myself this time?” laughs.

Last night’s show was beset by technical issues, and whilst that may have caused others to flounce off in a huff, Adam simply sat, sorted them out every time they arose, and gave us an hilarious running commentary of what had gone wrong and what he was doing about it, as it all played out on the big screen in front of us. I don’t think there was one person in the audience who was annoyed by the tech problems, in fact quite the opposite: we all felt we were seeing an utterly unique show and watching Adam nonchalantly deal with it merely added to the love in the room for him.

Anyway, watching that gave me itchy fingers, and so here we are. And I figured I’d post the videos he showed last night, along with an mp3 of the tune, but without the jokes, because frankly I would not be able to do them justice.

Even if you don’t like the tunes, each of these videos is incredible in its own sweet way, some funny, more just mind-boggling, so I would heartily recommend you give them a look.

Here we go:

Battles – Atlas

Wiley feat. Daniel Merriweaher – Cash in My Pocket

Bonobo – Cirrus

And, by the same director (Cyriak):

Adam Buxton – Counting Song

I can’t actually embed the next one, and it needs some explanation, so here’s what it said on the hand-out we were given on attending last night’s performance:

“…a groundbreaking exercise in interactive music video making from 2010, that is arguably still the best example there is: created by Chris Milk, The Johnny Cash Project allows viewers to create/illustrate over frames of a guide video, and add them to the viewer. It not only continues to change but is effectively never the same thing twice.”

So, here’s the link to the song:

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Johnny Cash – Ain’t No Grave

And here’s the link to The Johnny Cash Project. Enjoy your unique, never to be repeated viewing.

Next up:

Radiohead – Weird Fishes/Arpeggi

Flying Lotus – Until The Quiet Comes

(NB – the mp3 there is a rip of the video, not the track)

M.I.A. – Bad Girls

Great as all the videos featured today are, I think this next one might actually deserve the term “genius” being applied to it:

Swede Mason – Masterchef Synesthesia

Roots Manuva – Witness (The Fitness)

The next one was made specifically for the Bug show, and features the host in the leading role:

Guitar Wolf – Summertime Blues

Etienne de Crecy – No Brain

Manchester Orchestra – Simple Math

Is it wrong of me to want to add an ‘s’ to that title…?

And finally:

Grimes – Oblivion

Oh, and you can visit Adam’s website here and listen to his consistently brilliant podcasts here.

That’ll do you.

More soon.

Late Night Stargazing

Just as it’s impossible to see everything you want to when you’re actually at Glastonbury, so it’s almost impossible to watch everything that the BBC screens from the biggest and best festival in the world. I have an awful lot stacked up on my recorded/to watch list.

I’m writing this before the Foo Fighters headline the Saturday night (I’ve seen them a couple of times before – once supporting Oasis in Cardiff, which has always struck me as being the wrong way round, and once headlining at Hyde Park, with Motorhead, and Queens of the Stone Age supporting them – and I expect them to be fricking awesome), but my highlights so far have been The Pretenders, Royal Blood, Lorde, Katy Perry and, of course Radiohead.

The Oxford group delivered a breath-taking set, getting the balance of their more avant-garde bleepy moments and The Hits just about right.

One particular highlight was their rendition of “No Surprises”, not least for the spontaneous cheer that goes up after the line “Bring down the Government, they don’t speak for us”:

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Radiohead – No Surprises (Live at Glastonbury 2017)

To mark the 20th anniversary of the original release of the OK Computer album that first featured on, the band have recently released a remastered and expanded version of the album; here’s the same song lifted from that:

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Radiohead – No Surprises (OKNOTOK Remastered Version)

And finally, around the time of the original release of OK Computer, the band developed a reputation for producing visually stunning videos. I’ll leave you with the promo for “No Surprises”. Don’t have nightmares, now will you?

More soon.

The Chain #39

Scene: an empty warehouse, in darkness.

FX: A door creaks opens, a switch clicks.

The lights flicker into life.

Delivery Man 1 [poking his head through the door]: Yes, this looks like it.

Delivery Man 1 backs into view, clipboard under arm, guiding a large object covered in a sheet, which is being pushed by Delivery Man 2 with considerably more effort than Delivery Man 1 is expending.

FX: The door slams shut.

Delivery Man 2: Whereabouts does it need to go? What does the order say?

Delivery Man 1 consults the clipboard.

Delivery Man 1: It says “Leave in the middle of the floor, covered, as if it’s been here for ages.”

Delivery Man 2 [with a shrug]: Bit weird, but if that’s what it says.

Job done, they exit, leaving the light on.

FX: the door opens and closes. Pause. Repeat.

An incredibly handsome, if fat and bald, man enters the room. He surveys the object before removing the sheet.

Incredibly handsome, if fat and bald, man: And we’re back in the room!

Hello, and welcome to The Chain. Where’ve you been? I’ve been waiting for you.

Prompted by a question about whether one of this week’s suggestions qualified under the rules, and nothing whatsoever to do with the amount of time since one of these posts appeared, nosireebob, I thought it might be best if I go over them again here, with a brief explanation of what we do here.

So, The Chain is a feature on BBC 6Music’s Radcliffe and Maconie show (and prior to that, their show on BBC Radio 2), where a record is played and they invite suggestions as to what record could be played next, which must link in some way to the one just played.

The difference here is that whilst they choose just one record to play, we try to post all of the suggestions which you submit.

The only rules are:

  1. No suggested record can feature twice (unless it has only featured as part of The Official Chain). If you’re not sure – ask!
  2. The only exception to this rule is “Back on the Chain Gang” by The Pretenders, which has been adopted as our theme tune
  3. When making your suggestion, you must provide an explanation of the link between the two songs
  4. You must already own a copy of it, and be willing to provide it (in case I don’t already own it or am unable to source it)
  5. Suggestions must be more than just naming a different song by the same artist.
  6. You can make as many suggestions as you like, but please, go easy on me, won’t you?

That’s about it. I award points every now and again, for Worst Record of the Week, Cheesiest Record of the Week, Comment Showboat of the Week, and of course, for anyone who happens to guess either the song or act (or both) that is the next record in the Official Chain, which becomes the source record for the following week. Nobody’s keeping score (well, I’m not anyway), the points are just a bit of fun.

Okay, that’s the admin done. Last time out, the source record was “The Universal” by Blur; personally, I found this a really tricky one to link to, especially as I have to wait and see what’s left after you guys have nominated all the good ones. Ho hum, such is life.

So, here we go then, and as usual, we’ll bracket them into several fairly broad categories and, as usual, we’ll probably wander off on a couple of tangents along the way.

First out of the traps last time was Charity Chic from Charity Chic Music who wrote:

“It has to be something off ‘Universal Audio’, the final album by The Delgados. I Fought the Angels would do rather nicely I feel”

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The Delgados – I Fought The Angels

Of course, CC was not alone in suggesting a link to something of Universal appeal; Dirk from sexyloser proffered thusly:

“…because not enough good German music is being featured on these pages, I’d like to  link to Die Sterne – ‘Universal TellerwĂ€scher’ from 1994 
. which in fact is a mighty record indeed!”

I was going to make a rather unkind joke about the phrase “good German music” being an oxymoron, but then I listened to Dirk’s suggestion and have to agree, it is mighty fine (even if I have not one clue as to what it’s about, although Google Translate, which is never wrong, obviously, tells me that a TellerwĂ€scher is a dishwasher ):

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Die Sterne – Universal TellerwĂ€scher

Sticking with the Universal theme, SWC from When You Can’t Remember Anything suggested this:

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Universal Being – Size of an Elephant

whilst The Great Gog wrote:

“…seeing as we’re all commenting on The Universal, Red Hot Chilli Peppers’ Universally Speaking would seem apt.”

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Red Hot Chili Peppers – Universally Speaking

And The Beard quoted a completely different song which contains the word “Universal”:

“Universal, unique untouched, unadulterated, the raw uncut”

He is, of course, referring to this:

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Blackalicious – Alphabet Aerobics

Time for the first interlude of the day; I stumbled along this clip the other day, which I’m sure you’ll agree contains some quite wizardly rapping:

Anyway, where were we?

Ah yes. Blur’s ‘The Universal’. Take it away Julian of Music from Magazines fame:

“Blur did a song “Beetlebum”
The Beatles did a song “Across The Universe”
Laibach did a version of “Across The Universe”
Laibach nailed “Sympathy For The Devil”

(The 7.52 version please)”

As you wish:

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Laibach – Sympathy For The Devil

Time for a big Chain welcome for the first of two new contributors to The Chain this week, here’s Telefrank:

“The video for ‘The Universal’ references the Korova Milk Bar, so something by Wendy Carlos natch.”

Just to join up the dots: the Korova Milk Bar features in ‘A Clockwork Orange’, so this seemed like as good a tune as any:

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Wendy Carlos – Title Music From ‘A Clockwork Orange’

Walter from A Few Good Times in My Life pointed out that “…the opposite of universe might be the underground. So…”

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The Jam – Going Underground

It’s scary how that song is so relevant now, 35 years after it came out. “Times have changed”, some people say. I’d play them that and respectfully disagree.

Anyway, before I start going off on one, more Universal shenanigans. Here’s Alex G from We Will Have Salad:

“A nice easy link from ‘Universal’ to another well-known film studio: Columbia.”

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Oasis – Columbia

Walter continues the theme: “Universal is also a music label distributing music of various and different artists. So I suggest:”

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Tom Petty – You Don’t Know How It Feels

From the Universal links, it’s one small step to the universe, and space in general, and to our second new member of The Chain Gang of the week, abramson60, the 60th from the very noble Abramson family, as Adam Buxton would say:

Anyway, abramson60 has certainly got the hang of how to make sure you get lots of tunes played here: list of a load of songs he’d considered before finally plumping for a completely different one. I, of course, cannot resist:

“Universe would automatically take me down the space road, so you could have….”

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 Liz Phair – Supernova

“…or another of my pet favorites…”

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Julian Cope – Spacehopper

“…not forgetting that he went on to become the nation’s favourite spaced out artist.”

But, “…sticking with universe, The Rocky Horror Picture Show had long lasting and profound influence on the somewhat naive 16 year old me who first saw the film at the tail end of the 70’s. So my pick is ‘I’m Going Home’, not quite sure where to but somewhere in the outer reaches of space.”  I’m not sure I quite follow the link there, but as it’s your first visit, I’ll let it slide this time:

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Dr. Frank N. Furter – I’m Going Home

Over to The Swede from Unthought of, though, somehow next, who says:

“I’ll keep things cosmic and suggest ‘Space is Deep’ by Hawkwind – the studio version from ‘Doremi Fasol Latido’ please.”

Very well.

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Hawkwind – Space Is Deep

A couple of you suggested links from lyrics withing ‘The Universal’, which is fair enough and fine by me. For example, Rigid Digit from Stuff & Nonsense suggested:

“‘The Universal’ includes the lines:
“And to karaoke songs,
We like to sing along,
Although the words are wrong”

So .. mondegreens (misheard lyrics) and possibly the most well known: ‘Scuse me while I kiss this guy'”

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The Jimi Hendrix Experience – Purple Haze

Next up, Martin from New Amusements, who takes the “list a load of songs then pick a completely different one as their choice” approach adopted by abramson60 and combines it with Rigid Digit’s focus on the song’s lyrics:

“The Universal includes a line about ‘satellites in every home’ so we could go with that, enabling…”

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The Hooters – Satellite

“…or…”

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Lou Reed – Satellite Of Love

“…or…”

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Tasmin Archer – Sleeping Satellite

“…or, I guess…”

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The Tornados – Telstar

If I could just butt in for a moment, I can’t hear that record without thinking of this record (and vice versa) since I can’t help but think that while it’s not a straight-out sample, the synth melody line, owes more than a little debto the old instrumental Martin suggests:

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Saint Etienne – You’re In A Bad Way

Martin’s actual choice will follow in a moment, but props where props are due, the category it falls into was first suggested by The Robster from Is This The Life? (well, actually, it was first mentioned by Rigid Digit last week time)

“My link comes in the form of British Gas adverts. The Universal was, as you point out, used in an ad campaign for British Gas. So was ‘More Than A Feeling’ by Boston, which despite ticking all the middle-of-the-road 70s AOR boxes, is a damn fine tune and one I always find myself playing air guitar to. True!”

It may well be, but unfortunately that’s featured in The Chain before, so, as per the rules above, I can’t allow it this week. Sorry!

Tell you what, have another go:

“Another gem from the British Gas archive is the wonderful ‘Rescue Me’ by Fontella Bass which cannot fail to give everyone a lift on a Monday morning.”

Much better.

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Fontella Bass – Rescue Me

Back to Martin again: “…let’s go down the route of the Blur track’s British Gas-based ubiquity, all the excuse we need to have ‘Jumpin’ Jack Flash’ by The Rolling Stones, since that tells us ‘it’s a gas, gas, gas.'”

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The Rolling Stones –  Jumpin’ Jack Flash

He’s still not done yet, mind:

“But I’d rather suggest a song I really like, so the gas connection allows me to pitch the much-less-played ‘It’s A Gas’ by The Wedding Present. Any excuse to get the Gedge out, after all.”

I could not agree more.

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The Wedding Present – It’s A Gas

Catchphrase time! If you’re suggesting that, then I’m suggesting this:

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T. Rex – Life’s A Gas

And as a special treat, here’s Marc Bolan performing ‘Life’s A Gas’ with Cilla Black, of all people:

The less said about that the better, I think.

But whilst we’re on adverts, here’s Snuff from their ace “Flibbiddydibbiddydob” album (these are so short, you may as well have two):

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Snuff – Bran Flakes

Snuff – Shake ‘n’ Vac

After those words from our sponsors, back to The Great Gog:

“‘The Great Escape album’ from which The Universal is taken also includes a song called ‘Top Man’. When I was younger (and a little less Great) I used to venture into Manchester and frequent a store of that name, and occasionally even buy something. Having done this, my then-significant other would drag me to where she wanted to buy stuff – Chelsea Girl. Obviously the title of a song by Simple Minds…”

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Simple Minds – Chelsea Girl

Well, if you’re suggesting that, then I’m suggesting this:

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Ride – Chelsea Girl

Sorry GG, I interupted, do carry on:

“…[Chelsea Girls is] also referenced on Mighty Mighty’s ‘Is There Anyone Out There?’ Which sort of links back to matters universal.”

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Mighty Mighty – Is There Anyone Out There?

Right, where next? Since we seem to have exhausted all of the possibilities of links to “The Universal”, how about links to Blur? Seems like a plan.

Over to Birthday Boy Rol (45 today!) from My Top Ten, then, with two and a half suggestions:

“Suggestion that needs no explanation: ‘Mr. Blur’ by Tom Verlaine.”

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Tom Verlaine – Mr. Blur

He continues: “Suggestion that leads a little more explanation: Blur used to be called Seymour. I’m sure someone will link to the obvious song from that (the one about a record company boss…”

You mean this one, I assume?

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Belle & Sebastian – Seymour Stein

“…so,” Rol continues, “I’ll point us towards the character of Seymour in the movie ‘The Little Shop of Horrors’ and suggest the song ‘Feed Me, Seymour’ as sung by the killer plant Audrey II (aka Levi Stubbs from The Four Tops).”

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Audrey II – Feed Me (Git It)

The Great Gog’s back:

As Rol has mentioned Seymour, the track that I always think of when I hear Blur’s previous name is ‘Read About Seymour’ by Swell Maps.”

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Swell Maps – Read About Seymour

Now, before he started listing spacey songs, abramson60 also proffered up a few relating to the name of Blur:

“Blur taken as unclear leads me to…”

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Lindisfarne – Fog On The Tyne

You can all count yourself lucky that I decided not to post the version with Gazza on it. Actually, that might have been quite appropriate, since writing and indeed reading The Chain often has the air of a hostage situation about it, so maybe we should expect him to rock up with a bucket of fried chicken and a fishing rod.

Anyway, back to you abramson60:

“…or maybe when everything clears…”

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Jimmy Cliff – I Can See Clearly Now

I’ve got Snuff covering that too somewhere, but let’s not overdo it, eh? That would take us over the 2 minutes of Snuff records mark, which would never do.

Any more, abramson60?

“Having said all of that I would much prefer to offer up Dr Phibes and the House of Wax Equations (any brownie points for extra long band names?) [Nope – Ed] and Hazy Lazy Hologram, link being obvious and in hazy, and everyone loves drug induced music, don’t they?”

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Dr Phibes & The House Of Wax Equations – Hazy Lazy Hologram

Back to Julian for his obligatory weekly suggestion of a record by Lambchop:

“A Blur is what the world is when ones had too many HIC!!

Where was I ?

Who fucking knows?

Oh yes its all coming back to me
..”

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Lambchop – The Man Who Loved Beer

And what of the individual members of Blur, there must be some links there, right?

Guess what, here’s abramson60. Again.

“Blur’s singer is Damon Albarn who is the son of Keith Albarn, who once managed Soft Machine, whose drummer Robert Wyatt went onto have a solo career, recording ‘Shipbuilding’ which as we all know was written by Elvis Costello, who took part in the Red Wedge tours along side Billy Bragg. So my suggestion has to be ‘Valentine’s Day Is Over’.”

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Billy Bragg – Valentine’s Day Is Over

I have two things to say about this. Firstly, I had no idea of the Albarn connection to Soft Machine, and secondly, abramson60 did suggest this back on February 15th, which makes his choice of Billy track a little more understandable.

But frankly, you had me at “Shipbuilding”:

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Elvis Costello & The Attractions – Shipbuilding

SWC’s back:

“Damon Albarn was the boyfriend of Justine Frischmann of Elastica. So let’s have ‘Stutter’ from them.”

The first record I ever bought by Elastica this, albeit on an NME compilation album of their Singles of the Week from 1993, and without doubt one of the finest ever songs about erectile disfunction.

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Elastica – Stutter

Charity Chic’s back, with the obligatory Clash record of the week. Don’t worry George, there’s a finite number of them that can be suggested:

“Damon Albarn was in The Good,The Bad and the Queen, as was Paul Simonon who wrote and sung ‘Guns of Brixton'”

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The Clash – The Guns of Brixton

Speaking of George, he’s been rather quiet so far this week, so here’s the first of his suggestions:

“Damon Albarn was/is also in a band called Gorillaz, and gorillas are in a branch of primates, as are monkeys, leading to ‘Monkey On My Back’ by The Triffids (from the Field of Glass EP). I think the song is not actually about monkeys.”

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The Triffids – Monkey on My Back

Well, if you’re suggesting that, then I’m suggesting this:

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Inspiral Carpets – Monkey On My Back

In fact, given his involvement with Gorillaz, you could describe Albarn as a…

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 The Maytals – Monkey Man

(My apologies, by the way: I realised I’ve misnamed the mp3 as Toots and The Maytals, rather than just The Maytals, but I really can’t be arsed with changing it.)

The Great Gog’s back again:

“I did have one more up my sleeve, but left it in case anyone else came up with it – they haven’t , so here goes. Blur’s lead singer is D. Albarn. Shuffling one of those letters to the left a bit allows me to type Dr. Alban, the early 90’s hitmaker who made such a lasting impression on me that I can only recall one of his tunes…”

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Dr Alban – It’s My Life

Hands down winner of the “Worst Record of the Week” award, there.

“Used in a Tampax advert at some point in the nineties too,” pipes up The Beard. Now, let’s not lower ourselves by making any jokes about that particualr subject. That’s it. None. End of. Period.

Instead, let’s move onto the other members of Blur, and focus for a moment on bass player Alex James. Over to you, George:

“Another Alex is Alex Harvey, so the song is from the first Sensational Alex Harvey Band album ‘Framed’, and ‘The Hammer Song’.”

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The Sensational Alex Harvey Band – The Hammer Song

Another from SWC next, I think:

“When he is not doing that [being in Blur] he schmoozes up to his famous neighbours David Cameron and Jeremy Clarkson. He also pretends to make cheese which gives us a lovely link to ‘Gorgonzola’ by Leslie Sarony.”

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Leslie Sarony – Gorgonzola

Mention any of the old music hall acts such as Leslie, and I’m afraid I can’t help thinking of this chap:

Back over to Rol, who might just see this post before his birthday’s finished:

“All this talk of Alex James’s cheese behooves me to suggest Copy Cats by The Humdrum Express, which features the lines


“I read a Jamie Oliver’s Feastival review
Where ex-Top Gear presenters jumped the queue
To a sign publicising ageing sleaze
But it was Alex James’s aptly named new cheese”

(It also features the line “More Betty Than Swervedriver”, which I’m half thinking of stealing to rename my blog.)”

Bagsy and first dibs duly note.

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The Humdrum Express – Copy Cats

I may aswell chuck one in to the Alex-mix. When he isn’t making cheese, or being in Blur, he’s also popped up in some questionable novelty acts, most famously with Fat Les, but also in Wig Wam, a truly awful project that I’m not going to offend your ears by playing. His partner-in-crime there, though, was one Alison Clarkson aka Betty Boo:

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Betty Boo – Where Are You Baby?

Two band members left, and absolutely nobody suggested anything Graham Coxon-related so I had a quick shufty round and found that according to wikipedia, he appeared on Blue Peter twice as a child.

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Mike Oldfield – Blue Peter

But since all the rest of the band are getting at least two songs, we may as well have one of his singles. Friends of mine will attest that every time we’ve heard thisplayed out, I always point out that the intro sounds a lot like “Into the Valley” by Skids (Since nobody has ever agreed with me on this point, I’d post it so you could compare, but as it’s already featured on The Chain once before, I can’t. Who made these stupid rules up anyway??):

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Graham Coxon – Freakin’ Out

Which just leaves drummer Dave Rowntree, and a suggestion by The Beard:

“He shares his surname with the confectioners Rowntree. They are based in York and created the KitKat. York City’s Bootham Crescent ground was for a period renamed KitKat Crescent. ‘Crystal Crescent’ is a track by Primal Scream amd nothing to do with chocolate or the city of York.”

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Primal Scream – Crystal Crescent

Times may not change, by Primal Sceam certainly have over the years, haven’t they?

Finally, Rowntree has stood for election three times on behalf of the Labour party, losing on each occasion. Which leads me to this:

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Radiohead – Electioneering

Which just leaves us to reveal what the next record in the Official Chain is, and many of you will have noticed the absence of one particular song from the start of this post, when we looked at songs with the word “Universal” in the title. Many people wanted to suggest this, but Swiss Adam from baggingarea was the first out of the traps so the kudos and points are his this week:

“The Small Faces have their own ‘Universal’ which is a lovely song.”

Ain’t that the truth:

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Small Faces – The Universal

So, all that laves me to do is to ask for your suggestions, please, for songs which link to “The Universal” by Small Faces, along with a brief description of the link, via the Comments Section down below, in time for the next edition.

Let’s say that will be next week, and see what happens, eh?

More soon.

Late Night Stargazing

I’ve been watching the new series of Black Mirror on Netflix over the last few days.

For the uninitiated, it’s the latest in stand-alone, one hour long stories (mostly) co-penned by Charlie Brooker, the main theme being technology, our relationship with it, and what happens when it is used for ill-gain, or when its use spirals out of control.

The first ever episode, “The National Anthem”, had a storyline where the UK Prime Minister was forced to have sex with a pig live on air as part of the ransom to secure the release of a kidnapped member of the royal family; it hit the headlines several years later when it was alleged that the actual Prime Minister had allegedly  voluntarily done something not entirely dissimilar. Allegedly. I said allegedly enough times there, didn’t I?

The new series continues in a similar bleak vein; the first – and don’t worry, there’ll be no spoilers here – “Nosedive” envisions a world where your social avenues are opened or closed depending on the on-line scores people give you for your real-life interactions with them; “Playtest” explores the world of virtual reality gaming, and the third “Shut Up and Dance” taps into the paranoia stemming from that urban myth (or is it….?) that the webcam on your laptop might record more than you intend it to.

“Shut Up and Dance” climaxes with a sequence featuring one of my favourite Radiohead songs, a song which has always sent shivers down my spine, and it’s inclusion in “Shut Up and Dance” ensures it will continue to do so for quite some time:

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Radiohead – Exit Music (For A Film)

I have another three episodes to watch, so doubtless I’ll be back if any others touch a nerve.

In other words: More soon.