Three for the price of two today, and only one of which is utter dog shit.
I’ll let you decide which one I mean.
Yup. You guessed right.
Three for the price of two today, and only one of which is utter dog shit.
I’ll let you decide which one I mean.
Yup. You guessed right.
More from my vinyl collection this morning, which is in a constant state of revitalisation after the inexplicable loss of large chunks from it.
This morning’s choice is a Greatest Hits album that I only ever owned on cassette back in the day, but have recently picked up on vinyl, in a lovely gatefold cover.
Released in 1986, it features the singles released by Roxy Music and some of lead singer Bryan Ferry’s solo stuff.
I’ve decided to focus just on the Roxy Music tracks, one from each side of the record. And there’s a reason for that.
The songs feature, pretty much, in chronological order on the album, with the notable exception of their only UK #1 single, a cover of John Lennon’s “Jealous Guy“, which rounds the compilation off, although it wasn’t their last single.
In their pomp, Roxy Music were considered trendsetters, with their arty, cool take on glam pop, but as the years went by, and the band’s line-up changed – most importantly when Brian Eno left – so their sound changed too; they became more polished and the songs seemed to become slower, often still quite wonderful, but nothing which came close to anything released in their heyday.
By way of evidence:
It’s almost four years since I started writing this blog.
I mention this not because I want recognition for the longevity of it – although it is a minor miracle that I haven’t got bored of it yet – but to make a point.
Which is that I really didn’t expect I’d still be writing it now. And sometimes, the fact that I am still going causes me a bit of a problem.
You see, as long term readers will know, I use this place not just to furnish you with (hopefully) entertaining bon mots and tunes I like and hope you do too, but to pass on my best wishes to friends and family when birthdays and moments of significance happen. Because, y’know, I’m too cheap to actually buy them a present or send a card – surely a mention and a tune on here is better than either of those things, right?
But, the thing is, the longer I write things here, the harder it becomes to write something new about the subject in question on their special day.
Take my brother, for example. He lives in India (for now, until the FEDs catch up with him) so we don’t see each other often, maybe once or twice a year. And so when he has a birthday, this is my medium for letting him know I’m thinking of him.
And when he hits a significant birthday, like he does today, his 50th birthday, I feel that I ought to pull out the stoppers and write something worthy of such an occasion.
But when I’ve written about him and the influence he has had on me and my music collection so many times already, what more is there to say?
Well, he often points out (when I mention somebody or something from our dim and distant past, or when it comes to our parents’ birthdays or wedding anniversaries, all of which I assume he would remember but email him to check), ‘I’m the one in charge of remembering stuff’, so perhaps there’s quite a lot.
He’s probably my longest serving reader (I hate the word follower – I’m not the Messiah, I’m a very naughty boy, to misappropriate a famous quote), and if he isn’t then he’s certainly the family member who has been reading the guff I write here for the longest.
When he started reading this, he was very supportive; often I’d receive an email or a text from him telling me he liked what I’d written. He’s also the only person to so far accept my invitation to write a post for this place and have it published (I have a couple in reserve before the authors of those take offence). You can read that here, and I have re-upped the links should you wish to listen to any of the songs mentioned. It’s annoyingly good (although I did send him back to rewrite it at least once, a process that he rightly compared to being back in double English class); I’ve just re-read it and laughed quite a lot.
I first told him about this place in January 2015, when he and I went to see The Jesus & Mary Chain perform their legendarily awesome “Psychocandy” album at The Troxy in East London. If there’s one band who will forever unify us, then it’s them: a band he loved when he was in his full-on Goth mode in the mid-80s, and a band that sweet naïve young me tried to resist the allure of, but could not. So this seems to be an appropriate moment to have our first musical interlude:
I bought the tickets for that gig as a present, but actually it was payback for him buying me two tickets to go and see Squeeze back in 1987, when they had just reformed with Jools “boogie woogie” Holland in the line-up, on the tour to promote their “Babylon and On” album. Which is a cue for another song, I think. But not from that album, because it’s not very good.
I’m painting this as a quite the harmonious relationship, aren’t I? It wasn’t always thus.
I don’t think he would argue much if I said that for quite a long time, when we were kids, we really didn’t like each other much, or rather liked each other only in that “You’re my brother so I have to like you” kind of way. We fought a lot. Our childhood is littered with stories about how we managed to break stuff whilst fighting, most notably a violin bow (we both somehow ended up trying to learn how to play the screeching instrument when we were in Junior School) and a few years later, a snooker cue, which I distinctly recall breaking when I twatted him with it across the small of his back. Trust me, he was asking for it.
But I also remember the night that changed.
We had been growing closer as we got older, and saw less of each other, which may not be coincidental; also he and his mates Rob and Phil had asked me to join them as representatives of their local pub in a Pool League. I was alright at pool at the time, indicative of a wasted childhood, although I would often try a ridiculously adventurous shot which would result in me accidentally potting the black. I don’t think I won a single game for them.
It was the journeys to the away matches that I loved, cruising round the sleepy backwaters of local villages, ‘Mary Chain and Sisters of Mercy blasting from the car stereo – those trips probably did more to meld my musical tastes than anything else. I was in a gang, albeit a gang who were terrible at pool, and since they liked this kind of music it seemed appropriate that I should too.
I remember the night that we buried the hatchet, when no more snooker cues would be broken. It was his birthday, either his 19th or 20th, and we went to the local pub. We drank and chewed the fat, and on the short walk home he turned to me and said “You’re alright really, aren’t you?”
Which may not sound like much a of a compliment, but after ten years plus of battering each other, it was like the Good Friday talks writ small. And the feeling was mutual.
And since then, well, we’ve been friends. Which may not sound like much to most of you, but bearing in mind how much we fought when we were kids, and how infrequently we see each other, I’m pretty chuffed about.
As you will know if you’ve read that post he wrote, he joined the RAF at a young age, and remained in its loyal service, rising to the rank of Sergeant, until the early 2000s, when the offer of early retirement and a decent pay-off was too good to decline. And so it was that the family was invited to an RAF base in Lincolnshire to pay witness to him leaving the forces.
I say the family, but rules are quite archaic on an RAF base; women were not allowed into the hall where a set meal and a presentation took place to honour all that were leaving, so my Dad, my brother and I went and ate, drank and were merry for an afternoon, whilst Mum had to entertain herself elsewhere.
Afterwards, we retired to the Officer’s Mess, where my Mum was permitted to join in; and there was a further perk – a subsidised bar. Not a free bar, a subsidised one, so the drinks were ridiculously cheap: 50 pence (I think, though it may have been 20p) for whatever you wanted to drink, on the proviso that whenever you bought a drink, you bought the person serving you one too. Deal.
People who know me will be able to guess what happened next: a long afternoon and evening of drinking Jack Daniels and coke, a family trait, it turned out, as was commented on by many of my brother’s colleagues. I lost count of the amount of people I was introduced to who said something along the lines of “Oh Christ, does he drink as much of that stuff as you do?”
The next day, in a severely hungover state, my Dad told me that he couldn’t believe how much my brother and I had drunk the night before: we had, apparently, drunk nothing but Jack Daniels from about five in the afternoon until chucking out time (and even then we moved on to a different bar) at a rate of a new double every fifteen minutes or so. “I saw them change the bottle at least six times”, he said, in a tone pitched somewhere between concern and awe.
And then there was my brother’s actual demob party. For years he had a yearning to do the Monopoly Challenge – to have a drink in a bar at every location listed on a standard UK Monopoly board in one afternoon. And wouldn’t you know it, he invited me along, provided I brought my drinking trousers with me.
I buckled up.
And so it was that I travelled up from Cardiff to London one Saturday, met up with him and a bunch of his squaddie mates – the names of whom escape me, mostly (there was, I think, a Pete and a Jeff) for reasons which will become perfectly obvious if it hasn’t already – and at mid-day I was bundled into a stretch limo at Kings Cross Station that they had hired for the day.
See, it turns out that my brother wasn’t the only person in the world who wanted to play this drinking game on a grand scale. In fact, there are companies who run specific tours allowing the party to play this game, with a pre-determined route taking you to a bar at every stop on the board. The only difference is that the driver wants to take you to each destination according to whichever was nearest; we, however, instructed him that we had to do it sequentially, in order, even if that meant it would take longer than to do it the way the limo company wanted you to do it.
What I wanted to do now was post a song which links to every property on the Monopoly board as I recounted what happened in which bar, but that proved too arduos a task (plus, my memory is kind of fuzzy about the whole day, so a running commentary is simply out of the question). So instead, here’s a song related to the Jail square:
Safely ensconced in the bosom of my new-found drinking partners, I was plied with a flute glass filled with a mixture of Guinness and champagne. Sounds revolting, turns out it was alright.
And then there was the Space Dust.
You remember Space Dust, right? A powder you placed on your tongue which popped and pinged and fizzed. This stuff:
Except the decision was made that we could not consume the Space Dust in the traditional manner. Instead, if we wanted to have some then it had to be ingested nasally.
This sounded like a blast to me, with a couple of Guinness and Champagne combos sloshing around inside me. And so, rolled up twenty pound note at the ready, I gave it a go.
Such an anti-climax. Rather than fizzing and popping in my nose as I had hoped, it just kind of congealed and sat there, like a big lump of snot. Kids take note: drugs , don’t do ’em.
Oh, one more thing you need to know before I report on the events of the day: his squaddie mates had insisted he dressed as Elvis (Presley, not Costello), so for the entire day he was wearing a white jumpsuit, a pair of 70s sunglasses, and a wig which slowly deteriorated as the day progressed.
And so, to Old Kent Road we went, then Whitechapel Road (to a bar which proudly advertised the fact that the Krays used to drink there) and so to The Angel Islington, and to a bar which I forget the name of, but which seemed to be a real old school boozer.
It was remarkably busy for that time of day; split into two rooms, the squaddies squeezed their way into the room next to where I was pinned; I could see through the doorway that it appeared to be very full, quite raucous, with all of the men – and it was only men – looking in the same direction. I assumed there must be some sport on the TV in that room, and focused my attention on my beer.
Until a naked Japanese woman thrust a pint glass with pound coins in it under my nose. At which point the penny dropped.
She shook the pint glass.
“You see my show?” she said.
“Erm…no…I didn’t…sorry…” I replied, trying desperately to maintain eye contact.
“But you see me now?” she said, and gestured past her neck level.
Now that’s cheating, I thought. I haven’t asked to be here, I’ve not asked to see you all nudey, and even if I had, I haven’t seen the traditional transitional clothes on-to-off sequence which generally is the thing men are willing to pay to see. All I’ve seen is a naked woman thrust a pint glass under my nose, and this was a regular sight at 3am on Caroline Street in Cardiff.
I made my excuses, downed my drink and went outside for a cigarette.
Before I go any further, I would like to stress that no naked girls were harmed in the making of this post. One of the bevy of beauties who continually go-go dance in my flat did fall downstairs once, but that was entirely coincidental, and the man who lives in the flat below me was most appreciative.
Get to the Orange properties on the Monopoly board, as we did around 5pm-ish on the day, and you’re faced with a bit of a problem: there are no pubs or bars on Vine Street. We asked the driver what we should do, and he pointed us in the direction of a pizzeria, where, as long as you bought some food, you could also buy beer. The address of the place wasn’t on Vine Street, but half of the restaurant area looked out onto it. That’ll do, we thought, and several rounds of garlic bread later, we had another one ticked off. This seems appropriate:
By this time, bladders were full, so the concept of “Little Boy’s Wee” was introduced.
Worry not, we’re not about to go all Yew Tree on you.
Because we had reached the stage where most of us would be ready to visit the Gents, the jeopardy that was “Little Boy’s Wee” was introduced. And that was this: if you went into the gents and encountered a fellow Monopoly member who wasn’t peeing like a little boy – that is, pants AND trousers around your ankles as you stood at the urinal, bare arse on display – then the next round was for the pee-er to get in.
I got some funny looks in that bar.
And so to the Red properties, and I wouldn’t be doing my job properly if that didn’t mean I post this…
…but nothing of any interest happened on The Strand.
Trafalgar Square, on the other hand, was quite the opposite kettle of fish.
Our driver pulled up at Trafalgar Square, where we found the whole area was cordoned off. A stage, empty, stood at one end. Clearly, something was due to happen there in the next day or so. This, since my brother had decided he wanted to paddle in the fountains, was a problem.
We strutted up to the cordon, where we were greeted by a security guard.
“Sorry lads, no entry” he said, sort of firmly.
At which point, one of the squaddies – it may have been Pete, it may have been Jeff, it may have been one of the others – cocked a thumb in my brother’s direction. My brother, don’t forget, is dressed as 70s Elvis.
“Erm…but he’s the talent for tomorrow night,” he said. “This should have all been cleared. We’re just here to look the venue over and make sure it meets with the talent’s requirements.”
Unbelievably, the security guard, rather than phoning it in to check, just lifted the cordon and said “OK then, in you go.”
At which point, a man dressed as Elvis ran forwards, dived into the fountain, resurfaced and started telling everyone to “Come on in, the water’s lovely. Uh-huh-huh”
(The relevance of that record will become clear if you listen to the talkie bit at the end: “And then on the way home, it always seems like a good idea to go paddling in the fountain, and that’s because it IS a good idea.”)
From out of nowhere, several more security guards arrived and escorted us back past the cordon. I heard one of them chastising the guard who had let us in: “They’re just a bunch of pissheads. One of them is dressed as a shit Elvis. Did you really think all thisis for a Shit Elvis that’s playing here tomorrow night??”
Mate, if you’re reading this and lost your job as a result of that, I’m really sorry.
And so on to a bar in the proximity of Trafalgar Square, a bar which we found had a basement room which was hired out for private functions, and on this particular Saturday was being used for a wedding reception. A basement room with a woefully under-staffed bar, which meant that many of the guests came upstairs to the regular bar, where we were, to get served.
Including the groom.
Now putting aside for a moment the reason why the groom is having to buy his own drinks at his own wedding reception, what this meant was that he clapped eyes on my brother. Still dressed as Elvis, albeit as slightly bedraggled Elvis.
“My wife…my new wife…loves Elvis….” the groom announced.
We all nodded in consent. His new wife was wise. He had chosen well. Elvis was pretty good.
“You know what would make her special day even more special?” the groom continued.
We all looked at our shoes. We knew where this was going.
“If Elvis sang at her wedding reception!”
“Would you do that for us, on the happiest day of our lives…?”
I looked at my brother. There’s no way he’ll agree to this, I thought.
And then a look came over his face. A look that said: this is something to tell my grandchildren about. The sort of thing that one day my younger brother will write about on the blog he hasn’t even thought about starting to write yet.
“Yes I will, Sir,” he said, appropriating the accent, “but I don’t know any Elvis songs all the way through.”
“That’s okay”, proffered Pete/Jeff/one of the other squaddies, “we’ll help you out.”
And so we were all ushered downstairs, to a very full room of wedding guests, who all stopped what they were doing as we walked in. Like that scene in “An American Werewolf in London” when they walk into The Slaughtered Lamb. That. This:
“Darling”, announced the groom, “fate brought us together, and fate has led this gentleman here tonight too!”
At which point, my brother, soaked to the skin in a white sequinned Elvis suit, wig drooping down so it was more like a centre parting than a quiff, broke into the opening lines of a song:
And now imagine him stumbling over the words before the end of the second line, and his mates ploughing in to carry him to the end of the first verse, without the slightest whiff of a harmony being employed.
Except me. I had, I thought, wisely hung back from the group and therefore avoided any participation in the group “singing”.
Moving back upstairs, and separate from the group, and therefore vulnerable, like a gazelle picked off by a lioness, I was approached by a chap who asked if we were all in the forces.
I, in my drunken state, decided it was easier to say “Yes, we’re all in the RAF” than to try and explain that I had never been in any of the Forces, but that my acquantances were either in the RAF, just about to leave the RAF or had just left the RAF.
The chap who has enquired, it transpired, had tried to get into the RAF, but failed, and he wanted to know a) why that might be (so we discussed his medical history), and b) as much technical detail about engines and wings and stuff (of which I know nothing) that I could muster in case he ever reapplied.
I managed twenty minutes of utter bullshit to this guy, only interupted by Pete/Jeff/one of the other squaddies butting in to tell my conversationalist friend what a guy I am and how if you got me started on the concept of inverted wingry, I’d never stop. Cheers, guys.
We finally made it to Mayfair, the final square on the Monopoly board. All that was open was a restaurant, so we all piled in there and ordered a victory drink at 23:55.
By this point, I knew I was done, so after finishing my final drink in a Mayfair restaurant, I sloped off to hail a taxi. All of the other guys were staying in a hotel, but I had asked Hel if I could utilise her sofa-bed for the night.
I fell into the back of a black cab, and, having provided the name of the road Hel lived on, I also offered these wise words:
“And yes, I am really pissed, and no I’m not from round here, but if you take the long way to her house, I will know and I will run off without paying.”
He would have easily caught me if I tried.
The cab dropped me off outside Hel’s flat, but instead of just going in, I wandered off (after paying him, of course).
Forty-five minutes later, I rang Hel to ask her why her flat had moved to a place I couldn’t find. She came out to collect me, and will often tell me now – after we shared a flat together for four years and regularly got very drunk together – that she has never seen me that drunk before or since.
All your fault, Big Brother.
Which just leaves me to think of a tune which appropriately ties this all together, and I’ve thought of two.
Firstly, since we all doubtless slept exceedingly well that night, this, by a band I first listened to because my big brother regaled me with stories of a wild gig of theirs he went to, where one of the band members kept bashing his own head with a tea-tray as a means of percussion:
…although perhaps, this is more appropriate:
Happy 50th Birthday to my lovely, lovely brother. May all of your Formula Ones be slightly less tedious than the last.
As the late great Sir David Frost would have said had he been hosting it, rather than faffing about interviewing Richard Nixon, or popping through the keyhole with a bloke who makes pasta sauce: Hello, Good Evening, and Welcome to the latest instalment in the series of posts known as The Chain.
We ended last week with “Up on Cripple Creek” by The Band, and I set you all three challenges:
And, as I hoped, you did not disappoint.
As usual, you can break down this week’s suggestions into various categories, so here we go with the first of those groups, which picked up on the fact that many of The Band hailed from the country who experienced some technical difficulties last week when the website which facilitates people applying to emigrate to their fine land crashed due to the amount of traffic it received after Trump won the election: Canada.
First out of the traps was George, determined to dazzle us with his knowledge of terrible records:
“Worst Record In The Chain challenge accepted! [see..?] The Band were mostly from Canada. And also from Canada were a group called Sway, who covered Ottawan’s ‘Hands Up (Give Me Your Heart)’, and if you thought that the original was bad, just listen to that cover.”
As it goes, I don’t think the original is that bad. Of it’s time, yes. As for the cover George has nominated though, well…he has a point. Also of it’s time, that time being when it was acceptable to churn out cheesy versions of old tunes, i.e. the late 80s. I’m looking at you, Stock Aitken and Waterman. And you can piss off as well, Cowell:
As an aside, you’d think that if you were going down the Canadian route, then simply suggesting something by Ottawan would be sufficient, what with Ottawa being the capital of Canada and everything. But no: it turns out Ottawan were not actually Ottawan at all; they were founded by French record producers Daniel Vangarde and Jean Kluger and fronted by Caribbean-born Jean Patrick Baptiste and Annette, who apparently is so famous as not to require a surname. Such things are for mere mortals like you and I.
Much as he might be keen to win the coveted crown of “Worst Record of the Week” (you haven’t, by the way George. Not even close), George is also keen to make a more credible suggestion, also tip-toeing his way along the Canadian route:
“And from that absolute piece of nonsense to something simply awesome, as The Swede will undoubtedly agree. Sticking with the Canada link, there’s a Canadian ballad dating from ca. 1839 called ‘Canadee-i-o’ which is on the Nic Jones’ album Penguin Eggs.”
Adding to the list of Canadian based suggestions comes Rol with a not entirely unpredictable choice (I mean that in a nice way, of course):
“Leonard Cohen was also Canadian. Take your pick… most of his songs are scarily prescient right now.
Death Of A Ladies’ Man will do if you don’t want to choose yourself.”
I’d be here all day trying to decide if I did.
Just in case you’re worried we’re about to move into (or remain in, depending on your thoughts on Mr Cohen) gloomy territory, we’ll move on to the next group now, which is songs which relate to the Creek in the Cripple Creek, and to get things moving on that front, here’s babylotti:
“The word ‘Creek’ inspires two songs from me, both ones I originally heard/taped off John Peel. The Fall, with Cruisers Creek probably my first or second memorable encounter with the band…”
“… and another Peel favourite, Half Man Half Biscuit’s ‘I Love You Because (You Look Like Jim Reeves)’ with it’s classic opening verse:
‘Me girlfriend looks like Peggy Mount, what am I supposed to do?
I’m up the creek and never mind the paddle boy, I haven’t even got a canoe”.
Oh, and just in case you’re interested, this is Peggy Mount:
Which in no way should be considered a neat segue to Charity Chic and his first suggestion of the week:
“Husband and wife Marc Olsen and Victoria Williams appeared together as part of The Original Harmony Ridge Creekdippers. Prior to this and whilst still a Jayhawk, Olsen penned a song ‘Miss Williams’ Guitar’ for his beau.”
Over to Badger now, who, unselfish chap that he is, nominates a band that his buddy SWC loves (as does he, it has to be said, and, after they posted them over at their When You Can’t Remember Anything blog a month or so ago and I went out and snaffled me their back catalogue, so do I):
“Saddle Creek is the next town up the Nebraska river after Cripple Creek and Saddle Creek Records house the totally wonderful Hop Along whose ‘Painted Shut’ was the second best album released last year. So to celebrate that let’s have ‘Waitress’ by them.”
Here’s Rol again:
“Can I suggest Shit Creek by The Icicle Works…? Seems very appropriate this week.”
Doesn’t it just?
“And…Up On Cripple Creek is about a girl called Bessie, so I also suggest ‘You Stand Here’ by Dressy Bessy (which does sound very much like Inbetweener by Sleeper to me… linking back a few weeks on The Chain… which might get messy: what happens if we cross links?)”
You need to ask? It’s like when streams cross, Rol:
Dunno about you, but I’m definitely imagining that’s Trump Tower and that two certain non-politicians are stuck in a gold lift.
Anyway, you suggested a tune, didn’t you?
PS – that reminds me more of Belly than anyone else. I think. Can’t quite put my finger on it, to be honest. Maybe The Breeders circa “Pod”. Either way, it gets a thumbs up from me.
Time for a big Chain Gang welcome now to first time contributor Lynchie, who writes:
“Am I being too stupid to suggest Buffy Sainte Marie playing mouthbow and singing “Cripple Creek” LIVE?”
Lynchie, no suggestion is too stupid for these pages, and yours is far from stupid. Plus, you were kind enough to post a link to the clip you were referring to in the Comments (I’ll not post it again here, but if you want it you can find it back on The Chain #28).
Instead, here’s the version you mention in glorious sound-only format:
Suggestions weren’t just restricted to Creek related, mind; a few nominated songs with a more watery flavour. Take Kay, for example:
“I have two which both link creek with river/water etc. A bit literal, but there you go….First of all the wonderful PJ Harvey – ‘Down by the Water'”
“…and secondly Kylie Minogue and Nick Cave – ‘Where the Wild Roses Grow’. A really dark record for a really dark day.”
No prizes for guessing on which day Kay suggested those, eh readers?
About time I joined in the water sports, I think (Stop it…). Who fancies some a capella fun?
Lifted from the soundtrack of the truly wonderful Coen Brothers movie “O Brother Where Art Thou?”, here’s Alison Krauss:
Ok, on then to the third group: The Band and it’s members.
But first, I love a good Factoid, and Alyson supplies a belter this week, even if she can’t quite remember the nuts and bolts of it:
“Discovered recently when I posted a video clip of One Of Us by ABBA that Agnetha got custody of the “Music from Big Pink” album by The Band, when she and Bjorn (or was it Benny) went their separate ways. Won’t take credit for spotting this – it was another chain ganger whom I won’t embarrass by naming – but that will be my suggestion for this week!”
So here for Alyson and The Swede (ooops!), is a bit of ABBA:
Of course, there’s nothing wrong with liking a bit of ABBA. One of the many purchases I made from Britannia music back in the 1980s was their Greatest Hits Volume 2, which I still own, long after much of my own vinyl has been sold, stolen or donated to charity shops. In fact, “One of Us” is taken from their final studio album “The Visitors”, a vinyl copy of which I have very happy memories of, not so much for the record itself, but for it’s sleeve. I’ll cryptically say no more than that for now, but at least one person reading this will know what I’m referring to, and they’ll have just spat their coffee all over the place in surprise. I’ll explain some other time.
In the meantime, here’s The Swede. Look innocent everybody, like we don’t know his little secret.
Oh hi, Swede. Us? Talking about you? Noooo, course not.
We’re on to links to The Band, and band members of The Band. Any suggestions?
“Robbie Robertson of The Band mentored Jesse Winchester’s early career, even producing his first LP in 1970. I’ll choose a much later track by Jesse though, ‘Sham-A-Ling-Dong-Ding’ from 2009’s ‘Love Filling Station’. “
I’ve never heard that before. It is properly gorgeous. The Swede: thank you for bringing that into my life.
“There’s a YouTube clip of Jesse performing the song on Elvis Costello’s American TV show that I’d defy anyone to get through without serious lip-quivering” The Swede adds. He’s not wrong:
That voice has no right to be coming out of that face. Just incredible.
Until I heard that, had you mentioned the word “Winchester” to me my reference point would have been this:
I think this might actually be a decent plan to escape the world right now, as it goes.
Back at the start of October, I wrote a post about how “Labour of Love” by Hue and Cry always took me back to a certain bar that we used to frequent in Peterborough when I was at Sixth Form, the name of which I couldn’t recall. My old mate Richie got in touch with a list of bars it could’ve been, and he nailed it first time: Miss Pears. A terrible name for a bar, I’m sure you’ll agree. I’m sure you’ll all sleep well tonight knowing that.
I mention this because the next song also reminds me of the same place; they had a TV which seemed to have the video for this eternally playing on a loop.
The Robster provides three suggestions “that don’t need much explaining”, and this was one of them, a double linker since there’s a water link in it too:
I always thought Robbie Robertson was one of those made-up joke names, like Boaty McBoatface. Seems I was wrong.
The Robbie Roberston suggestions don’t stop there. Here’s The Beard:
“The Band’s Robbie Robertson has worked with Martin Scorsese on the soundtracks to several of his films. One such collaboration was Casino. Las Vegas, in particular The Strip, is renowned for it’s casinos. Slightly off The Strip is a shiny gold hotel emblazoned with the name of an arsehole. Despite said arsehole’s bigoted views and alleged improprieties he is on the cusp of taking over as the King of the Jungle. With hopes of a Sam Allardyce style rapid fall from grace in mind, it has to be Impeach The President by The Honey Drippers.”
“Or if that’s too grim a link for something as joyous as The Chain, Love Is The Drug by Roxy Music….”
“…or Devo’s cover of ‘(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction’, both of which are on the soundtrack to the aforementioned Casino”
There was more than one person in The Band, by the way, as Charity Chic explains:
“Garth Hudson played with his organ in The Band [I said stop it….!] You can cross a creek via a ford. Therefore Hudson Ford with Burn Baby Burn please”
The verse to that has a touch of “Yellow River” about it, doesn’t it? Wait a minute…river…creek…oh go on then. And as this week sees the 25th anniversary of their break-through album “Out of Time”, here’s R.E.M. doing a cover of the old Christie hit:
But undisputed king of suggestions to link to The Band this week is undoubtedly Rigid Digit:
“Lets do this literally: The Band can be alternatively spelt as The Banned, hence the 1970s punk cash-in “Little Girl” must be next up…”
“…or: The Band => Banned => Banned Records. Or in this case, a record that was banned by it’s creator when he discovered what the title actually meant. Is Cliff Richard and “Honky Tonk Angel” waiting in the wings?”
Well, it is now:
Which must be the worst record of the week, right?
Wrong. For our Rigid friend has another suggestion:
“…or: The Banned was the name of the made-up band on Eastenders. One of the group left and scored a massive hit with a piano-tinkly ballad. Could it be Nick Berry with ‘Every Loser Wins’..?”
Ok so THAT has to be the worst record of the week, surely?
Nope. But Rigid, you are about to find out how close you came to guessing the song that I was thinking off. In fact, with SWC you jointly nudge even closer to it. I’ll let SWC explain:
“The Banned were the name of the pub band in Eastenders which featured Sharon and Kelvin on vocals. The British public took them to their hearts and sent their one and only single in to the higher parts of the top 20. Sadly I forget what it was called. But it is a contender for the worst record of the week.”
“Something Outta Nothing” blurts out Rigid, with scant regard for his public perception.
Oooh, you’re both so unbelievably close…!
The record I was thinking of, and undisputed Worst Record of the Week was “Something Outta Nothing” but when it got released as a single they didn’t release it under the moniker ‘The Banned’, they released it as…well, sounding like a song that Samantha Fox rejected for being “too shit”, they released it as this:
No, I don’t have any shame, since you ask.
Need some help stopping your ears bleeding? Here’s The Robster with another of his brief, self-explanatory songs, one of my favourite records of all time, by one of the most under-rated indie bands of all time:
A little more The Band-related shenanigans now from The Great Gog:
“The Band also recorded as song called The Weight, so I immediately thought of a song title which is itself a weight – ‘4st 7lb’ from Manic Street Preachers.”
“I did also think of ’78 Stone Wobble’ by Gomez” The Great Gog continues, “which could technically be referencing a weight, but may well be concerning itself with something else altogether”
You’ve got me scratching my head there. Am I missing something? What else could it refer to…?
No matter, it’s bloody great so it’s bloody in:
Before we move on to the final grouping, which is songs which link to the word “Cripple” – a category I’m sure we’re all approaching with nothing short of nervous trepidation – here’s Walter:
“The B-side of the record is ‘The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down’. It became an anthem of America’s southern pride. That leads me to another song showing southern pride. So let me suggest Lynyrd Skynyrd with Sweet Home Alabama.”
This has actually featured before on The Chain – don’t let those streams cross!! – way back on the Chain #4. I’m allowing it’s inclusion this week because it wasn’t suggested by one of the Chain Gangers (at that point, there was only me, George and Charity Chic), it was the next link in The (Official) Chain, and because in those days I would ask for suggestions as to what the link was, as well as suggesting alternative links. So, as a testament to how this little corner of ours has grown and changed (for the better, I think), here you go:
No, no, I’m not crying, just got something in my eye, s’all….
We’ll ignore the fact that, unsurprisingly, Trump won 62% of the vote in Barmy ‘Bama.
Last week, I made a joke. I don’t know if you spotted it. I said that regular contributor Dirk “…has a different way of dealing the idea of linking records together. Whilst the rest of us ponder the staple tune and think of songs to link to it, Dirk seems to decide on what record he wants to hear then just make up any old stuff to get to it.”
Now Dirk took that in the spirit it was intended, although when I first read his suggestion this week, I wasn’t so sure:
“…if that…were even HALFWAY true, I’d by now have invented an interesting tale which leads to Intense Degree’s “He Was The Ukulele Player For Dr. Eugene’s Travelling Folk Show Band” just because it has “band” in the title …. and because I’d like to hear it again!”
Having just popped over to Dirk’s place I see that he has kindly posted the whole of the Colorblind James Experience’s second album, which I’ve never heard, and which I shall be returning to pillage and leave a nice comment shortly, so I figured I owed him a favour:
Not really my cup of tea that. In fact, the kindest way I can describe it is “mercifully short”. Still, each to their own and all that. S’not all about me, now is it?
Anyway, Dirk does continue to make an actual suggestion:
“…instead I took the complicated route and found something linked to “Cripple” (not many of you will do THAT, I’d have thought): The Crippled Pilgrims and ‘Black And White’: a mighty tune off their 1984 debut MiniAlbum … which I haven’t listened to for quite a while … admittedly, so …”
But as for not many linking to “Cripple”, well, sure, not many, but some. Step forwards, The Robster with another of his suggestions that “don’t need much explaining”:
Not just The Robster, either. Step forwards SWC:
“Eagulls released the imaginatively titled EP a few years back. The fourth track was called Cripple Hypokalemic Periodic Paralysis. But the best track on the episode was Moulting. And if that’s the correct link then I’ll run through Exeter tomorrow wearing just a feather boa and a pair of wellingtons.”
Regular Chain Gangers will know that when I insert the number of The Chain we’re at as part of the mp3 link, it can mean only one thing: that is the contributor has correctly guessed the next song in The (Official) Chain, has won some bonus points, and on this occasion gets an all expenses trip to Exeter!
Does anyone have any wellies SWC can borrow tomorrow?
Of course, on this occasion, I’m just winding you up. Of course that isn’t the next record. I don’t think it had even been released when The (Official) Chain was at this stage.
We’re nearly there though.
Just one more to go. And it wasn’t just The Robster and SWC who came up with a song linked to “Cripple”, yours truly did too. This is from the first album that I ever bought on CD, (purchasing it at the same time as The Housemartins ‘London 0 Hull 4’, in case you’re interested):
Now I don’t know about you, but when I find out what the source record is each week – and I genuinely don’t look until I start writing the post – the first thing I do is go to my iTunes (other music and multi-media playing devices are available), type in some of the words from the song title, or from the album it features on, and see what I already have which might be of use. This week, it gave me that record, The Fall record that babylotti suggested, the Buffy Sainte Marie record that Lynchie suggested, and one other, which just so happens to be the real next link in The Chain. And you’re all going to wish you hadn’t shot your bolt with your links to Creeks, Cripples, and Water this week.
Here’s the link:
“…Neil Young wrote a song called ‘Cripple Creek Ferry’, from the ‘After the Goldrush’ album…”
All that’s left for me to do this week is invite your suggestions for songs which you can link to “Cripple Creek Ferry” by Neil Young, via the Comments section below, along with your usual brief descriptions as to what links the two records together.
See you next week folks.
Evening Chain Gang!
So, so much to get through this week, so I’ll assume you all know what we do here, and will dive straight in.
Last week’s records was “Inbetweener” by Sleeper, and the suggestions for records that link to that came in thick and fast. Now, I know I swore off fiddling around with the order last week, but as it turned out, this week there were several suggestions which followed similar themes so I thought I’d try to group those together, interspersed with the remaining ones.
And so to kick things off this week, here’s The Swede from Unthought of, though, somehow which just happened to be the first one I received:
“Louise Wener of Sleeper published an autobiography in 2010 entitled ‘Different For Girls’. ‘It’s Different For Girls’ is the title of a rather splendid Joe Jackson song.”
It most certainly is, and you need proof, here you are:
Wener’s post-Sleeper career has largely been based upon her writing skills; not only has she written that aforementioned autobiography, but she’s written several works of fiction too. Which made me think of this record, which contains my favourite mop-top guitar riff:
Having hit on the novel idea (see what I did there?) of featuring songs about authors, this one sprang to mind:
Don’t worry, it’s not all bout me this week! But “Reader Meet Author” leads us nicely on to SWC from When You Can’t Remember Anything‘s first nomination of the day:
“I once got stuck in a lift with Louise Wener AND the keyboardist from The Wannadies. There is no link here unless you want to post ‘Hit’ by The Wannadies, in all of its two minute brilliance?”
Of course I want to post that! It was going to feature in a future unrelated post, but I’m not adverse to posting the same song more than once, and I can always postpone that one:
Moving further away from Wener’s writing prowess and SWC’s stalker tendencies (I’m sure he’ll claim it was a work-related incident, though), here’s Charity Chic from Charity Chic Music:
“A sleeper is a train that transports you through the night – if you were to get a Midnight Train to Georgia like Gladys Knight and the Pips, chances are it would be a sleeper.”
Can’t fault your logic, there CC:
Whenever I hear the name Gladys Knight & The Pips, I always think of Geordie adult comic Viz, to the snappily titled “The Viz Book of Crap Jokes: A Pitiful Array of Poor Quality Jokes from the pages of Viz” which I used to own but which seems to have got mislaid on one of my many house-moves over the years, and particularly to this, which young folks who’ve never had to use a public phone probably won’t understand:
Now, can we all give a warm Chain Gang welcome to the first of many new contributors who’ve been in touch this week. Here, from his frankly quite wonderful blog Is This The Life? is The Robster:
“I was going to suggest It’s Different For Girls until Swede beat me to it. So instead I thought about Louise’s first novel ‘Goodnight Steve McQueen’ which led me to the Prefab Sprout album ‘Steve McQueen’. But I never liked Prefab Sprout (a heretical remark in some quarters, but I stand by it) [In which case, we’ll skip playing anything by them – Chain Ed]. “There was also a book she wrote called ‘Just For One Day’ about Britpop which is as good an excuse as you could ask for to include some Bowie.”
The Robster continues: “Then I went down the sleeping route: Sleep by Godspeed You! Black Emperor would be a good one, but you probably don’t want to post a 23-minute instrumental, do you?”
“So I ended up plumping for The Dreaming by Kate Bush. ‘Cause you dream when you sleep, right?” he concludes.
And quite a lot of the time when I’m awake, if I’m perfectly honest.
Okay folks, brace yourselves. It’s become a bit of a tradition here on The Chain that we feature at least one cringe-worthy song every week. Not because we necessarily like it, but because…well, did you ever hear that quote, which I had always thought was attributed to mountaineer Chris Bonnington, that goes “Q: Why do you want to climb that mountain? A: Because it’s there.”? (A quick internet search tells me that it was actually first said by George Mallory, an English schoolteacher and mountaineer, born 1886, died 1924 trying to errm….climb Mount Everest. Not so smug now, eh, Mallory, old bean?) I digress – it’s the same principal here. So, babylotti, why did you recommend this record? Because you could. Or, as you put it:
“Inbetweener conjures one song up for me immediately. It’s that excruciating dance scene in the Inbetweeners film where they ‘move’ across the dancefloor to ‘We No Speak Americano’ that’s my suggestion, right there. Sorry.“
No need to apologise, babylotti!
And just in case you don’t know the scene babylotti is referring to:
Which leads us rather neatly on to the next suggestion, and can we have a warm Chain Gang welcome to The Beard, who does not appear to be the biggest fan of the show which gave us such phrases as “Bus Stop Wankers!”, “Bum-der” and “Clunge” (I advertently described a cheesecake at a recent party as “looking a bit clungey”, not realising what that meant until the words were already out there. I am free to host the Great British Bake Off, in case anyone on C4 is interested).
Anyway, here’s The Beard’s suggestion:
“The plural of Inbetweener is Inbetweeners. The Inbetweeners was a mildly-amusing-but-quickly-lost-its-charm comedy. One of the protagonists was called Jay. A more famous Jay is Jam Master Jay. ‘Here We Go (Live At The Funhouse)’ by his band, Run DMC, is ridiculously good.”
It certainly is:
Since we’re on a rap/hip-hop vibe, here’s Rol from My Top Ten:
“Literal link again: the only song I have in my collection with Sleeper in the title is Nightbus Sleepers by Dan le Sac Vs. Scroobius Pip. Not usually my bag, musically, but I love Scroobius Pip’s rambling rhymes”.
Seems a bit quiet around here without George this week, doesn’t it? Time to rectify that, with more of his Tottenham Hotspur links:
“Sleeper is a film by Woody Allen. Dave Allen was in the Gang of Four, leading to Dave Mackay of Tottenham Hotspur (their finest ever midfielder), leading to Andy Mackay of Roxy Music, and Ladytron.”
Time to welcome back Alyson from What’s It All About, Alfie?
“At the risk of looking as if I am stalking George by copying everything he comes up with (it’s all a coincidence honestly) [I knew it! You might call it stalking, we call it spying! – Chain Ed] my first thought was also that Woody Allen was in a film called Sleeper with one-time partner Diane Keaton, but we all know that Woody also had a long-term relationship with Mia Farrow. [Phew! I wondered where you might be going with that for a moment there. I was dusting off the word ‘allegedly’ ready for quick insertion – Legal Ed] Now Mia was once married to Frank Sinatra so I could go down that route but instead, in the interests of championing the Guilty Pleasure tagline yet again, I will go down another route. Ms Farrow starred in the excellent film Rosemary’s Baby and back in 1970 Edison Lighthouse did really well with Love Grows (Where My Rosemary Goes) – I think the brackets are important!”
Anyone whose services as the resident pop nerdo boffin in pub quiz team will know how invaluable knowing where the brackets go in a pop song title is. My favourite one that catches people out is Heaven 17’s “…(And That’s No Lie)” which you’ll note quite literally has no words that aren’t in brackets.
Anyway, here’s 1970s not Guilty at all Pleasure:
Time for a warm welcome to the third of our new contributors this week, which comes from within Alyson’s
sleeper cell humble abode:
“Don’t know if my other half is allowed to join in but out of interest his suggestion probably falls into the Guilty Pleasure category also and it’s The Gambler by Kenny Rogers – The opening few lines being relevant to a) Sleeper trains b) Being too tired to sleep c) Railway lines are laid on sleepers.”
Tick, tick, tick, as The Hives once said, as did the nit nurse at my Junior School (although The Hives also added the word “Boom!”).
I’ve digressed again. Here’s King Kenny (no, not that one. Or that one. This one):
If you didn’t catch Kenny Rogers’ Sunday Afternoon Legends slot at Glastonbury back in 2013, you can see it here. Well worth a look, in my book.
Anyway, before I forget, a warm Chain Gang welcome to Alyson’s other half, Jamie.
Now, as they say, for something completely different, and to my final suggestion for this week. “Inbetweener” comes from Sleeper’s debut album, “Smart”. Smart is a word which has several different meanings: Well dressed (The Great Gog will expand on this in a moment); to be in pain (as in “Ouch, that smarts a bit”), or to be clever.
If you’re the opposite of clever, then you could easily be described as intellectually-challenged, or just plain stupid. That’s S-T-U-P-I-D:
Since I’ve just mentioned him, here’s The Great Gog:
“One can be said to be smart if one is wearing one’s Sunday best. Off the top of my head, the only song I can think of that references Sunday best is The Icicle Works’ “Who Do You Want For Your Love”, in its second line. And it’s a particular favourite of mine.”
Not one I was overly familiar with before getting your suggestion (I really don’t know how this one passed me by, to be honest), but it’s fast becoming one of mine too:
A suggestion which coaxed The Swede back for a second stab:
“I’ve now got Elvis Costello’s ‘Sunday’s Best’ as an earworm, a song that’s as relevant today as it was in 1979, if not more so. It also contains the line ‘…Sleepy towns and sleeper trains….’, so can be designated a double-linker!”…
…which in turn caused ructions with The Great Gog’s working day:
“Whilst staring at an increasingly confusing spreadsheet at work, I’ve just remembered that Madness’ “Our House” makes mention of Sunday best. Needless to say, it is currently ear-worming…”
Right, hold on chaps. Seems it’s you guys that are digressing now. Quick, we need another suggestion to break us out of this Chain Reaction.
Up to the plate steps Badger, also from When You Can’t Remember Anything:
“I was once in the audience of Jools Holland, it was a Hootenanny special (filmed in August) but one of the acts there was Audioweb who performed their minor hit ‘Sleeper’ – they had more chart success with their ragga indie version of ‘Bankrobber’.”
As it’s a Clash cover, let’s dedicate this one to George:
“As my obligatory second option”, Badger continues,”another song on the debut Sleeper album was ‘Lady Love Your Countryside’ which was a slight piss-take of supposed political rebels S*M*A*S*H and their ‘feminist anthem’ ‘Lady Love Your C___’ who actually turned out to be posho college boys. Either way ‘I Want to (Kill Somebody)’ was a great three minutes of Tory baiting”:
Now, since Audioweb have been mentioned, here’s Swiss Adam from Bagging Area:
“Sleeper was a song by mid 90s Manchester dub/rock/electronic and Audioweb, an actually pretty good piece of mid 90s music. The 12″ came with not 1, but 2, Andrew Weatherall mixes.”
Now these are mixes which I did not own. But fear not, I thought: Swiss is renowned for being a bit of a Weatherall nut, so I figured I’d just pop over to his blog, type Audioweb into the Search function, and get them from him, only to be met with the following message when I did:
“No posts matching the query: audioweb”
Anyway, I managed to track down the following two mixes. I’ve no idea if one, or the other, or both for that matter, are in any way Weatherall related (although they both sound pretty similar to these ears…)
Okay, time for Comment Showboat of the week, which undoubtedly goes to Dirk from sexyloser. I’d get comfy, if I were you:
“A ‘sleeper’ these days is of course not only a person, who, like you and me do, goes to bed in the evening and, well, sleeps. No, a sleeper is a spy planted in advance for future use, but not currently active (not necessarily a terrorist, back in the golden days of the cold war we just had spies, you know, for younger readers, all harmless stuff!). This may be hard to believe, but fear not: there is a movie which might shows it all: ‘Salt’. In it, Angelina Jolie plays Evelyn Salt, who is accused of being a Russian sleeper agent and goes on the run to try to clear her name.
Now, as you might or might not know, Angelina Jolie announced that she and Brad Pitt go ‘different ways’ from now on, a divorce will come soon, I’m afraid. Very sorry to hear this, and I would just l.o.v.e. to help Angelina in those difficult times of misery, but I fear that Mrs Loser would have severe objections against my noble offerings. So, Angelina, the only advice I can give you currently, is to see your future positively and to sing along loudly to Huey ‘Piano’ Smith & His Clowns’ ‘Free, Single And Disengaged’: a neat song indeed and, coincidently , my tip for this week’s ‘Chain’.
Ah, well …”
PS – Angelina, if you’re reading this, there is no current Mrs Jez, and you seem exactly the sort of headcase that some of my ex-girlfriends were clearly readying me for. Call me, maybe?
Sticking with the Cold War/Spy angle, here’s Alex G from We Will Have Salad:
“OK, other people have done railways and spies. So let’s combine the two, and what springs to my mind is James Bond getting into a bit of a scuffle in “From Russia With Love”. As it happens, I have a soft spot for Matt Monro, so let’s hear him singing the title song from said movie.”
You’d have to be pretty annoyed if you were Matt Monro. Your most famous record (as far as I know, feel free to provide alternatives) and you don’t even get to feature on the sleeve. Such is life.
Now a warm Chain Gang welcome back to Kay, who continues the theme:
“Sleeper made me think of a sleeper cell – cold war, John Le Carre novels, Russia etc ….then Russia made me think of Babushka by Kate Bush”:
Which just leaves us with George’s second suggestion, and for what I think is for the fourth time on the trot, it’s related to Tottenham Hotspur:
“In Sleeper, the singer was Louise Wener. Louise was/is the name of a pop-singer who is married to footballer Jamie Redknapp, son of former Tottenham Hotspur manager Harry Redknapp, who signed Dutch footballer Rafael van der Vaart. And speaking of things Dutch leads to prog-flute band Focus, and their song House of the King. a splendid pop prog song with flute-ing and hand-clapping.”
My knowledge of Focus, I thought, began and ended with “Hocus Pocus”, until I heard this and recognised it as the theme tune to Steve Coogan’s BBC comedy series “Saxondale”, so truly thanks for pointing me in its direction (don’t let the word “prog” put you off, George is right, this really is splendid):
And that’s it for another week. Of course, none of us guessed the official link to the official record, which I’ll have to concede is a better link than usual, if still not a patch on any of ours:
“…From Sleeper – part of an earring – to a hit from Dutch band Golden Earring…”:
(Relax ladies: all of the members of Focus and Golden Earring are either married or dead).
So: let’s be having your nominations for records which link to “Radar Love” by Golden Earring”, along with your explanation of how you got to it, via the Comments section below, in time for me to source and write this by the same time next week.
See you then, Chainies!
Let me make something perfectly clear: whilst 1985 was definitely a transitional year for me in terms of the sort of records I was buying, I certainly hadn’t yet cracked this thing called “cool” yet. This will become self-evident when you consider the next batch of 45s and 33s that found their way into my life and onto my turntable.
That said, given the idea behind this blog stems from the book and film “High Fidelity” it seems apt to start this section off with a single I bought which later popped up on the soundtrack to the latter.
How I wish I could say that I bought this identically-titled and much cooler tune from a couple of years earlier. But I didn’t. Ho hum. Forget I ever mentioned it.
In one of my earlier posts here, I talked about Andy’s Records, a semi-independent record store (there was a chain of about four shops dotted around East Anglia/East Midlands) which had a basement dedicated to second hand vinyl, and I find myself being drawn downstairs more and more often, sometimes spending hours flicking through the racks in the desperate search for some hidden nugget that some other poor fool had castaway.
Putting aside the term “hidden nugget” and its connotation of being linked to an unearthed gem for a moment, it was here that I picked up the next (non-Quo) album to be added to my growing collection, an album my brother had owned (yeh, that’s right: I know you’re reading this and if I’m going down I’m taking you with me!) and which I inexplicably decided I wanted a copy of too. And who can blame me? Oh yes, anyone else who ever heard “An Innocent Man” by Billy Joel could. For that’s what it was. In 1983, “An Innocent Man” was huge, spawning hit after hit after hit. Buying it at the time might be just about excusable, but two years later? I’m not so sure.
Anyway, rules is rules, so here’s a single from “An Innocent Man” which I have to admit I do still have a bit of a soft spot for:
Actually, I’m being a bit disingenuous here: there are plenty of songs by Joel which I have a soft spot for, not least this, a song I hated at the time, but which became a firm favourite of the Friday Night Music Club, Hel and I often collapsing in fits of giggles after drunkenly squawking the line “children of thalidomide” into each other’s face (if we missed it, we would start the song again) – not that kids born with disabilities is in any way funny just…y’know, props to the guy for weaving that lyric into a hit record.
Andy’s Records also provided me with another album which I bought purely to fill in some gaps in my “classic rock” compendium, a compilation album called “Formula 30”. Check out the track listing here. If anyone can explain to me the concept behind the title of this album, I’d be delighted. The “30” clearly refers to the number of tracks, but the “Formula”? And the band names scrawled on a classroom blackboard? Are we equating classic rock with scientific theories…?
*Shrugs* I dunno…
Anyway, “Formula 30” gave me my first taste of a band that I would soon become moderately obsessed with, further proof (if proof were needed) that I definitely had not got the hang of this thing called “cool” yet:
I’m putting my love (there, I said it) of this record down to my burgeoning desire to better my guitar playing. By this point, I had become relatively competent (even if I do say so myself), and would spend hours upstairs trying to master every little lick, with varying degrees of success. My parents tell me that the moment I got home from school every day, I would race upstairs to get my fix, plug my guitar in, put a record on and play along at maximum volume. The record was my backing band, and I was the lead singer and guitarist, practicing my rock star foot-on-monitor poses for all I was worth. My apologies to the neighbours.
(Of course, any mention of “Sultans of Swing” starts the synapses in my brain sparking, and leads me inevitably to mention this lot. Glorious.)
But for every song on “Formula 30” by Dire Straits, Free or The Moody Blues that decreased my cool rating, there was one which added a gold star, and if you’ve taken the time to check out the album’s track-listing, you will have spotted which band who feature twice on it I can attribute two stars to:
Seriously, in the canon of great debut singles, that must rate pretty highly.
And of course, noting the 11th track on the album (or Side Two, Track Three as vinyl-heads may prefer) I can’t let the chance to post this slide.
And the horror of some of the records I picked up in Andy’s Records doesn’t end with “Formula 30”. Oh no. Around this time, my mother commented that money seemed to burn a hole in my pocket: no sooner did I have some, than I was pleading for a lift into town so I could go browsing in Andy’s Records second hand emporium. What other explanation, apart from a rush of blood to the head, or temporary insanity, can there be for the purchase of this album:
Yes, not content with having bought Phil Collins & Philip Bailey’s “Easy Lover” a year earlier, I found myself parting with my hard-earned for this abomination. The only solace I can glean from this purchase is that at least I picked it up second-hand and so I wasn’t further lining the pocket of Mr Collins. (In 1992, Phil Collins was attributed with a quote that he would leave the country if Labour won the election. Questioned on this later, whilst neither confirming or denying he said it, Collins admitted that he certainly did not want most of his income taken. He said this from his home in the tax haven country of Switzerland. This album contains a song called “Illegal Alien”. Go figure. And let’s not forget him faxing his soon to be ex-wife over their impending divorce. What a guy.)
Think anything I’ve posted so far qualifies as the most embarrassing record I bought in this chunk of 1985? You’re wrong. Much worse was still to come.
But not just yet.
On to slightly more contemporary (for the time) records. Next up, less controversially titled than “Black Man Ray”, but no less baffling lyrically:
When writing this post, I did some research into what this record is actually about. All I managed to find was this post on one of those song lyric websites:
“The song has such strong political overtones, although not as well executed as some bands for making political statements.
Still, fairly insightful lyrics, a catchy beat, what more can you ask?”
Yeh, thanks for that.
And just what is going on in that record sleeve? *Shrugs* I dunno…. (Have I got a new catchphrase here…?)
Next up, an album which came out in early 1985 but which I held off buying until now: “Songs From The Big Chair” by Tears for Fears. A couple of years earlier, they had been one of the bands that the cool kids were into. Of course, me being me, I arrived to the party late. Better known for huge singles “Everybody Wants To Rule The World”, “Shout” and the frankly rather wonderful “Head Over Heels”, the next song was released at the arse-end of 1984, the first single to be lifted from the album, and is somewhat overlooked when compared with that list of smasheroos from the album:
All funky bass and synth-stabs, I’m not sure it’s possible for a song to sound any more 80s than that.
Seriously, you don’t need me to tell you about this record do you? Thought not.
The next one takes some explaining. Drum roll…for it is time for the award for the “Undisputed Worst Record of This Post”, which hands down goes to:
I know. What the fuck was I thinking? Well, I’m afraid I have no justification for this whatsoever. At the time I did, and it’s time for the obligatory Quo mention. At the time, I was under the impression that Rick Parfitt played guitar on the record. Now, as I am forced to admit I actually paid money for this soulless slaying of the Rose Royce classic, I can find no evidence to support this. Roger Taylor from Queen? He’s certainly there. But Parfitt? Well he’s in the video …soo…
Anyway, this is indicative of just how all-consuming my obsession with the Quo had become. If only there had been such things as Quo-patches (and not the sort I had sewn into my denim jacket) to help wean me off all things heads-down-no-nonsense-boogie-esque. Don’t worry, I snap out of it soon enough.
Now. An apology. The original intention of this blog was to a) chronicle every record I bought in the order that I bought them, and b) provide an anecdote related to the purchase of said record, where possible. Regular, patient readers (patients…?) will have noticed that this latter point has rather fallen by the wayside somewhat recently. Truth be told, much as I’d like to believe that everything I do will be of endless fascination to everyone else (I’m hoping you sense the tongue-firmly-in-cheek tone of that last statement), as I’ve worked my way through all of the records, I’ve realised that there simply aren’t as many funny things to tell you about as I had hoped. So, sorry that this has become a bit “and then I bought this…” recently.
1985, however, gives me plenty to tell you about. Or So Much Thing To Say, as Lenny Henry would quip. Not necessarily linked directly to record purchases, but still snapshots of where I was at at the time. Sitting comfortably? Good. Then I’ll begin.
See, 1985 sees the start and equally swift end to my career as a petty criminal. (I say end, but in fact I had two further run-ins with “the law”, once for riding pillion on a motorbike without a helmet, the other for singing as I walked down the fast lane of the A470 at 3am in the morning singing.)
First, some back info. In 1984, some of my mates from school had gone on a fortnight’s trip to Sweden with the school’s Canoe Club. (Every school had a Canoe Club, right…?). They had returned with tales of high jinx and hot girls, so when the Canoe Club announced they were going to do a similar trip to Norway in 1985, I signed up.
Shortly before the trip, a friend (who had best stay anonymous for legal reasons – let’s call him Pete) and I went into town to pick up a few provisions for our holiday. At this point, we had every intention of paying for them, but once in Boots the Chemist looking to purchase a battery for my pocket torch, Pete whispered in my ear “Nick it! Nick it!“. The next thing I knew, the battery was safely deposited in my pocket and we were skedaddling from the scene of the crime sharpish.
I know. Crime of the century, right? Eat your heart out Ronnie Biggs!
Flush from our successful pilfering debut, next on the shopping list was socks. Not just any socks, for this was the 1980s. Oh no. White socks were the order of the day. In fact, they were probably already unfashionable by 1985, but that was me, late again. And so to Littlewoods, an online vendor these days, but back then a reputable high street chain-store. Littlewoods was situated over two floors in Peterborough’s Queensgate arcade, the first floor of which offered several vantage points from which you could look down (and throw things) onto the shoppers below. One such spot was immediately outside Littlewoods.
Pete and I entered on the ground floor, collected the bounty that was a four-pack of gleaming white socks, before making our way upstairs, me via the escalator, Pete by way of the adjacent staircase. It was here, where I thought I could not be spotted, that the socks got dropped into my bag.
On exiting the shop, we stopped to lean nonchalantly against the railing, and it was then that over Pete’s shoulder I spotted a bloke who seemed to be trying to draw my attention to something without making it obvious he was doing so. Turning, I was confronted with two security guards, who launched into the “we have reason to believe you have items in your bag which you have not paid for” speech, and I was invited to accompany them to their office. They turned to Pete and told him that as he wasn’t actually with me at the point of theft, he was free to go, unless he wanted to come too, an offer which he politely declined before fucking right off. Cheers, mate.
Pete and I were actually supposed to meet his parents for lunch that day, about half an hour after I was nicked. He went, and had to spend the entire time pretending that we had got separated in the sprawling metropolis that is Peterborough, and he had no idea where I was. Had it happened now, of course, they would have just called my mobile (which would have been confiscated, and the police would assume that all the calls were from disappointed punters trying to work out where the stolen goods they’d ordered were).
Back in the store, meanwhile, I found myself standing like a naughty school boy (which of course was exactly what I was) in front of the manager. After a brief interrogation, wherein I apologised profusely for my moment of madness (copyright Richard Madeley, Winona Ryder et al) and offered to pay for the contraband (he declined), he instructed the security guards to call the police. He then left, leaving me sitting with my head in my hands, pretending to cry whilst peeking through my fingers to see if the security guard’s heart would melt at my histrionics. It didn’t of course: he remained with his hand on the door handle, as if I was likely to try and make a run for it.
The police duly arrived, about six of them – clearly they considered me to be a major catch – and proceeded to escort me through Queensgate, me surrounded by coppers, like a celebrity with his entourage and security. I was then bundled into the back of a police van and driven off to the local police station. Clearly they were making an example of me, and at the same time, scaring enough shit out of me to make sure I never went shop-lifting again. (It worked).
Once at the station, you have to be interviewed, booked in and read your rights by the Duty Sergeant. However, on arrival I found there was a queue of similarly arrested teenage (or younger) shoplifters, and I was instructed to take my place against the wall at the back of the line.
As we all stood there in shameful silence, a policeman walked by, and asked each of us why we were here.
“Nicking” said the first lad.
“What?” asked PC Plod.
“A personal stereo” came the budding Oliver Twist’s response.
The same question was asked of the other two in the queue; I can’t remember what their answers were, but they were definitely cooler and harder things to steal than my meagre haul.
And then it was my turn.
“What about you, sonny?”
“Four pairs of socks” I replied, eliciting smirks from my new found fellow thieves.
“Yes sir. White ones.”
There was a pause for dramatic effect. I’ll give him something, this guy’s comic timing was impeccable.
“Bet you feel a bit of a twat now, don’t you?” said the copper, looking back down the line and proffering a “Hark at him!” gesture at my fellow convicts. I couldn’t disagree.
Finally I got to the desk, where my particulars were taken down, and my pockets emptied, at which point the shocking presence of the battery was exposed.
“What’s this?” my interrogator asked.
“A battery” I replied, matter-of-factly.
“Nick this as well did you?”
“No, I bought that”.
“Oh? Where’s the receipt then? And the bag?”
“I didn’t keep the receipt and I didn’t ask for a bag.”
“Where did you buy it?”
“The photography department” I answered, the first thing to come into my head.
“Well, we’ve got you there Sonny Jim. My wife works on the photography counter in Boots on a Saturday. I can give her a ring and see if she remembers you.”
I may only have been a kid, but even I could spot such an obvious bluff.
“Okay. Feel free to ask her” I replied, looking him straight in the eye. I wanted to add “Though I don’t think they’re allowed to take personal calls during opening hours”, but thought better of it.
I was then led to a cell, where I was to be held until my parents had arrived. Before entering the cell, they make you remove your shoes and belt, and anything else you might potentially use to top yourself whilst in custody. (The shoes have a dual suicide purpose: firstly, the laces could be used to hang myself, secondly, as a teenage boy, one whiff of the insoles would have induced a catatonic state at the very least).
I handed these over, and went into the cell, to find I was sharing with the youngest of the three other kids I had been lined up with. He was displaying considerably less bravado than he had when in the queue, sitting on the bench, knees up against his chest, arms clasped round them, sniffing in an effort to stop himself from crying.
The door slammed behind me, and I decided that as my cellmate was about to blub, I needed to show I was top dog, that I wasn’t bothered, that I was the Norman Stanley Fletcher and he was the Lenny Godber of this cell. I lay down on what was left of the bench, and proceeded to have a kip.
I was woken some time later by the sound of the flap in the door clanging open, and the words “Oi! You! Get up, your parents are here” being barked through. I assumed, as did my cellmate, that as he had been here longer than me, it was his parents, and he got up to leave. However, it turned out his folks gave less of a fuck about him than mine did about me.
“Not you” shouted the kindly policeman, “you!” It was directed at me.
I mentioned earlier that they had taken my shoes and my belt; the reason I was wearing a belt that day was because I was wearing a pair of grey canvas trousers with a popper button (I know, cool, right?) which had a nasty habit of unpopping at inopportune moments. This, of course, transpired to be one such moment.
As I stood up, I failed to notice the popper had performed its usual trick, leading me to literally fall over my trousers which had, in true slap-stick style, plummeted to around my ankles. Lord only knows what the police must have thought I was doing with my cellmate….
Into the interview room, where I was met with understandably frosty glares from my parents. I was released with a caution, the only thing my mother saying on the drive home was “Well, you’ll never get a job now”. The subject was never mentioned again, and I have a sneaking suspicion that this might be the first time my brother has ever found about this (although I might have told him during a drinking session sometime).
It was not until several years later that I ever discussed the events of that day with my parents. Luckily we can laugh about it now, although I am always disappointed that, bearing in mind the identity of store from which I had stolen, this old, slightly adapted, joke didn’t happen on that day:
I had a phone call yesterday.
“Hello?” I said.
“Hello. This is Dominic from Littlewoods”
“Littlewoods? Oh God thank you thank you thank you! I’ve won the football pools!! I’m rich! Rich! Rich!!!!”
“Er…no….we’ve just caught your son shoplifting.”
We’ll save the trip to Norway for next time. To finish off with, a song which perhaps goes some way to explaining the reason I stole that day, a jealousy of those who seemed to get everything they wanted with minimum effort, and the last of the singles I bought (yes, bought) in this chunk of 1985:
Or I could just blame Pete.
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