A couple of weeks ago, I had the dubious distinction of co-hosting this year’s Christmas Party at work.
This involved me and three others planning and then hosting the event, which got moved to an online virtual party a little more than a week before it was scheduled for, due to the latest Covid strain and the advice to avoid face-to-face meetings unless they were absolutely necessary. This meant a lot of frantic rewriting, but it all went well in the end, with remarkably few technical issues. I’ll maybe write some more about this later.
You won’t be surprised to learn that my main contribution with regards to content was a pop quiz, in the form of a Spot the Intro round. The organisers last year had done one about Christmas Number Ones, so I had planned to do one about Christmas Number Twos, mostly so that I could make a particularly lavatorial joke.
However, you’d be surprised how many records which were #2 in the UK charts on Christmas Day are not particularly Christmassy at all, so it got changed to The NotThe Christmas Number One Quiz, which isn’t a particularly snappy title, I must confess.
I prepared 20 intros of Christmas records and invited the attendees to name the song, the artist, the year it was originally a hit, and what was actually #1 that Christmas.
This allowed we to slip in a few gags when delivering the answers: “That was Coldplay with Christmas Lights, setting the template for the soundtrack to every M&S advert since” and, my favourite, “From 2008, that’s It’s Christmas Time by Status Quo, which was kept off the #1 slot by Alexandra Burke’s Hallelujah. That, and 38 other records.”
Anyway, that put me in the mood for doing a Christmas mix, remembering that this time last year Christmas was cancelled and I posted a very long and defiantly un-Christmassy mix.
My brother is picking me up to go to be with our parents later today, so this mix is intended to be played on the journey over there (you’ve been warned, bruv!), and then when we arrive too. As such it’s geared towards Christmas Eve, travelling home, Santa visiting (and what the randy old dog gets up to when he does) and the hope that this Christmas is better than last year. It’s full of slightly obscure tunes and the occasional cover of a Christmas favourite. And you’ll be relieved to hear that, unlike most of my mixes, it’s only about an hour and a quarter long. There’s only so many jingling bells one can take.
The length doesn’t seem to have effected the occasional skip or jump (my usual disclaimer) but having listened to it through that shouldn’t spoil your enjoyment too much.
And yes, of course The Wedding Present and Status Quo (R.I.P. Rick) make appearances.
I’m having fun guessing at which song my father will try to work out how to turn the volume down a little, and when exactly my mother will ask just what on earth we’re listening to. I reckon if it’s not when Helen Love is covering Merry Christmas (I Don’t Wanna Fight) then it will certainly be when Mr. Hankey the Christmas Poo makes his annual appearance. And so we’re back to Christmas #2s.
As you may have gathered by the lack of posts recently, I’ve been struggling for a while with the general apathy I usually feel around this time of year.
I mentioned recently that I’d not been feeling myself (stop sniggering at the back!) for a while, and after I’d been off work for a week, my GP signed me off for a further week, prescribed me Amoxillin (for a chest infection) and instructed me to have a Covid test (which came back as negative).
For a good few weeks though, I’ve just felt lethargic and apathetic, I can’t be bothered with doing anything, including writing stuff here. The two weeks I was off work, I spent most of the time in bed sleeping or snoozing in front of the television. A colleague pointed out to me that these are classic symptoms of depression.
And he’s right, but I don’t think that’s where I am. I’ve written before about how I have experienced and suffered bouts of depression, but how I feel now doesn’t feel as I did then. Not that there’s a uniform pattern for such things, of course.
But what I can do is to get back to normal, and try to raise everyone’s spirits – including my own – by posting a relentlessly cheery song of a Monday morning which will make you smile no matter how down you or I might feel.
And there’s no better feel-good record than Shonen Knife covering The Carpenters, from the wonderful If I Were A Carpenter tribute album:
I think I end up posting this every year, but I bloody love it, so I’ll make no excuses for blowing the dust off it yet again. (Can you blow dust off an mp3…?)
And a third different version of that iconic A Christmas Gift for You sleeve to feature in almost as many days here, this time with the lyrics, just in case they’re a bit too complicated for you to comprehend:
So, as I mentioned last week, I spent the majority of Sunday in an increasingly wet and muddy Victoria Park attending Field Day.
Consensus amongst my group was that we’d rather catch The Avalanches and Air in the relocated Return of the Rural tent than any of the other headliners – and, yes, that included PJ Harvey, sacrilege, I know – but in terms of staying dry and relatively mud-free it was a pretty smart move.
Oh and because of the music too, of course.
We arrived just at the tent just as The Temper Trap were finishing, which just happened to coincide with quite the downpour, so we happily ventured inside, where the resident DJs were whipping the crowd up into a pre-Avalanches frenzy by dropping this little beauty:
Now I’m not going to pretend that I was particularly fond of rap or hip hop when it first reached these shores – the Beastie Boys was about as far as my taste stretched – and O.P.P. was not a song that even crossed my radar until some 10 years or so after it was released in 1991. In fact, it’s probably one of the records that is responsible for me revisiting all of those classic tunes and realising I would totally have to re-evaluate my position.
And yes, to those who know me, that does mean having to admit I was wrong. It does happen.
Hearing it again last week was a joy, in particular watching lots of people of around about my age trying to bust the same moves they used to roll out when this first came out, with varying degrees of success, I think it’s fair to say.
Me? I have no moves.
Of course, O.P.P. features a sample of this early 70s classic:
I believe Dame Edna Everage got her specs back eventually.
Somewhere in the darkest, most ill-informed recesses of my brain, I had stored the information that they were called Ottawan because they were from Ottawa, Canada. Nope. French, apparently. Not even French-Canadian. Just French. With a bit of what Wikipedia rather vaguely refers to as “Caribbean” thrown into the mix. Ah well, you’re never too old to learn, eh?
Keeping things on a disco-y vibe, here’s some Philly soul:
Now that’s value for money: not just one set of abbreviations, but two. As you can see, TSOP stands for The Sound of Philadelphia, whilst the MFSB stands for…ermm…well, let’s just say the clean version is “Mother Father Sister Brother”, whilst the considerably less clean version has at least one of those changed for something altogether fruitier.
And yes, that really is The Three Degrees, they of “When Will I See You Again” fame, and one time favourite band of Prince Charles. Like that’s a recommendation.
Now it’s not often that I post two songs by the same artist in the same thread, and I’m not about to start now, but this does come awfully close.
In 1982, Michael Jackson released his “Thriller” album. You don’t need me to tell you what a massive album that was, I assume? Thought not. It was accompanied by what seemed to be a never-ending stream of singles from it. “Thriller” contained 9 tracks. 7 of them were released as singles. Unbelievably, “Thriller” itself was the last of them, presumably because the video took so long to do. The next track was the 6th:
Thanks for clarifying what the “PYT” referred to for us there, Michael.
Although, given the allegations which dogged his adult life, I don’t think he really needed to, did he? I mean, the signs were there for us all to see when you think about it. He looks like he’s growling in that cover shot, leaning out the window of a Ford Cortina, Bubbles the monkey strapped in the passenger seat, a bag of tempting sweeties just out of shot.
On the subject of “Thriller”, the song, not the album, one of my favourite pub quiz facts: it was written by a chap called Rod Temperton from the exotic town of Cleethorpes, Lincolnshire, who used to be in Heatwave, a late 70s/early 80s disco band best known for their 1976 hit “Boogie Nights”, after which the brilliant movie by Paul Thomas Anderson, starring Mark Wahlberg as blessed in the “downstairs area” porn star Dirk Diggler, is named. If you haven’t seen it, go away and do so right now. We’ll wait for you, I promise.
Have they gone? Right, let’s carry on.
Something bordering on contemporary now: a record that’s only ten years old, which is about as recent as I get round these parts.
Heavily sampling Soft Cell’s version of “Tainted Love” (more about that over the weekend), the song was originally intended for Def Jam label-mate Christina Milian for her third solo album “So Amazin'”, but she turned it down and it was given to Rihanna instead. “SOS” went on to become Rihanna’s first US number one single, whilst Milian’s album absolutely tanked and she was dropped by the label. Them’s the breaks.
And so to the 300th song in this thread, and I can’t think of a better song to inhabit this position (well, I can, but it’d probably be a Quo one and you’d all moan) than this:
In case you’re interested, LFO stands for Low-Frequency Oscillator, a function on what used to be called synthesizers, but now are just called keyboards.
And now, as they say, for something completely different, and to a song which I have been thinking about posting in my “Same Title, Different Song” thread, along with one by Monty Python’s Flying Circus:
I own far too few Shonen Knife songs; I posted their fab “Space Christmas” song about six months ago here (just before Christmas, funnily enough), and own this, and their wonderful cover version of The Carpenters’ “Top of the World” (which I’ll get round to posting sooner or later), and that seems to be about it. I thought I had more than that. But every time I hear something by them, I have a smile on my face. Mental note to self: buy more Shonen Knife.
Ok, time to get loud. Here’s the Manic Street Preachers:
Lifted from their seminal 1994 “The Holy Bible” album, and released as a Double A side along with “Faster”, the boys caused quite the stir when they appeared on Top of the Pops, dressed like this:
Perhaps unsurprisingly, the military regalia, and in particular lead singer James Dean Bradfield’s balaclava, were construed by many as a show of support for the IRA, and the BBC received 25,000 complaints, which seems a suspiciously round figure to me.
If any of you are disturbed by Bradfield’s attire, I can temper that somewhat: he came into Boots the Chemist in Cardiff when I worked there, and asked me to show him where the Athlete’s Foot powder was kept. Pop stars, see? They’re just like you and I. Except with icky fungal foot conditions.
Two to go for tonight. Penultimately, some Blur.
By 1997, the Britpop war between Blur and Oasis was over, and few could argue that from a commercial perspective, Oasis had won. Yes, Blur’s “Country House” had beaten Oasis’ “Roll With It” to the Number One slot in the singles, but “The Great Escape” album – though it had its moments – paled in comparison to its predecessor “Parklife” and racked up sales of 2.54 million worldwide. Oasis’ “(What’s The Story) Morning Glory”, on the other hand, managed 22.4 million. I love Blur, but that’s fairly comprehensive.
So the band went off, regrouped and rethought things. What they came back with, the eponymous “Blur” album, from memory, surprised, shocked, delighted and just plain pissed off fans in equal measure. Gone were the upbeat chirpy cockney numbers, in came a more lo-fi, stripped down sound (see: “Beetlebum“) tempered by the occasional blast of sonic noise terror and whooping (see: “Song 2“).
And so finally, since we’ve mentioned Britpop, to a track from, to my mind, the greatest album from that brief period; to a title that takes abbreviations to a whole new level, and a song which displays classic Jarvis witticisms, slow burn atmospherics which would become more prevalent on their follow-up album “This Is Hardcore”, building to a crescendo which is just, well, Pulp: