Late Night Stargazing

I’ve always loved this song by This Mortal Coil, mostly, admittedly, because of the lead vocal provided by Kim Deal.

I always felt her voice was criminally under-used during her time with the Pixies, where she was mostly consigned to backing vocal duties. I can only think of two songs where she was permitted to sing the lead part: the gloriously filthy quietLOUDquiet Gigantic, and Into the White, B-side to Here Comes Your Man, both of which would easily sit in my Top 5 Pixies tracks.

But This Mortal Coil do not make the same mistake, putting her right out front on You and Your Sister:

This Mortal Coil – You and Your Sister

The first time I ever acquired a copy of that record was on a 4AD sampler stuck to the front of some magazine or other. It was when I was working at Boots the Chemist in Cardiff, and I remember returning to the staff “restaurant”, clutching the WH Smith’s bag it was contained in, and being asked by someone at the same table as me why I looked so pleased, at which point I produced the magazine and CD from the bag, to the noise of total disinterest and non-plussedness.

I was reminded of this tune recently because this lady:

…who I refuse to accept is 63 years old, has included a rather fine cover version of the tune on her current album, Bright Lights:

Susanna Hoffs – You and Your Sister

Take your pick, both versions are fecking gorgeous.

More soon.

Sunday Morning Coming Down

Blimey, is that the time?

Okay, I hadn’t planned to be away for so long, and I will explain why. Soon, but not yet.

It’s not appropriate to go into it today, for the event that has coaxed me back to my keyboard was the sad passing this week of ex-Monkee Mike Nesmith.

I was going to write a much longer piece about him, but I see that Alyson over at What’s It All About? has done a fine job of eulogising about him (which you can read here), so I’ll stick to posting (actually, re-posting) my two favourite Nesmith moments.

Firstly, a song from his time with The Monkees, which he didn’t write but did sing lead vocals on. This is without doubt my favourite song by the band by a country mile:

The Monkees – What Am I Doing Hangin’ Round

(Coincidentally, I picked up a vinyl copy of the album that’s from, Pisces, Aquarius, Capricorn & Jones Ltd, on ebay the other day. The vendor who let it go for £1.99 + postage must be kicking himself he didn’t list it a day or two later. It arrived on the morning that Nesmith died. I do hope the two things aren’t linked. Maybe I should test this serendipitous theory by buying Coldplay records and crossing my fingers.)

The footage is, I think, taken from one of their TV shows, which originally aired in 1966, but I remember watching reruns of it during the late 70s/early 80s. I loved it, utterly buying into the jokes and, with the benefit of hindsight, the slightly anarchic format of the show Each episode was a fairly ramshackle affair, with a performance or two such as this thrown in for good measure.

At the time, drummer Micky Dolenz (and last surviving member of the band) was my favourite, because he seemed to get all the funniest lines. But watching that clip I just find him really irritating. Alright Micky, stop trying to hog the camera. We all saw you do your “funny” wave the first time, no need to repeat it an additional four times.

Anyway. Hindsight is a wonderful thing, for, now that my musical taste-buds are fully developed, I realise that it wasn’t Dolenz I should have been watching, but Nesmith. It’s always the quiet ones.

For he penned a song which, if I absolutely had to name my top 5 favourite records, would definitely, 100% nailed-on be in it. It’s probably the song which I have – and have posted – the most versions of.

I speak, of course, of Different Drum.

All those different versions I have? All great, because the song is so good, it’s nigh on impossible to screw it up. If I had to pick my favourite version, it would probably be the most well known one – the Linda Rondstadt/Stone Poneys version.

Here’s Linda and the boys belting it out live; you may note the link says there is a jazz harp involved, but if there is then I blinked and missed it (which is probably a good thing: to these ears a jazz harp sounds like an innuendo waiting to happen: “She only walked in and caught me strumming my jazz harp….”):

And here’s Susanna Hoffs performing an acoustic version because…well, do I need a reason to post a video clip of Ms Hoffs? Thought not.

But Nesmith’s honky-tonk version, now performed as Michael Nesmith rather than Mike (like when footballer Andy Cole started insisting everyone call him Andrew so he seemed more grown up) with the First National Band, is still rather wonderful. Because it cannot fail to be.

Any excuse to post it again is always welcome, except this time, I wish the reason wasn’t done with such a heavy heart:

Michael Nesmith & the First National Band – Different Drum (Alternate Version)

Rest in peace Mike/Michael.

More soon. (No, really!)


I’ve been hearing this a lot in the mornings, mostly because it’s on heavy rotation on Radio 2.

No, I haven’t forsaken my love affair with 6Music, but they don’t have Popmaster, the finest pop quiz on the airwaves, and until they do I will be switching channels every weekday morning at 10:30 and trying to score more than whichever two contestants have called in that day.

Consequently, I’ve heard this song far more than I would have done elsewhere. It heralds the return of Travis, not a band I’ve ever been particularly fond of. I mean, they make inoffensive, largely acoustic records which are…well, alright, nothing more, nothing less. The kindest thing I can say about them is that they neither make me lunge at the radio to turn them up or off.

But this. This is…just like every other Travis record, if I’m honest.

Except! Except it also features the dulcet tones of one Susanna Hoffs, which just about lifts it out of mundane strummery.

*Sighs* Oh, Susanna.

More soon.