The Chain #25

It’s Chain Gang time, and for any newcomers to these shores, hello, and here’s an explanation as to what we do here: each week we move along the records which have featured on the BBC’s The Chain segment of Radcliffe and Maconie’s show, originally on Radio 2, currently on 6 Music; we play the next in the chain, ask for your suggestions for tunes we can play which link to that record, but instead of picking just one, we endeavour to post links to them all. Then, at the end of the post, we reveal what the official next record is, and off we go again.

I mention this as at the weekend I met up with some friends for Sunday lunch; a few of them read this regularly (hello!), some sporadically (hello!), some never (there’s not much point in saying hello to them) and one who falls into the middle category asked me what the hell is going on here. Got it now?

Perhaps it would be better if we just crack on? Last week, we ended with the song that was the 24th record played in the official chain on the aforementioned show, Joni Mitchell’s “You Turn Me On, I’m a Radio” and these are the suggestions you came up with.

Oh and by the way, this is slightly later than usual as I’ve had some issues with the layout of this post, which I don’t seem to be able to rectify. I suspect it’s because of the size of the post; I’ll keep trying to make it look pwetty for you all after I’ve posted it.

Anyway, this week, all of the suggestions (including my own) can be put into one of six, broad categories.

Category 1 – Joni Mitchell:

Regular readers will know that the record that brought us to Joni Mitchell was Elvis Costello & The Attractions’ “Radio Radio”. Even more regular readers will know that a few weeks ago, in a Comment Conversation about acts which everyone else seems to adore and revere, but which leave some of us utterly flaccid and distinctly unaroused, regular contributor to this page, George, told us how he is left cold by The Clash and Bruce Springsteen. So imagine our surprise when he mentioned last week that he had a link which resulted in a song by The Boss. However, he declined to let us know what it was.

Until, that is, after last week’s Chain post had been posted, at which point he sent this:

“Now that you’ve published this week’s Chain I can give you my Springsteen link. Elvis Costello’s real name was Declan McManus. Mick MacManus was a wrestler, and Bruce Springsteen wrote a song called The Wrestler. Now, I have been in touch with the chairman of FOMAMB (Federation of Middle Aged Male Bloggers ) who tells me you are not allowed to edit your post and re-upload it with my suggestion.”

This is fictional federation-ness gone mad! Curse the federation! Where’s Blake’s 7 when you need them?

So why am I mentioning this in a section a category which I have quite clearly just announced contains links to Joni Mitchell? Well, because Alex G from We Will Have Salad kindly stepped in to assist, that’s why:

“That’s easy” writes our hero, “Nick Mitchell is a wrestler. Or Ryan Mitchell is a wrestler. And so on.”

Thanks Alex! And here you go George. No, no need to thank us:

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Bruce Springsteen – The Wrestler

And that, dear newcomer, is how easy it is to suggest a link.

Here’s another one, from The Robster, from Is This The Life? who writes:

“One of Joni’s most famous songs is Woodstock, about the legendary festival in 1969. Although initially scheduled to perform there, Joni was prevented from doing so by her record label as they had booked a TV appearance for her the next day and they were concerned she wouldn’t make it back in time.

Her then-boyfriend was Graham Nash, who did perform at Woodstock as part of Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young. He relayed the weekend’s events to Joni who subsequently wrote the song about it.

The link then… Woodstock was opened by Richie Havens who played one of the event’s most fondly remembered sets. On his 1974 album ‘Mixed Bag II’, Havens covered The Loner, a song originally written and performed by Neil Young, who also played Woodstock as a member of CSN&Y.”

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Richie Havens – The Loner

And that, BBC, is how you “educate, inform and entertain”.

Sometimes, the suggestions can go off at a bit of a tangent, mind. One person’s suggestion may lead another contributor in a different direction. So long as the link is sound, though, we’ll dust off the tune in question and give it a spin. Take Swiss Adam from Bagging Area‘s first suggestion of the week, for example (and yes, I did just say first suggestion, for often folks will make offer more than one. I’ve got four this week, but then it’s my blog, so there):

“Neil Young is the obvious route but Robster’s got it covered. Teenage Fanclub’s Neil Jung perhaps?”

Lifted from their should-have-been-huge “Grand Prix” album, it’s often overlooked that when it was released as a single, “Neil Jung” came in two different versions: your actual bona fide album version and this, the lesser known but still bloody excellent, version:

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Teenage Fanclub – Neil Jung (Alternative Version)

But like I said, Swiss Adam isn’t done there. Oh no.

“Acid house band Fluke had a decent track called Joni (think it samples Big Yellow Taxi too).”

Girls: out with your glo-sticks. Guys: off with your shirts and do the Meat Dance. Oi Oi! Saveloy!

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Fluke – Joni

One of the great things, even if I do say myself, is there sheer diversity of the suggestions we get here, and here’s an example. From Teenage Fanclub, to Fluke, to The Fall, all linking back to the same source. Here’s George again:

“Joni Mitchell sang about a Big Yellow Taxi. Taxi was an American sitcom from the late 70s, starring, amongst others, Danny De Vito. And there’s a Fall single Rolling Danny (originally by Gene Vincent).”

Yeh, I thought that was how Danny was spelt too, until I checked out the single sleeve, that is:

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The Fall – Rollin’ Dany

Now, The Chain is not just about picking the coolest record with the cleverest link. Here at A History of Dubious Taste (generally) and The Chain (specifically) we like to feature the occasional record which some might describe as cheesy, some just as downright crap. Previously, we’ve had songs by Chesney Hawkes, Busted, and last week, Russ Abbot. Truly we know no shame.

First to take a tilt at claiming this week’s “Worst Record of the Week” crown goes to babylotti. This is actually the third suggestion he gave this week (the others will feature in a bit,  in different categories):

“Paul Evans with the ‘Hello, This is Joannie (The Telephone Answering Machine Song)’, purely because I thought he was referring to Joni Mitchell as a kid (I originally thought that was how it was on the record….)

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Paul Evans – Hello, This Is Joannie (The Telephone Answering Machine Song)

Ordinarily, I would now write something terribly scathing and/or witty, but this is a record which I posted a few weeks ago on my currently on hiatus “Friday Night Music Club”, thread, where I once posted a load of songs about telephone calls. You can read it here: self-referential tosser.

Anyway, nice try, babylotti, but I’m afraid that’s not the Worst Record of the Week. Stick around folks, you’ll see soon enough.

Here’s The Swede, from Unthought of, though, somehow with his suggestion for the week:

“Joni collaborated with Charles Mingus on her LP ‘Mingus’. This was Mingus’s final musical project and the album was dedicated to him after his death. On the 1959 LP ‘Mingus Ah Um’, Charles Mingus paid his own tribute to the recently deceased saxophonist Lester Young, with the gorgeous ‘Goodbye Pork Pie Hat’.”

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Charles Mingus – Goodbye Pork Pie Hat

See? Educational, informative and entertaining.

On to Rol from My Top Ten now, who perfectly demonstrates what I mean about going off on tangents:

“Kudos to babylotti for suggesting Hello This Is Joannie… which led me to think of my all-time favourite answerphone song:”

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Blake Shelton – Austin

“Oh, but hang on, I’m supposed to be linking to Joni, aren’t I….?”

We’ll come back to you, Rol.

In the meantime, since we seem to be on a bit of a Country tip, here’s George again:

“From Joni Mitchell to David Mitchell of Peep Show and his co-worker Robert Webb, to Webb Pierce, he of the guitar-shaped swimming pool, and his absolutely toptastic song There Stands The Glass.”

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Webb Pierce – There Stands The Glass

Toptastic indeed, great mate!

And so to the last of the suggestions in this category, and I’ll hand you over to Charity Chic from Charity Chic Music:

“Joni Mitchell is a talented painter whose work has appeared on her album covers.  Ditto Jon Langford so Chivalry by the Mekons please.”

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Mekons – Chivalry

Category 2 – For the Roses:

That leads me rather nicely on to my own first suggestion of the week. “You Turn Me On, I’m a Radio” is lifted from Joni’s “For the Roses” album, and, just like Joni and Jon Langford, John Squire of The Stone Roses, when he wasn’t chucking paint over his former record company’s offices, or taking several years to make an album that falls into “alright but not as good as their first album and certainly not worth the wait” bracket, or releasing underwhelming come back singles (did anyone like The Stone Roses come back material? In fact, can anyone name any of the singles? Without checking? Nope, thought not.)

So here’s a double linker, courtesy of Yours Truly:

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The Stone Roses – Made Of Stone

Rol’s back!

“OK… ‘For The Roses’, also contains the excellent ‘Barangrill’, the opening lines of which are:

“Three waitresses all wearing
Black diamond earrings
Talking about zombies and Singapore Slings”

So, this week, my suggestions are…”

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The Zombies – Time of the Season

“…and…”

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Harry Belafonte – Zombie Jamboree

Is it just me, or has Harry Belafonte got massive hands?

Now, newcomers I now need to introduce you to the concept of Comment Showboating. This is where a contributor provides a long, detailed, spectacular explanation of how they have got from Record A to Record B, and is a phrase I originally used to describe one of George’s early suggestions. It is meant as a compliment, by the way. More recently, Dirk from sexyloser has been providing the entertainment in this regard, but not this week:

“No Comment Showboating attempt this week, because the fact that this song seems to derive from an album called ‘For The Roses’ immediately made me think of a version of ‘Good Year For The Roses’ that I simply LOVED ever since I first heard it (on Peel, where else?), and in my estimation it’s better than any other version I know, and this – excuse me – includes E. Costello. So my choice for this week links to Dino Lee (The King Of White Trash) and his version of ‘Good Year For The Roses’ from 1985.”

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Dino Lee – Good Year for the Roses

“If you can’t find it anywhere, I’d be happy to send you an mp3-file …” Dirk adds. Oh ye of little faith! But that does flag up one of the rules here at The Chain: if you’re going to suggest a record, particularly an obscure one, then you must have a copy yourself in case I don’t have it already or am unable to source it. And then be nice when I come begging.

Now, before I become all bogged down with “The Rule”, we’ll move onto the third category of the night.

Category 3 – Turns/Turn-Ons:

Often the simplest links are the best, and more often then not the simplest way to link from the source song to your choice of tune is to pick a word from the title and find one that has the same word, preferably, but not necessarily in the title.

Here’s SWC from When You Can’t Remember Anything to show you what I mean:

“So something you turn on are lights. Interpol released a fairly terrific record a few years back called ‘NYC’ which featured on their album ‘Turn on the Bright Lights’.”

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Interpol – NYC

“Alternatively,” continues our just-moved-house-buddy, “you can turn face as Gravenhurst did in their wonderful track ‘I Turn my Face to the Forest Floor’.”

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Gravenhurst – I Turn My Face To The Forest Floor

He’s right, that is wonderful. I’d never heard of Gravenhurst before, but if you like that track, I can heartily recommend getting hold of a copy (legally, of course) of the “Flashlight Seasons” album for more of the same. Cheers SWC!

“Now if you’ll excuse me, I have a wheelbarrow being delivered.”

Erm, fair enough. You’re excused.

What seemed an age ago, babylotti gave us the third of his three suggestions, and it’s about time we went back to check out his other two. Well, one of them for now:

“Robert Palmer’s cover of Jam & Lewis’s ‘I Didn’t Mean to Turn You On’ (the original was by Cherrelle)”

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Robert Palmer – I Didn’t Mean To Turn You On

Now, had you not stipulated you were nominating the Robert Palmer version, I would have happily plumped for the Cherelle version. There’s just something about the Robert Palmer version that makes me feel a little…uneasy. Listen to the lyrics: this a man apologising to a woman for being so utterly irresistible (simply irresistible, you could say) that she cannot help but get turned on by him. This came out in 1985, when Palmer was 36. I know that’s not quite old enough for this to qualify as locker room talk, the optimum age for which we all now know is 59, but still…. The “Don’t blame me, you shouldn’t have gone out with me because you should have known you wouldn’t be able to resist me” defence makes my skin crawl, and Palmer’s version of this song is a Ched Evans of a record.

Trump should use this version as his walk-on music for tonight’s final live debate. At least Palmer is dead and so won’t be able to protest about it’s appropriated use.

Ahem. Anyway. Remember Alex G from right at the top of this post, kindly providing me with a reason to post some Bruce Springsteen? Well, here he is again:

“I would say this is kind of obvious, but since nobody else has suggested it (and I still like it)…”

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Freakpower – Turn on, Tune in, Cop Out [Radio Mix]

Let’s stay in dancier territories for a moment, with another of my suggestions, which at first glance has no link, but once you hear the lyrics, you’ll spot the turn-on link fairly easily:

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Paul Oakenfold Ft Brittany Murphy – Faster Kill Pussycat

And since we’re now on to songs which contain the lyrics “You turn me on”, here’s The Beard:

“You turn me on are the opening words of a well known song by Simple Minds. Said song (almost) shares it’s title with one time Saturday morning kids show Live & Kicking. The predecessor of this show was Going Live!, helmed by Phillip Schofield. The greyer than grey presenter was famously accosted by Fruitbat from Carter the Unstoppable Sex Machine at the Smash Hits Poll Winners Party in 1991. The song they, erm, played at that shindig was After The Watershed.”

For those of you who don’t know what The Beard is blethering on about, here’s the footage:

For reasons which are probably already pretty clear if you watched that all the way through, The Rolling Stones took out an injunction against the band to prevent it being played on the radio, and then took further legal action to make sure the song was thereafter credited to “Morrison, Carter, Richards and Jagger”. You’d have thought, given that “After the Watershed” came out in 1991, Richard Ashcroft might have learned something, wouldn’t you?. But no: six years later The Verve released “Bitter Sweet Symphony”, which, predictably, befell exactly the same fate for sampling The Stones’ manager Andrew Loog Oldham’s orchestral version of “The Last Time”.

 And here’s the song:

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Carter the Unstoppable Sex Machine – After The Watershed (Early Learning The Hard Way)

“It’s better than aforementioned Simple Minds number,” signs off our Bearded Brethren. What, this one?

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Simple Minds – Alive And Kicking

Yes. Yes, it is.

Time for a category change.

Category 4 – Radio:

Time to pop back to babylotti again, for his third choice which was actually his second (I really don’t make this easy for myself, do I?)

“Because I meant to post it when ‘Radio, Radio’ was the chain, but it still is relevant with this thread, Latin Quarter’s ‘Radio Africa’. Wasn’t really a fan, but saw them at the Sheffield Leadmill years ago & have remembered that song ever since……”

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Latin Quarter – Radio Africa

Over now to The Great Gog, who was first to post a suggestion this week, which used to mean he got top billing, but hey-ho, times change, and now he finds himself the second of two songs in the fourth category. Nothing personal, mind, I thought this was one of the cleverest links this week:

“Well, Joni clearly believes herself to be an item of electrical equipment, and this is not a unique state for a recording artist to find themselves in. Remember Buggles? The “Video Killed The Radio Star” duo (there’s a Radio link I hadn’t thought of!)? Some people may be surprised to know that they recorded an album. Still more may be surprised to learn that they even made it as far as a second album.  It is on this second album where Trevor Horn rather robotically advises the listener that “I Am A Camera”. It was released as a single but didn’t trouble the Charts at all.”

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Buggles – I Am A Camera

 You’re right GG – I knew they made one album, but a second? Nope, no clue.

Category 5 – Blue:

Perhaps Mitchell’s most famous album, and one which will always feature in those snooty “Best Albums Ever” lists that are published every now and again, is “Blue”. Here’s another of my suggestions:

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The Bluetones – Are You Blue or Are You Blind?

The Bluetones were a fine singles band in my book, but were regarded as a poor man’s Stone Roses, which I’ve never seen myself. It’s like when Gene were proclaimed as a Happy Shopper Smiths, simply because they had an articulate, literate lead singer and their music was guitar-lead. I’ll feature some more of their records on here sometime soon.

In the meantime, over to Alyson from What’s It All About Alfie? Now, I have to be honest, her reason for suggesting the song she has done does not having anything to do with “Blue”, but I was feeling a little lonely in this category, all on my Jack Jones, and by putting Alyson’s suggestion in here too (it does fit) it bestows double-linker status on it:

“Elvis Costello did a version of ‘Good Year for the Roses’ but that means we double back to him. Thinking of flowers however, it did remind me that when I went to see him in the early ’80s he was supported by a band called The Bluebells (led by Bobby Bluebell !). They had a hit (twice) with the song ‘Young at Heart’ so I’ll go with that one as well.”

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The Bluebells – Young At Heart

In case you’re wondering why she says “as well”, I haven’t gotten to her first choice yet. Time, see. It’s not linear, it’s…oh, I’ll let this chap explain:

Category 6 – Berets:

We’re on the home straight now, folks. And the Worst Record of the Week is still to make an appearance.

Many contributions this week referred to Joni’s preferred head-wear – a beret – yet nobody nominated this one, so I guess I’ll have to:

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Prince & The Revolution – Raspberry Beret

The first to suggest a tune based on a beret was Charity Chic who wrote:

“Joni is famous for wearing a beret. So too was the whippet loving Dundonian, the late great Billy McKenzie. So ‘Party Fears Two’ by the Associates please !”

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Associates – Party Fears Two

Dirk’s back with his actual second suggestion of the week:

“I know that the above [his first suggestion] is not the correct link as chosen by the BBC lads, in fact it’s (because, as CC correctly points out, good ole’ Joni seems to like wearing a nice beret) Staff Sergeant Barry Sadler’s ‘The Ballad Of The Green Berets’. Of course it is….

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Staff Sergeant Barry Sadler – The Ballad Of The Green Berets

I wouldn’t be so sure about that, Dirk…

Ok, here comes the last of your suggestions for the week, and it’s Alyson’s other one:

“Another lady that used to sport a beret was Rickie Lee Jones, she of ‘Chuck E.’s in Love’ fame.”

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Rickie Lee Jones – Chuck E.’s In Love

Which just leaves my final one for this week. Mention a beret to pretty much anyone who was brought up in the UK in the 1970s, and the first person who will spring to mind isn’t Joni Mitchell, or Billy McKenzie, or Prince, or Rickie Lee Jones, or, astonishing as it may seem, to Staff Sergeant Barry Sadler. No. They will think of Michael Crawford as Frank Spencer in BBC sitcom “Some Mothers Do ‘Ave ‘Em”.

Frank Spencer was not the brightest chap in the world, talking in an almost infantile way despite quite clearly being an adult. He was also very accident prone, and the main events of each episode was building up to the grand finale, a impeccably orchestrated stunt which Crawford, apparently, did mostly himself.

Here’s perhaps the most famous one (and yes, I know he’s not wearing a beret in this clip):

In the 1970s and early 1980s there was a band who I have mentioned before on these pages, who did “comedy” versions of pop songs. But their repertoire was not restricted to such cheesiness. Sometimes they wrote their own, original songs, and sometimes the subject matter of those songs was popular television comedy characters.

Brace yourself here come The Barron Knights:

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The Barron Knights – The Ballad Of Frank Spencer

Ordinarily, I would make a half-hearted effort to defend including something that bad, but there’s no point, is there? Sorry.

Let’s move on to the next record in the official Chain, the link to which could easily have rested in the first category of the night and saved us all a lot of time:

“Mitch Mitchell played bass in the Jimi Hendrix Experience, so…”

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25. The Jimi Hendrix Experience – Voodoo Chile [Slight Return]

In case you’re wondering about the slightly dubious sleeve, that’s the original cover of “Electric Ladyland” from which “Voodoo Chile [Slight Return]” is lifted.

So – your suggestions please, via the Comments Section down below, for records which you can link to Voodoo Chile [Slight Return] by the Jimi Hendrix Experience, along with an as brief or as complicated as you like explanation as to how you have got from one record t’other.

And I’m willing to bet I know which artist Charity Chic will suggest. And if he doesn’t, I will.

More soon (next week, to be precise).

A History of Dubious Taste: The Formative Years

Disclaimer: This post contains four fucking terrible records. But stick with it. There’s four really great ones after that.

It’s funny how the most mundane of events can trigger long buried memories.

Don’t worry, I’m not about to go all gloomy and confess to years of abuse at the hands of a 1970s celebrity. Well, not unless you can count owning records by a certain band from the 60s & 70s as abuse.

And no, I don’t mean Status Quo.

Let me explain.

This week, for the first time in years, I went to the dentist.

I should stress at this point that I hadn’t avoided going through any lack of care for my oral hygiene – I’m no Shane Magowan, is what I’m saying. When I was a kid, my parents took me to the dentist regularly, and I had learned how to take care of my teeth to the extent that I’ve never had a filling, a crown or a tooth removed. I know you’re supposed to go to the dentist for regular check-ups, but I don’t go to my doctor for them for the rest of my body, and going to the doctor is free, whilst you have to pay to see a dentist. Why waste money just to have a bloke give my teeth a bit of a scrape every couple of months? Trips to the dentist firmly resided in the “If it ain’t broke, don’t mend it” category.

Well, this week, something broke, namely one of my teeth. I wish I could say it was punched out of me in a fight where I was defending someone’s honour, but what actually happened was I was eating a chocolate which suddenly developed a crunchy texture it hadn’t had when I first popped it in my mouth. At first I wondered if I was the latest victim of one of those “look at this disgusting thing that I found in my food” stories you read about every now and then, but it quickly transpired that the crunchiness was in fact a large chunk of tooth which had decided it no longer wanted to be in my mouth, and preferred my stomach instead. My stomach is considerably larger than my mouth, so I can’t really say I blame it for wanting to upgrade to somewhere roomier.

As it goes, the trip to the dentist was considerably less painful than I had expected: all he did was saw off part of the remaining tooth, prescribe me some antibiotics, and tell me I need to come back to have the rest either removed or a crown put in.

In fact, the most painful thing about the whole thing, is that as a result I’ve had this song, by a group whose schtick was performing “funny” parodies of popular hits of the time (on this occasion, “Rivers of Babylon“, “Matchstalk Men and Matchstalk Cats and Dogs” and “The Smurf Song“) lodged in my brain all week:

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The Barron Knights – A Taste Of Aggro

Unbelievable as it may seem, that got to Number 3 in the UK singles chart in 1978.

I, of course, did not contribute to its sales. Oh no, of course not. Instead, the nine-year old me belligerently badgered my parents until they finally gave in and bought me their “Night Gallery” album from which “…Aggro” came instead.

At the time, I thought this record was the funniest thing I’d ever heard. I would listen to it over and over again, learning the words, laughing out loud long after the “jokes” had actually ceased to be funny.

Not content with annoying my family by playing this album endlessly, I decided I wanted to share it with my peers at school, and to that end I asked my Junior School teacher at the time if I could bring it in for a “Show and Tell” lesson.

What I should stress at this point is that we had never had a “Show and Tell” lesson before, and as far as I can recall, we never had another one either. I think the second of those two facts can be directly attributed to me.

These are the three parodies from “Night Gallery” that I subjected my classmates and teacher to: one of Heatwave’s “Boogie Nights”, one of Althea and Donna’s “Uptown Top Ranking”, (both fairly recent hits at the time, being from 1976 and 1978 respectively), and Tommy Steele’s “Little White Bull” (from 1959, so slightly less current).

Oh no, you don’t get off so lightly as to just be told what the chosen songs were parodies of: here’s the actual songs, placed in ascending order of awfulness.

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The Barron Knights – Boozy Nights

The Barron Knights – Boy Scouts Out Camping

(I seem to have an horrific image of “comedians” Little & Large performing that on one of their shows, both dressed as Scouts. I’m not sure which is worse: that actually having happened, or my imagining it…)

The Barron Knights – Little White Bum

Yes, that last one really is about a young boy who liked, and was encouraged by his parents, to show off his bottom to the extent that he is entered into a Best Baby’s Arse Competition. Was that ever a thing??

When people say the 1970s were a different time, they really aren’t joking.

The only good thing I can say about these is that they introduced me to the original records, two of which I love (the Tommy Steele one, not so much). So, in the interest of balance, and moreover palate cleansing, here they are:

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Heatwave – Boogie Nights

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Althea & Donna – Uptown Top Ranking

Words cannot express how much I love Althea’s (or is it Donna? I have no clue which is which. Does that make them the 1970s Ant & Dec??) massive glasses and even more massive ‘fro combo.

If I lie back on the psychologist’s couch for a while, I guess this forced “Show and Tell” lesson was the first example of something which has characterised my life ever since – through all the mix-tapes I used to churn out at Sixth Form, the DJ’ing at college, the playlists I still happily compose at the drop of a hat, hell, even this place: a desire to share records with people. The notion that I owe all of those years of pleasure to The Barron sodding Knights is quite a startling one.

But I’m not done with embarrassing confessions from my Junior School days just yet.

Surprising as it may seem now, when I was at Junior School age I was considered to be a pretty bright kid, and was moved up a year as a result. This must have happened when I was about six or seven years old, and I, along with my year older than I classmates, had completely forgotten about it until it came to the time for them all to go to Secondary School and I was left behind.

That meant that I essentially had to repeat my final year of Junior School, a trend which continued when I went to college, but more of that some other time.

Anyway, that meant that I spent two years in Mr Land’s class. He was a nice enough chap, as I recall. He used to be in charge of putting on the annual school play and – and I only remembered this when the above came to mind – he encouraged his class in creative writing. One project he gave us was to write a children’s story for someone in the Infant School, placing them within the story, which now I think about is a quite brilliant way to engage kids in books and writing. He also used to hold a short-story writing competition for his class at the end of each term.

Now, all through my educational years, and when at Junior School in particular, it was considered that I had a great talent for writing. I was given blank exercise books and encouraged to just fill them with stories; I, of course attempted to write one long story. Ultimately, these just consisted of elaborate car chases, but the intention was there.

Ever since, I’ve wanted to write a novel. Many of my friends will vouch for the fact that every now and then throughout my life  I have announced I’ve come up with a brilliant idea for a book which I would start on right away.

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Father John Misty – I’m Writing a Novel

Inevitably, I would write the first chapter, if that, before being struck with either writer’s block or a crippling realisation that I just can’t write well enough to produce such a thing.

Which is pretty much why I do this. A few years ago, I decided I was going to write about all of the dumb things me and my friends had got up to, or had happened to us, on nights out, which I would then try to string together into some kind of narrative structure and build a plot around. Needless to say, I didn’t get far when I realised – again – that writing a book is bloody difficult, that I didn’t really have the patience, stamina, self-discipline, determination or drive required for the task in hand. Instead, I decided to write them in bite-size chunks and post them here. I still get distracted and find myself writing about cover versions, or preparing a playlist for you every Friday night, or any of the other threads I’ve started here and got bored with after a while. But be warned: I’m currently working on pieces about all of the records I bought in 1986, so the main thrust of this blog should be returning more regularly soon.

Speaking of getting distracted, I have digressed again. Mr Land’s short story competition is where I was heading.

Because of my perceived talents in the field, I had just assumed, as did many others, that I would walk away with first prize every time the competition came around. But I was reckoning without my nemesis, a lad called Richard Crisp.

Every term, Richard would write essentially the same story, and every term he would win. Every term, without fail, he would write a story about a football match between two semi-fictional teams, say for example “Mods versus Rockers” (the names had absolutely no bearing on the story, he didn’t recount a football match as if it were a pitched battle on Brighton beach), but he would make classmates and teachers members of the teams, giving him scope to make a few jokes at their expense, and refer to incidents which had happened during the previous term.

So when my classmates all went off to Secondary School, leaving me behind with a new class who had never been invited to enter the short story competition before and thus had never heard any of Richard’s prize-winning stories, I saw my opportunity to claim the crown I so desperately craved. I would do exactly the same as he did: write a story about a football match between two random groups, and, just as Richard had done so successfully, would incorporate teachers and classmates alike into the game, with much hilarity undoubtedly ensuing.

But which two random groups would I choose as the names for the teams? I pondered long and hard over this, before finally settling on two which I thought were entirely appropriate and suitable.

Before I go any further, may I just remind you at this point that this was 1980. Granted, no longer the 1970s, but pejorative terms did not die the moment the 70s ended. And the two names I chose were still in common usage at the time, often bandied about in newspapers, or in sit-coms, and so I didn’t really consider what they actually meant. They were just words, as far as I was concerned.

May I also make it very clear that, other than in the context of this post, these are not words I would ever consider using nowadays.

I think that’s enough disclaimers. Allegations that “The lady doth protest too much” would surely follow if I carried on digging any further.

So, on what I was confident would the first of many triumphant wins, I stood up in front of my class, and in front of Mr Land, and began my story:

“It was the annual football match between The Poofs and The Pansies….” I announced.

“Erm…can I have a look at that please?” interjected Mr Land. I handed him my exercise book. He thumbed through it, a concerned look on his brow, before handing it back. “Okay. Carry on.”

I can only surmise that he hadn’t spotted the next sentence.

“And leading The Poofs out onto the field is their Captain, Mr Land….”

“I think we’ve heard enough of that now, thank you. Please sit down. Immediately.”

I learned a valuable lesson that day: never use words that you don’t understand. Which is why you’ll never find me writing about Pneumonoultramicroscopicsilicovolcanoconiosis anytime soon.

As I hang my head in shame, this seems appropriate:

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Spandau Ballet – To Cut a Long Story Short

More cringers soon.