Firstly, I wanted to do a mix unlike the Not Christmas one, which I thought strayed a bit too far into the territories of cheese or chart music. Whilst it served a purpose, it wasn’t really indicative of the sort of tunes which usually feature here.
This one, though is a corker, even if I do say so myself.
Regular readers may recall that way back in the late 1980s, I started DJ’ing at college because I was fed up with being able to guess what song the indie DJs would play next. So imagine my annoyance when my own brother told me that on a previous mix he’d been able to predict my next choice a couple of times. Grrr.
But this mix has proved to be such a pain to complete; when I came to do it today, it tells me that some of the tunes have been played 22 times, which gives you an idea of how many times I’ve tried to get this one right. Pretty much once a week, since Christmas.
What’s gone wrong all those times? Well, on more than one occasion professional pride kicked in: I’ve messed up a mix between tunes, so have elected to start again.
On more than one occasion, preoccupied with playing Solitaire or Candy Crush just to have something to do whilst recording the mix, there’s a sudden, irretrievable silence where the next record should be. Oops!
Once I forgot to stop recording until an hour later, and, triumphant at how the mixes had worked out, I couldn’t understand why the mix lasted over 5 hours, until I listened to it.
The other problem is booze. More than once, I’ve taken drink to such an extent that I’ve forgotten I was doing a mix until the silence after one record has finished hits home and startled me awake.
Last weekend, I got to the third record from the end, and suddenly woke up to silence and realised I’d messed up again. That’s not an indictment of the standard of the mix, by the way, more an example of how drunk I’d gotten.
Even last night, when I finally nailed it, it was my second attempt of the night, having got through most of the mix when I had a drink-spillage event, which I thought I’d sorted, until, four records from the end, suddenly the sound cut out whilst the tunes kept playing and I had no idea if it was still recording the sound or the sound of silence.
Anyway, we’ve got here, and this has been a real pain, so if you could take a listen, that would be great.
I will confess that I have broken the golden rule of not featuring the same act more than once in this mix; this wasn’t intentional, but as the various run-throughs progressed, I simply forgot said acts already appeared as “featuring” acts. One is deliberate. Sue me (Please don’t).
Time for the usual disclaimer: any glitches, skips or jumps are down to the software or the uploading/downloading process, and nothing to do with my limited mixing skills.
Oh, and the usual “effing and jeffing” warning applies; it seems I’m incapable of doing a mix which doesn’t include more than the occasional swear.
I’m not posting a link to download here, other than the one to Soundcloud, where you can either download or stream it.
I couldn’t be bothered with the last ones, but I’ve done it this time: you’ll see a list of all the acts featured in this mix at the bottom of the page, so you can check whether this one’s likely to be your cup of tea before going to the hassle of actually listening to it. If you’re particularly short of things to do, you can try to guess which song I’ve picked by which artist. There’s fun.
But by way of a description: pretty much all life is here, from indie rock to 60s California hippy-shtick, some Old Skool dance classics, some hip-hop and some soul classics via some Northern Soul belters via some TV show theme tunes (sort of); there’s some hoary old rock and some psychobilly, and a couple of tracks which should have featured in a New post by now, but the bands in question played the 6Music festival last weekend so you’ll probably know them intimately by now. And, of course, there’s The Fall.
Easy on the cheese this time, there’s even some poetry so we can all pretend we’re intellectual. You’ll have chance to dance, sit and recover for a few moments, before getting back on it again.
Available for a limited time (i.e. until I do the next one), you can download or stream this on Soundcloud here:
Yes, like a toddler who has just finished doing his business but doesn’t know how to wipe his own bottom yet, I stand before you, poking my arse in your general direction, innocent eyes pleading for assistance (I must say, this analogy works loads more than I expected it to), and announcing: The Chain is back!
Yes, I thought I’d have been a bit more prolific in writing these during “lockdown” too. What do you want me to say? I’m not Cher, I can’t turn back time.
Truth be told I’ve got a little too involved with two things recently: firstly, trimming down duplicate songs on my iTunes which prevent me from updating my iPod with anything I’ve acquired in the last twelve months or so; and secondly a DJ-mixing app which I’m determined to get to grips with so you can have some proper mixes by yours truly (which I’m sure you’re absolutely crying out for).
That aside, I’ll start with a recap: last time out, we were left with this as our source record:
Ordinarily, the easiest way to come up with a suggestion is to link to any of the words in the title or the artiste (this isn’t a criticism, it’s how I come up with about 90% of my own suggestions), but when you’ve only got three words to work with, it makes things tricky, and some serious creativity (by which I mean showboating) is needed.
So, in terms of a running order this time around, I thought I’d work through the suggestions which link to Donovan, then to Mellow, then to Yellow, and then we’ll all crash back onto our beds as we climax with those that have drilled down a little deeper, so to speak.
But first: a spoiler. Well, two actually. Firstly, nobody suggested the next record in the actual Chain this time around, and secondly there is no Showboater of the Week award this time. Don’t get me wrong, there’s some great records about to cross your path, ingeneously reached, but nothing quite point-worthy (Does anyone know where George, the Undisputed King of Showboating, is, by the way?).
There is most definitely a Worst Record of the Week award. In fact, it’s arguably the worst record I’ve ever posted, and I’ve posted The Wurzels before now (and will do again!).
OK, so let’s kick off with the Donovan related stuff. And where better to start than with something from Rol of My Top Ten fame who seems to have become my standard person to start with, even if his first suggestion this time around was somewhat confrontational:
“Do we also lose points if we mention Jason Donovan? Surely history has been kinder to him that Coldplay?”
I should explain. I signed off the last edition of The Chain with the words: “Minus points to anyone who suggests Coldplay. You’ve been warned.” This was intended not so much as a slur against the band, even though I do think they’re absolute dog-shit (through-gritted teeth: with a couple of admittedly decent songs in their back catalogue that they’ve inadvertently stumbled upon).
Besides, I was rather surprised at Rol’s reticence to suggest a bit of Jason Donovan, given that many years ago, noting my “There’s no such thing as a guilty pleasure” tagline, he had reached out to me for a bit of support in justifying…I won’t say his love of, nor admiration, but…the fact that he quite liked some records by Erinsborough’s second finest pop star (and no, Stefan Dennis is not the first). I duly responded with a post explaining why liking Jason Donovan records is perfectly acceptable, which, since I seem to be a little short of clips and funnies this time out, included this:
Anyway, after much to-ing and fro-ing, Rol was placated by me saying I’d happily post something by the definitely-not-lemon-juice-haired-Aussie wonder, so here we go. And a further explanatory word from Rol:
“I do remember thinking Too Many Broken Hearts was a half decent pop song, even at the time (and I generally hated everything SAW did). Plus, I saw Jason in the War of the Worlds stage show a few years ago and he was much better than Marti Pellow.
And before you ask: no, that’s not the worst record of the week. Not by a long chalk. (Is that a phrase? ‘Tis now.)
So, who else came up with a suggestion to the word Donovan? Well, now’s the time for the fevered mind that is Rigid Digit (the man responsible for all that appears on Stuff & Nonsense), to step up to the plate with his first suggestion, which whilst it links to the Donovan name, gives us a good steer as to the waters we may well find ourselves paddling in later:
“Donovan could’ve become Father-in-Law to a Mr S Ryder from Manchester.
His daughter Oriole shacked up with Shaun, and gave birth to one of his (many) daughters.
And if it wasn’t Shaun, then Donovan’s other daughter was knocking about with Paul Ryder.
The Happy Mondays had the song “Donovan” on Pills n Thrills & Bellyaches (which also samples a bit of Sunshine Superman).
Ok, that’ll do for Donovan/Jason Donovan links. Let’s move on to links to the word Mellow. And it’s back to Rol, who, still somewhat reticent and tail between his legs for the Jason Donovan situation, came back with this as a very strong contender:
“Mellow Birds was a particularly rank brand of Instant Coffee that was popular when we were growing up and therefore became my first experience of coffee… which I promptly decided I didn’t like much and stuck to tea. It took me years to try coffee again and see the error of my ways.
Anyway, here are two songs that link vaguely to that….”
I imagine you will all know that McCartney was due to headline on the Saturday night at Glastonbury this year, until bloody Covid-19 ruined everything. Not that I had a ticket, mind. But as previously mentioned elsewhere on these pages, I was fortunate enough to see him there when he headlined in 2004. He played Blackbird that night, I thought at about the second or third song, but trusty songlist.fm tells me it was tenth in the set. Either way, I remember it as we all sang along, realising what a special set I was watching.
Indulge me for a moment:
Apart from all the deaths and distrust that Covid-19 has brought, I think it’s important that we remember and recognise the cultural impact too.
Anyway, where next?
Well, in case you haven’t been paying attention, we’re still on the section where we’re looking at songs which link to the word Mellow, so what else have we got?
Over to the phoenix from the flames that is The Robster, who I’m sure we can all agree we’re delighted to see has been coaxed out of semi-retirement to start posting again over at Is This The Life which currently has an angry but sad tribute to the man who wrote the song the blog is named after, Tim Smith of Cardiacs. I urge you to read it it, and if you don’t know the music of Cardiacs, follow The Robster’s suggestions. He knows his stuff.
As you will see shortly, Rob has done that age-old trick of mentioning but not really suggesting songs, knowing full well that I won’t be able to resist and will end up posting everything he utters. That was at the end of the line of a series of “Well, there’s this…but no…or this…but nah…” mentions which, true to form, will pop up later. (This is not a criticism, by the way.)
Next up is Swiss Adam from bagging area; now to be fair, this is the third of his suggestions (the others will be along shortly), hence it’s brevity:
“Mellow Gold, Beck. He’s a loser baby so why don’t you kill him?”
There’s another reason I’ve posted that next, and that’s because I figured we could all do with a ruddy good sing-a-long. I’m right, right?
Actually, that’s the first time I’ve listened to that in God knows how many years, and I had a flash-back to singing it at junior school. I, ever desperate to get a laugh out of my friends, would perform the call-back bits in the final verse, paper-and-comb-in-mouth voice and all. I remember our headmaster, face knotted in fury, stalking along the lines of children, trying to locate the source of some unexpected joy, which was not of course permitted. He never caught me (for that). But looking back, what a desperate for attention little squirt I was back then, says the man who writes a music blog in his 50s, as if he’s changed.
Over now to PhonicPat“Here we go, linking the yellow I’ve gone for a a cautionary tale for everybody…”
…because ‘if yellow is mellow…’ and it is a great song.“
Indeed it is, and one filled with memories for me, for it was a song we used to perform in the band I was in at college. We loved it for it was easy to learn: three chords, a drumfill and lots of thrashing our instruments within an inch of their lives. I tried to explain that most Quo records met at least two of those criteria, but my protestations fell on ironically deaf ears.
I mention this now because there exists some recordings of us playing live, done through the mixing desk and they are, without question, hilarious, for all the wrong, unintended reasons. I’m hopeful that the lead singer can locate said tapes so I can convert them to mp3s to post here, and we can all have a jolly good laugh. Watch this space.
Carrying on with the Yellow theme for now, and I’ll hand you back to Nathan, who has a couple of ideas in this area:
“…McCartney/Beatles connection…Yellow connection…vague drug reference a la “Mellow Yellow”…a three-fer?
I admire your enthusiasm Nathan, but sorry, no. The source record isn’t by McCartney or The Beatles, and as for the drug reference, well, we’ll come to that soon enough.
In the meantime, you’ll recall I mentioned earlier The Robster’s cunning plan where he names a lot of records that he isn’t suggesting, knowing full well I won’t be able to resist posting all of them. Time to revisit. Brace yourself, for here we go:
“Where do I start with this one? Yellow? Too easy..:”
I’ve deliberately not picked the original of that one. Click the link and you’ll see why (it’s beautiful). And I don’t just mean because it’s not the Counting Crows version.
Anyway, as you were Robster:
” ‘…Yellow Submarine…’ ” (We’ve had that!) “…I could go on. And on and on…” (I know, I’ve read your blog (just kidding!) received emails from you extolling the virtues of Newport Town FC). “So one that some people might not know is…”
But The Robster hasn’t finished yet. Oh no. Here he comes with his link to Donovan, which should have featured ages ago but I can’t be bothered with going back and putting it in its rightful place.
Go on then Robbo, fill yer boots:
“I’m going back to brilliant cartoons. Donovan once played himself in an episode of Futurama, which has a character called Fry. The wonderful Stephen Fry (credited as Prof. Joseph Yupik) lent his voice to the title track of (the even more wonderful) Kate Bush’s 50 Words For Snow album.”
Yes, it’s almost August, but here’s a song about snow:
Which, fortuitously, leads me nicely onto the final category: all things Donovan-trivia related and associated rudeness.
But before we go there, a couple of the more obtuse suggestions. The Chain Gang may remember that for the past two episodes, The Great Gog has been obsessed with the county of Hampshire. Now, he has a new fixation:
“We move now to Hampstead. The Mellow Yellow album features a track entitled Hampstead Incident. I can think of only two other songs that include this part of North London in their titles:
“(Released in 1987 and 1988 respectively – clearly a time when this area was inspiring Britain’s songwriters)”
Wise words, great mate.
Back then, before the final push, to Swiss Adam from Bagging Area:
“Husker Du, legendary indie punk pioneers covered a Donovan song, Sunshine Superman in 1983. In fairly breakneck style. I’ve just scrolled up and seen another reference to that song but not the Du’s cover. They also covered the theme to the Mary Tyler Moore Show…which is ace but doesn’t really link to mellow or yellow.“
Yeh, but it’s the kind of almost showboating that I mentioned earlier, so I’ll allow it:
I think we left Rigid Digit mid-flow a little earlier, so perhaps we should check back in on him:
” ‘…Pills…” is probably the Mondays high point – it’s a bit of a mess after that, and the next album was a bit a a damp squib. They had it, they lost it, and Tony Wilson probably thought it was great art to fail in this manner (and drag his record company down with them). But … Shaun returned with Black Grape proving he still had it (not sure he’s got “it” now – he’s already been on the Help I’m Stuck In The Jungle, Can I Have A Career? thing on ITV, and is probably second or third reserve for a place on The One Show sofa)..”
You haven’t watched him and Bez on Celebrity Gogglabox, I’m guessing. In case there was any doubt, Bez is shown to not be the sharpest tool in the box. Not that there was much debate in this area beforehand. This is a man who is so simple he managed to get himself disqualified for cheating on Celebrity Bargain Hunt. Sadly, we will never know if he’s like he is now because of the vast amount of drugs he took in the (I hate to narrow it down, but let’s say) late 1980s to early/mid 1990s. I think we can hazard a guess. As for Shaun, for a man who claims to have given everything up, his face is a very odd shade of bright pink. It’s almost like he’s self-glazing. Neither know how to complete a sentence without liberal use of the F-word. Not that I object to this, but come on guys, just one phrase without it, please.
Before we go any further, some background knowledge which you will need to have if what’s to follow is going to make any kind of sense. So have a read of this, which I have pilfered from wiki:
The song was rumoured to be about smoking dried banana skins, which was believed to be a hallucinogenic drug in the 1960s, though this aspect of bananas has since been debunked. According to Donovan’s notes, accompanying the album Donovan’s Greatest Hits, the rumour that one could get high from smoking dried banana skins was started by Country Joe McDonald in 1966, and Donovan heard the rumour three weeks before “Mellow Yellow” was released as a single. According to The Rolling Stone Illustrated Encyclopedia of Rock and Roll, he admitted later the song made reference to a vibrator; an “electrical banana” as mentioned in the lyrics. This definition was re-affirmed in an interview with NME magazine: “it’s about being cool, laid-back, and also the electrical bananas that were appearing on the scene – which were ladies’ vibrators.”
So, to be clear, I have allowed songs which relate to the smoking of illicit substances as that is generally, if inaccurately, assumed to be what the song is about, but none can acquire points. Sadly, since my Mother will be reading this and I’ll have to look her in the eye again at some point, I also have to include any suggestions linked to Lady Love Toys too.
Let’s tantrically wait a while before we submit to the buzzing suggestions which involve items of self pleasure, and we’ll hear from long time-blog faithful, but (I think) first time Chain contributor, Lynchie Fae Enburdeeen:
“Donovan’s “Mellow Yellow” includes the verse:
“Electrical banana Is gonna be a sudden craze
Electrical banana Is bound to be the very next phase”
Which leads me on to the greatest marijuana songs ever written – performed by the fabulous twin lead guitar band Man, who would occasionally perform this song with a full Welsh male voice choir.
I had, and still have, no idea if it’s true that that’s Saffron or not. It doesn’t sound like her to me. But I’m letting it in with no fact-checking because if it’s not true, then it deserves admission just for the balls-out nerve of making such a claim up.
But whilst we’re on the subject of Saffron, here’s Nathan again:
How about Saffron – singer for Republica…Republica doing…:
“During these days of lockdown I’ve been threatening to get my guitar down from the loft and serenade the neighbours. Problem is I only ever got to song number two in my “Teach Yourself Guitar” book, which was (I’ll get to the point trust me) Catch The Wind by Donovan. For years I used to mix up that song and his other one Colours, to come up with Colours Of The Wind which is an entirely different affair from the Disney film Pocahontas, but the next song certainly won’t be that one.
As a follow up I’m going to go for Worst Song suggestion – Donovan also recorded Sunshine Superman. Superman was the name of a novelty record by Black Lace which had been originally recorded by two Italians with the title Gioca Jouer. To quote from wiki: ‘The song featured a number of dance gestures that acted out the lyrics – including sleeping, waving, hitching a ride, sneezing, walking, swimming, skiing, spraying deodorant, sounding a horn, ringing a bell, flexing muscles as a “Macho Man”, making the letters “OK”, blowing kisses, combing and flying like Superman.‘”
Brace yourself. This is unspeakably awful, and fully deserving of the only points I’m dishing out this time for Worst Record:
…which was selected because Donovan and Bono share a birthday.
I know. Rubbish, right?
Anyway, you know the drill: submit your suggestions for songs that link to Beuatiful Day by U2 via the Comments section below, or by email to email@example.com and eventually I’ll get round to writing the next instalment.
Last night I travelled south of the river to see The Flaming Lips play at the Brixton Academy (which officially has mobile phone network in the name, but not in my head, nor anybody else I know who has ever been there).
Needless to say, they were magnificent, and (if I can be bothered) I’ll write a review of it later in the week.
Until then, here’s the song they finished with, as they always do (I think); probably their most-loved song, a glorious philosophical musing on life, death, love, optimism and existentialism:
Unless you’ve been living under a rock, it can’t have escaped your attention that the Olympics start officially later tonight (if you count the opening ceremony as it starting) or tomorrow (if you count it as starting when the competitions actually do).
Of course, whichever opinion you subscribe to, you’re wrong, for the Olympic football tournament started two days ago, but since this is generally being ignored here in the UK as Team GB didn’t qualify (did we even try…? Couldn’t have been a more humiliating experience than Euro 2016 was, I guess), you can be forgiven for that.
Anyway, pack me a lunchbox and call me Linford, I’ve only gone and done us a Friday Night Olympic playlist. Try to contain your joy.
So here goes, 12 songs which are (very) (tenuously) linked to the Olympics. And no sign of that bloody Spandau Ballet record anywhere.
First up, no surprise that I’ve managed to crowbar this lot in:
Next, a song which is actually about a motor race, which means it isn’t a race that appears in the Olympics (I think. I dunno. I haven’t checked), but the theme is roughly the same. Plus, I’ve not heard it for ages:
Mention the name “Queen” and one other band springs to mind, a band who famously had a song which actually mentions an actual Olympic sport, albeit somewhat colloquially, in the title. But I’m not playing Queen tonight; instead this rowdy lot:
In 2012, on the night of the opening ceremony, I was at a works party. The party had nothing to do with the Olympics, and was held in the beer garden of a local pub, whilst TV screens in the bar showed the opening proceedings. I have to admit, in the run up to the games, I was firmly in the “We’re going to make a right pig’s ear of this” camp, and had little to no intention of watching any of the games. However, the appointment of Danny Boyle, he of Trainspotting, Shallow Grave and Slumdog Millionaire fame, to direct the opening ceremony piqued my interest, and every time I went to the bar – which was often – I found myself watching the television, bordering on the entranced.
I got home later that night, found it on the BBC iPlayer, and watched it right through.
The next morning, I woke up on the sofa, my television on stand-by, and watched it again/properly. I hadn’t been mistaken. It was bloody amazing.
Soon after the Games finished, I bought a copy of the DVD box-set. The first disc contains the opening ceremony, the other two the highlights of the games. The first is possibly the most watched DVD that I own. The other two haven’t even been out of the box.
Why is this relevant? Well, the other night I had a text from Hel, asking if I’d watched the BBC documentary about the making of the ceremony. I hadn’t, and sat down to watch it the following night.
For the next couple of hours, I was transfixed, in exactly the same way as when I first watched the actual opening ceremony. The documentary, part of Alan Yentob’s “Imagine” series, contains behind the scenes footage, including the teaching of all the thousands of volunteers, some of whom had to learn to dance, others to drum; it has interviews not just with all the main creative players (Boyle himself, Underworld’s Rick Smith who was the musical director, etc. etc.) but also with several of the volunteers, some of whom have moving stories to tell about why they were there, and what happened to them on the night and as they trained for it. For example, in the “Saturday Night/Music” sequence, which tells the story of a boy and a girl meeting on a night out: I had assumed that both of them were trained actors/dancers. But no: both just normal kids, who’d volunteered to take part, and had been picked from the masses to play a major role in the event.
But there was one scene which stuck in my mind, filmed in the tunnel where the volunteers involved in the aforementioned sequence were waiting to enter the stadium. Out there, the Sugababes’ “Push The Button” is playing; in the tunnel, they are going mental, all bouncing up and down with excitement, singing along and cheering…it’s wonderful to behold. If you have chance to watch it, I urge you to do so. You won’t be disappointed.
So, that’s why the Sugababes are here. They’ve probably changed line-up about seven times since I started writing that, mind (obligatory Sugababes revolving line-up joke, there).
Back to a song which I don’t really think can be criticised for being included in a playlist on an Olympics theme:
And so to round things off, a song from my favourite album by this band (a controversial choice, I believe), which I dedicate to every athlete from every nation taking part. May you hear yours many times over the next few weeks.
The plan for this week’s post was to travel back to 1983 and talk about some of the records I bought back then. But I was, and still am, truth be told, struggling to think of anything much of interest to say about any of them. So as I was lazing around my blog-cave today, seeking inspiration by watching “Pride” (which is rapidly becoming my favourite film ever; if you’ve not seen it yet, I urge you to do so: it’s the one of the best films ever about the relationship between gays, lesbians and striking miners. Well, I say one of the best: it’s definitely in the Top 10 of that saturated genre, anyway), when I received an email from See Tickets, telling me that my tickets for this year’s Glastonbury had been posted out to me today.
Yes, indeed. Glastonbury here I come. This will be my 6th Glastonbury, the first being back in 2003. I guess you could say I was a bit of a latecomer to the whole festival scene, and some will probably take this as evidence of Glastonbury being tailored towards the more middle-aged, middle class clientele these days than it used to be.That might well be the case; since I didn’t go to my first Glastonbury until 2003, I have no frame of reference as to what it was like in the good old days, bar the usual old stories about how much better it was before the fences went up, and of course Julian Temple’s rather wonderful 2006 rockumentary, pithily entitled “Glastonbury”. (I don’t know how he does it, I really don’t)
Glasto 2003 wasn’t the first festival I’d been to. No siree bob. The first festival I went to was Reading in 1989, at the end of my first year at college. (I appreciate calling it a college makes me sound like a plaid-shirted, gum-chewing, Chevy-driving, yee-hawing Yankee, but having dossed around far too much at school, I didn’t get good enough grades to go to a University, and I ended up going to a Polytechnic. A Polytechnic was a place where people not bright enough to go to University, but who weren’t ready to go get a proper job yet, ended up, like an Immigrant Holding Cell for the moderately clever but lazy. It became a University literally moments after I graduated. I’d no sooner handed back my mortar board and gown after my graduation ceremony than they started painting over the sign and giving the whole campus a makeover. I swear they were waiting for me to leave.)
Reading 1989 was an experience I was not keen to replicate, hence the 14 year gap before I attended another festival. This was the first year after it stopped being “Reading Rocks” (I believe a bottle of piss throwing incident involving the crowd, Meatloaf and Bonnie Tyler was the final nail in the coffin of that particular incarnation of Reading. Tyler has subsequently apologised). My reluctance to go to another festival had nothing to do with the line up at this one: the headiners were Friday: New Order (tick!); Saturday: The Pogues (tick!); Sunday: The Mission (ah well, can’t have everything, I suppose).
Utter virgins at this kind of thing, me and my mate Ian had turned up with a borrowed tent on the Friday morning, pitched and rocked up to the Main Stage (I say Main Stage, my recollection is that it was the only stage, although I’m open to correction there), just in time to a) miss Gaye Bikers on Acid (result!) and b) catch Spacemen 3. I was already a massive fan of their “Revolution”, which regular readers may remember I posted a while ago in those wildly optimistic pre-election days. Next up were My Bloody Valentine: this would have been around the time they were starting to record the masterpiece that is their “Loveless” album, and so the set comprised, as far as I recall, mostly of early versions of what would go on to become that fine album. I was totally blown away by them. And of course they played this, which I still think is one of the greatest, noisiest records ever made that I somehow managed not to buy.
(Actually, I know how I managed not to buy it: I had just started DJ’ing the Indie Night at the Student’s Union, so I could listen to it as much as I liked there, often getting paid to play it. At least one person I know would say that no amount of money would be enough to make her listen to it.)
But anyway, I digress. This isn’t about Reading or me DJ’ing – I can talk about both another time. And I will. You’ve been warned.
No, this is about me popping my Glasto cherry,
Now, I don’t intend to review each act I saw that year, or on any of the years I’ve gone to since; gig reviews are not really what I do here, and besides, there are people who do gig reviews a whole lot better than I could (which reminds me, if you get chance, check out Lorraine’s blog over at “Still GotManners“. She’s very good, and has a taste for going to the right gigs; her recent review of the Super Furries recent gig in Glasgow is so on the money you’ll see why I didn’t even attempt to write a review after I saw at them at Brixton Academy a few weeks back. No point – she’s already done it far better than I could have managed)
So, Glasto 2003. 10 of us had managed to get tickets – these were the days before it sold out in 26 minutes, and we’d all spent hours redialling and clicking refresh. Seven of us hired a minibus and drove up from Cardiff on the Thursday, the other three came from further west in Wales (Neath) and we not only all managed to meet up, but also pitched our tents together. This would not happen these days; if you’re not there first thing Wednesday morning when the gates open, you’re going to struggle to find space to pitch one tent, let alone a group of tents. Somewhat optimistically, we pitched them in the round, and woke up on the Friday morning to find someone had pitched theirs right in the middle of our group. Morning!
You’ve probably noticed a reluctance in the past for me to name people I’m writing about (I haven’t even told you my brother’s name, and he’s been mentioned loads), and that’s because I wanted to afford them some level of anonymity, just in case I ever write about anything on here they would rather I didn’t announce to the world. But usually I’m just talking about one person, and they know I’m writing about them; now, with 10 of us, I think it’s time to call a register.
There was me (Hello! Nice to meet you. Thanks for stopping by), my flat mate Llyr, his sister Hel, two of our mates O’Keefe and Ballard (mates from work, both blokes, hence referred to by their surnames, as is the tradition), Mike and Vicky (married, from Neath), Johnno (not a bloke, hence everyone else apart from me calling her Claire), Mark and Val (couple, also from Cardiff). I wish I saw all of these people more often than I do these days. What a merry band we must have looked as we all wandered around the site on the Thursday afternoon, drinking in the atmosphere, before visiting the late night fun on offer that night, and then we finally traipsed off to the Pyramid Stage ready for the first act, on stage around mid-day on the Friday.
We decided we’d head towards the back of the field (stopping off at the bar on the way up, of course) and positioned ourselves right at the top of the slope. There’s a first aid tent there we decided was a convenient reference point in case any of us got lost. I’ve used this as a rendezvous every year that I’ve been since.
First act on were The Darkness. This was before they went massive – or as massive as they got – and imploded (before reforming). We’d never heard of them, but were all pretty impressed with them.
About mid-way through their set, it started raining. Of course it did. Disorganised Glasto virgins as we were, none of us had considered bringing waterproof clothing out with us, so we all purchased what was essentially a transparent bin bag with a hood and two arm holes cut into it from an enterprising local who wandered past. Hilariously, Mark’s only had one arm cut in it, and I will never forget the utterly pissed off look on his face as he attempted to smoke a cigarette using the tethered arm, as rain dripped off his brow.
Next up was the newly reformed Inspiral Carpets, who we all loved, being from “our era” as they were, followed by Echo & the Bunnymen, who the continued rain seemed to suit (and who I also loved). It was a running joke for years later that wherever we went, Mr McCulloch and co would be playing somewhere; it was some years later before a year happened where we didn’t see Echo & the Bunnymen play.
Still the rain continued. It was that fine rain, the sort that soaks you right through. Some of the gang wandered off to go and watch other things – namely Junior Senior, and Har Mar Superstar, the latter of which has resolutely failed to tickle my fancy. But I remained, along with a few of the others to watch the Inspirals and the Bunnymen. Later acts were De La Soul and Jimmy Cliff, and it was during one of these acts that the sun finally decided to reappear. It’s such a simple pleasure, but there’s very little better in this life than the sun coming out at Glastonbury; you can feel the mood of the whole place lift.
You can tell this was my first Glastonbury, because I pretty much spent the rest of the weekend in the same spot, watching all the acts come and go on the Pyramid Stage. This was fine by me, for although The Other Stage culminated on the Friday with Super Furry Animals, with Primal Scream headlining, R.E.M. were playing the Pyramid, and there was no way I was going to miss them. This would be the third time I’d seen them, and I still say that the greatest gig I ever went to was not this one, but R.E.M. at the Newport Centre in 1989 promoting the Green album. More of that another time.
(NB – when you arrive at Glastonbury, you’re given a little booklet showing the band times for the whole weekend; having just checked mine from 2003 (of course, I’ve kept it) I find that my recollection is a little skew-whiff: apparently Super Furries headlined the Other Stage on the Saturday night, and Jimmy Cliff played the Pyramid on the Saturday too. This is not my recollection, although I’m certainly not going to argue. But this is about what I remember, so take it that the running orders from hereon in may not be accurate. The views and opinions expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of the organisers of Glastonbury, you could say. The reason my memory might be a little off beam will become clear…),
R.E.M. would at this time, 2003, have been promoting, or at the very least working on, their “Around The Sun”, generally accepted as being the worst album they ever made. This is not a consensus I would disagree with; bar one, maybe two songs, it’s an absolute stinker. Thankfully, most of the songs on there were still in their early stages, so we were subjected to very few of them. Instead, we basically got a Greatest Hits set, which is, I think, what you want of an established band at a festival. Their gig was also memorable for Johnno complaining afterwards that it would’ve been nice to hear Stipe sing, rather than having my dulcet tones bellowing along to every song in her close vicinity. Here’s them doing Electrolite; ask me nicely and I’ll sing it in your ear throughout.
So ended Friday. On Saturday, a few of us settle ourselves at roughly the same spot, and it was here that an extra member of our group was introduced to me. One of our little gang (who shall remain nameless, for fairly obvious reasons) had brought it upon themselves to bring some cakes with them. Brownies, to be precise. As you can imagine, there was chocolate in them. And one other vital ingredient, which you can work out for yourself.
The sun was absolutely blistering that day; yet we munched on the brownies like they were going out of fashion (which they had, around 30 years earlier) and then found ourselves totally incapable of speaking, let alone moving, for the rest of the day. I remember sitting next to O’Keefe and neither of us uttering a word for about 2 hours, just looking at each other every now and then and either giggling or just staring. And this was nothing to do with not being able to be heard over the sound levels.
All sorts of cretinous acts passed before us, who I would not normally have gone within a mile radius of. However it’s quite amazing how you find yourself able to endure the likes of Jools Holland and his Boogie Woogie Band (that’s probably what they were called, anyway), Turin Brakes and (I think) David Gray when you are so utterly mashed on space cakes that your legs don’t work.
O’Keefe, from somewhere, suddenly managed to muster the energy to get up and move. He later told me he thought he was going to get sunstroke and decided he had to go and try and find shade, which he did, in one of the Dance Tents, where he promptly had a kip to the sound of some banging techno.
(On returning home, I read about a woman, probably a bit older than I am now, who had been spotted at the festival, clearly off her face, naked, propped up against a bandstand in one of the peripheral fields, legs akimbo, demonstrating the old rustic art of Bean-Flicking to anyone who cared, or could hold their falafel down long enough, to watch. There but for the grace of God, and all that….)
One of the highlights (I think) O’Keefe missed was The Polyphonic Spree, a band I was aware of and had heard a couple of tracks by, and who seemed to be going for the record for Most People on a Stage Wearing White Smocks. They were great, perfect sunny afternoon whilst trashed fodder.
Saturday night was rounded off with The Flaming Lips (wonderful) followed by headliners Radiohead, who were just incredible. I, despite my brilliant plan of making sure every one was by the First Aid tent, managed to get lost on the way back from a trip to the loo, and found myself wandering almost to the front during Karma Police There’s something almost reassuringly unsettling about meandering around, lost in the dark, utterly mashed, in a crowd of some 100,000 or so people who are singing in unison that they’ve lost themselves. Yeh, you and me both.
On Sunday, I vowed that I wasn’t going to spend the whole day at the Pyramid Stage. And thus it was the case: plus everyone else swore off the remaining brownies and I was given the unenviable task of “looking after them” for the day. I decided that “Looking after them” could be interpreted as “eat as many as you like”, and I considered this a challenge I was up too. Cue me comatose outside the Acoustic Tent half listening to Roddy Frame as I drifted in and out of consciousness. The rest of the day is a bit of a blur, understandably. I know that I somehow managed to hook up with most of the gang over at The Other Stage in time to see Grandaddy (never heard of them before, loved them so much I bought some of their records when I got home), Sigur Ros (ditto) and Doves (already perfectly aware of them, thank you very much).
So that was Glastonbury 2003. If you’ve ploughed through all of that, you deserve some tunes: