I Am The Mouth

Shortly after I came up with the idea for what is now a hypothetical Indie night (just to recap: this was to play the songs by Indie acts which got forgotten in favour of more established dance floor fillers; indie music for the discerning palate, if you will) I  met up with my older brother.

We had a few drinks and discussed, first and foremost, music; we’re a long way down the road from when we were kids and we’d rather expose ourselves on the school bus than admit to liking the same music as our sibling.

In fact, for the past twenty five to thirty years or so, we’ve both given each other tips and nudges (and the occasional mp3 or burnt CD, which we later went on to purchase from a reputable dealer) about who we were listening to and who we thought the other would like.

Anyway, in this conversation, we started talking about bands who most people (and I don’t mean you, discerning reader, of course) hadn’t heard of, but who had obviously influenced an artist who was very much “of the moment”.

So I decided to extend the remit of the “I Am The Mouth” night (which has never happened) to include songs which had clearly made an impact on current acts.

And here are the two we were talking about. First, C86 stalwarts, The Shop Assistants:

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The Shop Assistants – Safety Net

and then, The Long Blondes:

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The Long Blondes – Once and Never Again

Hmmm. Now I listen to it again, that chord progression over the chorus reminds me of something else…

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The Smiths – I Want the One I Can’t Have

…which of course was borrowed for this Top Ten’er that I deftly avoided posting recently:

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The Housemartins – Happy Hour

More soon, don’t you know.

Claps, Clicks & Whistles #6

Just as I was heading to bed the other night, I performed my obligatory sweep of the TV channels to see if there was anything worth staying up for; I stumbled across “A Taste of Honey”, the film adaptation of Shelagh Delaney’s play, starring Rita Tushingham and Dora Bryant. I wisely decided staying up to watch it all was not a good idea, so hit record closely followed by the sack.

As I drifted off into sleepy bye byes, at that annoying moment when your body is all ready to drift off but your brain suddenly thinks of something liable to keep you awake for some considerable time if not dealt with properly, I recalled that Delaney had featured as the cover star of a single by a band I adore. In fact, she also featured on the sleeve of an imported double compilation album by them too.

I would expect approximately 99.9% of you will know where I’m going with this already. The other 00.1%, listen up.

Today’s song formed part of a release which, it seems, led to the end of one of the greatest bands not just of the 1980s, but ever; a band whose legacy as an influence was not really appreciated by many until some 10-15 years after they split.

I speak, of course, of The Smiths.

August 1987, and The Smiths were about to release what would be their last album of original, studio-recorded material, “Strangeways, Here We Come”. But first, the lead single, “Girlfriend in a Coma”; the 12″ and, lest we forget, the cass-single formats heralded two tracks which were not to be included on the album.

The three tracks, “Girlfriend…”, “I Keep Mine Hidden” and “Work is a Four Letter Word” almost seem to compete against each other to see which can be over quickest, weighing in with timings of 2:04, 1:59 and 2:48 respectively. I don’t mean that they seem rushed, far from it. They just seem, well, short.

Brevity of course was a feature the band understood very well. Take “Please, Please, Please Let Me Get What I Want” which is just 1:53 long. That song is, simply, perfection. Anyone who thinks that “Please, Please…” suffers because of its duration fails to understand that the finest moments in life don’t last for long; you must cherish them, savour them, for soon they will be gone.

But I digress. One of those extra tracks, “Work is a Four Letter Word”, is often cited as being the reason The Smiths split. In an interview with Record Collector in 1992, Johnny Marr said: “‘Work Is A Four Letter Word’ I hated. That was the last straw, really. I didn’t form a group to perform Cilla Black songs. That was it, really.”

The final two singles the band released (“I Started Something I Couldn’t Finish” and “Last Night I Dreamt That Somebody Loved Me”)  soon followed, and it has just occurred to me that the additional tracks on those releases were all different versions of already established favourites: the Troy Tate produced version of “Pretty Girls Make Graves”, Peel Sessions of “Rusholme Ruffians”, “Nowhere Fast” and “William, It Was Really Nothing”, a live version of “Some Girls Are Bigger Than Others” (containing an extra verse, axed from the album version) , a live cover of “What’s The World”, a song by James.

That’s because, I now realise, “Work is a Four Letter Word” was recorded in the same session as “I Keep Mine Hidden” and as such today’s choice is the last ever original composition recorded by The Smiths:

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The Smiths – I Keep Mine Hidden

The same 99.9% of you will know that the original vinyl releases of all (or if not all, most) of The Smiths records had a message etched into the run-out groove. The message on the B-Side of “Girlfriend in a Coma” reads: “And never more shall be so”.

In other words: Goodbye.

More soon.

Mummy’s Brave Little Soldier

Hello. Been a bit quiet around here lately, hasn’t it?

Sorry about that, been a bit under the weather all week. I’ll not bore you with the details, but last weekend I got struck down by what some might call flu, others might rather disparagingly call Man Flu, but which I’m going to call a really heavy cold (mostly to neatly side-step any unkind messages advising me to man up).

I battled on with normal life, spending the last week alternating between sitting at my desk at work, coughing with a veracity and vibrato that knocks Storm Doris’ efforts into a cocked hat, and my bed, pausing only to quaff a Lemsip or a Hot Toddy or two along the way. Frankly, sitting down and writing stuff here fell off my list of priorities.

Anyway, although I’m still not feeling 100%, hopefully normal service – and yes, that includes The Chain – will now be resumed.

In the meantime, allow me to wheel out one of my catchphrases. These records seem appropriate:

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Mudhoney – Touch Me, I’m Sick

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The Smiths – Still Ill

(I’ve always loved the harmonica part on that version.)

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Gene – Fighting Fit

More soon. No, really.

I Am The Mouth

So after a weekend that involved me posting nothing but Shakin’ Stevens, Bucks Fizz, Darts, Dire Straits and two other Mark Knopfler based tunes, I suppose I ought to drag this back round to something a little less mainstream.

Think about every time that you’ve been at, what for the purposes of this section we call an ‘Indie Disco’, and then think of the different songs by The Smiths that you’ve heard being played. “This Charming Man”, obviously. “Bigmouth Strikes Again” maybe. Occasionally “Hand in Glove”. “Panic” less frequently (DJ’s tend to get a bit nervous of playing that, given it’ “Hang the DJ” closing refrain). “There Is A Light That Never Goes Out” often makes an appearance as an end-of-the-night dancefloor sing-a-long, signalling the fact that the lights are very much about to come on.

But today’s choice? Never, as far as I can remember, have I heard it played “out”, which given it has a shimmering extended funky disco-esque groove and a bassline that Nile Rodgers would be proud of, whilst still retaining it’s indelible Indie-ness, is a bit of a surprise.

Actually, that’s not quite true. I can think of one occasion when a DJ played it “out”, although I think you’d struggle to describe it as being at an ‘Indie Disco’.

This would have been around 1986, or maybe 1987, when I was at Sixth Form college studying for my ‘A’ Levels. Inexplicably, one afternoon my friend Richie and I are sitting in the Peterborough branch of McDonalds. This is inexplicable since Richie was definitely vegetarian at the time, and if I wasn’t one yet then I must have been very much on the cusp.

Possibly the reason we were in there was due to a second inexplicable fact: there was a DJ playing. Nobody famous, just some local Dave Doubledecks mobile DJ who had been hired in to provide something approaching atmosphere. I think we must have ventured in, intrigued and, more than likely, to take the piss.

We were definitely on our way somewhere, to a house party I think, as Richie had a plastic bag full of vinyl with him. As we sat there, the DJ, clearly bored with having to think of stuff to play all by himself, and possibly in a desperate attempt to alleviate his boredom by creating some sort of audience participation, went on to his microphone and boomed something along the lines of “If there’s a special record you want to hear whilst you eat, come on over and ask; as long as I have it, I’ll play it.”

We mischievously sidled over to him.

“Alright mate?” was my opening gambit of choice. “Play anything will you? Got any Smiths?”

“No, sorry mate” he replied.

At which point Richie stepped forwards, thrust a record into his hands and said “You have now. Title track please, it’s the last track on Side Two.”

Many of you will know that The Smiths only released four studio albums (compilations aside), and of those only two have title tracks: “The Queen is Dead” (and, similarly, you all know that the title song there is Track One, Side One) and the album that the DJ looked down to find he was now holding.

“You’re having a laugh, aren’t you?” he said, trying to off-load back to us the copy of “Meat is Murder” that he was suddenly, unwantedly, clutching. “I can’t play ‘Meat is Murder’ in a branch of McDonalds!”

“You just said you would!” I piped up. “‘As long as I have it, I’ll play it’. You just said it. And now you have it, so…if you don’t play it then I think you’ll find that technically that’s false advertising. Illegal. I’m sure the manager would be interested to hear about that, is he around….?” (I really was that much of an annoying, argumentative little git at that age. Some would argue that little has changed since.)

“Oh come on lads, don’t make me do this,” he pleaded, “I’ll either get fired or they’ll refuse to pay me….”

“You should have thought about that before you decided to take the corporate death machine’s dollar, matey,” Richie pitched in, in full Rik from The Young Ones mode.

“Look, how about I play the track before that, that’d be alright, yeah? A compromise?” It turned out to be a brilliant move by him; proving he knew today’s song and therefore probably the album too, it showed us that he was probably alright really: it saved his bacon’n’egg McMuffin.

And so it was that one Saturday afternoon in the late 1980s that Richie and I spent six and half minutes dancing to The Smiths in the Peterborough branch of McDonalds.

To this:

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The Smiths – Barbarism Begins at Home

Footnote: I mentioned this in passing to Richie a while ago. He had absolutely no recollection of it whatsoever. I can’t have made it all up, can I….?

More soon.

Late Night Stargazing

Johnny Marr has just had his autobiography published. I don’t have a copy yet – I bought Morrissey’s, loved the first half, but found the whole read spoiled by the twenty-odd page rant about the Court case where he and Marr were ordered to pay drummer Mike Joyce a larger slice of the royalties – but it’s on my list of things I need to buy.

There was an interview with Marr in The Grauniad yesterday, an article which made me feel immensely happy and proud of the fact that The Smiths happily nestle atop my list of my favourite bands ever. I know I often say that I’m not wrong for liking one particular record or another and you’re not wrong for disagreeing, but The Smiths are the exception that proves the rule: if you don’t like them, you’re just plain wrong.

You can read the article here.

Buried within the interview, you’ll see it noted which is Marr’s favourite Smiths tune is. This one:

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The Smiths – Last Night I Dreamt That Somebody Loved Me

I don’t know how he can definitively state which his favourite song is: mine changes every time I hear one. Maybe it’s the one he’s most proud of.

There are other bands that I love, but who have released the occasional clunker, but not The Smiths; every song is an absolute gem, perfectly formed crystals of astounding Indie pop.

And, in case you’re wondering what my thoughts are on an (unlikely) band reunion, I hope they don’t do it. For a start, I can’t think of a single band who have reformed that have produced new material anywhere near the level that they did in their heyday.

I never got to see them play live when they were going, I was far too late to the box-bedroom party. The only part of me that wishes for a reunion to happen is on behalf of my old buddy, Richard, the man who got me into The Smiths, the man I met too late to introduce me to them earlier in their short existence, and who had a ticket to go and see them (at Brixton Academy, I think) but (again, if I remember correctly) Marr broke his arm, the gig was cancelled, and never rescheduled. So, for Richard, I hope they reform, play one gig, at which he is the guest of honour.

But for me, I’d rather their legacy remained as it is, thank you very much. Unblemished. Perfect.

More soon.

Classical Corner

Some culture for you all this morning, even if the inspiration for me posting it comes from a less than cultural place.

On Thursday night here in the UK, the latest series of The Apprentice started. There is a USA version too (it came first, naturally) which is hosted by some chap called Donald Trump. The UK show, however, doesn’t feature an idiotic, racist, sexist, homophobic, lying orange baboon. Were it to follow the absolute template of the US show, then it would be fronted by someone from UKIP, if they weren’t battering the heck out of each other at the European parliament. (By the way, if UKIP hates Europe so much, why do they have so may Euro MPs?)

But instead of either of those options, we have British businessman and former Chiarman of my beloved Tottenham Hotspur, Lord Alan Sugar, who a group of aspiring businesswomen and men compete to impress, for the chance to win a £250,000 investment into whatever their loathsome business idea is.

(Say what you like about the British political system, but at least the only button that Sugar’s finger will be hovering over in six month’s time is on an Amstrad Em@iler Plus)

Each week, the group are split into two teams and set a task; from the losing team at least one person is “fired” from the show (obliquely referred to as “The Process” by Lord Sugar and all others involved in it).

The challenge this week was to sift through a warehouse full of mostly old tut, but with some genuinely high value items and antiques in there too, sort what may be of value, then go and flog it for as much as possible.

I love The Apprentice, and always look forward to seeing this year’s candidates, who, I was delighted to find this week, are the usual mix of greedy, egotistical idiots. There are already several that wind me up, and I can’t wait to see them unravel and fail over the coming weeks.

Anyway, I said there was going to be some culture today, and here it is. The music played every week over the opening titles of The Apprentice is this, taken from Sergei Prokofiev’s “Romeo and Juliet”. The movement in question is often referred to as “Montagues and Capulets” but is actually titled “Dance of the Knights”. It deserves to be played loudly:

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London Symphony Orchestra – Dance of the Knights

Indie pop kids of a certain age will know that The Smiths often used that as their walk on music, as can be heard here (just about) from the opening of their contract-fulfilling live album “Rank”:

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The Smiths – The Queen is Dead (live)

Of course, this is not the only time that Romeo and Juliet have been referenced in pop music (don’t worry, I’m not going to post Dire Straits’ “Romeo & Juliet” again). I’m thinking here of the mention of Montagues and Capulets in the Arctic Monkeys break-through hit from 2005 (really?? That was eleven years ago????), “I Bet You Look Good On The Dancefloor”. Here’s the video, which I’m posting instead of the song because a) I imagine you all know and own it already, and b) I love the moment drummer Matt Helders performs the backing vocals before delivering a pleased-as-punch wink to the camera:

Such a great record, that.

More soon.

The Chain #21

Well, it seems to be Wednesday evening again, and that can only mean one thing: I must remember to put my bins out. Oh, and host this week’s edition of The Chain.

You’ll recall we ended last week with The Cure’s “In Between Days”, and I invited you good folks to come up with songs which you can link to that record. The aim is, of course, in no particular order a) to showboat a little in your logic and song selection; b) to pick something which will cause a little debate in the Comments, be it about how great or how awful your choice is (never forgetting that, here, there’s no such thing as a Guilty Pleasure, hence recent inclusions from Busted, Chesney Hawkes, and PJ & Duncan, and you’re not necessarily saying that you like your own suggestion anyway), and c) trying to guess what the next record in the official BBC The Chain series, as featured originally on Radcliffe & Maconie’s Radio 2 show, which now airs on 6 Music.

After last week’s attempts to jiggle about with the running order, which frankly left me dazed, confused, and worried that I’d missed somebody out, I’m settling for an easy life this week, and resorting back to the tried and tested method of simply posting the suggestions as they were received.

So, first out of the traps this week was Rol from the My Top Ten blog, who was noticeable in his absence last week:

“Because I missed last week’s I thought I’d get in early this week… but now I’m spoilt for choice?

The Go-Betweens?

Inbetweener by Sleeper?

Torn Between Two Lovers?

Between The Wars?

Between My Legs by Rufus W.?

Walk Between The Raindrops?

All tempting, but…

Ultrasound – Between Two Rivers, from their 2012 album Play For Today. It’s lovely, it starts with a nice bit of a brass, and they’re about to release their third album any day now.

That’s my suggestion for this week.”

Now, I normally have a bit of a moan about being snowed under with suggestions, about how I might have to cap the amount of suggestions per person (I hope you all note that I’ve still not enforced that rule) but since Rol had mentioned so many potential links, and as he hadn’t proffered anything last week, I figured I’d be magnanimous and ask if he wanted to nominate a second. But there was no swaying him. Fair enough.

Here’s Ultrasound then:

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Ultrasound – Between Two Rivers

Be terrible if any of those Rol elected not to formally submit as a suggestion turned out to be the right one, wouldn’t it? (That’s my way of injecting a little suspense into proceedings).

Next up, here’s The Great Gog:

“In between days comes night. For some reason at this point Steely Dan’s “Night By Night” sprang to mind, and that’s a bit of an ear-worm of mine, so the rest of you can have a listen, too.”

Thanks GG, will do!

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Steely Dan – Night By Night

The next couple of suggestions I received were from babylotti:

“I’m going to link to ‘Days’, by The Kinks.”

Now that, I would suggest, is the complete opposite of Comment Showboating.

So here’s a factoid to make up for it: when Days was originally released, both the single sleeve and record label referred to the title as being “Day’s”:

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The Kinks – Days

See?

But wait! I stand corrected! Babylotti isn’t done yet:

“Ray Davies from the Kinks famously was seeing Chrissie Hynde for most of the 80s. Chrissie obviously being the mainstay of The Pretenders and I shall nominate their song called Back on the Chain Gang…”

I can’t really resist posting that one, for what I would hope are fairly obvious reasons:

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The Pretenders – Back on the Chain Gang

See that? That’s our theme tune, that is.

Time to welcome back the Badger from When You Can’t Remember Anything now, who rather presciently says:

“Right this won’t be the answer but…”In Between Days” used to be my ringtone when Mrs B phoned me. About a month ago I replaced that with ‘Digeridoo’ by Aphex Twin.”

You’re not wrong, Badger: that’s not the right answer. But since my knowledge of Aphex Twin pretty much begins and ends with “Windowlicker” and “Come to Daddy” I’m more than happy to oblige:

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Aphex Twin – Digeridoo

Time was, having just posted a tune which predominantly features a didgeridoo, I’d be able to make a really bad “Can you tell what it is yet?” gag, but alas no more. That particular comedic avenue has ended up the same way as the Animal Hospital: closed.

“Or” Badger continues, “Robert Smith formed a Cure off shoot called The Glove. Which links back to Hand in Glove by The Smiths.”

Badger knows from previous posts that a very simple way to make sure I raise no objections to a suggestion – not that I ever would, unless there is absolutely no link back to the source record – is to nominate something by one of my favourite bands ever, about whom I would never make any crass comments.

So with that in mind, here’s a picture of a man’s arse:

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The Smiths – Hand In Glove

You know that saying about how you have to wait ages for certain things to turn up – buses, or policemen, say – and then two turn up at once? Well add to that list “writers of the When You Can’t Remember Anything blog”.

Or to put it another way, here’s SWC:

“The follow up single to In Between Days was Close to Me that featured on the album Head on the Door. The first two words of which is the name of a very fine Jesus & Mary Chain track.”

This perplexed me at first, as I wasn’t aware of any Mary Chain single called “Close To”. But then the penny dropped, and such was my embarrassment at my own stupidity that I’m not going to get all pedantic and point out the album’s called The Head On the Door. And anyway, this is the first time we’ve featured one of their songs here on The Chain, so I’m not going to begrudge it. I mean, the words “Head” and “On” are still there, right?

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The Jesus & Mary Chain – Head On

SWC isn’t done yet though. Oh no.

“Or if you want cheese. Lol Tolhurst was once in The Cure. Lol is an expression for laughing. As is LMFAO. And they are Sexy, and They Know It.”

sexy-and-i-know-it-single-1LMFAO – Sexy and I Know It

Often on The Chain, I have to go searching the corners of the internet to track down copies of some of the songs suggested. I wish this had been one of them. But no, tucked away in the darkest corner of my external hard-drive, there it nestled.

Let’s move on shall we? There’s nothing to see here.

Here’s George:

“Linking Cure to Medicine, and Medicine Head’s first single His Guiding Hand, a song that The Swede will surely approve of, and a song rated by John Peel as one of the finest songs ever recorded.”

Indeed he did; in 2005 there was a Channel 4 documentary entitled “John Peel’s Record Box”, which focussed on a small, private collection of 143 singles representing some of his personal favourites, which Peel stored in a private wooden box. (It should be noted at this point, that said box contained no records by his most beloved band, The Fall: he kept them in a separate box).

You can watch the whole documentary here:

Needless to say from George’s introduction, His Guiding Hand” was in there. As is Status Quo’s “Down Down”. Just sayin’.

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Medicine Head – His Guiding Hand

Since we’re on the matter of John Peel, many of you will be aware that we’re fast approaching October 25th, the anniversary of his death, and a day where all those musically interested souls who owe such a debt to Peel try do something to honour his legacy. If you’d like to keep abreast of what events are going on, I’d recommend you a) visit the excellent Keeping It Peel blog, and b) follow @keepingitpeel on Twitter.

Anyway, I digress. Here comes Charity Chic, who decides to dip into that list of potential songs which Rol gave us right at the start:

“As Rol correctly points out there could be a link to Between the Wars by Billy Bragg…”

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Billy Bragg – Between The Wars

“…Kirsty MacColl brilliantly covered Days which babylotti mentions above. She also covered Billy Bragg’s New England so that would be nice”

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Kirsty MacColl – A New England

And you lot have clearly caught me in a good mood this week, because here’s a little extra treat for you. Lifted from one of those Radio 1 Live Lounge things (I think, I can’t actually remember where I got this from), but which as far as I know has never been commercially released (hence the less than pristeen sound quality and absence of a proper sleeve) is Kirsty and Billy performing an acoustic version:

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Kirsty MacColl & Billy Bragg – A New England (acoustic)

Moving on, but not quite so swiftly as we did to escape LMFAO, here’s Swiss Adam from Bagging Area:

“The Cure’s Just Like Heaven was memorably covered by Dinosaur Jr. Whose own song “Freak Scene” is one of the best songs ever recorded.”

He’s right you know. It really is:

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Dinosaur Jr. – Freak Scene

Here’s Alyson from What’s It All About, Alfie? who is definitely not a spy:

“If you feel unwell you probably want to find a Cure so will head Down To The Doctors where he/she will make you Feel Good again. Yes it’s Dr Feelgood with Down At The Doctors from me this week.”

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 Dr. Feelgood – Down At The Doctors

Heads up, George is back:

“I have a chain involving Tottenham Hotspur…”

Regular readers will now they’re my team, and Badger’s too, so in a week when we lost our opening game in the Champions League and then lost our main striker for an as yet undetermined period of time through injury, I was a little reluctant to invite George to expand on this.

I need not have worried:

“OK. Robert Smith of The Cure to Tottenham Hotspur footballer (of the 1960/1 double team) Bobby Smith. Tottenham Hotspur play at White Hart Lane (or used to) (Still do, mostly – Sports Ed), and Clay Hart was a country singer whose most famous song begins with these awesome lines “In a broken down apartment house lay a woman in labour…said by the grace of god I’ll have this child with the help of a neighbour”! Spring, by Clay Hart. Only in country music do you get such fabulous lyrics.”

And that, dear readers, is how to do Comment Showboating:

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Clay Hart – Spring

And that just leaves us with one suggestion, and this week that comes from The Swede from Unthought of, though, somehow:

“For my suggestion this week I’m going down the knob-twiddling route once again. David M. Allen co-produced a string of Cure albums, including ‘The Head on the Door’ from which ‘In Between Days’ is taken. Among Allen’s many other production credits is my favourite (and a criminally overlooked) Psychedelic Furs LP, ‘Book of Days’, from which I’ll choose ‘Torch’.”

You can’t beat a bit of know-twiddling in my book (innuendo very much intended), and it’s the type of link that doesn’t appear often enough here.

Anyway, here’s The Psychedelic Furs

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The Psychedelic Furs – Torch

And that concludes all of your suggestions for another week and I’m afraid none of you guessed what the record was in The (official) Chain. But before I reveal all, here’s my two suggestions, and I went down the same route as Alyson and George (with his first suggestion) did, going from The Cure to another word for a cure being a remedy, which led first to this, where Keith and the boys have got not just the poison, but the remedy too, which is one of those Good News/Bad News scenarios:

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The Prodigy – Poison

…which in turn led me to…(don’t worry, I’m not about to go all “Every Rose Has Its Thorn” or “Unskinny Bop” on you. They can keep for another day)…this:

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The Black Crowes – Remedy

Literally not heard that in years, and bloody great it still sounds too.

And so, to the official record and Rol, you are going to kick yourself, as are you CC for picking out the wrong one from his list of semi-suggestions. For the next record in the BBC Chain was chosen following this suggestion:

“… From ‘In Between Days’ to ‘Inbetween-er’…”

Ah well, never mind chaps, eh?

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21. Sleeper – Inbetweener

And that’s that for another week. So please submit your suggestions for songs which you can link to “Inbetweener” by Sleeper, along with your reasoning for the connection, via the Comments section down below.

I’ve got one already, unless one of you lot go and nick it first.

See you next week!

(More soon).