Touching You, Touching Me

Ah-Ha!

I promised myself I wasn’t going to write about the coronavirus – it’s bloody everywhere, literally, at the moment – but since my enjoyment of watching a repeat of Pointless was delayed on Thursday by Our Glorious Leader making a grand announcement asking two science experts to answer all the questions asked at a press conference on the very subject (remember when everyone was bored of experts? Not so bored now, are they?) I figured I may aswell chuck my two-penneth (soon to be post-Brexit currency) in the hat.

The past week has seen panic buying on a truly epic scale. Given the advice was to make sure you wash your hands for as long it takes to sing two verses of Happy Birthday (nobody has told me which Happy Birthday though: Stevie Wonder’s? Altered Images’?The Bluebells’….?), I wasn’t terribly suprised to visit my local ASDA the other day and find that there was not one bar of soap, bottle of liquid soap, or tube of anti-bacterial handwash out on the shelves, not even those crappy one-use travel size ones.

But this week has seen the sort of panic buying of toilet roll that makes you wonder if the coronavirus is sponsored by Andrex; I half expect to see a cute Labrador puppy wearing a face mask cough it’s way onto my TV screen at any moment.

Did I miss the announcement about the virus also causing stomach complaints? No, of course not; this is people preparing to “self-isolate”, a task I’ve been readying myself for for the majority of my adult life.

And that’s not all: a visit to the food aisles shows a similar problem – anything long life and non-perishable is being snaffled up by lunatics in advance of the end of days.

There’s a supermarket just around the corner from me, I go there every day to get my lunch. (A pasta salad and an apple juice, in case you’re interested). I always go to the self-service tills because, much as I object to their very existence, they serve the same purpose as the old “10 items or less” tills (which, I’m sure I’m not the only pedant who, whenever I saw one, would mutter “It’s fewer, not less” under my breath).

These particular tills are at right angles to the queue to use them, so the worst one to end up on is the first till, where everyone waiting is watching you and, if I’m honest, judging at the same time. And when I say ‘judging’, I don’t mean just what you’re buying (“Awww, look. He likes Jammie Dodgers, blesss him”), but your self-service till skills. I have lost count of the amount of times I have found myself screaming in my head “WHY AREN’T YOU PACKING AS YOU’RE GOING????”

The other day, I got to the front of the queue, with my two items, and watched the lady at the first till as she scanned nine packets of spaghetti (which explains why I had to settle for lunguini – fatter, less value for money – the other day), ten tins of tinned fish, and fourteen tins of baked beans, amongst a whole load of other multiple items.

Actually, if that’s what she plans to live off, the toilet roll panic is probably justified. “What’s for tea, Mum?” “Same as last night: fishy baked beans and pasta.”

(AND SHE DIDN’T PACK AS SHE WENT!!!)

And the thing about panic buying in this scenario is that it makes absolutely no sense whatsoever. If you buy all of the soap and hand sanitiser, then that means that all of the people you’re going to come into contact with won’t have it, thus increasing your chances of getting it. Also: any afficionado of post-apocalyptic drama will know that after the first outbreak, the next people who die are the ones who have stockpiled, for they will be attacked by those who didn’t. I mean, have these people never seen The Walking Dead?

You know where I’m going for the first tune of the day, right?

The Smiths – Panic

(Hang the PM, Hang the PM, Hang the PM….)

Anyway, Boris seems to have remembered that being Prime Minister actually means that he has to do prime minister stuff, and so he decided to make a couple of appearances this week; firstly to ask everyone to stop panic buying, which worked, obviously, and then there was the televised live press conference, where he generally deferred to the two science experts either side of him.

I’m genuinely suprised he didn’t make them wear white lab coats to underline: these men know what they’re talking about.

And here’s what the Government plan was: we’re not going to do anything, because this is going to worse before it gets better, and if we implement changes now, everybody will be bored by the time the virus hits its peak and we have to ask them to do more.

So, there would be no travel bans, no bans of large meetings (although as I’m writing this, I see the Government’s position on this has changed), such as the Cheltenham Festival, no nothing.

In much the same way as the stock-piling British public showed absolutely no faith in Boris’ intended-to-be-calming words a few days earlier, the entire football heirarchy met and – in direct contravention to all that Boris and his boffins had announced the night before – decided to suspend all games until April 4th, at least. Personally – and sorry to any Liverpool fans – I’m hoping the whole season is declared null and void in the hope that might mean Mourinho is no longer Tottenham’s manager, but I’m clutching at straws there.

Oh, and by the way, if, like me, you pay extra to your TV provider to be able to watch Premier League, Champions League, Europa League or any football which they would normally broadcast, then you’ll be delighted to hear that both Sky and BT Sport have no plans to reimburse us for the cost of the football we pay them to no longer be able to watch. Bless ’em.

Anyway, Boris’ advice was this: we need to “take it on the chin”, that “things will get worse before they get better”, and that the virus needed to spread through the country so that we could develop immunity to it, although he accepted that meant that “a great many people” would die as a result (I couldn’t find the actual quote, so I’ve paraphrased that one).

This is all worth mentioning because the Government’s actions are almost directly opposite to those being taken by pretty much every other nation, who are almost entirely in lockdown now. Even America, who only days ago had Trump declaring the virus was “fake news” – he’s nothing if not predictable – yesterday declared a national emergency (or, as Trump described it, “two big words”, like he was particularly proud of having known them, like a child who has just managed to use their potty properly for the first time and done two big boy brown ones).

This, in essence, is Boris’ tactic for dealing with the virus:

Mudhoney – Touch Me, I’m Sick

Fair play, I never had him down as a Mudhoney fan.

More soon.

(And I will kill you for a square of Cushelle.)

50 Ways To Prove I’m Rubbish #11

I can’t put this one off any longer.

I really was very late to succumb to the charms of The Smiths.

In fact, I only just caught them before their little bubble burst and *pooft* they were gone.

The first record by The Smiths that I bought was 1987’s Sheila Take a Bow, and it was probably the most important record I ever bought in my life.

For it was only then that I nailed my colours to the mast. I thought I loved the Quo – and I did love them, I really did, and still do (to a point) – but The Smiths were the first band who I loved that I felt actually meant something.

I mentioned in a post earlier this week, that it was my (now) 50 year old buddy Richard, who I met at sixth form, who opened my eyes to The Smiths, when he played me There is a Light That Never Goes Out in his bedroom one day. The next day, I went out and bought The World Won’t Listen, and my world changed.

It was one of those moments when you look back at a band’s previous singles and wonder how on earth you had managed to so grossly misjudge them.

Of course, How Soon Is Now? is a masterpiece! How did I not notice how wonderful William, It Was Really Nothing was at the time? How had I heard Heaven Knows I’m Miserable Now and not seen past the gladioli and faux misery to embrace the gloriously juxtapositioned upbeat guitar work and the fact that here was a band singing to me and about me?

The epiphany could have come slightly earlier, I suppose, when my cousin played me Panic, video recorded off Top of the Pops. I chose to ignore her.

Ho hum.

In the late 1980s, I did something I’d never done before and never did again: I bought a record advertised in the ads at the back of the NME. Wrote a cheque and posted it off to some anonymous PO Box.

Sure, it was a US import version rather than the UK original on the Rough Trade label, but by then it was a record I simply had to own.

This one:

The Smiths – This Charming Man

And the reason I paid (quite a lot) for that US import was because back then, in the late 1980s, before the advent of the internet where I could have just downloaded them, before all the reissuing, repackaging, repackaging (not a typo, a reference; you’ll get it, I think) had happened, this was the only way to own these two magnificent songs, which were not on any album at the time:

The Smiths – Jeane

The Smiths – Wonderful Woman

NB: My mother’s name is Jean. Put these two song titles together, knock off an ‘e’ (not a clubbing reference on this occasion) and although at the time I was a rebellious, obnoxious twat of a teenager, that’s her described.

Happy Father’s Day, Mum. (You won’t like any of these songs.)

More soon.

Barbarism Begins at Home

When I was fifteen (or maybe sixteen), I made some very dodgy life choices.

I dyed my hair blond, then black, the two dyes mixed, resulting in it going purple.

I bought, and frequently wore of my own volition, a pair of jeans which had a tartan print on them.

I got my ears pierced. Both of them.

I even bought a record by Bruce Willis.

Thankfully the internet didn’t exist, so I didn’t get groomed and persuaded to go off to Syria, live with IS, bear a child. Although given the aforementioned track record I wouldn’t want to rule out the possibility of much of that happening.

If anyone wishes to haul me over the coals, prosecute me for my crimes against fashion, or against the ears, then so be it.

But I would remain a British citizen, a luxury which was ruthlessly stripped from Shamima Begum this week.

Let’s be clear: I am in no way condoning her actions, or her apparent lack of remorse.

But she was just fifteen, young, vulnerable, and ultimately exploited.

So for Home Secretary Sajid Javid to strip her of her British citizenship and try and palm her off on another country, where she has never lived, has no links to, no history with, is outrageous.

It’s the action of a man posturing as a tough guy, positioning himself as a potential leader of the Conservative party.

Shamima was radicalised here, in the UK. In Bethnall Green. London. We should be letting her back in – and of course letting her feel the full force of our justice system for any crimes she may have committed.

And at the very least, maybe we can learn from what happened to her, and try to prevent it happening again.

She’s our problem. She’s our mess to clear up.

I’m sure Morrissey would love the fact I’m posting this in association with the above:

barbarism

The Smiths – Barbarism Begins At Home

More soon.

 

 

 

 

Late Night Stargazing

On the back of airing some of his recent rather unpalatable views, I’ve read several articles where the question has been posited: should Morrissey’s statements lead those who loved The Smiths should now take a long, hard look at themselves?

It’s a no-brainer for me. I’ve always tried hard to divorce an artist’s political viewpoints from the art that they make, as long as those political ideas don’t encroach into their art.

Let me give you an example. David Hockney is, undeniably, a very fine artist. And politically, I had thought his views broadly chimed. He declined a knighthood in 1990, something which almost always earns extra kudos points in my book. But then in 2017, he redesigned the masthead for The Sun newspaper, albeit for just one edition. To my mind, that’s an endorsement of the rag and all of that has been printed in it. Suddenly, I view his work with a little more suspicion.

As for Morrissey and The Smiths; well, you can look at the lyrics he wrote when he was in The Smiths and compare it to those he has composed in his solo career, and for me it’s very difficult to make a case that his lyricism hasn’t been in decline for quite some time now.

But look at some of lyrics from The Smiths days, and I’m still struck with just how achingly beautiful, evocative, poignant they could be.

Tonight’s song is one of those; they released two versions of this song – an acoustic version which appeared on Hatful of Hollow, and an electric version which pops up on the B-side of the What Difference Does it Make? single.

I’ve plumped for the acoustic version, albeit the 2011 version remastered by Johnny Marr. I don’t usually like to highlight specific lyrics, but these lines get me every time:

“When you cycled by, here began all my dreams

The saddest thing I’ve ever seen.

And you never knew how much I really liked you

Because I never even told you

Oh and I meant to.”

R-382135-1154695050_jpeg

The Smiths – Back To The Old House

More soon.

I Won’t Share You

I’ve spent much of the last couple of days watching the televised games from the 3rd round of the FA Cup (and avoiding the cricket, of course).

The 3rd round is where the Premiership team get involved, and on Friday night, that involved watching Liverpool v Everton, and one particular banner that the camera focussed in on caught my eye.

I wasn’t sharp enough to take a photo of it, but there it was, a red banner with a picture of Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp on it, along with the words:

“The drive
And the dreams inside
This is my time.”

How nice it was, I thought, that tribal and regional hostilities could be laid to rest and a fan from Liverpool could quote the final song, on the final (proper) album, by one of, if not the greatest, bands from Manchester, even if they didn’t realise that’s what they’d done:

Front Cover

The Smiths – I Won’t Share You

More, of a very different nature, soon.

Reissue! Repackage! Repackage!

“Re-issue! Re-package! Re-package!
Re-evaluate the songs
Double-pack with a photograph
Extra track (and a tacky badge)”

Part of me wants to disapprove of the latest reissued, remastered version of The Smiths’ The Queen is Dead.

But I really can’t.

Listening to the 3 discs (1: the album remastered, 2: demos and “previously unheard” material, 3: Live in Boston, much better than “Rank”) is like falling in love with the band all over again.

I think they missed a trick by leaving the brass – yes, the brass – off of the final version of “Never Had Nobody Ever” though:

cover

The Smiths – Never Had No One Ever (Demo)

Ordinarily, I’d not endorse something like this, but, frankly (Mr Shankly) this is a must own for fans.

Go get.

More soon.

How to Do a Cover Version

If ever there was a post that would earn me my second ever Take Down notice, this is it.

But then again, I’ve basically said that Bill Wyman is a paedophile on these pages before and nobody batted an eyelid, so maybe I’ll be okay.

In 1958, The Staple Singers released a record called “This May Be The Last Time”, and it went like this:

the-staple-singers-this-may-be-my-last-time-sharp

The Staple Singers – This May Be My Last Time

But that’s not the original version; it can’t be, because that came out in 1958, and I’ve tracked down a recording from five years earlier, which appeared on this album:

MI0002073212

The Original Five Blind Boys of Alabama – This Could Be The Last Time

“My”…”the”…okay the title may be ever so slightly different, but it’s the same song, right?

And that’s fine, they’re both utterly great versions.

And then in 1965, this got to #1 in the UK Charts:

the_rolling_stones-the_last_time_s_1

The Rolling Stones – The Last Time

Well, that sounds familiar, doesn’t it? Yes, there’s some different lyrics thrown in, but that’s no problem, the Stones are proud of their blues and gospel roots, so they obviously credited – or the very least part credited – the original artists, right?

the-rolling-stones-the-last-time-decca

Oh. Bit awkward.

It wasn’t until 2003 that Keith Richards decided to set the record straight: “We came up with ‘The Last Time’, which was basically re-adapting a traditional gospel song that had been sung by the Staple Singers, but luckily the song itself goes back into the mists of time.”

Hmmm.

Let’s take another look at that single sleeve again. There’s another name that leaps out, isn’t there? Andrew Loog Oldham.

Oldham was The Stones’ manager (I can heartily recommend his autobiography “Stoned”, by the way, but I’ve not read the pip-squeezing other two “2Stoned” and “Rolling Stoned”) and producer, and creator of this:

MI0000666342

The Andrew Oldham Orchestra – The Last Time

Hang on just one moment, though. Something about that rings a few bells too, doesn’t it?

From this:

51QJqNU9ihL

The Verve – Bitter Sweet Symphony

As a result of a fairly infamous legal battle, centred around the alleged plagiarism by lead Verve-ist Richard Ashcroft, Jagger and Richards were added to that as co-composers, so they got their slice of the pie.

Which, given the above, is a bit rich, really, isn’t it, dear reader?

Mind you, Ashcroft really should have known better. It’s not like Jagger and Richards didn’t have form for that sort of behaviour…..For back in 1991 this record met a similar fate:

After The Watershed Front

Carter USM – After The Watershed (Early Learning The Hard Way)

…which borrowed heftily from this:

the-rolling-stones-lets-spend-the-night-together-decca-4

The Rolling Stones – Ruby Tuesday

Ah, plagiarism. As some anniversary or another of this album’s release is almost upon us, it seems appropriate for me to sign off with this:

2015TheSmiths_TheQueenIsDead_Press_030815-1

The Smiths – Cemetry Gates

More litigious nonsense soon.